Saturday, January 5, 2013

Come fly a kite

“Imagination is the highest kite one can fly”
 Lauren Bacall 

I am the eternal optomist, I have to be, at 41 years old I wanted to learn how to kite.  Not just fly a kite but attach myself to the end of it with a board and be in control of the whole thing. Hopefulness was written all over my face while we munched on breakfast and look seaward hopeful of strong breezes.

“The optimist lives on the peninsula of infinite possibilities; the pessimist is stranded on the island of perpetual indecision.”
 William Arthur Ward 

“Marriages are all happy
 its having breakfast together that causes all the trouble.”
 Irish Proverb

Cooking in the Dominican Republic isn't without its problems, the electricity shortages mean that at any moment you could be left powerless, in the dark  holding a spatula.  The 'cut outs' happen so often there is even a saying when the power comes back on "Llegó la lú".

The 'Crepes' of Wrath"

Its funny, I can make crepes anywhere in the world (lets face it I can usually procure eggs, milk, flour and butter just about everywhere right?). Yet, the crepes always provide a taste of home even though I'm not French.  Butter is my own personal comfort food, and I was going to be in need of every home comfort because this was a day when I would be pushed way out of my comfort zone into a world of 'lines' and 'port tacks'.  A world where I was merely hoping to catch a glimpse of the bottom rung of the very long ladder of learning a new sport. 

“So fine was the morning except for a streak of wind here and there that the sea and sky looked all one fabric, as if sails were stuck high up in the sky, or the clouds had dropped down into the sea.” 
Virginia Woolf

Our friend and instucter, John, arrived and began the process of my education to the wind and world of kites.   He put the tiny trainer kite in my hands and I felt the first stirrings of a new addiction.  This was fun and had absolutely no consequences unless you can count untangling a line or two.   Gently, oh so gently John coaxed me into a harness and helmet and had me wait while the kids took their turn.  He had read my perfect motivator, impatience.  When he pulled out a larger kite and attached it to my harness I welcomed it.  Then came the mental appreciation for what was effortlessly being executed by the kiters surrounding me.  Keep the kite at the 'twelve o'clock' apex and everything was under control in 'neutral'.  One and two pm would power me up and send me off on a port tack, off towards the ocean.  Quickly pull back to 'twelve o'clock neutral' but oh no too much the kite slipped back to  'eleven' and 'ten' am and I was powered back, towards the buildings and palm trees and YIKES the narrow strip of beach felt like it had shrunk down to ribbon width.  John stood close by ready to help his confused fledgling figure out the imaginary wind clock.  Surely this wind clock was in direct dissension to my body clock?  I was too old and weak to be starting this now...I had to be about 20 years too late surely?   The beads of perspiration gathered in the furrow of my concentrated brow as the heat increased under my none existent collar.

“The flag was waving in the wind.
Now whether it was waving hello or goodbye, I do not know.”
Jarod Kintz

Now it was time to look at the ocean and take this whole cumbersome rig out into the water.  Adding this extra element to the wind and kite was expertly handled by John, he just told me to body drag a little way out, then fly the kite back through the apex and head back to shore.  It sounded so simple as I stood on the beach bathed in Caribbean sunshine.  Just me a helmet and harness and a kite.  Quite clearly my courage had packed up early for the day and could probably be found having a pina colada in the bar with my optimism.  Alone in my moment of truth, I dug deep for some inner grit, but found only the sand beneath my feet.  So I put one foot in front of the other and off I went talking myself into it the whole way.

“Voiceless it cries,
Wingless flutters,
Toothless bites,
Mouthless mutters.” 
J.R.R. Tolkien

Fear of being blown over the turquoise beauty of the Caribbean horizon was soon replaced with the realization I was going nowhere fast.  I quickly learned the frustrating routine of dropping the kite in the water, being washed ashore, walking back up the beach, detangling and then trying it all over again.  My physical stamina ran out way before my motivation.  By the end of the first day I felt I had at least conquered the art of trying.

“The optimist pleasantly ponders how high his kite will fly; the pessimist woefully wonders how soon his kite will fall.”
 William Arthur Ward 

I quickly came to understand that this was as much a mental sport as a physical one.  I didn't want to leap in the air or do any fancy tricks, all I wanted was to go back and forth with a board on my feet and a smile on face.  In just one short lesson I realized  I was riding a learning curve and I was at the gruelling end of it, the steep beginning.  

“A sailor chooses the wind that takes the ship from a safe port. 
Ah, yes, but once you're abroad, as you have seen, 
winds have a mind of their own. 
Be careful, Charlotte, careful of the wind you choose.” 
Avi, The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle

Greg patiently watched from the hammock, giving me the lesson time.  He'd already been through the school of hard knocks when he tried out the sport years before. Back then the equipment had been far more brutal and less forgiving.  At least I hadn't 'teabagged' and been dragged and dipped unceremoniously out of control.  Although  could anything with tea in the title really be all that bad? I am English - a cup of tea always sounds like a good idea right?

“Don't be afraid of opposition. Remember, a kite rises against, not with the wind.”
 Hamilton Wright Mabie

At first the kids were a little reticent to do anything other than play in the sand and watch me.  Eventually they got bored of watching me grovel up and down the beach, John quickly capitalized on this and had them play with the trainer kite while balancing on a board.  Waiting your turn can be tedious enough so that you forget your fears and  just want to get out there when your turn comes around.

"Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. 
Involve me and I learn."
Benjamin Franklin 

The kids of course were the fastest learners and John had them riding all manner of equipment with him alongside. Seeing their smiles made me long for the day that I too would gracefully slide between the sky and the water, but that wasn't going to happen any time soon so best I learned to enjoy their journey.

Joy is found not in finishing an activity but in doing it.
    Greg Anderson

Those first few days were a mix of the kids and I taking it in turns to try and master the wind. Greg, as ever, patiently played with the kids on the beach when it was my turn and encouraged me to keep on grovelling.  Then he would apply all manner of reverse psychology to coax the kids into trying the different options John offered them.  He would take them alone or together, on the stand up board or on the larger kite board with him.  They were just too small and too light to attempt this solo.  Greg would venture out onto the ocean and remind me how easy it was for him to master this gorgeously difficult sport.  His water and wind knowledge  emphasized my lack there of.  It was a generous act to let me catch up, so he waited on the beach indulging his family and taking photographs.

"I worship the quicksand he walks in."
    Art Buchwald

“The wind howls, but the mountain remains still.” 
Japanese Proverb

As the days rolled into weeks I began to understand the early morning signs of the ocean; what the differing weather patterns meant and what kind of wind the afternoon would bring.  The wind always came, some days lighter than others, but it always came.  In my secret cowardice I felt an element of relief when the wind wasn't as strong.  I knew this made me a wuss, weak and puny on the end of my shortened kite.  I knew that to progress I would need to bolster up my confidence and become commander of my own equipment.  I would need to take joy in harnessing the wind rather than cowering before it.  One day John suggested we take a family ride on the kiteboat.  What is a kiteboat?  Well its the pontoon of a tiny catamaran pulled by a kite.  Great fun and I was pleased that Greg would be aboard and able to enjoy the elements with us.  Besides which we needed strong wind for the boat and I was thankful I would not be facing the powerful gusts alone.

You go and you fly with your wind. 
Let everyone else catch their own gusts of wind” 
C. JoyBell.

We managed to launch the boat in a great commotion of local lads pushing us landlubbers awkwardly seaward.  The idea was for John's helper, a young local teen, to teach me how to fly the bigger kite off the front of the boat.  As we headed towards the outer reef the other kiters scooted out of the way looking on in surprised amusement at the cumbersome sight of a a family outing.  It was windy and further out there was definitely a larger swell, as we pitched and rolled the kids became more vocal in their misery.  They were scared stiff clinging grimly onto the net of the trampoline, they just wanted to get off.  Greg and I tried to reassure them with smiles and excited looks but nothing would convince them.  In truth it was becoming hard mental slog to convince myself that this was a good idea.  Capitulating to momma bear, John and Greg agreed to take the kids back to shore.  Several meters from the sand they both leapt from the boat in fear that these cruel and crazy adults would change their minds and they would be press ganged back out to sea.  I watched them bob back to shore in their life vests with an urgency akin to movie extras from Jaws. However, there was little time to take in the view as we quickly turned and headed back out to the reef on a port tack.  It was suggested that I hang off the shoulder of John's young helper so that I might learn the finer skills of controlling a kite.  Perhaps it was the white knuckle pressure of my claw like hand gripping his shoulder that caused his concentration to break.  Or maybe it was the need of this young man to show an old chuck like me just how fast he could make the kite turn.  Or perhaps it was just sod's law that made the idiot teen swing the cumbersome rig far too sharply back towards shore.  Instinctively I knew the lines would break, even as a complete novice I understood the manoeuvre just didn't feel possible.  Well actually it felt downright impossible, the teen knew exactly how to sail alone but he had no feeling for the wieght of the boat.  What could this erratic young single buck know about the slow cumbersome movements of family groups?   

"it'll come like a wind,
and your plans will stand before it no more than a barn before a cyclone”
Stephen King

The disaster did indeed come like a cyclone and our plans of a pleasant afternoon of sailing were blown away with that one fatal error.  The teen, like a rat, leapt off the boat and hung onto the kite trying to unravel the knotted  mess he had gotton us into.  As the kite began its tangled journey ashore without us I realized the swell and current were pushing us in the opposite direction. John abandoned his attempt to unsnarl the twisted ropes which were now hopelessly wrapped around the rudder and swam off to demonstrate how to use the kite for a self rescue.  Meanwhile back on the pontoon I took a concerted deep breath, quelled my rising levels of panic and started to laugh when I saw Greg was still calmly taking photos of my first 'kitemare'.  

John's infamous ten gallon hat, with him under it, washed shoreward as he self rescued himself and sent a new kite boy recruit to attach himself to the boat and pull us back to the beach.  The current had pushed us way down the beach towards the flat rocks of what I had termed "Loser's Bay".  Basically this is the spot where incompetent novices such as myself get washed ashore in a knotted clump.  I had even gone on to name the small thicket of palm trees where I would untangle the lines as "Spaghetti Shade".

Nearing land, I plunged from the boat holding cameras and sunglasses aloft and pathetically confess I was glad to be assisted through the surf to the sanctuary of the sand.  I could now add Castaway Cove to my map.  Unabashed, I relished my helpless dumb blonde moment of being 'rescuee' rather than rescuer. Safe in the knowledge I merely had to walk back to the apartment and leave the clean up to my gallant crew, I reassured John that at least it was a good way to see a self rescue from the comfort of our floating platform.  It had also been a good lesson in wind strength and staying calm in a panic. I was so glad my first kitemare had been a group experience.

Even with the kite challenge, as a family we loved the Dominican Republic beach lifestyle.  To sleep and wake next to the ever changing ocean breathes life into every day.  The smell of the salt is home, to the kids especially.  The warm waves and balmy winds soothe the essence of the soul.  We got to spend so much time together creating precious memories in the soft light of the Caribbean.

“I have always loved the beach. 
The smell of the salty water, the wind in my face, 
the gentle roar of the waves all combine to create a sense of peace and calm.”


"Little surfer, little one, made my heart come all undone. 
Do you love me, do you surfer girl?" 
The Beach Boys

“She is like the wind, open and free. If I cage the wind, would it die?
Then don't cage it, Mikhail. Trust it to stay beside you.” 
Christine Feehan

We spent most afternoons dragging up and down through the water.  I would feel intense envy each time I would see another helmeted novice rising up even if for just a few seconds and glide on their board over the water.  It just seemed to me that I would never manage to get control of the all the equipment.  The most unruly appliance was my own body, that left leg of mine just refused to do what it was told.  Yet I persevered and continued daily in that quest for unison of woman and rig flying effortlessly in the small gap between the wind and sky.  

“For example, the wind has its reasons.
We just don't notice as we go about our lives.
But then, at some point, we are made to notice.
The wind envelops you with a certain purpose in mind, and it rocks you.
The wind knows everything that's inside you.
And not just the wind.Everything, including a stone.
They all know us very well. From top to bottom.
It only occurs to us at certain times.
And all we can do is go with those things.
As we take them in, we survive, and deepen.” 
Haruki Murakami

Besides it was easy to hide my tears of frustration under the mass of salt water I floundered in.  Although my sunburnt cheeks could not conceal my wide smile when here and there I enjoyed a moment of mastery.  John's analogy of the kite being like a dog resonated with me.  Some days I felt in complete control of the chihuahua, some days it was a great dane taking me for a walk.  I will even confess to a couple of moments when there was a whole team of anarchist sled dogs dragging me off to depths of hidden despair.  

“Close your eyes and turn your face into the wind.
Feel it sweep along your skin in an invisible ocean of exultation.
Suddenly, you know you are alive.” 
Vera Nazarian

Each day certainly brought me tantalizingly closer to moments of that ultimate balancing act between the air and the water, with my whole world of flight controlled by the slight movement of fingertips, while my toes directed the board to plane across the waves.  Conquering the impossible, for just a few seconds each time, was enough for me to sense the feeling and grind beyond the pain of poundings in my bay of sorrows.

"It's kind of fun to do the impossible."
Walt Disney

 “Pain is a pesky part of being human"
 C. JoyBell

And now, my poor old woman,
why are you crying so bitterly?
....the wind howls. Why must you mimic” 
Mervyn Peake

Learning to kite (or more accurately almost learning to kite) has been a true psychological test of my 41 year old being.  This undoubtedly was one of the hardest physical and mental challenges I have willingly chosen to repeatedly undertake.  I managed a water start of sorts, but before my confidence could gain a sure footing I fell back into the water jubilant to have achieved my goal yet too scared to go forward beyond that.  I WILL do this one day in the future, it's just way too much fun being out there harnessing the elements of wind and water.  Perhaps this new found self belief and personal conviction that I will succeed is in fact the more important lesson that I learned.  

Monday, October 15, 2012

Last but not least the Dominican Republic

“But soft! What light through yonder window breaks? 
 William Shakespeare 

In the wee grey hours of the early morning we stumbled from our beds at Grandma's house in Pilling, England and in the dark of night arrived into Santa Domingo airport in the Dominican Republic.  In between departure and arrival there had been several long and tedious plane journeys, the loss of a few hours and the grumpy complaints of jet lagged children.  To our relief, we were finally ejected out from the sanctuary of the Las Americas Aeropeurto into the cloying heat and the throng of late night taxi drivers. I once again thanked my inner tour operator for organizing a minivan ahead of time.  All I had to do was look for my name and mutter an occasional "no gracias" to the hopeful cab drivers with eyes bright and optimistic for the tourism dollars arriving with every wheelie suitcase.  I muttered a Spanish greeting of sorts to an incredibly young looking driver with a sign saying HOLDEM.  Either this was a stick up DR style or they had misspelt my maiden name.  I struggled to scrape together the appropriate espanol communication from the deep recesses of my sloppy grey matter.  It was way above my language skills to ask him for his drivers license so I could check he'd actually graduated from elementary school.

"It is good to know the truth, 
but it is better to speak of palm trees."
 Arab Proverb 

I slumped in the back of the cab with the kids and tried in vain to see through the window to check if we were in a Caribbean paradise or sweaty hell.  The road seemed in fairly good condition as it meandered along the coast away from the airport, the dark blackness of the ocean on one side and the strip of concrete buildings and hotels on the other.  In what seemed like a $2.50 journey rather than the $25 I parted with, we pulled into the forecourt of our hotel.  (I was convinced I'd had a late night decimal point switcheroo pulled on me).  The concrete block looked like decent enough looking accommodation and we stumbled into the foyer, squinting against the bright lights.  To my relief, the young man behind reception greeted us in perfect English.  Unfortunately our reservation had duplicated itself on the internet booking somehow.  It seemed to be turning into uno problemo, with mucho scrutinizing of the computer screen.  Ridiculously it seemed 2 rooms were more of a problem than none and the whole thing had the potential to turn into a third world style hassle involving waking up the manager.  Perhaps it was the desperation in my bloodshot eyes that finally convinced the barely shaving, officious youngster to let me sort it out manana.

“Poetry lifts the veil from the hidden beauty of the world, and makes familiar objects be as if they were not familiar.”
 Percy Bysshe Shelley 

Arriving into a destination under the veil of darkness prolongs the anticipation.  Then when your eyes are rested and ready you can throw back the curtains and see what you've got.  With one swish of light weight polyester, we revealed dense jungle and an abandoned concrete skeleton of a never to be built hotel.  

"Moonlight is sculpture."
Nathaniel Hawthorne

The hazy sky masked the sun into a moon like glow and I had to double check the clock to make sure it was indeed morning and not night.  By the time we had wheeled the baggage downstairs the sun had struggled to shine through and blazed into the promise of a steamy day.  After sifting through the breakfast buffet to snag some recognizable nourishment we waited patiently for our 11am taxi to the other side of the island.  This last leg of the journey would mean a four hour drive over the mountainous interior of the island to Greg who was awaiting our arrival to Cabarete on the Atlantic coast.

"If you come to a fork in the road, take it." 
Yogi Berra

Within a few minutes of riding shotgun I knew exactly why one should never drive in the DR at night.  In fact, I'm not sure if you should really do it at all even during the day.  The roads where fairly good it was the drivers that were the real nightmare!  

We skirted the clogged tarmac arteries of the capital city Santa Domingo and averted the street vendors.  Then we headed inland towards the mountains.  

“My body is a temple where junk food goes to worship” 

We climbed the hairpin turns avoiding goats, chickens and people.  Half way we stopped at a "service area".  If you can really class a waterless, seatless, doorless bathroom as anything service related.  The food ranged from Cheetos to freshly chopped bloody beast, carefully hacked on a wooden block peppered with flies.  We went with the distinguishable Western junk food and probably paid the same price for a packet of chips and a coke as the cost of the whole carcass.

Onward and upward we wound, our driver obviously felt the need to play dreadful "fufi" music and radically tailgate every vehicle we followed.  In order to maintain the two meter gap between our car and the one ahead, we had to alternatively slam on the brakes and make jerky accelerations for the next three hours.  The swerving mountain roads was the last straw and my jet lag was irritated into car sickness.  I started to feel horrendously nauseous, the green churning, dizzy, watering of the mouth kind of commitment to vomiting.  Maybe it was the junk food, perhaps the poor driving or twisty terrain.  I suspected it was the hideous music, and breaking all British reserve I asked him to switch it off.  I even admitted to him I might puke, in retrospect this was the most efficient way to slow down our want to be Mario Andretti.  The last thing he wanted was the smell of my barf in his formula one minivan.  I started to wonder if I'd brushed my teeth with tap water?

Luckily it was a mere 30 minutes more to Cabaret and Greg.  We had been apart since the end of May and although our entire relationship has been scattered over several continents, we had all missed him.  It was hard to imagine I would be up for much of a reunion seduction scene when my insides were charred with the orange dye from the cheetos.  It's also never a good idea to have to worry about burping in the middle of a romantic moment.  

Of course, Greg had chosen a place with the best view of the best kitesurfing spot next to the best kite school.  It was simply divine.  It was just so wonderful to be back together as a family, it was our first time in Cabarete, but we were home.

“Is it possible for home to be a person and not a place?” 
Stephanie Perkins

“Throw your dreams into space like a kite, and you do not know what it will bring back, a new life, a new friend, a new love, a new country.”
 Anais Nin

"When I admire the wonders of a sunset or the beauty of the moon, my soul expands in the worship of the creator." 
Mahatma Gandhi

As the night closed in we watched the last of the kiters out on the bay.  Kiting is such a great sport to watch as we scrutinized the maneuvering of the long lines on the narrow strip of beach.  While the colors of the sunset faded I decided to take a little nap which ended up lasting fourteen hours until the next morning.

"A smile is the light in the window of your face
that tells people you're at home."
Author Unknown

I awoke to the rustle of palm trees shifting in hint of warm winds.  The sound of the ocean lapped along the sandy shoreline.  The hell journey of yesterday was long forgotten and Josh and I had a hankering to run outside and jump in the warm waters.

“And forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair” 
Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet

“You can't put a limit on anything.
The more you dream, the farther you get.”
 Michael Phelps

We had breakfast on the balcony overlooking the beauty of Kite Beach. In the warm caress of the morning air, I just felt so damn grateful.  I let out a huge big fat indulgent sigh of contentment.  My version of nirvana has always involved waking up and putting on a bikini, it definitely includes warm turquoise ocean water and of course white sandy beaches with fringed with palm trees.  This was a day to ooze gratitude for being alive.  I just wasn't sure who to heap my appreciation upon so I just vowed to pay my euphoria forward to everyone today.

“When you wake up in the morning, Pooh," said Piglet at last, "what's the first thing you say to yourself?"
"What's for breakfast?" said Pooh. "What do you say, Piglet?"
"I say, I wonder what's going to happen exciting today?" said Piglet.
Pooh nodded thoughtfully. "It's the same thing," he said.” 
A.A. Milne

"Turn your face to the sun and the shadows fall behind you." 
Maori Proverb

The light in the Caribbean is just so beautiful it makes me want to live, bathed in it's luminescence, forever.  The island of Hispaniola is no exception and it has the same amazing hues bouncing of the azure waters.  The island is split into thirds, with the country of Haiti situated on the western third and the Dominican Republic on the eastern two thirds.  With 10 million people, the DR is the second largest Caribbean nation after Cuba.  The nation is Spanish speaking with English taught as a secondary language.  I also heard plenty French and Haitian Creole being spoken around the place. Initially the island was inhabited by Tainos and Carib Indians until the arrival of the Spanish in 1492.  

"All my life I feel I've been chasing the sun, 
and at last I feel I'm going to catch it." 

Christopher Columbus

In 1492, Christopher Columbus claimed the island of Hispaniola for Spain on his first voyage to America, he named it La Espanola.  He called the local indigenous people "Indians" and the area the "Indies" because he believed he had found India.  With the discovery of gold on the Island the Spanish returned in greater numbers. Christopher's brother, Bartholomew Columbus, founded Santa Domingo the capital and the colony became the Spanish headquarters for the New World.  

"When asked by an anthropologist what the Indians called America before the white man came, an Indian said simply, "Ours."." 
Vine Deloria, Jr.

Within 30 years of Columbus arriving, the Tainos were virtually wiped out through diseases such as smallpox and flu, enslavement, abuse, execution and starvation.  The Tainos were generally a peaceful people but the abuse of their women folk and their enslavement by the Spanish pushed them into a rebellion which they lost.  However, many of the first Spanish settlers took Tainos wives and so genetically the DNA survived.  

With only low numbers of Indians left to subjugate the way was open to import African Slaves. After three centuries of Spanish rule with French and Haitian interludes the population of Hispaniola was 30% white landowners, 20% black or mixed ancestry freed men and 50% slaves.  By 1821 the country had become independent but with a historical litany of internal strife, dictatorships, international interventions and civil wars.  In the 21st century the Dominican Republic has moved towards a representative democracy and the sugar cane wealth has been replaced by tourism income.  Economically the country suffers from government corruption, foreign economic interference, a rift between rich and poor and crippling blackouts from energy shortages. 

This country seems like a strange mix of third world poverty with a crumbly first world infrastructure interlaced over the top.  Precariously balanced on top of this is the tourism industries hotels and restaurants, yet it doesn't seem anything other than idyllic as we wander over to the cabana style cafe overlooking the beach.

"A woman should never be seen eating or drinking, unless it be lobster salad and Champagne, the only true feminine and becoming viands." 
Lord Byron

The restaurant was part of Hotel Extreme, and we had our first of many meals sitting on the heavy adirondack stools amongst the kite surfers who stared wistfully at the unmoving flags.

“All happiness depends on a leisurely breakfast.”
 John Gunther

It was difficult not to feel laid back in this kind of atmosphere, besides which I had roll slightly backwards to accommodate my over expanded stomach.

"All good writing is swimming under water and holding your breath." 
F. Scott

We very quickly jumped into the relaxing routine of swimming, walking, eating and chilling out in our fabulous apartment.  Greg introduced us to our neighbor John who ran a kite school and paddle board rental.  Behind John's house, just meters inland from the strip of apartments, hotels and restaurants was an incredible lagoon which just begged to be explored.

"The gladdest moment in human life, methinks, is a departure into unknown lands. The blood flows with the fast circulation of childhood."
Sir Richard Burton

“A river seems a magic thing. A magic, moving, living part of the very earth itself.” Laura Gilpin

As we paddled along the narrow and very shallow canal that had been dug out, dragonflies hovered in the sultry air.  These metallic looking helicopters of the insect world were most welcome as it meant the mosquitos were non existent. Lily pads choked the narrower sections of the channel and we had to push off the muddy bottom to force our way through.

"…some unused lagoon, some nameless bay" 
Walt Whitman

Rounding a corner and we were suddenly ejected into the vast water paddock with grasses billowing gently in the wind.  At this point John's dog decided to swop boards and hitch a ride with a more than delighted Josh.

“If I saw you hitchhiking, I’d smile and return your thumb’s up, just for you doing such a great job of being a positive roadside influence.” 
Jarod Kintz

Then it was Jasmin's turn to paddle the stowaway.  We floated around in the tropical paradise of mangroves, reeds and lily pads.  The silence was deafening, the peace all encompassing.

"Tea is a cup of life." Author Unknown

Upon our return to the shore John served up some freshly picked lemon grass tea.  We chatted about our plan to learn to kite surf with him while we nibbled on the picnic of coconuts, bananas and freshly fallen almonds, all grown on his property.  We decided to take a ride into Cabarete proper, do some grocery shopping and stop for a Mexican lunch at Gorditos.  All the incredible food forced me to take an afternoon siesta.  
Life in swimsuits can be tough especially when you eat so much you're not so sure you will be able to fasten them up properly.  Our life here in Cabarete was indeed turning out to be a list of tough choices.....what sunglasses to wear.... 

“‎Do not allow people to dim your shine because they are blinded. Tell them to put on some sunglasses" Lady Gaga

what to order off the menu.....

what game to play on the beach....

what picture to take in the pool....

which view to watch from the balcony.....

“Life is a sum of all your choices.”
 Albert Camus