I am today recovering from one of the most excruciating dinner table conversations I’ve ever endured.
The nine of us (seven volunteers plus Monika and her son) went out for dinner to a lovely Ecuadorian restaurant.
I was seated near the end, next to Pippa, beside Monika and opposite Pa-ool (his name really should be spelt like that).
Monika suddenly became very serious.
“Vicki, Pippa, I must talk to you about men on Galapagos,” she roared.
“We must talk very seriously about this because always I am having problems with the volunteers. They are falling in love.”
“No Vicki, Vicki, you laugh but always this is happening.
“These mens, they are waiting at the airport to meet these volunteers and these volunteers, they are stopping with the boyfriends at home and falling in love with these mens.
“But when they are going back to the islands these mens, they are married and they have children and they have been waiting at the airport for new volunteer.”
At this point Pa-ool chipped in with a long and animated story about a pretty young girl who was supposed to be going to Oxford University but fell in love with a pygmy in the jungle instead.
“And we take her to the airport and she is crying and saying it does not matter with your two wives,” he reveals with all the dismissiveness an 11-year-old can muster.
“She was saying ‘We love each other. We can make it work.”
I didn’t dare look at Pippa and anyway, Monika wasn’t finished.
“Vicki, you look like you don’t believe but always this is happening. Always I have the problems with the volunteers, having to push them onto the plane.
“You don’t understand what these mens are like. They know what to say to make you fall in love. They will say you are beautiful and special.
“On Galapagos it is different. I know when men in Englands say these things, they will only say them when there is some feelings there.”
Ha! I know what you’re thinking, but I didn’t have the heart to correct her. I was too busy staring at my lap, trying not to look and feel about 14-years-old.
“You don’t understand what it is like on the island,” she continued.
“It is magic.”
At this point Pa-ool (who is actually my hero) decided to break the tension.
“Oh, oh, oh, it’s magic,” he sang down the table.
That was it then. Pippa’s shoulders went and I laughed until I was wiping away the tears.
And the moral of this story for all of us?
What do you say if a tall, dark and devilishly handsome young man says you are beautiful?