Friday, December 10, 2010

Boots Off!

Sometimes in the middle of our deployments, we are allowed a few days off.  It helps troops refresh themselves mentally, physically and emotionally.  It's an essential priviledge that is intended to help our people maintain their sanity so that they can maintain focus on the mission.  It is an awesome treat!

So I recently got to go on my little vacation.  I went back home to see my mom, sister, and other relatives I haven't seen in years.  Although I didn't get to see my kids, I was able to reconnect with family as well as my culture.  Being away from my roots has allowed me to forget the sites, smells, tastes and beauty of where I'm from.  So of course I was ecstatic to get to go back in time and take a visit into my childhood.

Balati.  It is my native word for "sea cucumber."  One of the weirdest things you can find at a beach!  This is the one thing my siblings and I would dread whenever we got to spend a few hours under the sun, in the sand and swim in the crystal clear beach water.  Our dad used to pick this thing up and hurl it at us so that it would squirt this nasty gummy bodily fluid at us.  The poor things.  When we went to the beach, I made it a goal to find one, pick it up and NOT throw it for once. 

First of all, the balati looks like a sunken turd.  Yes you read right.  Look at it.  It looks like someone pooped and it sunk.  Gross!  And it's super slimy with a very smooth texture.  It's just SO weird.  When you're wading in the water and not paying attention, you'll know when you step on one and your immediate reaction is normally the feeling of creepiness!!  At the same time, I think they are such cute creatures.  All they do is lay on the floor of the beach, lazy as a couch potato.  And they're so defenseless when some jerk grabs them and hurls them at people.  Can you imagine just lounging around, daydreaming and then getting picked up and next thing you know you're flying through the air uncontrollably and slamming right into a screaming human?  Awful.  I should make a Save the Balati T-shirt.  Hmmm... maybe I should!

At the beach, I got to watch my neice bury my nephew in the sand.  She was very determined to cover her brother.  He is such an awesome big brother.  He laid there perfectly still and patiently as she made him into a giant lump of sand.  She even got his forehead.  I can't imagine how much time he had to spend to get all that sand out of his hair, ear and probably his nose!  LOL Kids don't care, though.  I love that about them.  The best part of the beach was watching these guys play.

One of the best things I got to do on my vaca was to drink fresh coconut juice and eat Munha (the young, green coconut).  I hadn't had this since I was a kid.  When I saw that my sister had a few coconut trees on her property, I begged my uncle to cut me up a coconut.  It was AWESOME. Unlike regularly eaten coconut, Munha's meat is soft and jelly-like.  It is incredibly sweet.  My mouth is watering just thinking of it.  Anyway, to do it properly, you've gotta use a machete to chop the husk until you get to the inner shell.  Once you hit that, you only want to get a slice of it so that it makes a hole.  Then, you drink the juice straight from the coconut!!  Yumm.  After that, you chop it in half and use the chopped husk to scoop out the soft Munha meat.  Check out the pics below for a visual!

The absolute best thing about my trip was getting to spend time with my mom and sister.  It has been too long since the three of us ladies got to hug each other and just hang out.  I miss my sister so much.  We never got to enjoy each other's relationship as adults.  We grew up the way sisters grow up and then I joined the military and we lived separate lives.  I absolutely miss being able to just have my sister around.  I used to write stories and she'd read them every time I was done with a chapter.  She'd tell me what she liked or didn't like.  She is my all-time favorite reader.  And I miss having her around.

My mom and I went to a salon and got our feet done.  YAY FOR GIRL DAY.  OMG It is amazing how pampered you feel when you get a foot spa and pedicure done after spending 12 hours a day in combat boots every day.  I got to sit in a massage chair, soak my feet in hot salted water, get them rubbed and pedicured.  Probably one of the best forms of pampering you can afford when you're on a tight budget.  It was really cool getting to do something like this with my mom.  Wish we were closer so we could do it more often, at least on occasion.

And finally, one of the things we did on my vacation was this:  My mom adopted a cat.  She works all day long and goes in on weekends, gets called in on her days off, just a good old fashioned work-a-holic.  :P She's single, has her own place that she decorates just the way she likes.  But has no one to share it with at the moment.  So she wanted a cat.  His name is Edward.  He's a gorgeous, regular domestic short hair.  But he is really skittish.  The vet techs said he probably wasn't handled very often as he is really scared of people.  When we brought him to my mom's house, we kept his box open so he could come out on his own whenever he was ready.  And he stayed in there for HOURS.  But finally, at night, he spent a long time playing with the toys we got him.  Of course, he'd run and hide if we made a move LOL.  But I think he'll come around in time when he gets used to my mom's presence.  I think they'll both be very appreciative of being together.

I'm glad I was able to not only take a break from the deployment for a few days, but to visit my family.  It was a priviledge I'll always be grateful for.  Now I'm back to work, ready to get my hands dirty in busy-ness.  Very much refreshed!


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