Moment of Underwater Zen: Snorkeling Tahiti

Blue serenity surrounds Moorea, Tahiti
Swimming with a sting ray brings a sense of serenity and terror Christmas 2019

Staying at a five-star resort in exotic lands means you’ve got a concierge, there and ready, to plan trips for you without all the pesky language and custom barriers that come with solo traveling. After my one-night stay at the Moorea Intercontinental Resort and Spa, I booked a three-hour snorkeling tour in the lagoon just north of the resort. There were fish and rays and sharks, oh my! with sunlight-drenched water and a color I can only refer to as exotic blue.

Exotic blue fish and a few friends
Striped tropical guy

And then sometimes it’s just you and the water. Black-tip reef shark spotted but not captured. I thought it best to put the camera away and pay attention to my surroundings.

Lazy lagooning at the beach near my house after a day of snorkeling

Savoring Tahiti

Treading water in Moorea, Tahiti December 2019

The quiet stillness of late afternoon, soft billowing clouds, the lapping hug of the South Pacific, dogs barking from afar, seabird caws, children’s laughter, lush green forest, and the smell of brine. Christmas in Tahiti.

Positive psychology, the brainchild of the brilliant Martin Seligman, asks the field of psychology to study those things that make us happy instead of why we’re not. Savoring, or remembering good memories, gives us the opportunity to practice happiness. We have all savored our favorite dish, a great book, and cherished memories. As snowy February wraps up and graduate school gets more intense and the layers of life pile on, I thought it would be a good idea to savor some moments from my solo jaunt to Tahiti.

Sunset at my own private beach December 2019

Twenty years ago, reading Melville’s sensual Typee had me running to the bookstore to buy a map of Tahiti so I could dream and wonder and envision. Maugham’s The Moon and Sixpence, the story of a flawed dreamer who fled to Tahiti, sealed it. I would go. Some day.

Reading nook on my front porch Christmas Day 2019

I spent hours on Christmas Day reading Thor Heyerdahl’s Kon Tiki, his account of how he and five of his adventurous friends sailed from Peru to Tahiti with no modern navigational tools to support his theory that the Polynesians had settled East to West. His tale included riveting stories about the crab they befriended, the sharks they avoided, the playful dolphins, and the terrible storms they endured while wearing fast ropes. The climax includes their getting stranded on a reef and the primitive ship that endured thousands of nautical miles being torn asunder. The isles of Tahiti and its atoll brethren are surrounded by reefs, which means Moorea, where I was staying, was an island, surrounded by a lagoon, flanked on all sides by reefs.

Fresh pineapple papaya juice at the Moorea Tropical Gardens overlooking Opunohu Bay

My new Franco-German friend and I started out early one morning to explore the calm, reef-filled waters on the southwest part of the island of Moorea. We crossed the channel, in some small way fearing for our lives, but soon entered a seascape with coral clustered into boulders.

Reefy coral goodness

During those two hours of kayaking, I savored easy paddling, the mid-morning calm, the windless scape, the companionship of a new friend and kindred spirit, the bright colors of living coral, the flitting fish, and the sense of freedom that being on vacation and having no itinerary can bring.

Kayaking out to the reef December 2019
Feeling deliciously exhausted after an afternoon swim


New Year’s Eve in Cabo San Lucas


I would typically call New Year’s Eve amateur night. Lots of fussing over just another night. One of the best parts of any New Year’s Eve worth its volume in champagne is the viewing of puegos pyrotechnicos. To wind down our ten days in Cabo San Lucas, I and my traveling partners hit Medano Beach around 11:30Pm to catch the fireworks and ring in the New Year.



The all-inclusive resorts that front Medano Beach were roped off, having their own party with live music, fancy, lit-up dance floors, and folks with their dancing shoes on.


We went a little more low key, opting instead of ooing and aahing between the two sets of fireworks going off, with the banda soundtrack in the background!



Swimming Pool Etiquette


Just over two years ago I was finalizing my decision to join a gym. I was approaching the big three-nine and I wasn’t getting any healthier. I scheduled my appointment with the national gym chain and everything. Then, March 12 hit and a certain someone (who’s still on the lam, as far as I can tell) rear-ended me and my trusty Subaru in a drunken pique.

The injuries I sustained from that car accident were unlike anything I had ever experienced. Sure, the mountain bike crash in southern Colorado was painful and my ability to walk without pain shooting through my hips only subsided after an intense three months in physical therapy, but being rear-ended by Drunky the Clown causes a whole new level of hurt.

To wit: I was back on the bike, full throttle (going after it at Silver City’s famed Enduro Burro) , a mere four months after the bike accident. But it took me seven months to get (gingerly) back in the saddle after the drunk driver hit me.

What’s a tomboy to do during recovery? A different sport, if she wants to remain somewhat healthy.

So I swam. I joined the Denver Recreation Center, and I swam. The crawl and the breaststroke were too difficult at first, and made the acute pain acuter, especially the part where buttocks meet lower back–ilial sacrum or something. That part had folded around the seat belt in a cruel twist of accident.

So I went with the side and backstroke and battled with some elders on who could swim the slowest pace. Some days I won. But I liked swimming so much (even though I’ve not got the breathing thing down, never mind wallkicks) that I swam outdoors all summer.

Problem is, so did the rest of NW Denver. From 12-1 everyday, my favorite outdoor pool provides lap swim for adults. This is an excellent time to soak up the sun, get some exercise in, and be glad once again I live in Colorado.

The problem is pool etiquette. I know how to share a lane with another person, although I can’t say I like it. I’m always worried about kicking a wall or a person. But three people in a lane? Someone help me with this.

Last week I was swimming at another one of the pools in northwest Denver just before the workday. There are only four lanes, and the yuppie entitlement factor at this particular site is very high.

I arrived at the pool around 7AM, and sharing a lane was inevitable. No problem. I waited until the young lady swam to my end of the pool, asked the necessary “Do you mind if we share?” and went at it. She left not five minutes later. My body screamed “freedom!” at the thought of having my own lane.

Alas, a young man appeared at the far end of the pool and splashed in. He did not have to ask my permission to share a lane, but I find it courteous and in good taste to wait for the other person to appear at your end of the pool and make the necessary gestures of sharing with some nodding and finger pointing.

Now, I’d put money on me to survive adrift in the ocean for a few days, but I’m not a pretty swimmer nor a fast one. No finesse, no swimming lessons. I just learned as I went on the shores of southern New England and at the YMCA. But this guy splashed around like a drowning victim.

Then guy number two shows up and inquires, ya know, if we can swim in circles, all three of us in a lane. I’ve done this a few times before and I know what’s coming. These two are going to out-testosterone one another to see who’s fastest and they’re both going to be passing me. A lot. I anxiously replied, “sure” and let him go ahead of me, warning him of my tortoise-inspired speed.

And then it happened. I got passed. Again. Again. And again. And then guy number one, the drowning victim, scratches me with his toenail in his spastic attempt to fluff his peacock feathers. On the next pass he kicks me. Now, I understand accidents (see above), but this guy is a colossal asshole. When you kick someone or scratch someone accidentally, you apologize. Every kindergartener knows that.

Not this guy. He is entitled to exactly the kind of workout he believes he deserves, and he’s going to kick that slow, stocky lady if she’s in his way.

So I fought back. Not with kicks and scratches (that’s sooooo elementary school), but with my wits. When approaching guy number two with guy number one right behind me, I would speed up so passing me without hitting oncoming traffic was impossible. Then, when the passing lane had disappeared, I would swim as slowly as I could.

Now I’ve got stamina. I can mountain bike, hike, or snowboard for hours and I can even run for a few minutes. I entered that pool just after 7AM and I was going to swim until that lifeguard lady kicked me out at 8AM. I was going to outlast both guys numbers one and two, even if I felt I was being both psychologically and physically edged out by the stronger sex.

And I did. So blah.

But I’m curious:

What is the etiquette for entering a pool lane with someone already in it?

What is proper etiquette for sharing a lane with two other people? Does the slowest swimmer have an obligation to move elsewhere?

Does the first person in the lane have any poolsteading rights?