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How to Unsuccessfully Try to Convince Readers That You’re Suffering

Digging the local brew at Tippy's, a fine institution of learning and scholarship

They do say travel is broadening. I’ve found it can also be narrowing. I lost 15 pounds in my first six weeks of my year in Micronesia, mostly because we didn’t understand how to shop on our island, with its scattered roadside stands, few stores (none of which resembled the supermarkets my suburban upbringing inured me to), the oddity of some of the local foods (i.e., dog), and gastro-tremblings from the water.

If you know me, my losing 15 pounds meant that I then weighed about as much as a pair of socks. I do have big feet, but still …. But once we adjusted, and learned how to island-shop, there were wonders at the table, mostly from succulent lobster at $2.00 a pound, and yellowfin tuna at fifty cents a pound. (I never inquired about the price of dog.) And when I say “adjusted,” I meant we learned to relax and go with the weirdness of things, and in many quarters, to truly appreciate the weirdness.

That suburban upbringing I alluded to—that was the condition that needed broadening, and broaden it did. Though I might thin out again here: a half-gallon of milk is $6.00, a box of cereal is $7. Maybe I’ll be eating my socks, since I don’t really need them here.

“Here” is the island of Eleuthera, in the Bahamas, where Alice and I are house-sitting for a couple of months. Eleuthera is one of the Bahamas’ “out islands,” meaning it’s not one of the glitzy resort islands, like Nassau. Even though it’s 110 miles long, there are less than 8,000 people here, which is about the number that lived on Kosrae, the Micronesian island where we lived a few years ago.

No, Really, I’ll Be Working
Eleuthera bears some tropical kinship to Kosrae, in that they share warm, azure waters, hot sun, warm, damp air, coral reefs, and that certain languor that seems native to islands. This isn’t a vacation for us: we’re going to be toiling at the keyboard as usual, though more sweatily; however, being able to take a mid-afternoon dip in the nearby shimmering waters will remind us that this world isn’t like our own. It is amazing to be sleeping so close to the sea again, with that big, blue womb’s encyclopedia of sounds—whispering, churning, crashing, slurping, whooshing—rolling over us in the night, since there isn’t any reason to close a window here.

Except for the gigantic insects. And the mosquitoes. And the snake we saw on the walkway yesterday. All those hermit crabs. And those crazy, charming curly-tailed lizards that are everywhere. The profusion of local wildlife also reminds me of Micronesia, detailed in a “travel surprises” piece I wrote for the L.A. Times: surprise, there’s a spider bigger than a spaniel in the living room! (One does adjust: one never goes in the living room again.)

So, my intention is to write a number of travel pieces while I’m here, and soak up some local culture. (That means rum.) I’m going to write some more about the travel-writing process in times to come. In the meantime, I’ll try to see where that beetle dragged off my briefcase…

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12 thoughts on “How to Unsuccessfully Try to Convince Readers That You’re Suffering

  1. You had me at “That means rum.”

    And before that, you had me madly scratching at the mosquitoes and saying “eek!” in the general direction of the snake.

    But the sea’s seductive sounds rolling over you two at night? THAT is heavenly.

  2. Linchpin meetup at Tom’s “place”!

    Love the sound of the sea washing over you.

    Your comment about losing weight on Micronesia reminds me of my (brief) experience of Girl Scout camp. It was supposed to be six weeks (I think), but after about a week,, I’d had enough. After my grandparents rescued me and fed me (twice!), I found that I’d lost 8 pounds. This meant I weighed about as much as a single sock.

  3. Oh, and I’d keep an eye on that briefcase-pilfering beetle, and any bottles of Karik, if I were you.

    Recent winners of the Ig Noble Prize for improbable research (yes, it’s for real) reported that male beetles will go to their deaths (smiling, probably) while trying to mate with a beer bottle in the sun.

  4. Annie, the sea-sounds have been heavenly (though a bit demonic now and then too). We’re still scratching away here, and since the Internet connection really doesn’t work, that’s about all we’re doing. Might be home early.

    I might try the beer-bottle mating too, as long as the bottle is winsome.

  5. Jodi, yes, my sisters were both Girl Scouts, and they were EVIL! Who knows what goes in those cookies anyway?

    I’m glad you were rescued, and the grandparents put out the big table spread, because you would have been down to that tiny toe-sock size in no time.

  6. EVIL – your sisters?? Never – how could people who sell cookies be evil?! We were so nice and tolerated the youngest, which you were..and still are! But we, Kathleen and I, are so much better at understanding the fobiles of young boys who still to this day, don’t get it!

  7. I like places near oceans.

    I hate every kind of bug, maybe even butterflies.

    I resolve this conflict by loving Co. Kerry, Ireland, where they have the thing I want, and not the things I don’t.

    Since I stopped going in the ocean when I was 15 (and I assure you, it had nothing to do with the coincidence of reading “Jaws” the week before) I don’t worry much about water temps, because the sailboat doesn’t care.

  8. Joel, you’ll truly enjoy my latest post. I didn’t even discuss the ripe, dead mice I cleaned out of the house today—they had many insect friends.

    Ireland, yeah. Probably no scorpions, either.

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