It’s been a little quiet on my blog for the past few days. That’s because I was on a short but memorable trip to The Bahamas! I’d never been before. I’d never been anywhere in the Caribbean before. And although I’ve never considered myself a tropical kind of girl, I think I’m in love.
So what is it about The Bahamas?
Well, the weather was next door to miserable the whole time we were there. It was unusually cold, rainy, and extremely windy. The sun barely came out the entire time we were there. We stayed at the Atlantis Resort on Paradise Island next to Nassau, and there were so many people milling around, both from the resort and from the four cruise ships that were parked in the harbor, that it kind of made me crazy. But I still loved it!
When we arrived on Thursday afternoon and stood in line at immigration for about an hour, there was a video that kept playing over and over. It described The Bahamas as “the warmest place on earth”. I thought it was cute.
Then I started to meet Bahamians.
Folks, The Bahamas really is the warmest place on earth! I was so impressed by the kindness and generosity of every one of the Bahamians I met. They are a wonderful, beautiful people. Everyone I came across was incredibly attractive and ready with a smile and a helpful word.
Of course, my first instinct was to think that of course they were so nice, 60% of the Bahamian economy is tourism. It’s in their best interest to be friendly to the tourists since the money we spend their fuels their economy. And since the Atlantis Resort is a pretty high-end place, of course only the brightest and most attractive locals work there.
Yeah, that’s my jaded Americanism talking.
This is a different culture with a whole different focus. The Bahamian people have a different attitude and a different sense of national pride than we do. Even as we drove through the back roads and local neighborhoods – many of which were poor and run-down by American standards – I felt as though we were driving through a friendly, safe place. Our one tour guide ended up taking us deep into the heart of the “real” neighborhoods of Nassau to avoid traffic, pointing out the school he went to, the church he attends, and where his friends go to eat. It wasn’t dolled up and contrived like the resorts or the docks where the cruise ships come in. It was the real Nassau, and it was beautiful.
I also had a hard time adjusting to having so many bright, dark-skinned Bahamians rushing to meet my needs. Maybe I’m too Yankee or too middle-class, but seeing the racial demographics of the resort at work kind of bothered me. But again, I think I saw all that through my American glasses. I had a chance to talk to some of the staff and there really is a sense of national pride in the way they take care of the tourists and show off their hospitality. This was real hospitality I was feeling, not just a façade put on to look good in the brochures. The kindness was amazing to me.
Okay, maybe there is something darker going on when you scratch the surface, but I really don’t think so. This is a happy bunch of people. Listening to our tour guides and the people I talked to, there is no income tax in the Bahamas, health care is free, education is free, the top 10% of every high school class gets to go to whatever Bahamian college they want to for free, the minimum wage is pretty darn high, and crime is punished so severely that I can’t see why anyone would feel the need to choose a life of crime. One of their biggest criminal problems is illegal immigration, particularly of Haitians trying to sneak into the country. Who wouldn’t want to try to move to this stable, prosperous country?
In the end, it all boils down to the experience of one of those Ah-ha Moments when you realize that not everyone in the world thinks and acts like Americans. The Bahamian culture is unique to anything I’ve experienced. It’s a culture I would love to visit again. Heck, I’d love to spend a significantly longer amount of time there than three days! We’ll see.
I took a lot of pictures when I was down there (lots of them of fish in the aquariums), and as soon as I take them off the camera I’ll post them.