Thursday, October 11, 2012

Key West!

Today marks the second full day of our Key West adventure.  It is beautiful here, and it reminds me of Maui in number of ways…..although more of a run-down Maui, to be honest with you.  It is quite touristy of course, which is no newsflash to anyone, and I guess that has actually changed over the years.  We have met a number of people that come here regularly that say since the cruise ships began stopping here (about 10 years ago) it has actually gone slightly downhill.  But overall it is a nice place.  The people are super sweet and seem genuinely so, even those that are providing service.  Often when you come to a place that is overtly touristy you get the hard sell from the shopkeepers, service people, etc.  When they great you it is more in an effort to pull you in.  Here, I have noticed, when you are greeted it seems genuinely sincere, that they are really glad to have you in their little town.

Getting here was not a major adventure, more so because it was such a long day.  We were exhausted by the time we got to Big Ruby’s Guesthouse where we are staying.  And because we got here so late the front desk was already closed for the night.  They were gracious enough to leave us with instructions how to get our keys and find our room…..which in itself was a whole other adventure.  The rooms are not numbered or named, and there are several buildings, none of which is uniform in shape or size.  So, being as tired as I was, I had some issues reading the map that was provided.  Ultimately I got us to our room which is nice and comfortable.  Thank God the air conditioning was already turned on for us.  The staff is extremely friendly, very accommodating, and the surroundings quite inviting. 

Because Big Ruby’s is a “gay guesthouse,” we are meeting a lot of people (guys) that we would not normally.  This certainly is the gayest vacation we have ever taken, which sounds really shallow and stupid, but it really is true.  We aren’t the typical club-going, circuit party boys.  It isn’t the crowd we hang out with and really don’t have a lot in common with.  Again that sounds shallow.  BUT the people that we have met over the last two days have been so amazingly nice and fun.  They come from all over the world yet seem to think it took the two of us longer than it took them to get here.  So far we have met couples from London, Luxembourg, Chicago, and several guys from Connecticut that included a guy from Poland in their party.  Every single one of them has been super nice and has been a pleasure to just hang out with in and around the pool.  Oh, we even met some guys during the nightly happy hour last night from Washington DC toting a bottle of Chateau Ste. Michelle Cabernet Sauvignon, which naturally caught our attention.  So we bonded over wine.  J

We are here for 9 days and came with nothing specific scheduled.  Although we have since booked several excursions based on things that we thought looked interesting during our trip research……the first of which will happen this afternoon.  I am not going to give it away because it is going to be something really cool and big.  But needless to say it isn’t something you get to do every day.

We did spend our first day just walking around town, up and down Duvall Street, which is the main drag in Key West.  Lots to see, most of which is the most touristy stuff of course.  But it gave us the lay of the land and a chance to stretch our legs after the three flights the day prior.  We ducked into the Butterfly Conservatory, partially to get out of the rain storm that we could see coming and was on top of us in the blink of an eye.  I haven’t seen rain come down that hard since we were in Tahiti.  The conservatory was something I wanted to check out when Adam mentioned it to me because Seattle’s Woodland Park Zoo has a butterfly exhibit that I always enjoy, although I think he kind of mentioned it as a joke.  So it might have been dumb luck that the rain started as we approached the front of the building and we were forced to take shelter.  In the end we both absolutely loved it.  They had a ton of different butterfly and moth species that they raised.  You could see the stages of development of each in a room they had off to the side which was kind of like a little laboratory.  We certainly took our sweet time taking a ton of pictures and videos. I haven’t reviewed any of them yet, so I am hoping they came out.  I am sure they won’t really compare to actually being there though.

We then took a quick turn off Duvall to hit the “southernmost point in the continental US.”  I use apostrophes because any time this monument is mention Adam is quick to point out that it really ISN’T the southernmost point, and does so with a smirk on his face just to drive me nuts.  Oh, Adam. 

Once we came back to the guesthouse we took a dip in the pool and then went for a quick bite to eat before happy hour.  We went to a wine bar called Vino’s with a huge selection and a very nice South African bartender.  The main room was pretty full with the exception of one really large table that we didn’t want to occupy since it was just the two of us.  So we politely asked to sit next to a couple of the front porch and share a small table with them.  Good choice!  They were down from North Carolina, and we compared notes on what adventures to do during our stay.  Kayaking seemed to be one of their favorite things and we have since booked a guided kayaking tour for Saturday morning when our buddy Melanie and her boyfriend our here joining us for the weekend.  That will be fun!

After Vino’s, it was back to Big Ruby’s for happy hour……more wine and conversation with our worldly friends.  We got a great recommendation from the guys from DC for dinner and quickly set up a reservation.  It was a Tapas restaurant called Santiago’s and the food was fantastic!  Great recommendation and it was just a quick 10 minute walk/stagger away.  Once we finished dinner we decided instead of hitting the town we would go back to Big Ruby’s and hang out in the pool and hot tub, which we did for a short time by ourselves.  Then all the friends we made earlier and a few more started to filter back in and join us.  What a great day…..what a great night.

Now it is time for me to get ready for the big adventure!  Stay tuned folks……lots more to come!

Key West Prologue

(The first paragraph of this is a bummer but please continue to read and it will lighten up significantly. I promise. It felt necessary to start it this way though.)

It has been more than a year-and-a-half since I last blogged. The last post was the day we put Gizmo down. That day still sticks with me, and I imagine it always will. Actually I did write a blog post the following day titled “The Mourning After” but it was just too painful to post. It has been really difficult for me to let go of that, but I think that is a good thing. I still reflect on her life and what joy she brought to us over the years. You would think it would be easier to move past since we have Boris and Oliver in our lives, but that really isn’t the case. It is hard for me to explain. I guess the easiest explanation is that for any parent each child is different. To me it is the same thing even though I am dealing with dogs and not little children. Anyway, the Boys certainly are not a replacement nor were they meant to be. Boris and Oliver are the most interesting little individuals in their own right. But back to why I haven’t blogged in so long……I think I have to admit to myself that actually putting something on the page past my closing dedication to her makes me have to admit to myself that she is gone and that I have ultimately moved on. In my heart, I haven’t and never will. I will never let go. I miss her every day.

Today marks another adventure. We are on a plane bound for Miami, the second flight of three in our journey to Key West in honor of Adam’s 40th birthday. We booked this trip so long ago that we can hardly contain ourselves. It is hard to believe we are FINALLY on our way to some rest and relaxation. I love traveling and, due to changes within my company, have done significantly less of that over the last year, much to my dismay. I think it actually surprises people to hear me say that considering I was doing a fair amount of traveling for quite a while there. But this time it is all for fun. Neither of us has been to Key West before, and this will be my first adventure to Florida. The best thing about this, at least in my opinion, is that I am actually traveling with someone, and that someone happens to be the person I spend the majority of my time with. Somehow it seems that we don’t get to go on these big adventures as much as we used to, but I think the reality of it is that we still do. I have a feeling, because I travel for work now and do so 99% of the time on my own, we still travel together as much as we always have… just seems diluted due to my work travel.

It was really hard to leave Boris and Oliver this morning, and not just because it was 4:00am and we were exhausted from having to get up so early. I jumped out of bed as soon as the alarm went off and began the last of the tasks in preparation for our house/dog-sitter to have as comfortable a stay as possible. I didn’t let the Boys out of their kennel right away because it was so early and I figured they would want to both just sleep……or, at the very least, Boris would. Most mornings you almost have to drag his hairy butt out of that kennel in order to get him going. That dog loves to sleep. It is amazing how much Boris and Adam are alike in personality whether or not Adam recognizes or would even admit to. When I finally did open up the kennel door they both very enthusiastically jumped out ready to receive their morning scratches. I was a little surprised to see Boris have such enthusiasm at that ungodly hour of the morning knowing that he got maybe half the amount of sleep he normally gets any given night. Somehow he knew something was up I expect. They both did. They followed us around this morning and got even more excited when Adam and I put on our shoes and the packed suitcases made an appearance downstairs in preparation for our awaiting ride to the airport. I gave them a few smooches each and headed out the door. While I am confident they are in goods hand with our dog-sitter, this is the first time we have ever let anyone other than my Parents take care of our animals for this extended a period of time, so that is hard for me to digest. I know my Parents will treat them in the exact same manner as we do, and I cannot imagine anyone that doesn’t know them the way we do will treat them quite the same. I guess any parent would have the same concern leaving their kid in the hands of another. We are sure it will be fine……as long as he doesn’t let them take advantage and manipulate him…..which they are sure to attempt to do. I am sure we will come home to a story or two about how they tried to rule the house in some comical way. Part of me is hoping for it actually. I will know then that they were happy in our absence.

So we are descending to Miami as I wind this down. I am getting anxious to get to our final destination for some fun and relaxation with Adam. More to come.......

Thursday, February 3, 2011

RIP - Gizmo 1994 - 2011. We will miss you and always love you.

Gizmo was born in Hartsville, MO on April 21, 1994. The breeder probably realized quite quickly that she was not show quality due to her size (she was very big for a female Pekingese by about 5 inches and about 8 pounds) and her left eye being too big for the eye socket, so she ended up being sold to Pass Pets pet shop. Somehow she managed to make it all the way to Dearborn, MI where we picked her up at the pet shop right before 4th of July weekend, completely on a whim.

I recall quite clearly that she was the only dog in the kennels that wasn’t barking or carrying on when we approached them. She just stood there with that big smile she always had and wagged her tail. Enough for me!!!

Everyone loved Gizmo. Even those people who say they don’t like little dogs absolutely loved her. I think it was mostly because she wasn’t a yappy little dog (she RARELY ever barked, and when she did it surprised the hell out of everyone because it was kind of a deep bark for a little dog) and she had a ton of personality. And everyone had a different nickname for her, too. Here is a list of as many as I can think of: Gizmo, Giz, Gizzy, Piglet, Piggy, Monster, Brat, Bratzilla, Shitzilla, Ape, Hairball, Alien, Olivia, Munchkin, Babygizmo, Goddammit, Pepto-gizmo, Gizmoses, and Gizgo. I am sure there are some more that I can’t think of that have long since been retired in the last decade.

After nearly 17 years there are plenty of stories to tell. Here are a few of my favorite memories about her that shaped her into the fantastic dog that she was and me into the best doggie Dad I could be.

As most of you know Gizmo came into my life right after I moved to Detroit. My boyfriend at the time, Mario, was the one who jumped at the chance to bring her home, and I was most certainly not going to deny him the pleasure of this cute little fluff ball. In the end Mario moved back to Seattle and I stayed in Detroit. Gizmo stayed with me as Mario traveled so much in the year after we acquired her that she never gave a damn about him anyway. Kind of like he treated me actually……….but I digress.

Anyway, the Christmas of ’94 (she was only about 9 months old) I flew home to Seattle to surprise my Mother for the holiday, and Mario flew to Asheville, NC to visit his Parents, taking Gizmo with him. I returned to Detroit a day or two before he did, so I collected them at the airport. I met the two of them at baggage claim and could tell right away that Gizmo was NOT happy with the whole event. She didn’t really care for the plane ride and most certainly didn’t care to be stuffed into her little vinyl animal carrying case regardless of her name embroidered on the top. When I met them at baggage claim (no, she didn’t ride in cargo…..Mario carried her on board) Mario took her out of her case and attempted to give her a long overdue drink of water. She wanted less than nothing to do with it, turning her head sideways each time he held that cup of water to her flat little face and glaring at him with contempt. I then took her in my arms and held the cup up to her and she lapped in up with much enthusiasm. It was amazing how that dog could certainly hold a grudge.

Over the next couple of years she traveled with me (mostly by car) a fair amount, visiting family and friends in neighboring states and well as flying home for holidays. She eventually got used to the plane rides and, as would be true for most of the rest of her life, slept right through it.

As a puppy she quickly developed a love of both dirt and water. Living in Detroit it naturally got scorching hot during the summer. I had some friends in my neighborhood with two Rottweiler’s who loved to splash around in a baby pool full of cold water on the hot days. I thought that might be a good idea for Gizmo, but when I put her in she stood there and glared at me and wouldn’t even move. It was almost as if she had been insulted by the thought of being put into the pool. Well, a couple of weeks later, on a very hot day, we had a big rain storm. I used to take Gizmo for a walk through the neighborhood every day after work. As we went on our journey I tried to dodge the puddles along the way so I wouldn’t get my shoes soaking wet and Gizmo wouldn’t get filthy. All of a sudden the leash tensed up and I stopped and looked behind me to find that Gizmo had plopped herself down right in the middle of one of those puddles to cool off. And she had a big smile on her little face, too. As much as she had acted like she hated the baby pool episode she obviously learned something from it………and I created a monster. She LOVED water after that, especially the baby pool on a hot day! She couldn’t get enough. We even took her camping much later in her life and she proceeded to lay right down in the creek.

As far as getting dirty……well, let’s just say that getting dirty was super fun, but being dirty was less than appealing. After moving back to Seattle we bunked with my Parent’s for a couple of months while looking for a proper place to live. They live on 6 acres out in the woods granting her ample opportunity to make a proper mess of herself. She would run full speed through the nearest mud puddle and get as filthy as she could running around in the woods……..not fun to brush out of a long, white-haired dog either, I can tell you………..and then she would realize just how filthy she was and her attitude would change. She would get kind of mopey. She would do the same if she hadn’t gotten her monthly bath. All I had to do was yell “BATH TIME!”, and she would run into the bathroom and put her paws on the edge of the tub to jump in. Once she had gone through the process of a scrub down and a blow dry her attitude would instantly change and she was super happy. Oh, and she had three states of dirty for her, too: Pretty Princess; Stinky McFarland; and Grandmaster Funk. It was rare she got to the Gmaster stage, but quite unpleasant when she did.

Another good story is when Adam and I first moved in together Gizmo was jealous…..and outwardly so. But she eventually came around and made it very clear that she was going to be a big girl and accept Adam and my developing relationship. The 3 of us were watching TV in the living room of our rented Wallingford house. Gizmo sat with me on the love seat and Adam sat in the rocking chair off to our left. Gizmo started to get oddly fidgety and jumped down off the love seat. She then walked up to the TV and turned around, sat down and looked at the both of us like she had an announcement to make. She looked at Adam and then she looked at me. Then she ran full speed (as speedy as she could be with those short little legs) and jumped up into Adam’s lap, putting her front paws on the edge of the chair facing me and wagging her tail in delight as if to say, “Ha Ha, Dad! You have to share him now!” Adam and I looked at each other with surprise, and I think I called her Benedict Arnold actually. One thing she could do was communicate volumes in her own strange little way. Sometimes she seemed more human than dog.

I made the decision to put Gizmo down about a week ago, but I have known it was coming for much longer than that. She just slowed down exponentially. Plus, she was just getting so confused about where (and who) she was. The final determination was during my last business trip. I took her to my Parent’s house so they could observe her during my absence and give us a second opinion. Frankly, I think I knew what the final outcome would be after we had been there 5 minutes and she couldn’t figure out where she was at. She spent a lot of time at Mom and Dad’s over the years, and she had even stayed there just a couple of months prior and had no issues. But at that stage a couple of months made all the difference. So, to be honest with you, the decision was easy to make. I knew then and there that it was the right thing to do and the right time to do it.

This last week has been murder on me however……very bittersweet. I am so thankful to have had so much time with her, but it is really hard to let go. I probably could have scheduled to have her euthanized in less than a week, but I wanted to spend at least a little more time with her. I am very glad I did, but it tore me apart.

Things like emptying her kibble container for the last time knowing I wouldn’t have to fill it up again brought me to tears. I boiled chicken and rice for her the weekend before knowing she was getting low on food, and going to the pet store to buy food seemed ridiculous. I figured it was time to let her eat whatever she wanted, so I stuffed her full of as much chicken, rice and treats as she wanted all week. In the meantime, I sprinkled the last of her kibble in over the course of a couple of days. After scooping out the last scoop I just stood and stared at the container for a minute. It was hard not to just sob actually.

Then little things started to come up all over the place. I used up the last of her eye drops and knew I didn’t need to fill the prescription. I started to do evil math thinking that she normally goes outside 3 or 4 times a day to do “chores”…….and now she will only have a couple more chores left to do. It just became this awful countdown in my head.

I almost burst into tears on the treadmill at the gym, too. That would have been just beautiful. I am sure people would have paid tickets to see that one.
I can say that even with all the head games that came along with this, part of me thinks she was trying to ease things for me this week. She somehow was trying to tell me she was thankful for the decision that was made and helping her do what she didn’t know how. She was very cuddly with me this week, something that she started resisting within the last 2 years just because she didn’t like being held quite as much as she used to. Also, we recently made one of the spare bedrooms upstairs a proper “office” which she never really cared for. She just didn’t know where she was when she came up because she spent 95% of her time on the main level of the house in the last couple of years. Consequently she would pace around and never relax and go to sleep. But she spent plenty of time with me while I sat at my desk and worked this week without protest. I even came around the corner and caught her napping in the sun, which I have not seen her do in a long time. I cried in the shower after seeing that. Painfully beautiful is the best description I can come up with.

Today was completely surreal. It sort of seemed like any other day, but it most certainly had a black cloud hovering over it. I also realized that today is Chinese New Year. Considering Gizmo is a Chinese dog it somehow seemed oddly appropriate to me……..a big celebration for her new adventure.

My Parents and my Sister both came to witness the send off and support Adam and me, and of more importantly, Gizmo. It was really nice having the family around to share the love with Gizmo as we said goodbye. Before the injection Gizmo was passed from person to person to lick each and everyone’s tearful face. I think that was the hardest part for me, even more than actually watching her go to sleep in my arms. Adam was right next to me the whole time, and I feel he actually took it harder than I did. It was hard letting go, but I didn’t break down like I thought I would as I knew this was the right thing. I held her for a couple of minutes after she was gone and kissed her temple like I always did before finally saying, “Goodbye Monster. I love you.” I stood in the living room in a haze and completely numb for a while after Dr. Rice left with my little baby.

I watched her walk around and feel the grass beneath her feet for the last time. I saw her wag her tail several times today, both while awake and while dreaming, for whatever reason. I let her out for her first chore of the day and the last chore of her life. I watched her eat her last (and very hard earned) dinner of chicken and treats. I brushed her out for the last time…..something I could and probably should have done more often during her lifetime. And I held her when she took her final breath.

Today was the most precious day of both of our lives. I am glad we shared it together.

Friday, December 17, 2010

My Life From 35,000 Feet

Time for a blog! It seems that my good intentions of keeping up with my blog seem to end up in the garbage with my motivation. Someday I will get it together and finally get into a proper blogging groove. But, as it is now, I am sitting on (another) plane…..headed home from very cold and snowy Minnesota. What better time than to actually put some thoughts down on the page.

This was a fairly brief trip…..4 + days. It could have been worse, that is for sure. I came to help facilitate some training of new team members and some people at our Corporate HQ. This was a nice way to finally get to meet some of the people to which I speak or email on a regular basis but have never had the pleasure of greeting in person as we are all based in remote areas…….with the obvious exception of those who work at Corp. I can easily say that our team has a great attitude, and I believe we will be able to help motivate other people within the company to increase the sense of urgency with our customers, something that is severely lacking in certain departments.

Plus, it looks like there may be a fair amount more travel coming my way in the next few months. Nothing confirmed yet, but there may be some more trips to far off lands, which I have found to be a mixed bag of emotions for me. I do really enjoy the experience and the chance to help educate our customers as well as learn from them and what they need. This helps me do my job so much better. But it is really hard for me to be away from my Gizmo and Adam for any length of time. Interesting that I have always considered myself a very independent person except when it comes to the two of them. Hmmmm. I never really thought about it until just now.

As you can tell, I am really starting to feel much better about my place on the earth right now. It isn’t perfect, but no one’s life really is. There are obviously things about my life I would like to see go differently…..everyone does…….but I really am quite happy about the experiences I have had especially in the last year. I have tried to broaden my horizons and really step out of my comfort zone with this job. I started reading for “pleasure” again…..although that is still a bit of a stretch as I really have to be into a book in order for it to keep my attention, and the fact I started with some of the classics probably wasn’t the smartest way to do that. Oh well. I have been afforded the opportunity to travel overseas on my own and experience more cultures beyond my own back yard, which is one of my favorite things to do. I have also vacationed in far off places with amazing beaches and water that I never thought I might do.

My relationship with Adam has had some severe peaks and valleys this year. That is a good thing, I suppose, because it helps us both grow. There are certainly things that I would like change within our relationship……some of which I have control over and some of which I do not……but overall we do have a solid relationship that I appreciate and cherish. I have worked hard for it, so I think I have earned it. There will always be more to work on and we will be better people for it as we grow old together.

Gizmo is getting…..well……Gizmo GOT old. Damn, she is old. It just amazes me that she is still scooting around the house in good health. Mentally she has diminished massively, but overall she is well. I appreciate her presence and the love that she has given me and the ways she has made me grow as a person over the last nearly 17 years. It is really hard to think about letting her go. I have been trying to make my peace with her departure for so many years now thinking that she would have moved on to the big carrot patch in the sky (carrots are her favorite, you know?!), but she just keeps getting older and older just to spite me. And I know a part of me will die when she does. That is hard to think about, too.

As far as a blog goes, this was not one of any great entertainment value. Sorry for that. I just opened up my computer on the plane and started typing, and this is what came out. Hmmmm……maybe I am a little homesick from being gone all week. The holiday season might have a little something to do with it to, but that is typical.
Maybe I will sit down and type up some more this weekend. We do have some fun things planned, so I am sure that will spark a bit more creativity in my brain pan.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A Tattoo and Some Therapy

Adam’s big day FINALLY came, and though he would not freely admit it, he was a lot more excited than he let on. I could tell. And he should have been excited, too. It isn’t every day that one of just a handful of tattoo artists in the world that do the traditional Tahitian style tattoos (and only one of just a couple that can actually create the tattoo in the style that was done) creates an original piece of artwork for you to keep for the rest of your life.

I mentioned before that there was a surprise to come along with the tattoo. Adam originally had the tattoo scheduled for Thursday. As it turns out, James ended up getting a call regarding an interview with Nylon Magazine that was scheduled for Tuesday. And it just seemed fitting to do a traditional Tahitian style tattoo instead of a machine tattoo. Adam was next in line for the tattoo, so why not try to schedule his tattoo the day of the interview and feature his in the magazine! Cool!

Well, unfortunately it rained that morning, and the weather did not cooperate to provide enough light for decent pictures, so they rescheduled the interview. And unfortunately the next two day’s weather brought up the same issue. So the magazine interview and pics did not happen. But the tattoo certainly did!

And just to clarify, a traditional Tahitian style tattoo is not done in the way you have seen tattoos normally done with a regular needle. The tool is a specially, hand-carved bone attached to the end of a stick, which James creates himself. The application is done by repeatedly striking the back of the stick with another stick. It is the same effect, but it is a very different (and seemingly old world) way to do it. Having a few tattoos, Adam said that the pain was not necessarily any worse than having it done in the regular fashion, at least for the most part.

And as far as the artwork, James likes to meet the person who he will be tattooing and then get an idea, based on personality and a few other qualities, of what the artwork will look like. Adam ended up with a very large Tiki on his left shin that extends from ankle to knee. It would have covered his calf as well, but it took about 6 hours as it was, and that was just about Adam’s pain threshold. The Tiki, in Polynesian culture, represents protection. And if James had another day to add to it he would have added waves to the back of his calf representing travel. But now Adam will just have to go back and have James add to it at a later date.

I do find it slightly ironic that Adam has a protective Tiki on the same leg that he broke as a kid. Kind of a day late and a dollar short on that one.

But Adam is thrilled with it! And it is indeed quite cool. And another thing to add to this, there are other tattoo artists out there that have been trying to get a hold of James’ very closely guarded technique. So that really brings a special value to the work as well, even beyond the originality.

What was I doing during Adam’s six hour adventure you ask? Well, I read, I brought Adam some water during his process (as it was pretty hot out), and then I put together a barbecue for Laurel as we wanted to grill some chicken that night. Not exactly what I expected to do on my vacation. But standing in the sun for the 30 or so minutes it took me to put it together earned me some time on the beach and in the water!

I grabbed my book and headed down to the beach and planted my towel under a chestnut tree to give me just a bit of shade. I looked to the left, and then to the right, and realized that I was completely alone. No one in either direction the entire couple of hours I was there. It was rather an amazing realization to come to that I was completely alone on a beach on a very small island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean with the entire ocean in front of me to play around in. If you ever get the chance to do the same, I highly recommend it. It is extremely therapeutic.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Bugs Bunny Was a Racist Asshole

Adam and I finally took a walk down “tourist” way. We went to what would be the equivalent of a Luau in Hawaii in a little area called Tiki Village just up the way from where we are staying. We were collected by our taxi at just before 6:00pm. Not realizing how close the village was to our bungalow (we have ridden past it a dozen times on the bikes, too!) it only took us just a couple of minutes to get there and we probably could have walked.

We were dropped off at a reception area, which was in basically a little shop with various touristy items for sale, paid for the evening’s events and then escorted into the village by a local Tahitian man with a very thick accent who proceeded to attempt to teach us a few Tahitian words. Normally I eat that kind of thing up, but that night I was just not getting it as I have had to deal with 3 different languages (English, French, and Tahitian) since our arrival, and my brain was having none of it, so I kind of felt like an ass. Oh, well.

He walked us through and pointed out the different buildings as we continued down the path to the theater and restaurant area. They have several different traditional Polynesian houses built that are replicas from the Island of Marquesas, including a replica of the painter Gauguin’s house during the period he resided there. As we entered the theater area (which seats several hundred people) we immediately noticed that we were 2 of about 5 people in the entire village and started to get nervous. We were praying that there would be more people attending the event otherwise we knew we would get singled out and the whole evening would just be oddly uncomfortable.

Fortunately, as we sipped our happy hour “rum punch”…….which of course was more punch than rum…….a few more people trickled in here and there. Whew! So we started to relax a bit, took some pictures of the village, and did a little shopping in the pearl/jewelry store before it was time for the more formal tour of the village.

Of course the Master of Ceremonies had to repeat everything in both French and English, which he was quite masterful at, so my brain continued to be on full overload with the language mix. The tour began with a reveal of the traditional Tahitian feast we would be dining upon (buffet style) later in the evening. Basically they cook the meal on hot coals underground for 3 hours covered by a massive layer of banana leaves, what looked like potato sacks, and a layer of sand. Everyone ooh’ed and awed as he described the dishes to be served including the traditional Poisson Cru, various pork and chicken dishes, and a few other goodies. We were then broken up in a couple of groups based on language directly following to be given an official tour of the buildings and told about some of the different rites of passage of the Tahitian people growing up.

Obviously they separated us by language specifically so they would not have to repeat everything twice. Smart. But I also knew what was coming. I knew we were going to get stuck at tables with other people who spoke English instead of the opportunity to sit on our own or with people who didn’t speak English so we wouldn’t have to talk with them at all. I figured that out right away based on the restaurant seating near the theater. Fortunately we ended up sitting next to a delightful newlywed couple from Los Angeles (Audrey and Dean) who had just been married three days prior. Audrey broke the ice by nearly stepping on a big crab that scurried past her chair as she attempted to get up to head to the buffet. She screamed and we all laughed, and that eased things a bit. We got lucky to be sat with them.

Dinner was decent. Some of it (mostly the grilled meat) was really good. The rest was mediocre. The deserts were mostly strange and a mystery to boot because nothing was marked, so it was a big guessing game as to the identity of some of the unfamiliar (and not very likeable) fruits. It was still a good meal overall.
After dinner, and a really strange fashion show of sorts in which both a Tahitian woman and man (at separate times) danced to the live music and proceeded to take a variety of sarongs and fit them in different ways (this went on forever, by the way…..not unlike this blog!), we were collectively escorted to the theater for the dance performance.

The MC for the evening (whose Tahitian name he rattled off so fast I have no idea what it was) was quite charismatic and tried to spice things up with humor here and there. Unfortunately, and quite unintentionally, he did come across a bit racist at times. There were a smattering of Japanese tourists in the crowd, which I am guessing were all part of one group, that he singled out by continually calling out, “Hey, Japanese!” On top of that, he pulled one of the young Japanese men from the audience to demonstrate how to peel the outer husk of a coconut using a sharp stick (a LOT harder than it looks, by the way) and gently crack the coconut shell open with a rock in order to get the water from it…….which he proceeded to refer to as sake. It was definitely all in fun and by no means meant in a derogatory manner. Plus, in a strange way, maybe it helped make up for all those old 1940’s Looney Tunes, Bugs Bunny-bone-through-the nose, native islander cartoons that I love so much.

As we have been to Hawaii and attended a formal luau, we have had the pleasure of seeing some of the Polynesian style dances and were actually quite looking forward to making the comparison to what we had seen in the past. The show was great. I don’t believe that the entire crew was at their best that night as there were a lot of notable missteps and dropping of flaming torch batons and some giggling, especially towards the end, but nonetheless it was an impressive show.

Oh, and I forgot to add the part about the audience participation. They had the women (those who would participate, of course) come down to the floor and do a dance a la Polynesian style (with the hip movements) in front of the audience. Adam, Dean and I all barked at Audrey to get her to do it knowing full well that our turn would unfortunately come, which it inevitably did………and even Adam participated! The men had to do more of a knee swinging, foot stomping thing that you will have to see later. Yes, we have pictures. Be afraid. I actually handed our camera to Audrey as we left our seats so she could take a couple of shots. Adam was mortified, but I still think deep down he enjoyed it.

I do have to say that it was nice to see performers of all shapes and sizes. They were obviously all Tahitian (or appeared so to us), but none had that formal model body that is in every magazine advertisement and on TV. Some (both men and women) had plenty of meat on their bones, and I appreciated it as it was realistic. And body style is not of any concern here. I am usually quite uncomfortable in my own skin and especially without my shirt on, but that has not been any issue here thankfully because it is too damned hot! Although, if I did live here, you can guarantee that I would be significantly thinner, tanner and in better shape!

Anyway, overall it was a fun night. And a late one for us…….the latest so far. We were out past 10:00! Man, we are getting old.

Once again we were woken up to the sound of rain. And I don’t just mean a little drip from the sky kind of rain………I am talking rain of Biblical proportions……and some serious thunder and lightning to go with it! I love thunder storms, and have since I was a kid and experienced my first in Oklahoma, so this was great! But it was very short lived. There were less than half a dozen flashes and crashes, but still well worth noting.

The rest of the day was completely cloudy and very humid, but we did not see the rain (or more lightening and consequent thunder) until late in the afternoon. We even took ourselves to the beach for a while to pass the time earlier in the day even though the sun never broke. The warm water felt really nice counterbalancing the humidity actually.

And I have been uncharacteristically exhausted today. Right after breakfast I put my head back on my pillow for about 20 minutes just to ditch the last of my sleepiness……..until we came back from the beach and started reading. Then I sacked out for another 30+ minutes. I am guessing it is a combination of the humidity, activity, and relaxation that are doing it to me.

With just a few days left (and tomorrow is officially Adam’s big tattoo day!!!) we are hoping for at least one more day of sun. I would like to get just a bit more color on me. And I do have a little bit. Adam, of course, looks like a native.

The Death of Club Med

I got the scoop on the closure of Club Med. Laurel was kind enough to drive me to the bank to get some cash when she had to pick up the kids from school. Because we had to go about 1/3rd the way around the island for this errand this allowed us some time to chat and get to know each other a bit better. Plus, I was afforded the opportunity to ask her some questions regarding the local area as she has lived here for 10 years. Because she is in the travel industry AND she is married to a “local” (although I believe James is actually from Marquesas Island), it was a topic close to home for her.

The land Club Med was situated on is owned by 8 different families on Moorea, including a large portion by James’ adopted family. James left home at a very early age and was taken in after coming to Moorea by a local family. They have been his adopted family ever since. Anyway, the land was leased to Club Med by these families with the restriction that the resort would only grow so large. Unfortunately Club Med continued to build bungalows well beyond what was agreed upon with no increase in rent, so the families simply pulled the plug and kicked them out. Just like that.

Here’s the thing about how that is not a big surprise in French Polynesia: the Tahitians are NOT at all motivated by money. It is entirely about family. Once they felt taken advantage of the families decided that Club Med was no longer welcome without regard to the loss of money. Unfortunately, the local economy did suffer because of this decision. Laurel stated that approximately 100 people lost work and the area shops and restaurants fell on hard times. 100 people does not sound like much, but when you are talking about an island population of several thousand people, it really is substantial. She also stated that no one really seemed to be effected by the change either. The locals were happy for the families to have reclaimed their land.

From a traveler’s and travel industry point of view, it was a big loss. Laurel stated that she had the pleasure of staying at that particular resort at one time and it was really quite nice and a really good deal. Also, the club still sits rotting on the land nearly 10 years later. Other area hotels have great interest, but the families have no intention (at least at this point) to pursue that venture again. And it is a bit of an eyesore. But she can really see both sides of it, and it was interesting listening to her talk about it, especially from the local/family perspective.