My Travel Partner
My husband is an adventure traveler. He wants to go the places that are unexplored—for instance, he’d love to discover another Inca Village in the Andes. This obsession started when his parents took him to Afghanistan when he was 10-years old. So recently he endearingly took his mother on a “vacation” to Iraq. She indeed thought of it as a vacation, and is so brave you wouldn’t believe it. They rode around on a tour bus with some nervous Americans, and when someone would yell “hit the deck” upon hitting a pothole, everyone did. The hotels were encircled with 15-foot cement walls, and it seemed that few Iraqis had figured out, with Saddam Hussein gone, they could sell alcohol and make a bundle. It was nearly impossible to get a cocktail. My partner was there for the caves (I was thinking Bin Laden), and the locals and the bullet holes. The locals welcomed him like a king, and thanked him personally for outing Saddam Hussein. My husband took photos of them and they loved him for it. He takes incredible photos. Everything in Iraq was horribly dusty and the landscape not attractive, but he made it look interesting.
Truth be known, I am more of a reluctant traveler. Sure I backpacked by myself around Europe after college, before starting my green-eye-shaded career job, where my enslavers at Arthur Andersen had me crunching numbers 24/7. But I was not crazy about driving into Bosnia—my partner had us lingering to photograph bullet holes until our guide ditched us—nor did I enjoy encountering seven sharks on my first scuba dive. Off-piste skiing is not enough for him—he wants the helicopter, ice camping (!), bears popping their heads in our tents so he can use the elephant air horn, and outhouses. I prefer flush toilets when I can get them, which in the world of adventure travel has the stigma of an epidural when you could be experiencing natural childbirth. Danger seems to follow us. Or is it that we (he) attracts it?
I am not saying that it was my husband’s fault that our 14-year- old son brought the swine flu to Tokyo on our summer vacation at the height of the swine flu craze, or that my son and I were put in a Japanese research hospital, where from the space suits the doctors were wearing, it seemed like they thought we were carrying anthrax. It’s just that my spouse wanted the very best for our kids—for them to experience an exotic culture and learn to eat the fish heads that he ate for breakfast there, so that they would never be described as a “picky eaters.”
By the way, did you know that in Bora Bora you don’t need any certification to scuba dive? That was news to me. My husband, who has his certification, took me on a boat with a bunch of avid divers—all men. The swarthy French guide told me I just needed to hold his hand and take the plunge with him. It started out OK, the water a brilliant aqua and warm as a bath. At the ocean floor, the bottom of our boat bobbed far above, looking small as a toy. Around us, the coral and fish sparkled like jewels. Absolutely gorgeous, if I could relax for even one second. From my guide’s frantic pantomime, I understood that he wanted me to paddle along behind him on my stomach, but there was no way I was doing that –get his back—he was the instructor! So we’re hanging out there and I’m still holding his hand and I count seven good-sized sharks circling above us—between us and the boat. I pointed up and he shrugged, C’est la vie. But sharks visiting us was not on the agenda. I look from the sharks to my guide, who was making the universal “you’re crazy signal,” winding his finger at his head—I guess he was trying to tell me I was breathing wrong, not making enough bubbles or something, I later found out. I pointed up that I wanted to return to the boat, and this went on—him making the crazy sign and me pointing— until he rolled his eyes, agreeing to let me go. He wouldn’t speak to me the rest of the day, except to say that those sharks were “nothing.” After escorting me to the surface, still holding my hand, he left me alone in the rigger, where it was scalding hot, no shade, the water too blue and suspiciously flat like in the movie “Jaws.” My husband was down there somewhere.
Twenty minutes later two burly guys scramble into the boat as if being chased by a predator, “There’s a helluva lot of sharks down there,” one of them says through his hard breathing.
He later admitted that he’d seen a 7-foot lemon shark (one of the top ten deadliest sharks, I later learned from my research) skulking beneath us when he’d first jumped in— while I was still deciding whether to take the plunge with the French guy—and chose not to share this information with me.
We are currently discussing our next vacation. More on that later.