Out of her Element…and Into Mine.

A Late Hello from the Big Blue!


I suppose a spanking is in order for my tardiness. That’s OK, I’m a big girl, can take it. I have excuses, as always, but I will spare you the verbiage and cut to the chase.


Helmi the Wonder Editor is here! Her journey was not without its share of adventure, however. Anyone who has invited a guest from afar to visit will understand how much I wished for the weather to be perfect and for Aitutaki to make a memorable first impression on her. Memorable? Yes. Not quite in the way I’d hoped, though. First, her flight from Los Angeles arrived in Rarotonga only to find the airport shrouded in clouds and darkness. Wisely, the Air New Zealand pilot decided not to attempt a landing in such bad conditions and opted, instead to land in Tahiti – an hour away – where they could refuel and wait for the weather to clear a little. And don’t think this meant Helmi got to enjoy some down time in French Polynesia. Nope. All the passengers had to remain onboard while the plane was refueled. Onboard with, I might add, their seat belts unfastened, (because if the plane explodes in 2.3 seconds you may be able to escape if your seatbelt is not secured).


Meanwhile, back on Aitutaki…


I had my morning all planned out, leaving plenty of time for grooming and such. Then the phone rang and “Hi Princess, it’s William at the airport, do you have a room for a single traveler? I have a young woman here who needs a place for two nights.” Did we have a room? Yes. Was it clean? Hold on, I have to stop laughing before I answer that. Not only was the room not clean but also the gentleman who’d checked out left it in a state similar to what the room might look like after a troupe of howler monkeys had stayed in it for the weekend. Frantic cleaning ensued. Mere minutes before we were scheduled to leave for the airport, red-faced and cranky, I took a military shower and jumped into a clean set of duds. Nevertheless, I was still bouncing up and down, excited to see my friend.


We waited at the gate. Watched the plane land. Scanned the passengers walking across the tarmac. Watched all the passengers leave. No Helmi. Well, I thought, that’s strange. 


My attempts to find out where in the world my friend was, including numerous phone calls and frustrating website searching, were futile. But, eventually, the phone rang and Helmi told us the scoop.


The next flight arrived and there she was…in the middle of one of the worst rainstorms we’ve had in months. Welcome to our tropical paradise! Sigh. She was thrilled to be here, not least of all because of the death defying, bumpy plane ride from Raro – apparently the worst she’s ever been on and this is someone who’s traveled extensively in South America.


At last we are together. What a treat! One suitcase was dedicated entirely to goodies for us. Some were expected: DVD cleaner, hair elastics, Tiger Sauce. Some were a pleasant surprise: Bengal tea, a couple terrific books, licorice, chocolate from around the globe, and much more. So many luxuries all at once; it felt like Xmas!

Xmas comes early…


We have been doing some touristy things but the weather has been less than stellar and I do still have to work, so it is not completely a vacation. Helmi has been offering her help at every turn, which is appreciated, but I also have to be firm at times and make her go relax and enjoy. Darn German blood of hers!


There are many aspects of this visit which I am enjoying, not the least of which is a familiar face and a set of ears willing to listen to me ramble and babble about this and that. But it is especially nice to see Aitutaki through a fresh set of eyes. We humans are so adaptable; the same scenery that once took our breath away quickly fades into the tapestry of everyday life. Helmi’s many exclamations of awe at her surroundings serve as a much-needed reminder that I am indeed living in a pretty spectacular place.


And here I need to make an important point. Helmi is not a water person. Oh she likes water and I know she is loving this lagoon, but I’m sure she’d be the first to tell you that water is not a comfortable environment for her. But one cannot come to Aitutaki and miss the wonders of its underwater world. So, we have had “snorkel training”. There is much laughter and the occasional snout full of salt water but Helmi gets gold stars for bravery and persistence.


What is your element? Where is it that you feel that “aaaaahhhh” sensation? For me it has always been the water. I love the desert, I’m enchanted by mountains, forests humble me, but water is where I feel confident and free. Prez, even more so – I like my water a lot more sedate than he does.


But why are some people drawn to certain environments while others are not. Even people who are born and raised in roughly the same area are often compelled to seek out vastly different landscapes. Cities and crowds make my palms sweat. My girlfriend, Deb Mac, once had to talk me down on the streets of Santa Monica. For those who haven’t been, downtown Santa Monica, California is a kaleidoscope of people, and shops, and sounds, and smells. While Deb breezed effortlessly in and out of stores, weaving through throngs of people like a pro, I felt as if the world were closing in around me, suffocating me. Conversely, I’m sure she would feel just as out of place if I strapped a bunch of dive gear on her back and dropped her eighty feet down in the ocean.


Another time, Prez and I took a couple out on our Mako for a short cruise and the woman confessed to me that although she admired the beauty of water she would never be comfortable around it. She had grown up in Kansas or one of those landlocked states and whenever she traveled to a coastal city she said she felt as if she might fall off the edge of the world at any moment. I laughed at this because, for me, traveling away from the coast brings on an overwhelming bout of claustrophobia. I feel hemmed in.


As wonderful as it is to recognize the element in which you are most at home, I believe it is valuable to occasionally cross into other realms. I hope one day to trek in the mountains with our dear Peak Freaks. A trip to New York City is also on my “to do” list, if you can believe it. I know these are places outside of my comfort zone but one of the joys of life is challenge, isn’t it?


Helmi’s willingness to immerse herself, quite literally, in an unfamiliar element, earns her an extra helping of respect in my books. Yesterday, Prez took a bunch of us to One Foot Island for the day and Helmi came along when we ventured off for a quickie snorkel adventure out in the lagoon, far from the safety of shore. Her mask leaked and I know she had a bit of struggle but I also know, from the expression she had on her face, that it was worth it. You don’t have to be Jacques Cousteau to be dazzled by the site of a giant Moray Eel being groomed by a tiny cleaner Wrasse, or by a gang of brilliant red Soldier Fish hiding under a coral ledge, or by any of the many bright and colourful fish in this lagoon.


I know Helmi feels a little inadequate, sometimes embarrassed, and that my efforts to help her explore this new environment are somehow a chore or a burden to me but she couldn’t be more wrong. I’m so proud of her!    


Helmi Cousteau at the bow of the boat…

 Helmi heads out

Wait until I tell her about the shark dive I have planned for us next week!


Wonder Editor & Princess hanging on the motu…

 Hanging on the motu

QUESTION: What is your element?


Until next week, (yes, I promise to be more punctual), I hope this finds you healthy, happy & lovin’ life!


The Princess


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