Family & Fun in the Sun

You learn a lot about yourself living the Foreign Service lifestyle. There’s nothing like moving every 1-3 years, finding yourself constantly dropped in new situations and new countries, to speed the process of learning who you are (good and bad).

I, for example, have learned this: though I love me an adventure, I’m a rooted person at heart. Living in China and Suriname were irreplaceable experiences… but when all is said and done, I could be happy settling in my hometown, among the family and friends of my childhood. I’ve been to beaches in Hawaii, Mexico, Thailand, Ireland, Curaçao, Aruba, and Costa Rica. Every one of those places has stunningly beautiful coastlines, and I feel so blessed to have been able to visit.

But my favorite beach is still the slice of the Gulf of Mexico I call home.

Luckily, I have a husband who takes/sends me home whenever he can. And my recent Texas adventures didn’t disappoint. Of my 11 days back, I made it oceanside on 8 of them. That tallied up to:

  • 6 surf sessions with my dad and/or brothers.
  • 1 offshore boat trip to snorkel around an oil rig reef
  • 1 line-caught fish (though it was just a feisty hardhead we were happy to send back to the sea)
  • 1 jellyfish sting across the mouth (weirdest.sensation.ever.)
  • 1 stalking of a sea turtle through the waves
  • 1 very satisfying bout of “ocean-gazing”

Perhaps only my fellow ocean-lovers will get this, but for me, the sea truly is a balm for my soul. That’s where I’m my happiest, most whole self.

Plus: it’s an awesome way to hang out with the people I love. My last day, I got to go surfing with my dad and both my brothers–a rare treat. (Major shout-out to my brother Jared’s lovely girlfriend for capturing the moment, though he’d already paddled out of sight before these were snapped.)

And for the first time, I snatched a chance to snorkel off an oil rig while my dad and my brother Hunter spearfished.

I was stunned by all the life gathered in that small cobalt corner of the sea. A ridiculous variety of fish danced around the makeshift reef: sergeant majors and spadefish, damselfish and gobies. One lone barracuda lurked within the rig, and my brother pointed out a whole barrage of them just on the other side.

And did I mention that the husband and I scored a swimming session with wild dolphins? They came up to examine our boat, and we slid into the water quietly, fingers crossed that they wouldn’t scatter.

On the contrary, a mother and calf swung by me for two inquisitive, up-close-and-personal encounters, clicking at me to see if I’d click back. They sailed by so closely, I could’ve touched them.

In all sincerity: it was one of the most magical moments of my life.

And though I wasn’t there for this particular encounter, I feel obligated to share Hunter’s awesome video of dolphins racing the boat the next day:

Like all good things, the trip came to an end. Leaving my family and friends–and the ocean–always tears me apart a little. I’ve shed a lot of tears in my hometown airport.

But they’re a price well worth paying.

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