Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Crooked Island, Bahamas, to Boston, Massachusetts

1149.8 nm

I’m sitting in the Charlotte airport at one of those high-stooled tables with, miracle of all miracles, internet access! I should probably just be posting this, but I’m not quite brave enough to bare my soul without editing the last week of entries. I’m dazed with the newness of everything: the dazzling newsstands, the hordes of pale strangers, the countless fast-food stands with their glistening advertisements. All the things I expected to be startled by are startling. We also have a three-hour delay, which is a huge bummer, but they’ve given us vouchers for dinner, which is nice. (Go US Air.)

We had some headaches coming through immigration in the Nassau airport--I spent all day yesterday scrubbing and bleaching some conch shells that Reggie had rotting in his front yard. Suffice it to say that I had not known how disgusting decaying conch guts could be. Still, I thought they’d be great gifts so I dutifully scrubbed, despite the protestations of Bula, Nappy’s painter from Nassau. Bula had worked at the airport in Freeport for sixteen years and claimed I’d never be able to get them through US Customs. I insisted, though, that people buy conch shells in Nassau all the time. How would they know I hadn’t bought mine? They can’t discriminate against people who are given conch shells.

So I soaked them overnight in a bleach solution, drying them and wrapping them in newspaper at dawn this morning. Our bags were even subjected to the extra searches, but the kind customs people neglected to pursue the scent of decaying conch and waved us through. Other than having backpacks full of clothes that smell like rotten fish, we’re all set. I also smuggled through a pack of tuna sandwiches Karl and I made first thing this morning so we wouldn’t have to fork over hard-earned cash for overpriced airport food. These I was a little more worried about, after realizing I wasn’t allowed to bring food across international borders. I had packed the sandwiches in a bread bag, though, and they mistook them for a loaf of bread. We guiltily wolfed them down at the gate, grateful we didn’t have to pay $10 for cellophane-wrapped white bread.

The flight from Crooked Island to Nassau was beautiful. We enjoyed tracing the outlines of all the islands we had visited, seeing them stretched out below us in reverse order. In some places we could even spot the exact place where we had laid anchor--the cove at the north end of Long Island, the anchorage south of Rum Cay, even Rose Island off of Nassau, where we could see a couple of sailboats anchored, already beginning the winter pilgrimage south. I had more culture shock landing in Nassau than I did landing in the States. In a whole airport full of people, I didn’t know anyone! I kept thinking I spotted friends from Crooked, but they were strangers. We were back to the true anonymity of the big city.

The Americans we’ve met so far have been very kind. It was a couple of them that pointed us to the service desk where we could get our free food vouchers. I still feel a little lost in this giant airport. It gives me a feeling of vertigo to be surrounded by more people than the entire population of Crooked. I keep looking around me and thinking, “these are more people than I’ve seen in months, and all strangers.” The food is bewildering, too. In sight right now I have more restaurants than on the entire island. Walking through the airport was a cornucopia of sights and smells: burgers, french fries, fried chicken, pizza, soups, salads, paninis and foccacia, Chinese, barbecue, subs. We had some soup and some sub-standard pizza, our first in eons, and I kept thinking to myself, “and Americans wonder why they’re fat.”

I felt less shock at the newsstand than I expected, but more disgust, although I gratefully picked up a new New Yorker. I thumbed idly through People while Karl looked at designer watches in upscale men’s magazines, my eye caught by the headlines on the tabloids. “Britney suicide watch,” on the cover of OK, “Angie gains ten pounds” on the cover of US Weekly. It’s really nauseating, and what nauseates me most is how I’m entranced by it. We’ll have to fight it here, the pull of civilization. But already I find myself longing for island life.

No comments: