Miami, from the water

I flew from Italy, to Madrid, to Miami, which seemed like a natural transition, between languages, climate, culture, even food. Spain was close enough to Italy, only an hours flight, and the people and place not unsimilar. Then a slightly longer-haul flight to Miami, where the unofficial first language is still Spanish, but the culture a mix of Spanish colonial heritage and raging latin sexiness.

Sunset from the marina

I think Miami resembles Venice, but Venice on steroids – a bigger, shinier, newer city built on invisible islands, surrounded by much larger canals and super-bridges. The city is ten times taller and ten times wider, with probably a hundred times more people, but boats and bridges still connect everyone and everywhere. The boats are also on steroids – instead of romantic gondolas leisurely floating past, you have super-turbo yachts with 800 horsepower zooming by.

The boat

I was visiting five friends, who I suppose you could call sailors, and we had a 30-something foot speedboat to play with for 3 days. We circled around Key Biscayne and traversed the dirty rivers around downtown. I learned how to drive a boat, which was definitely not my idea – not because I didn’t want to, but trusting a female to competently drive a boat around 5 trained sailors can never make you feel like you know what you’re doing.

Captain Katrin, with downtown Miami ahead of us

We docked at the restaurants we wanted to have lunch at, which is probably the only form of free parking between 9-5 in downtown Miami, and lets you get service without shoes or a shirt. We unintentionally took the boat out to jelly-fish infested water, but luckily for everyone else only I was in the water then. I didn’t get stung since my friends inside the boat could see them and direct me where to swim around them and get back safely in the boat. But then moments later, they convinced me to get back in and try surfing behind the boat.

This is something I’ve never seen done before, but you take a regular short board (5’10” or so), sit on the back of the boat to one side, and put your feet on it to hold it steady. Then the boat speeds up to about 2500rpms, and you stand up on it while hanging on for dear life to the boat, mostly for balance. Then there’s a rope attached to the boat that you ease back on, and continue to get dragged behind. Eventually, you find your niche on the wake of the boat, and you can throw the rope away and continue to surf behind the boat as long as your legs can hold out. I think it’s the perfect type of surf – no need to paddle or battle any waves, and when you’re down, the luxurious speedboat comes back and picks you up out of the water, and in my case (I only got up once), congratulates you with a cold beer.

How I wish surfing could always be

It threatened to rain every day we were on the boat, but the grey skies stayed dry until my last day in Miami, when it all came down at once. It was Halloween night, and it poured and poured and poured. The fashion  scene is already quite scandalous, so seeing loud and colourful half naked girls wasn’t out of the norm, but no one could stay dry, so seeing everyone dressed up and soaked down gave an interesting spin to all the costumes. I was a party pooper and didn’t even have a costume, but I was just glad to be off the boat and in enough clothes to stay warm since I started to feel the inkling of a flu coming on – the first I’d had in almost a year. I just don’t understand how a body survives a whole summer, filthy in the frigid Icelandic mountains surrounded by horses and bad hygiene, but gets sick in the tropical heat of Miami beach.

 

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Miami in Transit

To start my 2 week journey back to Iceland, I flew from Cancun to Miami, which I had never considered that similar, but they definitely gave me a familiar feeling. The downtown area and beautiful beaches could verywell have been side by side, and the only real reminder I was in the USA was the big, multi-lane highways covered in shiny, new cars and oversized SUV´s. The Miami airport was almost totally employed by Spanish speakers, and even when I got to South Beach, many were still speaking Spanish. I just resorted to asking questions to retailers and bus drivers in Spanish again, and that went flawlessly. Different to the rest of Central America, people actually thought I was latina, so people assumed speaking to me in spanish was totally normal. I guess I wasn´t that far off from being confused at how everyone knew I was a gringa during my trip.

definitely one instance of "window-weather," as we say often in Iceland where it's actually common

Miami beach was shockingly cold, so even though Mexico hadn´t been that warm, sitting and starting out at the Caribbean Ocean on one of the sunniest days with temperatures at 5° C was really hard to comprehend. It was like a postcard picture of everyone´s expectations for South Beach, but then totally deserted except for a few people dressed in winter clothes and seagulls hovering way to close for comfort since I was the only person with tortilla chips in my hands. 

I was wearing my 2 month old tattered clothes, jeans with holes in the legs, a summery shirt, and flip flops, so I certainly wasn´t prepared for the weather. I also wasn´t dressed for walking around Lincoln Road Mall, since everyone was super hipster, fashion savy and dressed to kill, some even appropiately warm for the weather – I didn’t know Floridans (Floridians?) had winter fashion. I decided to go into a clothing store and buy an entire new outfit, and came out, successfully, with new boots, jeans, a sweater, a scarf, and a faux-leather jacket. I left my old outfit on the top of a garbage can, just incase anyone would have any use for it.