Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Bahama Mama

Our first stop on our cruise was to the Bahamas.  In my head, I heard the Beach Boys singing songs like "Kokomo" and I pictured pristine beaches, fine white sand, crystal blue waters and the coolest island towns ever.  Well the beaches were great on Paradise Island, but I never made it to any on the main island.  
The water super clear and that was wonderful.  But the images of cool island towns was stolen by the reality of poverty and economic unrest.

We went to New Providence, the biggest island with the capital of Nassau as well as Paradise Island which is home to the Atlantis Resort, which unless you live under a rock you are probably aware of.  Fun fact:  Staying in the suite in the arch is $20,000 a night.
Well that morning as we prepared to debark on the boat, the captain announced a travel alert - which is less than a travel warning but still sort of serious business - had just been issued by the US for the Bahamas.  Nice...instructions for passengers if they still planned on touring the island were to wear no jewelry, carry minimal cash and stick to only tours and service provided by legitimate servicers including Carnival and their partners and to stay in groups.  Why the travel alert?  Well there had been increased attacks on American tourists, mostly robberies, etc....So as we got through port authority we saw the increased military and police presence, not the most bucolic image that I had previously been imagining.

We did see the Queen's Staircase, Fort Fincastle and Fort Charlotte before hitting up the beaches. 
And the stories surrounding the Queen's Staircase are generally a 65 step stairway was cut into limestone by hand by citizens in gratitude for the Queen of England granting freedom to slaves - 1 step for each year of her life. 
It was an awesome feat/story.  Even cooler is the vegetation that has learned to live in a 100 foot rock wall - a testament to the fact that all living things find a way to survive.
At the tops are the forts and the stories surrounding the settling, defending and eventual freedom of the Bahamas.  Because of the travel alert I didn't feel as comfortable touring the island as much as I would have normally.

But of the 7x21 mile island, I probably covered 3x7 square miles and what I saw was the deterioration of the city and buildings, some definite hostility towards rich, white Americans, poverty that made me feel both sad and uncomfortable and some crazy scary driving.  But I also saw the capacity for people to work hard, use recycled materials for cool tourist souvenirs and the glowing pride of the moms who were working so hard so that they could send their kids to private schools and have a better life than what they were living.
In the end it was interesting,  I'm glad I got to go but I probably won't ever return.

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