Peek-a-Boob! I see you!(or how one little breast brought two worlds together...)
I am sitting in the mission house of Hato Mayor in the Dominican Republic. It's early morning and I'm listening to life in the barrio awaken as I lay in bed. Life in the street is getting busy. Cars rumble along. A rooster crows nearby again and again. I'm on a two-fold purpose for this trip. First, my daughter, Jordan, is with me. This is her gift for graduating from college (yippee! At last!) The second purpose is to continue building the connection between our church and the little church we helped complete two years ago. We have just returned from a four-day stay in Puerta Plata at an all-inclusive resort and are now staying with our Dominican family, Pedrito and Arelis Marmolejos (mar-mo-lay-hos).
Our stay in the barrio is subject for other posts. For now, I just want to write about our little excursion to go snorkling at Paradise Island. I've never snorkled before, have you? It's much easier than I thought it would be to coordinate breathing through the tube and swimming with fins. The breathing came easily, I believe, because of the nose piece that covered our noses and prevented a lick of air to come through. One bit of intake through the nose created a vacuum in a hurry. Yup, one breath through the nose and I learned in a hurry that I
would be breathing through my mouth! It's a bit frightening to attempt a breath only to find there is no air. Didn't like that feeling one bit.
It was a lovely excursion. The two and a half hour bus ride to and from was not a lot of fun, although the scenery was beautiful. Paradise Island is a sand bar pretty much in the middle of nowhere. It is surrounded by a small reef. Within 20 minutes of landing, we had our snorkels and fins and were swimming with the fishes. No lesson, just sink or swim. Jordan and I swam. I have not gone swimming in the ocean for a long time. I forgot how easy it is to float in salt water. I thought I would have to work hard to swim and breath at the same time. It felt effortless and allowed us to enjoy the view below. I think there are probably more beautiful reefs to experience, but for our first time out, it was just right. Bright blue fish, yellow striped fish, tiny white fish swam by, just out of reach. Gigantic white sea urchins and sand dollars were settled helter-skelter along the sandy bottom ocean floor. The coral reef was a mass of life, seaweed waving gently with the current.
We spent two-plus hours on the island. It is not a big sandbar, maybe a little more than a tenth of a mile long and not very wide. Four or five little shelters had been set up to give a break from the sun beating down and to provide a little snack bar where freshly sliced fruit and drinks were provided. The pineapple here is to die for. Not an under ripe one to be found. Also yummy were the cantelope and oranges. So much more flavor than that found in the grocery stores at home. The drinks consisted of Coke and rum, Sprite and rum, rum, rum or rum, oh, and a little bit of water. Not being a rum girl myself, I chose the water. I got a quizzical look from the young man serving the drinks.
Anyway, we spent quite bit of time on the sandbar out of the water, as they had to take turns bringing small groups snorkeling. So Jordan and I sat and relaxed and talked and people-watched. I love to people-watch. It keeps me entertained for hours. Anyway, this one particular couple from another group caught my eye. From their accent, I could tell they were German (I actually found out later they were Austrian). He had made several trips to the bar, NOT for water. During one trip, I heard him say to the boy, “Gots to getz Mama drrrunk.” It made me chuckle. They were a couple in their seventies. He wasn't very tall, a bit shorter than me, and was of stocky build, belly round. He looked strong-like-bull. She was littler still, short gray hair and blue eyes that sparkled. I watched her quite a bit. I just loved how her roundish, seventy-year old body embraced her two piece bathing suit. The top was skimpy as bikinis go, the bottoms not quite so, but a two-piece just the same. I delighted in the lack of self-consciousness she exhibited. In fact, that is one thing I appreciate about the majority of European woman I saw---they seemed to have no care about sporting the perfect body in their bikinis. They wear them with abandon. We Americans could learn a thing or two about that.
So I watched them. Near the end of our stay on the “island”, I watched as she walked over toward a group. Something wasn't quite right, but it took my mind a minute to realize what my eyes were seeing. She was oblivious to the fact that her errant right breast had loosened itself from its bindings and was laid out there for all to see. Everything started to move in a bit of slow motion as Jordan and I watched with mouths agape. It was like we couldn't move. We stood there. I said, “Jordan, look. That little woman's boob is hanging out. She doesn't know it.” Like idiots, we stood there and watched. The woman bent over to pick up a t-shirt. “Good,” I thought, “she'll put it on before she realizes it.” Not so. She continues to walk around, oblivious. We continue to stand like idiots and watch. She walks over to her husband and they talk for several minutes. They talk for several minutes and HE NEVER SAYS ONE WORD ABOUT HER EXPOSED BREAST!! Jordan and I are just amazed at this and still we are stuck where we are standing underneath the little grass rooftop. The little woman walks away from her husband and begins to weave through the small crowd, Betty Boob pointing the way. I begin an internal battle---”go tell her, Jan.” “No, I don't want to embarrass her!” “Embarrass her, Stupid, her boob is hanging out in all its glory!!” I do a stop-start-stop-start-stop-start-STOP. What is so flipping hard about this? I tell men their flies are unzipped all the time! Sheesh! The final straw comes when Jordan points out two women in their twenties who are laughing and pointing at her. That is IT. Stupid bimbos. I walk up to her. I point. She looks at me confused. She holds up her t-shirt toward me like that's what I might want. I shake my head and point again. She just looks at me with a puzzled expression on her face. Finally, I lightly touch my hand to her chest (No, NOT on her breast, silly!) She looks down and exclaims loudly, “OHH!!” She puts the girl away and then grabs me in a hug. We laugh, laugh, laugh, then she starts going on about her husband not saying a word. She hugs me again. He walks over. She berates him. He shrugs his shoulders and says to us nonchalantly, “I know what she's gots.” Pause. “And she knows whats I'ves gots, too!” He chuckles. We all laugh. She smacks his arm and says something to him in German. We talk for several minutes, but too soon it is time to go. We wave our good-byes and head toward our separate boats.
Shortly after a boat ride and a quick trip to a Dominican restaurant, we meet up briefly again. We invite them to join us at our table and we sit and eat. We learn their names are Peter and Eva and they are from Austria. They have been married about 15 years. We learn much in such a little amount of time. She is his second wife. He has one boy and a granddaughter. She has two children. They like to travel. He lived 50 years in Canada and was an engineer. She was an only child. She was conceived when her mother was barely 16. Her father was the first man her mother had “been with” and she was conceived the first time “they were together”. And kids think it can't happen to them. Ha. Her father was later killed in the war (WWII). They are just delightful. We eat. Eva coughs and I look. She turns toward Peter and taps his arm. She's choking. She motions him to pat her back. He keeps asking, “Heimlich? Heimlich?” I pound her back. She tries to cough. I pound some more. She coughs. Jordan grabs her bottle of water, quickly twists off the cap and hands it to her. She drinks it. She continues to cough a bit and tears are streaming down her cheeks, but she is going to be okay, I can tell she was scared. She keeps patting my arm. “Thank you, thank you.” she repeats.
We finish our lunches and say our good-byes. We hug. Eva says something about me saving her life. She hugs me again. We board our buses and go our separate ways. A glimmer in time has passed.
On the long ride home, I chuckle at random times. Jordan asks, “What?” Each time I answer the same. I'm just thinking about Peter standing talking to Eva while her little breast is playing Peek-a-boob. “I knows what's she's gotz.” Well, now, a lot of us do, too.
Today was a gift from God and I am grateful.