Thursday, September 30, 1999

How I got the name Dolphina

You would think that having a near death experience would make a person fearless. Not me. When a friendly group of tourists from Belgium invited me to go sailing with them yesterday , I trembled in my flip flops. You would have thought by the way I responded that they were asking me to walk into myself a swarm of bees. I was about to give a whopper of an excuse when Isaiah walked by. I couldn’t lie in front of him, plus I know he would think it would be good for me. So, poor me reluctantly conceded to go out to sea on a beautiful 41' sailboat with some very cute and single men.

The Belgians had arrived at Brewer’s Bay a few days previously. They moored their sailboat in the bay and rented a few campsites. There were 4 men and 3 women and 2 of the men were single, as one of the women was a sister of one the guys. They took sailing trips all over the world together for the past few years. They were all in their late 20’s, good-looking, cool and fun-loving. They made an impression on everyone at the campsite. We nicknamed them the Bellies. After reading the chapter entitled, “Visitors” in Walden, I decided to be more social with the tourists staying at the campsite. In particular, these tourists. They were fascinated with the fact that dolphins saved my life. I had dinner with the Bellies one night, danced with them at Quitos another night and showed them my tepee.

It had been since my near-drowning accident that I was even near a boat, let alone on one. Granted, this was an exquisite yacht and as opposite of my little dinghy as it gets. I had absolutely no sensible reason to fear that anything remotely close to what happened to me would ensue again. Besides, the reason I almost drowned was directly and completely due to my stupidity and lack of basic seafaring knowledge. Rules like: never, ever leave your boat when it’s unanchored. Nevertheless, I didn’t sleep a wink that night.

We all gathered at the beach at dawn. When they said, “Good morning” to me with their cute accents, I replied, “I’m fine”. Clearly I was not fine.

I do love sailing. I find such beauty in the sport of harnessing the wind to make the vessel move in the direction you want. But I was now afraid of boating. When we motored the zodiac (like my boat) to the moored sailboat, my body was clenched so tightly. In fact, I didn’t relax at all until we were in full sail and was being distracted by some heavy flirting with one of the Belgians named Sebastien. As he began to say, “ I’ve been wanting to tell you since I met you…” the captain yelled, “dolphins!” Everyone dashed to the bow (front of the boat) where the dolphins were riding the wake. I came to find out later during lunch that even though it looks like they are swimming really fast, they are catching a free ride.

“Should we stop?” Everything was happening so quickly and everyone was excited. Within an instant, they all decided to drop anchor, grab their masks, snorkel and fins and had jumped into the ocean. I was standing on deck bewildered and Maarten, who was the captain, asked me why I wasn’t in the water. Justified terrifying thoughts raced through my mind. Then he said, “Dolphins love you, jump in”. I guess they were magic words because I then grabbed my mask (loathe snorkles) and lept into the crystal blue waters of the Caribbean Sea.

The first thing I noticed before I even saw a single dorsal fin was hearing the clicks, whistles and raspberries sounds the dolphins were making. The water was electric with the way they communicate. It was pure exhilaration. I didn’t know what I was doing or supposed to be doing, so I just treaded water with my face looking down into the ocean.

Obviously I was still afraid of the ocean by the way I held onto the rope that was tied to the anchor. Then in the distance of the clear aqua water I saw a dolphin swimming parallel to me. It was so exciting to see him/her undulate that I wanted to scream out to someone, “look!” but I did not see any of the Bellies. Then another dolphin came into view and was swimming towards me. I was smiling ear to ear as he approached me. He was about 6 feet away when he dove deep down into the ocean out of view. It nearly took my breath away.

Then I heard some of the Bellies talking on the boat. The “encounter” was over and was the best they ever had. Unbelievably it only lasted 15 minutes, as the adrenaline made it seem longer. I hopped aboard and everyone was giggling and talking over each other, sharing their experiences. Most stories included swimming around the dolphins in swirling motions, trying to engage the dolphins before they would swim away. Eva said she looked right into the eye of a dolphin and the dolphin was telling her that her Mother would heal from cancer. We all counted and decided with great ‘scientific research’ that there were 11 in this pod (what you call a group of dolphins).

We all took a quick freshwater shower and cast off on our way to our lunch destination. Dolphins dominated the conversation on the way to and during lunch. I was full of questions. I was uncertain of the proper dolphin etiquette, to which Lisse filled me in on all the details. She told me that it is ok to touch them gently if they approach you, unless they are showing signs of aggression such as tail slapping. Dolphins love to play games, but you have to engage them. Don’t make sudden hand movements or try to ride their dorsal fin. The Bellies have discovered that dolphins stay longer if the swimmers are not being aggressive with the dolphins, but rather just having fun in the water. They all wanted to know what I experienced. What I learned today about dolphins is there is something thoroughly amazing just being in their presence. They also lured me back into the ocean.

We were all elated from our experience with dolphins, but there was more excitement to come. It was a Full Moon and of course we had to go to the party at the Bomba Shack! After lunch we set sail, so that we could get a choice place to moor our boat. People come from all over the island, as well as surrounding islands just for this night of revelry, so finding an open anchor spot can be as difficult as parking in NYC.

It had been a great day and luck was on our side. We squeezed into the crowded bay and cast our anchor. Maarten drove us all on the inflatable boat and dropped us on shore, he then swam to shore. I was attracted Sebastien. I started to feel like a typical girl and wished that I had something new (and dry) to wear to the party! This feeling didn’t last long because soon we began drinking the infamous Bomba punch with its not-so-secret ingredient of magic mushrooms.

I was already high from swimming with the dolphins earlier and the beverage made me giddy with just how beautiful life can be! I wanted to be in the water. Scratch that. I NEEDED to be in the water and swimming without my skirt. I tore it off and was about to rip my bathing suit off, too, when Sebastien kindly stopped me. “I need to feel the water all over my body”, I proclaimed. Attempting to distract me from sheer nudity he said, “I want to swim too, my little Dolphina, so let’s go into together”.

That was the first time anyone ever called me Dolphina.

In addition to officially naming me, he was a great chaperone, which can be very helpful on a psychedelic trip. The water felt sooooo good on my skin. I was giggling and swimming around. Suddenly, I had this realization: that the dolphins that I saw earlier in the day were the dolphins that saved me. Then I felt like they were calling me to come out to sea with them. They were sending me a signal. When I wanted to swim out to sea to be with all the dolphins, Sebastien coaxed me to shore.

The party was in full swing with BBQ and a reggae band was playing. I put on my skirt and twirled around and happily danced for what literally was hours. I danced by myself and with others, while Sebastien kept a watchful eye on me. I was flying high and was void of sound judgment. Everyone I met was laughing and dancing and hugging. While I was dancing, someone pointed at me and said, “Hey that’s the girl that the dolphins rescued”. A group of about 12 people made a circle around me while I danced in the center. Sebastien smiled at me and said, “That’s Dolphina.” I was so happy at that moment. Then, I started to freak out that I nearly drowned.

Abruptly, I wanted to go back into the water and Sebastien came with me. He suggested for us just to put our feet in a little bit before going all the way in. I stopped feeling scared. The full moon was rising up and was so magnificent. I stared at it and the illuminated path it made on the water. It appeared like another sign. I am so grateful to the dolphins that saved me and was feeling like I need to swim with them again. Almost like I need to get to know them better – as I would a friend. I made a decision there that I would spend my time getting to know the dolphins better.

The feeling when Sebastien reached out to hold my hand was electric. We held hands while looking into eachother’s eyes feeling the intensity. This comes with the disclaimer (and the rest of the night) that I was seriously tripping, but we were in love instantly. We hugged so tightly until we felt like one or in other words, until the sun started to rise. When the party started to loose steam, we swam to the boat, took off our wet clothes and slept.

Monday, September 27, 1999

Special Birthday Celebration

To celebrate my birthday last night, after I brought all my belongings and stuffed them into my tepee, I read for the first time in 2 months. I read Walden and began with the chapter my money was in, “Visitors”. It had been so long since I had a book that it was delicious simply to read. To peruse Walden was even more scrumptious since Thoreau’s every sentence is flawless.

Walden was my inspiration for my journey to Tortola, so what he writes is imbued with deeper meanings for me. His words are heard as advice and guidance. I had been so focused on his chapter on Solitude that I neglected that Thoreau actually had visitors in his house he built himself.  Visitors are in fact the chapter that follows Solitude. I have been somewhat judgmental about my social behavior, thinking that this was a distraction from what I came here for.  What a gift to read this chapter and be reminded of how he enjoyed company, as much as he enjoyed solitude.

One of my favorite lines is about the difficultly expressing himself when his little house was crowded. “ You want room for your thoughts to get into sailing trim and run a course or two before they make their port”. Pure poetry.

Thoreau continues to explore the art of communicating, the challenges and when it is most effortless.

I kept reading the book, skipping the chapter on the Bean-Field and jumped to the chapter on The Village. How delightful to hear Thoreau compare gossip (taken in small doses) being as refreshing as the rustling of the leaves in the wind!  I have been so critical of my trips to town or the tourists having too much to drink. How could I, when my hero was able to live off the land, live by his beliefs and still enjoy “the news of the day”? 

Thoreau and Walden continue to be my guides. How surprising that I had been holding him up as a beacon of morality (which he is), but today he taught me to lighten up!  

Sunday, September 26, 1999

Birthday GIft

Today is my birthday and I got the most unusual and spectacular gift. Mervin came by this afternoon to tell me to come to the beach for a surprise. I expected my passport or a coconut with a candle in it. The last thing I expected to see was my boat!

My boat didn’t look the same, as it was deflated and had been cut open. Apparently, my boat had been found on St John’s (a US Virgin Island that is nearby). It had deflated and turned into something that resembles a Ziploc bag, protecting most of my possessions. Some tourists found it. When they cut it open, they found my passport. Apparently, they found it about a month ago, but it took me going to the passport office last week for them to locate me, especially since I have been renamed Dolphina by everyone on Tortola.

When Mervin went into the office to validate me, they gave him the boat to return to me.

Here I was looking at all my belongings. Old belongings. My tent was gone, of course. There was my saxaphone, lotions, clothes, moldy books, my rusty lantern and my journal!!  I think I was most excited to have the memories in my journal. But most important, if this all wasn’t so incredible already, my money was all there – in a waterproof sailing envelope on page 107 of Walden, the chapter entitled, “Visitors”. It was money to true freedom and liberation of my mind!

More than excited, I was tripping. It was so surreal to see all these items that once were on the floor of my brownstone in NYC. Looking at them reminded me of the boating accident, my near-death experience and the dolphins. The fact that this was returned to me on my birthday did not escape my notice. I know this sounds crazy, but couldn’t help but feel that the dolphins were sending me a gift. I was touched profoundly.

I carried all these items back to my tepee. I thought non-stop about the dolphins that had rescued me. Why did they rescue me? How did they know I was drowning? I had many questions such as these, but I also felt an unexplainable cosmic connection. I felt like they were reaching out to me and trying to communicate with me. I wanted to contact them.

I thought about how they speak with each other and how they talked to me. I couldn’t help but wonder, “What the hell are you talking about?” I seriously felt like maybe I was going a bit bananas. What I was thinking wasn’t making any sense.

It was finally sinking in that I nearly died and I do think it is appropriate that I would feel gratitude for the beings that saved me, but contacting them? How in the world was that even possible?  This was bizarre and teetering on the unknown.  How in actuality could I communicate with the dolphins? How could I thank them for saving my life? I had no idea, but I knew I needed to, as I have never been sure of anything before in my life.  



Wednesday, September 22, 1999

Who Loves the Sun?

I was deep into my depression and going through typical breakup symptoms, without the relief of ice cream. Nothing sounded good to me and the bright sun was almost an insult. Where was a hurricane when you needed one? As the Velvet Underground says in their song, “Who loves the sun, who cares that it is shining, who cares since you broke my heart.”

I was not worried about my passport or even how to get out of my financial hole. Isaiah gave me Rastafarian speeches and quoted Bob Marley to, “lively up myself and don’t be no drag”. Nothing seemed to work and I seriously entertained the thought of returning to NYC.

I took a walk, though it was more like a hike. It was to the top of the hill that overlooks Brewer’s Bay. I hiked hard and exhausted myself to the point that I couldn’t think. It felt great. When I reached the top, I could see the entire bay, and a few bays over. It reminded me when I first moved to NYC and went to the top of the Empire State Building and imagined all the wonderful things that would happen to me there. I felt the same way at the top of this mountain. I knew I wasn’t finished with my adventure in the BVI. I didn’t know what to do next, but I knew that I had more experiences to come. Clouds appeared out of nowhere, suddenly, and it began to rain hard. I laughed at what seemed to be a funny joke that was being played on me. I craved rain earlier, but now that I felt free of my pain, down came the rain.

Tuesday, September 21, 1999

Validate Me!

I returned to Brewer’s Bay yesterday in the afternoon. I saw Mervin as soon as my hitched ride dropped me off. He was on cloud nine. Recently he fell in love with a girl that was visiting the campsite from the States.  He just received a letter from her that made it clear she felt the same about him.

After my break up, the last thing I wanted to hear was an entire 5 hand-written page love letter aloud.  He was so high that he didn’t notice that I had been crying. And hard. But since Mervin has taken such good care of me, there was no way I could not indulge him. I had to bite my tongue not to be cynical when he said all the things they wanted to do together, including that they were going to travel together.  

After an hour of hearing of romance, I wasn’t in the mood to be a buzz kill, but I ended up telling Mervin everything that had happened. He felt so badly for me and was optimistic that my relationship with Eddie would work out in a way only a person newly in love would talk. He said he would help me and that he would go to the passport office to validate me.

Monday, September 20, 1999

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

I got approximately 1 minute of sleep last night.  After I cried all my tears, I had a big decision to make.

What was I going to do? On the one hand, I needed Eddie’s help and did miss him terribly. I was touched that he has been missing me and don’t want to break up.

On the other hand, I did not want to return to NYC. I do feel unfinished here, like I have just started my journey. Yes, I have learned and grown a lot. I have lived off the land ( for 3 weeks with Eddie) and about a month and a half with Isaiah. I have had great adventures and a near death experience! But it feels incomplete and the thought of seeing my friends in NYC made me feel a bit embarrassed. It is as I spoke of climbing Mount Everest and had to return without summiting.

The thought of my girlfriends gave me the idea to which I finally used as my decision maker. I wished I had my girlfriends to talk it out with. I decided to talk with each of them and imagine what they would say. Samara would probably take Eddie’s side, as she is relationship oriented and always thinks I am afraid of intimacy and commitment. Jehan would choose the adventure and that magic will happen regarding the passport and the money. Ing-Marie would ask me what my heart is telling me to do and Valerie would chose safety of having the passport after her own personal Green Card fiasco.

This exercise didn’t give me my answer, but it started the dialog with myself. Yes, I loved Eddie and needed his help. But his help was at the expense of my dreams. I have always lived my life by seeing the big picture and how do I want my life to look like. What would be what I would regret? There is never just one way to do anything – he isn’t the only way to get a new passport, there must be another way. I also know that I have fears, but that I never want them to stop me from doing anything! Finally, when it comes to love, I don’t believe it is that fragile. If Eddie and I truly loved each other, we would be together.

Feeling confident with my decision, I practiced telling Eddie my choice. Of course, when he called, he wanted the simple yes or no. When I said no, he hung up. I cried and cried until my face was swollen to an unrecognizable person.

I checked out of the hotel and walked down the streets of Road Town as if I were in my own private protest from the sixties, “We shall overcome!” I hitched a ride to what I have come to call home, Brewer’s Bay.

Sunday, September 19, 1999

Bailed Out

Naturally, I was grateful that Eddie bailed me out, but talking to him was awkward to say the least. Last we spoke, he let me know that he thought I should return to NYC. Now that he helped me out, it was apparent that his opinion of what I should do should not be questioned. He started off the conversation with giving me the time of the return flight he wanted to book me on to NYC. It was for tomorrow.

It was difficult to change direction of our discussion. I responded with how there were so many loose ends to tie up and that all my belongings were on the other side of the island. This was not my best excuse, since I had so few possessions.

Eddie, who was focused on solutions, was leading the discussion. He seemed to be willing to wait to hear about my ordeal once I was back in NYC.  I was trying to slow the conversation down before I ended up back in Manhattan. I told him that there would be a delay with my passport and I couldn’t leave until that was taken care of.

He said that he would call the US Passport office in the morning and push that through on his side. He said I should go to the other side of the island first thing in the morning and pack up my belongings. He said to only take what I need and give the rest to other campers who might want our stove, etc. He said that he would arrange for a driver to and from the airport and I should be able to make tomorrow’s flight

I was starting to feel trapped. Though he was helping me, it was not what I wanted and it was completely on his terms.  The thought of returning to NYC made me depressed. I began to cry and said, I said,” but I haven’t done what I came here for”. Eddie’s voice softened. Sweetie, you have been there for 3 months and have met great people, lived in a tree, we lived off the land and you have done what most people never do.  “You’re right” I said wiping my tears. He said, “ I am proud of how long you have been there by yourself. You are a remarkable woman, but there are so many amazing things that you should be doing in NYC. It’s time to come home. I miss you so much, baby. It’s been over a month and a half”.

“Oh baby, I miss you, too. Now I feel so torn.” I replied and this set off Eddie. I guess he was being so kind to me and vulnerable that my response just pissed him off.  I have never heard him so angry. He yelled and said that I really don’t have a choice. He would not help me if I didn’t promise him right now that I would return as soon as I got my passport.

His rage and threats made me cry. He continued to vent about how he couldn’t believe that I would even consider not coming back and was calling me horrible names. It was as bad as it gets.  Then he kept repeating over and over, “I cannot believe you are doing this.” Finally he said, “I will call you in the morning. If you have not come to your senses by then, it is over between us, you can forget about getting any money from me.” and hung up.