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French 101

We arrived in Guadeloupe and realized pretty quickly that we should have been more serious about learning that second language before we left the states. Tony was going to learn French and I was supposed to learn Spanish. The little we did master on Duolingo does not do us much good here, "he is a boy and she is a girl" doesn't help with directions, finding food in the grocery store or ordering out. It also makes it really hard to have a basic conversation with people, no matter how hard you try you feel like you're just not being friendly. Bon jour and merci only go so far. Thank goodness for our French Canadian friends and visiting French speaking relatives to help us decipher the language as we go. We have left the land of curry and roti and have landed in baguette and fromage territory.

Even with the lack of language, we still do experience people that are so willing to help out. Like the postal worker driving by on her scooter while we were looking for the hair salon (in Les Saintes they actually have a woman straight from Paris that cuts hair, so happy I don't have to hand the scissors over to Tony), she seemed annoyed when we asked for directions, but after she drove away she stopped and yelled at us because we were supposed to be following her and she proceeded to take us right to the door of the salon, the woman at the pharmacy that pulled up google translator when I was trying to explain Tony's symptoms when he was sick so we could get the correct medicine, the man in the Mr. Fix-it shop (it was a much better name in French, but that was the general idea) that called all over the island to help us find a rental car, or the guy that drove out on his dinghy when we were setting our anchor to direct us to a mooring that was available closer to shore and out of the rolling waves. All way above and beyond the call of duty. Our experiences keep reinforcing the universal goodness in people everywhere we go.

Guadeloupe is an island shaped like a butterfly covered in rain forests, dotted with waterfalls and volcanic craters. It's a great place to hike and see nature. We did not have enough time to see and do everything we hoped to in our time here, the weather didn't always cooperate with our plans. Weather is pretty important in our daily life now, we get up each morning and check the two weather reports that are sent to our sat phone. We no longer know what is going on in the world but we do know the weather patterns in the Caribbean for any given week. Family came to visit a few days after we arrived and we had a great itinerary planned for their week on the island. We were meeting up in Point de Pitre, Guadeloupe, sailing to the small island of Marie-Galante, on to another group of islands called Les Saintes and back to Guadeloupe in time for them to catch their flight home. But Mother Nature had other ideas, with a front coming through and high winds and seas predicted we were forced to revise our plans. Instead we sailed directly to Les Saintes for a few days, then back to Guadeloupe to visit the underwater park at Pigeon Island and the small fishing village of Deshaies, where we were sheltered from the strong winds and rough seas. We had a great time exploring and they were good sports to put up with the torrential downpours that seemed to come each time we stepped foot on the dinghy. It made us realize that everything we do is so dependent on weather and any schedule we make has to always have room for revisions, but also that the weather in no way dampens the fun of exploring new places. We are already planning a return visit when we head back north though to hike those trails that were closed and visit the islands we couldn’t reach.

While they were here we did have the opportunity to visit road side towns, fishing hamlets and beach inlets, snorkel coral reefs, hike up hills, visit historic sites and get passed by racing scooters as we chugged along in our electric rental car past the goats, cows, iguanas and chickens that shared the road with us. We are now back in Les Saintes, keeping our eye on the weather window that will help us sail further south to meet up with friends in Martinique. In the meantime I'm busy doing laundry, cleaning and provisioning the boat (I no longer go grocery shopping, now I provision) while Tony is on board with his endless list of things to fix. We loved these islands with their secluded beaches, quaint villages, great markets and friendly people, and little by little we are figuring out a small bit of the language. We now know how to distinguish between fish, chicken, beef and pork on a menu, can ask directions to the restroom, pay for the mooring in euros, and order a half kilo of jamon at the local deli and a petit gelato next door. As we brush up on our french our days continue to be marked by the sunrises and sunsets in a way they never were on land, and surprisingly they never cease to amaze us.

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