Last week, J flew up to the States for work, and the kids and I were on our own. He has been our lifeline, the one we depend on for transportation to Town since I can't seem to pull the rip cord to start the boat's outboard. J is our go-to guy for heavy lifting (the 5 gallon jugs of water we haul out here for drinking are cumbersome!) and local knowledge (he has been commuting here for the past year). His iPhone is also our Internet connection, our online umbilicus. Before he left, J loaded up our kilowatts of electricity, stockpiled the waterjugs, put the propane by the back door, entered everyone I might need on speed-dial and sharpened the machete. I admit I was a little nervous when he left. Would we be able to do this on our own?
Early mornings, we hitched a ride to Town with either the transport boat for Coral Beach Village or with our neighbor Andi. Some mornings we had to be at the far end of Town as early as 7:00am for Hayden's dive certification at Underwater Vision, while Max and Pip went on up the hill to marine conservation class at BICA.
I had a small epiphany one day as I was walking with my three little ducks in a row, single file since the narrow street can be a crazy mix of scooters and quads and tuk-tuks and bicycles front-loaded with watermelons. I looked around and I felt like, this is our life. Seven weeks into our adventure, something has shifted for me. This doesn't feel like a huge extreme adventure anymore. Not the usual buzz and sensory assault that I used to get in Town. Just a quiet ticking off of my To-Do list: smoothies and email check-in at Munchies, pick up avocados from Bobby, bags of hairy red lychees from the men by the ferry port, huevos from Bush's where they are freshest, and yogurt from Jennifer with a visit to Benja and Mimi, Piper to painting class at the museum by three, return movies to Funkytown...
It feels like we belong here, hopping on the back of JW's golf cart for a lift up the street, waving to our friends at Che Pancho, speaking whole conversations in Spanish with Alejandro, the tuk-tuk driver. Alejandro and I had gotten off to a bad start when we first arrived here, the result of the chasmic gaps in my Spanish ability. Afterwards, he would frequently ignore my phone calls and look away in the street. But I needed him to be reliable with no other way from Blue Bayou into Town.
So I studied my Spanish at night to make conversation with Alejandro, and after the first day, earnest Max insisted on sitting on the narrow front seat beside him, leaning his cheek into Alejandro's forearm in that inimitable, endearing Max way, chatting him up about fruit and futbol (in Spanish--le gusto mucho!) and cheerfully jumping out to operate the gates at Las Palmas. One afternoon Alejandro saw me hauling our yoga mats and snorkel gear and groceries down the street towards the marina (I'd already dropped the huevos and they were dripping out the bottom of the bag) and the kids were dawdling and sweaty, and he chivalrously waved us in and took us the last quarter mile with no charge. I told him in all sincerity that he was the best, and he grinned and welcomed me to call him, anytime.
Afternoons, we all sweat rivers in the new Yoga Utila studio above Bush's Supermercado. (Max passed on painting class one day to join me in his first adult seventy-five minute Vinyasa class where he proudly showed off his wheel pose and headstand.) At the end of the day, we cooled off by jumping off every boat, dock, bar or balcony over the ocean.
One of the things I dreamed of was my children forming friendships across all boundaries and borders. Last week, in the breaks between the classroom and underwater parts of Hayden's certification, my kids played fierce but fun games of water tag with whoever showed up in a combination of Spanish, English and the universal dialect of pre-teen trashtalk. The boys list the mayor's son and Camilo, the Argentinian boy who lives up the canal on an old sailboat and looks so much like Max that people in town do a double take when they see them side-by-side, as their newfound friends.
We rode home exhausted every night, gliding quietly through the canals at sunset, where Amigo greeted us with full-body wagging in the marina and exuberant barks. Our life on the South Shore is like an exhalation, much quieter, more mellow, and coming home and putting down a day's worth of packages and must-haves and groceries felt like a stripping, an unloading of my burdens. A sigh, one word, home...
After eight days, J came back, bearing gifts from the States of polarized sunglasses, jasmine green tea, Shrinky Dinks and copper wire.
Hayden has graduated as a certified diver, and the BICA class with Amber is finished. Life on the South Shore picked up where it left off, with the small, internal adjustment that I feel more connected to the island as a whole, and confident in my ability to navigate a week of solo parenting in a foreign country. It is still an adventure (roving day long power outtages and the rainy season slow in coming) but I can safely say we have found our Utila groove.
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