This past summer I got the amazing opportunity to go to the Bahamas. My dad had been planning this trip for months; no words could describe my anticipation as we checked in at Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The day we set off was flawless: the mid-70s weather was complimented by a gentle ocean breeze over the beautiful water. I remember the remarkable sunset: surrounded by the Atlantic, the sun slowly set below the horizon, its rays prominently reflecting over the glistening sea. That night I had my first “midnight buffet,” eating platefuls of food when I would normally be sleeping. Afterwards, I headed back to my room, watched a movie, then fell asleep, eager to wake to the Bahamas.
The sunlight woke me up at about 8 AM. Realizing where I was, I flung the blinds open to look out at the view. Crystal clear waters, brilliant rays of sunlight, and a sprawling mall welcomed me to the Bahamas. Our first activity was the glass bottom boat tour. We passed many mansions, including Mary Kay’s summer house and a diplomat’s home, complete with an eleven car garage; and went under the bridge famous for its role in 007: Casino Royale. Finally, we arrived at the SeaGardens, where they opened up the bottom level. Looking down, I saw all shapes and sizes of fish and plants, many of which I had never seen before. It was almost as if I was snorkeling (minus the getting-wet part, of course).
We ate lunch and walked to where our limo tour began. I was fine with a car, but it was a dream come true to cruise around in a sleek black stretch limo. After passing by the old Parliament building and a couple other attractions, we crossed the 007 bridge and made our way through an underground tunnel to the resort. The sight was absolutely breathtaking: the resort was much bigger in person than the pictures I recalled. We laid our eyes upon the prized VIP suite, where celebrities like Oprah and Tom Cruise had stayed. A whopping $25,000 per night, I could only imagine what the view must be like. We headed inside to lay our eyes upon the resort’s aquarium, part of the bottom floor. The aquarium was absolutely astounding, with fish of many shapes and sizes. Most impressive was the pair of manta rays they had, both larger than a person.
When our twenty minutes were up, we got back in the limo for the rest of our tour. This is when our driver surprised us: he told us that he was going to take us through the slums. This was strange; I always envisioned the Bahamas as paradise all around, without a hint of poverty. It took only five minutes to correct my misconception. Mere blocks ago we were surrounded by wealthy tourists; now, we looked upon people with holes in their clothes and no shoes. The houses were falling apart, cars were missing wheels; I felt like I was in a third world country. I could not believe that such a tremendous socioeconomic divide could happen in such a short distance. It was like going from downtown New York to the outskirts of Sudan in a few blocks.
Now, when I remember the Bahamas, I think not only of the Atlantis Resort, the crystal clear waters, and the SeaGardens, but also of the vital lesson I learned. This trip taught me that even in “paradise,” poverty may be just around the corner.
Because of this trip, I am eager to one day return and help those in need.
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