Wednesday, April 20, 2011
It was late Spring 2005 and I'd been seeing Eric for a couple months. One day he said that if things kept going so well we should make some plans for the future. My tart response was something along the lines of, " If you want to make plans for us, then plan a vacation." I figured that would be the end of that. Not so. I began getting emails about various exotic destinations. We settled on Ambergris Cay in Belize.
The day before our scheduled departure there were still some complications with one of Eric's cases and it wasn't certain we'd be able to leave town. This fed into my belief that perhaps it was a mistake to become involved with another litigator. It seemed that it was impossible to make travel plans because there was always a trial pending. Two points for planning the vacation. One point deducted for being a lawyer.
The work conflict was resolved thanks to a kindly judge in Alaska, but then we checked the weather report. We were about to head right into a hurricane. This was two months pre-Katrina and we were naive and very stupid. We decided to go ahead. There were several stops along the way and we figured the airline would prevent us from flying into dangerous weather. There was a hive of activity and a panicky feeling when we arrived at the Belize City Airport. Our puddle jumper to the island had been cancelled. Time to change plans? Oh, no.
We talked a small airline into flying us to the island. They really couldn't understand it, because as they explained, six thousand folks had just evacuated the island to escape the impending hurricane. I've seen living rooms larger than the plane that flew us to Ambergris Cay. Just us and two Japanese businessmen. Eric had made all the flight arrangements. We were a new enough couple that he did not know how to correctly spell my last name which was "Lindkvist". Understandable. I'd had the name for twenty years and four consonants in a row is counter-intuitive. Homeland Security in San Francisco had a fit, but finally let me board. In Belize it was not a problem.
I was in charge of the lodging and the place I picked (partly because my former crush, Elliott Spitzer, and his family had supposedly stayed there) was on the north end of the island. We were to be met by a water taxi which would get us to the hotel. No water taxi was waiting. I called the hotel and the phone rang and rang. The streets were empty. Finally, a regular taxi came by and the driver explained that the whole northern part of the island was evacuated. Only two hotels on the island remained open.
We asked the cabbie to take us to the nicest one, which was Banyan Bay, right near San Pedro town. The employees were very welcoming and gave us a two bedroom condo by the pool. Then they went on to say that all the hotel employees were leaving to hunker down with their families and we'd be on our own. They advised us to get a few groceries. We found another taxi which took us to a small store where we stocked up on essentials while the driver waited. Belikan beer, one hundred proof rum, orange squash, peanut butter, English muffins and bottled water. When we got back with our supplies the pool was drained, the patio furniture was stored and our windows were boarded up.
That evening the wind howled, but we were exhausted and crashed early. When we got up the next morning it was all over. The hurricane had passed by without a single drop of rain, although we heard later that Cancun got hit pretty hard. The ocean was roiled up and the birds were eerily quiet. Even the mosquitos were hiding. The only people around were the hotel employees who were back at work restoring normal resort life. There were no tourists. It was wonderful. I was happy at Banyan Bay, but had already paid for lodging at the other hotel. We thought we should at least go and check it out.
We rented a golf cart and headed up island. San Pedro town was very third world with brightly painted buildings and many stray dogs - all of them black and brown. The trip was rather straight forward until we got to a small river. I'd read that there was a "ferry crossing" at that point. The ferry was like something out of Tom Sawyer. It was a raft that a couple guys moved across the river with poles. The river could not have been more than eighty feet, yet we had to pay a "toll" of about six dollars for the crossing. The most hilarious part was Eric driving the golf cart onto the raft which involved going downhill and over a bump. Good thing he was quick on those brakes!
Up island was desolate. We bumped along with the local wildlife - iguanas, roosters and assorted rodents. Here and there were piles of trash burning. Our erstwhile lodging was still abandoned and most unimpressive. The "tennis court" had grass growing two feet high out of the cracks and there was all kinds of mangy wildlife darting in and out of bushes. I made up my mind then and there. We were definitely staying at Banyan Bay for the rest of the week. At that point I didn't even care if I could get my money refunded, but eventually I did. On our way bank we passed an elderly couple. The man was riding a bicycle and the woman was walking behind him carrying the groceries. She must have been ninety-five years old. We gave her a lift. She and Eric chatted but I couldn't understand her Creole accent.
The remainder of our vacation was filled with the usual tropical pleasures. Eating island food, watching bats drink out of the pool at dusk, reading and taking lots of naps. We sat in bathing suits drinking beer and eating shrimp at a bar on a dock. A rain squall passed over and we could see the sky change for miles. One day we rented catamaran and another day we took a guided snorkel tour. We even took sea kayaks out with the idea of tying up to a buoy for some snorkeling. One monster wave off the reef killed that idea and I insisted we head back in IMMEDIATELY. Ironically, we had eaten all the local food with no problem. The last night there we had New York style pizza which gave us both grumbly tummies.
The day we had to leave was Eric's birthday and I wanted to take him to a local place for French toast, but we had to finish packing first. Guess who couldn't find his passport? I became very anxious while we looked through everything. Had it been in the backpack which had fallen in the ocean when we capsized? Disaster! Eric insisted I should go home as planned and he would work it out. No. He took everything out of his bag once more and finally found it in the side pocket. Such relief. I realized I'd had enough and wanted to go home. We were just tidying things up when I noticed what I thought was a toy scorpion on the floor. It was black and quite large and very real and had fallen out of one of Eric's shoes during the unpacking. Shit. It WAS time to go home.
When we talk about that trip now we realize that we didn't know each other at all. I now know that Eric is an impulsive risk taker, which can be kind of fun in limited quantities. He understands that, in my daily life, excitement is turning left when I pull out of the driveway instead of my usual right. Maybe a bit boring, but peaceful. But we both agree on this: no more flying into hurricanes.