Holiday greetings and all that jazz. This was my third Christmas in Diego. If you had told me the first time that I'd be here for the following two Christmases, I'd have told you that you were crazy. Oh well, Diego-Suarez, Madagascar- not a terrible place to spend three sequential Jesus's birthday celebrations.
This year a few other volunteers came up for vacation. Just staycation for me. But then I didn't have to have a horrible brousse-ride across the country. The four of us had a great week here in the DieGo... eating seafood, lounging by the pool, riding out to the beach, cooking American foods, watching a lot of Modern Family and bootleg movies, etc. But on one very special day, we took a boat to Emerald Isle. Which normally looks like this:
But on this day it looked like this:
The weather wasn't ideal. It was the only day that it wasn't perfectly sunny since the others arrived, go figure). The way out was pretty rough. Not scary rough... but almost scary rough... rough enough to be exciting without being perilous.
Due to either some sort of miscommunication or laziness or straight up fetsiness (what's the english word... shady/dishonest/cheating) the boat guys didn't bring any food for us. Normally they bring food and cook an amazing meal of fish and coconut rice and cucumber salad. It's normally amazing. Normally. (Wait, sorry, maybe I should back up. You have to take a boat from Diego to Emerald Isle. It's one of the most popular outings for tourists in Diego. The boat ride takes about two hours one way. It's a beautiful ride. The water is emerald and you can see straight to the bottom. Breathtaking. There are no stores or anything there, just groups of tourists and their boats.) So our boat guys were cooking, and then I saw them eating rice, but we were still waiting for lunch. I've done this trip a few times now, and I've never had to ask for them to cook or order food or anything. I went over to ask about the food, and they shrugged and said there wasn't any. Well, I ask them, why don't we have food since they always cook and we're paying the normal price and everything was the same as it had always been. They just shrug.
I go back to my friends and tell them that there is no food for us. So, since the weather wasn't that great anyways, we decided we should just go back and order pizza (because we can do that here). So we ask the boat guys to take us back, and they say fine. I asked them about the tide, since normally you have to go in the morning and come back in the afternoon because that's when the tide allows travel. They said it would be ok.
Now the sea was more rough. (No worries, we wearing life vests and all of those good safety procedures were in line). Still not scary, only hilarious. We kept getting nailed by waves. Every few seconds it was as if someone was pouring buckets of warm beautiful sea water on us. Luckily we were all in lovely moods (albeit hungry) and found the proceedings to be amusing rather than upsetting. The boat guys covered themselves with tarps. They're no fun.
Well it turns out they were liars about lunch and liars about the tide. The water was too shallow to allow us passage. They got out and started pushing the boat. Then they made us get out and help push the boat. Then it was clear that we weren't going anywhere, so the boat guys got back in the boat and went to sleep. They went to sleep. We were just standing in the bay (the water was about to our calves and warmer than the air). We were happy to stand around and laugh and had a good time, shared some secrets, got to know each other. Then the other boats who had been out on Emerald Isle started to appear on the horizon. We had been standing there for over an hour. We tried to rouse our sleeping boatmen to let them know that the other boats are going; therefore, we should also be able to go. All of the other boats passed us. We left first, sat out in the low tide for almost two hours, and then were passed by the other groups of tourists. Maddening. And they had also eaten. We needed rice (or pizza, whatever, rice = food).
Finally, upon our return to dry land, we insisted that we get a discount on our trip since we didn't get lunch and that we left first, had to push the boat, the boatmen napped, and we still arrived last. Well, the fetsy boat guys would have none of this. After arguing and being man-handled by these boat guys (who denied sleeping in the boat to their boss), it was clear that we could either pay, or be beaten by scrawny lying men (I exaggerate, but you know what I mean). So, we paid. But I made it clear that they will never have business from Peace Corps volunteers again. There are other boats and other boat guys.
Then we ordered pizza and went out to karaoke... a good end to a good day.
All and all, it was a hilarious day of fun on the sea... though we totally got ripped off. Another lesson learned... even if you have a system with people where you get the same deal for the same price, you must always go over the details. No casual planning. I love it here, but sometimes people rip you off because they know that you'd rather throw money at the problem instead of fighting with them. We were worn down by hunger. My need for rice supersedes my need for justice.
Down to my last weeks here in wonderful, beautiful Diego. I love it here, but I'm somehow ready to move on.
Here is a map of the bay if you're interested. It's the second biggest bay in the world. http://www.lib.utexas.edu/maps/islands_oceans_poles/diego-suarez_76.jpg
Also here is this picture of the market (aka the mall) in Diego. Woo! Diego! Ya! (Sorry, I just drank coffee which I rarely do here.
Happy New Year! Here's hoping that 2011 is half as awesome as 2010!!