Tuesday, April 19, 2005

In the Loupe, Chapter 21

One thing my mom really wanted to do when she was here was the glass-bottom-boat-and-snorkelling extravaganza in Bouillante (all for the exciting low price of 14 euros!), but we weren’t able to do it that week, choosing instead to go to the beach in Deshaies, get our stuff stolen and then spend the afternoon at the police station. Life is, after all, about choices. She made me promise I’d do it with Bronwyn, since it is a Magical Experience (Mom did it in Cuba, and I believe there were dolphins involved.)

So last Friday, Bron met me after class and we took a badly-driven and sick-making bus to Bouillante, where we bought our tickets and ate sandwiches while waiting for our boat’s departure. We were among a group of French high school students, a good thirty of them, and found ourselves at once praying they wouldn’t be on our little boat and unable to stop staring at them and the fascinating dynamics between them. Which made us the weird and creepy girls staring at school kids, which is unfortunate. What can you do.

We went out to the dock and were the first ones on our boat. Intending to make my way downstairs to look through the glass, I was deeply saddened to discover that our boat did have windows along the bottom, but we had to stand six feet above them, behind a railing, and squint. I looked across the dock at the competition, a fancy-pants boat with slides into the sea and a bench gallery with actual, up-close underwater windows, and felt very jealous. "Antilles Vision," I thought bitterly. "More like Antilles CRAP."

Once we got rolling, though, and our little captain was funny and corny and swam under the boat to attract fish, and the water looked gorgeous and there were nice families around us and I realized the other boat had a bajillion people on it (including the high school group) and I don’t, all things considered, like people very much, well, Antilles Vision turned out to be right up my alley.

Or at least, as much as any snorkel-bound boat can be, for it turns out that I don’t like fish. At all, really. When our guy took bread under the boat for fish to eat out of his hands and they swarmed around him like sharks, or like these hideous barn mice I was on Crocodile Hunter that went down his wife’s shirt and made me want to throw up all over the shag carpet, well, I remembered that my least favourite thing is having fish brush against me. (To be fair, I’ll take fish over mice. But barely.)

Bronwyn feels the same way and we realized, snapping masks and snorkels onto our heads like we were heading to our doom, that we were living my mother’s dream, not ours. Please don’t make me go in the water, I prayed to no one in particular, knowing full well that it had to be done. To Honey!

Yeah, it wasn’t so bad. I’m not a fan of flippers, and I lost a lot of time on equipment reorganization, as the mask was too loose and kept letting in water, but I had some peaceful ten-to-twelve-second stretches of watching the hustle and bustle of underwater life, before becoming claustrophobic and breathing through my mouth, choking on sea water and having to surface. Seriously, who knew I was so wussy? Bronwyn handled the situation much better and even took some underwater photos, so I’ll ask for doubles and, looking back, try to pretend that it was as dreamy as it looks. I guess I won’t go for the scuba lessons; I’m a natural-air-breathing kind of girl.

Bronwyn came to class with me and it went well, as the kids were very excited to see us speaking English to each other as if it comes naturally. Not just to say, "where is the pencil? It is BESIDE the notebook," but to actually communicate, quickly and with laughter. Good lesson for them: English is for real.

We rented a car again to have one last week-end of tourism and almost spent a rainy Saturday watching movies. Franck said "you’re lazy, get off your butts and go somewhere" just as the sun started to peek out, so we went to the famous and lovely waterfall I had attempted with my dad. The bridge was still blocked (earthquakes) but we climbed down, rebels that we are, and it was, indeed, quite lovely.

We left on Sunday with every intention of going up the volcano, but it was cloudy and rainy by the time we got there, which is both a miserable and unsafe way to climb. Instead we packed back into the car and drove out to the infamous Deshaies beach, where Java got a sea bath because she stinks and is in heat and needed it badly, Bronwyn got a sunburn from which she’s still smarting and Franck and I both fell asleep and then woke up with achy necks. (Not very interesting, I guess, but I wanted to be part of the story too.)

We also went to a beautiful waterfall/basin thing in the mountains, but there were dozens of tourists and it was no fun. Where were they all coming from? I don’t know. (One of them looked like Hyde from That ‘70s Show, so at least that’s something.) We went downriver to give Java a shampoo (seriously, she was one stinky dog), I got bitten in the bum by a small crab – prompting Bronwyn to shout “you have crabs!”, a good time for all – and then we stopped in to see Franck’s dad on the way home.

There we met Clément, a four-year-old boy who is someone’s cousin and whom everybody found adorable. Including me, at first, but then he just didn’t seem to like me, was even highly suspicious of me and everything I represented – obviously not feeling my vibe. And Franck’s dad was talking about how kids always like Franck because they can feel that he’s a good person – so who am I? Is it my fault Clément’s a little jerk? I’m a great person! Great! Clément, indeed. Punk.

The most exciting part of the week-end was definitely the Tour de Guadeloupe, as endless groups of cyclists took to the roads in the sweltering sun and rode up and down along the mountainous coasts. There being only one road in Basse-Terre, cars and cyclists had to share their space, swerving around each other in typical Gwada-style chaos. Generally, a motorcyle would drive by, yelling at us to pull over or slow down, followed by a sea of spandex-clad cyclists, the spare-parts cars driving with them and the locals zig-zagging between the bikes to pour water on tired heads.

These water guys were actually more exciting than the bikers themselves, as they darted in and out of traffic, risking life and limb (their own and those of people around them, cyclists included) to be in the action.

It was also exciting to shout the Creole words of encouragement Franck taught us as we passed the bikes – especially uphill – though just honking and yelling “woooo!” proved ultimately more effective. I don’t know who won, but I have a feeling it’s someone who was inspired by our encouragement. It’s just a feeling.

As well as this recent frenzied activity, my craving for Dirty Dancing was satiated during a movie night last week – one of only three movies I’ve seen this year – and practising the steps to the ever-fantastic Time of My Life dance sequence with Bronwyn made me feel at peace with my life as it stands; it’s amazing what a little dose of Baby and Johnny can do.

The ants are gone, which is great.

Bronwyn pointed out that the bats outside at night seem bigger than before. I laughed at first, smug in my fearless self, but I think she’s right. They’re HUGE. And the fear is creeping in.

Did you know Bronwyn took synchronized swimming for two years? Me neither!

And, finally, walking off an ill-advised imitation-Nutella binge (purchased for crêpes, all very legitimate, but then the bread truck came by and I went a little wild and dragged Bron down with me; I accept full blame), we came across the rehearsal of a Carnaval group that’s going to Caribana in Toronto in July. What are the chances! We are considering becoming groupies so that we can be their super cool Toronto friends; I’ll keep you posted.

Oh no! Java ate rat poison last night and went to hospital! After we cleaned her and everything! But apparently she’s gone home and is tired but fine, so think nice good thoughts in her direction (big and white and looks like a wolf, if you’re the visual type) and she’ll heal faster.


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