March 27, 2003

By Michael Strickland

Tropical Memories

I'm overdue for a return to the tropics. The last time I felt the trade winds on my face and ate the succulent flesh of fresh coconuts was three years ago, when I traveled to Hawaii with my family. There, we spent seven days in a private beachside estate, lounging under the palm trees and playing in Hawaii's bathwater-warm waters.

I made my first visit to the tropics when I was a young teenager, staying in Honolulu with my parents and a friend. I can clearly recall my first sighting of rainbow-colored fish in Hanauma Bay. But it wasn't until a few years later when I really immersed myself in the tropical way of life.

In my junior year of high school, I spent a year in Honduras living with a native family as a foreign exchange student. During Holy Week, we enjoyed seven days on the Caribbean coast in the city of Tela. Here, I truly lived the life of a beach bum. By day, we kicked back on the beach, buying 10-cent coconuts from Caribbean women, who split them open for us with machetes. We would drink the coconut milk to the calypso sounds of a group of children making music with homemade instruments. By night, we feasted on shrimp and Sprite (a trivial detail I have for some reason always remembered).

Two years after returning from Honduras, I joined my uncle in Puerto Rico for two months, helping him repair his sailboat. We lived in a small fishing village called Las Croabas on the east coast of the island, directly across from St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands. The water there was so clear that I feared we would run aground the first time I sailed across it. My uncle laughed, telling me the water was 50 feet deep. Several tiny cays poked out of the sea just offshore, barely more than a grove of palm trees surrounded by a ring of white sand. On Sundays, local families would climb into their boats and spend the day on these islands, just as a stateside family might drive to the city park for a Sunday picnic. Whether it was playing in the tourist mecca of Charlotte Amalie on St. Thomas, or exploring the vast lagoon near Las Croabas, this too-brief time in my life was truly carefree.

The Navy took me to the tropics on many occasions. While stationed on the USS Bunker Hill, I traveled extensively throughout the Far East. On one of many visits to the Philippines, my shipmates and I took an excursion to Pagsanjan Falls, a lush hideaway where part of the movie "Apocalypse Now" was filmed. Dugout canoes held two of us, along with our two hired guides. We traveled upstream through a gradually narrowing canyon, the walls of which were covered from top to bottom with palm trees. The waterway finally dead-ended in a sheltered gully, where a large waterfall fell down high cliffs to feed the river. Never have I traveled through such fertile jungle beauty. Other tropical visits courtesy of the United States Navy included the resort town of Pattaya Beach, Thailand; Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia; a brief stopover in Singapore, 80 miles north of the Equator; several days on Diego Garcia, a tiny military outpost in the middle of the Indian Ocean; and Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, where I snorkeled in the Persian Gulf.

My first and most recent trips to the tropics both took me to Hawaii, but I have been lucky enough to travel to many parts of the world between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn. With salt water flowing in my veins, part of my heart will always remain there.


Development note: I've noticed that this site doesn't look like it should in Netscape Navigator. Rather than waste time jury-rigging it to look right in a soon-to-be-obsolete browser, I'll just add the cliché "This site best viewed with Internet Explorer."
Michael Strickland ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

What is "The Daily Strick"?

I have long called myself a writer, but too often I don't do what a writer must do daily: write. So you, dear reader, are the beneficiary of my resolution to make a positive change in at least one area of my life. Every single day of this new year, I will write something, anything, and post it here. It is my intention to use this daily exercise to jump-start my too-long-dormant creative energies, and perhaps generate some worthwhile material this year. Hopefully you will find at least an occasional amusement or insight in my daily musings.

Today's Column
Send a Comment


3/26: Regurgitation
3/25: Piece of the Puzzle
3/24: Echoes in Eternity
3/23: Booing for Columbine
3/22: Not Recommending Diving
3/21: Works in Progress
3/20: Three Rings of Shock & Awe
3/19: Paris—A Beautiful Blur
3/18: Ignorant Idiot Man
3/17: The Pirate Queen
3/16: To War or Not to War
3/15: So Long, Seau
3/14: Telemarketing Pays
3/13: Free, For Now
3/12: Chicken Little Gets Respect
3/11: Axis of Evil
3/10: Writing Kept Me From Writing
3/9: King Arthur
3/8: The Women are Smarter
3/7: Salt on Old Wounds
3/6: 3/3/03, 3:33 p.m.
3/5: Beer Day
3/4: Pulling the Trigger
3/3: Make 'Em Laugh
3/2: Whither Iraq?
3/1: Strickland Cellars
Previous months in The Archive

Like what you've read?
Find more good reading on

In Association with

(and support future Daily Stricks!)