Megan and Tal Blog Bonaire: Day 3: Happy Birthday, Steven. We miss you.

Our day began with waking up at about 8:30 to go snorkeling. This was Tal’s idea originally, because Megan never wakes up early, but she was happy about it, she swears. We had a quick breakfast of bread and peanut butter (which Tal made because Megan was useless), threw on our fins, and departed the shore. We swam out to the drop-off–where the sea floor begins to descend into the deeper ocean, and the reef truly begins. We took turns seeing how deep we could dive, and figuring out how to blow bubble rings. (Megan’s were pretty good, but she’s had a lot of practice; Tal’s are coming right along.) We fooled around for awhile, and eventually decided to head back to shore. On the way back, we spotted an eel’s spotty tail poking out from underneath a round rock. Eels are gnarly and sort of unusual, so we swam down to see it, and just as we got to the bottom a rare fish called a sailfin blenny darted out from the rock and dramatically made his appearance. Sailfin blennies are appropriately named: the males have a large, sail-shaped fin on their backs, which they wave about ridiculously as a mating ritual. It is really ostentatious except for the fact that they are about 2 inches long. They are also very rare, so Megan freaked right out. When we told Grandma, she didn’t believe us, but we’ll show her later. We memorized where to find that rock.

After getting back and working for awhile, Tal and Megan decided to open up a box of mac and cheese for lunch. We’ve never really cooked together, but this went well. Tal decided that the mac would be better with green beans, especially if the green beans were sauteed in butter. Megan never thinks butter is a bad idea. It was delicious. We are an excellent snorkeling team and an excellent cooking team. It was good. Really good. Cheesy.

After lunch, the family packed up our bags and headed off to the Carib Inn, hereafter known as Bruce’s, for an afternoon boat dive. Boat dives are interesting because, first of all, you can go anywhere. Secondly, there is no sand to get into your boots as you put your tank together. Finally, you get to roll off the back of the boat into the water, which is terrifying the first few times you do it, and fun afterwards. Though Tal didn’t really get to roll today; she sort of just fell backwards and plopped. In any case, we got into the water and were off.

This boat dive was even more interesting than normal because of our divemaster/boat captain, Ralph, who is big, blonde, European, and a man, all of which, when taken together, Tal finds abjectly terrifying. None of us know why, and she’s at a loss to explain her emotions, but she’s very good-natured about her phobia. Wendy took a picture of Ralph from behind as he was driving the boat, and told Tal that it would be hanging in her room before long. The rest of us like Ralph enough.

This is Ralph. Can't you see how scary he is?

While on the boat, Ralph told us about the dive site that we were visiting, a site called Small Wall because it has a sheer (but small) wall of coral and sponges at a depth of about 40 feet. He told us a few of the things we might see, and then said, “Unfortunately, if I see a lionfish, I’ll have to kill it. That might be a little gruesome.” Someone asked, “How do you kill it?” Ralph said, “I spear it, and then stab it a few times.” There is good reasoning behind this: Lionfish are an invasive species native to, I think, Indonesia, that have recently invaded the Atlantic (Tal tells me from an unfortunate accident in Atlanta, GA). They are big, beautiful, and deadly in several different ways. They have poisonous spines all over their bodies that can, on occasion, cause fatal stings (most usually just painful ones), and, more to the ecological point, they eat absolutely everything. So, the lionfish must die. Over the course of the dive, Ralph floated around in his black wetsuit and equipment, holding a long fishing spear in one hand and a knife in the other. He looked like an underwater angel of death. He found five lionfish in all, but we were only there to witness the deaths of three. As he’s said, it was gruesome. When a lionfish is speared through the head, it goes into convulsive death throes and it is easy to imagine it emitting little fishy screams. Lionfish guts and brains floated around the scene like a gory halo and hordes of other fish gathered around, intrigued by the prospect of lunch. After the second of these murders, Megan wrote on her slate and handed it to Tal: “Ok. I’m scared of him too.” Tal smiled so hard that her regulator fell out of her mouth.

A lionfish. Don't ever touch one.

After our long dive, we dismembered our gear (but not each other) and jumped back into the water to snorkel a bit while waiting for the other divers to get back to the boat. Basically, we can’t stand to be out of the water for more than 30 seconds. Megan especially likes snorkeling around divers—it’s like coming down from the surface and saying, “I bring you greetings from the surface world!” Tal just likes snorkeling and thinks Megan is a little strange, but still loves her.

After all of this watering, we took a nap back at the Carib Inn, on top of their gazebo. It was great.

We all went home and had a snack. It is worth mentioning here that this is an important anniversary for our Bernstein family: today, our uncle Steven, our mothers’ brother and grandparents’ son, would have been 51. He died of Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma long before either of us were born, but we love him as if we knew him (we are forever hearing stories about him). We toasted him with wine, crackers, and nice cheese. We feel that if he were here, he would be adventuring right along with us, and laughing with us. It’s an odd thing to miss someone you never knew, and it’s hard to explain, but we know how it feels. We love you, Steven, and happy birthday.

Dinner was yummy. It was roasted chicken, pasta with roasty veg, and broccoli. You know. Good food.

Megan was sort of boring for much of today because she was racing to finish one of the best books she’s ever read. She sat on the dock outside the apartment, reading the last few pages with a headlamp, looking somewhat like a crazy person. During these last few pages, Tal snuck up behind her, settled down, and watched her, holding a spoonful of hazelnut spread and waiting for her to be done, already. Megan had no idea that Tal was there, and was so engrossed and entranced by her book, that she was speaking quite extensively to herself. Tal is very polite about this, but admits that she was a little amused. The hazelnut spread eased the pain of finishing such a good book. We had some nice, long talks about life and family, and we are very much enjoying each other’s company, as we expected we would. To anyone who is reading this: we’ll see you soon.

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