March 2012

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Taking the plunge with Katie

Katie trying to look relaxed in the spa plunge pool at Royal Davui. Photo by David Lansing.

You know how nervous you get when you see a cop, even if you have no reason to be nervous? That’s the way I felt shooting a topless Katie. I’d just finished my Bobo massage with May and I explained to her that I was going to hang around the spa because Katie was coming in and before she got her massage, I was going to take some pictures of her. In the plunge pool.

I explained to May how this was going to work: Katie would be in a robe. I’d be up on the edge of the plunge pool. I would hide my eyes. May would help Katie undress. Katie would get in the water. When Katie was properly situated, she’d tell me and I’d open my eyes. Then I’d take some pictures.

“Does that sound okay with you?” I asked May.

“Yes, Mr. David.”

When Katie came in, she seemed as nervous as I was. She said something lame and I said something even more lame in return. I was sitting half in and half out of the plunge pool, trying to get the camera as close to the level of the water as I could because I thought that would be the most artistic shot. Katie was standing at the edge of the pool, gripping her white robe close at her neck.

“Are you ready?” I said.

I put my hand over my eyes. Katie disrobed and got in the water. I could hear her splashing around as she moved into place. “Okay,” she said. “You can look.”

Her hair was slicked back and she had a red hibiscus flower behind her ear. She was pressed up against the edge of the pool with her arms up on the ledge. “You look really tense,” I told her. “Can you relax your shoulders?”

As I framed her in the viewfinder, I realized this wasn’t quite the shot I was hoping for. In the plunge pool at my villa, you could look straight out across the ocean to Beqa Island. But the pool at the spa was more hidden. You couldn’t really see the ocean. There was so much foliage around the spa that it appeared as if Katie was staring off into the jungle. Not quite what I was looking for.

For a moment I considered asking Katie if she’d mind coming over to the plunge pool at my villa. But then I could just hear Marguarite—“You did what?”

So I asked Katie to adjust her body a bit to make it look less like she was staring out at the jungle, and to try and relax her shoulders, and then I clicked off exactly 26 photos. I know because I counted.

And then I climbed out of the pool, while Katie stayed pressed against the edge, thanked May—and Katie—and was gone. Photo shoot over.

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Who is shooting who?

Elina shooting the champagne. Photo by Katie Botkin.

Four of us—Christopher, Elina, Katie, and me—always have our cameras with us. And are constantly taking pictures of each other. Katie takes pictures of Elina; Elina takes pictures of Katie. I ask Christopher to pose with Marguarite. Or Elina. Or Katie. At a sunset cocktail party in the honeymoon Vale (vah-le), Elina was taking pictures of a table topped with appetizers and champagne while Katie was shooting Elina taking pictures. Then Elina asked Christopher and Katie to pose on the balcony as the sun was going down. Like they were honeymooning there.

And while this is all going on, Marguarite is set designing. She moves chairs, plumps pillows, tops off glasses of champagne.

Click, click, click.

And Katie shooting Elina shooting the champagne. Photo by Christopher Southwick.

Yesterday Katie and I figured out that she was going to get a massage right after mine. Which gave me an idea.

“Would you mind posing for me in the plunge pool at the spa before you get your massage?” I asked her.

“Of course not,” she said.

“Would you mind doing it topless? You know, like you’ve just had this incredible massage and now you’re chilling out in the pool, looking out over the ocean?”


“I’ll shoot you from behind,” I told her. “We won’t see anything. It’s just for setting the mood. Would that be okay?”

“Well…sure. I guess I could do that.”

“Should I be there?” Marguarite asked, looking first at me and then Katie.

“What for?” I said.

“I don’t know,” said Marguarite. “I just feel like maybe I should be there.”

“It will be fine,” said Katie.

So we’re all set. Tomorrow afternoon I’m getting a Fijian Bobo massage and then Katie is going to come in and do a photo shoot with me in the plunge pool. And who knows? Maybe even Marguarite will show up. To take pictures of me taking pictures of Katie. You never know.

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Swimming with the sharks

Snorkeling in the soft coral reef off the beach at the Royal Davui. Photo by David Lansing.

Katie has never snorkeled.

“Never?” I say.

Katie shakes her head.

Jale (CHAR-lay) is going to take the two of us out this morning. He meets us down at the dock with snorkeling gear and shows Katie how to rub a little toothpaste into her mask and rinse it to keep the glass from fogging (besides making your mask smell minty fresh, it doesn’t have the yuck factor of the more traditional spitting method).

“There are sharks down there,” Katie says as she sits on the end of the dock putting on her fins. “I saw them yesterday.”

She doesn’t say this with alarm. Just sort of matter-of-factly. Like you’d say, The water is warm today.

The three of us roll into the water, Jale leading and Katie and I following close behind. Jale and I have gone down to the bottom of the reef to look at a lobster hiding in a rock crevasse when Jale realizes that Katie isn’t with us. We swim up to the surface and look around. Katie is not far away, dog-paddling while playing with her mask. It’s leaking, she tells Jale. It keeps filling up with water.

Jale takes the mask, adjusts the strap, and has her try it again.

Jale darts in and out of the reef, his arms close to his body, his flippers kicking. Like a playful seal, he moves effortlessly underwater. Katie and I struggle to keep up. He wants to show us everything: a clown fish, sea slug, conch, sea fans, and, yes, some small sand sharks. A bright yellow sponge sits like a Christmas tree ornament in a pale violet tree coral.

We are swimming along with the current which picks up strength as it flows into the Beqa channel. Surges lift me up and carry me onto the soft coral reef and it’s tricky business getting back into deeper water without damaging the coral—or my legs. Katie has fallen behind. Jale and I surface, waiting for her to catch up.

“It will be more difficult swimming from here,” Jale says. “Do you want to go back?”

I look at Katie; Katie looks at me. “Maybe we should,” she says.

I look closely at her, trying to decipher what she thinks about all this. It’s difficult to say. I think she likes seeing this alien underwater world. But perhaps isn’t crazy about the whole fogged-mask-saltwater-down-the-snorkel thing. Or maybe the wave action has made her feel queasy.

We swim back to the dock and take off our gear. “What’d you think?” I ask her as we climb out of the water.

She shakes her wet hair like a dog coming out of a lake. “It was interesting,” she says.

“Did you like it?” Jale asks.

Katie nodds. “Yeah. I mean, I guess so. It was kind of hard to breathe.”

“You must get used to it,” Jale says. He gathers up our gear, we thank him, and then I’m off to the Banyan to have lunch with Marguarite and Christopher. When I ask Katie if she’s going to join us, she says, “Maybe later.” She’s off to take a shower and, I suspect, a nap.

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Katie and Gus and Hobie

Gus rigs the Hobie Cat on the beach in front of the Royal Davui. Photos by David Lansing.

More from Katie’s blog:

Gus, the 18-year-old Fiji Youth Hobie Cat racing champion, whom (Grahame), the owner of the Royal Davui, picked up off the docks of Suva as a loitering youngster and taught to sail, is waiting for me down on the beach.

He looks at me and goes to the Marine Center for a pair of harnesses. Gus shows me how to hook into the side of the catamaran, and we’re off, one hull up, leaning back into the harness and bracing against the side of the trampoline with our feet, so that when both hulls are down, we’re parallel with the surf.

Gus and Katie set sail.

I have the jib, although I don’t do anything with it other than hold the rope for balance so hard I begin to get blisters. I arch backwards and drag my fingers in the water as we fly past, as the boat wavers up and down, so we’re almost vertical at times.

Gus chuckles as he tips it up, until he goes too far, and we’re so far upright I lose my balance and plummet to the ocean, and the boat tips over, sail flat. Gus tells me to climb up on the hull with him and help him right everything. Only we aren’t heavy enough, so I have to climb his knees and lean on his chest so we form a counterweight.

When all is righted, Gus tells me to take the rudder and the mainsail, and we go slowly back as he shows me how to catch the wind and steer. Every time we begin to tip too much and I let the sail slack to bring us down, he chuckles again. He asks me where I’m from, and I tell him that back there, it’s snowing.

We sail for nearly three hours, sliding around under the boom, and I’m thankful for my Under Armour, especially when I discover red burns up to my ankles. We tip the boat again, and then I’m hungry for lunch, which consisters of beer-battered fish and chips made from the mackerel Marguarite caught earlier—the best fish and chips I’m sure I’ve ever had.

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Thoughts of a virgin diver

Ben helping Katie assemble her gear before her first dive. Photo by Christopher Southwick.

Where was I when Katie talked Ben into taking her diving for the first time in her life? Who knows. Taking a nap? Floating in the pool? Talking with Siteri?

Anyway, Christopher was there (to document it) and Katie later wrote about it on her own blog. Here’s an excerpt:

I have always wanted to go diving, and now, here in a pristine Fijian paradise, I have the chance. So I start in the resort’s pool, and go off-jetty dive within the hour, sinking in my heavy equipment to watch the clouds of multicolored, flashing sea life—fish of a dozen varieties. When they disappear, and it’s just this murky, light-strewn three-dimensional world, I tell myself not to care that I feel seawater in my nose and can taste it in my mouth, try to slow my breathing and study the coral. I tell myself that this is fun. That we are not that deep, and it’s mostly the fact that worst-case scenarios are running through my head. I had neglected to ask the dive instructor what happens if I start coughing so hard I lose the regulator, inhale water, and, unable to breathe, am rushed to the surface. Will my lungs explode at the top? I shut this thought out.

To read more, go to:

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