Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Day Five: A Dark Day

We woke up Sunday morning to gale-force winds and clouds just itching to drop torrential rains down upon us. We called the snorkel guides, who told us that that day's tours were cancelled. (Which was a little relieving, because who would want to go swimming in the ocean in the middle of a tropical storm? We decided to wait out the weather, in the hopes of maybe getting some beach time or SOMETHING during the day. (Maybe it was God's way of enforcing sabbath compliance by keeping us from doing anything fun on Sunday.) During the course of the morning and early afternoon, we took naps, watched tv, and peered out the window at the palm leaves blowing off the trees, furniture blowing around in the courtyard, and umbrella trees falling over right by our balcony. The power went off and on... mostly off, so we couldn't even sit out the storm in the hot tub, since being without power for over four hours, it had become a tepid tub. Around lunchtime, we started getting stir crazy and headed into the village to get some lunch and buy our souvenirs. We had... wait for it... fried conch again. I swear, we'd consumed more fried food in three days than we normally do in a month... but hey, we were on vacation! Which means bad diet, no church, and maxed out credit cards... the trifecta of a happy trip.

After lunch we visited the various shops, buying this and that for ourselves and our family and friends. One thing that I was so excited to stumble upon was in a pharmacy. You could buy codeine over-the-counter there, which was tempting until I spotted a product that called out to me with the dulcimer voice of a siren beckoning me to my doom. There on the shelf was a single bottle of a bilous-looking cough syrup of questionable origin. Intrigued, I picked it up to read its contents and was shocked to see that one of the active ingredients was OPIUM! Not some fake narcotic, but real, honest-to-goodness, straight-from-the-poppy opium! I bought some and hoped for the best when it came time to go back through customs. That's always embarrassing to be caught smuggling opium into the States. (Which reminds me of a time coming back from Afganistan where I had to stick a balloon full of.... well, I'll tell that story another time.)

After shopping, it had stopped raining, so we put on our sweaters, coats, and rain jackets and took a walk along the beach. We walked in the water, as it was still way warmer than the air. After about an hour walk, we returned to our hotel room... that had electricity... We really rushed, as we wanted to see the sunset. You can see from this picture that Margaret has several layers of warm weather clothing on.

After the sunset, we promptly went down to the hot tub and spent the rest of the evening in it thawing out from running with wet feet in freezing winds back to the hotel room. Ahh, tropical paradise. We went to bed thinking positive thoughts that the next day would be beautiful, as it was to be our last day and our last chance to go snorkeling. Does the intrepid couple wake to a hurricane? Do they get to ride on the backs of friendly dolphins? Do they get hooked on heroin from drinking all that cough syrup? Tune in tomorrow to find out the startling conclusion of The Real World: Bahamas.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

I forgot something

I forgot to write something cool that we saw on Day Four. Something that we totally didn't expect to see. While we were defrosting in the hot tub, I looked up and saw what at first I thought was a jet in the western sky. Then I noticed that it was going really fast. No, I mean REALLY fast. Plus the angle was all weird, too. I pointed it out to Margaret, and we watched it as it went behind a cloud, then didn't come out the other side. When we finally made it out, it was barely visible and had a shock wave surrounding it. We inadvertantly got to witness what we thought was a space shuttle launch. I just checked NASA's schedule and it turns out it was actually a rocket... but still, pretty cool. Here's a picture of the rocket that was launched, for added effect. (And to... well, you know who your are...: I don't care IF you're from Florida... it WAS a rocket!)

You can get the inside scoop of that last comment here.

Day Four: The looming storm

We woke up Saturday morning to what we had anticipated the islands to offer... bright blue skies, warm weather, and surly waitstaff. We were totally excited to have the weather improve, as we were really looking forward to our horseback ride on the beach. When we went to breakfast, I was greeted to the distinctive sounds of people speaking Norwegian. Since you all know how common THAT is, I was eager to talk to them. I turned and asked the woman, in Norwegian mind you, "So where are you from?" (Implying which city in Norway.) She responded, "Norge." [Norwegian for Norway.] I then told her, "Well I knew THAT. I meant which city." She then realized that it was obvious that I knew she was from Norway since I'd asked her in Norwegian. We had a laugh about that, we then commented on how cold it had been and I told her about the local woman we were talking to who told us that she was FREEZING and when we commented that the water was warmer than the air, she responded, "I would have thought that there would have been ICE in the water!" The Norwegian lady just rolled her eyes and I told her, "Yeah, she does't even know REAL cold."

We met up with the horseride guide, who drove us to a secluded beach with her horses. Margaret and I were the only ones on this parrticular ride, so we were looking for a nice relaxing ride by ourselves. Traveling to the beach, we got to visit with the owner, who had the most amazing story. She was French, but had been a foreign exchange student in Tennessee, where she fell in love with America and decided to stay. She then fell in love with a rodeo clown and started traveling around to rodeos, which is when she trained a brahma bull to do tricks and did shows at the rodeo. The clown thing didn't last, and she eventually went on vacation in the Bahamas, where she met an islander, fell in love, married him, had a child, and started a horseback riding company. I'm sure it is every French parent's nightmare to see their little girl flit off to America and end up in the rodeo and then trying to earn a living horseback riding in the Caribbean. That's just under the nightmare Jerry Falwell felt when his son decided to go to Berkeley and study human evolution.

Anyway, back to the horse ride. It was inCREDible! The horses were nice, the weather was perfect, and we even got to ride in the ocean! No wonder the French lady decided to stay. We'd be willing to trade a lot to have that to look forward to every day. Margaret remarked, "from now on, when I need to go to my happy place, I'll be remembering this!" Phew! The horseback ride was her birthday present and from that comment, I was safe to assume that she liked it.

Near the end of the ride, we came across a bunch of buzzards and when we rode up to what they were picking at on the beach, all three of us had the same thought: a dead body! Talk about a perfect end to riding on a beach that was once frequented by pirates! As it turned out, it was only a dead dog. What a disappointment! Talk about a great story when we got back... not only pirate ships, but the remains of someone who had been forced to walk the plank! Oh well, maybe we'll see something like that the next time we go to Salt Lake.

After we got back from the ride, we went into the village and had some lunch. We saw a pirate wench statue, which I had to get my picture taken with that was a little too R-rated for this blog, but I got a picture of Margaret kissing it, which is safe for all viewers... even in Utah! (Even though the actual statue wouldn't be allowed in the state... what with the plunging neckline and she's wearing PANTS!

We went back to the hotel room and took a nap, only to wake up to some pretty brisk wind. We went do to the beach, since it was still sunny, but only could endure about 15 minutes because the wind was so cold. So much for my high hopes of getting some color to lord over my friends back home. As you can see from this picture, it's evident that I've been in Portland all winter as you can barely make out where the white Bahamian sands end and I begin. The cold drove us back to our hotel room, where we ended up just watching tv that evening and hoping for the best for our snorkelling trip the following day. Little did we know that the winds of doom were just beginning!

Monday, February 26, 2007

Day Three: Trouble in Paradise... Arctic conditions!

You know how sometimes when you travel, you wake up and either don't know where you are or you think you're back home in your own bed? Well, that happened to us the first night we were in the Bahamas. We woke up to cloudy skies, windy weather, and a temperature at a teeth-chattering 63ยบ. So much for escaping Portland weather! Fortunately we had our Portland clothes with us, or we would have frozen. We went to breakfast, which was served on the waterfront, and noticed some kids leaning over the edge of the rails. I thought they were feeding the seagulls, which was aggravating, since they had already stolen Margaret's toast and I'd gotten the blame for not watching it closely enough. (I just don't know how I could have kept a seagull from swooping out of the air and grabbing her toast with the alacrity of a lacrosse player snatching a ball from the air!) Anyway, when we got up to leave, we saw what they were really feeding was a bunch of fish... overly fat fish that had developed an unhealthy addiction to Froot Loops. We were suitable impressed and couldn't wait for our snorkel trip, because if the breakfast fish were any indication, the snorkeling was going to be amazing.

After breakfast, we joined a couple other people for our first excursion of our trip. We were booked on a kayaking and cave tour at a national park on the island. I was pretty excited about it, as the kayaking portion when through a mangrove swamp. In fact I was so excited about it that thinking about all the great pictures we were going to get got up in the middle of the night to recharge the camera battery. When we started the kayaking tour, and as we were slowly making our way through a particularly spooky section of mangrove, I got out the camera to start taking pictures. I pressed the power button, but thought I'd pressed the wrong one since the camera lay lifeless in my hands. After I pressed the power button a second time, I realized that the battery was by now VERY well charged and still plugged into the outlet in the hotel room! Noooooooooo!

Fortunately I'd bought an underwater camera in anticipation of snorkeling, so we did get a couple of shots in the mangrove swamp. (So forgive the low picture quality in the photos from this day). And it was pretty cool, too. A couple of times, the waterway was so narrow and the light so dim that it felt like that scene in Pirates of the Caribbean where they were going to see the Voodoo priestess. We didn't see any Voodoo priestesses, but there was a couple in our group from Spain who hardly spoke any English, so Margaret spent the whole time translating the guide's instructions and comments. I had to laugh when the guide was talking about some plant that had traditionally been used to make a love drug, but now in the age of Viagara, the plant was taking over because no one had need of harvesting it any more. Well, when Margaret was translating that and got to the Viagara part, she just said "Viagara" to which the couple both said, "Ahh, Viagara." I guess that word is now universal.

After the kayak trip swept us all the way to the ocean, we landed on the beach and waited while the guides loaded the kayaks on the trailer. While we were waiting, we wandered around and came upon two ancient and practically disintegrating ships. And not just any ships, but classic, pirate-era galleons. They were both beached and weathered. One had a couple of cannonball holes in its side. We were amazed... imagine PIRATE SHIPS right before our eyes! As we walked around them, I noticed a couple of plywood patches to them, which I figured was the government's way of keeping them from falling apart, given their advanced age. When the guide told us that they were sets for the latest Pirates of the Caribbean movie, I was a little disappointed. It was like finding out that the Bible was just a book patched together form a variety of disparate sources with questionable authorship. Talk about having the rug pulled out from under you!

On the nature walk portion of the tour, the guide did something that you'd NEVER see a US park ranger do... he was chumming animals so all the tourists could see them. He even did it inside a cave we descended into. A fragile ecosystem held in the balance for thousands of years, with fish specifically evolved to the location and water so pure you could literally drink it, now having bread thrown into it and the fish coming to expect it. Can you imagine Yellowstone rangers chumming buffalo to come over to the tourists?

When we got back, it had warmed up a little bit so we went on a walk on the beach. We got in the water, and to our surprise, it was warmer than the air. That was okay as long as we were willing to stay in the water, but the second we got out, we were freezing. Fortunately the hotel had a hot tub, which was the only way we could warm up. Blue lips and uncontrollable shaking didn't really go with our outfits. After a couple of hours in the hot tub, we were finally warmed up and we went into town and had some more fried conch. And we went to bed with the high hopes that the last of the cold weather was behind us. We both thought that it better be... we didn't fly a quarter of the way around the planet to viist a cold and rainy locale. Kharma OWED us! (Plus we had reservations to ride horses on the beach the following morning and although riding a horse in the rain may look romantic in the movies, it's not everything it's cracked up to be.)

Friday, February 23, 2007

Part Two: The Voyage

The morning of our cruise to the island started when we woke up at 5:30 am Eastern Time, which translated to 2:30 am Pacific. If it wasn't for the combination of adrenalin from the excitement of going to the Bahamas and sugar from the key lime pie we'd eaten right before going to bed the night before, we never would have been able to pull ourselves out of bed. Of course getting up that early, we had to forego eating breakfast, so by the time we'd checked in, we were STARVING (well, as starved as a middle-class American can be... which is surprisingly hungry! Fortunately the ship offered a full buffet breakfast as soon as we boarded. The 5-hour cruise also included a full buffet lunch. I guess that, just like the airlines, they figured that since we'd be trapped on the vehicle for 300 minutes, they would offer us enormous amounts of food, alcohol, gambling, movies, swimming, and private cabins. Oh, wait... never mind... all the airlines gave us were peanuts, Diet Coke, and in-flight movies we had to pay $5 to watch! Friendly skies my arse!

Of course we made our way to the prow of the ship, where we posed for the obligatory Titanic pose before making our way down to the car deck, where we climbed inside one and... well, that WOULD have happened if we could have found anything but old American autos with vinyl seating and smelled like cigarettes that were left unlocked. There's no way I'd have sex in an American car!

Anyway, soon after lunch, we pulled into the Freeport harbor on Grand Bahama Island. As soon as we got off the ship we were accosted by hair braiders offering to give Margaret beaded corn rows... something that we'd be offered at least 300 more times during our visit. (Afterward someone told us that they don't clean their combs, so they're a great vector for lice... (shudder). There were also lots of people selling conch shells. Reading in our guidebook, we learned that Bahamians eat a LOT of conch. When I was talking to the sellers, though, they kept referring to "conk." It wasn't until after I'd heard them say that a couple of times that I realized that that's how they pronounce it and it wasn't a speech impediment. Well Margaret and I got a kick out of that, saying that it reminded us of that character from the Disney movie "The Emperor's New Groove" whose name was "Cronk." Well, unfortunately we talked about Cronk so long, that at dinner when I ordered deep fried conch, I asked for deep fried CRONK--how embarrassing! The waitress just looked at me like I was a complete lunatic, but fortunately still understood the order. And it turned out to be extremely delicious, as well, like a gigantic fried clam... only less chewy. Little did we know that that was just the beginning of our all-fried diet for the next couple of days.

On our way back from the hotel, the winds started picking up, but we thought it was just an evening storm and that the next day we'd be getting brown on the beach. Little did we know that Mother Nature had other plans for us, which I'll tell you about in tomorrow's edition.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Phew, back in the States!

Phew! After flying almost 5000 miles round trip, we're back in Oregon, and really, REALLY exhausted. I have a ton of work to catch up on, so I'll parcel the details of the trip out over several easy-to-chew bite size pieces:

The flight was LONG. Portland to Atlanta was 5 hours, then another 1.5 to Fort Lauderdale. That's TOO long for peanuts to suffice. Note to self: Next time pack a backpack full of food and sell in en route--we'll pay for our airfare that way! When we finally got to Florida, we discovered that our hotel didn't have a shuttle service, and so began the nickel and diming of our trip, with a $25 cab ride to the hotel. (And I'm pretty sure the cabbie drove us there on a very circuitous route!) Stepping out the airport, we were welcomed with warm breezes and high humidity. Margaret's hair curled right up and we felt completely overdressed wearing pants and jackets that were required in Portland. As soon as we checked in at the hotel, we walked down to the beach and found to our amazement that the water was warmer than the 37 degrees that the Oregon coast waters are during the summer. We were also surprised that Fort Lauderdale was nothing that we'd expected... being that what we'd expected was scenes from MTV's Spring Break and Girls Gone Wild. Pros and cons about it not being like that.

Later that night we ate at a restaurant that featured tables that were mounted on swings--where we had to be careful not to order anything that might make us nauseous, as the rocking wouldn't have been a winning combination and we would have ended up with a decicedly UNromantic Valentine's dinner. It all turned out okay and neither of us got motion sick. After a short swim in the hotel pool, we got to bed, as we had to wake up early the next morning for our 7:30am departure for the Bahamas.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007


Okay, so with the crazy deadline on my current project and getting ready to go on vacation, I've been totally flaky about posting. We leave for the Bahamas tomorrow, so I won't be posting until we get back, but I PROMISE to tell you all about our trip when we return... even if that means having to stay up until the wee hours of the night typing my fingers to the bone doing so.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Good ol' public transportation

I haven't had any good stories from riding on public transportation in a while. Probably because I've been compulsively doing the daily crossword puzzle and I don't notice what's going on around me any more. Well, I certainly noticed this morning! When the bus stopped at a stop, the rear door, which I was standing near, opened, but no one got out. After a few seconds, someone elbowed me in the gut and shouted, "Get out of my f*@!($ing way!" She had made no indication prior to that that she wanted to get off... a fact that I said down to her when she'd gotten off the bus. Her response, of course, was to pucker up her face like a constipated wildebeest and flip me off. Brother! I was strangely Zen about the whole thing, because the girl seemed supremely unhappy, which made me feel okay about it.

Plus, on a side note, she looked like the type of girl who is militant about fighting violence against women, yet that was her FIRST course of action. What's up with that?

Monday, February 05, 2007

Shopping trauma

I have been slowing degrading my wardrobe at work from shirt and tie to jeans and tanktop button-up shirt. Unfortunately I have only one pair of jeans that were professional enough to get away with wearing at work. As such, I wore them almost every day each week, which quickly wore them out. I couldn't wear them with a good conscience anymore... or at least get away with avoiding any evaluations of my dress code. So yesterday, I decided to find a replacement pair of jeans for work. I had no idea how hard it was going to be to find jeans that weren't "pre-distressed" past the point of wear than the ones I was replacing. If I was looking for jeans with holes, paint spatters, bleach stains, or frayed edges, I could find them at almost every store (for about $100 or more for this valuable destructive service.) After trying on 20 or more jeans in six different stores and being completely traumatized, I finally settled on a pair that I'm okay with. What ever happened to the day when there were only a few brands to choose from, they were presentable at work, and they cost less than a car payment? I guess they ended with the California gold rush.

Friday, February 02, 2007


Yesterday I came home to find a package on the porch from Amazon. It had my name on it, but I hadn't ordered anything, so I assumed that Margaret had ordered it, so I didn't open it. When she got home, she said she hadn't ordered anything either. I opened it up and found my first birthday present of the year (which is coming up on FEBRUARY TENTH... yep, just around the corner)! I got a pair of cool headphones that won't fall off my head when I'm running. I'd put them on my Amazon wish list and one of my mission buddies saw my Amazon wish list after reading about my upcoming birthday (which is coming up on FEBRUARY TENTH) on this blog and ordered them for me! Cooool! Thanks Trace! Now my iPod is going to be kickin'!

Speaking of Apple, I saw this quote in today's paper and it exemplifies my discipleship of all things Apple (an evangelism that has resulted in more conversions to Mac than successful conversions to Mormonism while I was in Norway): "Today I realized the feeling of optimism that I held dear when I was a kid--that everything was going to work out and be better for everyone when I got older--isn't captured by the folks at NASA anymore. It's the people at Apple that provide that."

Yeah! I know with every fiber of my being that Apple is true and that Steve Jobs is the mouthpiece of... well, you get the picture.