Thursday, January 18, 2018

San Cristobal -- The Galapagos part 1

You win some and you lose some.  

Our first full day in the Galapagos Islands was pretty dreamy.

The next was a little rougher in some ways....

But let's back up for a second...As we planned out our OSSO adventure we realized we would be as close as we'd probably ever get to the Galapagos Islands.  We waffled back and forth as to whether it would be worth it to try to get there for our remaining four and a half days.  We tried what seemed like a hundred different options to get all eighteen of us there together, and not one worked.  I guess everyone and their dog wanted to be there around the holidays, and apparently there are some interesting rules in the Galapagos and one of them is that you can't have more than 16 people on a boat or excursion.  This seemed curious to us (like how did they come up with 16??), and even more-so when we got there and realized no one really cared about that rule.  BUT, to make a long story short, we knew we'd be craving some family time while we had Elle home anyway, and decided we better split up if we were going to make the Galapagos option happen.  So we did.  And as much as we love those other families, we relished in being together, making an adventure filled with glory and heartbreak all wrapped up together.

Sometimes I wonder if God tries to warn us when things are going to be tough.  Does he make the best-laid plans run into dead ends?  Does he make things a little tougher to put together to hold us back from some heartbreak that will come our way?  I don't really think so.  But looking back on how tough these plans were to put together sometimes I wonder.  We gloried in the Galapagos.  But we also sorrowed.  And we grew and bonded as a family and I fell more in love with this family of mine than ever before.

So we split up our new friends at OSSO, and also our friends from the desert (we'd meet up with them again our last night), and took off bright and early for our 3 1/2 hour bus ride to the airport in Guayaquil, then finally to our flight, and suddenly we were there: San Cristobal Island.  (Excuse the blurriness at the beginning of this video...and just focus on the excitement :)

I'm going to add some excerpts from my journal to tell this story to speed up this process or this post is never gonna make it.  Here we go:

By that afternoon we were on San Cristobal Island, checked into our little “Casa Iguana” hotel, and had walked to Playa Mann to sunbathe with the sea lions.  At first we were amazed how many there were (and that yes, even in the Galapagos they are still as stinky as can be), but within an hour we got used to their presence.  They waddled up and lounged out right next to us…one mom nursing her baby, one guy with the longest whiskers very boisterously yapping away in that burping/belching kind of language they have.

(Elle is deeply pondering those sea lions up there I think.)

After we had hung out with those sea lions for a while (the sun and the beach felt Heavenly), we walked over to the Centro de Interpretacion, which was pretty fascinating to me.

Lots of information about Charles Darwin and Survival of the Fittest and the history of the Galapagos.
So much information to ponder about the creation and how it intersects with his book On The Origin of Species which led to some discussions about life in general.  I took pictures of a bunch of the interesting facts at that place, but it's probably more cohesively put together HERE if you want to check it out.

Pretty good introduction to the Galapagos with these straggly-haired darling girls of mine:
...and Dave and Lu who were ahead of us.

Then we were off to find something to eat...

Before dinner we had met up with the guy who was helping us get to Kicker Rock the next day...and he surprisingly agreed that it would be ok for Elle and Grace to scuba dive with me and Dave.  Elle had had an introductory dive a few years ago but Grace had never done it.  But honestly, we found the BEST dive master to train and get them ready.

I just found these pictures today and Dave's expression makes me smile.
He is the best, most protective Dad and he sure wanted to be sure these girls understood every detail :)
We got outfitted with double wetsuits to take with us the next day.  We would need them!

Lucy wasn't about to wear that thing though...

Back to the hotel for our traditional card games:

We were up bright and early the next day to board our boat to head to Kicker Rock...I was so excited because I had read up well on that thing.  Something about it lured me in.  And it lived up to the hype.

Here we are getting all gussied up in our double wetsuits, double-thick.
You see, December is the beginning of the warm season in Ecuador.  So as a side-note, this is from a website HERE to describe the water this time of year:
Late December to June is considered the warm and wet season...Around December, the trade winds fall and the climactic equator (located north of the geographic equator) shifts south toward the Galapagos, causing the westward-flowing current to slow, reducing the upwelling and allowing warmer water from the Panama Current to bathe the archipelago...During El Niño, [December] trade winds slow in the central and western Pacific causing the warmest water to shift to the east, ...When the warm water shifts east, the cold water thermocline layer near South America drops lower into the ocean. The surface water temperature rises significantly and the supply of colder, nutrient-rich water is cut off.

They had told us about this the night before, but it was so interesting to experience it while scuba diving.  The water looked almost gel-like under there with the cold and warm currents tough to describe, but in the cold parts man alive were we ever happy for those double-wetsuits!

Our newest scuba divers, ready for their mini lesson before the dive:
We got to hang on a beautiful beach while Jacob, the dive master worked with the girls a little.
It threatened rain for a little while but ended up being a gorgeous day.
Thank Heavens Claire brought an extra book because by this time Lucy had already breezed through all four books she had brought.
There are the big girls out with Jacob:

Then we were ready.

Here's how Lucy spent her day:

This picture depicts the excitement:
And here's Claire's excitement to snorkel with a bunch of strangers who became friends from all over the world.
Love that girl so much and her excitement for life.  She thought it was the best day ever.

And then we were off into the deep blue.

These pictures can't do it justice, but at least they give an idea...we saw tons of these little Galapagos sharks:

We did two dives.

A little from my journal:

The scuba diving was different from any other scuba diving I’ve done.  Lots of dark fish, lots of little sharks (so cool), gorgeous colorful walls on both sides of the main crevice we explored, and this really strange thermal effect of the different currents meeting up with each other (normal and freezing water meeting up) creating this kind of gel-like look.  Really interesting.  We’d be swimming along all fine and then get in this freezing current.  We were on the look-out for hammerhead sharks, didn’t see any, but there was something so amazing about being down there with Dave and our two girls.  Later I found out that Dave had been kind of freaking out with worry…he got down there and went into a panic ...worst-case scenarios started catapulting themselves around in his brain and he couldn’t turn them off.  But by the second dive he realized they’d be ok (they had both come out positively beaming with excitement...Grace was dancing for the goPro under there for crying out loud), and there was something surreal about that dive, surrounded by those people I adore in that quiet underwater world, sending up those beautiful luminous scuba bubbles we love so much to the surface where Claire was snorkeling with her new friends, and Lucy with her nose in her latest book on the boat with the Spanish-only speakers as her companions.  It was just one of those days where all was right in the world. 

...and the aftermath:

(Yep, still reading...)
Back to land and some marine iguanas waiting for us...
...we'd see many more of them the next day...

In looking at these pictures yesterday Claire told me this was her favorite night.  Which I thought was funny because there were plenty of exciting nights.  But there was a little park right across from our hotel and we hung out there for a while before dinner...swinging and then the girls created an obstacle course.

There was something about the feeling in the air and everyone so happy, helping Lucy on the obstacle course, timing each other and cheering that was just so good.
Then later according to my journal:

Back to walk the little town that had become our temporary home…right along with the sea lions who stretch themselves right across the sidewalk, lounge in the entryways to stores, and belch in the dark on the beach.  We had pizza for the fourth night in a row (not a lot of food options on that island!), saw a sweet sight…two missionaries teaching a discussion to a lady in her little shop, and back to the hotel for our favorite: card games.

The day after this one was tough.  But this one?  It was grand. 

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

thoughts on a Wednesday -- the precious present

There is a book someone gave me years ago called "The Precious Present."  It's a simple read about someone searching high and low for a precious "present" he had been promised.  In the end he realizes that "present" is actually the "present"...what was happening right in front of him.  He had been so worried about looking for it elsewhere that he had forgotten to enjoy it while it was happening. 

I think that happens so much in life...we think when such-and-such happens then we will be happy.  But man alive, the present is such a present!  That's one of the reasons I chose "present" as my "one word" a few years ago (back HERE).  I want to "be there" and not somewhere else. 

Long introduction but hey, just to say that I want to record the present as it's happening and sometimes I get carried away talking about what happened a few weeks ago.  So I like doing these "thoughts" posts every now and again to remember what's happening right now, today.

So before I finish recording our Christmas adventure let's get back to the present for a minute.

Because life is spilling out over here I tell you!  After some adventures for a few days in the Galapagos to finish off Ecuador (which I'll get to soon), we took our red-eye flight from Quito to Houston en route home, and that's where we had to split up with Dave who had to head from there directly to China for some work stuff.  And from there he went directly to Canada (that part was for fun...he was meeting up with friends to ski up had been planned for a long time and just so happened to coincide with those other travels).  And it turns out that he got sick as could be and had to drive himself to the emergency room at 4:00 in the morning and spend the day there instead of skiing.  Poor guy. 

So, what in Heaven's name does that have to do with all that "present" talk above? 

Well, it helps because that all that background makes me more grateful than ever for the "present."

Dave has been in bed ever since he got home on Sunday...we took another trip to urgent care yesterday and finally today he is able to keep things down and I think he's finally officially on the mend.  But this whole thing has made me more grateful than ever for him.  And that he's my partner in life. That he's willing to go on adventures with me.  That he gets the gospel and how we live it in the same way I do.  That I can talk to him about anything and everything.  Man I've missed that as he's been gone and then too delirious to even put together a normal sentence.  As I was working out this morning I just kept smiling thinking about him for some reason.  Maybe because sometimes he comes with me to work out, or maybe because I just miss him, but I'm the luckiest that he's mine. 

So grateful he got at least one day of skiing in before he checked himself into the hospital!

I've also had a renewed appreciation for my girls.  Man alive, I never would have guessed I'd have so many of them, and I'm just so so grateful.  They have stepped up to the task helping out so much.  Grace especially, I have no idea what I would do without her running carpools, errands, helping to prepare meals, she is a gem of a girl and doesn't complain and I'm just so grateful for her!

We heard so much about The Greatest Showman so we made a point of situating carpools and life in such a way that we could get to the theater to see it that one day we had with Elle before she left to return to Hawaii.
Just look at that picture of all those girls.  Sometimes I am just overwhelmed with gratitude that I get to be their mother.

With Dave not around I have held them closer than usual and had them all to myself and sometimes I just marvel at them.  Sure, they have their issues.  Grace had to have her phone taken away twice this week (she had it in her room) and the moodiness swirling around here often drives me bonkers, but man I love them.

I got to take Grace out on a special date while Claire and Lu had their own special date at home (with some friends) and sometimes, in a life that can get overrun with "stuff" there is just something so velvety good about having time one-on-one.

I'm also thankful for our dog.  Is that just crazy?  She is [finally!...after a lot of work] so good and obedient and she makes these girls so happy. 
We took her to a place to try to get all her crazy matting out of her hair (it was awful) and this lady was able to do it!  (We didn't want her to be all shaved when Max got home so we were extra excited about that:)

Grace was the one who picked her up and sent me this:

Which I had a good laugh over. 

So grateful for cousins who we got to gather with on Sunday and have an early celebration for Claire's birthday.

Presently I'm also really, really grateful that I don't always have a cold sore because I've had a huge honking one ever since we got home and I'm not in love with those things.

But let's be honest, the most important and exciting "present" thing right now is that MAX IS COMING HOME TWO WEEKS FROM TODAY.

We got to go to his friend's homecoming on Sunday...his last missionary friend out...Max is the last to come home.  And I just sat there and smiled and smiled because missions are the best.  This deserves a post of it's own, so many emotions involved in this one, but I just cannot believe that in two weeks we will be at the airport hugging the guts out of that boy we love so much.

Yes, the present is a present if we remember to look at it that way.  And I'm off to enjoy it even more by taking Claire out to lunch...and getting my invalid husband another piece of toast and some Gatorade:)
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