December 14, 2009

Bienviendos a Paradiso

After another long day of traveling, it was a HUGE relief to be back on “my” island (nicknamed as such after my first campaign to the Galapagos in 2008) – stepping off the plane always feels like coming home. It is also an incredible experience to be Animal Balance celebrities, and receive 1st class treatment and hugs from EVERYONE – including the immigration guards, taxi drivers, park service people, and even the airport drug-sniffing dog (who was thankfully neutered this year!!)

After dropping off our bags at the hotel, we met up with the CIMEI director, RH, for lunch. While the others elected to shower and rest, RH and I went to the Galapagos Naval Base to surf (he surfed, I watched). I was itching to get in the water, especially the beautiful waves, but was traumatized by a surfing accident in 2005 that left me with a fractured vertebrate. So I sprawled my white gringa self out on the rocks and took photographs of the surfers. The best surprise came while I was scanning the waves with my camera lens, and saw a dark shadow move through the water. I was a bit panicky just watching the surfers (making sure no one crashed, everyone who went under eventually came back up, etc) but nervous when I saw the shadow in the waves. Suddenly, a small head popped up from the waves, followed by a sleek black body and stubby fins, and I watched as a sea lion (“lobos” en español) surfaced for air before diving back into the surf. The sea lion actually “surfed” with a few of the guys for a bit – mimicking their movements on the surface under the waves. Several times, they actually seemed to be united – surfer and lobo in an awesome synchronized swimming ballet. As soon as I saw the sea lions (apparently there were sea turtles too – according to the surfers), I knew I was home and my soul was at peace. At peace, until later that night… when the Animal Balance and CIMEI people took over the local karaoke bar!! We practically cleared out the place with our horrid, cat-spay-minus-anesthesia karaoke skills! I’ve never been a big karaoke fan, and usually only sing in the car where no one but the dog can hear me. But it was pretty irresistible to grab the mic and sing – especially in Spanish! Great way to immerse in the language – practically Rosetta Stone set to music ;-)

After a few Mexican drinking ballads and greatest hits of the 80s – everyone hit an exhaustion wall and we called it a night. Walking back to the hotel through the streets of San Cristobal, we came across a dog playing “fetch” with a plastic bottle. He “tossed” the bottle into the air and chased it with his nose and paws. It was a beautiful, carefree expression of canine joy – and he actually seemed “embarrassed” when we ooh’d and ahh’d over his delight. Time is relative in the Galapagos – and there always seems to be time to enjoy the simple things.

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