You know that old saying about girls who grow up to marry guys like their dads? I don't know if I've ever mentioned it much on the blog before, but Joel and my father are so much alike that it's... a little uncanny. From career paths to interests to fears to catch phrases and even somewhat in appearance (Joel in 2008 is like Harry incarnate circa 1982), they really are very similar. I suppose it's a good thing that my dad isn't an ex-con who beats women, in that case. Heh.
Case in point....
Picture it: Cape Cod, 1988. Whale-watching boat, Gaul Family vacation. We're all doing okay until the boat leaves the "No Wake" zone. The boat beings to rock and roll. My dad turns an unpleasant shade of green. My sister sees precisely one whale. The naturalist on board tells us that the funky smell we "may have noticed is not the person next to you, it's the fish digesting in the stomach of the whale." BAM! My sister is completely nauseated. My mom, who is thoroughly enjoying the bright sunshine and open water, slips her a Dramamine, and Amanda is out for the count.
My dad, still green, is eating crackers, one at a time. Any time my mom asks him if he's okay, he says, "Don't talk to me." Everyone is starting to get seasick all around us. Now, I generally don't get seasick. I am, however, a sympathetic barfer. If I see it, hear it, smell it, I'm a goner. We do see lots of whales, but the waves are pretty intense. Meanwhile, the heads are clogged. My dad runs out of Saltines and turns an even brighter shade of green. People are upchucking over the railing. People leaning over the upper deck aren't making it to the water, and unfortunately, we're sitting on the lower deck. Doom. DOOM!
If there's a blessing to having my detailed and lengthy memory, it's that I learn from the past. I know Joel isn't so much a fan of the ocean in general. Thinking of my dad, I throw a pack of crackers in the backpack (say that three times fast) for our boat trip to Green Island on the Great Barrier Reef.
Joel, in his pre-green state.
We're doing okay until we leave the no wake zone. Joel turns an unpleasant shade of green. I ask him if he's okay. His answer? "Please don't talk to me."
MY DAD! OH MY GOD, I MARRIED MY DAD!
I hand Joel the crackers. He begins to eat them slowly, one at a time. Sound familiar? Yeah.
Now, one of the things that I find so fascinating about international travel is observing different cultural norms among people of various nationalities. I don't even necessarily mean the cultural norms of the country I'm visiting, but the other tourists I encounter. Let's put it this way, not every culture considers to be seasickness an, um, private thing? The boat begins to rock and roll. We were sitting on the enclosed portion inside the lower deck. As people begin to get very publicly ill, I know I have to get out of there. I drag Joel to the upper deck.
Me: Are you any better in the fresh air?
Me: Are you okay?
Joel: I don't want to talk.
Me: Eat another cracker.
Joel was a lot better once he was on land, and I was a lot better once I was away from the vomiting masses. We got all set up and did a practice snorkeling session on the life-guarded section of the beach. It wasn't coral reef, so there were a few fish and a lot of kelp. To put it mildly, Joel wasn't keen on this activity. (He's much more of a desert kind of guy.) He felt kind of suffocated by the mask at first, because he couldn't stop breathing through his nose.
I told him, "I'm sorry, but we're 200 yards from one of the Seven Great Wonders of the Natural World. I will stop pushing this once you let the life preserver do the floating and try breathing through your mouth." AND HE DID IT! And it was awesome! And then we took a break and he said, "I thought it would be more life-changing."
Me: Uh, well... we're not exactly doing it yet.
Him: What do you mean?
Me: Well, the reef part where all the cool stuff is? That's out there, where there aren't any lifeguards.
Cricket, cricket. Cricket, cricket.
We had lunch, walked around the rain forest paths a little bit, and then we snorkled on the reef. Joel was awesome. He did great.
We snorkeled for about two hours until the wind picked up.
We walked on the beach, found some amazing tide pools and slept the whole ride back to Cairns. After our boat trip, we decided to wander down to the beach about five minutes from our hotel.
Now, the other thing about my Dad is that he is a mosquito magnet. If there's a biting insect within a three-mile radius, it will find and bite my father. My mom, on the other hand, could probably go on Fear Factor and climb into one of those creepy plexiglass rectangles full of insects and emerge without a single bug bite.
We were about 100 feet down the path to the beach when Joel got a bug bite on the bottom of his foot. I'm sure that was really annoying, but the mosquitos weren't bothering me at all. Oh, hi! We're the Harry and Judy Show! Hi, everyone! (My parents just celebrated their 35th anniversary, so it's not a bad thing. It's just that sometimes? The similarities boggle the mind.)
We decided to walk along the beach. It was pitch black, just a few lights in the distance and the Southern Cross above us. We took off our shoes and ambled along past the signs indicating where the "stinger nets" are. The beaches have long nets that are supposed to keep the deadly man-of-war and/or "not deadly, but so painful that you might beg for death" jellyfish out of the swimming area or from washing up on the beach.
Joel: Maybe we shouldn't walk on the sand in the dark.
Me: Why not?
Joel: So we don't step on deadly jellyfish?
Me: That.. is very good point, actually.
Joel: I think I see one that washed up.
Me: (screaming unintelligibly- was I the only one traumatized by that episode of Baywatch with the Man-of-War??) Where?!?!
Joel: It's next to the giant kangaroo with the glowing red eyes.
Me: Oh, shut up.
We cracked up and went to a restaurant for dinner. I had spaghetti bolognese. Jeez, this part is boring. We spent the next day relaxing at the resort and doing the things honeymooners do... this part isn't boring, actually, but moving right along... la la la... We did go back down to the beach for drinks that night, and we had one of the best times of our entire trip. We ended up at beach bar populated almost solely by locals. There was drinking and singing and juggling fire. At some point there was a didgeridoo. We had an absolute blast.
The fire juggling thing was just a couple people who do fire poi as a hobby. It's a basic baton with two rags dipped in kerosene on either end. The principles are essentially the same as baton-twirling. I took a crack at it. It was pretty fun, actually. This is one of the few times on the trip that Joel and I left the cameras behind, so there's no evidence proving I did this.
Me: (handing the baton back to its owner so he could dip it in more kerosene.) "Did you know I used to take baton-twirling when I was little?"
Me: I never told you about that?
Joel: Uh, no.
Me: I can't believe I never mentioned that. You've never heard me use the words "Strut 'n Stuff'?
Joel: Do I even want to know what that is?
Me: It was a majorette troop. I was, like, 7. I was pretty bad at it.
Mmmm, you don't say. Still, the basic principles of fire-twirling are the same as baton basics: figure eights, figure eights across the body, hand-to-hands, finger rolls. My mom- head majorette BMHS 1969- would have been so proud. The only proof of this is the permanent singe mark on my pants. Also, Joel says I almost singed my hair, but I think he's exaggerating. Probably.
The next day we decided to try our hand at cable-skiing, which is like water-skiing except you're pulled around the lake by a pulley system instead of a boat. Now, remember when Joel and I went to Jackson Hole? And we booked a lesson with a ski instructor at Teton Village? And I had an amazing day on the slopes, advancing quickly from Mighty Mite to the intermediate slope? And Joel was miserable? Yeah. This was the exact opposite of that.
Joel got a kneeboard, grabbed the rope and off he went. Yeah, this is his first lap around the lake. One-handed. Show off.
I think this series speaks for itself, don't you?
Maybe this time I'll get it?
I got it! I-
I got it! I- don't got it.
I was like that girl on the episode of MTV's Made where she wants to be a wake-boarder and the mean kids sneak onto her farm and spray paint her beloved pet lamb the night before her first lesson. THAT WAS SO ME.
I did do it, though!
There I go, desperately trying to avoid all the fancypants ramps...
But still... I JUGGLED FIRE.
After our morning at the lake, we took a cab back to the hotel, swapped our flip flops and shorts for winter gear and flew back to Sydney for one more night where we... wait for it... went back to the Opera House to take another crack at night-shooting. I know. You're going to have a heart attack and DIE from the surprise. But this time we had tripods! Final installment coming up...