Makin’ My Way Downtown

Dearest Rachel –

I’m sure you’ve picked up by now the fact that I feel like a man out of place. For the last thirty hours or so, I’ve been a man out of time as well. For whatever reason, when we were paused outside of Kingston, my phone switched over to what I presume to be local time – which is to say, it went out of sync with ship time. Evidently, Jamaica doesn’t go in for Daylight Savings Time, or it simply doesn’t switchover quite as early as America does. Of course, I’ve been hearing talk pro and con about whether or not it’s even worth it to bother with that – although these discussions come up every time we switch the clocks around, frankly, and they’ll only go away when the whole rigmarole is dispensed with. Not that I expect that to ever happen; there’s no such thing as a rollback of bureaucracy.

That argument aside, the time on my phone has been off ever since, leaving me to have to open up the RCL app in order to remind myself what time it actually is onboard ship. Not that it really matters when you’re just lounging around on the balcony, trying to get a little bit of sun (and rest) before hitting the shore. Which is another topic for another time, but I’ll save that for when we’re not in port.

What’s weird is that, when I got up from my little lie-down, my phone said that it was a little after three in the afternoon, meaning that it was actually four. Do you recall anything suspicious about that? Because I remember being told that we would be pulling into Oranjestad by 3:30 – which would have been about half an hour ago. But there doesn’t seem to be anything on the horizon, nor do we seem to have stopped. Are just that much later than all that, or…?

Nope. It seems that somewhere along the way – maybe just from being this close to shore – my phone has finally figured out what time it is. That, or Aruba is on Daylight Savings Time like we are (although, now that I think about it, that’s probably saying the same thing).

I try to head downstairs, in order to figure out where I need to be to get off the ship. There are some crowds gathered on both the third and fourth decks, but no one seems to know where to go and what to do. At some point, however, a member of the crew passes by, and informs a knot of us that we’ll be docking at around four, and – assuming all goes well with the paperwork (yes, there is bureaucracy even in places that claim to be paradise) – we’ll be allowed off by 4:30.

That’s still the better part of an hour; I’m not standing around here waiting for that to happen. If nothing else, there are panoramic views to take in. I head upstairs to the Solarium (assuming that the other side is where we’re pulling in on), only to discover that the port is on the starboard side after all, ironically enough.

Here’s the view from there, at any rate.

On the other hand, it makes a sort of weird sense, considering that we seem to be backing into the harbor.

Anyway, I returned to the room (where I might as well have stayed from the beginning, but oh well) to watch as we pull in.

We’re not alone here; although we definitely dwarf this other ship. I don’t think even the conning tower is level with us.

Having taken all this in, I pull away from the balcony in order to prepare to disembark for the afternoon. It’s at this point that I discover my arms are gritty with what looks like sand. But no, it’s actually salt from the spray as the ship has plowed through 1,200 nautical miles of ocean in order to get here. And yes, apparently the spray reaches up all nine levels to coat the railing of the balcony – and, by extension, my arms. They’re like thick pretzel rods, they’re so covered in salt.

I’d best get going, lest I turn into Lot’s wife.

It’s crowded at the elevator bank; maybe it would be better to take the stairs.
Or not; this is deck four, and we have two more to descend yet, and we’re basically stalled.

I hear a couple behind me trying to get in touch with their various children via text messages and phone calls; it makes me almost glad for once that I’m here on my sole recognizance.

Almost.

Once ashore, I make my way through the welcome pavilion, only to realize that I’d forgotten to pick up a map. I may not actually need it, but it would be nice to have to remember my way around.

I encountered this sculpture from behind as I made my way out of the pavilion; upon walking in front of it, I got a friendly dressing down from several people who were taking pictures. At that point, I concluded that it would probably be best not to ask for help taking a picture of myself in front of it. Besides, most of the subjects were couples kissing in front of the heart. That would’ve been fine a couple years ago, but not now, not any more.

Like the sculptures of bulls in Chicago, and of Rocky the Bulldog in Macomb, there are a number of horses here in Oranjestad, commemorating those that were tossed overboard by ships approaching the island. Basically, they were left to fend for themselves and swim for shore. It’s why they refer to the area between the tropics of Cancer and Capricorn as the ‘horse latitudes,’ after all.

If you’re not here to lounge around on the beach, the only other thing I can see to do is shopping. The Royal Plaza makes for an interesting place to visit, with its open-air centrum, but is there anything worth buying? Meh. As with Coco Cay (and, I expect, with Curaçao, as well), most of the wares are meant to appeal to the female of the species. It’s entirely possible that you would find a thing or two that you’d want to take home (although there’s surprisingly very little in purple available for sale – perhaps it’s gone out of style again?), and if you were, I’d be more than willing to get it for you.

I do find myself wondering why there happen to be so many jewelry stores on these islands. It’s not like it’s something that they produce here, anymore than they do at home. I’m guessing it has to do with the price and the markup it’s good business for them, but it leaves me wondering about their customers, and their business sense. Of course, I’m personally setting down big bucks for a diamond that, for its size, would otherwise cost barely one-tenth what it does if it weren’t made up of carbon atoms that once were a part of you, so what do I know about business savvy?

But there isn’t that much here that grabs my attention. Well… not that I could buy, anyway. I pass by a bar, one of many along the main drag. The music is loud, and familiar: the Macarena. You always enjoyed doing that dance; you said it made you feel sexy. I don’t think it was until maybe the last five or six years that you found out what the song was about. I’m not going to go into details here; the fact that you know the story shall be sufficient for the moment. Let’s just say, for all that you enjoyed feeling sexy, you never intended to be a sexy as the titular Macarena herself, nor would I ever ask you to be.

Still, I miss you doing that, and without you here, I’d really rather get out of earshot of it. Too many memories, honey.

Even in the Royal Plaza, there seems to be an awful lot of empty storefronts, and not all of the businesses that seem to be there seem to be open. Don’t know what to make of that, but perhaps paradise isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

Certainly, the advertisement from days gone by isn’t nearly as accurate as you’d expect. There’s still plenty of traffic here, and a fair number of horns honking.

And for good reason; get a load of this line of traffic.

It’s not exactly Potemkin-like, but there is a clearly cheerful surface that doesn’t seem to run very deep. You don’t go very far into the city from the docks before you see a lot of blank space and ‘no admittance’ signs. Exclusivity I understand, but there’s a vibe about these places that suggest ‘look, you don’t want to be here, buddy.’

I love to look of the Aruban flag, but seeing it literally behind bars is not a case of good optics.

Indeed, you can barely see it in the window behind those bars; just so you know, it’s where the building starts to curve.

Don’t get me wrong, honey, I really want to like this place. But let’s face it, it has much about it that explains my… aversion, can I call it? to the Caribbean. There’s a sort of falseness to its cheer that I can’t quite put my finger on, but I also can’t quite shake.

Besides, even though we’re still going to be here for four more hours, I’ve gotten plenty footsore after barely two and a half. Admittedly, I haven’t put in nearly the same amount of walking as I did on Sunday at CocoCay (and going back and forth topside about the ship), but that day aside, I’ve put in as many steps as I have nearly all year thus far, and there’s still a fair amount of day yet to go.

So it’s time to head back to my home away from home for now.

I’ll catch you up on things in the morning, I expect. Until then, honey, keep an eye out for me.

Published by randy@letters-to-rachel.memorial

I am Rachel's husband. Was. I'm still trying to deal with it. I probably always will be.

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