Monday, September 18, 2017

#24: swim with the pigs

It's pretty clear at this point that I have an affinity for animals and anything of the random variety. It's no surprise then, that when I learned of swimming pigs on a tiny island in the Bahamas, I added it in bold type to the list. 

How did the pigs end up on this magical island? There are many theories about farmers, pig-sty stench and such, but truth be told I was just glad they were there-- enigma or not.

As it turns out, getting to the pigs was no easy feat. NOR DID I EXPECT SUCH AN ENCHANTED THING TO BE EASILY ATTAINABLE. The Vitamin D lovin' piggies reside on a sandy dot of an island in the middle of the Caribbean. It's one of the 365 Exuma Cays- and the fact that there is literally an island for everyday of the year automatically makes it my fav. 

The island next door to the pigs is Staniel Cay where I had booked a house across from the beach with a couple of bikes awaiting my bum. 

My trusty travel companion B and I arrived on the island via Nassau, after a quick-ish ride in a 9 seater pocket plane where I was pretty much co-pilot; called Flamingo Air (because what else would it be named). The house was perfect, the beach beautiful; and the dog named Max that checked us in, defined handsome.


But I had a whole load of burning inquiries to solve. 

How many piglets would there be?

Would they let me hold them?

Why didn't Max have a bowtie?

What was their meal of choice?

Did their hooves sink in the sand?

Exactly how, could I, become their leader?

I was eager to visit the hogs on our own, via boat rental, sans a tour. We heard through the grapevine that they'd be likely to indulge in any kind of food, but if we brought loaves of white sandwich bread and pineapple, they may very well become our best friends. And that, that is what I wanted.

  . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Not having reserved a boat before arriving landed us with a tired looking beat-up vessel from a general store. Seemed legit.  I was ready to swim myself to the pigs at this point so...a boat was a boat. THE EXCITEMENT WAS REAL, PEOPLE.

We puttered out of the cove into never-ending aqua blue. It was tough to tell where the sea ended and the sky began but I drank that sh*t in because it was beautiful and so sparkly that I wanted to drape it around my neck as jewels. 

The island housing the piggies was just around the next rock and I was bursting with the kind of excitement that looks like you're going to pee your pants. (I didn't, by the way.) 

And then we were there, encroaching on the island I had dreamed about for months; years even. I could see sandy snouts roaming the beach and I gasped. It was the kind of gasp that emotes disbelief and I wasn't sure why. Did I think these pigs on an island were a myth and we'd show up, the nasty trick revealed? 

But nope, they were really real, trotting their portly bodies all over that GD beach. It was like me, 5 days into any vacation that included ice-cream.

The anticipation was bursting out of my every pore as I held myself back from leaping out of a moving vessel. There were a smattering of other boats, and as we pulled up ashore, I started picking out appropriate names for the pigs I could see. 




B and I jumped out as a gang of pigs cantered over in anticipation of a snack. Oh. Oh my. They were BIG. My feelings tipped the emotional scale a bit to the terrified side on account they might mistake me as the snack instead of the loaf of Wonder bread from my childhood that I had tucked under my arm. 

They sniffed around, their mouths donning sizable teeth, their snouts sandy as promised. Perhaps we should've had a plan for this feeding frenzy. 

I held the bread above my head and doled out slices that were sloppily slurped up in mere seconds. B and I were through an entire loaf in no time. Well, that escalated quickly.

Our other food treats hidden in the boat, we made our way down the beach to check it out. I wanted to meet ALL the pigs. 


My main mission was to find those cute little piglets and put them in my pockets that I wasn't wearing. POCKET PIGS THOUGH!

And then, over by the brush we heard a commotion of "awwww's" and "OMG!" and squeals of both the swine and human kind. Which, could only mean one thing. There was a baby oinker awaiting my arms.

"Heeyyy little buddy" I weirdly whispered, fueled by awe and an attempt not to startle him. I wondered what he fancied noshing on. But the little guy was just parched. He downright chugged out of a water bottle that one of the locals held for him and my heart tripled in size. 

He was just like me after a night of drinking. 
I was just like a baby pig. 
We were soul-mammals. 

The babe could only eat soft things, and he was thirsty AF. Luckily, in our bag of tricks we had the perfect pocket pig treat: pineapple slices. 

I played follow the leader with Spotter, who had been named by one of the local children from Staniel Cay. It reminded me of the stuffed animals I named when I was 4: a lamb named "Lamby" and a brown bear named, you guessed it, "Brownie." Super original. I was glad that tactic was still in effect as it made me feel like a kid again. Or perhaps that was due to the fact that I was, at that moment, chasing a baby pig around on a beach like a love-sick lunatic. 

I wanted to hold him but I didn't want to make him squeal. It was an inner battle until I couldn't take his cuteness any longer. 

Spotter wanted to run free and who was I to stop his lil hooves from gracing that sand. Our cuddle was glorious, albeit brief. BE FREE LIL' SPOTTER.

A couple of hours had passed by like minutes and it was time to head back and explore other things, like ice-cream sandwiches. Plus, we'd be back tomorrow. Our boat on the other hand, had other ideas. 

The pigs watched us from the beach as B pulled relentlessly on the motor. About 2839749 tries later the boat sputtered to life and we bopped away from Big Major Cay, turning the pigs into tiny beach dots once again. I waved my promise to return in about 16 hours with more of that deliciously sinful bread.

I was in a pig induced haze, filled to the brim with an I-can't-believe-that-actually-just-happened emotion, and likely sporting a smile that toed the line of creepy. At that moment our hanging-by-a-thread boat decided to shut off, by itself, yanking me from my pork-generated reverie. 

B looked slightly frustrated and sweaty. I threw him an equally sweaty look of apology as if the sh*t boat was my fault. Too bad we didn't have any snacks; we'd given them all away during Pig-out Fest 2016. 

The boat started back up and we tentatively relaxed. IT WAS SO PRETTY OUT HE--

The boat stopped abruptly near some jagged looking rocks and as we drifted nearer and B frantically attempted to revive the boat, the situation turned from dreamy to unsavory right quick.  

What ensued for the next hour and a half was a game of "Boat Fail." Not sure how to play? Well I'll tell you. 

(Instructions for "Boat Fail")
Wrangle the pull of a motor on a boat that has seen much better days whilst dodging sharp-ish rocks in the hot, HOT sun. Laugh at the ridiculous-ness of it all and give up for a few moments to just absorb the expansive aqua blue living in every inch of this paradise. And, eventually just grab a paddle and work those arms like they've never been worked before. 

Land Ho!

Believe it or not, my paddling actually got us somewhere. I know, I was surprised too. That and the fact the water was shallow enough for B to jump in pull...but let's just go with me as the hero here, k? 

Once back on land, we did, in fact, pig out on ice-cream sandwiches. After all, we had earned them, hadn't we?

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Our boat fixed up real nice good enough, we set out for our follow up visit with the piggies...loaves of bread, pineapple, and apples galore shoved aboard.  

It was our second playgroup sesh with our new piggie buds and I hoped they remembered me. This time, as seasoned veterans, I only 3/4 gasped. We stayed in the boat to entice the pigs to swim out so we could really watch them in their element. 

I held out treats. They swam up to their piggie boat bar, performing synchronized swimming m.a.g.i.c. with their hooves. Flying pigs? Pffft. These guys were graceful sea swimmers. 

Gang's all here.

The rest of our playdate consisted of all normal pig beach activities.




More Snacks.

This convo seems a touch one-sided.

Naps. (duh)
Is there anything more precious?

...all in a day on pig island. 

It was a pork filled two days in the Exuma Cays (unintentional rhyming), and I was contemplating never eating bacon again. That's how much this place had changed me. 

W h a t    e l s e   d i d    w e    d o?






It was time to paper plane it out of there. I just hoped no one noticed the baby piglet I had stashed in my bag. Kidding (or am I?).

**Swim with the pigs? CHECK!  Form bonds with sandy porklets, all while restraining myself from asking for a piggy back ride? CHECK, CHECK!

A face only a mother could love...and me. 

Sunday, May 14, 2017

#4: hold a baby goat

The Big. Ticket. Item. 

I mean, it's on my business card for goodness sake. It's the list item I'm most often asked about. It also might snag the award for "most random" on the list. And, as it turns out, it was one of the hardest ones to check off.

There were a few close calls and whole LOT of sheep. But, as cute as they are, sheep are NOT, in fact, goats. 

I was on the highest of all high alerts throughout our 17 country, 5 month jaunt. If there was a baby goat within reach, I would be squeezing it.

In Norway, I thought, most likely.. but only sheep encounters ensued. 

In Vietnam our tour bus driver was almost not even close to being convinced by chanting to pull over at the site of cliff dwelling baby goats.

In Okinawa we even went to 'goat beach' but there were only grown up goats. 

In New Zealand I thought FOR SURE. But guess what? We saw maybe one goat and it was old. Foiled every time. 

So, when I came back to the U.S. I was desperate and running out of time. That's when everyone and their brother tagged me in a Facebook article that went viral.

That's right, Caromont Farm in the middle of nowhere Esmont, Virginia was looking for volunteers to feed and cuddle the sh*t out of their newborn babies...of the goat variety. AND I WAS JUST THE PERSON TO DO IT.

I had a few questions:
-Where the F is Esmont?

This was the exact opportunity to check off #4 and I fumbled in speedy and ungraceful fashion to sign up before all the slots were filled. There are more people than you'd think interested in getting their hands on a baby goat for a solid snuggle sesh.

I snagged the Last. Two. Spots. I felt like I had received the golden ticket to Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory if Willy had goats, that is. Just a few details to figure out now. Getting there seeing as it was a solid 9-ish hour drive, lodging, and a partner in crime, of course.

I smelled a legit road trip opp here, and the randomness of it all was boiling over. Combined with my 12/10 level excitement? I was about to combust.

This list was not just about pushing myself out of my comfort zone, doing epic things in random and amazing places, and holding furry lil goats. This list had been allowing me to create memories with people in a new way, and what better way to share experiences like these with the people I love? Also, dinner conversation had became much more compelling.

That's when I texted Sharone.

Sharone, aka Mom, Ma, Sweet one who birthed me, is, in fact, my mom. 

I had yet to check off a list item with her and it could be long as being confined to a car for the better part of 18 hours over the span of 36 hours didn't cause us to pull each other's hair out. A toss of the dice.

After confirmation that Sharone was on board, literally, I started researching unique stops along our route to check out, of course. 

News flash Sharone, I was driving so.. 

Dinosaurland backstory:
Apparently, during a few family road trips due south, my sisters and I earnestly begged for a pitstop at Dinosaurland And. We. Never. Did. THE TIME WAS NOW PEOPLE.

So, on a foggy Saturday morn in March, we embarked on our goat-holding-Dino-land-visiting journey. 

And a  q u e s t  it 'twas. The thing about going anywhere with Sharone is that she has everything you'll ever need in the depths of her purse.

Hungry? No problem- here's some saltines. WHO CARRIES SALTINES IN THEIR PURSE?

Annoying loose thread? No worries, Sharone has baby scissors in her handbag. WE GOT THIS.

Things I learned about Pennsylvania:
It's boring AF to drive through.
There's so much of it.
It smells bad. Like poop.
There's a town called Shartlesville and because I have the maturity of a 12 year old boy I laughed for about 2 hours.
Everything ends in 'burgh.' 

I apologize to all the Pennsylvanians. 

After what seemed like days, we reached the exit for the promised land- aka DINOSAURLAND.

It was a run down shack donning a glorified backyard riddled with dinosaur statues circa 1980-ish...and I was in love. 

We approached the ticket counter. Yes, there was a ticket counter.

"Is it as magical as I think it is?" I asked the ticket lady.

"Well..maybe if you were ten?"


We made our way to the dino-lawn and it was, in fact, my kind of magical.

I practically skipped around, my joy uncontainable. Sharone and I posed like idiots with the various prehistoric creatures. My inner 8 year old couldn't handle it. It was more than entertaining.


Dinosaurland dominated, and I had unexpectedly checked something off of my list from when I was a youngin'. Feeling accomplished, we made our way to Charlottesville, VA. We'd have just enough time to grab some dinner and catch some Z's before GOAT O'CLOCK!

We drove to the farm which was exactly in the middle of nowhere. The morning was overcast, chilly, and wet. But nothing was going to dampen my mood- not when there were baby goats awaiting my arms. 

We were greeted by three dogs and zero humans. Cell service isn't a thing in bumfu**, so I crossed all my fingers and toes that someone, ANYONE would introduce us to my new goat friends.


First we frolicked in a pen with a bunch of kids, about 3 weeks old.

Their new leader
It was everything I had imagined. The goats were cheeky, hilarious, and if they had pants on, they'd definitely be sassy pants. They were WILD. They were abundantly comical. Bouncing off their friends as trampolines, attempting to eat everything in sight, climbing us like poles...all the classic goat things.


We played, fed them, and best of all, cuddled.



The most humorous of moments involved one of the goats eating my braid:

and the fact that I can now say I've been mounted by a goat:

After chillin with the 3 week old goat gang, we wandered over to the other pen where, my dreams were to come true twofold. 

There, laying amongst the grass, hay, and poop, were two 2 DAY OLD NEWBORN BABY GOATS. JACKPOT.

I loved the goats we had just romped with, I really did. BUT NEWBORNS? This was exactly what I had had in mind.

I approached the wee furry babe, as fresh into this world as could be, and asked it's mama if I could please hold her prize via some intense eye contact. She seemed to give zero f**ks so I went for it. 


Be still my heart. 

I cradled that baby goat as if it were my own infant. Pure unadulterated joy bubbled up inside of me like celebratory champagne. Oddly enough, I also wouldn't have minded a glass of champagne. I promptly named the farm newbie Huxley. 

I adored his floppy little hooves, soft fur, oversized ears, and the fact that he was brand spankin' new to this world. 

And then he fell asleep. 

And I melted.

It took all of my willpower not to run in my wellies back to the car, Huxley in hand, frantically declaring, "STEP ON IT SHARONE!" I didn't think she'd appreciate us getting arrested for goatnapping though. 

We wrapped up our time at the farm chatting with the lovely owners until, sadly, I had to be torn away from Huxley. Would he remember me? Of course not. But he earned a permanent space in my heart.

Sharone and I had done it. I felt giddy with the stench of farm as we drove away. Not only had I checked off the ever elusive #4 list item, but it had easily been one of my favorite adventures- in Virginia no less.  I was pumped. I was on a goat high. I also really needed to wash my hands. 

Sharone and I celebrated with waffles, obviously. The most famous list item was completed, yes, but I hadn't taken a trip with my mom, just the two of us in a long time. We laughed. We were ridiculous. She fed me snacks from her huge purse. We sang at the top of our lungs wildly off key in the car. We will always be able to talk about that random road trip to hold baby goats- and that? THAT was top notch. Priceless, even.

One could only hope that the baby goat induced jubilance would go the distance...specifically 9 hours of road trip distance, in the torrential rain. 

**Hold a baby goat? Check! Travel 18 hours with my mom, detour to Dinosaurland, cuddle a slew of goats, and make an epic Mother/Daughter memory? Check, check!