Calvin is the gardener here at the small building we’re staying at – or that’s his official title but it seems to us he does near everything.  He speaks English with the same fluency that we speak Spanish, which is not at all.   It turns out though, that some things don’t need words. 

Hank had heard from another Canadian family (this place is filthy with Canadians) that there was a turtle living near here.  We searched for a few days, having only the clues from someone else that it was a turtle, and it was in some sort of box, somewhere off the path.  Mum looked, I looked, Erin looked – and we couldn’t find a thing.  Naturally, it was Hank who had the tenacity to keep looking, and he eventually found the box, which was more of an open concrete square.  (This is one of the troubles with us trying a few Spanish words, and them trying a few English – things can get slightly shifted in the translation.  Last night at dinner the cook told us that the dessert had "scratched" coconut.  Turned out that he meant "grated" which makes sense, sort of, and is exactly the sort of mistake we would make in the other direction.)  Hank was pretty sure that he’d seen the turtle go under the water there, but after we’d all squatted by this pool for a bit, we were seriously beginning to doubt him.  We were asking all those insulting questions that grownups ask kids.  "Are you sure it was a turtle?" "Are you sure it wasn’t something else? Maybe a plant?" (When I think about it now, I’m not surprised that kids sometime lose their patience with us.)

We went back to the pool nearby, and only Erin hung in there with Hank, and after a little while, Calvin happened by and saw them lurking there in the bushes.  Maybe he remembered being a kid, or maybe he just knew there was only one possible reason why a kid would be squatting by a fetid pool of water, or maybe it’s the way that no matter where you go in the world, it seems like kids are just better understood and more welcome than they are in North America, but Calvin walked right over and reached down into the water…

and came up with the turtle. 

Hank was thrilled and vindicated.  Today’s Spanish word? 


96 thoughts on “Wildlife

  1. Another slice of tropical perfection – it is the next best thing to being there! Glad to see that you are relaxing and enjoying some family time (and learning some spanish to boot).

  2. Tortuga is one of my fav words. Hank is absolutely adorable. And Calvin is a sweetheart to save the day!

  3. Tortugas!!!!!!!!!! Me amo tortugas. Your trip is making me long for the time I lived in Costa Rica. I’m also envious of your complete exploration of somewhere new, because there is much to be said communication without speaking the same language.

  4. I’m so enjoying your journey! So glad you are living a life of “NO REGRETS!” You are making memories.

  5. Tortuga is indeed a great word, it reminds me of Pirates of the Caribbean. Also, in my experience holding turtles upside down makes them unhappy.
    Keep up the good adventuring! =)

  6. Buen trabajo, Calvin! (great job, Calvin) and congrats to Hank who seems to be getting to experience something exciting every day! That kid knows how to do a vacation! Can I take him with me next time? I’m sure my vacations will be much more fun with him around.

  7. Yup, nothing beats an 11yo boy for tenacity…unless it’s a 12yo boy and his 10yo brother…don’t ask me how I know. It would take too long.

  8. hooray for Calvin! I love tortugas. If you watch them long enough, you realize that they have such interesting personalities.

  9. Steph, I am sooo happy you are having a great time down there. I can hear it in your posts how happy you are. How’s the blanket coming?

  10. And they say kids aren’t patient! Thanks for sharing moments of your vacation. I’ve never been to the tropics so it is all very interesting!

  11. I thoroughly enjoy your descriptions. What a wonderful vacation. Hank seems like the perfect guy to have along when you’re looking for adventure!

  12. Thanks for continuing to blog while on vacation. I find your writing gift spans all topics (not just knitting and fiber).

  13. I love turtles! Saw many in Hawaii and St Croix.
    You make me want to go on vacation! I’m so glad that you’re enjoying your trip!

  14. I don’t know, I can’t see “Hank” and think “child” any longer– he just looks so tall and mature now!

  15. Stephanie, I believe you may have found another venue for your writing – travel writing! Keep it coming!

  16. Yes – why do we doubt? Impatience, I think. My impatience has cost me many a wildlife view…..

  17. I’m so glad Joe talked you into going. It’s fun when you travel because then “we” get to go with you virtually. Tortuga reminds me of pirates. The good Johnny Depp/Errol Flynn kind.

  18. What a fabulous vacation.It’s wonderful to get out of your comfort zone a bit,we’ve found. You notice and appreciate the little things much more.It sounds like you’ve found a fun place to explore.

  19. I love this post – so true, so perceptive, Stephanie. Your nephew is a charming and wonderful boy. You are a great tourist, doing things like people normally do when they are at home – talk to the people around you, not obsessed with “having a great time.” You are perfect in both places, here and there.

  20. Just noticed that you tweeted about ziplining. Hope you have a blast, we sure did and we did it in the rain. The Monkey Jungle Zipline adventure was a treat for sure. Enjoy, your blog is so funny.

  21. It’s really sad that children aren’t more accepted in the United States. I’m not sure it would solve all of our problems, but it almost certainly couldn’t hurt.

  22. That is a nice size turtle and Hank sure looks happy! Nice to see the him enjoying that sun – no shirt!!

  23. Loving the tropical paradise as I watch the snow at my house. Keep it up and enjoy your vacation.
    A word of caution to you. If you buy conch shells as souvenirs they are protected and you need a permit to bring them home. If you don’t have the permit they can take them from you at customs. I found this out the hard way….

  24. Hank: gateway to all things wild and faintly exotic – chickens by the side of the road; drinking directly from machete-opened coconuts; finding turtles hiding in the water.
    What will you do without him should you go on another vacation? 🙂

  25. You guys are having such a blast! About to get our first snow here so I like looking at all your beach pictures. Enjoy every minute and I’m so glad you all have hank!

  26. I really miss the Hank stories. I completely understand why you, Hank or his Mum wouldn’t want Hank featured often on your blog. But his adventures always make me smile.

  27. Hank is a gorgeous kid, in many, many ways. I love seeing his happy face! Sounds and looks like this is a fantastic vacation, I’m so happy for you!

  28. Scratched coconut – I love these neologisms! It’s the same kind of mistake little kids make when they’re learning to talk and for all the same reasons. Very charming!
    And hooray for Hank for persisting and finding the tortuga!
    My own local 11 y.o. Spanish 1A student is enjoying your blog this trip as well.

  29. I absolutely L.O.V.E. turtles!! What a lovely fellow he found!! Thanks so much for sharing this!!

  30. You tweeted about the vegetarian thing. If you are a vegetarian because you don’t believe in killing animals, that’s one issue; if you’re a vegetarian because of the environmental impact – well, in an island environment, the fish and pork might be local and the vegetarian alternative might have come in on a ship. I’m not a vegetarian, but I do make an effort to eat as locally as I can (tea and olive oil excluded) but islands have their own issues. It’s a dilemma and I’m pretty sure you aren’t going to find tofu in the Dominican republic without a struggle – and I’m guessing it’s not a dairy and cheese hotbed either.

  31. I think that you shouldn’t give North America such a hard time about the way that children are welcomed and understood there. As a Canadian mother living with an 8 year old in the UK, I miss what I perceive to be the much more child-friendly culture of Canada. I know that Canada isn’t as welcoming as many other cultures towards children, but it isn’t the worst place either.

  32. I love reading your blog, even when (or maybe especially when?) it isn’t about knitting! You have such a great way of sharing. Keep it up! As an avid reader…I am wondering when your first work of FICTION will come out…something about a globe trotting Canadian who travels the world making observations and solving crazy knitting mysteries…perhaps a television series? 🙂

  33. I’m not a terrific traveler but your travelogue (Adventures with Hank) is making it sound downright enjoyable. After the lagartija in the bathroom, be on the lookout for arañas y serpientes.

  34. Love it. Love your understanding of kids, love the smiles, and I think knitters everywhere have a special affinity for turtles.

  35. Dear Stephanie….I am one of ‘the blog’ who kindly suggested that you “leave the computer O-F-F…please!!!”(so that you could REALLY enjoy your vacation.) I just wanted to say that I have been tuning in EVERY day just to see IF you were blogging….& “thankyou” for NOT heading my advice ’cause I sure am enjoying your vacation right along with you (& Hank!!!) Gracias!!!! ((:

  36. This is so much fun! Here I am, surrounded by much of the two feet of snow we got last weekend, and enjoying your Adventures with Hank. Don’t get me wrong, I love snow, and hated the years we lived in the hot, humid southeast U.S. But, I’m thoroughly enjoying your tropical vacation in mid-winter. Thank you for sharing!

  37. Do you think the some times less than welcoming environment for kids in North America is a legacy from the Victorian attitude of “kids should be seen and not heard”? Enjoy the sunshine! We’re certainly getting to know all the shades of February gray here in western NY.

  38. Your sidebar twitter feed (or would that be sidebar tweet?) asks what queso de hoja is. I don’t know the answer so I checked google translate which tells me hoja is sheet. A sheet of cheese? I say “Bring it on!”

  39. Great vacation. I am so glad your husband is so tuned in to encourage you to go. Memories of a lifetime. I raise 2 sons and am really enjoying the Hank stories- memories……………

  40. I’m not surprised you’re having trouble with Spanish. You can’t even speak Southern (remember the “bacon powder” story)

  41. Have to agree with many others — it’s also a delight to see a new blog entry pop up, but these vacation ones are particularly relaxing and vacation like.
    I am glad you’re not charging us for our part of the trip, though.

  42. And of course, also above actually means always. Guess my fingers decided also was much easier to type. And it is, I see, having typed them both again. Always is really quite a workout compared to also.

  43. Everybody loves Hank and want to do things for him. I think you need to steal him from your sister and keep him with you all the time. He must have a great spirit.

  44. Calvin obviously remembers what it’s like to be Hank’s age. . .and that the turtle is something of a local celebrity! I’m just glad it wasn’t a snapping turtle like the ones we have in the upper Midwest — those suckers are dangerous!
    And I must echo so many others — Hank is growing into a very good-looking guy. He’s going to be breaking some hearts in another year or three, mark my words. Also, I’m jealous of his hair! What’s the current Canadian tweener slang for way cool, totally rad, absolutely bitchin’, and really awesome??

  45. Glad you are taking some R and R time. You are making wonderful memories for Hank to carry for a lifetime.

  46. Those little bananas? “Plantanos.” They are traditionally eaten all the time as a side dish or snack. You slice them and fry them until they’re golden in a lot of oil and them slop sour cream and hot sauce all over them.
    Just do it.

  47. Those little bananas? “Plantanos.” They are traditionally eaten all the time as a side dish or snack. You slice them and fry them until they’re golden in a lot of oil and them slop sour cream “crema” and hot sauce all over them.
    Just do it.

  48. Hurray for the Calvins of the world, and for the Hanks, too! And for Stephanies who bring us the smiles, and Tortugas, for the mystery and discoveries. I remember my first turtle and how fascinating it was to see them pull in their head and then slooooooowly bring it back out. Enjoy your adventures, and thanks for sharing them!

  49. queso de hojas is a cheese that is not entirely unlike mozzarella. Maybe a cross between mozzarella and curds? Can be very nice.

  50. I’m enjoying your blog report of your vacation. As amusing and interesting as the knitting and traveling and writing. Your family sounds like tons of fun.

  51. Joe and your mother should have used: “The Blog will love you for vicariously taking them to a tropical place” as a reason to get you there. For serious. I am so happy to hear of a lovely vacation adventure in a warm place when I am freezing at work in Utah. Bless your hearts.

  52. And now after reading through the comments, I find it hard to believe that the knitters are giving you a hard time for saying that they are friendly to kids and you are vegetarian. God, I hardly think the produce from the side of the road stand isn’t local and somehow environmentally friendly. God damn it, Stephanie, don’t you listen to that negativity. You have to enjoy this vacation for all of us!

  53. I am having so much fun going on your vacation vicariously! I am glad that you guys are having adventures of all sorts, while experiencing a new culture. Isn’t it fun? It reminds me of a trip I took a few years ago to Belize. I someday want to go back so I can interact more with people, and see more of the beauty of that country.
    Anyway, hope the rest of your trip is eventful…in a good way, and can hardly wait for more installments of “stephanie on the road!”
    Oh, and by the way, how is that baby blanket coming along?

  54. okay steph…the reason for the box…housing the turtle?
    Um…it’s a plan…
    Turtle may not be long for this world.
    Hope you like turtle soup.

  55. 20 words of Spanish, plus the few new ones you learn each day….. you’re doing just fine! Now you know how we felt during 2 weeks in France with about 20 words of French. We managed fine with a smile and basic good manners, and so will you.

  56. My son spent years being embarrassed because I’d ask questions, point, try a language, and have all sorts of cool things happen as a result. He liked the results, but I, the mom, was the Hank-ish one! Everyone should take those chances when traveling. Thanks for posting even while vacationing!

  57. Wow, nice call on Hank’s part, great turtle!
    Do I see turtle cookies and maybe some chicken cookies with coconut toppings in the Christmas cookies this year? 😉

  58. Gosh, it sounds like you – and the family – are getting the hang of this vacation thing.
    One thought: I know you have knitting but where you are is hot. I find the two sometimes don’t mix unless projects are small. Last sighted, the knitting was a blanket! Not small. Hot. Lying on the lap. Okay, so the heat thing is partly the menopausal part of me talking, but how do you handle it?
    Enjoy the sunshine. Ontario is very cold and snowy today. Loved the turtle story and hope you are finding more to eat.

  59. love it!! are there amazing birds down there? any chance you can enlist Hank and Calvin to help you rustle up a photo of one?

  60. It’s so nice to read about your vacation while I’m sitting in my freezing cold office surrounded by a foot of snow. It makes me feel a bit warmer.

  61. Wish I could meet you in Madrona. When you introduce Brian for the talent show … call him “SMOKEY” and ask him how he got that name. He’ll know you have had a note from his Mother. And give him a hug for me!

  62. Hooray for Hank and Calvin… ahh for a lazy day in which there is nothing better in the whole wide world than having a friend who will fish out a tortuga for you.
    Loving these holiday posts!

  63. hi steph… just wondering… how’s the baby blanket coming along? can’t wait to see pics!

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