Cholula and Polar Beer
Sunday, December 22 2013
location: Room 208, Royal Sea Aquarium Resort, Curaçao
Last night I'd heard a bleating animal that sounded like a goat, and I'd assumed it was some unfortunate animal spending a few sad days confined before being turned into a Christmas feast. But it turned out that the animal I was hearing was a sealion at the nearby sea aquarium. It, along with a group of several others that included a baby the size of Eleanor, was confined in a smallish arm of the sea that had been fenced on both ends. Gretchen and I assumed it had a miserable life, because we assumed there would be few stations in life as unfortunate as to be born a captive sea creature in a third world sea aquarium. We saw the sealions this morning on our walk out to the van, which we used to drive to a nearby supermarket called Vreugdenhil. We'd seen a lot of minimarkets on the drive from the airport, but the supermarket proved nearly as well-stocked as a Hannaford. It had all our favorite staples, including tempeh, tofu, and a variety of vegan "cheeses." I would have liked to have bought some jalapeño peppers, but the smallest bag they had was something like three pounds of them, so I settled on Cholula, a hot sauce instead (there was no sriracha in the store; evidently the sriracha revolution hasn't yet reached the southern Carribean). In addition to the usual staples, we also got a bottle of champagne, and two six packs of beer. Strangely, though, the bottles of beer were strangely undersized: either eight or seven ounces each. And at first it seemed liquor couldn't be bought in the supermarket. But then we found it being sold in a completely separately-gated section, safer (presumably) from shoplifters. A litre of mystery rum could be had for about $10.
I should mention that on our supermarket outing I had my first real exposure to the people of Curaçao. The average person appears to be dark-skinned, with primarily African ancestry. But since Curaçao was once a Dutch colony and remains a part of the decomposed Dutch empire, the people speak a creole language called Papiamentu that contains Dutch as well as Spanish, Portuguese, and African languages. It's spoken extremely rapidly and it's hard to pick out the words that my English and Spanish knowledge would normally allow me to parse.
As we were driving around, my neice Sadie mentioned that she is the only Jew in her first grade class (which I found a little unusual considering that she lives in the city of Pittsburgh). She told us that all her friends believe in Santa Claus and that she just lets them go on believing in him because it will do her no good to argue otherwise. That struck me as an uncommonly mature attitude for a seven-year-old (though it was also the one I quickly adopted as an eight year old atheist suddenly dropped into a public school system in the Bible Belt).
Back at the resort, we all slathered on sunblock and went snorkeling right there in the canal off the resort's little canal-side beach. By this point, Gretchen and I were coming to the realization that the smallness of the beach was more of a feature than a bug; our resort has a limited number of units and so our beach, small as it was, was much less crowded than the beach we'd spent time on in the Dominican Republic. While the view (of another nearby beach) wasn't as spectacular, it still looked to be a serene place to sunbathe, since there was much less activity nearby (no loud motorboats or aggressive peddlers of useless crap).
On our first snorkel, we headed westward from the canal-side beach, looking at the underwater world among the rocks of the seawall that formed the shoreline away from the sandy part. The fish were plentiful and colorful, and there were a number of fan-worms to harass (if you poke them, they retreat into their tubes). The most interesting fish that I saw today was some sort of trumpet fish. It was about eighteen inches long and stood motionless in a vertical position, holding itself that way by waving its fins like a seahorse. We'd all brought our own snorkeling gear, which included reefwalker shoes (so as to protect ourselves should we tread on a sea urchin or a scorpion fish). Gretchen had bought our gear online and had gotten me a so-called "dry snorkel" with valves to keep out water should it become submerged. I had a little initial trouble with mine, but once I got the hang of it, it made me feel much more secure in the water. I swim weakly, have trouble staying near enough to the surface to get air, and tend to panic if things become the slightest bit uncomfortable, but the dry snorkel made breathing effortless and trouble-free (since it's almost impossible to inhale water through a dry snorkel).
This evening Gretchen and her parents prepared a meal for all of us in our condo's kitchen. It mostly involved rice and beans with some roasted vegetables. As for the kids, they mostly ate pizza or peanut butter and jelly sandwiches prepared in the other condo. I ended up drinking two eight ounce "Polar" Pilsner-style beers (an import from Venezuela). It was unexpectedly good. Unfortunately, I was unable to sufficiently spice up my food with the Cholula hot sauce I'd bought today. I would have had to use the whole bottle, and then the food would have tasted more like the other flavors in the hot sauce than it would have tasted like the food I was trying to flavor. Clearly I was going to need something else to make it through the upcoming week.
This evening, back in our room, I was picking at my toenails, which had grown long in the obscurity of my socks since the onset of cold. I would have liked to have been able to snip off the extra nail and make them look a little less unkempt, but of course we had no suitable tools for such things. Gretchen saw me doing this and mentioned that in such a situation she chews off her own toenails. But I have a long torso, short limbs, and limited flexibility, so there is no way I could do such a thing. So Gretchen grudgingly volunteered to chew off my nails herself (it was her idea, not mine). That's true love for you. She avoided the big toe of my right foot, which had an accumulation of black gunk under the nail that the snorkeling had failed to dislodge. I took care of that myself by cutting a groove in it with a tiny screwdriver (part of the kit I bought at the Home Depot in Marina del Rey) and then doing my best to rip along this introduced line of weakness.
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