I Got My LIFE at Junkanoo Beach!

Author: Jaden Christopher Thornton

Tags: Caribbean, Quarter Finalist, Vacations

My Grandmother is retired and travels extensively all the time. Typically, my younger brother and I are the beneficiaries of souvenirs that tell stories of cultures and civilizations all over the world. After each trip she’d hand us gifts, typically with funny versions of her interactions and experiences. And, I’d sit and soak it all in, visualizing each place as she described it. Our immediate family (just my mom and us boys) typically traveled domestically, but I’d never had the opportunity to set my feet on “foreign soil”; and I wanted to. I had no idea my time was about to come.

In February of this year, Grandma ceremoniously announced that she was taking us all to Nassau, Bahamas over Spring Break! I couldn’t have been more excited. You probably know that Nassau is the capital (and the biggest city) in the Bahamas…a collection of islands only about 50 miles from the southern tip of Florida. The Bahamas are known for rich culture, beautiful islands, and the clarity of its water. I automatically knew it would be a lot different than the many times we visited the beaches of Atlantic City, and I wouldn’t miss that cloudy brown part of the ocean one bit!

When we arrived, I was first greeted by heat, and then more heat. Having traveled from a still-wintery Maryland, I hadn’t quite expected the 95+ degree temperature. Once we were out in the city, the pure fascination I had made it easy to forget that it felt like an inferno! The local women quickly offered hair braiding services to the women and their enthusiasm was trumped only by men who were selling carriage rides through the city. That day, we were intent on making our way to the beach. We could see the exclusive Atlantis resort in the distance, but I was happy that we would be experiencing Nassau with the locals.

Our taxi driver generously took the “long” way. Not quite so sure the adults who paid found his act favorable. Nevertheless, as we traveled through the streets of Nassau, I was shocked by the lack of traffic lights, the car’s rolling stops, and the sharing of the roads with pedestrians, mopeds, and several horses! The ride to the beach actually reminded me a lot of a game of Grand Theft Auto. The taxi driver said we were safe, after all he had gotten his license at the tender age of 13!

We passed by buildings and it was clear that the history had been preserved. You could see a lot of the Spanish influence in the architecture. I knew we were approaching something great way before we got there, because of the loud rhythms of Caribbean music. We were now at the infamous Junkanoo Beach! Unlike the more notably scenic beaches in the Bahamas, Junkanoo is a small city beach. In the water and on the sand, there were tourists and locals; drinking tropical drinks, having their hair braided, renting snorkeling equipment, chairs, and umbrellas.  There were local vendors selling food and even handmade dresses. Everything I had read about the water was true – it was incredibly clear.

My brother and I played in the water, then I set out to sample some island favorites (I had conch fritters and ginger beer!).

While I enjoyed every day that followed, no day compared to my very first in the Bahamas. I came as a starry-eyed young man with a desire to travel to a land unknown to me, and left feeling like I had really lived and wanted to live some more! Thank you Grandma.