Updated: Jan 1
...especially when stranded on a desert island! Ok, Ok, so maybe I'm exaggerating about the 'stranded on a desert island part'. But the falling coconuts thing might actually be a real thing, but I'm too tired or too bored to search it up on the world wide web of Wikipedia-questionable content. Rather, this post is a retrospective piece of sorts with the backdrop being the 2022 winter holiday season for Daniella and me.
Is the winter holiday season 'the most wonderful time of the year'? I would hedge my bets that for many, possibly even the majority, it's the opposite. To conjure up a mental image, I would say that for a lot of us, it might feel like everyone in the whole world is holding up a gigantic magnifying glass of judgment over our lives--a magnifying glass which only pales in comparison to the one in which we are holding over our own life. It's a time of year that we all bombarded with photos of happy, jolly families in matching outfits perfectly striking a model-like, calculated pose to go along with their perfectly matched-coordinated outfits. Some families even decide to give an update on all the wonderful things that happened to them in the year that's coming to an end. Social media has rendered the once paper newsletters obsolete, because now we all have the freedom to post every single moment of our lives in real time, should we so choose. Don't get me wrong. I LOVE seeing happy moments past and present of every single one of my friends, family, and even acquaintances. They give me hope when I often don't have a lot in future generations of this world right now.
Now back to my point, I think the winter holidays and all of its dedicated cheerleaders have great intentions. I long for a time of year where we can all experience a much-deserved break from the day-to-day monotony just to make this whole life thing all work. And for what??? It's the eternal question, isn't it? I strongly believe we should all have the right to experience the things that bring us joy. But in all reality and from much experience, I know it's such a hard time of year for so many people (i.e., people that are single and longing a partner to share their life with, people that have lost a loved one or ones and have to go through this season for the first time without that joyous person or people, people that are going through a separation or divorce and share children for which these holidays will never be the same, people that don't have kids and always wanted them, people that didn't get to that point in their lives that they wanted to, people that are sick, people that are just lonely, etc.). I have been and still am many of 'these people' in the various phases of my life, and I can say it can be quite painful.
But I have been so grateful to have the strength and whatever else it is that the Universe has gifted me. I'm able to not just make it through this time of year, but to thrive in it. But my thriving looks nothing like the Hallmark Holiday movies. I laugh because it's quite the opposite. So, I thought I'd share the holiday of 2022--the year I let my 13-year old plan our vacation to Bocas del Toro (the Caribbean side of the country we now call home). If you look at my Facebook or IG pics alone, you would have only seen the "Hallmark". Here are the non-Hallmark highlights...
ACCOMODATIONS: The first hotel that Daniella was responsible for booking was nothing like the pictures and was not in town where we needed to be. It had black mold, construction, a germ-infested green little pool, a big pool that was a bathing area for the birds (and nothing like the pictures), etc. And, while this wasn't the fault of the hotel, arrival day of Dec 20 is the National Day of Mourning in Panama so the glass of wine I wanted after seeing this hotel and keeping calm was not possible (no alcohol sales on this day of mourning). I know this sounds really selfish especially when I learned that this National Mourning Day in Panama is about the 1989 US Invasion of an UN-ARMED country. I'll claim ignorance so I can't speak more politically or have a more educated point of view because I don't know much about what happened or why. But I did learn about it from my first Spanish teacher here and she reminds me of my Grandma and I have come to love her. Anyhow, Dani and I did move hotels to a great new hotel on day 2.
DIVINE PUNISHMENT: 12/23/22 We decided to go to a beach on day 2. I asked Daniella to remember the name of the beach on the way there. To this day, neither of us can seem to remember the name of the beach (I still keep wanting to say 'Carbonera' like the Italian pasta sauce). We knew it was a 2-minute water taxi from the hotel, but those water taxi stations are chaotic and let's remember, they don't speak English, nor do I think they should just to accommodate us. That moment, I gave Dani ONE JOB to do before getting on the water taxi which was to remember the name of the beach. She was at a loss as the taxi driver was yelling at us, "A donde van????", and I kept yelling at Dani, "what was the name again???". So we got off at a hostel stop which was a decent way before our actual stop. It happened to be a bit of a more treacherous walk to the beach than we both expected with me yelling at her the whole time, "YOU HAD ONE JOB TO DO!!!". Was I too hard on her? 100%. So when we finally made it to the beach, the Universe punished me and while I was diving into a wave, my chin caught a rock or some coral. It's funny because it looked like my chin was sprouting coral the next day. I'm pretty sure it was infected and at this time we had two days before the next trip SHE PLANNED for Christmas Day, so we laid low on Christmas Eve and kicked around town.
THE BRACELET WITH A LIFETIME GUARANTEE: 12/24/22 On Christmas Eve while we were kicking around town with my coral-growing chin, we met this street artist who sold us these wooden bracelets. They are supposed to keep us from getting sick. He was a very intuitive, nice man and gifted us with a moonstone (which oddly enough I lost my own right before the trip) and an amethyst (my birthstone). As he was taking a lighter (as in fire) to my bracelet to fit it on my wrist, he kept telling us about a lifetime guarantee. We went to sleep happy with our matching wooden bracelets and some Latin American Christmas Eve Fireworks. It was a great day of enjoying Bocas Town and praying for a great Christmas Day. I was so worried about her, because she was so upset in her 'travel agent' skills thus far. By the way, I'll never forget the street artist's muttering under his breath before he gifted me the stones that "she has good energy". I know he's legit (remember, I just said he was intuitive), and I just feel the need to give him that Universal shout out. <3
CHRISTMAS MORNING ANTICIPATION: Daniella booked a Christmas Day, 6-hour Speedboat tour to one of the islands where we expected calm, transparent water where we could snorkel and enjoy the day. To kick off the day, we went to a coffee shop waiting for the boat. I started to write in my journal and realized that the wooden bracelet from the street artist was inhibiting my writing. It was just too big. But, I couldn't take it off! Literally, it was stuck on my wrist. I quietly and subtly tried to pull it off and then Daniella said, "well he did say it was a lifetime guarantee", to which we both busted out laughing. She is hilarious!!! She was so worried after her choice of hotel didn't work out, that this tour better be epic so I better get the bracelet off ahead of time. So, at the coffee shop, I almost broke my hand bones getting free of the 'wooden shackle' as it's now called with lots of laughter. It now sits on our mantle and if I dare try to put it on, Daniella will tackle me (dying laughing as I type this).
THE TOUR: The 'speedboat' was so crowded. And the water was so rough that we had to jump off the boat to get to the island (which is fine as we've done that before in our travels. but we left our stuff on the boat not anticipating the duration of time on this island). So, 2.5 hours later I went in search of the El Capitan who I found drinking and smoking weed for the 2 hours we were all left there without water, food, sunblock, blah, blah, blah. Since the tide was strong and there was nothing to see snorkeling wise, 2.5 hours in blazing hot sun swimming into waves was more than enough. I saw Daniella throw her bitter tears at the ocean. Long story short, we made it back, but not without me planning every survival step on the way back with my eyes closed looking like I was meditating.
We were supposed to have a 10-day trip to the islands of Bocas del Toro (the Mouth of the Bull). We left 4 days early and couldn't have been happier to be back home to Panama City. I can tell you that while those stressful moments were happening, we were (and are) always able to bring each other to laughter. And, when I mean laughter, I mean the kind that makes your own tears start laughing their own tears of laughter. Survival laughter. Life laughter. And, those are what real memories are made of. THIS IS LIFE! IT MIGHT NOT BE PRETTY, BUT IT'S LIFE! FIND ME A PERSON WHO HAS NO SCARS, AND I WILL SAY THAT PERSON HAS NOT EXPERIENCED LIFE!
To that point, I had a coral reef growing out of my chin, a gigantic tree ring stuck around my wrist, and we could have possibly been the real Survivors on a deserted island (for record, I think they filmed one of those Survivor or Naked and Afraid shows in Panama on one of these islands, but don't quote me, those shows bore me). If ever really put to the challenge, I know we'd survive. I have absolutely no doubt. Daniella and I have a Zen about our relationship. She knows when I need her to be the strong one and vice versa. I told her, "We both can't lose it at the same time, or we are done...". I don't need to tell her that, though. We speak in our minds, which is as powerful as a connection as you can get.
So, yes, we think you should beware of falling coconuts. Life is full of falling coconuts. Our lesson learned is, don't avoid the tropical rain forest and beautiful, isolated beaches, but be prepared for the unexpected. For us, our Holiday Card and Hallmark Moment of 2022 to you all would have been to show you all these "pain points", but that's sort of impossible to put in a picture.
So from us, the Red Beanie to You.... Our unconventional Happy Holidays!!! <3 <3 <3
Photo taken on our last day! Leaving early and so happy about it.
The beach where I learned falling coconuts could actually be a danger. Gorgeous place and gorgeous day, and the most gorgeous daughter ever (and proponent of the oxford comma which I'm teaching her!)!
The wooden shackle. I'm determined to put it on. Daniella is determined I better not!