Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Crooked Island, Bahamas

Today we returned to the stress of land-based life. There’s always so much to be done and no respite from it--no clear blue vistas to take one’s mind off the stress. Karl was able to help Nappy with a couple of loose ends on the house, which was good, but I have some guilt for leaving. I feel like we’re abandoning Nappy right at the moment of truth, when all the pieces for the house are coming together. I continue to worry, too, that our involvement will cause him headaches. I hope what we’ve brought to the project has been worth it.

We had to make our grand visit to the commissioner’s office today, too. She was extremely helpful and kind, a wonderfully hospitable example of the great officials the Bahamas uses to enhance the cause of tourism. I love how the Bahamas values its tourists and the people who visit these islands, and I love how proud Bahamians are of their hospitality. I’ve really fallen for this country in a way I didn’t expect. It may have something to do with my first visit here when I was fourteen. I still vividly remember that trip: shopping at the straw market in Nassau, eating conch and lobster for the first time, driving by crystal clear blue water and pink-sand beaches on Eleuthera, playing at the pool at our guesthouse filled with salt water from the ocean, doing bizarre puppet shows at the primary school in the blazing sun, visiting Spanish Wells, the white Christian village at the tip of Eleuthera sustained by the wealth of lobster fishing, singing with the choir at an abandoned gazebo in the central park, being stung by a man-o-war and experiencing the worst pain of my life...

It was a strange trip. We were half tourists, half evangelists. Our beautiful guesthouse was close to a resort, and yet we were there to do missions. Still, it affected me. It was my first time anywhere near to the Caribbean (although the Bahamas is situated firmly north of the Caribbean Sea, in the Southwest North Atlantic Ocean, it’s still culturally part of the Caribbean. Even many Bahamians sing gleefully along with that line in Bob Marley’s “Buffalo Soldier:” “in the heart of the Caribbean...”). Although Caribbean islands are somewhat of a cliche, I find they live up to the hype. I can completely understand why so many people spend years just cruising around the islands. It’s not Thailand, so it’s not quite home, but island-based cultures all have similarities. Crooked Island even reminds me in some ways of Cutty Hunk, the most New England of the Elizabethan Islands off of Cape Cod. Sometimes I think my heart yearns for islands because my ancestors were island people--my grandfather was born on the Greek Island of Cyprus, and his last name is Zodhiates, meaning “of the island of Zodhia.” I’ve contemplated reclaiming Cypriot citizenship (especially as I watch the dollar plunge) and I’m contemplated retaking that name (as a protest against patriarchism). At heart, though, I feel my genes long for the peace, and complexity, of island life. Perhaps a cruising sailboat is what I’ve been heading for all these years.

Our visit here had an odd coda: the two of us and Nappy went out to dinner at the house of a recent arrival on the island and a reader of this site, who had found us via Google. Evidently I am now in the top ten searches for “Crooked Island.” Strange. We had a wonderful time, even with that odd feeling I get when our digital universe intersects with the physical one, and I’m beginning to realize that my anonymity has been lost. I begin to wonder if I should use pseudonyms, as my sister does in her blog, to protect the innocent... I could get in trouble one of these days.

Oh well. I’m doing the best I can. And if people find the island through me, then all’s the better. Si (for that his name) did make on comment that stung: “how come your blog’s called Casting Off when you never cast off?” Ouch. Maybe we have been here too long, as much as I love the place.

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