Wish you were here from the Great Barrier Reef

So we took more than a few moments to relax [trash TV indulgences jncluded] in Hervey Bay…necessary moments I keep reminding myself, for travel endurance sake. Anyway, an ad came on TV that read ‘wish you were here’ and it got me thinking… Who exactly do I wish was right here with me right now? I didn’t think about it long enough to answer my own subconscious question… But today I did. And it was obvious from the moment we boarded our little sail boat, built in the 1950s, down at the marina in Cairns, Australia.

Mr.McCoy likely doesn’t know how often I think of him. But he is responsible for imparting some pretty important learnings on me…

The way he holds hands with Mrs. McCoy is a love I adore and one that I wish for all of my people. His giggle is infectious. And he made me my first Old Fashioned on the deck of his beautiful boat as we topped off a day at Greers Ferry one salty summer night years ago. To this day, that is my favorite drink. To this day, the Old Fashioneds that Mr. McCoy makes me on his boat are the best serve to be had in the country [[I’ve come close to proving it ]]. To this day, I cannot sip on one without thinking about sweet Mr.Mccoy.

old fashioneds

His daughter is one of my most long-lived best friends. But when I’m back at ‘home’ in Arkansas, Mr. McCoy treats me as his very own…and for a moment I really am Bcoy’s sister. Oh I’m smiling.

And when I fly home for a weekend and they’ve booked me a day out on the lake…once everyone is settled in and are happily sipping a drink and floating on rafts soaking up those southern rays, Mr. McCoy slides on his flippers and face mask and quietly slips off to explore the lakes bottom.

When I win the lottery, I will bring that sweet man to visit Doug, from Key West, who will scoop us up at the Cairns marina in his old refurbished sail boat, called the Falla,. Doug will drive us 90 minutes off shore to the outer reef where we’ll spend a day snorkeling one of Gods great natural wonders. It will be one of those ‘I don’t think we’re in Greer’s Ferry Lake anymore, Todo’ moments.

The Great Barrier Reef

We will perfectly replicate today [[except our GoPro will have a full battery…omg #fail]] floating through the teal blue water spotting erradescant everything. We will find the incessant Barramundi the size of Layton, clams the size of smart cars and brilliantly colored parrot fish the size of my leg.

Yes. That's a Barramundi
Yes. That’s a Barramundi

We’ll listen to the tinkering sound of millions of fish, big and small, stunning and strange, all in their own unique way, feed on the coral, and then watch as they spit out the yucky bits. We will ooh and ahh over coral–every kind of coral you could ever imagine and then LOTS that you never could have imagined–coral that Nat Geo doesn’t even do justice until you see it for yourself. We will lather sunscreen time and time again, but still hope for a tan, feast on a lunch of salad and deli meats, make friends with an intimate crowd of fellow snorkelers from France and Germany and Colorado. We will take photos of us jumping into the water from the sails ladder 15 feet up.

The Great Barrier Reef

Then when we see a shark… A real big shark, it’ll scare the piss out of us enough to send us hauling butt back to the boat where they’ll serve us cheese and fresh fruit and wine from a coffee mug  [[which we’ll appropriately swap for some bourbon and bitters]] as we cruise back to shore.

The Great Barrier Reef

If that day is anything like today, I think Mr. McCoy might move to Cairns.

It was an incredible second trip out to the Great Barrier Reef, and all I can think about now that we’re pulling in to the dock is, Mr. McCoy, I wish you were here.

IMG_4318-1

A Fijian Love Affair

I often dream about whales and dolphins. Maybe my subconscious reminiscing on the days when my family used to drive along the Hawaiian coastlines and I’d ride with my 7 year old face pressed up against the glass, eyes glued to the water just watching for the inevitable water spout to blow. I think maybe there begins my love affair with water, as Mr. Paisley would surmise.

I love water. I love being near the water watching the waves. I love being on the water in a kayak or paddle board or sail boat or speed boat. I love being in the water jumping waves or hand-standing into the tide. It just brings such peace and a simple love for God’s bluest creation. My heart smiles when I sit at my favorite Kirkland park watching the sun set over Lake Washington. It smiles when I drive over those Clearwater bridges, beach-day bound. And now I know for certain, it smiles when I sway in a hammock, with a book in tow basking in the sparkly Fijian sun looking out over the crystal clear blue water. It just does a heart good.

Fiji was what I hoped it would be. It was relaxing for my body, calming for my soul and refreshing for my water-lust-ways.

IMG_4096

We didn’t do a whole lot at the Beach House, but what we did we did well. A jaunt down to Sigatoka, lots of reading, lots of hammocking and kayaking and makeshift snorkeling.

IMG_4081We ate beautiful local fruits and toast and jam at breakfast time, homemade banana scones at tea time and the freshest fish burgers at dinner time, encored with a bowl full of kava for ‘dessert’—it’s as disgusting as my fellow backpackers warned—but an obligatory chug, nonetheless.

IMG_4104We made jewelry from coconuts that daring local hands pushed out of the palm trees from 50 feet up. We watched the tides roll in and out, made new friends from countries near and far and sipped bottled water out of—wait for it—Fiji Water bottles.

It rained most days, but I found those quiet moments of pitter patter on the woven palm roofs soothing in a way I’d never let rain sooth. It is water afterall; just the type of water that typically annoys me. But when you’re sprawled out on a hand carved bench under an open-air bungalo-type structure with nowhere to be, no concern for how you look or ruining your shoes, the water falling from the sky actually feels as wonderful as the bucketed-land-water I adore.

IMG_4090

Yep. Fiji water bottles, a good steady afternoon rain and some bobbing in the teal blue waves really helped wash away departure week. Here’s to hoping for more affairs with the wet stuff that does a mending heart good.

IMG_4089

IMG_4109

#SoThisOneTime, for the first time.

I know, I know…this blog has been a total downer so far. But that’s about to change. Cause yall.. I’ve done some pretty dang cool things in my 26/27 years…things that have taught me the sweet side of life’s bittersweet. So, since I can’t commit to a #ThrowbackThursday or a #FlashbackFriday [hello 18 million time zones / avoiding that type of unnecessary deadline-inspired pressure], I’m inventing my own series…#SoThisOneTime. No, No, NO do not say ‘at bandcamp.’ Band Camp would never have let me in. I do too many cartwheels to hold a flute for a sustained period of time.

I digress.

Here it is. My first of many, #SoThisOneTime posts.

So this one time, I spent my birthday [yes, I specifically recall that it was my 18th] dancing in my chair at the Hard Rock Café in Sharm El Sheikh, with Egyptian waitors singing Happy Birthday to me and kissing my arms and hands. All in front of my family. I think it was probably my most stand-out birthday moment ever.

We’d spent the first half of our two-week-trip touring the Cairo Museum [in which our tour guide pointed out the world’s first invented condom among other ancient oddities] and riding camels across the desert with the oh-so-iconic Pyramids as our backdrop. We had a driver and translator and armed body guard with us at all times. To this day, I don’t know why we were considered VIP, but for whatever reason they felt the need to watch our six at all times. We saw decaying ox on the side of the road, kids drinking water that didn’t even seem suitable for a pet and perfume stores pungent enough to cover up the smell of those poor decaying ox. We saw all of the monumental tourist things you are supposed to see. We cruised down the Nile River and much to my horror, my family dressed up to match the evening belly dancer—it was a hot mess.

Then, we vacationed. Yes, this word-choice-transition from ‘trip’ to ‘vacation’ is very intentional. We drove across the desert for what felt like days. You know when you’re flying and you lose sense of movement and progress and situational awareness, cause all you can see are clouds? No environmental cues to suggest you’ve moved at all? This was like that. Just sand in all directions for as far as you could see. Though I assure you we felt the movement…turns out they don’t pave their deserts. Sand is bumpy. It was hot. It was not pleasant. What was even more unpleasant? When our free-for-all desert excursion came to a dead halt…we’re talking Beltway at 5pm on a Friday afternoon kind of halt. Turns out it was Egyptian rubbernecking as we crept past human bodies covered in blood-soaked white drapes. It felt like a movie. I don’t know how those people died, but I don’t think it was by choice. I’ve always hated rubbernecking.

Anyway, we made it to the Red Sea. And this is where I hold some of my fondest family memories. As you might imagine, we were pretty sick of each other by the time we did 3 years together in one tiny on–base house, spent eons of hours living in the Yukon back seat floating all around Europe, not to mention my raging ‘get me the eff out of this house and into a dorm room’ gem of an attitude.

All that aside, we snorkeled in water so crisp and blue that I’d suggest it tops the Great Barrier Reef [yup. I said it]. We parasailed for the aerial view and four-wheeled across the dessert just to have a cup of piping hot traditional Bedouin tea with a group of villagers. We climbed Moses Mountain in the middle of the night just so we could squeeze under some blankets to watch the sunrise over the land where The 10 commandments were delivered. We saw the Burning Bush. We stayed at a fancy hotel and even I, the horrible angry teenager, reveled in the towel animals and pretty flowers that adorned our beds every afternoon. We smoked Hookah along the boardwalk [and by ‘we,’ I mean everyone but me, cause I just was THAT much of a prude].

We did a lot in those two weeks. But I think the best thing we did was define the distinction between ‘trip’ and ‘vacation.’ Yeah I loved #ThatOneTime. We aced that trip / vaca hybrid. Lesson SO learned for this #GrowthNGrace journey.