Kristan Hoffman - Writing Dreams Into Reality

Fri Mar 25 2011

La gente (Galapagos part 3)


For eight days we live in a strange mix of primitive and privilege. We are stripped down to the minimum — of clothes, comfort, language. They plunk us into puffy orange vests, and we bounce on the water like babies in a pool. There is in fact an innocence to us now, a childlike grasping to our communication. Everything is curiosity and discovery. When we don’t know the words, we try a simpler language. We speak with our eyes and our hands and our laughter.

For eight days we share our lives with strangers. And then of course they are not so strange anymore. For all of us, this is a once in a lifetime experience. What does it mean to inhabit a single moment together? We cross into one another. We are living each other’s time.

3-9 floreana, dolphins 047 colored 3-12 bartolomé 035


The locals say they still feel awe, but I’m not sure I believe them. They are in constant motion, just like the boat on which they live. Cook, sail, clean, repeat. Our vacation is their responsibility, their exhaustion. Our paradise is their status quo.

I’m glad I speak their language, even if I do it poorly. Otherwise how would we have gotten to know that Mario is from the mainland, that Elio has a cold, that Edgar’s son is named Jessie, that Angel once worked for a Japanese man who liked shark fin soup? With my broken Spanish, I hope to become more than just another passenger to ferry, another guest to please, another bed to make. Because to me they are more than just the crew.

3-12 santiago 041 3-10 santa cruz, darwin center 024


When we are back on land, Andy asks, “What will you take away from all this?” At first I don’t know how to answer. The question is too big.

“Adventure,” I say at last. It is trite but true. “Opportunities. They’re all around us, if we have the guts to pursue them.”

He imagines, perhaps, that I am referring to swimming with sharks. Or chasing penguins with my camera. Or speaking Spanish with anyone and everyone because I have to.

But I am not referring to any of those things. Or perhaps I am referring to all of them, plus one more.

I am remembering our night in Puerto Ayora, when Ruben took us to the Calle de Kioscos, to eat his favorite dish, to meet his wife and son. I am remembering the bar we went to afterward, with the Australians and the Italians. I am remembering the empty dance floor.

Loud music, dark lighting, and a room full of people I would probably never see again after the week was out. No risk, and yet still I hesitated. Ruben and his wife led the way, twisting and shaking and spinning, with their spirits full in their eyes. The Italian ladies went out next, shedding inhibition, embracing the moment, as they had done the entire trip. Then there was me, sitting on a bench, sipping jugo de mora.

The girl that sat. That wasn’t how I wanted to be remembered. Or forgotten.

After a few minutes, I got up. I danced. And now I can say it, forever. Even if I never see those people — including myself — again.

I danced in the Galapagos.

That is what I will take away from all this.

3-10 santa cruz, darwin center 028 3-13 guayaquil 071

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  1. Trisha says:
    Fri Mar 25 2011 at 9:55 PM

    It sounds like a great trip.

  2. Meghan Ward says:
    Sat Mar 26 2011 at 12:40 PM

    What a fabulous post, Kristan! You are a great writer. I could read a book of these vignettes.

  3. Scott says:
    Sat Mar 26 2011 at 12:42 PM

    Great pics…and great sentiment. I found it rather ironic that I knew someone else who was in the Pacific for the tsunami!

  4. Sonja says:
    Sat Mar 26 2011 at 1:31 PM

    Before the trip, I remember you feeling like the timing was, perhaps, less than ideal as you’d just quit your job to stay home and write. From reading your posts, though, it seems like it was totally worth it. You’ve definitely sold the Galapagos as a vacation spot to me!

  5. Sarah says:
    Sat Mar 26 2011 at 6:20 PM

    Love. Bookmarking these posts so that I can visit the Galapagos whenever I want. :)

  6. Kristan says:
    Sat Mar 26 2011 at 7:59 PM

    It definitely was!

    Aw, thank you! I think that would be a very fun project.

    Did you? How funny. We ran into a couple from our alma mater (one from my year, one from the year below). It really is such a small world in some ways…

    {nods} I agree with you that it turned out to be great for me. And yay, you’d love the Galapagos!

    Aww, haha, thanks. That’s a lovely compliment. :)

  7. Scott says:
    Sat Mar 26 2011 at 8:05 PM

    Yes…me! We were in Oahu on Waikiki beach at the time. Luckily no major damage, but scary nevertheless. Great blog fodder though!

  8. Pseudo says:
    Sat Mar 26 2011 at 8:59 PM

    What a great adventure and a poignant piece of writing as well.

  9. Jon says:
    Sat Mar 26 2011 at 9:31 PM

    Great post. Did Andy get up and dance too?

  10. Kristan says:
    Sat Mar 26 2011 at 9:34 PM

    Glad you guys were fine. When we heard Hawaii got hit but not much happened, we felt a lot better about our odds.


    LOL nope. Andy only dances in the privacy of our own home. But he manned the camcorder.

  11. Liz Czukas says:
    Mon Mar 28 2011 at 9:30 AM

    What an amazing experience. And YOU, my dear, you are really something. An artist with words. Thank you for plunking me down in the middle of your experience. Now I want to go there.

    – Liz

  12. Les says:
    Mon Mar 28 2011 at 11:23 AM

    That makes me want to go even more. A definite benefit to having “guides” that are local even if it ends up costing a lot more as it usually does va. an unaccompanied tour… So worth it for the stories.

  13. Kristan says:
    Mon Mar 28 2011 at 5:04 PM

    Thank you, Liz!

    Totally agree! I mean, if you cheap out, you get what you pay for…

    (Side note: I don’t know that you can really visit the Galapagos without a guide… The main islands, yes, b/c there are major cities and you can just explore. But most of the islands you have to go by boat, and I *think* the National Park Service regulates who can go. I know they regulate *where*.)

  14. Aisha says:
    Mon Mar 28 2011 at 6:49 PM

    Teehee Andy will be known as the boy who manned the camcorder while everyone else danced :P

  15. Kristan says:
    Mon Mar 28 2011 at 7:40 PM

    LOL yep, that’s him. He’s okay with that, though.

  16. RTW says:
    Mon Mar 28 2011 at 9:39 PM

    Beautiful. What a way to do vacation recaps– I hold my breath at the end of all your sentences waiting for the next one. Love your vignettes.

  17. M.E. Anders says:
    Tue Mar 29 2011 at 11:56 AM

    Dancing in the Galapagos, eh? I almost felt as if I was transported there through your description. You have a gift with words, Kristan.

  18. Kristan says:
    Tue Mar 29 2011 at 1:12 PM

    Thank you, ladies. :)

  19. Midlife Jobhunter says:
    Thu Apr 7 2011 at 4:05 PM

    This lovely place has always intrigued me — a different kind of beauty. Your words make it most inviting.

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