Our Caribbean vacation

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A while ago, each winter Janie and I and numerous family members and friends would vacation in the Caribbean. We made two trips to Cozumel Island, one to Cancun, one to St. Martin, two to Playa del Carmen, south of Cancun, and one each to Curaçao and Aruba. The last two are islands not far off the coast of Venezuela.
I didn’t particularly enjoy Cancun. The beach was too crowded, and too many visitors were playing boom-boxes, creating an ear-splitting racket. I spent most of my time in a rented Volkswagen exploring the Yucatan Peninsula. I would not recommend St. Martin – at least not the Dutch part where we were staying. I was told that the French part was nicer aesthetically and that, in contrast to the former, where bathing suits were required, on the latter, clothing was “optional.” When we returned, I learned that at the same time we were visiting, Rush Limbaugh was visiting the French part of St. Martin.
Curaçao was enjoyable. Where we were staying, a rock breakwater about 100 yards offshore extended for about half a mile, with occasional openings. It provided for ideal conditions for snorkeling. Interestingly, the composition of the populations of fish and other marine life differed from one side of the breakwater to the other. I enjoyed strolling along the beach but was distracted by topless bathing beauties lying on the sand. I would sometimes glance at them, but I made a concerted effort not to stare. On one occasion a topless young woman walked directly in front of me and at the edge of the water, took off the bottom of her bikini and rinsed it.  I played like I didn’t even notice, as if I had a cosmopolitan upbringing.
But by far the most enjoyable place we visited was Aruba. The weather was perfect, as it was on Aruba’s sister island, Curaçao. The temperatures between June and December and between midnight and noon are rarely more than four degrees Fahrenheit on either side of 82 degrees. A constant easterly trade wind blows, and the humidity is low, so no one ever breaks a sweat.
We stayed at the all-inclusive Tamarijan Beach Resort. It wasn’t as elaborate as some of the other places we visited, but it had amenities I found nowhere else. Each morning about 6:30 a.m. I would go to the open-air restaurant to drink my coffee, read a newspaper and smoke my morning cigarette. Upon my arrival, little wren-sized yellow birds, bananaquits, would join me, hopping around on the table and pecking at the packets of sugar. I enjoyed their company, and I got the impression that they recognized me as a bird-lover. Large orange and black orioles (troupials) and tropical mockingbirds perched on overhead beams, awaiting my breakfast to be served, whereupon they would descend to partake of some of my eggs that I was glad to share.
When other patrons began to arrive, little ground doves and 12-inch long green lizards would show up to forage on crumbs dropped on the floor. None of the patrons seemed to object to the presence of these avian and reptilian breakfast companions.
Aruba is called a “friendly island” by residents, and I tend to agree. Every Aruban with whom I had contact was friendly. It’s a downright shame that the visiting girl from Mountain Brook, Natalee Holloway, disappeared from Aruba, as did a lady from Maryland six years later. The last person to see Natalee was a young man, Joran Van der Sloot, who was never charged but not long afterward was convicted of murdering a woman in Peru. During the interim, Van der Sloot tried to extort $250,000 from Natalee’s mother to reveal the whereabouts of her daughter’s body. If this murderous man is not responsible for the young woman’s disappearance, there ain’t a dog in Georgia. At least, that’s my assessment.
Bob Mount is a Professor Emeritus with the Department of Zoology and Entomology at Auburn University. He is also chairman of the Opelika Order of Geezers, well-known local think tank and political clearing house. He writes about birds, snakes and assorted conservation topics.

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