Thursday, June 17, 2004


Although I have had the good fortune to visit Aruba several times, this year's vacation was Jeffrey's first time in the islands, so it gave us an excuse to revisit the place. Normally, a Shepherd vacation consists primarily of eating breakfast, sitting on teh beach, going in for lunch, sitting on the beach, going out to dinner, going to bed. But we decided to be a bit more active in deference to those who might not be inclined towards such a sedentary vacation.

Aruba is unique among other Caribbean islands in that it is not lush and green as one would think a tropical island should be. It's mostly desert on the interior. The southern beaches, where most of the hotels are located, are as nice as you could hope a beach to be, with white, cool sand and blue, blue water. But the north is rocky and wild, with dramatic surf next to dry land with little vegetation, save cactus and the emblamatic divi tree. But it's still beautiful. I particularly appreciate the goats, wild donkeys, parrots and myriad lizards that populate the area.

The lizards in particular are rarely shy, and range in size from tiny geckos to large, friendly iguanas who like to sun themselves next to your chaise by the pool. This particular vacation, we adopted a family of small, dysfunctional green lizards -- or rather, they adopted us. One night we found a lizard with a truncated tail lying in the flower bed looking rather poorly. We actually thought he was dead at first. He was gasping for air and flailing around a little, so we put him in a box and gave him some water and lettuce and put him on the patio for the night. In the morning he was much better, keen to get out of the box and even followed Mom inside to the kitchen when we weren't looking. It was clear, however, that even in normal health, this lizard was, how you say, "special." He was a lot more slow and clumsy than most others, but seemed happy enough. On our final day, he returned with two other green lizards -- one of whom had a tail tied in a knot and the other who walked as though he had sustained some long-ago back injury, though he seemed to not mind it. A happy family of disabled lizards indeed.

Besides befriending wildlife, we also went snorkeling out by a WWII-era shipwreck and a coral reef where saw many a fish and a few squid. I hadn't ever been snorkeling, and to have your first try be in 50 feet of water over a gnarly shipwreck is quite something. The first few minutes are fairly odd, as you have to convince yourself to put your face in the water and breathe through your mouth, which is, of course, inherently against your better nature. But once you get the hang of it, it's very nice to float about with the fish. I'd highly recommend it.