Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Hanging out

We’ve finally found something that keeps Jake from asking to play on the iPad.  We had a late Christmas present arrive from Amazon last week…remember the board game Risk?  Me neither, but Andy did and told me he thought Jake would like it.  That’s the understatement of the year.  It’s perfect.  It’s all about world domination with hundreds of armies.  We bought a newer version that also allows you take over water territories and territories on the moon.  They have cards that allow you to drop bombs on your opponents, go into stealth mode, and gain more territories.  While I can’t say it’s my favorite game, I can say it’s really fun to watch Jake play.  It’s totally a strategic game and is more complicated than any child’s game I’ve ever seen, but he grasped the idea right away and hasn’t stopped playing sense.  The other cool thing about it, as that it has so many pieces and parts that he’s perfectly content with making up his own games as well…which means I don’t have to play it every day.  His Yapese friend, Trevor came over last weekend and listening to Jake try to tell Trevor how to play was hilarious.  He actually did a pretty good job for a 7 year old but in the end, they just made up their own game.  After all, it did take Andy and I two hours to figure it out and we had the directions right in front of us.

This is Jake's "I hate school" face.  I get it about once a week.
Today, I was lucky enough to get a note.  His spelling had him
writing a note to his teacher telling her what he liked most about
school.  His said, "deer mommy, I do not like school.  luv, Jake"
I'll cherish it forever. :)

So, there you have it…that’s what we’ve been doing for the past week and why I have no exciting pictures of us doing cool touristy things.  Andy’s foot pain actually got worse and was so swollen he couldn’t get his flip-flops on.  It looked like a giant sausage.  So he started his own round of antibiotics.  For obvious reasons he didn’t leave the boat and Jake and I just got lazy.  Between the board games and school, we just haven’t really done anything.  But we’re all healed up now and are re-motivated to get back out into the world and participate.  Hopefully our next update will be a bit more exciting.

Andy did go diving yesterday, so I’ll leave you with his latest…

Anenome shrimp




Monday, January 14, 2013

Tropical Infections

From the day we left California we heard nothing but warnings about how the tiniest of cuts could get infected in warm, tropical climates.  We always took care to keep things clean and bandaged up (or whatever was appropriate for the wound).  Andy, having had EMT training back when he was in the Navy, is our resident doctor and has kept us fairly healthy since we left.  So I am happy to say, we have never had a crazy infection from a tiny little cuts or even those nasty sting ray attacks back in Mexico….until now.  And now every one of us is a member of the club. 

These pictures show us all on the mend now, but imagine
this with puss and goo.....ewwww.
Andy’s started with a mosquito bite on his big toe that he scratched until it turned into a sore.  Then, while in Lamotrek, the flies made a meal out of him mostly every day.  He tried covering it with a Band-Aid when we went to shore, but has anyone used a Band-Aid lately?  Remember when we were kids and tearing a bandage off would take all the hair off your arm or leg?  Remember how your parents told you to do it really fast so it wouldn’t hurt and then it still left a huge red mark for days?  Well, we must have whined a great bit, because they don’t make them like they used to.  We have four different brands on board and not a one of them sticks.  So, Andy eventually abandoned them altogether and went to burying his foot in the sand to keep the flies from eating on it and then when he got to the boat he would clean it up.  Pretty soon there was puss and redness and well, a month later, he’s still whining about it.  To top it off, he now has a mysterious sore on his other big toe and it’s turning red.

He's still cute...but ewwww  again.
Jake is a nasty little creature.  He’s a booger picking, nail biting, rear end scratching petri dish.  He’s your typical little boy.  He’s been using those same fingers and touching his face so much that sores have developed on his nose.  Once the sores came up, then he started picking at them until we finally had to tape a bandage over his nose to keep him from touching it and making it worse.  It’s beginning to heal now and just looks like a sunburn gone bad…let’s hope it continues to heal and he doesn’t have to have the whole thing cut off (something I keep ensuring him is going to have to happen).

The purple stuff is actually medicine, but the rest is just

I was feeling appropriately sorry for my two men, yet was getting tired of the whining until… I got my pedicure at the local spa.  I went running a few days afterward and my second toe started hurting.  I assumed it was my running shoes making a callus on my toe (I’m one of those freaks who’s second toe is longer than the first).  Since I had toenail polish on, I didn’t consider it might be my toenail.  Eventually, I noticed there was no callus but the pain was worse.  I took the polish off and my toe was totally white.  The rest were pinkish (as in, blood was present).  But this one was white.  As the days went by, the toenail started to come off and puss started to ooze out the tip.  Then my toe started getting red and hurting really bad.  Yesterday morning, there was a huge build up of puss at the bottom of the nail bed.  Andy lanced it and I decided to start a round of antibiotics.  Now some of you nature people (I really don’t know what the official name for folks who are opposed to antibiotics is) are starting to moan at me, but I’ll tell you this.  You do not want to have to deal with a severely infected toe at the local hospital here.  That’s where you go to get sick.  I rarely take any medication but I felt strongly this one was needed.  I can do without a stub of a toe, but I can’t do without my whole foot, which is what I was afraid would happen if I didn’t take some drastic measures.  Last night I told Andy my toe was feeling a lot better and brought it up for him to look at.  I almost gagged as my toenail was hanging by a string.  He pulled it off for me, doctored me up and all looks pretty good this morning (day 2 of antibiotics) – or so he tells me.  I can’t bring myself to look at it.  One more day of the meds and I think we’ll be back in business. 

I can’t say as we’ve learned our lesson because well, we haven’t done anything differently, so...the moral of the story?   If you’re cruising in the tropics, stock up on sticky band aids, keep your hands off your face and poo poo the pedicures.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Sight seeing in Yap

OK, I look like a cow and you can barely see the Manta,
but it's me and I saw it!  Andy went to get Jake so
pictures were at a minimum today...but Jake was on a high!
We finally got the chance to come up from grocery shopping and laundry and actually play tourist this week.  We rented a car and drove around the island for a few days and today, we dove with the giant manta rays!  I'll start with today and move backwards.

One of the dive resorts here (Manta Ray Hotel) has given us the local rate for diving and agreed to let Jake sit on the boat so Andy and I can both dive.  Today, they picked us up at our boat (that's service!) and then we rode through the mangroves at break-neck speed to our dive site.  There is a manta cleaning station in the channel and after a short swim, we were perched on the side of a reef ready for the show.  It took a while for them to show up, but once they did, it was incredible.  Due to the weather  recently, the visibility wasn't so great, but these things fly right over your head so close you could touch them....visibility didn't matter!  The mantas that live here range anywhere from 9 feet to 13 feet in size (wingspan).  If you've never seen one, it's almost like a ballet in the water.  They are simply amazing.  We saw one from our dinghy in the Tuamotos, but I've never been in the water and up close to one like today.

So, apparently, I wasn't the subject of today's photography (only an afterthought)
as you only see one shark behind me.  There were at least a dozen,
but I just got in the way of the flash....

I could go on and on, but I won't...I'll just check that one off my list of cool things to do in life!

In addition to the diving, there are other interesting things around here to see.  The main one being the stone money.  Yapese have used stone money for  centuries and according to the tourist brochure, it's found nowhere else in the world.  Here's what it says...

This is probably very disrespectful, but the hole seemed the
perfect size for Jake's head...made for a cute picture, I think :)
"The first stone money quarrying in the Palau Islands may have begun as far back as 125 A.D.  The sparkling rock is a form of crystalline calcite that is found primarily in the colorful glistening walls of limestone caverns.

Hundreds of voyages followed the initial trip to Palau.  Many men attempted the hazardous passage and more than a few perished in the process.  The 360 mile canoe journey took about five days one way if the weather was good and required skillful sailing.  The larger pieces of stone money that are now a familiar fixture in most Yapese villages was an arduous task to make and return to Yap, increasing its value greatly."

Kind of interesting, huh?  Anyway, it's still around and used in some villages today.  It's not exchanged anymore, but sits in "banks" (the side of the roads in the villages) called Rai.  We snapped a few pictures as we drove along.

There were also a few Japanese zeros left over from WWII....and a Continental flight gone bad....
It took a while, but we finally found it... a japanese zero.
Jake was ecstatic.  He loves this stuff.

U.S. Hellcat...apparently, it was hit by enemy fire, then
collided with another US aircraft in the bay.
There's a memorial set up for the young pilot.

Continental gone bad....

In between our touring, a miracle has happened aboard Savannah.  Jake has shown an interest in sports.  I know...Dad, Cary....hold onto your hats and don't get your hopes up too high, but yes, my son has asked to "go play some sports."  We took the soccer ball (there goes Cary's hopes...), a baseball glove and some balls, a frisbee, pads to practice his Tae Kwon Do, and his new bike to shore a few days this week.  He says he isn't yet ready to focus on one thing, you see, so we try to cover the basics that you guys at home may laugh at...  Remember, we don't get TV so he isn't showered with college games all weekend long like he might be at home.  Let's take the rules to kickball for example, a favorite of every elementary school age child in's kind of difficult to play a full game with only three people.  Do you know how hard it is to explain to a six year old what "man on first" means when you need to come back in and kick?  Or why he can't move the bases into a rectangle instead of a diamond?   Or, when Andy rolled him a "ground ball" with the baseball and instead of throwing it back, he rolled it "practice" his ground balls.  We already covered basketball back in Lukenor when he was playing with the local kids and tried to kick it to them.

My family is either laughing hysterically right now, or they're crying...  It may sound like I'm making fun of my child and well, I guess I am.  At his age, I was twirling the baton (pretty well, might I add), cheerleading, running track and tap dancing.  My brother was playing baseball, basketball and football.  We were coordinated kids.  I can't help but laugh when I watch Jake as he is not very coordinated at all...he'll get it, I know.  He's already improved immensely and me not really being a sports freak myself, I really have no concern (or even care if he ever improves).  But I know others do and I thought I would give an update.  Good news is Andy says he was a late bloomer and he is a very coordinated adult....there's hope.  But not too much hope for team sports...aside from Jake growing up on a boat (which limits your options), his dad is a solo kind of dude...Tae Kwon Do (blackbelt though...see he is coordinated), sky diving, kayaking, scuba get the picture.

Now we're getting ready to go have some cocktails on a new cruising boat that pulled in will be nice to have some folks to hang out with after going such a long stretch without other cruisers.  We still have a few weeks here as we're waiting on our bottom paint and then we're going to attempt to pull Savannah out and give her a fresh look.  Cross your fingers.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Advise (or philosophical ponderings) on preparing for your crossing

It’s that time of year again, where boats from all over Mexico, California and Panama are thinking of doing the Pacific crossing.  I’m part of a group on facebook where we women can chit chat about all of our questions, worries, and experiences and I’ve been seeing a lot of questions pertaining to provisioning lately.  It’s made me stop and think about what I’ve learned over the years, not only about provisioning but cruising as well.  I’m much more comfortable than I was when we left Mexico, yet and I can hear myself asking these same questions just a few years ago.  I’m going to try desperately not to repeat what I said last year, but in an effort to help out with those still reading, I thought I would post some of my own findings over the last few years.  Remember, I’m not a writer and I tend to stray from my original thoughts…hopefully you can stick it out to the end.

There are people who live to eat and there are people who eat to live.  Those of the latter, will do fine with stocking up on whatever you need for a few weeks and then take the over used advice of “everyone everywhere has to eat…there’s always something to eat.”  Ramen noodles are cheap all over the world and surprisingly popular in the south and west pacific.

Then there are those of you who live to eat.  These are my peeps.  While it is true that everyone eats, what they eat varies greatly from what you’re probably used to eating.  You will find some dishes that are absolutely fabulous (poison crue comes to mind for me) and then you will find some stuff that you’d rather not try again (pig knuckles anyone?).  Aside from the what, is the how much.  Mexico (and from what I hear, Ecuador), is the cheapest food you will find until you reach southeast Asia.  I went on a rant about this earlier in Pohnpei so I won’t repeat the whole thing, but if you know what you like to eat and they have it in Mexico, stock up.  Particularly in meat, specialty items (roasted red peppers, sundried tomatoes, olive oil etc.), and booze.  Not because they don’t have them where you’re going, but because they will be twice as much, if not three times as much (I just paid $13 for a small bottle of olive oil in Micronesia).  And once you leave French Polynesia, in most cases, it gets more expensive.   Not to deter you from going, oh my, no….it’s totally worth it….just plan ahead if you like to eat.  There are places along the way where you can stock up again…Tahiti (you just spent weeks crossing the pacific and cruising the Tuamotos, you’ve saved up), American Samoa (best place we’ve been for provisioning, other than Mexico), and the list goes on….just be honest with yourself about what you can live with both food wise and budget wise.  That meat place in Buceria sounds expensive now, but it’s a bargain once you’ve crossed the ocean.  After saying all that, stock up on recipes for bananas, coconuts, fish and breadfruit.

One thing I’ve looked back on and realized about myself as well as looking at some of the newbie questions, is that if you’re new to cruising, you tend to ask questions about and try to figure out how to recreate your life on land, on the boat.  I’m not sure that there’s anyway to avoid this as experience is the only way some of us learn, but my advice would be to just be open minded.  You won’t have as many friends as you do at home (or in Mexico).  But look at it as an opportunity to explore new interests or get closer to your loved ones on the boat (did you think that was possible?).  If you’re used to shaving your legs every day, blow drying your hair and smelling good…well, get over it (or have a powerful watermaker, generator and lots of bug spray on board). 
If you have soft skin, toughen up.  I found that once we crossed, we met more foreigners than not and well, not everyone has the US filter distributed to us at birth (yes, believe it or not, I have one).   They say what they mean and it’s refreshing.  Don’t get offended, just listen.  You’ll find yourself looking at things you thought you had a handle on in totally different ways.  I got fired up in Mexico more than once.  I can remember a conversation in Suarrow that I wasn’t sure either of us was going to get over.  But now, years later…I get it.  I don’t agree with a lot of it, but I can appreciate a different opinion.  You’ll be amazed at how many experts there are out there about your country’s culture, politics and how you should change (I know this to be true for the US, but I’ve seen it happen to everyone).  Just smile and nod.

I asked Andy to contribute his two cents and he said “Spare no expense.”  If you’re not on a quest to rid your life of all of the nice-ities of home…movies, gadgets, generators are your friend.  They are expensive elsewhere.  Spare parts…hard to get, sometimes impossible.  Your dinghy is your car.  If you drive a Mercedes…you might want to get a good outboard motor.  If you don’t mind pushing your Pacer down the road to get it in gear, then rowing might be your thing (just remember, sometimes you’ll be rowing to shore against winds and waves…might want to have a tiny motor on hand or a good workout program).

OK, obviously, we’re not purists.  Never claimed to be.  But we think we’ve struck a nice balance between comfort and reality.  Reality being that everyone doesn’t get to live the way we do in the US.  We’ve earned our lifestyle and worked hard for it, but I think it’s important that we stop and remember that it’s not a given.  There are people all over the world living a much humbler existence and they are no less worthy than us of a good life.  We’ve learned to put things into perspective.  Air condition is a luxury, as is a washing machine.  Living together every day, being in charge of my child’s upbringing, getting close to others…that’s why we’re out here.

So maybe this wasn’t an advise column after all…I got a little too philosophical.  But after reading my Facebook for the last week or so, I had a lot on my mind that I felt like sharing.  Hopefully, you can take a word or two and get some use out of it.  Overall, just know, that you’ll grow and it will more than likely be for the better.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Happy New Year! Yap Style...

Andy went diving with the giant mantas this week!
Happy New Year to everyone out there!  New Year’s here is a bit different than at home in as much as there are fewer people and fewer places to go and things to do.  The hotels and restaurants here in town each had something going on, but we opted to make it an early night and spend it on the boat.  As Andy and I sat on the front of the boat (Jake only made it to 11:15, then he was pooped), we watched people shooting off flares as opposed to fireworks.  It was pretty, but we held our breaths as each one was fired off and the wind would blow it over Savannah.  “Please don’t fall on us, Please don’t fall on us,” we chanted. We were lucky enough not to catch on fire but we worried even more as we saw one being carried right over top of the fuel depot behind our boat.  Lucky for the small town of Colonia, it passed on by.  We were energized by that time and ended up staying up way too late calling people in the US (it was morning time there).  We paid for it when Jake jumped in our bed at 7:30 with his usual “Get up! Get up!”
Yapese fireworks...aka Flares
A few mimosas later and we were all in the spirit of things.  We had been invited back over to our friend’s house for a New Year’s barbque so I spent the day making deviled eggs and crab cakes.  We were trying to think of something American to take over and with the limited selection of food here, we opted for the deviled eggs again.  They were a hit in Lamotrek, so why not? Andy went over to see what time we should arrive and they gave him two mangrove crabs.  So he cooked those up and I made them into crab cakes (my favorite food of all time).  Both items turned out to be a first for everyone and they loved it.  I’m always worried about taking food over to people’s houses because while I think I can cook, you never know what other people’s taste buds are like. 

Just like last time, we had a great time with Vincent and Agatha.  Jake got to play with Trevor again and it seems like we’re all old friends now.  It’s really easy to talk to these guys.  They’re very open and eager to share with us how their culture works (and their turtle), yet they’re still interested in us as well.  I got to ask some questions that sometimes I’m not always sure I should ask.  I’m also able to be myself and wear my little filter on my mouth, as opposed to that big fat one I’ve grown accustomed to putting on.   I learned some little things like the outer islanders are the only ones allowed to wear lava lavas here in Yap.  The main island Yapese women wear a special Yap skirt (not sure about this yet) and they are the only ones allowed to wear that.  The part I never did figure out is who are all these people walking around in western clothes?  Can both types of people wear those?   I also learned that they talk differently to their uncles, aunts and cousins than they do to their friends and immediate family.  It’s much more formal.  And if it’s the wife’s family, then the husband is expected to use the same tone and words as she does with her family as a sign of respect.

Random child running around, but he was cute.
He got dirtier and dirtier as the day went on, covered in
sand, soda and whatever that blue stripe is on his
head.  Agatha said he looked like something
from Avatar.

I was trying to describe the atmosphere to my mother and the best way I could describe it is like being out at my granny’s house when I was little or at my Aunt Jean’s house with her 10 kids and their 100 kids (and some of their kids).  Everyone is family but no one really knows who belongs to who.  But it’s all very loving and welcoming and feels like home.

Jake, sanding his sword he and his daddy carved.
Getting ready to take it to play with Trevor.
So today, Jake is having a little play date over with Trevor since it’s his last day off of school (Trevor’s).  I can see them from the boat running around with their wooden swords and stopping to chat every once in a while.  It’s really nice to have someone for Jake to play with that enjoys his company and likes similar things… I know I say that every time we find a friend, but it really is important to me for him to have things to do besides hang out with us all day.

I’ll do a little year in review post later, but wanted to wish everyone a Happy New Year and may this year be better than ever!  Enjoy a few of Andy's photos from his dive this week...