I am Ayla from Clan of the Cave Bear; Hunter Reno, Margaret Mead, Jane Goodall, Amelia Earhart and Harriet Chalmers Adams, traversing this world alone and uncovering all her secrets.
*Currently seeking a new quest; "Where in The World Can a Women Go Where No Woman Has Ever Been?"
A Former News Paper Reporter Turned Freelance, A Socio-Cultural Anthroplogy Major.
I was never loyal to the idea of marriage though I went through the motions. I wore a black matrimonial veil, a facade of loyalty that shielded my true self, hopes, wishes and my dreams from my husbands and family. Behind that, a layer of guilt that debilitated me and thickened as the years passed. I loved my husbands and family, that’s why I pretended white picket fences and the monotonous routine of life were fulfilling, but secretly, behind the closed door of my mind that no one could enter, I was in love with my self and I felt disloyal.
As a child I wanted to work for National Geographic. I was an explorer even then because I was alone most days, save for my horse. We spent my days out of doors entertaining my inquisitive mind and my lonely childish heart. Golden Dancer was a little Arab Palomino, he was more than a mode of transportation, he was my best friend and he and I were on a mission to fill my days with wonder and mystery.
Through rainbows we traveled, his freshly groomed, white mane taking on the colors of the spectrum, it was magical. Together we swam in the open seas of a place called Nukko Lake where Pirates lost treasures and mermaids, the ones I grew in a jar in my bedroom and released into the lake of sea-water, matured and swam between his powerful legs, splashing us with their jewel emblazoned tails; their exotic laughter and whispered promises tickling my heart with surprise and wonder of the places we could visit.
We were transported to different lands where a Genie granted wishes and I was someone else with a different name, wearing different clothes. In these faraway places when I looked at my self, my hair and skin belonged to my inner me, not the me that was created by my small life in a small community with no sense of the world. I smelled different things, tasted different things, saw things in a different way. I knew worldly things and prided myself on knowledge that was contrary to that of my reality.
I could taste the dust of the African desert as it mingled with excited and heat-provoked sweat, trickled into the corner of my mouth and scratched my skin as I brushed it away with the back of my hand. And as I lay on my belly obscured by the African heat waves wafting skyward, heat waves that caused elephants in the distance to wobble, and hidden downwind from the frolicking lions and their cubs, I could forget my small world back home.
Barefoot on the bare back of my horse, no reins and running free, I was Ayla from Clan of the Cave Bear traversing this world alone and uncovering all her secrets. Sleeping in caves of hay in Dancer’s stall, hiding with my cat between my rabbits in their cage from the wrath of Sabre-Toothed Tigers and Brun. I was Margaret Mead, Jane Goodall, Amelia Earhart and Harriet Chalmers Adams. I was a member of the world I read in books. We had no television, my books were my training for the life I wanted to devour. A pre-requisite to my future, but I was wrong.
My best friend was sold. I replaced him with cigarettes, boredom, depression and complacency. I became a normal person caught up in the normalcy of small town life and got married for the excitement of the day. Escaping as an adult then, meant Shirley Valentine and Socio-Cultural Anthropology at University. I still don’t watch television unless it is Survivor or the Travel Channel. I was still the female explorers of my past but also Hunter Reno.
I am no longer married. I am a widow x 2. I spent 7 months in Barbados, a dream come true and it felt like shit because the baggage of my life was heavier than my carry-on. I’d been many times before, was married there, it felt like home, but it spoke to me differently this time. Had my inner child not popped herself out of the recesses of my gray-matter in this time of need I swear I would have died, I think I tried. But she came and we cried. And then we explored.
Barefoot we randomly wandered beaches for six to eight hour stints; collecting sea fans and shells, dodging ghost crabs and eating sea grapes. We fell asleep on a placid sea while snorkeling a beach in Speightstown on a flu-ish day and awoke to something reminiscent of Saint Elmo’s Fire. We marveled in the fact that at certain times it is almost possible to circumvent the island via the shore-line except for some spots in North.
I spent the first four months alone with the self-made child that glued herself to my thoughts, my pen and sometimes my camera; though most days I left that back as the places we went would prove a hazard to its fragility, though never mine. The more we explored the further away she wandered until one day, I realized I was completely alone in a world I have always wished to be, and I was terrified. Humbled.
Reverence for that brave-hearted child saved my adult soul and allowed my destructive, painful guilt to reinvent itself, to evaporate and nestle in a sea of forgotten dreams that were now attainable because the Universe had made it so. And it was my job to accept that. I carried the memory of my husband back to the Sea Breeze Hotel on the Maxwell Coast where we took our vows years before and left him there to rest in peace.
I shed my sandals and my t-shirt, dove into Oistin’s Bay with my eyes open and my breath held, shadows in the distance swam toward me then left. I could hear hooves splashing, mermaids and a childish giggle, the far off voice of a Genie granting wishes to someone else in need. The mermaids were blue flying-fish, the Genie a tasty Mahi Mahi, the sound of hooves came from deep within my chest – it was my beating heart. The childish giggle, was my soul being freed.
You’ve spent two weeks in a new country and the honeymoon phase is over! You start to realize there is more to this place than the pretty scenery. You are a little home-sick and cultural nuances are creating some questions and confusion – this is the Negotiation Stage of Culture Shock. This can make or break your extended holiday or your transition toward a new life in a new country. Normally this stage lasts about six months, but I have encountered people who never adapt.
How for example, could you have possibly known that citizens of a certain culture are possessive once you befriend them? That due to your friendly, carefree, touristy personality, especially if you are Canadian – you are now under surveillance. Your actions, comings and goings, are being monitored and scrutinized by your new friends’ friends, whom you’ve never met. That whispers about you and, “How you carry yourself“, are circumventing Barbados, the script of a soap opera and you are the lead actor?
And what’s up with the seemingly cranky merchant who doesn’t make eye contact in Asia? How would you know this is actually a respectful gesture in their culture? How could you know that in some countries such as Bermuda, they rely heavily on lineage to determine a person’s likability or trustworthiness? And that, if you choose to associate with a person who is not ‘link-able’ (has no ‘place’ in the cultural interpretation of the social scale) according to your Bermudian host, you may find your luggage outside on the step and the door locked when you try to return to your accommodations. You may find, such as I did, you will be sleeping in the back yard on a lawn chair teaming with curious lizards and other night creatures, bags emptied, wearing all of your clothes on your body to keep warm; wondering what the hell you did to end up in such a way …
Has culture shock ever interfered with your travel or relocation experience?
It was a lazy afternoon in Barbados after a morning of filming kite-surfing at Brian Talma’s Surf Club in Silver Sands on the South Coast. A few rum punch at Miami Beach in Oistin’s seemed a fitting way to end the day. Foam and surf were licking the shore line with mellow reverence as I enjoyed the company of some friends from Europe who would be leaving the country soon. They were merely on a vacation unlike my stay-cation, and they were sad to go. The afternoon sky turned to amber and we said our goodbyes, echoed by the mournfulcoo of doves that skittered under our picnic table searching for scraps of fish cakes. Waving farewell and standing to stretch my legs I realized the rum truly did pack a punch!
Dusk settled over the park as feathery branches of the Cassarina trees seemed to whisper caution, but I was drunk and sweaty and wanted to freshen up before the walk home. As so easily happens when one is in a place of pleasure, time slips away on the waves, along with the exotic sounds, smells and common sense. By the time I realized how long I took to ‘freshen-up’, full fledged darkness had consumed the park, shadows were nil, the dark blacker than black and I still needed to walk home.
Miami Beach is a place one shouldn’t venture at night. People sleep in trees and military usually monitor the area packing some pretty heavy artillery. As I made my way from the beach, sitting directly in front of me were two men. One, I had met previous, I regarded him as harmless though I was still a little distressed by the situation and my imagination. The other man was brown skinned with blond dread-locks and bare, weathered feet; a spear fisherman. His blond locks tell-tale of the profession. Time spent underwater and the hair becomes laden with salt, easily bleached by the low lying sun. He was agitated, his eyes locked on mine and the other guy scurried away in a half-shuffle leaving me alone with a street person, vagrants the locals call his type, who exuded nothing but anger.
He started to ramble Bajan dialect thinking I didn’t understand. The Bajan tongue can enunciate words faster than a feral cat can lick up milk. It is sing-song and I love it. But I didn’t love what he was saying. He was complaining, well raging really, that earlier on in the day I had polluted his air-space with my cigarette smoke and I was some kind of bitch! Apparently, unbeknownst to myself, he had been napping under a table behind us. So he knew me, and he waited to see if this moment would arise.
By this time nerves were dancing like jitterbugs to Elvis. I was hyper sensitive and my brain kicked out of panic mode into survival mode. I took a step forward, leaned down to his eye level, pointed an accusing finger in his face and spat out, “Excuse me asshole! I’m pretty fuckin’ sure I breathed in your dope smoke so I think we’re even!” I suppose I figured if I adopted attitude it would (proverbially) either kill me or cure him. The words came forth without forethought and I was merely guessing he smoked pot. I held my breath, he made no move but his chin dropped a little in surprise. I grabbed his hand and gave it a firm shake, “Truce?” I say with a forced smile. “Walk with me.” The man rose, my same height and I thought that good at least. “Follow me,” I croak, and I start to walk. He is now a few steps behind, probably not good. But I’d confused him for the moment, seems I had temporarily rendered him harmless out of curiosity. My mind was reeling with scenarios on how this was going to end. I turned so abruptly he bumped into me and I asked if he would like to share a bottle of rum and some Marlin; I don’t know where that thought came from but I know it saved me grief.
With suspicion now in his eyes he agreed and we headed off to Oistin’s Fish Market, to civilization I was thinking. We pulled up a seat, with dirty hands he set down a tattered bag and a spear gun. I handed him thirty dollars, told him it is all I had and can he get us some rum, coke and some food with that amount? He scurried away like a ghost crab and I wondered for a split second if he had truly even been there. But the shiny tip of his spear reminded me he, and the situation were very real.
As is the norm, eyes are always on you in Barbados. I particularly stand out as I have some large and unique tattoos. As I waited I could hear a rumble of conversation behind me. Men were betting over something. I ignored them until I felt a hand on my shoulder and a voice whisper in my ear, “Baby girl, you know that man you carry here? He ain gine come back, hear?” ”He will,” I determined. And he did. Just as I began to think I was wrong he returned with everything I had asked for, and my change. We ate out of the same container, each drawing forkfuls from the single-serving portion of food that we had subconsciously divided by an invisible line. We polished off the rum and we talked. The food in his belly dispelled his anger and he became pleasant. He then leaned in to me and disclosed he had had intentions of mugging me earlier as he was hungry, and he apologized. He explained he sometimes gets tired of tourists on his island. Many flaunt their wealth while the locals work for a local dollar but have to pay out a tourist dollar to eat. How many won’t even say hello when they pass vagrants on the street but simply turn up their noses.
We gained respect for each other that night and any time I saw him after, I would ask him how he was and buy him a chocolate bar and a coke. At Christmas, while shopping at a local market I ran into him at the checkout and paid for his chicken dinner; which he accepted with tears in his eyes. If ever I needed anything he became my go-to man and my caretaker. It was no longer dangerous for me to be at Miami beach at night. We had both learned a hard fast lesson. A little food, a lot of love and even more respect shared among strangers, goes a long, long way; because things are never what they seem to be. Food for thought.
Just south of where you are, in the middle of nowhere, somewhere, is an interesting 14 mile x 26 mile chunk of limestone over a million years old; floating regally in the Lesser Antilles and the minds of many a tourist who has visited there. It’s culture likened to that old, ever popular T.V. series Fantasy Island. Have you ever watched the flim (island term for film), “How Stella Got Her Groove Back”? Same concept.
This Windward, Caribbean Island is known as Barbados. B’dos or BIM to a local Bajan, though they can’t tell you exactly where the latter name originated. Here you will find the standard tropical beaches, fish markets, artisan markets and a secluded place tourist guides won’t direct you to, Crystal Waters. Steeped in rum, wrinkles and pretense, it’s a Seniors ‘Meat Market’ not to be missed by Social Scientists such as myself and those who just want to experience another level of life and living with no rules, boundaries or judgement before they transition to the afterlife.
Located a mere minutes from the ever popular party spot the St. Lawrence Gap, Crystal waters is THE place to go if you are of the elderly persuasion, retired, preferably widowed and on the prowl. No worries if you aren’t single. If your partner is open to a little, ‘get-what-ya-can-on-the-side’ you’re welcome too.
A gap in the West Indies refers to a road or driveway one can turn on to. If you want to go to Crystal Waters, ”Turn left about six gaps passed the St. Lawrence Gap”. Hidden in the crotch at the end of the gap, tucked away on a beautiful beach where you can hand feed endangered hawksbill turtles and even hitch a ride to the sea floor if you can hang on (guide books won’t tell you this either), is a small, nondescript rum shack with an outdoor dance floor that erotically, explodes to life at 7:00 pm on Tuesday nights.
Every night is party night in B’dos, unlike weekends in Canada which are usually reserved for imbibing. Some Bajan nights are conducive to Liming (a Bajan term for relaxing) and others, set aside for hard-core partying. One particular Sunday night my friend ‘carried me’ (Bajan for the Canadian phrase ‘took me’) off the beaten path because another friend, an amazing local calypsonian, Mr. Impact (as tourists know him, Anderson Ward as I know him) was performing at a place called Crystal Waters.
In a mere fifteen gaps from my apartment my friend Sandrean exposed my emotions to a world where my ignorance about life and living had become as apparent as the effects of the Old Brigand Rum (four bucks Canadian a bottle) I was using as a crutch to survive this new environment. All of a sudden I didn’t know B’dos at all.
In my mid-forties, I was about to grow the hell up when it came to S and S! Seniors and sex, seniors and sexuality! Steupes! (a sound Bajan’s make by sucking air through their teeth when they are disgusted, shocked or surprised).
Imagine a setting on the clear waters of the Caribbean. You arrive promptly at 7:00 pm to indulge in the hour-long, two-for-one drink special; Canadians can’t pass up this marketing ploy. Mr. Impact is already on stage, his Calypso and sexy hip gyrations (whinin’ and wokin’ up) stirring a little somethin’ somethin’ inside your nether regions. Rum cascades down your throat quenching your thirst, your inhibitions float on the tropical breeze that licks and tickles your near naked, sweaty skin causing you to horripilate.
The music and atmosphere are wreaking havoc on your nerve system but you refrain from letting loose. After all, there are seniors about and you respect your elders. As the sun goes down (it gets dark early in BIM) and evening shrouds your identity, the Crystal Waters spirit envelopes your senses. Charmed, like a cobra to a flute player, by a way of life you’re not accustomed to, but one Bajan’s and longtime visitors to the island are.
A mutually symbiotic lifestyle based not only on sex and self-indulgence, but economy and means. As suddenly as two-for-one ends and with tsunami force, those seniors, seated around the place looking frail and heat exhausted knock you aside without remorse as they grind their way to the dance floor. Most of them half-naked too.
Elderly women are skimpily clad in bikinis and a wrap or, some of the sexiest evening attire you have ever seen, elderly men in speedos or shorts. They rule this place. They know it and they show it. When I say elderly, I mean a demographic ranging from late sixties to eighties and beyond. There are of course those younger, but when the ritual begins and these guests begin to unwind, none of them seem a day over 16. Arthritis is a mere question mark at this moment. And the moves! Prepare yourself for some of the most sexy, erotically charged bumpin’ and grindin’ that would put most youth I know to shame. And speaking of younger people – who do you think the elderly are kissing and cuddling up to, rubbin’ and wokin’ up?
For three hours this ensues. Drinking, grinding of asses and all kinda things I needn’t mention. At 10:00 pm sharp, it comes to an abrupt halt. After all, these sixteen year olds are seniors. The energy they expend in that three hours is equal to eight hours hard, hard labor in the workforce.
Seniors being silly is what you see on the surface if you are participating in the merriment superficially, with a rum-blind, right eye (strangely enough, when I drink Old Brigand, only my right eye gets drunk with double vision.) But alas, there is more to Crystal Waters than meets the eye, if you omit the rum and take a good hard look …
Good Friday, April 6, 2012.
It seemed as though the City of Totems, otherwise known as Duncan, and situated on Vancouver Island B.C., was about to be ‘socked in’ again. The clouds hung heavy on Mount Tzouhalem when I awoke and I had itchy feet. Coffee and cigarette in hand, I renamed the day; B.C. Ferry – Gulf Islands Day. I would leave this island for another; Thetis Island via Chemainus. The Island it is said, that has a Mediterranean Climate.
The closest ferry from Duncan to Thetis Island is in Chemainus, B.C. – The City of Murals. If you are looking at this mural, the ferry is to your left.
I found this “Bloomin’ Rock” at the public beach. The art culture is big in this part of the world.
B.C. Ferry Terminal to Thetis Island.
You only pay to go; leaving Thetis and other Gulf Islands is free. A car with one person is $35.00. Walk-on ranges from $10.00 – $14.00. Penelakut Island, formerly Kuper Island, and once attached to Thetis, is home to the Penelakut First Nations. Requesting an invite from the Chief is highly recommended before visiting Penelakut. Thetis Island, although privately owned, welcomes visitors freely.
Be diligent and check the ferry schedule. I missed it by five minutes so I decided to explore. As I peered over the edge of the dock, these star fish caught my eye. There is no public access to this area but with a little sweet talking, Harmen Bootsma, the North Cowichan Harbour Manager escorted me down the yellow ladder and gave me free range of the under-pier world; home to many species of star fish and an otter that startled me, and avoided capture… with my lens.
Crow pondering how to eat this star … I don’t know, that star was certainly larger than that black bandit!
These stars are somewhat slimy…
I was thrilled to see the variety of stars, normally this is the only type I find. These were hiding in a dark stump, I had to use the flash to bring them out.
This was the one the otter wanted for lunch. Oops! Time to head back to the car, the ferry would arrive soon.
Deep in thought, reviewing photos taken in poor light, I heard large drops of liquid splatter my car and thought I had just missed the rain. I looked up to see it was not rain, but a little treat left by a passing gull. Oh, I hoped this wouldn’t set precedence for this trip. Don’t they say a bird pooping on you is good luck?! I sure hoped so.
View from the ferry – Thetis in the distance. Excitement is mounting! Other than Salt Spring Island, the rest of the Gulf Islands are somewhat elusive and mysterious. Thetis for example, has about 350 residents. It is privately owned, has no malls or any of the normal conveniences such as gas stations. In fact, the ferry terminal only has a port-a-potty.
As the ferry approaches you will be pleased by the stately presence of the Capernwray Bible School and Conference Center.
As you leave the ferry these signs are the first to greet you. I turned left. Turn right and you get to the marina, the only little convenience store on Thetis and a makeshift post office, all within a ten minute walk.
Having just turned left, I was stopped short by this amazing Noah's Ark view! How difficult it is to drive, sight-see and take pictures. These are the Bible School grounds overlooking Capernwray Harbour. They are open to the public providing you check in and respect the property. Cows, wild geese and an alpaca live in harmony here. The weather is warm, it is sunny and peaceful.
Two seconds further down the road is the infamous fork. Left or right again, only two main roads on Thetis. I turned right for variation and again stopped short by the following sign!
Absolutely priceless! The mysteries were beginning to unfold on this 2 by 3 mile long island. As I made my way down roads enveloped in a canopy of trees, I came across Clam Bay.
Relaxation is key on Thetis. Hand made chairs are hiding all over Thetis for you to rest, relax and enjoy the beauty. This man-made waterway is the ‘cut’ that divides Thetis and Penelakut seen on the right.
This one is at Clam Bay, a very peaceful place. When the tide is out, as it was this day, the little channel of crystal clear water is teaming with large purple star fish!
One can find Chiton (pronounced kite-on) attached to barnacle encrusted rocks. A tasty treat if you are a seafood fan such as myself and, if you can pry them off the rock. Customarily they were consumed by Coastal Native Tribes, however I can’t say for a fact they still are. The ones I found are no longer there... I ate them! Raw and sweet! A little less salty and a bit different flavor from the ones in the warmer seas of the Caribbean. I attribute the slightly more enjoyable flavor to our cold British Columbia waters.
Next stop – Sunrise Point, where, if they aren’t off sailing, you may have the pleasure to meet Maureen and Wayne as they sit on their front deck to enjoy a slightly different variation of this view of Sunrise Landing (as they call it). Through this gateway, Tricomali Channel, other islands are visible and easily accessible by kayak such as, Leach, Penelakut, Jackscrew, Salt Spring, Norway, Mayne, Saturna, Reid, Wallace, and Valdez. Pirate history here I am told!
As a note: This couple does rent their home for the summer. Visit www.sunrisegrail.com for more information.
This gentleman owns a water taxi on Reid Island. The one and only I am told by Maureen and Wayne, (who by this point had offered me tea). In this image, the taxi driver is taking some residents from a different island, home after a shopping trip.
Saying farewell to Sunrise Point, I set off for Pilkey Point, the end of the road; but not before stopping at Cufra Cliffs. Looking out over the aquamarine channel, I thought of Pirates of the Caribbean….Pilkey Point was teaming with Bald Eagles. It was so fascinating I never lifted my camera for fear of missing the rawest form of interactions between the birds. I didn’t want to think, but merely be a part of the moment.
Along the way, tucked in some trees, I discovered another chair to enjoy this view.
Imagine my surprise, a beautiful Blue Heron enjoying a snack. Time for my lunch. Off I headed, back toward the ferry to the Pub at Thetis Island Marina which dates back to the 40′s when an old chicken coop was floated down the bay to become the first building. Had this been May 12th, I would have had the pleasure of being witness to the annual boat Regatta.
The doors were open, but in all honesty the Pub was closed. They were preparing for reservations of 85 people to celebrate Easter.
Friendly and accommodating, they brought me in and fed me a delicious bowl of vegetarian chili. It was a cute little place, windows overlooking the marina. The manager explained to me how they harvest the sea and make their own potable water through a desalination process.
Having spent too much time at the pub, the day was drawing to a close. I quickly ran back up to the fork and turned left toward North Cove to snap this pic of the school. There is an old cemetery near here I wished to see, that will be another visit, more pressing was a beach in front of the Bible School with my name on it! On Bible Beach (I renamed Capernway) I had spotted sandstone and wanted to explore before the sun set.
Arbutus tree. The only tree I know of that loses its paper-thin bark and is bright yellow underneath. They are often found with names and pictures carved on them.
Sparkly clean water….
On my way up the beach I noticed nets floating close to shore. On the way back this is what I discovered…
It was an oyster farm…
As I waited for the ferry I smiled at the sounds. Toads croaking in the distance, birds chirping, someone playing guitar and singing, “I’ve Been Everywhere Man”. A fitting end to a great day.
It is always exciting to see how creative people are when marking their driveways…
You may wonder where the images of people are. Well there really weren’t any. All the homes are tucked away among the trees. I could hear them, but hardly ever saw them.
Thetis Island, for those who love nature. Peaceful roads, peaceful waters and a truly peaceful atmosphere. I highly recommend you pop over for a coffee, make a day of it, you won’t be disappointed…