Tranquility and thrills in the Turks and Caicos
By Lauren Kaufman
I nervously watched others go before me. Some made it look easy,
others impossible. Should I go for it or not? Thoughts zoomed through
my head. I had already showered off all my slippery suntan lotion.
Brian hooked the safety harness around my waist and I felt a wave
of nausea. Where else but Club Med could I fly on a trapeze? After
a long, deep breath, I began my ascent up the rungs, trying not
to look down at my friends cheering me on. Sara greeted me at the
platform and helped me into position. I grasped the bar with one
hand and Sara with the other. "Hup" was yelled, cuing me to let
go of my support and swing into the air. I pumped my legs back and
forth to gain momentum. As my heart thumped, Josh, hanging like
a bat on another bar, shouted another "Hup" and I let go for him
to catch my airborne arms. Whoosh…next thing I knew I'd plummeted
to the net below. Rosy cheeked, winded and thrilled that it was
over, my trapeze attempt ended with a round of applause from my
Well, I didn't lose my lunch or decide to join the circus, but
that trapeze "flight" allowed me to find something I had lost: my
courageous spirit. My seven-night vacation at Club Med Turkoise
on the Caribbean island of Providenciales in Turks and Caïcos became
an adventurous reawakening of mind, body and soul.
It started with "Wanna Play?." Club Med's advertisements plastered
across the walls of entire subway cars beckoned as I monotonously
rode to and from work, tempting me with azure water, sunny skies
and young people laughing. Ah, deadlines, world events and my computer
would be left behind. Skyscrapers, ringing phones and the rush of
the city would give way to primary colored buildings, tropical coconut
palms swaying and turquoise waves lapping against the powdery shoreline.
Turkoise would give my soul peace.
It was easy convincing Donna, Michelle and Elizabeth to be my accomplices
on this escape. For one thing, Club Med Turkoise has a reputation
that precedes it, where inhibition reigns, singles abound and Coronas
continuously flow (if you buy a new $250 all-you-can-drink bar bracelet).
After one day on the beach, I noticed something physically different
about my face. It wasn't just the zillion freckles that popped out
in the intense sun, but the bags under my eyes had miraculously
disappeared. I was shocked since no cream on the market could work
those wonders (I'd tried). It was as if all my stress was lifted
from my body. My mind was ready to vacation and I threw myself into
My body desperately needed activity. I craved more than a Stairmaster
workout and wanted to rid myself of that sedentary laze of an office
rolling chair. I hate setting alarms though needed one to awaken
on time for daily intermediate tennis lessons at 9:30 a.m. I was
excited to improve my game and sharpen my skills. Yishi, a gorgeous
Serena Williams-type, ran our group of 12 through drills upon drills
every morning for an hour. The hot beating sun on the sand courts
had every 20- to 60-year-old complaining, but by week's end, our
games improved. Though I won't be starring at this year's U.S. Open,
I was proud of myself for motivating and taking advantage of the
included lessons. I not only walked away having burned some calories,
I made some new friends.
Overall, G.M.s (Gracious Members/guests) were very friendly. Conversations
usually began, "So, have you been to Club Med before?" and a resounding
yes was repeatedly heard. Hendel Duplessy, the chief of the village,
said that every three to four months, he sees at least 20 people
return to Turkoise and approximately 80% of all guests (in all villages)
worldwide are repeaters, an incredibly high statistic. Hendel claimed,
"They come for the sports and nightlife," but I think Club Med's
famous white chocolate bread also factors in, though the buffet
food itself is not a draw.
With an all-inclusive sports program (excluding the extensive SCUBA
School) including Circus School (trapeze, trampoline, juggling),
activities certainly entice those who wish to participate. My adventurous
spirit also yearned to learn water-skiing, and I was disappointed
to find out that JoJo - the local dolphin - was in danger of getting
run over by the ski boat and the Club put an end to the program.
Hitting the water in another fashion, the four of us signed up for
sailing lessons. Flavio, a well-built Brazilian we likened to Fabio,
instructed us how not to "sail into the wind to Cuba" and instead
to let the air glide the boat across the water perpendicularly.
Captaining one of the Club's 15 new rainbow catamarans, I found
my sea legs and a new hobby.
A favorite activity was 11:30 a.m. water aerobics lead by a little
spunky Moroccan G.O. (Gracious Organizer/"camp counselor") we called
"Gonzo." Michelle and I would hop into the chilly pool with about
20 other women (men were always apprehensive about joining in) for
an intense splash workout. The reward was always the massage circle
at the end.
Following, at noon each day, it was time for the Sundance. G.M.s
would edge the pool for high-energy, cheesy little line dances.
By week's end, everyone knew the movements to the handful of catchy
songs, which would be repeated nightly after the show during "Crazy
Signs," a massive aerobic workout to get everyone pumped.
This brings us to draw of the nightlife, coupled with the presence
of G.O.s. G.O.s are popular among the 20- and 30-something crowds
as they are the basis of Club Med's fun, laidback persona. The 115
talented G.O.s at Turkoise were from 26 countries. Most of them
outgoing, good-looking and party-hearty natured, the men were inclined
to befriend many a female G.M. For most, nights were all-out drinkfests
with open bar bracelets and "Let's Get Loud" hip dance music cranking
at the outdoor poolside club until 1 a.m. For those like us who
were still awake when the main bar closed, the dwindling party moved
to after-hours at Sharkies, the beach bar (also the site for sing
along happy hours.)
Old and new friends (250 of 500 guests were from New York; 100
were Canadians) kept the days interesting; snorkeling, basketball,
and a "foam party" kept me active; innocent flirtations inflated
my previously somewhat depressed ego; and the bright sultry sun
melted away my frozen mind and soul that usually was concentrated
on deadlines and client requests. This vacation was all about fun
and removing myself from everything mundane. However, the Club,
once renowned for its "antidote to civilization" motto has now,
as Hendel said, "had no choice but to change with the times and
adapt to the new world." In March 2001 they installed three Internet
stations for guests to use ($.33/minute). Did I check my email?
No. Could I have watched the news? Sure, we had a TV in the room.
For me, this was my desperately needed break from society and I
was happy to be cut off from the world for a week. I had I found
a utopia, where everyone was always smiling, the sun always shone
and I had no bags under my eyes.