So, on the fourth night with our current tribe of saltwater-loving friends on the beach in Pescadero, Baja California, we made a feast to celebrate the sun-filled joy. We barbecued over a wheelbarrow fire, played Yahtzee, told stories. And then we decided to light off a Chinese sky lantern to send our wishes to the heavens. These ancient floating orbs are like mini helium balloons, with a big paper body surrounding a little fire that lifts the lantern high into the night sky. Chinese holidays and celebrations often feature a lantern lift-off, a tradition reminiscent of blowing out birthday candles in the U.S.
After making sure the wind was right, we each made a wish and took pictures (not these, though, due to subsequent events) as the three-foot lantern ascended toward the stars. It started off slowly toward the north, then veered south at a fast clip as it hit winds in the stratosphere. The closer it got to the heavens, the more it looked like a star of its own. Then it faded out.
The next morning, the corpse of the blue lantern was in our driveway, about 30 feet from where we lit it off. The six of us looked at each other in complete confusion, and discussed the improbability — impossibility, almost — of the lantern landing back where it started, especially since we’d watched it cruise so far south. Bizarre, we agreed. Borderline creepy. We decided it must be good luck, because it made us feel better about the improbable return of our wishes.
Turns out, it wasn’t good luck. The very next morning, we awoke to find a trifecta of a shit-storm had descended upon our happy tribe: $3,500+ of our electronics were stolen, Katie had horrible food poisoning, and Alan and Bequia’s 16-year-old dog seemed to be heading to the heavens herself. We weathered the storms, said our goodbyes, and drove to La Paz to stay on Mark and Katie’s boat for the night. Our exhaustion had us leaving much of our gear in the car outside the marina, and heading immediately to bed. We awoke to find the shit-storm still in full swing: Katie and Mark’s car stolen, along with all of the gear inside.
Again, it seems improbable — impossible even — to have that much bad karma in a 24-hour period. The only plausible explanation is that we were cursed by the Chinese sky lantern. You’re not supposed to see your wishes return to earth when you’ve explicitly bequeathed them to the stars. Our wishes spiraled in reverse and exploded in our faces for a brief but intense reality-check.
Now for the good news: our friend Brandon gave us a kata before we left Missoula, blessed by Tibetan lamas. We broke it out last night and hung it from the boom to fight off the curse. It seems to be working. Katie and Mark will likely get insurance for the stolen goods, and already have offers of potential rides back to the States. Rob and I got an offer to go sailing for the next few days to nearby islands with a couple anchored here in La Paz.
The moral of the story? Be careful what you wish for, and always check the winds twice.