Saturday, April 19, 2008

This is paradise.


I am still pinching myself when I wake up in the morning and walk outside and this is what I see. Crystal clear blue waters with the bright Bahamian sunlight glinting off the little peaks that form over the reef. With the breeze blowing through my hair and cooling off my sun-warmed skin, I walk out to the dock and get ready for my day.

If you couldn't tell, Loren and I got hired on to Small Hope Bay Lodge. Our whole adventure started off in the middle of the night in LAX a week or so ago. We took the red eye flight (a very full flight) with a neverending layover in Houston. We got into Ft. Lauderdale and took a cab over to the small airport to wait for our ride to Andros.

I have to say that I am not a nervous flyer. I handle turbulence with ease and don't white knuckle the take offs and landing like Loren does. Sitting in the front seat of the Cessna, though, was a TOTALLY different story. I was practically sitting on my hands to keep from grabbing the pilot as we shot into the air. It felt like we were going so SLOW. I didn't know how we were even staying in the air. It was like we were being held aloft like a marionette plane with God pulling the strings.

The view from the air was absolutely breathtaking. The shoreline of Ft. Lauderdale and Miami fell away and then we were over the bluest water I have ever seen. As we approached the Bahamas, the water turned all sorts of different colors -- turquoise, deep blue, green -- belying the different depths of water that surround the island. We began our approach to Andros and we flew over the uninhabited and lush brush and forest that makes up most of the island that we were hoping to call our home.

Once we made a picture perfect landing at the airport, we cleared customs and took a taxi for the ten minute ride to the Lodge. All the details of our arrival are jumbled in my brain -- our cute little cabin with Androsia batik fabrics decorating the bed, the windows and the walls. The view of the dock and dive center. The main lodge with comfy couches, a games room for the kids and a bar that is made out of an old boat. The outside bar where the bar is always open and usually occupied, where steaming hot conch (pronounced "conk") fritters are served nightly.

We were settled into our room and told that cocktail hour started at 6:30 and our presence was requested. It was time to start interviewing!

Our first couple of days here were a whirlwind of new things. My first dive at Kara's Caverns left me speechless. The two interns that we have here, Ashley and Dennis, took us under their wings and showed us around. Ashley took me through my first little cavern and I was just blown away by how clear and warm the water is. I was definitely not used to that! I started learning how to handle the boat right away and learning all the focal points that the divemasters here use to find dive sites. They navigate the way the pirates used to...visual references only. It's definitely an art and I can't wait until I am as good as they are!

The other divemasters are awesome. Moose grew up on the island and Skeebo has been here for 12 years or so. Their knowledge and skill is vast and amazing and I am looking forward to learning a lot from them. They are also very funny and very warm. It's a team that I feel honored to be a part of.

The guests that were here the first week were AWESOME. Most of the families had been here before so they took care of us more than we took care of them. The teenagers were awesome and we had so much fun with them. I took a couple of the smaller kids diving for the first time and the older kids were the first ones to jump in the water with me when dolphins came to visit us around the dock. I got my bum whipped in ping pong but we all laughed and had a great time while I was going down in flames. When Jeff was having the talk with us to tell us we were hired, these families waited outside to hug us and congratulate us like we were long time friends. I hope that we will be long time friends...

There is such an interesting mix of people here. We have psychiatrists, professors, scientists, authors, artists and people who have forgotten more about diving than I will ever know. There is never a lack of interesting conversation or people to have fun with. Relaxing outside after a delicious meal, you never know if it will just be a quiet night of conversation or if Ashley is going to bring out his guitar and a rousing sing along is going to start.

I can't say enough about the diving. I haven't been to the same site twice since I have been here and I am diving three times a day. We have tons of corals, caverns, and interesting things to see. Today, we were diving in a place called Dianna's Dungeons and after being led through a couple of swim through caverns and while we were hovering over the top of the Tongue of the Ocean, a couple of reef sharks cruised over to check out what we were doing. They are harmless but poor Dennis got a little nervous when he was the last one down, unsetting the anchor.

Today is my day off...I went diving this morning because one of the kids that I taught to dive under the dock was doing her first open water dive and she wanted me with her. Her eyes were as wide as saucers when a barracuda swam by us but she was a champ and now she is hooked! After drying off on the dock, I grabbed my book and grabbed a hammock and relaxed in this paradise that is now my home.

Life is good. No, scratch is perfect.


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