Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Amsterdam on the beach, Holland in the Tropics!

Yesterday I had lunch with a friend. She told me she and her husband were going to Las Vegas. Bells sounded in my head! It is so hot there now; but, no she said, it would be around 80 degrees and the breeze will be cool. Immediately I could picture it: cacti, dry shrubs, brownish soil, gentle breeze, blue sky. I told her this was just like Curaçao! Is it?...... YES!

That is one of the great things about the island. Located near the Equator and in the Caribbean Sea, the ABC islands, of which Curaçao is the "C", are unique. There are no sources of fresh water: no rivers, lakes or streams not even big rainfall. The landscape is arid and and cacti are the most abundant flora. Reptiles are also everywhere. The persistence of the people have been rewarded: mangoes, bitter oranges, tamarinds among other big trees have taken hold. When it rains, everything turns green and it's beautiful; when it doesn't, it is brownish and still beautiful.

Temperatures average in the 80s and a cool breeze blows all year round from the NE. Most days the sky is an amazing shade of blue and there are no clouds. The sea is a span of clear, turquoise to deep blue waters and you can walk and walk into it and still see the bottom! Sunsets are magnificent and every beach and cove faces SW. Nature biggest show is right there, and no one should miss it. The city, Willemstad, is part of the UN World Heritage and is a picture perfect copy of Dutch buildings...... in every color!

Everyone speaks English and Spanish and the local language: Papiamentu. This is a mixture of old Spanish, Portuguese, African dialects, English and Dutch and is as wonderfully diverse as the people who inhabit the island. Dutch, though, is the official language, and the country is still part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The influence of these adventurous people lives on in this corner of the world. Curaçao is not your average Caribbean island: this is Amsterdam on the beach, Holland in the Tropics! Fabulous!!!!

Wednesday, July 18, 2007


Doesn't anyone play bridge in the US anymore? Someone told me the other day that it is an old-fashioned game. Little old ladies play it... that's it; everyone is into poker nowadays. Well, their loss, I can tell them. Bridge is a social grace, what is poker? gaming? that is the latest verb invented to put a spin on the real fact: people gamble, they don't game.

Never mind that. Bridge is very social, bringing people together. Remember? you play with a partner! In expatriate circles, and I guess very old-fashioned ones, it is still played with passion. I did for over 20 years with the greatest group of women you can imagine. Every Wednesday, if I was home in Curaçao, I played bridge. We took turns hosting; each home providing its own details: what was served, where we played, inside or out, the views, the breeze, the drive there and even the music the hostess played or not.

We started early with coffee or tea and something sweet. Lively conversation followed: children, trips, household help, upcoming birthdays, anniversaries, we discussed everything. We were concerned when one of us got sick, divorced or depressed. It was like a visit to a shrink and so much easier and relaxed. In many ways we were each other's best friends, a support system. We were once described as a warm blanket. How appropriate. We truly cared for each other's troubles, even if we only listen to them on Wednesday mornings; most of the time that is all one needs.

Studies recently released say that women that have friends to talk to, confide in and count on, live better and happier lives. They live longer and seldom get depressed. Could that be done gaming? You tell me, sounds like gaming is a pretty individual sport! So, here's is to bridge! May I find some old-fashioned ladies to play again.... SOON!

Saturday, July 7, 2007

It's cool in Curaçao!

Yes, believe it or not that is what I am hearing from different sources. That is great! Here I am sort of broiling in Miami, slow cooking might be more accurate, and there things are cooler than they have been in years this time of the year. If I had any doubts about the craziness of global warming, this can be what changes my mind.

Usually this time of the year, when most everyone that CAN leaves the island for a holiday abroad, the weather is impossible. It is hot and it rains and your AC (airco for all of you in the know!) becomes your best friend. You stay indoors and watch TV or read, take naps, avoid visiting anyone. Remember suspended animation? Even visits to the supermarket and other errands are spaced out as much as you can. You consume gallons of liquids, preferably ice cold water, but drinks of any kind are also welcomed. You dress in cool fabrics, flowy dresses and if you are smart, you'll wear a hat when venturing out in the sun. The beach becomes a magnet, but better be prepared to get sunburned even in the shade! Slather on the sunblock and keep to the shade when not in the cool water. Wear your hat and make sure you drink a lot! Otherwise no one goes out until after sundown. That is the best part: everyone else left on the island comes out as well, and you can meet all your friends in one place.

Sounds just the thing I need at the moment, especially since everyone tells me it's cooler this year! In the meantime, Miami is like a sauna: high temperatures and high humidity. Feels like you don't want to be anywhere outdoors unless they are giving out money....... maybe not even then. Even with central air conditioning at home there is something not quite comfortable with this weather. Maybe is the thought that we are in hurricane season and any calm can precede a storm. So far we have been lucky, let's keep our fingers crossed!

Monday, July 2, 2007

Growing feathers or gills!!

I know I have been talking and talking about the Tropics. Telling everyone I miss the life you can live there: casual, laid-back, relaxed, just about perfect. Well, I forgot one simple thing: RAIN!!!
Yes, not in my island paradise, but in other tropical parts. Visiting my mother in the last couple of weeks in Panama....... I was sure I would be either growing feathers or gills!!!

For the last 20 years or so, I have always visited Panama during the glorious dry season. Extending from November to April, more or less, this Tropical season called summer is absolutely beautiful. Sunny days, breezes that go from a slight breath of air to a full blown North wind. Mornings are cool and at the height of the day there is a pleasant heat that makes you think of the beach, or better yet... a cool river. Everyone takes vacations, mostly within the country, and children are off school. Nights are clear and fresh and the wind sings in the trees. If you are near the ocean, the palm trees rustle like an applause. So beautiful!

Not this time! It rained since I arrived. Panama City, in the middle of a building boom, is a maze of crazy traffic, streets running with mud and humidity ....... like being in a fish bowl. Driving to the small city where my mother lives, I had to stop twice by the side of the road because I couldn't see the cars in front of me. Took me about an hour and a half longer to get there.

Once I settled to my visit, I got thunder and lightning accompanied by torrential rain that lasted for about 12 hours! Water seeped under the doors and through windowsills because of the wind. When the sun came out, shyly from behind dark clouds, the humidity rose to about 100%. My straight hair developed a wave, I started sneezing and sweating. You couldn't stick a BandAid in your skin. After that, it was all down hill. It rained most every day and nights were so hot and sticky. Thank God for air conditioning, the only way to survive in that climate.

So, is this the Tropics I want to have? NEE!! I want dry and cool days, gentle breeze and access to a turquoise blue sea. I want to be able to wash my hair and let it dry.....straight and by itself. Not at all interested in these other Tropics. Unfortunately, my mother is not well and lives there. Visits will continue for the rest of the year, at least. I wonder how I would look with feathers; and would they be dark or fluffy yellow? and gills? would they be uncomfortable? or would they actually help me with my allergies? I must be going crazy.