Sunday, December 7, 2008

Looking Forward to a Caribbean Christmas

The ISC Halloween Haunted House Crew

Bon Bini Korsou Ron!

British Trivia Anyone?

Erin and Robin were the stars of the team!

A Moonrise from the Kinzer's apartment

And a Sunset on the other side!

Erin Running into the Sun!

1/2 Marathon in 2 hours ...

The 3rd fastest woman in Curacao!!!
Watch out Disney World ... here she comes!

The 5th hole at Curacao's Blue Bay Golf Course
The pride of Curacao ... Isla Oil Refinery
Dan's students are creating solutions to Global Warming ...
but what can we do about this?

Well, it's been a while since we updated our friends and family, but that doesn't mean we haven't been busy! After Jack and Kori left back in October we celebrated our first Halloween in Curacao. A few tricks, and lots of treats made the International School's Halloween festival a lot of fun. Dan got all done up to play the part of the "Scary Dead Man" in the Middle School's Haunted House. The Middle Schoolers voted for "Mr. K" as the scariest person in the school, and therefore a perfect match for the job. While neither of us are big fans of Halloween we love seeing the kids smiles and outrageous costumes ... and a good scare never did any harm.
Once Halloween was over we had to prepare for the big Election Day in the States. Obama's victory wasn't really a surprise, but it was fun to watch as the World celebrated. Now it will be interesting to see exactly how much "change" takes place, especially from the perspective of Americans living outside the borders. Once the media hoopla surrounding the election was over Dan found himself watching a little bit less CNN (Erin was thankful), and spending more time developing his own plans for "change".
Dan's 10th grade history students have been studying the 19th century and looking at the people, places, and processes behind industrialization, democratization, and globalization. To go along with their study of history the students are participating in a program called Challenge 20/20: studying the causes and effects of Climate Change, and focusing on creating local action plans to address the problem here in Curacao. Their ideas are impressive, and you can follow along with their progress at - where you should find information about the GreenFest concert, windpower projects, consulting services, and educational efforts that will occupy their time when they return to school in January. It is a privilege to be a part of something truly educational - and is serving as a model of how a 'classroom' can function as a place of real discovery and problem solving.
Erin's Journalism students were up to some discovery and problem solving of their own as they wrapped up the first edition of the International School's newspaper, The ISC Times. The paper even had a student-written story on "Mr. K, the tree-like man" and his life with diabetes. Despite some controversy over some "freedom of the press" issues and the students' editorials everyone agreed that Erin and the students did a terrific job, and we all look forward to their 2nd edition in 2009.
As November flew by we enjoyed a night out at the British Women's Pub Quiz Night - full of laughs and a respectable 4th place team finish. We also enjoyed a visit from Ron Emerson (Selena's dad), who flies for American Airlines and finally got a 2 night stayover here in Curacao. We went out for dinner, caught up on life in Pensacola, and filled him in on life in Curacao. We also both enjoyed a beautiful Thanksgiving celebration with some good friends from the International School. In fact, we celebrated twice - Turkey, Ham, Sweet Potatoes, Mashed Potatoes, Green Bean Casserole, Pumpkin Pie, Pecan Pie, Cranberry Sauce, Stuffing - you name it and we ate it! Once we were done with all that eating, and the weekend rolled around, Erin ran off all in the calories in the island's 1/2 Marathon - finishing in 2 hours and coming in 3rd place among the women! I followed along in the car and cheered her on - choosing to soak up my Thanksgiving calories rather than run them off. I did, however, get a chance to burn some calories when the surf came up the week after Thanksgiving, and I enjoyed head high waves!
Now that December is here final projects and midterm exams are among us; and we're getting excited about our Christmas and New Year's celebrations here on the island. This upcoming week is the last week of school, and then it's just another week until Christie comes to visit from Pensacola, and a few more days until Mom, Dad, and Tim come from California. Some windsurfing, mountain climbing, scuba diving, and some good ole' relaxing Caribbean style will be in order; and it will be a wonderful way to spend the Christmas Season.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

YouTube Surfing

Now that the election is over, Obama has won, and we're ready for change, you can check the YouTube video bar at the bottom of the page for the latest YouTube surf videos. Sit back and enjoy the ride!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Our First Visitors

Jack and Kori in Curacao!

We all climbed Curacao's tallest mountain - Sint Christoffelberg
Tuesday morning found us embarking on a "3 hour tour" ...
the JonaLisa looked like a sturdy, sea-worthy vessel
but when the skies went dark and the rain came down on
Klein Curacao Jack and I were fighting over who would be
The Professor and who would be Gilligan ...

but the skies cleared and we made our way back to Curacao

Yesterday morning I woke up early to take my great friends, Jack and Kori, to the airport in Curacao and said good-bye. They were our first visitors on Curacao, and we had a great week sharing old memories and creating new ones.
Last Saturday Jack and Kori arrived in Curacao after a long day of travelling from Charlottesville, Virginia where they live. 3 flights, 2 layovers, a delayed flight from Miami - but they finally made it ... but they were missing 3 very important things - their 3 pieces of luggage. In their long day of travelling their bags were somehow left behind, and that left our two friends with the clothes on their backs and whatever they wanted to borrow from us.
We don't need to go into the details but the bags didn't finally arrive until 3 days, and a lot of frustrated phone calls, later, but Erin and I were both excited to have our first visitors, and especially because they were Jack and Kori. This small bump in the road didn't stop us from having a great few days of sharing this little island we now call home. The next day we headed into town to try and at least find a bathing suit for Kori but nearly all of the shops were closed so we decided to stick to dry land activities ... it was off to the Ostrich Farm! The Ostrich Farm was a big hit - it's one of Erin's favorite places to go on the island, and Jack and Kori really seemed to like the small piece of Africa in Curacao. Even after watching their Nile Crocodiles snack on a pigeon (thanks to our guide), and despite having eaten a late lunch, we stayed for dinner at Zambezi, their African themed restaurant, where they serve up delicious Ostrich steaks and fabulous desserts!
After a great day exploring the island and checking out the Ostrich Farm, and still no sign of the missing luggage, we decided to spend Monday climbing Christoffelberg, the tallest mountain on Curacao at 375 meters, or approximately 1,230 feet. We had gotten a nice little rain shower the night before so it was a lot of fun trekking through the small streams that coursed down the mountain. After spending the morning tiring ourselves out on the mountain Erin and I took our guests to our famous cliff-jumping spot, Playa Forti, and Jack and I took the plunge off the cliff. Back in the car it didn't take any time at all for all 3 of my passengers to fall asleep and dream their way back into town.
The next day was one I was really looking forward to - it was going to be our first trip to the small, mostly uninhabited island of Klein Curacao (Little Curacao). We had made reservations aboard the JonaLisa, a 50 foot cataraman, and couldn't wait to get out onto the open water and explore this island famous for it's shipwrecks, abandoned lighthouse, and abundance of marine life. The luggage was still missing, but it was a beautiful morning when we boarded the JonaLisa, and we got a view of the island we had never enjoyed before. We scanned the waters for the frequent flights of flying fish and the chance to spot some of the big marlin and sailfish that roam the deeper waters off Curacao. When we reached Klein Curacao we quickly jumped in and began exploring the underwater world on our way to the shore ... we saw pufferfish, eels, even a sea turtle just on our way to the beach! Once we got onto the island we headed off to check out the old abandoned lighthouse - it's insides we're falling apart and if this old lighthouse had even been left standing in the United States it would have definitely been deemed too dangerous to enter. But that's the beauty of being outside of the country - who needs safety regulations?! Jack, Kori, and I climbed to the very top of the tower hoping our next step didn't send us plunging down to the bottom. The view from the top was worth the scary climb - we had a great view of the entire little island! After some more exploring of washed up shipwrecks we headed back to lounge on the beach, do some more snorkeling, and practice our flipping abilities from the boat. We weren't actually bothered much by the rain that came down on us in the afternoon - it provided us with a much needed break from the hot Caribbean sun. We brought up the anchor and sailed back to Curacao exhausted ... but smiling.
For the remainder of the week Erin and I were back to work, but Jack and Kori finally got their luggage and were able to enjoy the last few days of their holiday. We even got to share a little of the International School with them on Friday as we celebrated UN Day - a celebration of the "Internationalness" of ISC. It was a day full of dancing, costumes, and a lot of excellent ethnic cuisine - a true taste of the diversity at our school. From Indian, to Chinese, to Vietnamese, to Lebanese, to Greek, to Jewish - it was a delicious day. We snuck out early from school and headed to one of Curacao's more beautiful beaches, Porto Marie, where we got to see a large Spotted Eagle Ray and swim right along side it. It was a great way to end a great week with our great friends.
It is so important to both Erin and me to share our lives with our family and friends in a real genuine way. I think that is why this blog is so much fun for us. I know that is why we love to have friends make the trip to visit. We hope you enjoy reading the blog, and we hope even more you consider "cruisin'" with us sometime, wherever we find ourselves.

Friday, October 17, 2008

YouTube Politics

Check out our new feature at the bottom of the page!!! The YouTube video bar will keep you tuned in to what the world thinks about this year's Presidential Race!
Now Erin and I want to know what you think about the 2008 Presidential Race, and we need to send our Overseas Voter ballots back home! Tell us who we should vote for, and why?

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


Photographs are like reflections - they give us that special chance to look at who we are. Here are some photographs, and some brief reflections, on what Erin and I have decided was definitely the "Best Year of Our Lives".

One year ago today I suggested we take a look at the surf at my favorite place to surf in Pensacola, "the Cross". All part of the plan, it was here that I took a knee and asked the most incredible woman in the world to be mine forever. I'm not sure why, or how, but she said yes ... and the adventure officially began. Sure we had already set off to places like Puerto Rico, Machu Picchu, the Amazon; we had been to Dallas together twice for close friends' weddings; and we had spent a Spring Break and a couple weeks of summer in California with my family; but now we had taken the leap - made the promise to make the promise - and no surprise, it's only gotten better.

I have to admit those first couple of months could be a little scary at times (just kiddin' honey), but I learned that my greatest joys and most cherished moments would always be shared with Erin. Christmas and New Years with the Kinzer family was a blast, and my wife-to-be left no doubts as to her place in the family. Baja surf trips, border crossing haggling for cheap mexican wares, and quietly bringing in the New Year in the living room. As always, she was a big hit - sometimes I think they would have just traded me for her if they could.

We made a couple trips to Vanderbilt for some SEC football and basketball action, and Erin got to see my old college stomping grounds. We also made our second trip together down to Orlando for the Disney Marathon. I chased Erin around the park (I was in the car of course) to cheer her and the girls on. Nashville and Orlando were a lot of fun, but they cannot compare to the experience we had in Nicaragua. Whether it was playing with the kids at the orphanage ... working in the heat to help build the palapa ...

watching Erin's loving spirit as she served up food for the local people ... or just taking in the beautiful surroundings (read: waves) of this most inspiring country - we left Nicaragua changed as individuals and changed as a team.

The Spring Break trip to Nicaragua was amazing, but the best day of the past year - the best day of my life - came a couple of months later ... May 24, 2008. I walked out of the church that evening the happiest man in the world, and I haven't looked back. What a joyful day!!! I even snuck in a few waves with my Best Man (and little brother) and best friend Brian early that morning. It was the party of a lifetime, and I can't imagine celebrating anything more wonderful than the promise Erin and I made to each other that day and the hope and joy we have in our future together.

The party continued as we made our way to California to celebrate my little brother's (and Best Man's) high school graduation. He gives me and the whole family so many reasons to be proud of him. From there we were off on another globe-trotting expedition - Singapore and the Maldives for a Honeymoon that has to rank as one of the best ever.

I guess the Honeymoon isn't really over yet ... we enjoyed a week back in California for the 4th of July and then made our way to the island of Curacao. I never would have guessed just how unique and diverse this small Caribbean island is, and it seems as though every week I find another hidden treasure. Surprisingly, we had a few days of really good surf in early October, and when the waves died down we took the opportunity to learn how to windsurf.

Everytime I look underwater I find something new, and each week during our exploration of the island I make an unexpected discovery. Whether it's the beautiful view from the top of Sint Christoffelberg, the fact that Erin is the "fastest woman on Curacao" and has the 12 Km trophies to prove it, the beautiful cove called Boca Ascension where you can watch the Green Sea Turtles feeding in the rolling waves, or the stunning and humbling candlelit Yom Kippur service in the longest continually running Synagogue in the Western Hemisphere - this island is full of treasures.

I told my breathtakingly beautiful wife (I submit photo above if you need evidence) tonight that this year has been without a doubt the most magnificent of my life. She, despite the fact that I certainly have gotten the better deal, feels that this year is by far the best year of her own life. I should say that the "Best Year of My Life" award is not given out light-heartedly - we've both had some incredible years, and even before we met each other we agreed that we had enjoyed rather fantastic lives. This year has earned it. The amazing thing is, I fully expect that the next 12 months will be even better.

Sunday, September 21, 2008


The view from the top of Angel Falls ... basejump anyone?!

Erin hard at work cleaning up Curacao!

What a great team!

Another great team!!!

Look at all the trash in the back of that truck!
No, no, not the kids! The back of the white truck!

K-Pasa is the local activity guide of Curacao - keeping us informed of the week's concerts, happy hours, tours, and special events. Here is our own version of K-Pasa:

Tuesday, September 9th
Back to School Night at the International School. Erin and I got to meet many of our students' parents, and were so happy to discover such a supportive and appreciative bunch. School continues to go really well, and we've really enjoyed our first few weeks as coaches.

Wednesday, September 10th
The surf was up on Curacao and I headed for Playa Kanoa to catch a few waves while Erin joined some of the ladies from School for Aqua-Jogging.

Thursday, September 11th
We spent a few moments in silence to remember the people directly affected by the terrorist attacks of 7 years ago, and then went on with our exceptionally busy schedule. I went straight from basketball practice to IB Night - a night to introduce the International Baccalaureate program to interested students and parents, and got to share a little bit about Theory of Knowledge - the IB course that I teach. I really love the course, and the entire IB program, and gave the parents and teachers a good taste of what the class is all about - it was a big hit!

Sunday, September 14th
Brievengat 2.5/5/10K Race. The race began at 6:30 a.m. and I would have had pictures of Erin crossing the finish line except I somehow got suckered into running the 10K and finished well after Erin. I'm gonna catch her one of these days!

Saturday, September 20th
International School of Curacao partners with Maduro and Curiel's Bank to help clean up the road to Playa Kanoa. A huge group of volunteers came out to gather the tons of trash, bottles, plastics, and old tires that are often dumped alongside the somewhat isolated road. The island's waste management company, Selikor, and a new recycling operation on the island, Curaplast, helped drag off the massive amount of waste that was collected. The cleanup was a huge success - the road looks a lot better, and kids of all ages could be heard asking the question, "Why would people do this?" We've got to believe the seed was planted for at least a couple protectors of the environment!
After the cleanup we hit the beach to celebrate one of our new friend's 30th Birthday. Carrie turned 30 and a group of teachers enjoyed some snorkeling and volleyball on the beach. We spent the afternoon and early hours of the evening simply relaxing - it was fantastic.
Once we came home we checked in our football teams: SMU suffered a big loss to TCU, but Vandy came out on top of Ole Miss, and continued making a statement. Vandy is 4-0 overall, and 2-0 in the SEC!!! Could this be the year??? Is Vandy finally gonna be bowl bound?!

We have a lot of adventures coming up soon ... Dan has his first basketball practice with a local team from the island, we have another race coming up next weekend, and the International School just started a dive club and we should get to do our first Night Dive to see the coral spawning - that oughta be interesting. In a couple of weeks we'll enjoy our first full week off since being on the island, and are all signed up for Windsurfing lessons! Be sure to check in and check out the photos of all of our adventures.

Last time we talked about our summer plans and the hopes of a trip to Ecuador! We're still looking for family and friends who would be interested in exploring that beautiful country; but now we're making plans for a shorter trip to Venezuela's Angel Falls right before our Christmas visitors arrive in Curacao. It's the world's tallest water fall, and we're hoping to check out the view from the top!

Monday, September 8, 2008

What's On Our Minds?

A quick glimpse into our minds over the last week ...

When you live here ... you have lots of time to think ...

One of our favorite authors, Khaled Hosseini:
Read his stories, and then join the fight to HELP Afghanistan

You have got to read his to 2 novels!

Check the facts on Alaska Governor Sarah Palin's RNC speech

Cotopaxi - Climb one of the world's largest active volcanoes

GO VANDY! First win at home versus ranked opponent since '92

June Jones ... raising SMU's offense from the dead!
GO SMU! First win of home opener since '82

YIKES! Here comes IKE - click here for a forecast

If there is a secret method to our madness there is no doubt what it is. The world we live in is rapidly becoming a world of extremes. More and more we look around and witness the polarization that defines the lifestyles and ideologies of our day. For Erin and I, our secret is simple: balance.

Throughout the school week we race through the days and our long lists of things to do, and when the weekend comes there is not much slowing down, not really. There is too much to explore, too many friends to make, and too much of a desire for adventure - and we want all of this together. Now don't get me wrong - relaxation is fantastic - and I have a hammock on the porch for a reason. Even if it's only a brief sliver of the day I try to find time for quiet and rest, and both Erin and I are racing to our dreams by the time the clock strikes 10 p.m.

However, with so many things in life to love and enjoy, there just isn't room for wasted time. Many people choose to dedicate themselves to a cause - a job, an ideology, a political party, a charity, and as we watch their dedication we recognize the draining effect it has on their lives - we see how desperately they have to run away (even if only for a weekend) from the things they have dedicated themselves to. Our thoughts this week made something very clear to me: both of us are very balanced. Church, education, family, friends, politics, nature, surfing, running, scuba diving, coaching, service - the secret to happiness and sanity for us is not in dedication to one thing, but in a dedication to many.

There is a certain danger in our "balance" as I've called it - it seems likely that in search of a great variety and breadth of experiences we may find ourselves in a shallow existence. We have considered this, and consciously decided that depth is something of great value in our lives. It is sometimes amazing, but I think that the wider your metaphorical lens to the world is, the further you can see. Perhaps happiness and genuine satisfaction are more easily achieved when more of life is brought into focus.

I think this is one reason why Erin and I have fallen in love with exploring. It doesn't always have to be to far off places, on other continents - it can often be just beyond the walls we've built around ourselves, just around the corner, or maybe even down the block.

A few more things before we go.

I hope that you enjoy following the links provided in this post and exploring your own thoughts about some of these issues. I am also so thankful for the millions of people who were spared by Gustav, but we are sending our thoughts and prayers to the millions who were not. Although New Orleans came away from the storm without much devastation there are still many who face the aftermath of Gustav with nothing but hope. On top of that, Ike is on its way into the Gulf of Mexico, and our prayers are the same as before - that love, compassion, and service will be the headlines in the aftermath of this next hurricane.

Speaking of love and compassion we have a wonderful story to share from our church, Curacao Christian Fellowship (CCF). Many of the regulars at CCF are stationed here in Curacao with the U.S. Air Force. This Sunday, as we look ahead to a week that will hold the 7th Anniversary of the attacks of 9/11/2001, a USAF Colonel came to the podium to share a message and light a memorial candle. This was his story: the attacks of 9/11 were not as much of a surprise to him as they were to most Americans - he had been in command of several responses to terrorist attacks around the world: U.S. Embassies, hotels, battleships. He knows the evil and hatred in the hearts of our 'enemies'. He wanted to be clear; they are our worst enemies. Then his eyes went watery, and he paused to gather himself as he obviously choked over his immense pain. He opened his Bible and through the tears that he could no longer hold back he read, "You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven." Matthew 5:43-45 (NIV) Not the words of a typical soldier, but words of faith, and words of balance. Do not hate your enemy - love him! In today's world, is it brilliance or naivete? Of course you're free to decide for yourself, but it was a beautiful moment.

We also needed to mention Khaled Hosseini for those who have not read his two masterfully written novels. Please read them, and let us know what you think. Also check out the link to his website, where you can find out more about him, the stories and Afghanistan - a country that these stories will bring close to your heart.

What are your thoughts on the GOP's Vice Presidential nominee? Erin and I watched Governor Palin's introduction speech at the RNC and have mixed feelings. This upcoming Presidential election presents a difficult choice, and with Mrs. Palin as the nominee for Republican V.P. it has not gotten any easier. If you're into politics, and want to be informed, be sure to check out to get the facts on the latest from both parties. I also strongly suggest looking at the interviews that Pastor Rick Warren held with Senators Obama and McCain. You can find the interview video and script here. Email us, or post a comment to the blog, and tell us who you're voting for and if the "Hockey Mom" makes your cut for the nation's next V.P..

Lastly, Erin and I have begun thinking about the adventures that next summer holds for us. On top of our list is a very beautiful country: Ecuador. You can see the picture of Cotopaxi above, which we would like to climb, and I also have friends working with Manna Project International (see link under 'Our Favorite Websites') just outside of Quito, the nation's capital. Ecuador contains some of the highest mountains of the Andes range, some of the wildest tropical rain forest of the Amazon Basin, and some of the most beautiful beaches (and best surfing) along the Pacific Coast of South America. The country also controls, and serves as the entry point for, the famous Galapagos Islands. So, we are inviting you to consider joining us - whether it's a week in the beautiful mountain capital, surfing and relaxing on the coast, canoeing through the remote corners of the rainforest, chasing Darwin's discoveries in the Galapagos, or all of the above - we want to know if you'd make the trip?!

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Tracking Gustav

Flooding of New Orleans levees, costly damage to the Gulf oil rigs off the Louisanna coast, thousands of citizens staying at home in the path of Gustav - so many concerns. Having just moved from the U.S., and the Gulf Coast more specifically, we can remember the feeling that so many people are having in their stomachs, hearts, and minds right now.

Gustav passed over Curacao a little over a week ago and was not even a Tropical Depression. It brought some exciting electrical storms, one unfortunate tornado, and a much-welcomed rain to the island, but not much else. It was gone, and then quickly forgotten here in the Southern Caribbean. However, Erin and I will go to work tomorrow with many fellow Americans on our hearts and in our prayers.

We managed to enjoy our weekend - a lively one filled with friends' birthdays, big family barbeques, scuba diving clean-ups, and a little bit of work around the house and in preparation for school. It's hard to believe that within a week oil prices may be through the roof (as if they're not already) and school's will be closed before really even getting started, businesses will be ruined, houses will be flooded, and lives will be 'destroyed.' It is so difficult to come up with anything to say when there seems to be nothing we can do. Perhaps we need moments like these to learn how to pray.

My prayers go out to the people who will be affected by this storm. My heart is with the communities that will suffer through this storm. My hope is that the damage is somehow minimized, and that help is quickly received where it is desperately needed. I beg those of you who read this blog to do something to help those who will be affected. If you don't have friends or family in the line of Gustav please make a friend, welcome them into your family, so that it can be said that Americans 'love' each other - that we bless each other - that we are not the self absorbed and emotionally detached people that many around the world believe us to be.

This storm, and it's effects, will be the focus of the news media for the next several days, and this will be especially true if the damage is as bad as they are trying to scare us into believing. Change the news stories, shock the reporters, give them a real story that is worth reporting.

Erin and I are busy searching out ways to help the island and communities of Curacao. Sports programs, building houses, island clean-up projects - we love to see the benefits of a few caring gestures. Gustav can be about something besides devastation - it can be about restoration and rejuvevenation. This will be my hope and prayer.

Monday, August 25, 2008

So Close ...

Curacao's Churandy Martina behind the new 200 meter
World Record holder, Usain "Lightning" Bolt from Jamaica
Click on the photograph for a news story on the race.

The families and supporters of this years
Little League World Series team from Curacao

I think a place becomes 'home' when you really know the place - when you can 'feel' your way around its corners and creaks, and sense it's joy and it's sadness, it's excitement and it's disappointment. There is something about 'home' that speaks to us: a sound of a floorboard or door, or wind running through the attic, or footsteps down the hall that we recognize in an instant.

This past week was an eventful one for Curacao, and we could tell we are getting more and more in touch with the island because we could feel it's ups and downs. Midweek the entire island went to work but did not have work on their minds - Churandy Martina, the island's world-class sprinter had finished 4th by a nose in the 100 meter dash at the Olympic Games in Beijing. Less than 3 hundreths (.03) of a second stood between him and Curacao's first ever Olympic track and field medal. It was an odd moment for Erin and me as we tried to celebrate the Bronze medal finish of our fellow American and ex-Florida State University star, Walter Dix, but also felt the disappointment that goes with coming so close (and achieving a national record no less), and walking away without a prize.

Later in the week, but early in the school day, it became even harder to focus as the entire island celebrated Churandy's Silver medal finish in the Mens' 200 meter sprint!!! The island's first track and field medal. The star of track and field around the world was Usain "Lightning" Bolt, the tall Jamaican sprinter who was demolishing world records; but here, in Curacao, fireworks were set off in downtown Willemstad, the country's cellular provider promised to double anyone's minutes who charged their phone before midnight, and this small island nation of the Southern Caribbean felt like it had seized a place on the global stage. Jamaica is already on everyone's map for a number of reasons, including it's track and field prowess, but Curacao is an abscure location - we're not sure if it's known more as a scuba diving destination or for it's namesake liqueor.

The rest of the story then, is absolutely heart breaking for an Antillean - and strangely, for me and Erin. It turns out that the man who actually came across the line in 3rd place was the American Spearman, who had been disqualified for running outside of his lane during the race. The American's protested the disqualification, and in the process, also brought Churandy into the spotlight with claims that he was actually the one to step out of his lane. As it turned out the judges decided that Spearman AND Churandy both stepped out of their lanes and would be disqualified, leaving the American Walter Dix to claim the Bronze medal again in the 200 meter sprint.

If Curacao ever makes it onto the world stage in track field, however, it would not be their most endearing athletic accomplishment. This small, dry, lively little island already has it's claim to fame - Little League Baseball. Curacao's youngsters are perennial powerhouses and have won the International Championship a couple of times in the past several years. Unfortunately, 2008 would prove to be a different story. The 12 and 13 year olds that took the field last week against Japan did not look like the confident and well-disciplined group that the people on the island are used to watching 'play ball', and they were routed by a methodical and talented Japanese team in the International Semifinal. For an island of around 150,000 people it may seem like we ought to be pleased with these accomplishments, but we have found that this island wants the 'prize' as much as anyone else.

Perhaps inspired by the amazing ability of this Olympic's 10 meter platform divers, or maybe just in need of some adrenaline after the depressing defeats of the week, Erin and I joined some friends on Sunday afternoon for some cliff-jumping. No back triples, or forward handstands - just back-flops and big splashes - a lot of screaming and laughing and cheering each other on. I also found our first seahorse, and brought it up to the surface so everyone could see it - a pretty cool discovery and nature lesson. Despite having gotten so close to victory and losing, it was a great end to a great week - great because we are at least a little closer to being 'home' than we were before.

It's hard to believe that we have traveled so far, seen so much, and now find ourselves here - together, and more in love than ever - after only 3 months since we said our vows. We can only hope the adventure continues ...

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Life's A Beach

One of our better looking Antillean friends

Curacao's Three Amigos ... Calamari anyone?

Dan is adapting well to island life!

Sunset from our patio ... the oil refinery only adds to the romance

This tugboat isn't doing much work these days ...

but this yellow fin thinks it makes a great addition to the reef

One of our new favorite beaches ... you can jump from right here!

One our funny looking Antillean friends

Just to clarify we did actually go to work this week. In fact, the week at the International School with our students was wonderful! Dan has never had a class full of students with so many great ideas and interesting things to say; and Erin is off to an excellent start with her Journalism class. We are really beginning to feel at home, and even enjoyed a Saturday night out with all of our new friends and colleagues! Erin also got up early Saturday morning to run 17 km with the Curacao Running Club! The highlight, however, has to be our afternoons exploring the beautiful beaches and underwater worlds of the island. These adventures are also well-suited for the camera, which means that our lives in Curacao will seem like little more than never-ending days lounging in the Caribbean sun or splashing around with our new underwater friends if all you ever look at are the pictures we post. So every now and then, get a small dose of reality, and take a few minutes to read about the adventures we're having at school.

We have lived here in Curacao for just over a month now, and it is slightly overwhelming how quickly time is flying by. Work has completely captivated both of us, and we are (as usual) two of the first people in the building in the morning, and two of the last to leave every afternoon. Perhaps we both work too hard, but I think it's only because we honestly love what we get to do everyday. In my World History classes I have several students who speak almost no english - I must sound like a squawking parrot! Erin combined with the ESL (English as a Second Language) team has proven to be very helpful in addressing the issues surrounding these students' education, but it has been eye-opening to face a completely new set of professional challenges. My students (I teach 9th, 10th, 11th, and 12th grades) are proving themselves not only eager to perform well and earn good grades, but also motivated to learn - just to learn! It's a face and an attitude I'm afraid I haven't seen in the classroom back in the States - at least not as a teacher.

From outrageously creative interpretive performances to dynamic and insightful round-table discussions, even these high school freshmen keep me on my toes. I certainly haven't had a dull moment yet, and I hope the streak will continue for a long while. I know it's only the first weeks of a long school year, but I do not think I've felt this energized by a group of students since I began teaching. They love to learn, and to think, and they encourage every desire I have to challenge them more - well maybe not with more homework, but certainly with more questions to ponder. I don't see me running out of questions any time soon, but it's a nice problem to have.

Erin's challenges are a bit different. She shares an office with a new ESL teacher on the Elementary and Middle School side of the campus. She has been working very hard to design a curriculum for her Journalism classes (the same class that will produce the school's newspaper) while at the same time testing and getting to know the many students who are labeled ESL. It is a daunting task when nearly the entire student body is made up of boys and girls who perhaps speak English, but spoke Dutch, Spanish, or Papamientu, or maybe all three, before ever saying their first word in the language they have to learn in.

We are also both excited about our responsibilities with soccer and basketball coming up. Erin will be helping with the Girls' Soccer team and I'll be coaching both the Boys' and Girls' Basketball teams. Our experiences and adventures on the field and in the gym will be topics here I'm sure. With such an exciting beginning I'm sure we'll hit a few flat spells in the future, and we'll be counting on visitors to help us through! We're already hoping for friends in October, and family and friends in Curacao to celebrate Christmas and the New Year Curacao style. Don't wait until it starts getting really cold - book those tickets to paradise now!