Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Bahamas in Conclusion

A storm swept our island again on Friday night. It was almost as bad as Hurricane Sandy. In some ways it was worse. Sandy kept a solid one-direction wind that slowly built up in speed. The wind drove the waves from left to right across our horizon. This allowed the reefs to protect us somewhat. The rain and the humidity were horrible, but it kept the sand on the ground.

The second storm, not even mentioned on the weather channel, was fairly dry and extremely gusty. Wind whipped every direction in gusts close to 100 MPH. walking on the beach Friday evening was difficult, but Saturday it was treacherous. It felt like a sand storm! I had to hold the beach-walk rail to keep from being knocked down. The bay looked like a giant Jacuzzi with the jets on high. Waves came from all directions, crashing into each other creating frothy white caps. Of course Joe and a couple of other fools felt it necessary to swim in it. I sat safely up at the beach bar with a Venezuelan friend and watched while trying to pin all of our belongings down.

This visit to Club Med resulted in some deeper friendships than usual. I think it was because of the hurricane. Instead of hanging out at the beach all day or diving, we were sort of stuck together in each other’s space. I remember after remember after our big meeting (when they told us we would be confined to our rooms), one older gentleman was really angry. He cornered the English speaking representative and starting raising his voice. He wanted to know “Why did Club Med say this would be a tropical storm? They should have told us the truth!” the rep tried to explain the vagaries of weather and how Cuba was supposed to knock it down to a tropical storm, but instead it just escalated. The man just got madder. Some older guests stepped in and instead of defending the rep or trying to convince the older guy they consoled him. A man his own age put his hand on the guys shoulder and said “Sir, it’s okay. We are going to be okay. Just stay calm.” The man looked completely deflated and even got teary-eyed. He looked around in embarrassment, but no one was making fun of him. Several of the older men surrounded him, gently reassuring him. I was in awe. I wonder if this was a little bit of PTSD peeking out.

I heard later that many of the guests snuck out of their rooms and went to each other’s rooms so they wouldn’t be alone. They played cards and the visiting guest talent, David Carver, played his guitar. Cigars and wine accompanied the storm. Some guests had preloaded movies on their laptops, so their rooms became mini home theaters. Most couples just stayed put and enjoyed the forced ‘alone time’ (I suspect their will be some babies named Sandy in July). The next day people were closer. We’d made it! Together.

I feel bad for the upper East Coast people who are going home to deal with this all over again, while we head off to sunny California.
The San Salvador Airport is amazingly small. I snapped some photos while we waited in the bar area.

The flight crew played a game involving dominoes while they waited for the plane to be made ready.
The passengers sat around in the waiting area and chatted.

By- the-way, Joe’s birthday was fabulous with a special cake and Ralph bought two bottles of champagne.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Hurricane Sandy comes to an end

Day Two, Lockdown 10/25/12;

At 10:30 we were told in 4 languages that we would be restricted to our rooms until tomorrow at 8:00 am. We are not to leave our room even in an emergency . . . we can call reception if we need anything. The deadline to be in our rooms was 1:00 pm. As we struggled against the wind to get here I felt one gust lift me! It didn’t take my feet off the ground, but it felt like gravity had changed for a moment.
The dining room was one big party. Once we heard the little sack lunch and breakfast was Oreos, apples, Nutrigrain bars, canned chicken, sardines, and bread with one thin slice of mystery meat, we all raided the lunch room. Beach bags were bulging. We made off with chocolate bread, chocolate truffles, cookies, and two bottles of pink wine (super low in alcohol and drinkable—unlike the red wine, yuck). I ate a blue-cheese hamburger, and fries, chicken nuggets, and fish. I’m so full.
Our cleaning lady was in our room when we came back. She stocked up our room with 4 bottles of water. I gave her the sardines . . . she was happy. Now we sit here watching the storm rip past our room. Thank goodness we are on the top floor.
We are next door neighbors with the top executive chef who flew in with us and will be leaving on the same flight. He travels between Club Meds to ensure continuity with food prep and delivery. He plans to sneak over tonight and drink wine while watching movies (he has a computer with 350 movies on it!).
The internet wifi availability is patchy. The stationary computers are down, but I have my own little mini laptop. So I logged on with my prepaid internet access code to send the last email. Everyone was saying there was no wifi, and wouldn’t believe me. Finally one guy went into the computer room and sat in the corner on the chair I was sitting on, and he got wifi. I went out and led all my friends to the hot spot. When I came by half an hour later there were about 10 people in a four-foot huddle emailing.
Well for now we are listening to music. We are done watching the weather channel. The PREdictions are over now J

Day Two, 5:00;
Still on lockdown. It’s been four hours. We can’t watch TV anymore . . . no great loss for us, but still. We would occasionally check to see where we were in the scheme of things.
The view from our room is amazing. An out-skirting reef which protects our bay is a wall of frothing white water. Behind it massive swells that look like mountains cross the horizon. Palm fronds are breaking free and ripping past our balcony. The coconuts tenaciously cling to the mother ship.
Joe has his selection of Christian Spanish music playing from his iPod. It feels safe in here, I just took a nice hot shower and am sipping a delicate white zin.
Well until later.

 Day Two, 7:00;
Well the electricity just went out. Now we are down to dive flash lights and the little iPod speaker I bought Joe for his birthday. I’m enjoying a glass of Dan’s homemade red blend, and finishing a green apple. The cans of chicken are beginning to sound appealing J, but I think I’ll eat the dessert first!
Our neighbor didn’t make it by. Probably exhausted from the day of taking care of all of us.
Starting to get bored. It stopped raining.

Day two, 8:30pm;
Electricity is back, but still no TV. We just got a call from reception. She said the worst of the storm has passed and weather permitting they would have the restaurant open in the morning. The winds are still over 100 MPH, and it’s started raining again.
Our room is now a sauna. The air conditioner is full blast, but to no avail. All the clothes, towels and sheets are damp from the humidity.
Hopefully I’ll be able to post this tomorrow.
Until then. 

Day Three, Freedom 10/26/12;
People are walking by on the top of the beach. A family just went out there with their beach towels . . . now that’s optimism! The winds are still over 50 MPH, and its overcast with a few rays of sunshine peeking through.
The good thing about Hurricane Sandy picking up speed after Cuba (instead of dissipating as predicted) is that she went over us faster than expected. This means we may be able to fly out tomorrow. We might even get sunshine before we leave. I hope so.
Joe and I are off to the gym now to burn off some of our cabin fever (and calories from the cookies and white chocolate bread).
Day three, evening;
We finally got the green light to fly home tomorrow. And we finally got wifi back on . . . yeah for internet access!!!
Spent the day at the beach playing in the surf and sunbathing.
Lots of love. Joe and Heidi

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Hurricane Sandy

Day One of lock-down 10/24/12;

We’ve been in tropical storms before, one squall, we’ve even been sideswiped by a hurricane from a great distance. Never have we watched satellite imagery to see a hurricane heading towards our island. It is eerie to say the least. The hope is that it will drop to a tropical storm when it travels over Cuba’s mountains.

Right now I sit in my room and marvel at the change. This morning we dove. There was no current or surge, and the sea was calm. The calm before the storm. On the way back in from our last dive the skies opened up and it hasn’t stopped since. We are now essentially driven indoors by the magnitude of the winds and tremendous amount of rainfall. I can no longer see the difference between the sea and the sky on the horizon. The palm trees are thrashing about in front of my pretty little sunny balcony, as ~ 50 mile an hour winds rip past us. The storm is between Jamaica and Cuba! I can’t imagine what it will be like tomorrow night when it hits us.

Keeping us entertained and indoors, David Craver and bartender

The GO team is feverishly trying to engage us in games. The food and booze seem endless. A thankful planeload of Europeans left this morning, leaving behind a nervous group of travelers. Their plane (a 747) made a low pass to check the runway, came back and landed, but immediately took off again. The third time was successful.

If Sandy is here Thursday and Friday only, we may be able to fly out on Saturday. Unfortunately she will be in Fort Lauderdale waiting for us. How this will all work out is a mystery to us. In the meantime we are napping a lot, and I’m finishing up my second novel, the second in my espionage series following Counterpart. I’m looking into my crystal ball and I see a hurricane in one of my books J

 Part Two, Day One;                                

Joe and I finally got hungry enough to leave our room. Once down at the Verve Bar we found large numbers of other hungry savages. Our little table of two grew and grew until we numbered twelve. Six couples; the American singer and his elegant Swiss wife, the New Yorkers, the French man and his tall slinky French Canadian fiancé, the Italian couple, and the Southern Californians. A 60 dollar bottle of wine (bought by the New Yorkers) was passed around and I managed to have my glass out just in time to have some 2009 Popillo Chianti. I am now rationing my wine for fear we will be here for a while.

check out the bent over palm tree to the left

We all walked through the storm to the dining room and talked so long that the restaurant staff was standing around waiting for us. It is really amazing all the different things people do for a living! As you all know, Joe and I love meeting people. So interesting, especially when the stress of a hurricane is looming over everyone.

Well, I’m guessing the dive boat won’t be going out tomorrow. I’ll probably write some more. Don’t know if I’ll be able to publish this dialogue on my blog anytime soon, but we’ll see. It is so  odd how this storm seems to be providing some sort of energy for me to write. Hmmm?

 Day Two 10/25/12;

We are being called to a mandatory  meeting. The winds are twice as high. The rain is sporatic. Sandy is level two now and heading our way. We are on the right side of the trajectory. I will never view a hurricane the same again.

The white chocolate bread is still yummy though.

We may be given food rations and told to stay in our rooms . . . not sure yet?

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Trouble in Paradise

Tropical storm or Hurricane?
So, I’m sure most of you have seen the tropical storm heading our way. The weather casters say it is a hurricane one today. Who knows what it will be by the time it reaches us. Hmmmm. So this will be our first hurricane trip. We’ve been on islands as they skirt around us, but this time it will hit us directly. It looks like a small storm in the grand scheme of things, and this island is no stranger to hurricanes! The locals smile and say “Don’t worry, Be happy.” Okay, we can do that J
It started raining last night . . . a torrential downpour actually, though I may feel differently by Friday when it actually arrives. The thunder and lightning is a bit unnerving. It’s almost constant now. Last night it struck outside our room and the clap of thunder was deafening. My ears were ringing for twenty minutes. I’m curious how flying home on Saturday works? We were told it’s a big maybe. The shipment of food last week didn’t arrive, much to the dismay of the chefs. I hope a shipment comes tomorrow as planned.
Right now as we speak (or read) the G.O.’s (employees) and guests are dancing around the pool doing a “Sun Dance”. They just finished water aerobics. People are sprawled out over the terrace playing scrabble, trivial pursuit, and monopoly. Last week was gorgeous. Beautiful diving, swimming, and sunbathing. This week is gorgeous too. Beautiful diving, body surfing, . . . and rain. I saw my first Hammerhead Shark yesterday. It was huge . . . about ten feet long. It went right behind me. Fortunately Joe saw it and banged on his tank to alert me and pointed to it. It was so cool. I also saw a little baby Nurse Shark sleeping in a little cradle of sand.
Today is Joe’s birthday. He started it with sleeping in and skipping SCUBA. He went to the gym and I went for my speed walk. I walk the upper floor walkways. It’s like a labyrinth going from duplex to duplex. I run up and down the stairwells every fifty feet or so. Great open-air workout. I need it after all  of the white chocolate bread I’ve been eating! Now we are sitting out at his favorite beach bar chatting about Canadian politics with another beach bum. Little does he know, the GO’s are planning a surprise cake and party for him tonight.
Last Sunday we went to a little local church. St Stephan, but I’m not sure what religion it was. We thought we were going to a Baptist church, but a Seventh Day Adventist guest speaker gave the sermon. It was great, but it tested everyone’s attention span as she talked non-stop for about 50 minutes. Nice people though, very welcoming, and the gospel style choir was good. If we lived here we’d go back. A local was saying there is only about a thousand people on this island and over one hundred churches of practically every religion.
Well, I guess if you are the praying type this would  be a good time to do it.
Lot’s of love, Joe and Heidi

Saturday, October 20, 2012

The French have landed!

The dreaded day came on Wednesday. The French arrived on the Paris flight, along with a few other Europeans’. 235 of them. We anticipated fighting for space on our already crowded SCUBA boat. The dive briefings would be done in French and English. They would plummet to the bottom, shoot to the top, and wait for the slow Americans to join them. Thankfully they separated us on two different catamarans.

Other than competing for the boat, we have thoroughly enjoyed the new faces. Everyone so far has been so polite. I just finished talking to a French businessman about the new French business climate. He is happy about the influx of foreigners in France . . . imagine that? And he was handsome, which is an added bonus to the conversation. I am sitting here at the beach bar taking a break from the sun while he and Joe chat. Reggae music overhead, a mojito beer (crushed lime with dark stout beer), accents, gentle waves rolling in, and crystal clear blue water. What a life!
It’s Friday, a melancholy day for most of the guests as they prepare to go home tomorrow. Not us. We are here for one more week. We might go to the airport to wave goodbye to them. The airport is one building split into two rooms. Incoming and outgoing. Checking in at the airport is done here at the resort . . . with the airline staff here. Cool huh? Then everyone gets on a Club Med bus or just walks over to the airport. Your luggage is waiting for you. The jumbo jet lands, the stairs get rolled across the tarmac, the pale-work weary newcomers come down, the bronze-vacation weary guests go up. This repeats itself three times a week.
The diving has been amazing! The reef sharks are out patrolling the coral. The nurse sharks are napping under a ledge while the invasive lion fish flounce around with their feathery fins. We were warned at one dive site that the tunnel we planned to explore was guarded by several sharks. As we approached the opening we were greeted (well, greeted makes it sound like we were welcome) by 3 sharks. When we didn’t heed their darting back-and-forth warning, they tried the charging technique. It is really intimidating to have that shark face coming straight at you. But we  entered their tunnel anyway. I like to think they looked defeated, but it was probably a look of anger . . . it’s hard to tell.
Now a French Canadian beauty is sitting with us sharing our French fries. She works here at the bar. Her name is Brooke. Her legs are so long they practically are the level of my armpits. Here’s a photo J  Her fiancĂ© is in charge of water sports. Super nice couple.
Speaking of couples; there is a group of couples who brought their own blow-up water noodles, they congregate in the ocean drinking margaritas. One day Charles, the Chef de la Village, was walking down the beach with his staff handing out fresh fruit. The group out in the water yelled out “Hey we want some fruit too!” Charles promptly kicked off his shoes and walked into the ocean with a tray of fruit held overhead. Everyone stopped what they were doing to watch this phenomenon. I ran out of the water and got my camera to film it. He walked out of the water straight up to me and offered me some melon. He looked kind of like James Bond.
I’m beginning to think the reason I like Club Med so much is the people. It’s a great opportunity to research and study characters for my books. The newlyweds, or the two couples who meet here every year, the deaf guy who talks so loud you can hear him from fifty yards, the sharp looking Miami couple, the athletic couple, the drinkers, the flirts and the talkers.
Oops, Joe just served into the net. He’s playing beach volleyball with 12 people. The ocean is like glass today. The boats look like they’re floating in the air. Here’s the view from my little perch.
I’ve opened two more bottles of wine, both from Hatcher, a Syrah and their Shake Ridge Zinfandel.
Lots of love, Heidi and Joe.

Monday, October 15, 2012

San Salvador, Club Med, Day One

We saw the weather predictions and knew it would be stormy the first few days at least. But that’s the chance you take when you go to the Bahamas in October. That’s not the tragedy. As-a-matter-of-fact, a lovely ticket agent with Spirit Airlines was jealous. She is from Jamaica, and she loves nothing more than rain on a tropical island (except a massage on the beach in the rain on an island). By the time she was done checking us in, I couldn’t wait to get here and get my massage on the beach. It is raining and I checked on the massages; $110.00. I don’t know if I want one that bad.

The surf is intense. We played in it for half an hour. I came out with sand everywhere, even my ears. Then we fell asleep in the setting sun. The humidity is ridiculous, but that’s not a tragedy because the wind is strong and feels fabulous.

We didn’t get the room we requested . . . nope not a tragedy. They upgraded us to a second floor, ocean view. Here is a photo from our room. As we came over on the charter jet from Fort Lauderdale we discovered Columbus Isle Club Med had been closed for 6 weeks for hurricane season. This island only receives 3 commercial flights a week; Sat-USA, Tues-Canada (starting next month), Wed-France. So ours was the first flight. We have the whole club to ourselves, until Wednesday. That might explain why we got the upgrade J There are more employees than guests!

We may go SCUBA diving tomorrow, weather permitting. The dock in front of the club has been dismantled to protect it. Not a tragedy because they have a marina on the other side of the island, which is calmer. The water is warm.
sign in beach bar

I brought eight bottles of California wine with me. Now hold on a second . . . we’ll be here for 2 weeks. That’s about 2-3 glasses a day, between the two of us. I usually pack them in wine boxes with Styrofoam liners. This time Joe suggested we use regular wine boxes so they don’t take up so much room. We still had to bring a suitcase just for the wine. I put a child’s water-wing around each bottle (blown up of course). I didn’t have quit enough so I left two bottles in the center ‘wingless’. You guessed it! Tragedy. One of my precious bottles shattered. When Joe pulled my bag off the luggage belt he said “Uh-Oh, that’s not a good sign,” and pointed to the wine dripping on the airport floor. Oops. I took my bag to the bathroom and tenderly lay it upon the floor. I dabbed it dry, but decided to not dig through my bottles to find the culprits. All the way to the hotel I listed each bottle in my head. I knew the one which would upset me the most would be Dan’s wine. But it was a Dobra Zimla Syrah. I have another one at home . . . I will live.

Well I’m tired from eating, body surfing, dancing, drinking my wine (Rombuar Zinfandel), and talking over disco music, so off to bed we go. Its 11:30 p.m. here and 8:30 p.m. back home.