The flight from Santo Domingo to Miami was pleasant, the wait in passport control was not! 1000 questions, fingerprints, and eyeball scanning! "The freaks" were asked if we had jobs, and how it was that we were travelling for a year.......our salvation was that we were Australian......"You Australians do have a reputation for going walkabout for long periods of time, don't you!", said the passport control officer. He was quite nice, if not obscenely meticulous, even having commented that Alex was from Ecuador (although he is travelling on an Australian passport, his birthplace is listed as Quito). "When was the last time you visited Quito", he asked Alex.
We were picked up by Alex´s cousin Christian, and his partner Frankie. We had not seen Frankie in over two years, and the last time we saw Chris was in Ecuador, in January this year. As many of you know, Alex grew up with Chris and so they are like brothers. I adopted Christian too! When I lived in Ecuador, he was my salvation! He was my support and closest friend as I learned to live in a country so very different to my own.
We hit the popular and well known South Beach, for a walk and a hamburger ...mine was a soy one, of course! After that it was a two hour and some drive back to Fort Myers, where the boys live with Charo, who we also know from Ecuador.
The week that we spent in Fort Myers was actually very relaxing, and we did not do anything overly strenuous. We took time out to spend with Chris and Frankie, who had both taken some time off work. We visited beaches, did some short walks in the mangrovy type parks for which Florida is famous, and on the night before we left we went to Sanibel beach, on a small private island close by, to watch a spectacular sunset....whilst swatting ¨nosee'ems¨ ......these horrendous, tiny little bugs that you cannot see and bite like crazy! I was not a happy camper! Not only are my scarred filled legs recovering from previous insect bites in the Caribbean and scars from falling on my walk up Pico Duarte in the Dominican Republic not so long ago, but a few days ago I tripped over whilst going for a run near Chris´s house....and you guessed it, two nice big, crusty grazes, one on eack knee! As Kath and Kim would say..........NIIIIIIIIIIIICE!!!!!!!!!!
Alex and I also both had our hair cut. As Frankie is a hairdresser, and an excellent one at that, we thought this would be an ideal time for a ¨trim¨. Well, Alex went for the trim....and Ombi for the chop! My hair was pretty ratty and tattered on the ends, and I would have had to have taken off several inches. Nah, that´s not me...all or nothing...so I told Frankie to go for it. I think he was more shocked than I was! To use Nike´s slogan, but in a poitically correct way, I said, ¨Just Do It!¨ It´s very short and cropped, and hey, it´s only hair, and it will grow back!
Many of you would either know or have heard me speak about one of my closest and dearest friends, Rita Garcia. You would also probably know that Rita´s parents, Aida and Octavio and sisters, Maribel and Esther are like my second family. And I certainly love them as if they were my own family! Well, Rita´s Auntie Dora and Uncle Gilberto (Octavio´s brother) live in Miami, and we went to have lunch with them on our last day in Florida. What an absolute pleasure it was to meet them both, and Dora´s mother too, who has just turned 94. It was exactly like being with the Garcias in Australia.....warm, loving and spirited people! I really did not expect any different. And what a truly special feeling to meet the family of people that you love. They made us feel very welcome indeed.
To my special friends, the Garcias in Australia and Los Angeles (Maribel and family) : Thank you for being such a special and important part of my life for so many years. You have always loved and supported me like your own, and I feel proud to be the fourth, adopted ¨Garcia Girl¨. As all of our families have grown and expanded, that love has continued to flow! Each and every one of you have a very special place in my heart and I love you very much!
"The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched. They must be felt with the heart"...Helen Keller
(Photos: 1. Christian, Franko, Ombi & Alex. 2.Christian, Franko, Ombi at Sanibell beach 3. Franko ready to chop. 4. After the big chop. 5. Dora, Alex, Ombi & Gilberto in Miami)