It only matters what works for you.

Archive for December, 2012

Just for the fun of it-Swim with the dolphins!

You may have seen that I’m just back from an amazing vacation on a cruise ship. The whole trip was wonderful, but the best part was swimming with the dolphins on Grand Cayman Island.

It was a group thing. Show up in your swimming clothes, please no jewelry or sunscreen, for the safety of the animals. Put your stuff in a locker. Stand in line. Listen over the din of the crowd to try and hear the instructions. Find a life vest in your size.

First they run you past a manta ray. It’s a baby so no stinger, and you get to pet it, but I didn’t really see the attraction. But I suppose it’s a good photo op for them. Whatever.

Next you traipse over to the other side of  the enclosures to the dolphins. Our group had 10 people, in pairs. We got to play with Alma, a 25 year old rescue. You could see where her tail fin was very chewed up, apparently a boating accident. At 25, she’s a senior citizen, but she still seemed very spry to me!

I was really pleased with the way the whole encounter went once we reached Alma. Her handler was patient with her, and all the customers. He carefully explained things. He made sure everyone got the full experience. One of the people in our group fell off her board (I’ll explain that next) in the middle, so he encouraged her to go back out and try again. It was really well managed.

We got to interact in a number of ways with the Alma. Everyone got to just touch her as she drifted past us in a row. Then she came and held herself out of the water and everyone got a kiss. Then around again where we each got to hold her fins and ‘dance’.

The highlights were the ‘pushes’. The first one, you swim out to the other side of the enclosure with a Me and Alma!boogie-board. Then you lay half on the board and keep your knees locked and your legs straight. The dolphin comes around and pushes you by your foot back across the enclosure. That sounds pretty tame, but I was really shocked at how fast we went! Completely unexpected and almost-scary in the very best way!

The second ‘push’ was more of a pull. Alma swam up along side so I could hold on to her side fins. Then she swam upside down and I rode on her belly back to the line up. I could really feel the power in her body on that one.

I was worried, before hand, that it wouldn’t be wonderful. That it would be crowded, or too short, or the dolphins would be mistreated. I’m very happy to say that, as usual, all my worrying was a complete waste of time. The dolphins seemed to be having a good time at their jobs, the handlers were patient and caring with them, and the water was clean and clear and looked as though it was connected to the ocean, perhaps with sluice gates or something, to keep the water fresh and balanced.

What I learned from this is, I need to do more things just because they are fun. Seriously. Look at my face! I need a lot more of that in my life!


Embrace the experience.

I have a budget. Most people do. But I adhere to mine pretty strictly. I didn’t always. I can be taught.

So when presented with an opportunity to do something, the budget has a very big say on whether or not I choose to do it. I don’t sign up for things I know I can’t/won’t afford. But I may be missing something important with this strategy.

I just got back from an amazing vacation. There will be lots more about that. It was a cruise. On the cruise line we like they still have formal nights, where everyone (mostly) gets dressed up and looks great and spends the evening that way. On formal nights they have photographers stationed all over to take formal pictures. I like formal night, we got dressed up, and we definitely took full advantage of the photographers. My family likes pictures!

This particular cruise had a special photographer on board from an outside company, doing specialty black and white pictures. No charge for the sitting. At first we couldn’t make our schedule work with hers so we were just going to skip it, but we came through at just the right time on a formal night, so we did a sitting.

Oh. Wow. She did the most amazing job. She has a gift. She caught us in exactly the right poses and attitudes and did some fun unusual things that I’ve never seen done before. It gave us some very unique, unusual shots and made the whole thing a lot more fun that I remember sitting for pictures being in the past.

She’s planning to go solo soon and I can’t wait to see what she does then. I’ll definitely link to her business once she has one.

Anyway. I was really excited about the pictures. We showed up for our viewing session and she just played a slide show of all the pictures together. They were just beautiful. I almost cried because the memory and thoughts they evoked were so beautiful and powerful. Did I mention she has a gift? Because she definitely has a gift.

Unfortunately, the pricing on the photos, as established by the company she’s working for, were priced for the people for whom cruising is a lifestyle, not a hard earned treat. They were so far outside the realm of possibility as to be not even worth discussing.

At first, I was pretty upset and horribly disappointed. If I’d known, I wouldn’t have wasted either of our time. Then I ran through that again and realized, I didn’t waste my time. It was fun to sit for the pictures. It was amazing and moving to see all those great shots. Just remembering it now I can feel all that beautiful emotion that the pictures generated. It would have been nice to get to keep some of them, but the memory itself is beautiful and moving.

I do wish I had some of those pics though.

I’m not sure how this experience will change my decision process in the future. Will I continue to make the conservative choice and avoid things I know won’t be part of my budget? Or will I be more open to just the experience, even though I know I can’t afford the sale. I don’t know. On one hand I think there are some false pretenses in there. On the other hand, if they’re offering, should I make the most of it knowing I won’t be paying for the end product?

I’d have really missed out here if I’d done my usual thing. I think the photographer, who I ran into several other times, might be someone who could become a real friend. I have the amazing memory of the experience.

It’s an interesting question. What do you think?


Lessons from the Spa-Part 3

Our spa trip was early on a Thursday morning. I was really struck by the number of people who were already there, and who were obviously there for an extended day.

Have you ever been to a full spa? I never had. First you strip down and head to a shower as you would before using any public pool. Then you get into the biggest most wonderful jacuzzi I’ve ever experienced and you soak for a while, while enjoying the various jets. Then, apparently, if you’re a regular, you get your basket of supplies and your personal scrubby and your soaps and you go over to the dedicated space with rows of shower wands and you sit on the little bucket-chair and you scrub yourself down within an inch of your life. You may come as a family group and scrub each other’s backs.

Or, you may sign up for the extra service and have a professional scrub down from a nice lady  in leapard-print underwear. (I presume the men’s area offers similar services but didn’t ask.) My friend told me she hadn’t felt so clean and cared for probably since her mother stopped washing her in the sink as an infant. Certainly not so thoroughly bathed!

Then you get back in the pool. Or go to a hotter pool. Or perhaps spend some time in the dry sauna.

It is really an amazing place and I was fascinated by the number of ladies there who obviously make this a regular part of their self care. I was so envious. The spa is Korean, as were most of the people we saw there that day and I thought it would be really nice to be part of a culture where taking good loving care for yourself was a desirable, customary thing, rather than a spoiling indulgence. Something you do  regularly of a Thursday, rather than once or twice a year on vacation.

Then I decided that I’d be part of that culture no matter what. I’m looking forward to going back soon, and on a regular basis. It was fun, relaxing, refreshing and I loved it. I deserve it.

Lessons from the Spa-Part 2

In my previous post, I mentioned naked. We went to the spa. (And may I just mention that for such an amazing place they have a really tragic website.)

For those who may not know, I am American by birth and by passport, but not so much by attitudes and conditioning. Our early teenage years are extremely important for teaching us social mores and attitudes and I spent many of  those living in girls dorms in boarding schools in Europe. So while many American women of my acquaintance are a little (or a lot) weirded out at the idea of hot tubbing and bathing with a slew of other naked women who are complete strangers, I don’t have a problem with it.

Not with the naked. The problem I have is with the judgement.

Our culture doesn’t really embrace naked. I have been in the locker rooms at the gym and watched women, particularly young women, do some very complicated contortions to avoid exposing their bodies. When I was in one particular boarding school there was a lot of casual nudity in bedrooms that became an issue. Not because we cared, the expat student population, but because the mainstream American college students employed as supervisory staff would stare and get very uncomfortable. Which was just weird to us.

How did we manage to make the natural body something to be all uncomfortable about? Well, the answer to that is huge and long and probably a life’s work to study and explain. One of the many pieces of that is the judgement that we put on others. You aren’t good enough. You’re too fat, thin, tall, hairy. There’s always something about our body that our culture and media encourages us to be uncomfortable about.

So imagine my utter delight when I experienced none of that at the spa. I won’t say that I didn’t get looks. Looks don’t really bother me. I know I look unusual, it’s distracting. That’s ok. But the looks didn’t resolve into judging, and then finding me lacking in oh so many ways. They looked, they recognized some differences, they went back to their own business. That was so refreshing!

It probably had something to do with the fact that the primary clientele wasn’t American either.

What ever the reason, it was a completely wonderful experience, physically and emotionally. I have very definite plans to go again with my friends and to bring a few others along with me.