Unlike most homes, the house I was living in three years ago had the washer and dryer on the outside of the house. I can still recall how strange the first load was. Yes, I can picture it now. I lifted the lid to the washer and what I saw made me scream. There were lizards in the washing machine. And where might you ask was I living with lizards in my washing machine…no other place than the Bahamas.
When people ask me about the places I’ve lived, I love to see the reaction on their faces when I casually say the Bahamas. They start off with questions like, “why would you come here?”, or “what was it like?” I could answer either question with one simple sentence…I was going crazy. But before I get into that, let me catch you up to speed.
Four years ago my parents came to me and asked my permission to move to the Bahamas. You might think that that is a lot of pressure to put on a 16 year old girl, but I’ve always been responsible and mature for my age. So after thinking about it I calmly and reasonably answered them with a giant YES!! After all, it was a once in a life time opportunity for me. I had already moved three times before this and every time I move I have to learn to adapt to my environment all over again. Moving to the Bahamas was no different. Catherine Pulsifer, one of the authors of A Simple Life says, “When we allow ourselves to adapt to different situations, life is easier”, so my family packed up what we wanted, held garage sale after garage sale, placed everything else in storage, and we were off to paradise.
We arrived in Marsh Harbor, Abaco on August twenty-eighth 2006, and with just a week to spare before school would start. That week was…difficult. I didn’t know anyone and I had no place to go. I wanted to go to the beach, but in Marsh Harbor, the closest beach was a thirty minute drive away. So I spent my first week in paradise sitting in front of the TV. The night before school started I was so excited. I didn’t like the uniform I had to wear, and some of the rules were a bit funny, such as I wasn’t allowed to wear jewelry or make up, but I was still looking forward to it. I had no idea of the shock I was in for. When I went to school the next day I learned quite a few things that contributed to my insanity. One: Math was required all four years of high school. Two: I was required to take Caribbean history and geography all four years. Three: I was required to take chemistry and biology all four years. Four: I was taking something called Office procedures. Five: My choices for electives were between Spanish, religion, and publishing. The worst one was learning why all of this schooling was necessary. At the end of your 12th grade year you don’t take end of year exams. No, you take a test called the BGCSE, which covers everything you have done over the last four years of school, and what made it increasingly worse was that during your 11th and 12th grade years you had to complete a thing called course work for each class, which basically involved writing long boring reports. I was so overwhelmed with all of this information, not to mention my back pack that was overflowing with textbooks and homework that I went home and cried for a few hours.
As I sat in my room, I resolved to not tell my parents of my unhappiness until late November. By that time, I thought, I would at least be getting settled in school and making friends. That idea lasted about two hours. Later that night, I had a huge argument with my parents. I was yelling and carrying on so much, that my mother had to remind me that I had given my permission to move. Well, that certainly shut me up. My outburst, wasn’t just due to school, unfortunately, it was the entire culture. In the states, everything is convenient and fast paced. In the Bahamas, everything is laid back and slow moving. I was so used to organization, and people starting things on time, but everything is completely different there. I was unaware of island time, and if I showed up late for a meeting I was usually an hour early. Contrary to what you might expect, and not to burst your bubble, but the Bahamas is not an island paradise you can escape to. Despite the gorgeous scenery, the Bahamas is just like any other place in the world with its own problems.
For a few months I hid in my room. I wouldn’t go anywhere, or try to make new friends. As much as I can tell now, I was in such a cultural shock it took me several months to fully appreciate where I was living. I was living in the Bahamas, for crying out loud! I really should have spent my time making friends…or being friendly for that matter. After I realized what a moron I was being, I began to work out my problems and make some friends; life became easier. I was no longer hiding in my room, and was finally appreciating the island life. In fact, my new friends found extreme pleasure in teaching me some Bahamian pastimes. Once they took me fishing, but not like fishing you might do in a rowboat. I mean, fishing the manly way; bare skin, diving into the water and hunting for fish with a spear. The experience was amazing, and even though I didn’t catch anything I will always remember trying.
Now I couldn’t exactly show them the things I did in my spare time, because well let’s face it, there wasn’t a Wal-Mart and c’mon that’s where all the teenagers hang out in Oklahoma. I did like telling them about the cultural differences though; such as they would eat their French fries with a fork…I don’t know about you, but I think that is the weirdest thing. My Bahamian friends and I were different, but the truth is, they were pretty much like me, except that I grew up in the plains of Oklahoma and learned to swim in a pool and they grew up in paradise and learned how to drive a boat and fish with a spear.
Consider the words of well known author, Dr. Spencer Johnston. He writes, “Get out of your comfort zone and adapt to change sooner. Take control, rather than let things happen to you.” Probably the most cherished memory I have of the Bahamas was the first time I went up the Hope Town lighthouse. Hope Town is a very small cay off the coast of the larger island Abaco. Most of my friends lived on Hope Town and I tried to go there every weekend I could. I remember crossing the harbor in the little boat that belonged to one of my friends, and as I climbed the lighthouse my mind grew wild with anticipation. I’d been in lighthouses before, but none that were on an island. When I got to the top I saw the water completely surrounding the island. I felt the wind on the back of my neck and I heard the waves crash on the shore, and just when I thought my life couldn’t get any better, my friend Eric told me to throw my shoes down to symbolize my first time up and that he, and the other guys, would of course throw their shoes over too. I wasn’t born yesterday. I could sense this was a joke and if I actually did throw my shoes down I would be the only one walking barefoot. So I said to them, “You go first.” And to my astonishment…they did. They each took their shoes off and threw them down. As I watched the sandals and the tennis shoes fly I thought to myself I love this place.
If I were capable of turning the clock back to that crossroad in my life and choosing a different path, I wouldn’t redo it. Obviously, there are several pros and cons of the choice I made, and taking into account each one I would most likely choose to move again. True, it was back breaking to move to the Bahamas and the school system is outrageous, but all in all I can honestly say that I have grown as a person. A friend recently told me that when you don’t know what to do with yourself, it probably means you should work on your character. Well I didn’t know what to do with myself when I first got there, but I certainly had enough time to figure it out. I’ve learned that I can be a very shy person in new situations, I can freak out if something doesn’t go the way I planned it, and I can hide my feelings about what’s really going on. But since I’ve been in the Bahamas and now that I’ve come back to Oklahoma, I have tried to be more outgoing and not waste so much time being shy. I’ve calmed down and learned to go with the flow of what’s happening, and I’ve been more open with my feelings.
All I know is that I wasted the first couple of months I was in the Bahamas. It took me a long time to make friends, but when I finally worked through my issues and stopped hiding I met some of the best friends I will ever have. Besides, living on an island gives me interesting stories to tell and adds flair to my personality. The point of this story is to take life as it comes and welcome whatever surprises it gives you. As Forrest Gump says, “Life is like a box of chocolates…you never know what you’re going to get.” But I say life is like a washer full of lizards. It’s interesting, difficult to control and if you try to hide it, it will only get worse. So my advice to you, when you’re in a new situation, is calm down, think, and do your best to get all the lizards out.
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