Feeling a bit chilly lately, island girls? Let the warming process commence – grab yourself a warm cup of tea and a long-sleeved shirt… it’s winter in the tropics!
Ah, winter on a rock as a swimming instructor. Time for me to break out the sweatshirts and wetsuits as temperatures plunge below 80°F during the day and sometimes even below 70°F at night. Now before my mainland friends and family tune up their tiny violins, please try to see this from my perspective. In less than 6 months, my blood thickened in sync with the intense sun rays and tropical temps – and that was last winter. Another year in, hot flashes notwithstanding, I thrive in the 88°F scorching sun and draw a quick breath with a cooler breeze. And, even after a holiday in NC where 14°F ushered me back onto a plane in a hurry, below 80°F feels cool to me. It’s a shift in temperature perception most of my fellow islanders share.
Bearing this in mind, communicating with folks back home (home basically meaning anywhere in the US) takes some serious verbal navigating. They ask how I’m doing but tend to get a bit peeved when I mention being cold. To them, my life is one endless beach vacation. Did they not hear me say that I’m working 5 1/2 days each week? True, I work in swimming pools and teach yoga on the beach… but it’s still work! IT IS! Nope, they simply won’t hear it. “You live in paradise. We have no pity.” But pity is not what I’m asking for. I was simply responding to the question of how I’m doing. Cold. Sigh. I clearly need to hone my verbal gymnastics skills.
Back to my thawing out… Though the particular pool that I taught in today was a pleasant 81°F, the air temperature didn’t rise that high, the waves were crashing as the winds kicked up, and the sun spent its time hiding behind the cloud cover. By the end of the lesson, my three-year-old student’s lips were quivering and I had goosebumps covering my wet skin as I rose out of the water. Cooler days and colder pools loom in my future. Laugh if you will, but I’ll be donning a shorty wetsuit in the pool soon, as this is only the beginning of winter – and of the scoffs from US friends hurling sarcastic pity messages and labeling me spoiled and ungrateful.
With every negative comment I receive, even if it is delivered with a hint of jest, I examine it for any truth and for any needed behavior changes. Am I spoiled? On island living – yes. On warm temperatures year-round – yes. On diving year-round – yes. Am I ungrateful? Perhaps it would seem that way as I detail my day, focusing on how truly cold I am lately. But such is the way of everyday conversations – they asked, and it’s honestly my main recollection from my work day.
After checking the local temp (77°F), I swipe the app to the next saved location: Hugo, MN where it’s a whopping 2°F. That’s when my gratitude rises considerably. Why one of my best friends (and fellow divers) chooses to live there, I cannot fathom. But she does. And I don’t. And for that, I am immensely grateful, albeit spoiled.
Hmm, was that a hot flash or the midday high?
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