Travel Intense

We are planners. So this is our first attempt at
deconstructing our organization-intense travel modus operandi. And where else on
earth would you find a destination more décontractée than the southern
We'll start there. Could this be
our undoing?


Friday, January 15, 2010


The last few days have been taking time to DO NOTHING! It's so foreign to us. But so has this whole trip...and not just because we've been in other countries. It's a completely different way of looking at travel. Can you really just not plan something and have it work out? That happens to other people but not to us. Or so we thought.

A final test came today when I rented our car for the return trip tomorrow. Two hours prior to pickup! In fact, pickup isn't even the word for it. They actually drop rental cars off to your hotel here. Budget had no cars left, but EZ (ever heard of that one?) actually did, and literally in the final hour, we booked it. Good thing. We drove all over creation - on the left hand side of the road, adding new meaning to the word "trip" - just looking for a place to have a last dinner. And tomorrow it will have been a good value to rent even for just the day since taxi to the airport 1 1/2 hours away would run just as high and give us no flexibility to explore.

Today, we took a water taxi up to the cruise boat you see down the page and over to Pidgeon Island a place of strategic significance for the British navy in the 1700's. It was a climb to the outlook, but gave us a 360 degree view of the bay and all the way to Martinique. We stopped and had a cold one (which tasted really good about then) and then Debra and I went on one last warm-water binge: we bobbed in the ocean, went to the pool with the overhead jets, and then soaked in the spa overlooking the harbor inlet before going back to the condo to jump in the plunge pool to take it the sunset you see above. No one will ever feel sorry for us again!

Tomorrow, we plan to visit a plantation, an 18th century hot springs, and have lunch overlooking the Piton mountains that jut straight out of the sea (see Then on to the airport for flight back home. We learned our lesson. Travel without intensity was not our undoing, after all. Now it's time to fly...and park.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010


The Dean's left yesterday morning a final family photo to commemorate the first "surprise" ParkFest. Updates on any good kite-flying weather in Bequia will be immensely appreciated (their next stop). Beware the lesson I now learn is long one.

LESSON NINE: Don't worry about booking in advance. The room you want is still available if you can tolerate the uncertainty. That's the hardest part.

After one last dip in the Marigot Bay pool, the shuttle from The Landings came and got us and took us to Rodney Bay (Who are these people who get tropical bays named after them?!). The check-in resulted in a tip for travelers everywhere. I booked the room just a day before arrival - remember we are trying NOT to plan - and was repeatedly told there are no beach view rooms available. Well, harborview did not sound dismal, so, as my other three companions will tell you, I reluctantly reserved...but not before requesting a room in a quiet location. The blogs (ya gotta love 'em) all said the only downside at this resort was ongoing construction of Phase III of their waterfront development.

The room was beautifully appointed, a complete condo. And the harbor is very, um, pretty, as you can see. But look carefully in the distance and you'll see condo construction in the background. The view of famous Pidgeon Island, home of the St. Lucia Jazz Festival and a historic monument, is obstructed by shells of more condos under construction. They could be overlooked, but the undeniable fact is that we are in the Caribbean and we could be just about anywhere with a palm tree. Still not bad, but I was nagged with the question, "Could this be better?" Since we had checked in around 1:30 p.m., there was still time to find out without losing prime beach time.

Here's what you do. Go back to the front desk. Always find the person with the most attentive expression. This is best seen in the eyes. Get their name and use it. Comment on the loveliness of the property and then reverse course.
"Kent, good afternoon. The Landings is just about the most beautiful place we have ever stayed and the room is absolutely gorgeous. But there is something that is very disappointing."
Always say "disappointing". Not "outrageous" or "infuriating", save "disturbing" for emergencies. No, "disappointing" is perfect.
"We had been told we had reserved a quiet room."
"What seems to be the problem?", Kent asks, concerned.
"Well, there's constuction in the distance, but the real disapointment is the backhoe running constantly in the vacant lot behind us. We'd like to see about upgrading to a beachview room. Can you see what's available?"
He checks. I've been relaxing, but also doing my research. The difference in price is huge. Kent, however, seems pleased.
"We do have two two-bedroom suites on the beach for an additional upcharge." I wonder, but not out loud, how they could suddenly have rooms that weren't available yesterday. But the additional cost while more attractive than advertised online, is still out of the question.
"May I see them before I commit to a change?"
"Of course." Kent arranges for a bellhop to accompany me. But, before we hop in the cart, I take Kent aside.
"I'm operating on a budget and I'd like to try to swing this. (And this is the critical phrasing) Could you ASK YOUR MANAGER if you can do any better on the price?" He assures me he will. What hurt will it do to get him to ask? If ask Kent, he'll have to say no. It's the "best available rate". But the manager. Well, managers don't want disappointed guests.
I settle on the room you see above, the one we eventually move to around 4:30 p.m. When I come back to confirm the change with Kent, I am fully prepared to stay in the original room and be happy, although somewhat "disappointed." Kent greets me cheerfully,
"The manager would like to offer you the upgrade for half the previous price." Secretly, I was hoping for a free upgrade, of course. But this offer is still too good to pass up...steps to the beach, waves lapping outside the balcony rather than heavy equipment operating, and a view of the sea all the way to the city lights. Even the furniture looks better. We'll take it.

And while we wait to be transferred I join Debra, toes in the sand, where she's been quietly reading her novel the whole time.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010


Hey, everybody! A big thank you to Jessica and Kelly for responding on the blog. Under each entry is a section for comments. Still, I have no followers, yet. It's just so I can see your reactions and make this a two-way conversation...I promise I won't invite you to Jonestown and make you drink grape Kool-Aid.


This trip comes at nearly the time of our 20th anniversary (March 3 is about six weeks away), so in many ways this trip is a celebration. One of the most stunning visual memories of 1990 was the marine reserve at San Pedro, Ambergris Caye, Belize where we snorkeled for the first time as newlyweds. It is a testament to the beauty of creation to observe such unparalleled design in nature.

Well, we did it again. In St. Lucia, snorkeling at the base of the Piton mountains at Jalousie beach we had a stunning, humbling underwater foray. There were schools of iridescent squid, which Dad points out can instantly propel either forward or back. A large faux "eye" wards off predators. How in the world would that have just "appeared"? A mauve fish laced with intricate hatchmarks is detailed in iridescent peacock blue along its outer edges including the tips of its tail and over both eyes, refracting light like crystals. Tube coral that change color from orange to lavender. Schools of dark violet fish, and long needle-nosed ones in various sizes and every color. Mom, Debra and I were both slightly stung by the tentacles of jellyfish, a very brief reminder that we are privileged visitors, but only visitors. It's a world that we were perhaps never naturally meant to see, but a sensory feast was awaiting anyone who would venture to try. It's a world that does not belong to us, but one we are allowed to borrow as long as we understand our responsibility for its well-being. A divine stewardship.

LESSON NINE: The more we learn about what Jehovah has skillfully crafted, the more accountable we feel to him for the care of our fellow earthly creatures. Taking the time to observe them, study them, and learn from them, enhances our respect for their Creator. And the more we actually think about the meaning of the incredible diversity in the living organisms around us, the more love we develop...for them, for each other, and for God who made us all.

Today, two J's have taught us that. Jehovah...and Jalousie beach.

Monday, January 11, 2010


Hey, sorry about taking a couple days off! My brother and his wife Sarah have two kids, Cyrus and Tessa and we've all been keeping each other pretty busy. They left on vacation mid-December before we'd even conceived of joining them along with my parents in St. Lucia. So we decided to make it a surprise. I think it worked. They met Mom and Dad for drinks at a casual bayfront restaurant on Marigot Bay and that's when they found out we were joining them for the St. Lucia segment of their trip. It has become something of a family tradition to meet up somewhere in the a restaurant. Their's always a view involved, and usually pizza!

Since we arrived Saturday, we have dined outside for almost every meal. We've splashed in the pool, by the beach, and in the open sea. Debra had a "blast" on the mini-sailboat and says taking a sail was "worth the whole trip". We had fun with neon rings and night swims, rum punch, and driving on the lefthand side of the road (not all simultaneously, of course). All Caribbean with a British infrastructure and French names. The megayachts moored in the harbor our hotel overlooks (where the old Dr. Doolittle was filmed) are floating bastions of excess. Each one is staffed with multiple servants, have complete bars, glass walls that slide away automatically to open living rooms up to the decks, and are four stories high.

It's been nice to see my family. They are all very smart, kind, and loving. The hard part has been being so far from friends and family that have been having trouble because of the harsh winter weather. We get sketchy reports about 10 year lows that only now seem to be easing up a bit. There's been breakdowns in our furnace and pipes have burst while we've been away. So that never feels good. It's the one downside of going away.

LESSON EIGHT: You can't escape reality just because you escape. Travel electrifies you. Responsibility grounds you. No matter how spontaneous you are, you can't just disconnect.

Friday, January 8, 2010


Our last full day in Grenada we spent revisiting lots of the week's highlights. Debra and I each got to actually make a return visit to people we had previously had stimulating Bible conversations with. We have managed to purchase a few souvenirs, including four home-made kites to take to share with my young niece and nephew when we get to St. Lucia. They were crafted by a man who uses a power wheelchair following a childhood bicycle accident.

The highlight today was a barbeque at the home of Joann and Craig Clark. A young newlywed couple, he's Bermudan and she's Haitian. Very warm and hospitable and we were honored to be a part of a missionary gathering, some graduates of Gilead, others of the MTS program who later married. A hopefully mutually upbuilding interchange and a lot of laughing going on as we exchanged tips, experiences, and insights on topics from Gilead, to the foreign field ministry, to living collectively in missionary homes. Making new friends was the perfect way to keep our mind off the inevitable: leaving Grenada tomorrow.

We'll be in transit tomorrow, en route to St. Lucia, where we hope to carry off the surprise when we see my brother and his family who don't yet know we'll be there. So bear with us, we'll be back on-line Sunday. See you there!

Thursday, January 7, 2010


This is the first day in a week we actually had to meet a deadline. Yes. I hate to admit it, but we worked. Missionaries these days are totally wired (electronically) or at least so it seems after our visits to the Waddells in Costa Rica and now the Eszlingers. This enables complete connectivity. A blessing...and a curse.

This morning, Alexandra makes us a complete Farmer's Breakfast which wipes out our appetite for the rest of the day. Then, while Debra makes cinnamon rolls for tomorrow's breakfast (what else on the Spice Island, right?), I get the ad worked up and sent off to Eileen for a publication deadline.

After lounging by a pool reading for the rest of the afternoon, it was time for the meeting. Alexandra gave a talk and Ricky read the material for the Bible study. We had copied all the articles from the publications for the meeting and we covered the same information this week that we would have studied with our congregation at home, just like it is in every congregation in every corner of the world. A refreshing end in the quest for an unstructured but spiritual vacation.