Sharks, Boobies and Penguins oh my!

Life on the island is like a dream… the culture on the island here is so laid back and everyone is super affectionate and happy. It’s all part of the equatorial lifestyle. Year around, it is 70-80 degrees and sunny- always the same. When things never change, there is no need to plan for the future or long term. You don’t have to store food for the winter, or any of the other silly things that people do back in Chicago or even Chile.
In fact, the culture that I was used to in Chile is very different than here. It’s as if the Latin lifestyle, plus Island lifestyle is saturated and enhanced a million times into one tiny fishing village where about 1,500 men live, who surf and fish all day and then 500 women live, who live in the home and cook and clean.
Being here though, I feel like I am REALLY living . I am always covered in sand and having salty skin from the ocean.. and wake up with 15 new mosquito bites every day on my tanned skin.
Yet at the same time it doesn’t feel like I’m actually living too… work means talking to locals, interviewing them for different articles, researching different aspects of the Island culture and editing various videos and photos for the web page. Or as I’m doing right now, laying in a hammock with my laptop and my newly adopted kitty, Ginger.  (Sorry if I come back home with fleas mom he is just too cute)
IMG_0197
This morning, I woke up around 7 am to hear the waves crashing on the beach outside of my window (I live less than a block from the sandy beach!) I decided to go on a run, so I ran out to the beach and just kept going and going. I lost track of time because every time I realized my legs were so tired, I kept seeing something new that I wanted to investigate. After about an hour of running, I came to a surfers beach where there were HUGE waves! Then I ran into an Italian couple who were running on a trail in the National Park, so I followed them, staying at least a few hundred meters behind them. We went up this big hill, and then they disappeared into the bush towards the beach…a few minutes later they came sprinting towards me frantically yelling in Italian, “There are dragons up ahead!” ( Supposedly I understand Italian?)
The first thing that popped into my head was Game of Thrones, so my eyes grew wide and I responded, “COOL!”
Then I ran ahead as they gave me puzzled looks. I almost tripped over myself as I had to come to a halt, as there were two barreling Iguanas laying on the path sunbathing. I knelt beside one and said, “Hola, como esta la familia?” You know, trying to be polite (and rational) by speaking in Spanish. But my actual logic kicked in a few seconds later and I turned around and sprinted back towards safety.
With adrenaline pumping, I ended up sprinting the whole way home along the beach, where I saw lots of  bright red crabs skuttling along the black lava rocks and a few sea lions laying on the beach.
I came home, showered as I was soaked in salt water from the ocean spray and covered in sand. Then I made myself some eggs and layed in a hammock on the porch and did some “lobeando” or in English it literally means sea-lioning. What the locals here calling relaxing.
My front porch

My front porch

 Then my roomie Sarah, woke me up asking if I’d like to go kayaking and snorkeling. I had three hours until work..perfect.  So off we went across the path 100 feet to the ocean where Jackie, an American women who has lived here for 20 years with her Ecuadorian husband, Romero, live. I took the picture below with my good camera yesterday..keep in mind this view is less than a block from my house.
La playa
We ate some fresh papaya, slathered on the sunscreen, strapped on life vests and pulled the kayaks out to the water. I had never ocean kayaked before. Each wave that plundered us was like a roller coaster ride. After a few good laughs and almost tipping into the water, we made it out into the bay where we saw some penguins, blue-footed boobies, sea lions, sharks, and storks. I would have pictures, but in the kayak I didn’t bring my camera- however Sarah did bring her waterproof camera so pictures will come eventually.
We kayaked around, racing the sea lions around the fishing boats. One of the fishermen, was Romero’s friend and he was just pulling up a net overflowing with fish. “Quieres ir a pescar?” Romero asked me. Do you want to go fishing. I turned to him and smiled. So we paddled up along side the fishing boat and the fishermen, shirtless, with tanned backs and cigarettes dangling out of the corners of their mouths threw in at least 20-30 fish into the middle of our kayak. It was a glorious day indeed.
We spent the next 2o minutes talking about all the delicious ways we were going to cook it and serve it with some fresh yuka (Ecuadorian potatos) when we got back.
From there, Romero asked me if I wanted to go snorkeling with some sharks. I assumed he was joking, so I laughed and said ,” of course, and we can serve these fish as the appetizers before they eat me.”
He wasn’t joking.
We paddled to a different bay, about 30 minutes away and by this time my arms were super tired. So I was actually looking forward to getting in the water to help stretch them out a bit. He reassured me that the sharks in this bay were tranquil and not the type to attack. He said the only problem would be that I didn’t wear a wet suite, and in these months the water is cold. With only my bikini on, I decided to do it.
The water was crystal clear, with schools of colorful fish swimming below me. So I jumped right in and Romero followed. All of the 5 am swimming practices in the pool prepared me for that moment.
I saw lots of fish and even a few sharks that didn’t look at me twice.
We snorkeled for a while, then decided it was time to head back. So as I was climbing into the kayak- Romero lost his balance and we both tipped it over. With all of the snorkeling gear and the 30 or so dead fish falling into the water on top of us. Within a blink of an eye- the sky was dark with HUGE jurassic-like storks dive bombing us from all directions trying to eat our fish! Romero and I both started freaking out, trying to flip the kayak back over and save our lunch!
While Jackie, who owned all of the gear was yelling at us, ” YOU ASSHOLES! GET THE SNORKELING GEAR IT IS SINKING TO THE BOTTOM! I HAVE A BUSINESS TO RUN! FORGET ABOUT THE DUMB FISH!”
Romero and I both completely ignored her, our minds only on the precious fish that were being gobbled up by the giant birds.
A few minutes later (or was it an hour, who knows) we had both dove down to the bottom, where we collected the lost fins and masks- and saved a total of three fish from being devoured.
Exhausted, disheartened and in residual shock, we paddled home- using the surf to ride us back into the beach where I had 5 minutes to spare before running into work.
I just typed out a novel, so if you made it this far… I promise it will be shorter next time.
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