Just Another Day in Paradise

It is hard to believe that it is already Saturday — and yet we have already enjoyed three-and-a-half full days of tropical sun, water and glorious beach. If today was our last day, we could easily come home fully satisfied with having experienced ‘A Caribbean Vacation’.

We haven't actually used it yet, but the tennis court is pristine, and (of course) has a view of the beach.

But it is not our last day. We aren’t leaving until Wednesday afternoon — four more incredible days await us. As Kathy and I sit with our laptops, side-by-side at the kitchen counter, looking out at the water, we continue to be amazed at God’s grace and goodness to us, that we can enjoy this. Just this morning, I was thinking about how incredible it is to have eyes that can see all the contrasts of colors and shades within colors — even though I have to squint sometimes, I almost want to drink in the scenery with my eyes.

The pool is as warm as bathwater, and useful for snorkeling practice, or just to rinse off the salt, sand and coral at the end of the day.

Yesterday we drove around the island and saw many of the poorer parts. For all its lush vegetation, the island is mostly coral and rock — we didn’t see a lot of arable farm or garden land. It seems evident that many homes have been abandoned or are unused, most of the time — sad to think of the lost opportunities bound up in those properties.

Kathy enjoyed a delicious Mexican salad at the Seaside Cafe, at Ocean Club West. I had a very tasty blackened-fish sandwich, with a mountain o' fries.

It is a little weird driving here — very strange when you come over a hill, around a corner and there is a car in the lane to your right, coming towards you. There’s a moment when you grip the wheel in panic, ready to swerve out of the way, before your brain kicks in: “It’s OK, you’re supposed to be on the left side, he isn’t going to hit you!” Sure enough, no one has hit us yet — the drivers here have actually been quite kind and courteous, with only an occasional luxury SUV careening at double the legal speed limit.

As we step out our door, these flowers greet us each morning.

We visited several of the other resorts, including the Ocean Club West, the Royal West Indies Resort, the Paradise Caribbean Inn, and the Seven Stars Resort. We decided to limit our stay here at the Aquamarine Beach Houses to a mere seven nights, and to spend our last night on the island at one of the other resorts. I must admit, I’m leaning toward the Seven Stars as the culmination of our visit — it was very swanky.

Breakfast on our own little beach side patio -- and of course, you can't go wrong with a good biscuit or two.

We’ve mostly been cooking our own food, partly for economy and partly because of the norovirus that struck some of the all-inclusive resorts just before we arrived. Still, dining at the beach, on food that someone else has prepared, has a definite charm.

There was this one lady in a pink hat that kept staring at me, all through lunch -- I suppose this is the sort of adventure you must expect, in the tropics. Maybe she is Mrs. Pollifax's beautiful niece?

One question we’ve been asking people who live on the island, is whether the beauty of the beaches has become routine or mundane to them. No one has yet admitted to this, but a few have seemed startled by the question — I can imagine that after a few years, you might become inured to the beauty, just as we have come to take our mountains and rivers for granted, where we live.

This morning, Kathy asked me, “What is one thing you would like to change, when you get back home?”

“I’d like to make better use of our mountains,” I told her. “There are people here on this island who will never see a mountain, all their lives, and we sit at home, not really exploring them or getting the most out of them.”

Maybe this year I’ll actually take the kids camping or something.


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Paradise Found

“Somewhere in my youth, or childhood, I must’ve done something good!”

So goes the song in the Sound of Music movie, in which Maria reflects on the undeserved blessing of winning the love of Captain von Trapp. And so goes the song in our hearts as we reflect on the joy of spending a day on this glorious island — how can it be possible that we are allowed to stay here? Surely the Deserving Police ™ will burst into our apartment and haul us back to the airport, stuffing us on the nearest outbound plane, amidst outraged cries in thick islander accents: “You do not deserve to be here! You must go! Close your eyes, it is not proper for you to see our island!”

Don’t get me wrong. We paid good money to be here, thanks in part to the generosity of our parents. But as we soak in the tropical sun, or float in the body-temperature water, we feast our eyes on the cornflower-blue horizon and the many shades of coral-blue in the water as they contrast with the white of the sands. Every few minutes, our minds circle ’round to this question: “How can it be that God has blessed us to be able to see and experience such beauty?”

I didn't know God made this many shades of blue.

Kathy and I have been married twenty years — and they have been some pretty wonderful years. We have some fights and disagreements, but on the whole we have greatly enjoyed growing closer to each other and to our God. As we learned a few years ago, one of the main reasons for marriage is for God to make us holy, as we are continually offered opportunities to serve and love each other, even in adversity.

But we aren’t holy yet, and we feel it keenly, at a place like this. Turks and Caicos should be reserved for those who have arrived at holiness, or at least can see it on a clear day. It just seems wrong for people like us to enjoy a place like this.

The view from our front porch is nearly enough, all by itself.

Yet somehow we are managing, with only the occasional guilty look over our shoulders. We wallowed in bed until 10:45 am this morning, an accomplishment I have almost never achieved since I was in college.

Kathy rolled over and said to me in a muffled voice, “We should really get up.”

“What time is it?” I asked, mustering almost a microgram of interest in the answer.

“It’s about ten a.m.,” she told me. “Shouldn’t we get up?”

“Yeah, any minute,” I assured her, and promptly went back to sleep.

Eventually, we did get up, and I called the Avis office while Kathy went down to the water to make sure it was still there. Our apartment is at ground level, and our front windows look out onto a ‘yard’ of white sand. Beyond that yard is a path through the tall grasses, and some 40 yards from the house is the beach. And what a beach it is! Stretching miles left and right, there’s nothing but turquoise blue water, white sand, and blue sky as far as the eye can see.

The Seabreeze villa (where we are staying) has rooms above and at ground level.

We got our rental car (a stick-shift, but with the wheel on the proper left side) and practiced driving around town on the left side of the road without any major hazards. We found the grocery store and stocked up on food (we plan to cook much of our own food this week) and made it home in one piece. We made lunch and ate on our shaded porch facing the sea.

Spending the afternoon on the beach, Kathy coasted in the water on a float while I read my book in the portable cabana (I’ve been trying to avoid excessive sun, after my skin-cancer diagnosis last winter). We sat and talked in the beach chairs, reading each other snippets from our respective books and reveling in each others’ company.

Because of the strong westward wind, Kathy had to work hard to stay in front of my position on the beach.

By 6:30 pm, we were hungry, so we walked the miles and miles 40 yards back to our villa. Kathy made a salad and a delicious vinaigrette, with some sauteed cauliflower and carrots and chicken breast over her salad. I cooked some smoked pork chop with penne noodles and we both settled in to enjoy our meal in our living room.

It gets pretty hot here, during the day, and our hostess has asked us not to run the air conditioner in the day time, but with the windows open, we get a nice breeze, and it isn’t unbearable. Once the sun went down, we felt free to close up the windows and turn on the A/C — and now we’re quite comfortable, sitting together in the kitchen, side-by-side with our respective laptops.

Our beach is blessedly empty, most of the time -- an unexpected treat from the hand of our God.

We’ll be here 8 nights altogether, and I’m sure the time will slip away more quickly than we can imagine. In the meantime, we’ll enjoy this preview of Paradise.


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