Picture this: it’s New Year’s Day, my boyfriend Andre and his sailing buddy Bill are windsurfing down in Margarita, and I get this call, “Honey are you still looking for a better job? ‘Cuz I have one for you…in my new restaurant!” It happened! I thought he was kidding, but I should have known better, he’s always pulling surprises.
I was really scared at first, millions of questions went through my mind…where would we live? What language do they speak down there? Do they have running water? And what about our cats and enviable San Francisco apartment? I knew Andre could handle picking up and leaving, but I was leery. That’s when they started telling me about Punta Carnero and “our” restaurant.
Bill was the one who told me it would be paradise. We would be living on the beach-warm water, warm sand, plus, no rent, bills, or worries, and lots of money! (As it turned out sometimes, no water, gas, or electricity; little money, too much sand. Andre doesn’t care as long as the wind stays 4.0). Since we were both teachers, we were already broke- so why not take a chance?
Things started immediately as I gave notice and Andre took a leave of absence to pack his 8-foot Haut board, quiver of sails, suitcases, and left me to pack or sell everything we owned.
The garage sale was a success. I sold a lot of cool stuff real cheap, and finally met all of our nice neighbors, if only to say goodbye.
While Andre was setting things up down there, I visited with my friends and family in Minnesota, who were jealous of me leaving the cold weather for the balmy Caribbean.
I arrived on Margarita an hour early, and as I waited at the airport in Porlamar, I realized I had not practiced enough Spanish. Oops. Anyway, when Andre showed up we rented a car and drove out to the point.
As we bounced throughout the desert, I was yelling for Andre to stop with the 4 wheel drifts. “Don’t worry, honey, this is the way they drive down here.” I got to see a lot of cactus uncomfortably close up.
We arrived at sunset. What a view! What wind! A glitter of scarlet, violet and fiery orange colors filled the sky as the waves rumbled to the shore. I stood barefooted and wondered whether it would always be like this.
As Andre showed me around, I marveled at the construction of the chiwatas built by displaced Amazon Indians. Our studio was quite different from our old apartment- bamboo roof and an inch of sand on the floor with more blowing in.
Living in the desert, on the beach, with the wind, means living with sand. One morning as I swept our room, thinking about our new lives in Venezuela, I was surprised by a native. I couldn’t have imagined an insect so large. I was told the monster I had just seen was a centipede. As it turns out, the 12-inch centipede is average size around here. The centipede was not our only tour guest, we have had many, and I’m not talking about the windsurfers! There were also little four-legged creatures squeaking in the night. When told about the mick, Andre’s response was, “Cool, now we have pets!” I responded as would any normal person, “No way! Two will turn into two dozen! We need more mouse traps!” That was a couple of weeks ago. Now one comes out and sits on my foot, and I wonder if it’s the one that industriously ate holes in two of Andre’s shirts.
In order for me to wake up in the morning, I need two things…a shower and some coffee. One morning I got up and expected the shower…there was only a trickle of water. No problem, I splash my face with the drippings of cold water- now I’m ready for my coffee! You guessed it: No water! All I asked for when I agreed to move here was running water and flushing toilets. The toilet flushed just fine, all we had to do was drop a bucket down the well to fill the toilet tank.
Rene, who helps his partner Gary run the windsurfing school, discovered the pump had burned out and repaired it. Meanwhile we had to continue to fetch our water. I realized after the first day, how much I had gotten used to modern-day conveniences. Gary started calling me “Annie Oakley” and I truly began to feel like a pioneer.
Once Rene had the pump restored and we had running water, everything looked and smelled better, including us!
We have a generator for electricity but no washer. I do our laundry by hand, which by the way, is a great way to strengthen your forearms! Drying is a breeze! I just hang them on the clothes line and in the sun and wind, they’re dry in 15 minutes.
One moonlit night we had two clients stay late for one of Andre’s tasty dinners. After dinner Andre and the clients went moonlight sailing. (I didn’t go because I’m just a beginner.) But when I finished cleaning up the kitchen and went down to the beach to watch, one of them came in and screamed gleefully, “We just went sailing naked?!”
“Is that Andre out there, sailing naked?” I asked. “Yeah, wait till our friends hear about this! Sailing by moonlight…and naked!” “Wait until Andre gets in!” I fumed. Did I fail to mention the two clients were women? He must have figured I was upset. His first words were, “But, honey, I was wearing a harness, they couldn’t see anything.” I made Andre pay for that for a few days.
Before moving here I was worried about getting along without T.V. or telephones, but no longer. I’m too busy! There is plenty to do. I clean, go for walks by the beach, read, play backgammon, acey ducey, talk to clients to find out what’s happening in the states, and at night I try to win at poker.
Once in a while we head into town to see American movies, which are in English with subtitles. Our days and nights go by very quickly. I realize now, I don’t miss T.V. or the telephone…well maybe a little.
I’ve just recently caught the windsurfing “bug.” Who wouldn’t living on Margarita? At first I was overwhelmed by the wind and waves just like any beginner. But I was soon told not to worry, there was a place with just the right conditions for me to learn.
I was soon on my way to Coche, the island across from Margarita. While in the boat going over a flying fish tried to race us. I was imagining how it must feel to glide over the water so beautifully. Then I remembered seeing Andre doing the same while windsurfing and hoped that some day I would be able to jump the waves and feel the rush.
At Coche the water is flat but there is plenty of wind for everyone. After a few instructions from Gary, I was soon on a board and moving. I may not have been on it gracefully, but I was on it and it was moving! Soon I hear the sound of a board coming up from behind and passing me, making me look like I’m standing still. “Get out of my way. I’m just learning,” I think to myself. I thought I was moving along at a fairly good speed. He was gone in a flash.
After a while frustration started to set in and I soon decided to quit for the day. But I didn’t stop thinking about windsurfing. That was when I began to understand Andre’s love for the sport and why he wanted me to experience it. It was great!
There are days when I just sit on the beach and watch Andre and the other accomplished sailors riding the waves. “In time,” I tell myself, “in time that will be me.” But first I have to concentrate on learning how to use a harness.
When clients hear where we’re from, the usual response is, “This is quite a change from San Francisco!” and I reply honestly, “It’s true, it is but I like it!”
Moving to Margarita, I have found myself capable of doing things I never thought I could or even wanted to do. I have learned to windsurf. I have also learned in my everyday chores that just like in windsurfing, using the elements is a lot easier than fighting them.