Horizon at Sandy Point

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The next 30

I am thinking about death. Well, not exactly the moment of dying, or what it might be like to be dead. Dead might be just another state of being; and probably just means being "dead" to the state we are accustomed to, and the people and creatures that have an awareness of us at the particular time of our existence. The moment of dying on the other hand seems fraught with fear - all the fears that we experience or anticipate waiting for us for that moment when we pass through that last door - pain, loss, the unknown, hell or heaven, judgement. I don't think people resist death because they are scared; I think there are other reasons that souls cling to life. That's another discussion.

What I am really thinking about is the rest of my life. This is likely to be as much as all my adult life already lived, or much less. The uncertainty is exciting. Would I be doing what I am doing now if...

My next career waits. What is it that I can bring the experiences, the who-I-really-am, the learning of a lifetime, to? How shall I "apply" or prepare to enter this new enterprise, at a time when the thing that I know with the greatest certainty is how much I have dabbled in a lot of different things, and how little I actually know about so much!

The last year of paying attention has brought a lot of insights into this "who-I-really-am." Calm and patience were always there but to know what it looks like on the inside is a revelation. Sometimes it simply means staying out of the way of others, sometimes it's "speak when asked;" sometimes "just do as you are told;" but mainly it's about activating that "me" that does pay attention, which is mainly observer, processor, dreamer, immutable and unsleeping.

So what shall it be? How shall I fill the days before I slip into oblivion? Here's my start up list, in no particular order. Improve the house. Make a garden. Grow food. See the Pacific. Write the book. Learn to make chocolate. Create my own business. Heal someone.

Not exactly wild!

To be continued.

Monday, June 6, 2011

what we did in Curacao

Here's a picture essay of some of the places we saw, and what we enjoyed in Curacao. Photos by all the Ganase cameras (credits in brackets: ag Anjani; rg Ranji; pg Pat).

On Day 1, the beach at Cas Abau: white sand like sugar grains (pg)

The beach at Piscaderabaai: ajoupas everywhere (pg)
Playing with the wind at Blue Bay (rg)
No swimming in the wild waters of Boca Ascension (ag)

Lovely to float, swim or gaze at the horizon, between sea and sky at Playa Forti (ag)

Calabash Alley at Den Paradera, the herb garden planted by Dinah Veris (pg)
Flower at the herb garden (ag)

Soaps with natural flavours (coconut, lavender, chocolate) in the Herb Shop (rg)

Resting in cool shade at the Herb Garden (rg)
Cactus kiss at Boca Ascension (ag)

Feeling up the chi chi doll at Serena's shop in Willemstad (ag)

A conch shell in my ear (ag)

Davy Jones's coral pipe (ag)
Looking for flamingoes at the lagoon (ag)

In the pool at the Caribbean Flower apartment (rg)

At the lagoon, looking for flamingoes  through the viewfinder (pg)

Flamingoes that commute to Venezuela (ag)

Two turtles at Boca Ascension - you need good eyes! (ag)
Everywhere you see the flash of colour that might be a parakeet - a "national" bird of Curacao.
 And these fruit and flower hangers made from used tyres!
These ingenious parrots made from used tyres were everywhere (ag)
In the arid plateau of Boca Ascension, West Indian cherries growing wild. We ate and thought of Orion, who loved them as a child. (pg)

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Korsou - sweet heart of the Caribbean

Curacao lies like a lizard - one of those woodslaves (tiny enough to be abbreviated to one of the ABC islands - the others being Aruba and Bonaire) - parallel to the Venezuelan coast. Over 40 nautical miles away and seen on the island's south horizon only on a clear day, the mainland influence is pervasive and constant. In the beginning of June at the time of our visit, you feel the Andean presence in the brooding overcast cloud and sometimes oppressive humidity.
Lizards everywhere - including this iguana that comes to the pool
The bounty of the big country comes ashore in the floating market in Willemstad, the "old and new" market where vendors sell everything from herbal oils to fresh meat, clothing and souvenirs; as well as in the giant supermarket. The resorts of Curacao are filled with as many families from Venezuela as with Netherlanders.
Floating market: products brought by Venezuelan boats

Quayside of the floating market
It is Venezuelan oil that keeps the heart of Curacao beating. The refinery - a sprawling complex of flaring chimneys and domed tanks - is served by tankers gliding through the port, undeterred by pontoon bridges which part in anticipation. Everyone else waits, or takes the ferry. Built by the masterful Dutch, Willemstad port features dry docks, an economic zone, a state-of-the-art container terminal and cargo wharves. The city is built around the port channel: impressive restored forts - now hotels, restaurants and offices - and a shopping district picturesque as little Amsterdam painted in Caribbean brights.
The refinery and port around which Willemstad flourishes

Chi chi dolls are created by Serena Israel as a cottage project for women

Basic forms in white plaster are painted in Korsou style by women

Dutch order and discipline are the backbone of the society. One of the largest desalination plants in the world provides sweet potable water. Beaches are mini resorts, fully equipped with deck chairs, restrooms and showers, bars and restaurants, dive shops, and discreet ticket collectors. It's  hard to not pay the tariff when you are already on your back in the shade of an ajoupa or basking in the sun at the edge of some of the bluest water in the world. Hundreds of cays and sandy spits provide prime real estate for tourism business, or larger exclusive homesteads and rentals.
Caribbean Flower - a modest apartment hotel in a quiet suburb

Ranbow over Piscaderabaai, home of CARMABI

Boca Ascension, pounding waves carve uplifted coral rock

Playa Forti - dive into deep blue from a cliff forty feet high!

The native of Curacao is Dutch with Euro- and Afro- ancestry in increasingly diverse proportions. They are as likely to speak English, Dutch, or Spanish but all speak Papiamentu - the creole dialect that is enriched by constant use. They call their island Dushi Korsou - sweet heart (if you consider that Curacao might be related to corazon) or sweet healing island (if you take the meaning "island of cures").

The downsides? You can have too much heat and sun. Don't leave anything visible in your car or you'll certainly have broken windows.
Korsou: coral rock and curling water! Sweet, hard, enduring

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Working girls

CARMABI is the Caribbean Research and Management of Biodiversity Institute which was established in Curacao in 1955. The not-for-profit organization operates on four pillars: scientific research on marine and terrestrial ecological subjects; nature management of marine and terrestrial parks; environmental education; and consultancy to third parties. The facilities include offices and labs located at Piscaderabaai; these may be the worse for wear, and no doubt could use some additional funding. But the Institute is a vibrant centre for research and a training ground for young scientists gathering information from the sea; about 70 scientists come here every year.

The reefs around Curacao are among the loveliest in the Caribbean, surviving even the hundred year old refinery processing oil from Venezuela, and the busy port traffic. What better place to study the living reef, to try to understand the diversity and complexity of inter-dependence in a healthy marine ecosystem.

Students from Netherlands universities arrive annually for their internships, collecting data and adding to the fund of knowledge that advances an appreciation for ocean life. Here are a couple of these students collecting samples from a reef just off Piscadera bay. Like almost every other bay on Curacao, there's a commercial business that manages the visitor facility - providing beach chairs, rest rooms and restaurants - a tourism model that works well in the Dutch Antilles.

The girls are working on a project that requires them to collect water samples from different parts of the reef. The micro-organisms are filtered in the lab and their rate of nitrogen fixation - conversion of nitrogen gas to ammonia (much like the bacteria living in the roots do for the plants so they can have their source of nitrogen for proteins) - is measured at regular intervals. Continuous testing over 48 hours takes patience, steadiness and good humour. It's also better with a science buddy.
Loading up the boat for a dive to collect samples

Wetsuits and tanks for the dive

Bringing back in sample tubes filled with sea water!

Diving, and offloading, requires two persons

All that effort for a few microscopic organisms?

A scientist needs perseverance among other qualities...

...and should enjoy repetitive hard work!