A Research Guide for Students by I Lee

Diary of Carl Kaas:
A Day at the Beach in Curacao

Diary written by Carl Kaas, edited by I Lee
for English structure, grammar or spelling only as needed.
Carl Kaas

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A Day at the Beach in Curacao
Map of Curacao

Diary Entry Date: November 2008

Note on Curacao from Attila Narin's Curaçao Page: "Curaçao is one of the five islands of the Netherlands Antilles in the Caribbean. It is located 40 miles off the coast of Venezuela ... Curaçao is the largest of the five islands and the government of the Netherlands Antilles is located here ... The local language is Papiamentu (or Papiamento), the official language is Dutch, and English and Spanish are widely spoken."

"Curaçao is an island with many small and beautiful beaches surrounded by clear and refreshing water ... Most beaches are located on the southern coast of the island and the water is calm. The northern coast is rocky and the sea is very rough ... Just about every beach is good for snorkeling and scuba diving."

"Scuba Diving is a breathtaking experience here. Curaçao is known for its underwater paradise consisting of coral reefs and sponge formations with thousands of colorful tropical fish. The water is pleasant and the visibility is excellent."

Shell Google image from http://www.countryliving.com/cm/countryliving/images/shell-de.jpg

Weather-wise, this day was the same as the previous three - nice and warm with a slight breeze, part of the trade winds which made this Island feel like you had landed in a more pleasant world, like a paradise.

The downside was that the natives still had to work to make a living. But we were no natives, so we lived for a week like millionaires. My two teenage daughters 46 and 50 years of age had been riding a water-wheeled farm tractor up and down the bay, tried their skill as kayak rowers and went out on the Atlantic in a catamaran sailboat. There was a man-made protective wall about a hundred yards out of the beach. They had a tough time getting through the opening in the rock wall. Out manoeuvring the wind was a big challenge which they greatly enjoyed. With the assistance of an experienced coach, they sailed with and against the wind like they knew what they were doing.

Back on solid ground, they rented three bikes, yeah, I was included, to explore the mountain not too far away. How did we get there? Well, they informed us that there was no road but only a path that we must follow, could be a little bumpy, but it would get us there.

We started off bumping over rocks and tried to avoid boulders and prickly cactus, some with 1 and 2 inch long needles. Those cacti must really have hated us, not only did they have an ugly look to them, they decorated my bare legs with razor sharp needles. As if this was not enough to discourage us from going, a shot rang out. Since it was illegal to have guns here, it couldn't have been a terrorist. "Anybody hurt?" Elly, my daughter, hollered: “No, but they got my tire, a blowout." Well, that changed our plans. By the time we got back, we had three flat tires.

That was just an above ground water sport, now we must explore the world below us - underwater. This was our next project for those teenagers gone wild.

The host supplied them with snorkels and big flaps to put on their feet, free of charge, and they headed for the beach. All I could see was some strange creatures moving close to the surface heading for the coral reef. After a long while, those same silhouettes fluttered back to the beach. The girls were coming back. They were all excited about the wonder they had discovered below the surface. They described a world so different and strange that they got me all worked up, and I became very interested in having a look at it too.

The sandy beach was soft to the feet, but below the waterline, there was nothing but small craggy rocks which made you look like a drunken sailor searching for a straight line. Finally, we found a place to put on our snorkels and flaps. I put my head below the surface and got a first taste of that beautiful blue water. I couldn't believe that fish drank that awful tasting brew day after day. The girls explained that you must take the mouth piece between your teeth and lips and bite hard and breathe through your mouth, the rest of your face was protected by the pressure of the water which pushed the mask against your face to make it watertight. Sure, nothing to it.

So off we went towards the reef, but I had a terrible time navigating. The last time I swam was some 30 years ago when we took our babies to Lake Erie to see if they would float if we tossed them in the water. Now with all that gear on my face, I floated like a cork flopping from side to side, unaware that I was going the wrong way. Not being able to control my movements made me feel like I was lost in an enormous bowl of water and someone was shaking it back and forth. Oh how I wish I were back on dry land.

Then my daughter touched me by my arm and pointed down towards the rock, then I saw a fish and more fish swimming around the rocks and around us as if we did not exist. Wow, were they not afraid of us? We were so much bigger and mean-looking too. Then all of a sudden, a whole school of silvery fish came right toward me. It flashed through my mind that perhaps these might be Piranhas. Could they be those man-eating fish of South America?

No, thank heavens, they were not, because the school split into two halves, with one group swimming behind and the other in front of me, then they joined up again. It was a fantastic show.

But that show really hurt my performance because I tasted that terrible brew again, perhaps I opened my mouth too wide when the fish came by. The fact was, water got into my mouth and according to the scientists, man cannot exist by gulping down water, a privilege reserved for fish only. So now it was the time to panic. I tried to call to my girls, but all I could say was "grrr brrruulp." I tried to crawl up on the rocks, but they are too slippery and I could not get a foothold. My case became kind of desperate. My girls seemed to sense that I was acting like I had wet my pants and came to lead me back to shore. Getting there was no easy task for I was trying to breathe air with my mouth full of salty brew.

The water was too deep for me to touch the bottom. The flippers on my feet were not working for me. I had no sense of direction and was unable to stay leveled. Now I know how a duck without legs must feel. But being too stubborn to give up, I made a desperate lunge forward and got stuck on the rock strewn beach. Aha, I made it. I got up on my flippers and promptly fell down flat on my face in the sand and water. A nice helpful man rushed up, helped me to get back on my feet, and uttered these famous words, "Are you alright?" "No, I am not alright, but I do this every morning when I get out of bed, so it'd wake me up."

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