After landing in Aruba, we were engulfed by humidity, but cooled by a steady breeze from the prevailing trade winds. Most people would recoil to the sultry heat, but I welcomed the rich moisture which vaporizes on our skin back in Colorado. After arriving at our hotel, I sauntered through the open-air lobby to check out the grounds and was struck by the intensity of vibrant color from the coconut palms, flowering bushes, and azure blue ocean water. It was set off by the bleached white coral sandy beach. And yes the pool had a swim up bar. I knew it would be a great vacation.
Since our room had not been cleaned, the hotel offered a complimentary lunch on their lush outdoor patio. My family and I sat down and noticed we were not alone. Several iguanas sunned themselves on the tiled floor. One large one captured our attention with its prehistoric scales, talons and spikey doo. He wasn’t the only one in the room with an interesting headdress. My husband said he watched my hair grow by the minute as I sipped my Balashi beer. He used his hands and said, “It has gotten bigger and bigger and bigger!” It had been relatively flat when I last checked back in Boulder. Now every hair seemed to dance. Each fine strand found a new way to curl, not in a movie star wavy way, but in a frizzy, “for God’s sakes put a hat on” way.
As my hair grew larger, my lines on my face grew smaller. Always a trade-off. “If only I could encapsulate the island air to refresh my skin later,” I sighed.
The colors of the island hit me like a blind person seeing for the first time. Our first sunset was Maxfield Parrish-esque. I snapped away, desperate to capture the contrast. I gasped when I saw the time was only 7:10! Back in Boulder, the sun sets at 8:30 this time of year. Bummer! We went to dinner after dark every night.
We quickly learned that the people who were native to the island, as well as the Dutch that govern it, are some of the friendliest I have ever met. A pretty blonde waitress from Holland cleared up a mystery for me. Dutch, Holland, and the Netherlands are all in the same. Duh! I must have been sick that day. With a lilting voice and a smile on her face she asked, “Is this your first trip to Aruba?” She pulled out a map and circled all the points of interest. The island is only 10 miles long, but we rented a car to go out and explore.
I am not sure where the people were from that always got on the elevator without making eye contact, but when they exited said, “Goodbye!” It never ceased to bring a smile to our faces.
As we drove the winding roads out to the east side of the island, we noticed the saguaro cactus thriving in big forests. They have a Haystack Mountain like we do in Boulder, but theirs is all covered with enormous cacti giving it a thorny appearance.
Once we reached the eastern coast, it became obvious why we had been told, “Surfing here is suicidal!” The island is surrounded by rock and coral reefs. The leeward side is too calm and the windy side had tremendous waves, but tremendous rocks as well. I could see my son gaze longingly at the enormous swells, but we only found a few reckless boogey boarders.
An ancient looking castle ruin looked out over the eastern sea. When we asked about its history, no one knew anything about it. “Seriously?” This cracked us up since it was one of the most extraordinary landmarks in Aruba. We found out later when the Spanish discovered it, they felt it was the most worthless island in the area, so none of its history was preserved. They actually named it, “Useless Island.” Now Aruba is touted as having the highest occupancy rate in the Caribbean. It has one of the most advanced desalination plants, an oil refinery, its own brewery, (Balashi Beer), and a pretty substantial aloe export business. The population of the island has grown because of the constant increase in job opportunities. It is home to 80 different nationalities and four languages. Lucky for us everyone spoke English. After arriving home, my research found that historians speculate the ruins are from a pirate castle. How cool is that?
The dog cemetery
We did not see one homeless or begging person during our stay. Security patrolled constantly and we pondered if it was a result of the Natalee Holloway case or if they had always been vigilant. Either way, we felt extremely safe the entire visit.
We did ask a waiter native to the country what it was like when Natalee went missing in 2005. He said, “It was crazy here!” He told us a conspiracy theory we had never heard before. He believed her mother, Beth, arrived on the island too quickly and must have known something beforehand. The prime minister gave everyone three days off with pay to search for Natalee. They found evidence, but it disappeared when the FBI arrived and took over the case. The bar where she partied was across the harbor from our hotel and one half block from Parliament. Beth went to the spa several times after she arrived and the islanders were appalled at her laissez-faire attitude for someone whose daughter was missing. He believed Beth committed insurance fraud and helped Natalee cover up an incestuous pregnancy. “What?” He felt her body would have washed up on shore on the leeward side or nearby Venezuela on the windy side. He is convinced that she will be found alive someday. I didn’t want to argue, but that really didn’t add up in the light of Joran van der Sloot’s recent confession to another murder and imprisonment. It was an entertaining story and it was probably not the only theory on the island.
The last couple days we spent snorkeling. We went on a catamaran where the bar opened at 9:00 AM and they served sandwiches as we pulled away from shore! To think that I worried as a child about the 30 minute rule. We started with a dive to see a German ship wreck from WWII. While protecting their island, the Dutch threatened to blow up the ship. Fearful that the Dutch would learn of their weaponry and latest surveillance techniques, the Germans sunk their own ship and came to shore without injury. The body of it was rusted and had made a home for barnacles and other living creatures. Its mast was still intact and poked upwards towards the surface. From there we sailed to two other locations along the shore line where multitudes of colorful fish swam without any fear of us. They served a gourmet lunch that makes my mouth water as I think about it again.
The emcee liked our family and asked Danny to help take down the main sail and Courtney to take down the jib. I took note of his shaved head and wondered if he once had hair like mine. He made us special drinks afterward. Mine was so full of alcohol I took a few sips before “accidentally” tossing it overboard.
“Will you be coming back next year?” he asked.
“Maybe,” I lied knowing we always go someplace new.
“Make sure you bring your daughter with you again. She’s beautiful.”
That kind of freaked me out since he looked like he was at least thirty-years-old!
I caught a glimpse of my hair in the mirror as we left. It found a new way to stand on end with all the evaporated salt that left it sticky and straw-like. I had transformed into Pippy Longstocking without the braids. I spent $130 on it before I left. What a waste!
We really enjoyed the trip and now that I am home, I put away the magnifying mirror. I don’t think I can manage the shock of seeing my wrinkles re-appear. I am happy to say although I am no longer relaxed, my hair is. It is always a trade-off…