I spent the next day touring downtown Curacao, paid a visit to the western hemisphere's oldest synagogue, walked through the floating market, took photos, and of course stopped for a bite of local cuisine (definitely had the best chicken of my life in a place called Plasa Bieu or Old Market). After a long day, I decided to have dinner at the hotel bar...
I was able to talk with Tony again, which made me more comfortable about this whole Curacao tour idea. And I also ended up confirming with one of his colleagues that he was not secretly a mass murderer:). She said Tony was her best friend at the hotel and one of the best people she knew. I said, how can I say no to a guided tour of Curacao with a guy who seems to be great... This would be going against my first pact: listening to my intuition! I am going.
Tony picked me up the next morning in his SUV that smelled like candy (I can still remember the scent now - and I can't remember what he said it was, but it was distinctly candy). We drove to the market and picked up the essentials for a day at the beach... Beer, wine, Gouda cheese (they have more Gouda in Curacao than I've ever seen in my life since it's a Dutch island), potato chips, ice and water. We loaded all our items into the cooler and oh, I forgot to mention... We ran into Tony's sister at the market as well. Made me think first, oh wow, this island is small, and secondly, what the heck is his sister thinking of his brother carting around this girl that is clearly from out of town? Oh well, he seemed very calm and comfortable introducing me as his friend to his sister... I laughed with him at the situation and we went on our way to the beach.
All the roads were paved with cement, but they were very narrow and winding, with sharp turns. People also seemed to drive really fast in Curacao, which made me a little nervous, especially after learning there is no law against open containers. I was flabbergasted by the idea of drinking a beer and driving, so Tony all of a sudden pulls over to a little shop... Before I know it, we have two bottles of Amstel Bright (beer native to Curacao) in our hands as we get back in the car. As an American, from the northern states, with a father that would only drink a beer only on special occasions, I think oh gosh, this is wrong. And then I say, ok, we're not in the US, when in Rome! And one drink is not going to harm my driver's judgement... If he starts unloading the rest of the cooler during our drive, then I'll be taking a boat home, because there's no way I'll make it being the designated drive on these winding roads.
About a half hour later, we arrive at the first beach, Cas Abou. The first word that comes to mind as we walk out onto the beach was PEACE... It was such a calm, serene, beach with straw huts, a small tiki bar, lounge chairs, and GLOWING blue water. We relaxed on the beach, chatted about life, went swimming in the sea and enjoyed another Amstel Bright. I was really happy - yes, the beer added to the experience, but this was the first time I was truly happy since the end of my relationship. I enjoyed my company for many reasons, but most importantly, I felt comfortable talking with him about anything. We took in the breathtaking scenery and I appreciated every moment I spent with Tony at Cas Abou.
Tony expressed that he wanted to take me to another beach before heading back to town for work. I can't remember the name, but we arrived at this beach, one of his favorites, within 5-10 minutes. We walked to a ledge that overlooked the water and another gorgeous white sand beach. We took photos on the ledge, practiced my (broken) French with some people vacationing from Lyon, and then started walking on a trail just beyond the ledge. This trail looked to be taking us to a dead end; and at that dead end was a large drop off. To be more descriptive, this was a large cliff. My heart stopped. I had a feeling my adventurous guide had jumped off that cliff a few times... As we walked over to the cliff, Tony took a running start, and with no hesitation, flips like a dolphin (ok maybe not that gracefully) off the cliff, and into the water. I immediately freeze. Cliff jumping... AHHHH! Heights... EEEEK! Giant. Boulders. In. Water... I'm going to die.
After Tony's cheering encouragement, followed by pouting about being lonely in the water and tirelessly counting "1, 2, 3!" literally a dozen times, I jumped! I screamed - loud. And I plunged into the sea, without hitting the bottom, or any boulders, and actually came out alive, with a bathing suit in tact. I loved it and I was proud of myself for doing it. That was the first time I ever cliff jumped - I had a hard enough time jumping off the high dive at the swimming pool as a kid; it must have been one too many belly flops that scarred me for life. As much fun as it was, once was enough for me... We were getting hungry, and time was running out before Tony had to get to work, so we decided to have a quick, late lunch at a restaurant overlooking the beach.
The timing was impeccable because the moment we sat down at the restaurant, thankfully covered outdoor seating, it started pouring rain. Like rain I had never seen before. Sheets of it. But despite the rain, you could still see all the beauty surrounding us, as we reflected on our incredible day of adventures.
I got to spend the next day with Tony as well; we toured a few other beaches, visited his family friend's Mediterranean restaurant for lunch, and apparently Starbucks recently arrived on the island, so we hung out in the air conditioning and drank coffee for part of the afternoon. He also needed to stop by his house to pick up his things for work that night; and since Tony lives with his family, I got to meet his little brother, and the infamous blonde curly-haired baby niece (one of the happiest, most precious little girls I've ever met). I felt like part of the family.
Tony made my Curacao trip incredibly special; he helped me to feel happiness and joy again, allowed me to continue processing my emotions, provided me additional perspective on the world, and really took care of me while I stayed on the island. I am so thankful to have met him and know that I would not have returned to Chicago with such restored faith without successfully testing my intuition and going outside my comfort zone. I truly believe that everything happens for a reason, and though it won't be quick, I knew I would eventually fill the missing hole in my life at home with new activities and people that make me happy. Tony and I still keep in touch through iMessage and email, and he has anxiously awaited reading each blog entry before I send them out. He has been huge support through this process and I am ever grateful for his constant encouragement. I hope you enjoyed this story and are a little more comfortable with the idea of doing something new and different (and considered courageous to you). I remember my roommate from college saying that everything is relative to a person, and I couldn't agree more with her. Courage could be making a phone call to patch up an old friendship, taking an art class you've been afraid to start, having that difficult conversation with your significant other you feel you need to bring up, or applying for that grad school program you've been thinking about. Life is too short not to go for it. Only you can drive this process; no one will do it for you. And as scary as it may be to take the leap, you will always be glad you followed your intuition. Good luck!
What do you want to hear about next? No topic is off the table. If I don't hear from you, I'll just pick, but would love ideas. xoxox