Monday, December 30, 2013

Christmas with the Robinsons

These photos are of the kids at sunset

Rainstorm over Magen's Bay
Friday morning we flew early to St Thomas in preparation for our wonder Christmas with Juli, Shon, and the Robinson kids.  We arrived 8 hours before they did, so we went to the Emerald Beach Resort to get situated.  The first challenge was to find vehicles to rent.  Somehow I had forgot to make reservations, so when I remembered it was too late.  Every agency I could find a contact for was sold out.  I decided to wait until we arrived on site because sometimes there are local outlets that do not advertise.  Sure enough, after a couple of phone calls we found a place very near the airport that had only some Jeeps for rent.  
Darn!  We picked up two of them and did some errands on the island while we waited for the Alaskans to arrive.  We checked into the motel, had a very short nap, and picked the kids up.  We were only 1/2 mile from the airport, it was only minutes until they were in their swim suits, splashing in the beautiful waters of the Caribbean.  It was a great place to stay.
Above Magen's Beach on STT
Saturday we loaded everybody into the two Jeeps and went on a tour of the island.  
Orchids at our STT apartment
We went to our old apartment to pick up some water playthings.  Elder and Sister Larsen were there so we had a good visit with them.  They have moved some things around inside the apartment and it is now much more functional than before. We were only there for one month so we didn’t put much effort into changing things.  
3-foot long STT iguana
We drove to Coki Beach where we rented some snorkel gear and beach chairs.  The kids were immediately into the water, and they had a hoot.  
Abby in her fins
Shon and Caleb

Coki Beach STT
Coki Beach Locals
Sunday morning we were up early enough to get to church on time.  The kids were adjusting well to the 5-hour difference between Alaska time and Caribbean time.  As we entered the chapel we were surprised to see President Smartt sitting on the stand.  His father, a former mission president himself, was visiting for the holidays so they came to St Thomas for a surprise visit.  The branch presented their Christmas program.  I received some interesting impressions as the branch president spoke.  He said Jesus is not only “a way in a manger”, he is THE way.  There is no other way.  The birth in the manger demonstrates that our physical circumstances early in our lives are not a very accurate way to estimate the potential we have for good during our lifetimes.  We enjoyed seeing our friends again, members and investigators.  Life is about relationships.

We took everyone to the ferry terminal, returned our vehicles, and caught the ferry to Tortola.  
It was a pleasant ride.  Sitting across from me in the comfortable cabin was a wonderful lady named Kathryn Patterson with her 40+ year old son Rob, from Baltimore.  They were going to Tortola to visit her daughter who was married and living there.  These beautiful dark-skinned neighbors were delightful to visit with.  Rob said he has an ancestor from the English-Scottish border country, named Patterson.  We surmised that we might actually be related in spite of the obvious phenotypical differences between us.  There was a time when I could not have imagined that.  Now I am fully, totally, 100% convinced that we all really are brothers and sisters.
Maria's by the Sea
We stayed at Maria’s by the Sea in Road Town, just a few yards from the ferry terminal.  On Monday Gaye and I walked to International Motors, about a half mile or so, to pick up a vehicle rented for the day.  Gaye and Juli and I went to the big grocery store on the island to get supplies for the next few days.  Then we all loaded up, drove to the west end of the island, up over the hill to Cane Garden Bay, then along the ridge top to the east end of the island, where we ended up at Baptism Bay for swimming and snorkeling.  
We picked up our snorkeling and grilling gear that we had cached at the apartment, now being occupied by the young sister missionaries, and had a nice cookout on the beach.  

The wind was really blowing so there were waves and plenty of action.  One guy was there doing his wind-kite-surfing thing.  It was fun to watch.

Long Bay (Baptism Bay) Tortola
We returned to our rooms tired and happy.  A good night’s sleep and up early Tuesday morning, we caught Speedy’s ferry to Virgin Gorda.  This was the part of the week that we have all been waiting for.  We arranged many months ago to stay at the condo/home of wonderful friends who live there.  They were away from the island for the Christmas break, so they were happy to have us come and stay.  

They had arranged for the truck to be parked at the ferry terminal, so we loaded up our bodies, our gear and boxes of groceries, and drove the mile to the condo.  We had three bedrooms, three baths, a large living room with two sofas that made into beds, a large covered deck overlooking the Atlantic, a large and modern kitchen--in short, everything we could ever dream of.

Tuesday afternoon, December 24, which was also Shon’s birthday, he and I drove over to The Baths to check it out.  It was still early in the day, so we asked the ranger at the national park if they were open on Christmas.  She said they would be, but that there were four cruise ships scheduled to be in the area with upwards of 1000 people planning on coming to The Baths.  She advised us to come Tuesday or Thursday, but not on Christmas.  We took that message back to the gang and they wanted to go right then.  So we loaded up in the truck and drove the 3-4 miles to the park, paid the nominal entry fee, and hiked the 400 yards to the water.  

Abby swimming in The Baths

We hiked through the caves and tunnels between The Baths and Devils Bay, emerging into the warm sunshine and small crowds. 
This shirt is so they can find me if I die!
We took some snorkel gear with us, but not all of it.  This was the same beach that Gaye and I had visited a year ago with Elder and Sister Peterson where the waves were huge and Gaye and Sharon were caught in a wave and rolled.  It was quite a traumatic day as the two ladies had to be pulled from the surf by a couple of strong young men who were conveniently there.  
Devils Bay last year
Both ladies tore up their knees and looked like they had just crawled out from under a ton of sand.  In a way it was rather funny to look at them.  Anyway, we were not sure what we would find when we got there.

The beach was beautiful, the water was clear and the waves were about 1 foot high. The kids put on the snorkel gear and had a ball.  We swam and played in the water until we were tired and ready to go home for dinner, when Gaye and Juli noticed a youngish woman who looked familiar, there sitting on the beach with some other 30-somethings and their young children.  It turned out that Julia Ormond
Julia Ormond in the background
was there with some friends and her family.  We just let them enjoy being unrecognized, but we did get a couple of sort of surreptitious photos with them in the background.

Christmas Eve we had our traditional steak and shrimp dinner.  Our hosts had a nice small gas grill there that worked perfectly.  What a perfect ending to a wonderful day.  Happy Birthday, Shon!

Christmas morning we got up, ate breakfast, opened the couple of gifts that were brought along, and spent the day playing darts, 
Robin Hood shot
reading, sitting around and visiting, swimming in the pool at the condo, playing tennis, and finally going on a drive to the other end of the island.  Gaye had all the fixings for a traditional turkey dinner, so we sat down to enjoy the meal together.  It was yummy, probably the best turkey and dressing I have ever eaten.  We even had apple pie a la mode.  
Savannah Bay
Gaye took a nap while the rest of us went over to Savannah Bay for more snorkeling and swimming.  Then we perched at a lookout point to watch the sun set. 

It was spectacular!

Thursday was back to Devils Bay, but this time we took snorkel gear for everybody, thanks to our hosts.  They have gear for their own family who come to visit them, so we had plenty.  It was an amazing day.  The water was just cool enough to be refreshing, but still very comfortable.  We saw dozens of colored fish, all colors, sea urchins, lobsters, sea fans, coral, sponges, huge rocks with deep dark canyons between them, and we just had a ball.  When we finished we were all tired and ready to go home.  That night we recorded the Utah State/Northern Illinois bowl game so we could watch it next day as we were packing.

So Friday came all too quickly.  We watched the game as we packed up our stuff, now greatly diminished through consumption of the groceries, and proceeded to load the truck and drive to the ferry terminal.  Arrangements had been made for us to leave the truck there, so we just loaded up on the VG-RT ferry.  
Gaye and C
When we arrived in Tortola we were met by our friends Andrew and Dion Pollard, and Kisha and Orlando, two of the young people we had the blessing of working with when we were assigned to Tortola Branch. 
What special kids they are!  
Kisha and her brother, Orlando
We took them across the street for ice cream and enjoyed more than an hour of visiting together.  We encouraged them to stay active in the Church, to keep coming to their meetings and being obedient and following our leaders’ counsel.  It is not easy to be active in the Church in today’s world, especially where the Church is still in its infancy.  These people really are pioneers, but they will rise to the challenge.

The final ferry ride was back to St Thomas, 

where we thought we had a reservation at a motel across the road from the airport.  Somehow the reservation was mixed up and we had no place to stay.  The clerk worked on it, though, and we ended up back at Emerald Beach, which turned out to be much better than the other place would have been.  The kids were immediately in the water, and so were the adults.  Shon even made arrangements for the hydro-board for the next day.  We had to be at the airport before that happened, so we would not be able to see it, but we look forward to seeing the videos they take of the event.  The final thing on the schedule was to watch the BYU vs Washington football game at the Fight Hunger Bowl.  It came on at 2230, way past our bed time, but I managed to watch most of the first half.  It was not a good outcome for BYU, but UW is my other school, so my team won.

We arrived home in Puerto Rico on Saturday, picked up by our friends.  
Above Old San Juan
The Alaska Robinsons left in the afternoon and made it home the next day.  This was one of the fastest passing vacations I have ever been on.  It seemed that the hours and days just flew by.  However, it is also one that we will remember forever.

Now it is back to work, and there is a lot to get done.  Stay tuned.