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Thursday October 31, 2002
A Spooky Halloween Mystery on the Sea

Our bellies are full of Baja style fish tacos. Curt and I were just looking out over the water, talking about how we didn't know the world could get so pitch black. As a matter of fact, this is the first time I've really considered the phrase "pitch black" or, black as pitch. Pitch being the residue of coal tar. Yup. That's about the color of the night here. Past the toe rail of our boat, we could be floating in space for all we'd know. We can see a few stars twinkling above and a few lights on nearby boats. But no land, no sea. It's like we're rolling around in the darkness of the inside of a shoebox. It's 20:00 here. That means it must be either 4 or 5 o'clock back home (we can never remember the time difference). By now the streets are filled with Trick or Treaters in their Halloween costumes. The kids have had a big day at school, marching in their playground parades or perhaps going to a carnival. I wonder what my friends' chidren are disguised as? And here we are living on a boat bobbing around in the Caribbean Sea. I wonder if a time will come when I'll stop marking the time pass here by the milestones at home.

Appropriately for Halloween however, our day started with a fright. I was cleaning up the breakfast dishes when I noticed something floating off to one side of our boat. It looked big. It looked gross. It looked like something was dangling down into deeper water from below the surface. I called Curt over and pointed this icky thing out. We stood on the deck and peered over the side, trying to figure out what the heck it was as it floated closer. Finally Curt got in the dinghy to get a better look. After much deliberation, we found that what we saw floating on the surface were the intestines of a shark and they were attached to its head which was dangling below. We figured perhaps it came down from the fishing camp just up current from us. But holy mackerel that was a big head- probably belonging to an equally big shark. Ew.

After lunch, we went in to the little island to explore with Viva. Having been here before, and all over the world, I'm sure it got old for them hearing us repeat over and over "how beautiful it is." "We can't believe how gorgeous this is." And moreover, we can't believe these little islands aren't totally overrun with tourists or a hotel, or ANYthing really. I mean, there is nothing more than a few little fishing villages with tiny little houses- some of concrete, some just of palm fronds and whatever they could find. We walked along the beach to pet the horse roaming the sandy hillside, and then on down to talk with some of the fisherman sitting under the shade of a palm tree lean-to. Two seemed to be just kicking back, and a third looked like he was working on a lobster trap from sticks and chicken wire.

Steve did most of the talking. In Spanish, he said hello and asked if there was a chance that maybe tomorrow we could either buy or trade some lobster from them. The one making the trap, who also seemed to be the most jovial, replied that tomorrow, maybe. But it depends on what happens (I think meaning if they catch some). Today it wasn't time yet- but yes, maybe tomorrow. Steve then said we had things to trade- like perhaps liquor, or shirts, or hats, etc. The guy laughed and pointed at his toothless friend and said he could sure use a new shirt- making his friend smile a toothless grin and look down into his lap while he laughed. So we all got to laughing then, and that's when Steve said, "Hey, we could even trade lobster for a girl!" gesturing towards me! To which I replied we could also trade lobster for an old man. The men really cracked up at this and it was so great to see their faces light up as we all laughed together standing on the sand, looking so foreign from each other. We exchanged waves and smiles as we walked back down the beach and I wondered what they must be saying about us at that moment as the four gringos that seemingly appeared from nowhere walked back down their beach.

Back at the dinghy, we opted to go down the coast a little ways and see what else we might find. We passed a tiny little cactus covered island, a few pirogues here and there, and found another, larger village with perhaps five to ten little structures. There were the most beautiful boats anchored just off their shore. They were immaculately maintained and painted in cheerful bright white with sunny colored trim. Still further down, we found two other fishing boats rafted together and it looked like some men were aboard. Steve once again was the band leader, charging towards them with the dinghy, while Curt, Pam and I thought, "Oh no. Do they really want us coming over to check out what they're up to?" But we were so glad he did go to say hola.

At first, there were maybe three men on the deck, but after a minute or two, there were more likely at least eight that came up to see what the gringos were all about. We asked about fish and lobster, and perhaps making a trade tomorrow. Their deck was stacked with fish, and the smiling guy in this group wanted to show us them all and tell us what they are called in his language. He said we could come to their village tomorrow if we'd like to make a trade. And then he handed us two of the fish from their stacks. We were so surprised and said we had nothing to trade today and said we had drank all of our beers pointing to a few empty cans in the dinghy. He said it was no problem, perhaps he would see us tomorrow and waved us off with a smile.

I was so warmed by this, I can't tell you. These people have nothing by American standards. Their government is in upheaval, their economy is bottoming out… they live in barely more than a shanty. And four Americans come by out of nowhere and they offer us the fruits of their day's labor asking nothing in return. In the few Spanish words we know, we couldn't even express our thanks properly. I can tell you though, as we sit in their bay at anchor, I feel so safe, and so good about humanity. I only hope that these islands can stay this way. I hope that the yachties that come after us don't muddle things up, and that they're kind and respectful to these good people.

Tomorrow marks the opening of lobster season in the Caribbean! We'll be looking to make a deal with our new neighbors and may even going adventuring on another nearby island across the channel. Hopefully this time tomorrow, my fingers will be too buttery from lobster to type another entry!

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