Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Pittstown Point, Bahamas

0 nm
Wind: SE-S 10 knots, big thunderstorm in the evening

We’re settling into a routine ashore now. It’s pretty fantastic to have this huge house basically all to ourselves, although I do feel some guilt about it. I know that Karl’s doing an amazing job (the rigging looks better every day), and that Nappy told us it was okay to spend this much time here, but it’s still weird to feel like we’re trying not to leave footprints in someone else’s living space. The crazy thing about these houses is how little time people spend in them. Nappy has to have this house finished by October, but the owner’s only coming then for a week. What does she need this giant house for if she’s only going to be here for a week a year?

In fact, we begin to be aware of an overall racial conflict in the community. Not directed towards us at all, but towards the people who live in these giant beach cottages along Pittstown Point. They call them the “sandpeople,” and like sandpeople they seem. Even this beautiful house, which wouldn’t look out of place on the pages of Architectural Digest, is already besieged by insects in every corner--spiders, moths, flies, hornets, and other even more mysterious insects, that always seem to be collecting in the corners. They seem to be mystified by the house, as if they’re saying to themselves, “what’s this doing here? This used to be my house!”

I’m sure no Bahamian in his right mind would ever build a house out here, in between the sulfur-smelling salt pond and the water. These lots are tiny, and one can almost feel the sand slipping away. All the Bahamian houses I’ve been to are set on high ground, high up above the sand flies and mosquitoes. Nappy took us by his family house the other day--it was modest to the extreme in comparison with the house he builds, but it was of solidly constructed concrete block, shaded by giant, ancient tropical fruit trees. He made me happy by pulling down a tamarind pod. One of my earliest memories is the tamarind tree behind my kindergarten in Thailand. It’s so weird for me to be able to identify all the trees around here. I always thought I was a lousy botanist, but it just turns out I knew the wrong botany.

People keep poking around the house at all hours, out of curiousity mainly, I’m sure. This is definitely the biggest house built along this strip, and the locals want to check it out. The other afternoon the Anglican priest, with his son and family from the States, came by for a grand tour. Other people stop by at all hours, looking for Nappy, looking for work, to fill up their water jugs from the reverse-osmosis system (I’m still not sure who pays the electric bill, but I assume it’s Nappy--he’s said he’s unscrewing all the faucets when he’s done with the house so everyone won’t keep coming by for water), or just to see what kind of progress Nappy’s making. Nappy’s told us that he feels really resented by the community, because he’s had such phenomenal success in building so fast. Now everyone on the island is trying to start a construction company, but we can already see how difficult a time Nappy’s had getting halfway decent workers on the house. Most of the good work has been done by people from Nassau. The painting that Don’s doing is just touching up all the mistakes that the first painter made, so Nappy’s had to pay painters twice. Gary, too, is just cleaning up all the paint drips made on the deck by the original painting crew, a two-week job at least. Good for Gary, but bad for Nappy, who has to duplicate his labor on almost every front.

Late last night while we were here, we heard voices and scurrying in the bushes. The other night we saw a car stop on the road right outside the driveway and not turn in. We’re a little self-conscious about being here, so we keep thinking that all of the attention is because of us, but I’m sure it’s not. Nappy said he had strangers showing up at all hours even before we arrived. No wonder he’s happy to have us around. Not that we’re police or anything, but we can at least keep stuff from wandering away.

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