Tag Archives: family

Passover and Easter Weekend

I was invited to a community Seder, recognized by the Community by virtue of my last name. And here I thought my background was anonymous and nondescript!

 

The synagogue is modest, built by the first farmers who pooled funds years and years ago, and a rabbi comes in from San Diego once a month to lead a service. It’s a community held together by a dedicated couple who have vowed that there will be a Jewish community as long as they are around.

 

It was a lovely service, pieced together by several individuals who contributed food and desserts and charosets. It was slightly comical – everyone singing different melodies to the same song, but it was true to it’s purpose: telling the story for another year.

 

This is my first Seder for several years. This year I heard the story differently. I heard it through the context of my work at the museum. The Easter sermon service was the same. I’ve been mentally going back and forth between these two ancient celebrations, their stories, their message, and their meaning. There is enough to ponder for a life time.

 

Easter service this year was at the First United Methodists Church. I was dared to sing in the choir when the congregation was invited up. “Well,” I thought “if you are going to have a new experience, might as well do it with gusto.” I’ve never been very good at reading choir music, but the holidays for me are centered around re-creating familiar traditions. My grandparents used to love singing in the choir and we do it for Christmas when called on, so I did it in the spirit of those memories. Anyway, I’m usually good at following the director, but I had the gents singing in my ear and so I accidentally switched back and forth between soprano and baratone. Oh well, it was fun to try.

 

It was a busy weekend with 3 easter egg hunts – one in Ocotillo amongst the cactus, one on the grassy church lawn in El Centro, and one glow-in-the-dark hunt for the big kids. Busy, but very fun, and very rejuvenating – which is good, because April is just getting warmed up… and I don’t just mean the temperature.

Thanksgiving Culinary Surprise

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Today the Hitches abandoned the city life of El Centro to join us here in Ocotillo. I’m glad they did. We ended up having the most home-town holiday you could have while you aren’t in your home town.

My lonely trailer was livened up around 9:30am and we reviewed the plan of attack: we were going to prep the turkey, go down to the Optimists’ Thanksgiving from 12-3pm, stop at the museum so Lucas could work on a pottery project for school, then come back and eat the turkey in the oven and end up by checking out the pre-door busters around 11pm.

This is very close to what actually happened, except we had to add one 2 hour house visit and I wimped out on pre-door busting shopping. At one point while we were sitting around in a turkey- induced coma like state I took a minute to take stock: we were surrounded by generations of grandkids and grandparents, recapping the game and instantly excited by the fact that Elf was on TV. Except for the change of players, this was a very familiar setting. I felt like I was kind of celebrating with my family just by sharing in this very similar version.

It did get a bit hairy at the optimists’ club when I was stared down after sharing that I wasn’t fond of eating my yams with marshmallow. “Too sweet!” I said, which only brought on more dumbfound jaw dropping. In my tradition we fry them in brown sugar. But you have to try a little of everything, now don’t you, so I tried some of the yams.

Surprise! “There is apple in these!” a kind of apple pie flavor permeated the dish. It was a surprising combination, but pleasing. It was dubbed “the culinary delight of the season”. They were great!

Another ragingly successful Thanksgiving. It wasn’t really due to the yams or the 2 separate feasts. I attribute it to the town of Ocotillo and the people who were in it today opening their hearts, homes, and families to those who couldn’t be with their own. So thank you.

Images of Home

My family lives up and down the northeast coast so my month-long visit itinerary hit some of the best late summer vacation spots. I don’t have pictures from all my adventures, but here’s a pleasant sampling:
A couple days before Hurricane Irene I went up to Maine to visit my dear cousins. Now, Irene was hitting dry land as a category 2, which means by the time it got up to us it would be category 1 at best. That’s a couple days without power and some downed trees. I wasn’t worried and I didn’t change my travel plans. 
The calm before the storm.
Then, this time actually paying attention to the newscast, I saw a tiny little footnote that maybe should have been bigger: 8-9 feet of water surge. Oh, so that’s why everyone is in a panic. I changed my travel plans and stayed in Maine to weather to storm. 
We did, as expected, lose power, even though the storm had died down and moved inland. After the brunt of the storm passed we escaped the dark house and non-flushing toilets by going to see the waves. We took a ridiculous amount of pictures.

 Very impressive, Mother Nature! 

My next stop was to visit the grandparents and co in New Jersey. It just so happened that my aunt and uncle had planned their annual trip to Ocean City that week. This is the only picture I have from the beach:

But I did have my camera handy for the birthday party.

She turned 3!
 Aren’t they cute! 
It’s a lie. 
I love them all, but the four of them combined are a force of nature to shame Irene.

 The adults also had fun. Uncle Gary surprise attacked Mom-Mom:

Who’s counter attack failed miserably,

Uncle Gary wins! 

When the fun in Jersey was done, I jumped across the Delaware to visit my very good friend in Pennsylvania who became a new parent just a couple weeks before. I have a really great picture of my pre-baby visit, but I don’t think she’d speak to me again if I put it on the internet. How about this one instead:

 How adorable.

A couple of days and 2 sleepless nights later I finished the circuit home to tour some very happy newly weds around the Hudson Valley. We traversed the new walking bridge – formerly the only rail line across the river, converted for the 400th anniversary of Hudson’s trip up the river. I failed left and right to recollect interesting facts about the River and it’s history. “I feel the ship was named something to do with moons… wait, that doesn’t make sense… oh! there on the sign – the Half Moon. I was so close!”

We ate lunch just under the bridge at the Mayor’s favorite resturant (I didn’t know this before we … actually, Patricia… pointed it on the menu as one of the establishment’s fun facts.)

Then we tortured the poor new groom with our American and related social history lessons as we toured the grounds of FDR’s childhood home.

We also decided that since we pay taxes we shouldn’t feel awkward about making ourselves at home. It is a national PARK after all.

Then Patricia and I did that thing where we talk about period architecture or whatever terribly interesting subject comes to mind.

Not everyone in our company appreciated this, spawning this inspired piece of photography:

And that was it! Two days later I was on an uneventful flight back to Australia – I only went to the wrong airport (only in NY, I think, will you hear “oh, I’ve done that” and have a new itinerary offered without another thought.) and stood in an unnecessary immigration line causing me to nearly miss my connection to Melbourne. Easy as pie.

I’d just like to take this moment to thank all the babies on the long flight who did NOT cry (exorbitantly) and that nice couple who decided to move to another row leaving me 3 seats to myself by the window on a 15 hour flight.

Thanks.

No really: thanks.

Brody-Heath Visit, the Highlights

My parents and my aunt and uncle were the first brave visitors to tackle the 32 hour ’round the world travel from New Jersey to Melbourne. We spent a week overcoming jet lag and touring Melbourne. And what do you do in the sporting capital of Australia, except enjoy the footy? Simon acted as liaison for much of the Melbourne trip.

We had great seats. How do we know? Because Prime Minister Julia Gillard was in our section! 
She was very good about the attention from the crowd and posed especially for my picture.

It’s fair to say we had a good time, even though the team we were routing for, the Richmond Tigers, lost. It was a good win for Julia’s Bulldogs though – she might not have had such a big smile if they weren’t playing so well.

Next up was a trip down Great Ocean Road to see the 12 Apostles. This is us stopping for a photo op in Torquay:

We took a bit too long dallying at the various sights along the way and had to make a mad 3-hour dash to get to the 12 Apostles before dark. We didn’t make it. 

See those white caps in the back ground? They are washing up against the Apostles. 
Wait… let’s try some photo magic: 

Nope, still can’t see them. But, as mom said: Who gets to see the 12 Apostles by moonlight? Thankfully it was full moon that night.

The next day we drove over to Sovereign Hill to experience mining in 1860 country Victoria.

 Uncle Gary and Dad mining for flakes. 
I was across the river teaching 6th graders the finer points of gold panning. 
It was the best part of the day.

Uncle Gary loved every minute of it.

We also had an impromptu lesson in Woosley’s – an English manufactured, but Australian founded car company. Building the car kept the Australian manager in charge of perfecting Mr. Woosley’s London manufactured sheep sheering equipment busy in his spare time.

I’m afraid I missed the rest of the Melbourne trip since I still had to work that week. I popped in and out often enough to hear stories of the Old Melbourne Goal, the Koorie Heritage Trust, being driven around the Melbourne Grand Prix Circuit, and eating cakes in St. Kilda.

After all that hard tourist work, we arrived in Cairns. This is the only picture I have from Cairns. I was too busy enjoying everything to worry about taking pictures.

The best day was the day on the Great Barrier Reef. We all wanted to go again the next day, but the rain forest beckoned. I don’t have pictures from that either.

I can tell you about my “pretty good” birthday swim. The last really good swim I had was a year ago in Grand Turk for my birthday. I swam with a flock of squid that day. This time around I saw 4 sharks. One as big as me. It was crazy awesome. I swam down to check it out and it swam up to check me out. I got back in the boat – shark wins. Turns out it was just a grey reef shark – they can get up to a pretty good size, but I wasn’t able to identify it as a harmless reef shark right off the bat. As far as I knew it was an aggressive and territorial bull shark and I was out of there. Even if the fish weren’t panicking, I certainly was about to. I needed a rest. Then I hopped back in and showed off it to my mom as if I wasn’t worried at all.

It was also a really hard swim that day. The currents were up and the swells were high and you spent almost as much time worrying about drowning as enjoying the wildlife. The fish were HUGE and the coral colorful. There was a lot to enjoy. I pitied the less experienced snorkelers because it wasn’t an easy day on the water – I loved every minute of it and took it as a personal birthday present from the ocean. Death-defying swims are the best! The wildlife count clocked in at:

  • 4 sharks – one of which a gray reef shark bigger than me, one Wobbegong (that I spotted!), and two were white tipped reef sharks 
  • a nautilus shell
  • a 6 foot cowtail sting ray 
  • a 4 foot parrot fish 
  • a school of unicorn fish
  • a 3 foot wrasse
  • numerous giant clams 
  • a school of 3 foot tuna (dinner!) 
  • a fleet of barracuda resting at the bottom of the sea
  • and I swam with a huge school of needle fish (one of my personal favorites)

Spotted Wobbegong, http://dsc.discovery.com/sharks/shark-pictures/spotted-wobbegong.html    

Next on the itinerary was Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. I was ridiculously excited to be in the Northern Territories. Most people who make this trip stay in Alice Springs and do the park as a day trip, but I really enjoyed sleeping in the shadow of the mountain, as it were. It was really the middle of no place, extremely isolated and strangely home-y. The staff who work here have to make a 7 hour round trip run to the chemist. Sounds like fun to me!

I learned two things from this part of the trip.
1) If you are going to do the sun-rise viewing do Uluru for first light then go watch the show over at Kata Tjuta.
2) No one has a good reason for climbing the rock. I asked them. After being toured around by Elder Ezekiel, who spent the whole time touring us around like it was his backyard, I realized that you don’t trounce your neighbor’s petunia’s and it’s the same sort of thing here. Though – I’m sure a better analogy is “you don’t walk on my alter, so I won’t walk on yours”. The path for the walk goes right up the path the first Mala people took so the tribes don’t walk there. And neither should you.

Me holding Kata Tjuta at sunrise – means “Many Heads”.
Valley of the Winds Walk, Kata Tjuta – at the beginning.
Valley of the Winds – doesn’t look real does it?
Valley of the Winds Walk – only half way there. We thought we were nearly done. 
 Imagine doing this is summer!! In winter it was hot and uncomfortably long…
Mom’s LL Bean shoe fell apart. The sole came off.
The rock formations were awesome.

I stopped taking pictures at Uluru when we left the guided tour. While we were on the tour we were allowed to enter a cave (with TONS of cave paintings!) that almost no one except the rangers see, but after you leave the hospitality of the elders saying “yeah yeah, it’s fine” there are signs everywhere pointing out sacred spots that you aren’t supposed to photo. Here’s a couple from the safe bits:

Lots of flies on the Base Walk around Uluru.

Uncle Gary pretending to be a kangaroo on the Mala walk. Near where the giant mole made all those holes.

Uncle Gary in the cave that no one gets to see. I’m so glad he got to experience this :-/
Me and my well traveled Aunt and Uncle at Uluru at sunrise.

 After the ocean and the desert, Sydney was a walk in the park. We were so tourist-ed-out we spent a lot of time chasing our tails. But we did manage to see the big ticket items while we enjoyed the last bit of our Australia tour:

On the steps of the Opera House, bridge in the background – got them both in one picture!

Afternoon tea by the Opera House, in view of the Bridge, called “The Giant Coat Hanger”.

Light festival all along the Harbour during the month of May/June.

View of Harbour from the Bridge – we walked up the Pylon.

Platypus (bottom right) at Sydney Aquarium.

Sydney Aquarium, if he was a small child, they could put it on a poster.

I swam with a shark that size in Cairns.

Last night in Sydney, at the Opera House Cafe.

Argyle Club, right where I left it, with the really cool urinals.

Easter Sunday

I haven’t been to church in a long while. It’s the only thing that makes me feel homesick, so I avoid it like the plague when I’m not at home. Church was always a family activity – four of us in a row, mom complaining that she never gets to sit next to her husband, Allison silently competing for best singer in the church, dad mentally recounting his latest golf scores, reading Monseigneur’s “thoughts of the week” in the car on the way home. Same ritual every week, always the four of us together.

When I went away to university going the Mass service seemed a bit empty, the preacher was passionate, but not great at homilies, and I missed needling my sister through the service. I gradually stopped attending.

Last Easter I was on Grand Turk. Neal, on request of my mother, dragged me to church at the Lighthouse Church. It turned out to be not so painful. I still don’t know what kind of service it was (never able to remember the denomination of the missionary family who were repairing the Hurricane Ike damage), but we were amongst friends and that was enough. 

It’s strange that the one thing I avoid is the one thing that makes me feel like I belong to something. Traveling has the unfortunate side effect of making you a stranger, but the church is a universal institution. I’ve been traveling alone all over the world and when I need a taste of the familiar, I don’t go to McDonald’s. I go to Church.

The first time was an accident. Somewhere in Paris I stumbled across a Mass while touring a small church. The priest saw that I stopped to listen and waved me into the partitioned area. Afterward, he and I held a broken but genuine conversation. He wished me well on my journey, wasn’t that nice? I felt much less a stranger after having held a conversation with someone other than myself.
Later, during the unusual London snowfall of 2004, I got swept up in a wave of holiday spirit and followed the sounds of vesper songs into an Anglican church. I was instantly recognized as a new face and was welcomed back for as long as I was in town. There you have it, taken in by various denominations – an instant link though we be strangers. Since then, church has become my fall back when I’m feeling out of place.

And man, have I been feeling out of place. Here I am, lost in the urban wilderness of Australia, not sure what to do next, where to go, or how to get there. Boy, do I need to go to church.

So when my landlady offered an invitation to her church a few weeks back, I told her I’d like to go for Easter. Now, my landlady has talked about members of her church being miraculously healed during services, but I figured I’m up to the challenge of keeping a respectfully open mind. Besides, this wasn’t about church, this was about not being alone on the holidays. Nicer to be around people i know with unorthodox beliefs then sit at the back of a Catholic service alone, I thought.

Mustering my traveler’s best of “Easter finest”, I rocked up in an outfit my grandmother would deem “church-acceptable”. (Actually, she would comment on whether or not I looked like a rag-a-muffin, but anyway.)

Right away I was tipped off that this was no church I was used to: it felt more like a rock concert. We walked up to the doors of the Geelong Theatre Company where large and plentiful signs announced “Planetshakers”. Uniformed greeters welcomed you in and copyright signs were posted everywhere (copyright infringement, really? What kind of a show is this?!).  Inside the stage was set up with a 5 piece band, fog machines, and a projector screen displaying a digital clock counting down to zero. The audience is young and hip and not AT ALL concerned with “Easter finest”. Hoodies and leather abound. I feel like I have “boring traditionalist” emblazoned on my forehead. I’m clearly a visitor.

The Hot Cross Bun appreciating couple I met at Good Friday breakfast were present and I went to sit with them and met some of their family while my host sat in the reserved section.

So far my impression is of a close knit community who like to rock. I’m cool with that. It’s good to see so many young people finding a place they can feel involved in. It set me to wondering what they out of this. My first clue hits me over the head as soon as the count down begins – 3, 2, 1! This IS a rock concert. There is jumping and clapping and singing at the top of lungs. Even I can follow along with the words up on the screen. No wonder traditional services are struggling – this is fun. Yay God, praise Jesus! Thank you for the blessings in my life and for carrying me when I think I can’t go any further. The sermon has a familiar and welcome message: trust in the good Lord and things will be all right. Amen.

The sense of spiritual connection in the room was overwhelming and infectious. This was a crowd unashamed in sharing all the joys and sorrows of their hearts -they seemed to pray with their whole bodies; arms raised, voices lifted, passion exuding out of every pore.

This was new for me. Sharing intimate things is not in my nature. But was respectful of their enthusiasm – if we were all this passionate about the teachings of Jesus every day, the world would be a better place. Man, would it be exhausting though.

There were some parts of the service that gave me pause. I didn’t know until I got home and did some research, but Planetshakers is a pentacostal church and there were some roads down which I could not follow. The big annual conference was last week and the congregation was still high on the Spirit. On the projection screen we watched “City News”, local stories and news clips, where one man told how he regained his sight while praying at the meeting. I’m all for miracles, but I still feel curious enough to want to see his medical charts. The rest of the crowd didn’t seem burdened by this type of thought process. In fact, the preacher, whose sermon I was enjoying up to this point, told the crowd “don’t think”. Now, I understand that he meant to say trust yourself, trust your gut, trust that God is leading you, but that’s not what he said. He told a group of 14 and 16 and 18 year olds not to think. Religion, without though, gets you a one way ticket to Haley’s comet.

Even so, I can see how people get caught up in services like this. A friend always says “people want to be a part of something bigger than themselves.” How true it is!  There was I surrounded by this tight-knit community, a stranger in a strange land, going through relationship issues, trying to plan out my next stage of life and having trouble doing it. The preacher says: “Who needs me to pray for them? Who is having trouble and needs help?” My right arm started to tingle and seemed to shout, “raise me. Raise me! Raisemeraisemeraiseme Raise Me!” I started to get emotional. Suddenly I don’t like this sharing thing anymore and I want to escape this circus. Introspection is for the dogs.

The preacher continues to gave over the crowd, patiently waiting for us stubborn sinners to breakdown and admit we aren’t “right with Jesus”. How does he KNOW? The tingling in my arm gets stronger, but I’m contrary by nature and, hey wait a minute, before this moment in time I thought Jesus and I were just fine. I started to think about magicians who you know are some how manipulating you but you just aren’t sure how….. or the hand of God was upon me – your choice.

I didn’t sign up to receive the newsletter, earning me a patient but chiding look from the woman for whom I’d politely agreed to fill out the newcomer card. The preacher had WAY better game. He probably could have gotten me to sign up for a retreat, the way my insides were turned upside down. That which I rely on to be a comfort had prayed on my vulnerabilities. Ok, ok, exposed my vulnerabilities. Either way, I wasn’t a fan.

Family Friends

I feel so loved by this island at the moment. I had family friends (actually, they are close enough to be called family) coming in off the Carnival Miracle today on their 50th Anniversary Cruise. We had a wonderful day starting with the patent Neal Hitch Tour of the Island. I was supposed to give a special tour to a group of young pilots at the museum at 11am so we finished our history lesson in the “big artifact” room of the museum while we waited to hear from the distinguished group.

They ended up canceling again, which was a big disappointment for me. I’d prepared a slam-bang finish for them and was really looking forward to showing off the best parts of the museum collections. I gave the tour to my family instead, so at least it didn’t go to waste. They loved it.

Just as we were about to leave the museum for a swim down at the cruise center, the head of the Tourism Board pulled up in his car. He’s the person I’d been working with to host a tour for the young pilot group. When he found out my family was in town he decided to give them a little something extra – just because they were my family. Cufflinks for the Gentleman and a TCI pin for the Lady, and some other goodies – Caribbean music CD’s, a DVD of pictures of the island, etc. That made us all feel special. Good job Tourism Board: my friends will never forget Grand Turk and my work love tank just got filled a little higher.

We continued the day with a trip for lunch to the new local sensation Joan’s Place. Almost as good as a New York deli. The day finished back at the cruise center for a quick swim and a bit of relaxation.

Patricia’s Visit

I’ve gotten behind in my blogging. We’ve been doing a considerable amount of visitor engagement the last couple of weeks and I feel like I’m missing a number of great stories that need to be shared.

Patricia visited the week before last and was treated to quite an eventful visit, if I do say so myself. She also said she’s never seen me talk so much. “Comes with the territory,” I explained. Everything we do here is about making the Grand Turk experience phenomenal enough that people want to visit again next year.

Patricia came in on the same flight as Dave – one of Neal’s friends who was visiting that same week. That eased my mind about whether or not she’d find the small corner of the Provo airport where the local flights depart. I sent her an in depth email with all the details, but who really reads my long emails anyway?

Having safely arrived we commenced the visiting: Wednesday was a recovery day for Patricia, she napped and I finished up my work for the day. But we did have dinner plans with Bion and Colleen who live just down the beach. Patricia and I decided to walk it and we discussed the things we always discuss: rock formations, stars, the universe, and I gave her a brief history of the TCI.

Later that night Dave heard us laughing in the other room. When we emerged Dave ventured, “You girls are having fun. Girl talk?” I refrained from giving him a “don’t be ridiculous” look (he’d just met us, after all). “Heck no, we haven’t gotten there yet.” Patricia and I have a bad habit of letting things like interesting images on the NASA website get in the way of our catching up. I think we finally started talking about personal life on day 3.

Thursday was a half a work day. Later that evening I was to give the much anticipated Archives Lecture for the Spring 2 Collections at the museum. I’m not kidding, people really were looking forward to it. I’ve been asked numerous times when the archives talk was and could we talk about this type of ink or that era of materials. So an hour or so in the morning was dedicated to setting up. Patricia helped me set up the intended flow of the evening and it was really great to have someone to bounce thoughts off of. More on archives later.

On the way to pick up wine and cheese for the event I took a long loop around the island. I showed her the light house and old US Navy Base at the north point, pointed out the salinas, and drove down historic Duke Street. (This is the normal visitor tour, but it’s the first time that I’ve been the tour guide. Normally it’s Neal showing his friends around!)


Patricia experienced the island tip-to-tail that day. The afternoon plan was to head to the southern most point at the Cruise Center. With 2 ships at port was a crowded mess and not a very good day to visit, but the contrast between the Cruise Center and the rest of Grand Turk became very apparent. We couldn’t even get a table at Margaritaville. Instead, we walked down to Jack’s Shack to grab a bite to eat and get a breather from the crowd.

My event that evening was a great success (more on this later). We finished the night with a dinner at the Bohio. Some friends we made that night would influence much of our week. Dave and Karen (front left couple at the table) were on a trimaran from Florida, though they live in Oregon. “Did you sail from Oregon?” someone asked. “Oh no,” they corrected us, “This is our East Coast boat.” Ohhh, of course, how silly of us. Apparently, boat renovations are a great love of Dave’s and they have amassed a small armada over the years. (Colleen and Bion are at the back right of the table).

The next morning Patricia and I biked over to the museum with the intention of cleaning up the collections from the night before and then going for a morning ride. By the time we left the museum, however, the sun was a bit higher than in the morning and we were both more than ready to go home after a short walk around the mangroves on the left bank of North Creek.

The afternoon plan was to enjoy the beach-side company of Vale at the Bohio. She is the most lovely woman I’ve ever met and easily the best company of all the ex-Pats who live on the island. Her husband works with the government so Vale has a strict regimen of house chores in the morning and afternoons at the Bohio beach. They also religiously attend Thursday night dinner, when I took Patricia over to show her off as proof that I exist as a human in the “real world”, she insisted that we keep her company the next afternoon. We spent a few hours and a few beers chatting about almost everything you can imagine and left as I always leave Vale – with a huge smile.

The evening was a quiet one. Patricia mentioned she had just started watching LOST so we had to watch a few episodes. Of course.

Saturday we had no plans at all. Neal and Dave were committed to a Rotary function so Patricia and I lounged around the house with the mild intention of swimming sometime later. Around 11am I got a call from Neal. The Bohio was sending a boat to Gibbs Cay and did anyone want to go. “Patricia!” I called. “Put on your sunscreen we’re going on a boat!” I didn’t think I was going to get to do this little adventure, so I was too excited to properly explain and a little dazed at the generosity of the Bohio’s proprietor. For the price of the beer we were invited on a $60 excursion. (Though I think it’s really that she’s a good business woman. I think the quality of the trip was significantly increased by our presence). Dragging my poor friend with the smallest explanation of the Gibbs Cay Sting Ray Adventure I hauled her off to the Bohio where we grabbed a small breakfast before we departed.

The Sting Ray adventure is one of those “only on Grand Turk” activities. Gibbs Cay is a natural preserve, but people are allowed to bring their boats over and feed the sting rays. At this point in history, the rays are well trained and come running as soon as they sense the motor. What I didn’t know is that the adventure also includes a conch salad – that you pick up on the way. I managed to dive down to get one, but barely made it up without passing out. It was a good 20 ft dive.

On the beach, while our captain was preparing the conch salad, we commenced feeding the sting rays. The first ones to arrive were babies, but of course I didn’t know that until a monster 4 foot wing span ray came up on my blind side while I had my head in the water with goggles on, watching a baby nibble on a fish. All I heard was “Jess Jess Jess!” and turned my head (with goggles on) to see this monster coming at me. I was up and out of the water faster than lightening. After regrouping I decided, on principle, that I had to feed the big rays until I could do it without flinching. By the end of the trip I was letting the rays brush up against my legs like it was no big deal and laughing at the Army guy who wanted to feed one of the big ones, but couldn’t seem to stand in the water long enough… especially when the rays headed for his feet! It was a good trip. And I accidentally talked Patricia into eating the unmentionables of the conch. Having licked an ant’s butt in Cairns, I thought I had to eat this thing (that I was told was part of the intestines!) and keep up my new habit of experiencing local traditions. Patricia followed my lead, but we didn’t know what we’d done until much later. I still would have eaten it, but Patricia might not have. You’ll have to ask her. (photo couresty of Rowing_Queen on Trip Advisor)

We had dinner that night with Dave and Karen and made plans to go snorkeling on the Harold the following day. Since we were with boat people, we were able to take their dingy out to the wreck, thus taking about 50% of the death defying-ness out of the trip. Which was probably good, seeing how we had company.

I was slightly disappointed in the snorkeling that day (not even an eagle ray!) But I’d managed to take Patricia to the good reef (now named “Rory’s Reef”) earlier. So she got a glimpse of a turtle that day and I guess today was about the ship wreck. (photo courtesy of Karen’s underwater camera)

We met up for lunch at the Sand Bar later to enjoy the view from the best Caribbean beach bar in the Atlantic. I also suggested that we couldn’t be this close to such a beautiful vessel as Dave and Karen’s and not see the inside. We made plans for a sunset tour with wine (finally used my bottle of Beaujolais Nouveau) and chocolate. Not too bad for 5 days on a desert island, eh Patricia?