I look around and see a place outside my comfort zone. Instead of the crisp, modern structures of buildings and casinos in Nevada, I see deteriorating slabs of concrete and weatherworn brick. In place of desert sands and sparse vegetation, my vision is captivated by the countless shades of green and crystalline waters. I catch islanders looking at me out of the corners of their eyes: a tall blonde is not a frequent face in the Caribbean. I am immersed in a world unlike anything many Americans are able to experience.
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I look around and see poverty, not poverty in the sense that parents can’t afford to buy their children name brand clothing or the latest gadget, but truly impoverished people, who struggle to grasp the things they need to survive. No cell phones, gaming consoles, or tablets for the children of this land. No excess, no luxury in existence, these children use their imaginations to amuse themselves. I see a group of children playing with a cinder block down by the water’s edge, pushing it back and forth amongst each other, smiling and laughing as if it is the most fun they’ve ever had, and to them, it just might be. This elementary form of entertainment would prove to be lack luster on American beaches, filled with children building sand castles with plastic tools and riding inflatable sea creatures through the rolling waves. An object that means so much on this island would make a child of our society scoff due to the lack of excitement it presents at face value.
I look around and see determination. A determination to make tomorrow a better day than today, a determination to work for everything that is wanted, and a determination to push further than what the world expects. Every person I encounter on my travels has been working hard to build the best life possible with the options available. I meet a man who makes his living by selling trinkets and fruit to passing ships. Every day he must row his boat out to the catamarans and other ships anchored down, attempting to get anyone to purchase something. He does not retreat when confronted by rejection; instead, he improvises, changes tactics, making a sale when moments earlier it looked impossible. Why? Because this is his livelihood, this income is crucial to his well-being and that of his dependents. Rowing away defeated is not an option, he cannot afford to think that the next day may prove more fruitful because this is the day that those profits are needed.
I return home and see that people are not all that different from each other, despite coming from vastly diverse cultural backgrounds. Though we may speak different languages and look different in a mirror, human nature inclines us to possess similar dreams, aspirations, and fears. A man who works 9 to 5 in an office has more in common with the man in the boat than may be perceived; both possess a primal determination to construct the most satisfying life, a determination we may call the American Dream, which exists not only in the United States, but everywhere, and can be seen as a dream of the world. No deeper way to understand these similarities exists above experiencing them firsthand. Life on these islands holds the key to grasping the importance of human to human contact and the significance of simple living. What would this world be like if all people took a lesson from the man in the boat and the children on the beach?
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