Well I had an amazing visit to Florida last month. A few days with my friend Micah was really good for me. I flew into Miami and when he was driving up from Key Largo to get me at the airport his rental car broke down (rental because his car was stolen). So his pop picked me up at the airport and ran me down to where the breakdown was, then the adventure continued down to the keys.
The first day we went to Micah's work and collected blow-hole cultures and blood from dolphins. Sounds boring, I'm sure, but for me it was a ton of fun to do medical stuff on different species. I was exhausted after my red-eye with the guy coughing up a lung behind me all night, so I ran to his place for a nap. Then a fun dinner party with his friends complete with fire on the back patio and seeing a croc in the water off the docks.
The next 2 days were work days. Micah had to do his "doctor stuff" and I got to hang out with the dolphin and sea lion trainers and watch and learn all day. The weather was beautiful so I also managed to get a little bit of sun as well.
One trainer, Wendy, took time to get to know me and invited me down onto her platform for every feeding of her dolphins, Squirt and Fiji. Watching her interact with the dolphins was very interesting. It triggered many thoughts for me... of course my ever-training-mind was running a mile a minute: "But what if they did this?" or "Why isn't this more important than that...?" etc etc. It was an excellent exercise in training, observations and interacting with new people.
On my second night, Micah surprised me with a fun thing! We went for a ballroom dancing lesson. We learned the basic steps for the swing, tango, rhumba and a quick box step. It was a ton of fun and I really enjoyed it. I've been wanting to learn to dance for years, and it was a good first lesson.
When the instructor came to show me the tango I felt like I was on Dirty Dancing or something. The instructor says to me, "Monique, the tango is performed in closed dance position." He then proceeds to have me stand with my knees slightly bent, facing him. He steps into my dance frame, puts his knee between my knees and our hipbones are touching. He leans close and says "If you can't feel my hips, you're not in closed dance position."
I managed NOT to burst out laughing, and he proceeded to sweep me around the dance floor as though I knew how to tango! It felt amazing, and I learned that with a 2-minute lesson and a decent lead I can look as though I know how to dance.
We lounged around the keys in the evenings, biking and going snorkeling and sunbathing one day as well. A story for another day is the gentlemen we watched poke a LARGE hole in their $250,000.00 boat.
2 days later was the next highlight of the trip, when Wendy decided she wanted to put me in the water with her dolphins. The manager was totally cool about it and let me swim for free with Squirt and Fiji. We had an awesome time together and I got to do the "underwater driving test." It was exhilarating.
Then we drove up to Orlando for the vet meeting. We spent nights partying late and 10-hour days in lectures. For my birthday we went out to a fun seafood dive bar. I did some important networking in the behavior community and made a great impression on a few very influential people. This was a big priority and I was very happy and relieved when it went well.
For the day after my birthday, Micah arranged for us to go out on a research trip to capture wild manatee. This was a terrific experience. After the first animal, they had me hauling in nets, assisting with collecting samples and helping carry the manatee around for measurements and release. The animals were beautiful, a little intimidating with their power and size, and fascinatingly different from anything I've seen before.
After the conference, it was back down to Miami for a night with Micah's family. We went out to their favorite restaurant, ate way too much, drank way too much sake and finished the night with a moonlight walk along Biscayne bay.
I was very sad as I always am to come home. The trip was really fun and gave me a chance to be with my best Micah, impress some people who are very high in my chosen field and spend time with awesome animals.