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  • Katherine Sirvio

This Is Only Chapter 1

So after taking a brief hiatus from my weekly blogging to travel around South America, I am ready to get back up and running. What a hiatus it was! My husband, Andy and I visited many wonderful places that I hope to tell you about in the coming weeks, but one story stands out and although we have completed our travel, it is only the beginning. This first chapter begins in the Galapagos - Floreana Isla, also known as Santa Maria.

But let me back up a hot second. After traveling for a couple of weeks in South America, we took a tour boat with Overseas Adventure Travel to visit the Galapagos Islands. I didn't have a great understanding of what a privilege this was until we started to learn more from our naturalist, Javier. There were 12 of us on the tour, we each had our own cabin and bathroom. The crew outnumbered us, and were beyond kind and professional; they too were very knowledgeable.

We learned about the transfer of bacteria from one island to another and how it could introduce or eradicate a whole species. This was the reason why our shoes were washed after each island visit, which the boat crew kindly took care of. We learned why you should never touch a sea lion - the baby's do not know who their mothers are and they cry out and wander from female to female looking for their mom. The mothers only know their baby by smell and will not 'foster' another females baby. So if you touch a sea lion and introduce another smell, the mother won't recognize it and it will eventually die. We witnessed many sea lions that we thought were older nursing. They are pretty large. I could go on and on, it was a great learning experience, but that is not what this story - Chapter 1 - is about.

​​So, let me get on with it. There is a fabulous sandy bay on the Isla Floreana where we snorkeled with sea turtles, schools of fish, stingrays and Black Tip Reef Sharks. Pretty incredible. On other islands, the sea lions would come down off the rocks and shorelines to swim and play with us. They may be slow and dopey on the ground, but rest assured these creatures are fast and graceful in the water. They would swim straight towards us and at the last second make a hairpin turn away. They were curious and fun. The sea turtles had many nesting spots that we came across in our travels, mostly that we saw on Isla Espanola. And on one evening, the boat lights were on and it attracted flying fish. They were quite a sight unto themselves, but the flying fish attracted sharks and sea lions. Our naturalist said he had never seen this many sharks around the boat, there had to be well over 100. They were between 8' and 10' in length and when they went after a flying fish it made for an adrenaline packed moment - especially on the bottom step of the stern of the boat. Funny enough, when the sea lions grew tired, they just jumped up on that same step and slept for a while.

So, once again, I digress. Chapter 1 is about Post Office Bay. Post Office Bay is a safe harbor where centuries ago whaling boats would come in, get supplies and homesick whalers would leave mail for other ships to collect that were traveling to Europe, the US or elsewhere to deliver their letters. Sometimes it would take years for letters to be delivered. The concept is simple: write your letter, leave it in the 'mailbox', in this case, an old whale oil barrel. When a new ship came into port, they would go through the mail and take the ones that were near their destination. What is fun about this is the fact that the tradition lives on today with tourists of the Galapagos. Each visitor that wishes may leave their own letters (mostly postcards) and look through the stacks for one that is close to their home. Bringing that postcard back and hand delivering it just like in the olden days.

Well, for myself, I love the romance of a handwritten letter, to begin with. I love the beautiful stationery, wax seals, the color of the ink, the thought behind the letter, taking the time to write and send. This just went the extra mile (literally) and added the journey that the letter would take to make it to that special loved one's hands and heart. I was smitten immediately.

​​So, as we looked through the mail in a now new barrel, we found one from a neighboring city. Amazing, left just a few weeks ago and could easily be hand delivered in a 15-minute car ride. So I took the postcard. Of course, being a postcard, I couldn't help but read it. It didn't have the name of the person it was to, only their address. But at the bottom, it said 'love Mom'. I could only imagine from my own wonderful relationship with my mother that they had spoken about this place and the potential of the card to come in the same way I had shared this story with my mother (as I sent her a postcard and left it at the post office 'box' too).

So with all of the thrill and romance of a great Hemingway novel in the air, on a warm spring evening last week, with the windows rolled down and the music dancing around me like a new adventure was about to reveal itself, I was off to hand deliver the postcard.

I pulled into a beautiful neighborhood, the houses large, with a charm and character from the 60s and early 70s. I found the house and pulled into a circle driveway, and almost skipped up to the front door and rang the bell. It was obvious that this was a very affluent neighborhood. The lawn was manicured, the home appeared to be well kept. A young lady answered the door. She was tall and thin with curly reddish brown colored hair that fell down to her shoulders. I introduced myself, told my story and waited for the big smile on her face.

The smile was never to come. The young lady, was indeed the daughter of the woman who wrote the postcard, as I had imagined. However, she could not grasp the concept of this tradition. Even on the third time of explaining who I was and why I had a postcard to deliver to her from her mother, she had a blank look on her face. 'So it was mailed to you by mistake?' she asked for the third time.

It was then that I realized, there was never a lovely conversation with her mother, there was no romance of a handwritten letter, there was no Hemingway, instead there was a blank stare and a less than interested party standing at the door that had now somehow evolved to just a boring white piece of wood with a window in it. The magic had evaporated and I handed her the card and left - crushed. But this is only Chapter 1. I still have hopes that someone with romantic thoughts similar to my own, will pick up the card addressed to my mother (Chapter 2) or the second one that I put in the 'mailbox' - to myself and my husband (Chapter 3). May destiny find that individual and let us meet up for a fabulous cup of tea while we discuss the magic of the Galapagos.

I wish everyone the privilege and opportunity to travel to the Galapagos Islands, they are magical in every sense possible and very difficult to give justice to in photos or words.

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