Talking to Squid

Megan McGrath's Resume & Blog

Month: January, 2012

Megan and Tal Blog Bonaire: Day 6: Last Day Blues

After oversleeping a bit, Tal and Megan finally got on their gear to go out for a morning snorkel. When we first got out we decided to visit the sailfin blenny we’d found the other day, and the eel who lives underneath it. We found the same rock, and sure enough, there was the blenny poking its face out of a hole in the rock. Tal saw the eel, but Megan didn’t; she did see the blenny do its ostentatious dance once more, however. After visiting these fish, we swam further out to where the sand drops off into deep water and the reef begins, and swam leisurely around, looking at the life. We spent a long time in silence, just watching everything happen. We really enjoy snorkeling together.

We headed inshore for lunch, because shore is really the only place to get food (Ralf may eat lionfish for lunch, but we prefer mac and cheese with random sauteed vegetables). Our random vegetable of the day was a carrot. It was delicious. We ate by the ocean, as usual. We understand your jealousy.

Our days have developed a bit of a schedule: next was a boat dive from Bruce’s, with Ralf again this time (yes, lionfish died). We went to a site called Sharon’s Serenity, which is on the far side of Klein Bonaire, a bit more exposed to the open ocean than most of Bonaire’s dive sites. This means that not many people go there, so the reef was extraordinary; it also means that big fish passing through the open ocean will sometimes end up cruising by. In the first few minutes of the dive, Tal found a lobster, which was just the beginning of our cool finds. Ralf found a lionfish and speared it—this is nothing new. As he was engaged in this dark business, Megan spotted a huge, silvery fish—a type of mackerel known as a Cero—swimming by, beyond him. Megan especially likes these huge ocean fish, because she likes wondering what deep-ocean things they have seen; they seem like messengers from beyond. He moved on quickly, as if he had somewhere important to be. Another big fish find was a tiger grouper, found by Megan. Tal then found another lionfish, and summoned Ralf by banging on her tank (which makes a loud noise and attracts attention underwater), but the lionfish seemed to catch wind of the situation and escaped this time. While he was hunting, Ralf spotted an incredible diving treasure: a yellow frogfish sitting on a yellow sponge. There was a huge commotion as everyone caught wind of what he’d found; frogfish are kind of a big deal, rare and camouflaged and interesting to watch (there were no tires near this one). It was a big female, very well-camouflaged, and was either pooping or laying eggs—no one could tell. After so much excitement, Megan was getting low on air, and we turned around to head back to the boat. Both of us managed to find one more rarity each: Megan found a batwing coral crab, which she has never seen before in ten years of diving on Bonaire, so that was exciting; and Tal found a sharp-tail eel, a weirdly adorable eel that slides through coral rubble searching for shrimp. If you put your hand down in front of one, it will nuzzle your fingertips (try it sometime).

A cero, AKA a big mackerel.

We had our ritual after-dive snorkel following the dismemberment of our gear, though this one was shorter than usual (and we couldn’t harass any divers) since everyone was back on the boat already. Megan said goodbye to the ocean because this was her last dive before she leaves tomorrow: she does this by diving down and doing a few flips, and it’s a ritual. We rode back to Bruce’s, we washed our gear, and we begged Rishi to help us find another coconut. He said, “OK. I will. Don’t worry. Magic. Go away.” We did, and came back a few minutes later. The man had a shelled coconut waiting for us. He’s either a wizard, or an incredible tree-climber. Or both. Megan spent awhile photographing a parakeet in one of the trees by the gazebo, which turned out well.

A brown-throated parakeet eating from a fruit tree at Bruce's.

We came home, drained our nut, smashed it, and ate large quantities of it, just enough to slightly spoil our appetites for dinner (not really). Dinner was delicious; we went to a new restaurant that Divemaster Linda had recommended to us, and it was smashing. We were all greatly enjoying ourselves, with a slight hitch when Tal trapped herself in the bathroom and had to be rescued before she barreled down the door. Wendy heard her hollering, and Megan flew to the rescue. Tal was greatly appreciative.

After taking a short, breezy walk around Kralendijk, Bonaire’s main village, we came back home and have had a very wildlifey evening. The tarpon are here, as usual, and Wendy was taken aback by the light gleaming orange in their eyes (“Tapetum lucidum!” said Megan, which is one of her favorite phrases). The three of us—Tal, Wendy, and Megan—all watched, mouths agape, as two tarpon (one just huge and one truly gargantuan, so we named them David and Goliath) swirled about in the lights, occasionally turning on their sides and flashing bright silver as they chased fish. We also spent some time watching bats fly about the porch of our upstairs neighbor. This man, who shall henceforth be known as Batman, puts some weird tasty jelly out for the bats every night, and he sits out on his porch, listens to loud classical music, and takes photographs of the bats eating. Megan has been trying to make friends with him because she freaking loves bats. Batman is even kinder than we expected, and he’s lowered some of his bat jelly on a line from his porch to the level of our deck, in the hopes that the bats will grace us with their presence, but we don’t think they’ve caught on. We’ll wait here for a bit, hoping. (Literally as I was writing that sentence, the first one showed up, and started sniffing around the jelly. SUCCESS!)

Goodnight and goodbye for now. Megan and Tal are going to watch some of Fly Away Home, which is one of Megan’s favorite old movies, and tomorrow she’ll be on a plane home. Night!

Megan and Tal Blog Bonaire: Day 5: Megan is scared of tarpon and doesn't like it.

In the morning, we honestly laid around. We worked a bit (on science—Tal answered textbook questions, and Megan read papers on dolphin cognition), and then Tal made the two of us lunch: grilled cheese for Megan and pasta for herself. It’s nice to have a chef.

Our three elders decided to forgo a dive for the day; Wendy had editing work to do, and Grandma and Grandpa came to Bruce’s and went for a long swim. Tal and Megan went for a boat dive by ourselves (rather, with Dive Master Awesome Bitch Linda and several other divers including Schrodinger Dave and his wife, Cindy, or something). We ended up boating over to Klein Bonaire, which means Little Bonaire—Bonaire is an island in roughly the shape of a comma or boomerang, and Klein Bonaire is a much littler island the shape of a period or ball that sits in the crook of the bigger island. It has beautiful reefs because it’s harder to get to Klein, which means that the coral is less spoiled (coral is very fragile, and the more contact it has with humans in general the less pristine it is). The reef was, as we expected, extraordinarily beautiful and full of fish, though we didn’t really see anything unusual or shocking. It was still wonderful, and interesting to dive just the two of us, though Linda was watching out for us. We did see two of the evil lionfish lurking under a coral head, and Linda did not kill them because she doesn’t have a spear like Ralf. They really are freakishly beautiful despite their devilry. We had hoped to find a frogfish, which is a type of fish that almost never moves in its whole life. It looks like a blob, and settles down in one place where it may be mistaken for a coral blob, and fishes with an angler thing on its head. Because they are so immobile, we can know where one is for months at a time, and some divers knew that there was a frogfish at Keepsake. When we got to the spot, however, there were some tires that seemed to be marking the place. This sent Linda into a furious rage. We never found the frogfish. Picture yourself as a three-inch-long immobile creature. You pick the perfect spot to spend your entire life. Then, some huge human comes along and drops a huge rubber thing next to your perfect spot. The light changes, the current probably changes, if they’re really, really dumb, maybe they even dropped the tire on you—we don’t know. But of course, you up and leave. When we got back onto the boat, Linda was irate. We don’t blame her. Human beings are idiots. Sometimes.

We dismembered our gear as usual, and hopped right back off the boat into the water with snorkel gear to harass divers (Cindy saw us doing this, and remarked, “They’re fish, aren’t they?” We were both proud of ourselves. We like achieving fish status). Divers having been roundly harassed, we popped back onto the boat and back to Bruce’s, where we rinsed off our dismembered gear, and jumped back in the water, again. Grandma found us a coconut several days ago (she’s awesome that way), and so we finally decided to throw ourselves on a local man’s mercy, because he owns a machete. His name is Rishi, and he’s worked for Bruce for as long as we can remember, certainly. He always seems very shy, but we found out today that he’s also very cheerful and silly; when we asked him to open the coconut for us, please, he said, “Sure. How shall I do it? With my hand? With my head? With my friend Edward’s head? With magic?” We said, “A knife would do fine, thanks. Can we watch?” He said, “No, go away.” We said, “Fine,” and skipped off. He emerged from the dive shop about a minute later with the shucked coconut—we were both surprised. Soon after, we headed home, and immediately fished a corkscrew out of a drawer and pierced our coconut. We got a good cupful of cloudy, tasty coconut water. Grandma told Tal insistently that cracking open the nut would be nigh on impossible. Tal was skeptical and slightly aggravated to be so doubted, so she took the coconut to the patio, held it above her head, and hurled it to the ground exactly once. The coconut split cleanly in half. Lesson of the day: never doubt Tal’s brute force. We had what may be the greatest snack on Earth (in Megan’s opinion): fresh coconut meat, a beer (for Megan), swiss cheese, and saltines. In front of the ocean, with good books. We win!

We hung around for a few hours (reading, relaxing, napping, eating coconut very slowly), and eventually had dinner, which was a mishmosh of everything: asparagus frittata, ridiculous vegetable soup, and bread. And margarine (halfvarine to the Dutch).

Soon after dinner, Wendy, Megan, and Tal vowed that tonight they would swim with the tarpon that show up by the dock every night to fish in the porch lights. They showed up, on schedule, at about 9:00, and Megan was instantly terrified. We all suited up and descended the stairs to the ocean, keeping our eyes on the giant fish, whose eyes were gleaming red in the light. We pushed off the ladder into the water. It was very murky, dark, and cold, and at first we saw nothing—but then Megan saw a giant shape emerging from the murky water, and screamed her head off despite herself, which scared the tarpon away for a moment. Wendy said, “Where the hell is it?” and then shouted, “Oh my god, it’s right here!” This undid Megan completely, who scampered for the steps and out of the water; she vows to tackle her phobia again tomorrow night. Tal is irritated because she didn’t even see the fish, and since she and Megan have a standing bet on the tarpons’ size (Megan thinks it’s bigger than Tal; Tal says no way), it’s important that she catch a glimpse of it sometime. Tomorrow night, then. It’s gonna be great.

A bunch of tarpon. Megan thinks they are incredibly beautiful and runs like hell when she meets them in dark corners.

Megan was feeling a little shaken after so much screaming, but Tal made us all an incredible dessert: a milkshake with chocolate, peanut butter, hazelnut spread, more chocolate pieces, coconut milk, and shredded coconut. It was divine. Now we are here, blogging. And now we are done. Bye for now!

Megan and Tal Blog Bonaire: Day 4: Umlauts are cool.

Megan overslept this morning. This is nothing new.

When she was done oversleeping, we all went for a snorkel at a beach called Windsock because it’s right across from the airport (every time a plane flew overhead, Megan thought we were about to be hit by a boat). It was pretty, and we saw some things—notably, a scorpionfish, which is quite poisonous and not particularly pretty (as opposed to, say, the evil lionfish), but they are hard to find and their camouflage is so impressive that they’re interesting. Also, when they swim, they stretch out pretty, textural red fins that look a bit like wings. Megan has been noticing over the past few years that whenever you see a motley collection of predators hovering over the rubbled seafloor—a group of coneys, jacks, trumpetfish, and hogfish, say—it means that they’re following an eel that is hunting, waiting for the eel to flush critters out of holes. This theory led her to several eels today, which no one else saw, so she feels a little insane but also like an eel-whisperer.

After getting home, Tal was in the mood to make sandwiches (she’s a wonderful person), so she made ham and cheese sandwiches for Megan and Grandpa (even though ham is against her religion) and grilled cheese for Grandma. She made herself leftover pasta. She is very industrious. Quick cooking tip from Tal and Wendy: always spread a little bit of mayonnaise on the outsides of your grilled sandwiches before you cook them to make them crispy. If you don’t like mayonnaise, we don’t care. You should do it anyway.

We set off in the early afternoon for another boat dive. On yesterday’s boat, there was a friendly Jewish-looking fellow named Dave who was wearing a shirt that said: “Wanted: Schrödinger’s Cat, Dead and Alive.” Megan remarked that it was the funniest thing she’d ever seen, which may have been a slight exaggeration. Today before our dive Dave remarked that he was surprised that anyone got his shirt, so Megan set about explaining the Schrödinger’s Cat issue to Tal, who had never heard of it before. Tal, to Megan’s slight surprise, was actually interested, which delighted her. As we headed out for our dive (towards the boat, onto the boat, away in the boat), this precipitated a long discussion about scientists with umlauts in their names, and their various paradoxes and theorems. Schrödinger’s Cat was fully described, dead and alive. Next, Megan attempted to describe Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorem, which she may have botched a bit because she doesn’t fully understand it herself. Much later on, we moved on to a discussion of Erdös numbers. Overall, it was a very sciencey, umlauty day. While we were busy discussing science and umlauts, a large brown bird—a booby, we think, which is funny—flew behind and above the boat, managing to keep up fabulously, and waiting for the boat to kick up whole schools of flying fish, which the booby then chased after. It was miraculous. At about 25 mph, in the middle of the ocean, we had fish skimming over the water on all sides, and a big beautiful bird hurrying after them. It was a ridiculous entourage.

This is very close to what we saw today: a brown booby waiting to pounce on lunch. What a ridiculous-looking bird.

Once we got geared up and into the water, our dive commenced. We meant to make it to the salt pier—the huge dock where barges moor up to take loads of salt, which are harvested on Bonaire, elsewhere, wherever. Lots of cool fish like to live under docks. Unfortunately, we were too slow to make it to the pier, and had to turn back. But still, we found a hawksbill turtle, and Tal found a lionfish, although she didn’t kill it like Ralf would have. She’s nice and doesn’t own a spear. Sadly. She says. At the very end of the dive (it turned out to be the very end, anyway), Wendy decided to drill Tal on some dive safety skills. This attempt went a bit haywire. Wendy approached Tal and made the hand-signal that means, “Hello there, old chum! I am completely out of air. We have about thirty seconds until I drown, so why don’t you hand me that spare regulator you’ve got and we’ll see how I fare?” (Diving hand signals can mean much more than you think). Or she tried to, anyway—she made the signal sort of wonky and wrong. Tal wasn’t quite sure what was happening, so in a spasm of confusion gave Wendy the regulator out of her own mouth. Wendy, apparently, then completely lost her mind, and handed Tal her spare regulator. (Neither of them, to remind you, was actually out of air.) The two of them, utterly confused and unable, due to water, to speak to one another, ended up bobbing to the surface, where Megan quickly joined them to find her two family members completely useless with laughter, and Tal shouting, “I’m so confused!” Once Wendy explained what had happened, Megan joined them in laughing, and vowed quietly to herself never to trust either of them in an underwater emergency. (Not really. They’re usually very capable.)

Tal and Megan had their now-ritual after-boat-dive snorkel (which involves swimming under the boat many times, and harassing divers). Then we headed back to Bruce’s. On the way back, Tal, to Megan’s extreme delight, asked for more interesting science factoids, so Megan explained how all of our atoms were originally in stars, where they were made out of lighter elements, and that every person’s atoms have been shuffled around so much throughout history that all of us probably have about a billion atoms that were in Shakespeare’s body. Tal digested this information for a moment, then put her hand on Megan’s shoulder, looked her in the eye, and said, very gravely, “I’m giving you my atoms.” Megan is pretty sure Tal is the funniest person who ever lived, even funnier than Shakespeare.

We also spent a while discussing palindromes. Here is our favorite: “Able was I, ere I saw Elba.” This is something Napoleon might have said had he had a penchant for palindromes.

We headed back to the apartment to ready ourselves for dinner with friends—a couple named Ben and Laura who are old friends with Grandma and Grandpa, and with Linda, who was our divemaster today and has been our friend for a very long time now. She is, to use a phrase that Tal and Wendy coined the other day, “an awesome bitch.” You have to be pretty awesome to achieve awesome bitch status, let me tell you. (Tal thinks Megan is an awesome bitch. Megan thinks the same about Tal.) Dinner was tasty and overpriced, but that’s OK. Linda regaled us with stories of her travels, most recently to Italy (everywhere in Italy, we swear), Amsterdam, and Eastern Africa. We went back to Ben and Laura’s house for delicious cake, and Linda continued regaling us with stories, this time about her experiences as the operator of a recompression tank (the thing that they put Bends-sufferers in. We don’t need to go into details, they were horrifying—but we enjoyed them nonetheless).

Now we are home, writing this blog, and we are about to go to bed. Megan will probably go outside to say hello to the ocean at least once more. Tal really should go to bed, because it’s nearing 11:30, and despite the advanced age of her brain, she is in fact only twelve. We keep having to remind people of this. Bye for now!

Megan and Tal Blog Bonaire: Day 3: Happy Birthday, Steven. We miss you.

Our day began with waking up at about 8:30 to go snorkeling. This was Tal’s idea originally, because Megan never wakes up early, but she was happy about it, she swears. We had a quick breakfast of bread and peanut butter (which Tal made because Megan was useless), threw on our fins, and departed the shore. We swam out to the drop-off–where the sea floor begins to descend into the deeper ocean, and the reef truly begins. We took turns seeing how deep we could dive, and figuring out how to blow bubble rings. (Megan’s were pretty good, but she’s had a lot of practice; Tal’s are coming right along.) We fooled around for awhile, and eventually decided to head back to shore. On the way back, we spotted an eel’s spotty tail poking out from underneath a round rock. Eels are gnarly and sort of unusual, so we swam down to see it, and just as we got to the bottom a rare fish called a sailfin blenny darted out from the rock and dramatically made his appearance. Sailfin blennies are appropriately named: the males have a large, sail-shaped fin on their backs, which they wave about ridiculously as a mating ritual. It is really ostentatious except for the fact that they are about 2 inches long. They are also very rare, so Megan freaked right out. When we told Grandma, she didn’t believe us, but we’ll show her later. We memorized where to find that rock.

After getting back and working for awhile, Tal and Megan decided to open up a box of mac and cheese for lunch. We’ve never really cooked together, but this went well. Tal decided that the mac would be better with green beans, especially if the green beans were sauteed in butter. Megan never thinks butter is a bad idea. It was delicious. We are an excellent snorkeling team and an excellent cooking team. It was good. Really good. Cheesy.

After lunch, the family packed up our bags and headed off to the Carib Inn, hereafter known as Bruce’s, for an afternoon boat dive. Boat dives are interesting because, first of all, you can go anywhere. Secondly, there is no sand to get into your boots as you put your tank together. Finally, you get to roll off the back of the boat into the water, which is terrifying the first few times you do it, and fun afterwards. Though Tal didn’t really get to roll today; she sort of just fell backwards and plopped. In any case, we got into the water and were off.

This boat dive was even more interesting than normal because of our divemaster/boat captain, Ralph, who is big, blonde, European, and a man, all of which, when taken together, Tal finds abjectly terrifying. None of us know why, and she’s at a loss to explain her emotions, but she’s very good-natured about her phobia. Wendy took a picture of Ralph from behind as he was driving the boat, and told Tal that it would be hanging in her room before long. The rest of us like Ralph enough.

This is Ralph. Can't you see how scary he is?

While on the boat, Ralph told us about the dive site that we were visiting, a site called Small Wall because it has a sheer (but small) wall of coral and sponges at a depth of about 40 feet. He told us a few of the things we might see, and then said, “Unfortunately, if I see a lionfish, I’ll have to kill it. That might be a little gruesome.” Someone asked, “How do you kill it?” Ralph said, “I spear it, and then stab it a few times.” There is good reasoning behind this: Lionfish are an invasive species native to, I think, Indonesia, that have recently invaded the Atlantic (Tal tells me from an unfortunate accident in Atlanta, GA). They are big, beautiful, and deadly in several different ways. They have poisonous spines all over their bodies that can, on occasion, cause fatal stings (most usually just painful ones), and, more to the ecological point, they eat absolutely everything. So, the lionfish must die. Over the course of the dive, Ralph floated around in his black wetsuit and equipment, holding a long fishing spear in one hand and a knife in the other. He looked like an underwater angel of death. He found five lionfish in all, but we were only there to witness the deaths of three. As he’s said, it was gruesome. When a lionfish is speared through the head, it goes into convulsive death throes and it is easy to imagine it emitting little fishy screams. Lionfish guts and brains floated around the scene like a gory halo and hordes of other fish gathered around, intrigued by the prospect of lunch. After the second of these murders, Megan wrote on her slate and handed it to Tal: “Ok. I’m scared of him too.” Tal smiled so hard that her regulator fell out of her mouth.

A lionfish. Don't ever touch one.

After our long dive, we dismembered our gear (but not each other) and jumped back into the water to snorkel a bit while waiting for the other divers to get back to the boat. Basically, we can’t stand to be out of the water for more than 30 seconds. Megan especially likes snorkeling around divers—it’s like coming down from the surface and saying, “I bring you greetings from the surface world!” Tal just likes snorkeling and thinks Megan is a little strange, but still loves her.

After all of this watering, we took a nap back at the Carib Inn, on top of their gazebo. It was great.

We all went home and had a snack. It is worth mentioning here that this is an important anniversary for our Bernstein family: today, our uncle Steven, our mothers’ brother and grandparents’ son, would have been 51. He died of Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma long before either of us were born, but we love him as if we knew him (we are forever hearing stories about him). We toasted him with wine, crackers, and nice cheese. We feel that if he were here, he would be adventuring right along with us, and laughing with us. It’s an odd thing to miss someone you never knew, and it’s hard to explain, but we know how it feels. We love you, Steven, and happy birthday.

Dinner was yummy. It was roasted chicken, pasta with roasty veg, and broccoli. You know. Good food.

Megan was sort of boring for much of today because she was racing to finish one of the best books she’s ever read. She sat on the dock outside the apartment, reading the last few pages with a headlamp, looking somewhat like a crazy person. During these last few pages, Tal snuck up behind her, settled down, and watched her, holding a spoonful of hazelnut spread and waiting for her to be done, already. Megan had no idea that Tal was there, and was so engrossed and entranced by her book, that she was speaking quite extensively to herself. Tal is very polite about this, but admits that she was a little amused. The hazelnut spread eased the pain of finishing such a good book. We had some nice, long talks about life and family, and we are very much enjoying each other’s company, as we expected we would. To anyone who is reading this: we’ll see you soon.

Megan and Tal Blog Bonaire: Day 2: Sea glass is EVERYWHERE. (Thank you, Calvin.)

Hello everyone! Here is Tal and Megan’s silly account of what happened today.

First we worked. Fun. Does anyone want to hear about that? No. (It was nice to do homework next to each other, by the ocean, however, and Tal did get a lot of math done.)

Our dive for the day was at a site called Something Special—a pretty beach where you can simply gear up, walk into the water, and cavort among the coral. After getting geared up, Tal heard Grandma’s tank hissing suspiciously, and Wendy, after some investigation, discovered that the tank was missing an O-ring—a vital piece of equipment that keeps the tank and regulator (the part you breathe out of) connected. Without the O-ring, it was leaking air. This precipitated a wild goose chase by Megan and Grandpa across the island looking for an O-ring, which is a small silicone ring and not much else. We finally stumbled upon a kindly-looking scuba shop, and so I (Megan) barged in politely and demanded an O-ring. The woman said, “I will give one to you for $1.80.” I said, “I do not have any money.” She said, “Well.” I said, “Wait a minute.” I raced out to the truck and fished around in everyone’s bags looking for loose change. I walked back into the shop, and said, “I have 71 cents and an apology.” She said, “Take the O-ring. Have a nice dive.” And we did.

Kowabunga?

Aside from a few gear malfunctions throughout the dive (none of which, thankfully, involved O-rings), it was still a pretty spiffy dive, complete with seven squid, two sharp-tailed eels, and a hawksbill sea turtle. Megan especially appreciated the squid, Tal liked the eel (which she even petted), and Wendy chased the turtle until it swam away. After dismembering our gear (and each other—Tal and Wendy know Krav Maga), and nearly dragging Tal off a truck (accidentally, sort of), Tal and Megan spent some time collecting sea glass. Evidently, this beach is the place where everyone goes to have a beer: there was eroded glass everywhere. Then, we made our way back to the Carib Inn (henceforth known as Bruce’s).

At Bruce’s, Tal, Wendy, and Megan jumped off the dock repeatedly, then swam to a floating dock and hung out as the sun dried us off. We would love to tell you about how beautiful it is, but there aren’t really any words to describe it. Well, I have one word: blue. On the drive back home, our entire family had a rousing discussion about phrasals (two or more words which function as one. Tal would like me to add that her teacher spent an entire semester on grammar, including phrasals, which, if you ask her, is an utterly useless way to use up a semester, but it means that she can correct everyone, even her brilliant family, on the use of phrasals, which she finds validating.) (The word “validating” was her idea, not mine.). It was very funny. You’ll have to take our word for it. By the way, “funny” is an adjective.

Tal takes a brave backward tumble into the wild blue yonder.

For dinner, we ate garlic, among other things. Actually, it was quite delicious: Grandpa made his famous Caesar salad, Wendy made pasta and meat sauce, a few different people made garlic bread. While everyone else did useful things, Megan took a glass of wine and a book and sat out on the dock and watched the sunset. When it came time for the sun to disappear, she ran around to tell people to come watch—we always look for a phenomenon called the Green Flash, which only happens when you can see the sun dip below the horizon, so it’s a good thing to look for when you have a West-facing ocean view. Just as the sun disappears, it turns vibrantly green. Wendy, Grandma, and Grandpa saw it. Megan and Tal think they are lying.

At 9:00 every night, Tal, Wendy and Megan go out on the deck/dock to check the lighted water for tarpon, which show up around this time to eat the smaller fish which are attracted by the lights. Wendy and Megan think these fish are about 5 feet long, which is HUGE. Tal thinks they are smaller, but loves them just as much. They are strikingly beautiful, especially when they turn on their sides and they flash in the light, like big, living mirrors. Tal made us possibly the best dessert I have ever had: toasty bread with peanut butter and good Dutch chocolate, and a glass of halfvolle melk (that’s milk, for the uninitiated and the non-Dutch). It’s a lot sweeter than the milk back home.

And now Megan and Tal are here, on a couch, writing this blog together. Whoever is reading this, we miss you. Sort of. The ocean is pretty cool.

You can tell how much we love each other by the way we gaze into each other's eyes in midair. Disgusting.

Megan and Tal Blog Bonaire: Number 1 (First Day. Tarpon are big.)

Hi, everyone!

This is Megan, as per usual, which merits saying because there’s going to be an extra author on these posts—my little cousin, Tal, who is an old woman in the body of a twelve-year-old (maybe not an old woman. She’s too cool to be an old woman. But she’s definitely older than twelve. She just taught me the word “phrasal,” which apparently is a real word, as in, “‘Gearing up’ is a gerund phrasal!” which is a sentence she just said to me, out of nowhere. You thought I was kidding about her, didn’t you?)

I’m currently on a family vacation that I’ve been taking with my grandparents most years since I was eleven years old and got my scuba certification. I’m on an island called Bonaire, which is right next to Aruba and really has nothing to say for itself except for coral reefs and the exceptionally blue ocean. But time has moved, and my youngest cousin is now old enough to come with us, so she and her mother Wendy have done so. It is the first time I’ve ever been here with anyone in addition to my grandparents, and it’s fun beyond belief. The thought of being here with Tal—bringing her to my favorite places, showing her the reefs and teaching her the names of all the fish that my grandparents taught me when she was my age—makes me feel motherly and proud and happy in a way I can’t quite describe.

I usually keep a journal when I come to Bonaire, because the things I see and learn here aren’t things I want to soon forget. This time I decided to make it into a blog, and I asked Tal if she would join me. Here are our impressions of Bonaire. (This first post is just Megan, but the next one, about Day 2, is the both of us jointly.)

Iguana!

Today the five of us—my grandparents, Wendy, Tal, and I—did an equipment-checking dive at the Carib Inn. The Carib Inn is like a second home at this point. It is run by a charismatic crew of kindhearted people who welcome us back every year: my grandparents for 25 years, me for ten, and now Wendy and Tal for four.

The dive was largely uneventful but for a few equipment malfunctions which we dealt with. But it was my first time diving with my little cousin and my aunt. This may seem like a mundane thing, but it feels amazing to me. Tal might laugh at me when she reads this, because I’ve said this to her so many times, but it bears writing down: Tal reminds me of myself in so many ways, only better. She has my hair and my eyes (or I have hers). She loves animals. She uses words like “esoteric” and “phrasal”. And, above all—like everyone in my family—she is a fish. She has waterblood. She learned to swim, if I remember, nearly at the same time that she learned to walk (at the same time that I, a little younger than she is now, was learning to scuba dive). And now she is the youngest diver I have ever known besides myself, and even though I remember a time when she couldn’t swim, couldn’t walk, couldn’t talk—indeed, remember a time when she didn’t even exist—she is one of my very favorite people, and I got to hold hands with her today 40 feet under the ocean surface. It is a place that very few people can get to, and a place that we both love dearly, and I am glad that she was by my side there. I’m proud of my adventurous family.

Anyway. The details of my adventure are probably way more interesting to you than my nostalgia. There wasn’t much of unusual interest in today’s dive—it was just a crazy delight to be back to diving, which is really flying, movement in three dimensions. I may turn myself completely upside-down, nose nearly to the reef, to scrutinize the rubble for creatures, and then with a lazy flicking of a fin I can turn over to gaze at the twinkling faraway surface and blow bubble rings. We did chance across a sleeping school of tarpon, monolithic fish that emerge hulkingly from the darkling distant dim like weird sea gods. They are about 5 feet long with steely scales that reflect the surrounding water and make them look like empty outlines of fish until you are right beside them and realize just how immense and solid they are. Huge fish, with their slow grace and lidless alien eyes, have always both fascinated and scared me, but I found today that my fear is much less than it once was. I played with my new confidence by getting as close to them as I could. They yawned and finned off slowly into the darkness of the deeper sea.

When we got back to the dock, Tal, Wendy and I stayed in the water a bit longer than we needed to to watch a school of silversides that had pooled under the dock. They had attracted the attention of predators, needlefish and barjacks, and they were making evasive movements as a unified school—bunching, flowing, wheeling, their sides flashing in the sunlight like torrents of mercury. Every now and then the needlefish made arrow-like attacks from above, while the jacks mostly just careened around the seafloor looking irritated (jacks always look irritated). The silversides flocked and flowed around us, until we were completely surrounded by billowing, shining life in the dappled light of the underwater sun.

Iguana on the dock of our inn.

On to day 2!

~Megan