Thursday, October 04, 2007

Crooked Island, Bahamas

Wind: SE 10 knots

While we were chatting with Nappy last night, he asked us to do him a favor by riding around with him today while he gets Crooked Islanders to sign a petition for development on Long Cay. They’ve been planning to do a big Pittstown Point-style resort down there for generations, evidently, but now the pieces are finally coming together, and the prime minister wanted the developer to have proof that the project was desired by the residents of the island. So we put off rowing down to the boat one more day in order to spend some more time roaming around the island with Nappy, always an exhilarating experience (partly due to numerous potholes and Nappy’s breakneck driving pace...). It’s especially fun to have the privilege of being invited into these strangers houses, many of them in their late eighties or nineties. I thought I could say it before, but now I can say it with authority: we know absolutely everyone on the island. We’ve even been inside most of the houses.

Most people, even the elderly, were in favor of the proposal. Many had some questions about it, but the overwhelming concern for the Bahamians was the creation of jobs for young people. As with almost every rural community in today’s world, the Bahamas has a massive problem with out-migration--people moving from the outer islands and a sustainable lifestyle based on agriculture and fishing to the big city, the only place they can find employment. Still, some had questions and concerns, and it was interesting to see the political process debated.

We felt a little out of place sometimes, but most people were thrilled to meet us, some of them community legends. We met Mama Blanche, 97 years old and the grandmother of our good friend Robbie. She recited to us the lesson, word for word, that she remembered from her first day of school. There’s got to be something in the air or the water around here that gives people long life. Mama Blanche isn’t even the oldest person on the island. Her daughter is the pastor at Nappy’s church and we had seen her at the service the other day. She remembered who we were, reinforcing to us again the value of that kind of local participation. She invited us to the church cookout they’re having a week from Friday, and we were dismayed to miss it. It’s going to be weird as we begin to extricate ourselves from the community.

Marina Gibson was another local legend, the proud purveyor of food from Gibson’s Lunchroom, the only restaurant listed on our navigational chart for this area. She’s older now and doesn’t cook, but has two children who run restaurants on the island now. The bewildering thing was that she had heard of us through this website! One of her adopted daughters, who now lives in Florida, has been communicating with me, getting the Crooked Island news, and had called her mother to tell her about us the other day. My fame precedes me, I guess, something I had never expected.

The rest of the day passed in a blur--driving, stopping, meeting people for the first time or talking to people we knew well or had met at church, being shown into pleasant Bahamian parlors decorated with graduation and wedding photos, curio cabinets full of conch shells and stuffed animals, beautiful paintings of sailboats or beaches on the walls. Nappy was glad to have us along as we gave him an excuse to keep moving, and we were glad to be along, as an excuse to be invited into people’s homes. We ended the day at Blackjack’s as usual, where we chowed down on even more delicious chicken than usual. Maybe our last chicken snack before we leave. It’s a weird feeling, as we begin to bid our adieus.

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