So, we’re on an 8-day Croatian island tour. How we even arrived here is an adventure in itself and a tale for another time. But today, just a few hours ago, the boat stops in a scenic grotto with crystal waters where it’s shallow and a deep jewel toned blue where it’s not. Sounds beautiful, right?At breakfast, we were told we’d stop in the early afternoon/late morning and have two hours of swimming time after a three-hour sail among the scattering of Dalmatian Islands.
So the boat stops. People jump in. Splashing. Laughing. Good times. Angela was resting in the cabin so I go to tell her it’s swimming time and go pull on my swimsuit.
Fast forward 15 minutes. I jump into the water. Refreshing. Glorious. A few hundred yards in front of our boat is a naked family on their baby-yacht – hot mom, dad, and a child of undetermined (by me) gender. A dirty old man on our boat is watching hot mom through binoculars while everyone else is either in the water or getting ready to get in the water or sunning themselves on deck.
I swim around a bit then head toward shore a decent distance away.
Fast forward five minutes. Angela jumps in the water from our boat. She swims out to me and we chat. Her back is to our boat. She’s screwing up her face at the disgusting feel of the sand/silt/seaweed combination squishing between our toes under the water. I’m enjoying the sun, the cool water, plus occasional sightings of naked hot mom. Then:
“Hey,” I say to Angela. “They’re pulling up the swim ladder on our boat.”
She turns. “What?!” Without waiting another second, she swims toward our boat, calling out. “Wait!”
The anchor is still down, though, so I’m not worried. But Angela’s already swum about twelve feet of water in 0.02 seconds in the direction of the boat. She’s a pretty good swimmer. She’s swimming like crazy and calling out, “Wait! Wait!”
After about twenty seconds, they drop a (another?) swim ladder in the water.
I think: “Oh, they were just changing out the ladders.” I laugh and call out my theory to Angela.
She ignores me and keeps swimming for the boat, but I already reassured myself so I go back to floating on my back and enjoying the various sweet things going on – weather, water, hot mom. Angela gets to the boat in a few minutes, maybe even seconds, and calls out to me, very calmly: “Get over here.”
I swim toward the boat. Slowly. Not to be an ass (although I thought she was being a drama queen with all that “wait, wait” business) but because I’m a super slow swimmer. Plus no one on the boat looks urgent about anything. The Germans are drinking beer and laughing. The water doesn’t look like it’s being churned up by a rabid shark. So, slow.
Fast forward ten minutes. I get on the boat. Angela’s drying her face with her sarong. She looks perturbed.
“They’re leaving,” she says. I stare at her. “They were leaving without us,” she says, because I apparently didn’t get it.
Everyone is on board, drinking beers and looking over the water, checking out hot mom and maybe even super-naked dad, who is definitely not hot. But that’s only my opinion. As I walk past the group of mostly Germans to get my sarong and wipe my incredibly disbelieving face, a creepy guy (not the one with the binoculars) mumbles something to me in Germglish. I pretend not to hear. I don’t have to pretend not to understand.
The ladder rattles against the side of the boat as Papa Captain pulls it up again (there is only one ladder, Angela tells me later). The boat starts up. We immediately set off for another, not-so-nearby island. As we pull away, I look at the naked family still chillin’ on their baby yacht. Ever the optimist, I think: Maybe they’d have given us a ride back to Split if we’d asked nicely. Being naked seems a small enough price to pay for rescue.
I’m more than a little in love with Simona. For the last couple of mornings, she’s made me white coffee and stuffed me full until I’m nearly bursting. Those of you who know me already know where I’m going with this.
Simona works at the bakery across from the Airbnb where my travel partner and I stayed in Zadar Center. She’s the absolute loveliest thing. Each morning, it’s a smile and a greeting, asking where we’re heading off to next, suggesting new things for us to try, even giving us parting pastry gifts on the last morning. This woman – and her two colleagues at the bakery – isn’t remarkable just because she consistently fed my carb and coffee addiction for three days straight. She’s fantastic because in a place where having satisfied customers seems like a foreign and unwelcome concept, her customer service is A+. Every morning and afternoon I’ve seen her, she greets the patrons with a smile and hello. She was never rude, impatient, or dismissive and always seemed glad to see us coming back to spend our money. There may have been other bakeries in Zadar, but because Simona was so thoroughly charming, perfect even, I never gave them a thought.
Between Simona, the Sea Organ art installation, and Plitvice Lakes, visiting Zadar has been a golden experience.
I’ve been keeping secrets. I know. I’ve been bad. Already, I’m over two weeks into my annual summer trip. The plan for now is NYC, Venice, Croatia, and Amsterdam. New York and Venice have already been experienced and savored, and now I’m in Croatia.
My reason for the late posting, a hiding from the world and all the seemingly endless cruelties humans inflict on each other. It’s been difficult, but the rest of us are still here. Still living our lives. Still proud.
With the next few posts, I’ll try to play catch-up. In the meantime, check out a couple of the photos.
I don’t mean just the character from my bestselling debut novel of the same name, but also the book itself. Although I wrote Bliss in the United States, the inspiration for its character and places, its emotion and its conflicts, all came from Jamaica. The book isn’t about an ideal person or an ideal place. Instead, it’s about beauty and struggle, facing the fears within all of us, and it’s about triumph. In short, it is about my island home. This home and its treasures are what I hope to share with those who come to The Renewal Retreat in October of this year.
Even without memory to further stir the coals of creativity, visitors to Jamaica find it to be a place of vibrant traditions, unforgettable artistry, and incomparable inspiration. It isn’t just the beauty of the island, it’s also the country’s rebellious Maroon past, the way incredible wealth sits beside great want, and it’s about dark nights that seem impenetrable until you dare to walk out into them.
The entire world has heard of Bob Marley, Blue Mountain coffee, and of Stella getting her groove back. Allow Kensington, Jamaica to serve as your muse, as your Renewal.
Once I decided to let the vibe of Jamaica have its way , I found myself experiencing the authenticity of the country. Every sound, every taste reminded me that I was away from home, away from my every day. I loosened up and the simplicity of sky and water, bush and sand, created a connection between […]
The young German girl and I bonded over the lack of non-whitening body lotion in Thailand. Like me, she had run out of the allotted 100 ml for the flight and had gone into one of the ten thousand 7-11 stores to buy more. After the third store and nothing without whitening cream – including all the available brands of Vaseline – we both, in separate cities and at separate times on our respective trips, ended up buying tiny pink bottles of baby lotion since that was literally the only kind available that didn’t threaten to whiten your skin.
It seems odd that a country which is steaming hot just about every day of the year is so obsessed with whiteness. Many people work outdoors, but many also cover their bodies as much as possible while doing that work. They are covered, literally head to toe, to prevent their natural sun (that also brings plane loads of tourists every year) from touching their skin.
Normally I’d say colonialism is the culprit, but Thailand is actually one of the few countries that has never been colonized or occupied by a foreign power, unless you count modern day tourism, of course. Then again, with the pervasiveness of media and some of the insidious messages that it spreads, colonizing a whole country, even a world, of minds doesn’t require much more than the touch of a button.
Today is my last beach day, or at least it should/could be. I’ve been debating whether or not to get up early tomorrow to watch the sunrise then catch a quick dip before heading to the airport.
In the last couple of days, I’ve been besieged by a cold and a period, dread enemies of travel. Still, I was determined to get in a few hours on Patong Beach and before it got too crowded with jet ski guys and charter boats setting up for business. And of course half of Europe coming down for a swim.
The trick is to apparently hit the beach by around 7 am and get in your fun by 9. It’s 8:42 and where before I had no one near my blanket for dozens of feet, now I have a family of Russians practically reading over my shoulder.
The sun is drying the saltwater from my skin. Once that’s done, off to find food.