More than I Bargained for - My Family Travels

The people here were so…friendly. I looked around me and all I could see were smiles, beautiful and sincere smiles that were contagious to the point where I couldn’t keep my mouth shut, and my cheeks were starting to hurt from how big my mouth was stretching. Did these people ever experience anger? I had yet to see anyone with a frown on their face. I guess if I had to sum up my trip to the Bahamas in the summer of 2009 in one word, it would be refreshing.

When people hear of the Bahamas, magnificent beaches, wonderful hotels (the Atlantis in particular),  and celebrities come to mind. Tourists tend to think of Paradise Island and that is enough. That is the Bahamas for most people. I was lucky enough to have been able to experience the true Bahamian culture. When my parents told us that we were going there for a week I was thrilled. I imagined myself in a resort enjoying a week full of relaxation sipping a cold smoothie by the pool or the ocean twenty-four-seven. How very wrong my perspective was! If there is anything to be learned from any travel experience is that our perspective of the world is usually very narrow-minded and that there is more to places than what you hear or know about.

When we arrived in Nassau I was expecting luxury, nice streets, and beautiful celebrity mansions. Instead, I got a reality check. Driving from the airport to our rented villa on the other side of the island I saw what most people don’t see in magazine or television reports of the Bahamas. I looked at poverty in the face. The roads needed maintenance, and the houses needed reconstruction. Most of them had probably survived more than one hurricane. They were barely standing with broken windows that were being covered with plastic or tape, and the grass needed weeding. That was one of the longest thirty minute car rides of my life. I was looking around the whole time in wonder. Wondering why you never heard about this on TV, why when people talked about the Bahamas they talked only of Atlantis or where they thought Oprah’s fifth house was located. I was baffled that they would neglect this part. THIS was the Bahamas. Everything else was a make-believe world built to satisfy people who did not live there but went there for pleasure.

Our rented house was in a neighborhood with almost no tourism. Right next to it there was a beach full of native islanders who spent their afternoons there drinking a soda, bathing, talking, laughing, and even dancing. Every afternoon that we were there I would walk alongside the road (there were no sidewalks) and observe the people surrounding me. I was amazed at how genuinely happy they were, how willingly they were to help out if I had question. They were familiar with the word service and seemed to live by it. Out of the seven days that we were there we only went to Paradise Island once. Instead, we spent our time around Nassau, in typical food places and historic sites that were the epitome of the REAL Bahamas.

Although my time there was short, my experience was rewarding because it opened up my eyes to the realities of the world. I am grateful for the opportunity I had to learn about a different culture and how they dealt with their hardships with a smile on their face. There is much to learn from the diverse cultures of the world.

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