Thursday, July 24, 2008

Round or Flat?

An underwater preschool playground?

Playa Porti Marie

Curacao's flamingo sanctuary

Greetings again from Curacao. Since we last posted our lives have been filled with more of the same - exploring the streets and beaches of this very unique island. We built a frame for the new mattress that we ordered, we both enjoyed a spaghetti dinner and some good Chilean wine with some new friends from the International School, we saw some of the pink flamingos that call Curacao their home during part of the year, we played some tennis at the Hilton Health Center, we went for a 4 mile run around what is known as the Koredor, and we discovered a magnificent beach tucked into the cliffs of the southern coast.

Dan just finished an excellent and insightful book by Thomas Friedman, The World is Flat. For those of you who have kids in school, are just out of school yourselves, or are simply curious about the possible futures of the world, this book is a must read. The book discusses the "flattening" process that the world has gone through and focuses on the major changes that have happened since the fall of the Berlin Wall and the invention of the internet. By "flattening" Friedman means that the world is rapidly becoming more connected and interdependent than ever before, and highlights not only how and where this is happening but also shines light on the effects - positive and negative. Living in Curacao, a small and beautiful island in the southern Caribbean, grants Erin and I a unique perspective. The book was some 635 pages of small print - and Friedman doesn't waste too many of his words - so it takes a little while to get through. Truth be told, in the "flat" world, where people are so addicted to their cell phones and internet, and even work, taking the time to sit down and read the book might seem ridiculous - but it is worth it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, and we don't always cherish it when it does happen, but when something can change the way you look at the world that thing is a prize. When someone or something makes you ask questions you have never asked before that is an absolute gift. This book will do that. That being said, the one thing that strikes me the most is that Curacao is even subject to this flattening - cell phones, internet, laptops, Blackberry's, iPhones are as important here as they are anywhere else. Even people in this paradise are being brought into the "flat" world. That raises the question, and it was raised by Friedman in his book, about whether or not the "flattening" of the world is really such a good thing. Should it be so difficult to escape from the noise and clutter and find peace - find a place where you can't be found or interupted or given a new task to complete?

For those who don't know me, I like the round world as much as the flat. Erin and I both love to travel around the world (something more possible today than ever before), and we hope to see most of it in this lifetime, and Erin loves to stay connected to her friends over email (we are both just old enough to remember when email didn't exist). Even this blog is an example of how "flat" the world is. I can sit here, in a small Dutch cafe, in the middle of Curacao, at the bottom of the Caribbean and send my thoughts to every corner of the planet. My friends in New York, Goa, Singapore, Australia, Mexico, Los Angeles, and Pensacola can all bring it up on their computers in a matter of seconds. Incredible. Yet I also love being able to escape - losing my cell phone was always as much a gift as a burden - and the places I love to travel to the most are often the most removed from this "flat" world. One of the best emails I've received lately was informing me of Erin and I's new address in Curacao. Lianne, our "buddy" from the International School, wrote that she couldn't quite find the exact address but the realtor told her that our contact could be Pimpiriweg near 17 - near 17 - not 17, only close to it. I thought that was awesome! I was ready to be somewhere where I would not be so easily found. In fact, our address is Pimpiriweg 17 Apartment 3, and we already have a cell phone, will soon have a landline, and probably visit this splendid little Dutch cafe, De Tropen, everyday to check our emails. Round - Flat. Round - Flat. They say you can't have your world flat and hide out in it too, but I'm sure gonna try, because I'm not ready to choose.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Bon Bini

The beautiful coast of Curacao

Dan's so excited ... a Cliff-jumpers paradise!

Church on the beach! Curacao Christian Fellowship

Dan going in for a closer look

Everything is OK!

"Bon Bini", or "Welcome", to Curacao! It is hard to believe this is our new home. Our first week in Curacao has been a wonderful one despite the pressure of getting settled into a new apartment and figuring out exactly what our new jobs will entail. This is a truly unique place with so many different flavors, scents, sights, and sounds blended into a fascinating cultural and geographic topography. There is so much to say, but only a little bit of time - so the best we can do is hope that this introduction to Curacao inspires at least a few of you to make the journey.

Our New Home - Pimpiriweg 17, Apartment 3:
2 Bedrooms, 1 Bathroom, a large open living space, and a giant patio - but that doesn't begin to describe it. First off, Curacao is a relatively flat island compared with many of the other volcanic islands that make up a majority of the Caribbean; but our new home sits at the top - the very top - of a large hill that overlooks the central part of the island. The view is by no means 360 degrees of tropical paradise - some of the sights and scents of Curacao are definitely not paradisical. The island's oil refinery sits off in the distance spewing it's poison into the never-ending blue skies. However, the tropical breeze never stops blowing through our apartment and we can watch the sun rise and fall over both ends of the island, and most importantly have a strategic vantage point in discovering and defining the blend that is Curacao. Brightly colored parakeets sing as they fly by our open windows and as night falls we can hear the lion's bellowing at Curacao's Tropical Parke. Tile floors and white walls mean we can appreciate the natural light that the tropical sun provides during the day, and a few candles do the trick once the sun goes down. When school starts in a couple of weeks, and we make our daily trip to work, I am sure we will appreciate the short 5 minute drive we have from our new home as well.

Discovering Paradise:
I believe that the true paradise of the island resides in two places: the hearts of the people who live here, and just beneath the glistening surface of the Southern Caribbean. Erin and I both look forward to exploring these two dynamic and intriguing places and I imagine that many of our updates will focus in on one, the other, or both. Since we arrived we haven't had the time to go scuba diving, but we have gone snorkeling twice. Curacao is loaded with world-class dive spots and most of them sit within swimming distance of the shore. Along most of the shoreline of Curacao the cliffs drop straight into the deep, crystal clear water (if you want to perfect your double back flip this is the place) but a little bit of searching will inevitably lead you to a quiet lagoon teeming with aquatic life. While eating lunch at a quiet restaurant overlooking a bay on our second day we could see a family of sea turtles swimming around next to a group of dutch teenagers enjoying the thrill of throwing themselves off the forty foot cliff. Right away I knew we had come to the right place. As far as the people here go we believe they are a genuine and kind group, and because they are such a blend of various cultures and nationalities they seem to not be bothered by differences. We haven't met too many Americans yet, and that is ok, but it will mean that we will be the minority here - most people speak to us first in Dutch, or sometimes Papamientu (the local dialect), but have no problem trying out their English on us when we stare back with confused looks on our faces. I have enjoyed speaking Spanish with many of the locals and also trying to figure out Papamientu, and I definitely hope to leave the island speaking four languages (even if two of them are almost totally useless outside Curacao or the Netherlands). Learning languages and exploring a new culture will be fun, but it will be the new friends and lasting relationships that stand out as the real treasure we will take from the island when we leave. Hopefully we'll be able to leave a little treasure behind too!

We're off to tackle some more of Curacao! Until next time, check the airfare to Paradise!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Saying Goodbye

Here we are at the end of what feels like our first chapter together. Since our All-American Week both of us have been very busy. We flew back from Los Angeles last Saturday night and landed in Pensacola Sunday morning. We spent the day trying to get used to being back 'home' and then spent the night dancing and singing along with The Mighty Tams!!! They were back in Pensacola playing a concert on the beach so we rounded up the Pensacola Crew and brought back memories of our unforgettable wedding reception.

We were up early the next morning, and off to the airport again!? We were both expecting to catch our flight to Washington Reagan Airport to spend the day in D.C. celebrating the life of Dan's grandmother, Elizabeth Kinzer. Unfortunately the flight was cancelled, but Dan was able to find the last seat to Dulles Airport, join his family, and make it in time for the ceremony. 'Betty' as his grandmother is affectionately known, was an incredible woman and it is a privilege to be a part of her family. She is placed next to her husband, Dan's grandfather, General John 'Jack' Kinzer, in Arlington National Cemetary. Dan's visit was a quick one, and he was off to the airport that evening to catch a flight to Atlanta.

Over the next 3 days Dan was busy at an International Baccalaureate workshop in Atlanta, and Erin was busy packing their things at 'home' in Pensacola. It was hard being separated for a few days, but it made us even happier to see each other again when Dan got back to Pensacola late Thursday night.

Now we are in the middle of our last weekend in Pensacola before we move to Curacao. Most of the packing is finished, and we've said many of our "Goodbye's" already. Erin has lived here for more than 20 years of her life, and Dan has called Pensacola home for the last 5 years of his. We met here, were married here, have family here, have many of our best friends here - this is no easy "Goodbye". Yet, we are excited to move forward to the rest of our adventures, and know that everyone and everything here will continue to hold a special place in our hearts - no matter where we are.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

An All-American Week

Public affection in Solvang, CA

Boozin' at Firestone Winery in Central California

Erin and Tim at the Neptune Pool, Hearst Castle

Dan havin' some fun behind the boat on Lake Nacimiento

Erin lookin' cute behind the boat at Lake Nacimiento

It was a long 26 hour journey back to the States after our awesome adventures in Singapore and the Maldives - 3 flights, 12 time zones, Singapore, Tokyo, Los Angeles - but the trip was well worth it. It is always hard coming back home after being in such exotic places but it also felt good to be back.

There was no chance for rest once we arrived in Los Angeles to spend the week with Dan's family. We were off to Santa Barbara early Monday morning to help Dan's brother Tim find an apartment. From there we spent the next 3 days exploring the Central California Coast - cruising through the Danish capital of America, sipping wine at a couple of the dozens of now famous wineries in the area, spending a day touring Hearst Castle, and enjoying a day on Lake Nacimiento wakeboarding, tubing, and surfing behind the boat. It wasn't until yesterday, the 4th of July, that we finally found some time for peace and quiet. We spent the day with Dan's family playing tennis and cards in anticipation of the fireworks show at the local park.

Surrounded by family and friends we were able to fully appreciate the blessings that come with being American, and after traveling through various parts of the world together we really do understand how much we have in this amazing country. The fireworks were great, and celebrating is always fun, but it is important to acknowledge and appreciate what they signify, and not just let the day slip past without reflecting on what it really means. Now, as we prepare to leave the country again, and this time for at least a couple of years, we are thankful for the opportunities that we have had because we were born here.

We hope everyone had a wonderful and safe 4th of July!

Stay tuned over the next couple of weeks as we take the next big step in our lives together! Curacao, here we come!