Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Don’t Judge an Island by its Dogs

We're delighted to again welcome Karen Albright Lin to Chiseled in Rock!

Karen consults and edits for published and yet-to-be published writers of fiction, nonfiction, and book proposals. She writes in a number of genres and conducts writing workshops in various venues, including on cruise ships.

If you missed her previous blogs regarding Teaching through the Islands, you might enjoy reading them before this installment, as she first shared her preparations in anticipation of teaching classes while on board her latest cruise, discussed some of the downsides to teaching on a cruise, introduced us to new tablemates and the private beach on Moorea, how she was bit in Bora Bora, and then she described her first class while teaching en route to Fiji.  Most recently she shared: Second Lecture enRoute to Fiji: A Great Storyto Tell, Fiji but the Wrong Port! (I won’t mention it, but I will), and On the Way to New Caledonia.


Karen Albright Lin:

Tahiti, Moorea and Bora Bora had roaming feral mutts, each seemingly related to the other with a hodgepodge of genes, eaters of sidewalk scraps, more like dingoes than dogs, survivors.

American Samoa (like New Caledonia) had purebred, leashed jewels, pride dogs, naïve and smiling.  They suggested wealth, but there were two distinct classes on this island.  Simpler-life, brown-skinned locals preferred to keep the tourists far from their special spots—like a waterfall they alluded to but didn’t put on the map.  We shared with locals and tourists a rickety, wood-lined bus up the coast to a map recommendation, Tisa’s Barefoot Bar.  


At the edge of the untouched rainforest that covers 90% of the islands, Tisa’s was an outdoor Jimmy Buffet cocoon of weathered wood situated on a rocky cove, a perfect spot for Wen to snorkel while I sat on the overlook deck.  I kept an eye on his snorkel, wrote, watched people, and had a Tisa-invented cocktail.

Tisa was a cross between Diana Ross and Whitney Houston, quite stunning, fluent English.  I paid $11.00 American cash for a small dose of pineapple rum in a mystery mix with no coconut involved. 

Tisa and I chatted.  She was a character worth ten pages of notes.  She had run for mayor unsuccessfully, loved L.A. and was sole proprietor of the bar.  She believed she had a story worth writing, but hadn’t picked up a pen.  I ordered the local beer, in a large bottle and hops-bitter at the end.  My writer-self numbed while I drank, checking and rechecking Wen as he snorkeled farther from our spot.  When I couldn’t see him, my writer imagination went wild with worry.  Wen’s from an island.  But I was born and raised in the Midwest and find the ocean mysterious and somewhat dangerous.  Funny I should end up teaching on cruises.

One of the generic mutts rubbed against a bar patron, nobody’s fool.  Snacks dropped.  I watched it all, felt it all, through writer’s eyes.  Over this trip I filled a spiral notebook.  I also kept maps and the daily reports on where we were and what was offered on the ship.

I closed my eyes against the warm sun and thought back to the American Samoan lecture we attended.  Jill, the destination speaker, was author of children’s and middle grade books about Australian history.  We speakers get discounted access to the internet, and Jill admitted to us that she’d gone online the night before to collect her information and put together her presentation about American Samoa.

Her talk was entitled WHERE BOYS WILL BE GIRLS.  Her lecture paid excessive attention to the fact that transgender or transvestite men are well-accepted in American Samoan Society.  They dance in dresses alongside women.  They are great wives because they are also strong. 

The amount of time Jill spent on this subject told me she either thought it would grab the crowd and keep it in her clutches, that it was the most interesting thing she discovered in her research, or that she was shocked by or obsessed with it.  A lesson to me as a speaker – be aware of how you distribute your time on specific areas of your topic.  Too much on one point can either bore your attendees or make them wonder about your preoccupation.  As when writing fiction, trust your audience.  Assume they get it the first time, don’t over explain.

Attention back on my beer and bill: Tisa tried to charge me a second time for the first cocktail as if I’d be unable to figure it out after that huge beer.  I pointed out her mistake.  It was on her face, trick exposed.  She tucked tail between legs.  Her deception left me with a bitter taste in my mouth, bitterer than the local hops.  Wen surfaced and paid a 5$ fee for snorkeling—a fee not disclosed up front.

But it was made worth it by the blue starfish Wen had pulled out long enough to photograph.  We caught another cobbled-together bus back to port, leaving a remarkable tree sculpture, the various dog breeds, and bitter hops behind us.  


Thank you, Karen!  Please join us on September 24, 2014 for "I Love Sydney! Goodbye to the Islands," her final installment in this series.


Patricia Stoltey said...

A post like this makes me want to head for the islands and sip exotic drinks on the beach. Thanks, Karen.

Anonymous said...

Arrrgh, that irritates me, when I see such deceit! Even after having spent so much time with you! And people wonder why the world is in the state it's in...look in the mirror. We all create the world in which we live.

But good for you on gleaning some good from that encounter! Great writing fodder! Create a distasteful character like She-who-I-can't-even-call-by-her-name, now!

Thanks for sharing!

Sisters of the Quill said...

Patricia.. go! And check carefully about the time of year/weather. Frank.... you are so right! Yes, how someone could sit there so long.. hint I should write her story, then try to take me for a chump. Such people exists. They live off the tourists and know darn well they can simply say goodbye and count their money. But hey, what counts is my own conscience and the fact that I don't do those things to other people.