Exploring New Beaches – Huguenot Park

Last week was our first week of summer vacation so we packed up the car and headed for an afternoon at Huguenot Park.

Now in the nine years I’ve lived here, for some reason  I’ve never gone to Huguenot Park.  I’ve driven by it plenty of times.  But because this summer is the summer of staycation (or do you like daycation better?!) we decided to kick things off right and get going somewhere different right away.

Huguenot Park is part of the Duval County Parks and Recreation and is the only beach that allows cars to drive right out onto the sand!  This was totally weird and thrilling, driving the car to surf’s edge.  It felt wrong and forbidden and just…off, being out there on the sand with the waves lapping at my tires!  I couldn’t stop laughing at the absurdity of it!

The friend I was with is from Daytona Beach which is, of course, the iconic place for cars on the beach.  In fact, on a years-ago vacation to Florida, my husband and I did the requisite ‘beach drive’ ourselves, as all the tourists do.  She remembers hanging out with friends in  cars, on the beach.   She remembers when they banned ‘night driving’ on the beach, which to me seems completely insane that it would have ever been allowed in the first place.

When we first moved to Florida we stayed on Anastasia Island, where driving on the beach is permitted.  My kids were babies, running aimlessly around the sand and I was very nervous about them getting hit by a car. I’ve heard of accidents, so I’m not really for the whole idea of cars on the beach in general.

But for something different to do on a summer afternoon, it was fun.  

We made a picnic, loaded the cooler, threw in the beach chairs, went over the Mayport Ferry, and drove the remaining couple of miles to the park.  There’s camping in the Park, with sites along the St. John’s River.  While it would be kind of cool to camp along the river (I’m not really the camping sort of person), the sites weren’t compelling enough to get me excited about trying it.  I like some ambiance:  trees, a nice spot for campfire, something.  These sites were just plain, open spaces along the river.  No thanks.  I suppose if I had a Minnie Winnie it would be a more attractive notion, but we don’t,  so I prefer the whole daycation thing where I can come home and shower off the salt and sand and be done with it.  It’s fun to visit but I don’t necessarily want to live in it.  

In northern Michigan, I have camped in a tent, on a site, next to my favorite Great Lake, the great Lake Michigan.  But those sites are truly lovely; private, shielded by leafy trees, and picturesque.  I actually camped in a beachfront site which was memorable and something I’d consider doing again. (Though I’d prefer to rent a lovely oceanfront condo on Sanibel Island, or in the Keys, or, hey, how about in Destin, Florida where I hear the water is a lovely shade of aqua?) 

Let me just say that Huguenot Park is no Fisherman’s Island State Forest Campground (now a State Park) in Charlevoix, Michigan.

But what fun it was to pull out onto the beach, hop out of the car and let the kids bolt into the ocean.  It’s really just a few miles north of us “as the crow flies” but everything felt different. Even the water was colder there!  The kids climbed out onto the rocks of the jetty, where the St. John’s River meets the Atlantic Ocean. 

 The Park is very close to Mayport Naval Station so we waved to several helicopters doing their daily runs to and from the base.  There was a smaller, “mucky-bottomed”  lake area that was behind the ocean; I think it was part of the intracoastal waterway.  It was very still and there were a couple of egrets stepping gingerly into the water’s edge.  The kids enjoyed the stillness of this lake and played there, despite the “mucky bottom” for about a half hour.

The sand was white and there were small sand dunes the kids ran up and rolled down several times. 

 Back at the car on the beach, we opened the trunk of the van and had a tailgate picnic while the tide crept in.  All that was different, and fun. 

 One thing that made me sad was the amount of trash left on the beach.  Who does that?  I mean, really, who just drops their juice bags, cigarettes, padding from their bathing suit bras, picnic trash, a flip flop, straws, …anything and everything…and just drives away from it?  Apparently, a lot of people have the nerve to do just that.  I’m guessing that the crew at Huguenot Park must drive a truck with some sort of rake attached to clean up the beach every night.  

In Atlantic Beach, the beaches are very clean.  Occasionally I see some trash but it’s generally isolated and often I’ll pick it up if I can.  It looks like more of a mistake rather than a trend.  I wonder if people somehow feel entitled to leave their flotsam and jetsam because they paid to get in to the park and think that someone else should pick up after them?  And in Atlantic Beach, it’s home, it’s the neighborhood, and when visitors come, it’s free, and people therefore feel more responsible?  

I wish I knew, but the difference in the cleanliness of the two beaches is striking.

The trip to Huguenot was fun and a wonderful diversion for all of us; who doesn’t love a change of venue every now and then? We laughed, had fun with friends, and enjoyed the freedom 

from school and schedules, and admired this handsome fellow:

 Still, the home beach of Atlantic Beach rules in my book.

Are you (Wo)Man Enough To Read This Book?

Here’s the deal:

Join the Facebook Group for Infinite Summer.  You know you want to read this.  You’ve been intrigued by it for a long time.  Perhaps you’ve even brought it home from the library and read a hundred or so pages   (ahem) and decided that you don’t have time to do this right now?  

Well, here’s your chance and I’m dead serious.

The reading group will begin on the first day of summer and will take the entire season to finish it.  So it’s not like the book will eat you alive, or you won’t be able to read anything else all summer, or any other excuse you can conjure to prevent you from attacking this behemoth novel. 

It’s a commitment of a mere 75 pages a week. The discussion will be posted online weekly.  It would be so fun if we join together with friends and get this thing read, already!

It’s really brilliantly written.  Yes, I have read those first one hundred pages and I didn’t abandon it because it wasn’t good.  I put it down because I felt overwhelmed by the enormity of it and I’m not necessarily referring to the number of pages.   I was in awe of his writing.  Every sentence was like a literary feast to me.  Every page was enormous in that it contained thoughts and moods and emotions that were so labile I could barely process it myself.  

But there’s no denying it’s brilliant in its way.  And I think I can do it, broken down like this in a manageable way. I want to do it.   And it would be so much fun to do it with friends.  No?

You’ll probably have to buy the book since I don’t know of any library that makes three-month loans.  I took the leap this morning and my copy is staring at you at the top of this page.  

Daring you to join me…

So. Who’s in?

Parker the Sharker

Introducing the second shark hooked by Parker in his short career as a Florida fisherman.

This is the first shark of the 2009 season.  Parker hooked one in the Keys last summer.  He was on the beach with friends yesterday when he hooked this beauty.  Scary!
The shark is being held by his friend.  If it was me, I’d have been posing with my prize.  Maybe not actually holding it, but I’d have made sure I was in the picture with it.  But, that’s just me.
 They played with the shark for a while:

He took several long videos that were mostly wildly shaking camera shots that captured plenty of sand shots, a glimpse of the shark’s tail, and intermittent snips of his friend holding the shark.
The tide pools were large and deep so they let the shark swim in one of them.  I actually have no idea how they finally got it back into the ocean but they did.  Parker didn’t actually hold his shark; he was too busy playing photographer.
Lots of people have been snagging sharks on their fishing lines off the beach this week.  We’ll be heading there for an end-of-the-school-year party in a little while.
Maybe I’ll have another Shark Tale for y’all later.

Seoul in 2006

In July 2006 my son and I visited South Korea. Parker Sae-Bin was born in Daegu, South Korea and came home to his thrilled Dad and me in September 1996.

A friend of mine is there now, with her two Korean-born sons who are visiting their birth land for the first time since they were adopted.  Reading her blog made me nostalgic so I went in search of my photos. That little sidetrack became a post of my own about those really special nine days with my son.

It was an amazing and awesome trip.  As an adoption social worker and an adoptive parent, I was longing to be part of the tenth annual KAAN (Korean American Adoptee Adoptive Family Network) Conference, which was being held in Seoul that year.  I’d attended the very first KAAN Conference, so I decided to go to Seoul and take Parker with me.  We made the nine day journey to Korea in June/July 2006.

After our three days at the Conference, we visited the Demilitarized Zone, a place where only non-Korean citizens are allowed to go. There, you’re actually straddling the two Koreas, and can look across the 38th parallel into North Korea.  This was a day-long trip with rules about personal behavior, dress code and picture-taking, all strictly enforced.  Much to his utter chagrin Parker was made to don a pair of trousers in lieu of the shorts he’d had on.  The pants did not fit and looked ridiculous, which annoyed him to no end.  I was forced to wear a pair of flat, closed sneakers instead of the mules I was wearing and if you know me, you know I don’t wear flats, ever, and sneakers, only to the gym.  But despite our mutual dress code violations, we had a good trip into the DMZ, something that not many people experience in their lives.

(A North Korean soldier stands at attention.)

(Parker in those hated trousers.)

Another day, we shopped for a long time in Insadong, which I loved.  After a while, my good son was bored so I let him spend some time in an arcade.  Thus renewed, he willingly accompanied me to more of Insadong’s unique shops and galleries.

(A shop in Insadong I enjoyed very much with my American dollars.)

(A shop where I did buy two fabric panels, similar to the ones behind Parker.)

We also visited the Seoul Tower, Namdaemun Market, and Lotte World Amusement Park just to name a few more sites. We took the subway and okay, plenty of taxi rides all around town.  Lots of won (Korean currency), but I liked getting more familiar with Seoul’s most excellent cityscape.

(Parker with our friend Chae Eun at Lotte World Amusement Park, a girnormous Disney-esque fantasy world for kids.)

 The KAAN Conference was held in a business district, so afterwards we moved across the river to the Ibis Hotel in Myeong Dong, an area that’s filled with shops and cafes and people all day and night.  

A special part of the trip was meeting Parker’s sweet foster mother, Mrs. Choi Jung Hee.  I’d met her nine years earlier when I was in Korea to bring our daughter home.  Mrs. Choi came to the agency both times to meet us,  and both times we exchanged meaningful gifts and spent some poignant time together.   Mrs. Choi fostered many, many children in her years as a foster mom for the children of Social Welfare Society.  Her own sons are now grown, and she is the second mother to numerous sons and daughters now living throughout the world.  Mrs. Choi brought Parker a very popular Be The Reds soccer jersey.  South Korea is crazy for soccer (as is most of the world – why isn’t the U.S.?).

(Parker signs the guest book at Social Welfare Society)

We spent time with my good friend Park Min Hyung and her cute little girl Chae Eun.  Min Hyung and I have been friends for nearly 11 years now and she speaks English wonderfully so we’re able to talk as real friends do.  Her daughter’s also learning English, and we gave Chae Eun the English name of Bella.  

Min Hyung is really stylish and enjoys fashion. I call her the Carrie Bradshaw of Seoul because she has such a distinctive personal style.  She’s gorgeous, intelligent, and a very warm person. She’s been a good friend to me.

Seoul is a fantastic, huge, metropolitan city and I loved it.  It rocks, 24/7.  During our nine days there we were on the go constantly but only scratched the surface of the city.  Parker was exhausted by 9:00pm and while I could have kept going, for his sake we returned to the hotel where he flopped into bed and unwound with his Game Boy.

While he relaxed, I’d go to the fitness center and enjoy a different sort of relaxation:  the Korean-style “baths”.  I experienced a clean that was so relaxing…in the bath area guests disrobe and then shower off in a public shower space. Everything was provided:  towels, facial cleansing sponges, shampoo and conditioner, soaps, moisturizers, sanitized hair brushes and combs.  You’d leave your clothes in a personal locker, and go nude.  

(There will be no pictures of the baths here!)

Many Korean guests where there with other women friends, and would chat while cleansing, washing their hair, scrubbing their bodies, and once everyone was sufficiently cleansed, only then would  you lower your body into a communal bath of hot or cold water, jacuzzi-style.  

I decided to give over to the experience, when in Rome, and all that.  I let my personal and cultural inhibitions about nudity go, and just followed the rules for appropriate behavior in the baths. First rule: you must wash yourself thoroughly before using the bath.  Second rule: you don’t wear clothing in the bath area – nudity is just the way it is.  If I was here in the States I never could have been publicly nude (hey, it is a women only bath, of course), but in Korea you would have looked like a fool if you tried the routine while wearing a bathing suit!  It wasn’t about nudity; it was about cleanliness and relaxation.  No one would ever enter the bath if they hadn’t soaped up and showered off, first.

The shower heads were large, rainwater-style and I melted while standing beneath them, letting the shampoo and conditioner run through my long hair.  The showering off was total relaxation, part one.  The icing on the cake was when I’d step into the bath, sparkling clean with pink skin from the heat of the shower.  By this time, though, the baths were nearly ready to close as it was almost 11:00pm.  I’d soak for ten minutes or so, then dress and head back to the room, where I’d find my son, blissed out in his own right, still working his thumbs hard on the Game Boy.

Korea 2006 was an incredible high. I saw some people at the conference I hadn’t seen in years, and got to meet many interesting Koreans, adoptees and others who I’d known about from the online world.  On the way home from Korea we traveled with a few babies who were making their way to to their adoptive homes.  That was an especially moving way to complete the journey for me.

It was a joyous time for me and Parker.  He was a great traveling buddy.  He learned to navigate foreign airports with ease.  In fact, shortly after this picture was taken, he become impatient with me because I was chatting with Dr. Sook Wilkinson (the Korean woman, who’d been a  Conference speaker and was escorting this baby to the States to meet her adoptive family) in the airport in Japan. Parker decided to leave me there and find the gate for our connecting flight –  by himself. It was the only time I’d been truly panicked in my life.  For those few moments, when I looked up and he was not there…my heart truly felt as though it’d moved into my throat, and I was breathless.  My son,an Asian child who spoke only English and who belonged to an English-speaking Caucasian woman, lost in the Narita airport.  I shouted his name loudly; no embarrassment here.  We’d been so careful to stick together the entire time.  Down the long terminal, he heard me and stopped.  I couldn’t believe he’d up and left me like that! ‘What were you thinking?’ I demanded, the relief flooding me but my pulse still racing.  All casual, as is his way, he simply said he was tired of waiting and had gone on ahead to find the gate.   And by gosh, he’d read the departures board, and found our gate. All of ten years old, my boy.

And now, he’s thirteen.  And taller than me.  And has just started a blog, my boy.  I’ll be interviewing him here in the next couple of days to introduce his blog to my vast readership.  And I hope both of you will visit his site 🙂

Time…as every mother before me has said, “Enjoy them while they’re young; they’ll be gone before you know it.”  When he was small, I heard those words but didn’t feel them.

I feel them now.  And it feels like the time with him is slipping through my fingers.

I love you Parker Sae-Bin.  Thank you for being my son.