Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Florida, Beach, Culture..

Going to the beach, in the middle of February, I have the wonderful opportunity of attempting to track down a public restroom. In all I probably end up walking 2 miles. First of all, there's not much on the beach. Then, the two parallel streets closest the the beach are all made up of beach houses. No luck there. Commercial establishments, certainly quite used to the request, have no mercy for the "public", and, have no facilities available. Eventually I track down a grocery store, three blocks in from the beach, which has a public restroom (behind a "Employee's Only" sign). It's about the smallest facility I've ever seen. The mirror, not over the sink but on the door, is at about chin height (for me... lower for most people). Fortunately, I was not extremely desperate. It was, however, an interesting experience.

Had I known what I was doing, I could have walked to the official restroom/food kiosk area, about 3/4 of a mile up the beach (in the opposite direction I had headed). Ok, so such things do exist...

This is the only time I can remember feeling particularly warm in short pants and a short sleeve athletic (inorganic material) shirt, in the middle of winter. Having taken off my socks, my shoes are rubbing. After making it back to the beach, I take them off, leaving them off for the rest of the afternoon. I've not gone barefoot this long for probably over a decade. Maybe it's not all that bad. Maybe I could even run barefooted..

The beach sand is very fine, smooth.. The water's not particularly cold, although I can't stay in more than half an hour. Having been persuaded to at least try swimming, I do the only stroke I'm any good at, which amounts to swimming mostly under water. The ocean is far less salty than Salt Lake, which is great. Nonetheless, my eyes are not used to the salinity, and I'm almost worried that my "expensive" sunglasses left on top of my towel could be stolen, so I walk out.


My Russian hosts are great. The food is great. As the guest by circumstances, and considering their grace towards my dietary preferences, I'm compelled to employ my "eat without tasting" technique a couple times. I'm getting to be good at it. Not that the food is bad, but between my dietary preferences, and the foods my taste buds disagree with (two separate things entirely), there is very little to eat in many places. (Take out meat and onions, and what do you get?). For the most part it's quite excellent.

While I did drink it all, and a big glass at that (which I pored), non-alcoholic malt beverage, well, is probably not something I would personally buy..

Being surrounded by people speaking a language I don't understand (except for a few English words here and there which somehow make their way into the conversation) is a different experience. In a way, it distances me from my hosts, putting me in more of a "fly-on-the-wall" position. They can talk around, and even about me (quite good-naturedly, in this case), without worrying about my overhearing it, and essentially they carry on their lives as though I did not exist. Not that I'm ignored, or even not spoken to, but most conversation is beyond me. Some might find this intimidating, irritating, annoying, whatever. I personally enjoy it. Watching people behave in their most natural state.. It's almost like being an invisible observer of an ecosystem - where being visible would result in disturbance, in a response to your presence, inaccurate observations.. certainly my presence isn't without effect, but at least there is an illusion of distance.

Not that there are no advantages to knowing what is being said...

Sometimes I'm "afraid" to say anything, in English, not that I couldn't be understood, but because I don't want to break some invisible bubble between me and them. Some of me wants to interact, but more is content simply observing..

Late night discussions of religion and politics, over tea, sitting in the living room, on after dark walks.. It seems that Russians are more comfortable with sharp disagreement than a lot of Americans (although in this case most of the discussion is in agreement). Will the world end in our lifetime? Is America going the same way as Russia? These people are well aware of the atrocities committed by their former homeland, and of the socioeconomic difficulties there. I wish I were more able to understand, present, explain, and defend my own thoughts on the topic...


Apparently someone had been practicing for a sand sculpture competition.


Petr, posing with the mermaid

Others taking pictures of the same..