Friday, June 09, 2006

Eleuthera

Eleuthera took us in last weekend. Poor, sad, broken Eleuthera, so beautiful, so desolate, a forgotten place, home to people who are so tired and so invisible they have forgotten themselves. They are me. Eleuthera is my home too. My heart broke open at the sight of all the ghost towns. The Green Boy said upon arriving, Mum they look poor. I said, Yes son, we are. I feel an air of fatigue and depression there, the loss of inspiration, a quiet resentment. I would be pissed off too if I was a long-time Gregory Town resident devastated by two viscious hurricane seasons, too poor for insurance, or ripped off by awful teefing insurance companies, having to scrape by on the island outback day by day, unable to rebuild or repair, forgotten by government until it is time for some under-funded festival trumped up by the Ministry of Whorism, and they have to put on their Caribbean Blackface and dance around grinning, acting like they are living in paradise for the sake of a handful of tourists. The land and the sea are as beautiful as ever, but there is no creation fire burning anywhere in the neighbourhoods. We ate some fabulous gourmet food at some alright restaurants, but there is no market, no artisans, no painters or crafters. Palpable waves of depression rolled off the sholders of the young man who sold us pineapple dauquiris, and the woman who couldn't and wouldn't smile as she served us our gourmet seafood chowder. When someone began talking about the poor service and how they weren't going to tip, my vexation, as we say, was yucked up. all i could think was, Only the Goddess knows what kind of shit this chick must go through to survive and make a bearable life for herself on this castaway island. No, this is not crying victimhood, and this is not negative thinking. I know what abundance looks like, and beyond the lovely gardens of the Laughing Bird Apartments where the lizards are turqoise blue and enormous and Sea Grape trees and palms and Pigeon Plum trees are flowering and blooming, I saw emptiness but for a few pockets of hope: The kids in red and white uniforms playing baseball on the field, the sparkling black and white funeral on a hill by the highway in the noonday sun, the chance we took picking up some hitchhikers and taking them to the Homecoming event in Palmetto Point, our lovely and gracious hosts Jean and Dan. But beyond that I saw broken hearts, vanishing communities, another generation of desperate survivors facing another hurricane season and more hardship. I am not a negative thinker, I try to be a truth teller, I have to show you the truth of what I see and feel and know because... I just have to. I don't want to be an idiot tourist high on my hill saying Isn't this lovely while all around me people are struggling. I feel the people's sadness, I recognize the despair and how a person can appear to be harsh or in-your-face when making it through the day in a small, nowhere place where you better dam well smile when you serve that food girl or you won't get a tip. Did she have to leave her small children home alone to do this waitressing job? Did she move back home after the storms to help her aging parents put their shattered lives and homesteads back together, and is she now working her ass off for minimum wage and dying of boredom? Have her brothers and her baby-daddies freaking well vanished and left her to deal with it all... Don't get me started. My beloved say I am a negative thinker, they say I cause a scene and cause people to stare with the things I say, and how loudly I say them. They say I Go On too much. They think they could like me better (or stand me better) if I was passive, demure, whispering Lift Up Your Head Bahamaland to myself while other (better, more appropriate, male) folks have proper conversations about important stuff like what the preacher had to say last Sunday. And speaking of the scourge of fundamentalism, we went to a place that I remembered having dark wood panelling and weathered wooden booths and dim lights and a blaring juke box and pool tables and loud conversation, a rolliking smoky tavern that I have fond memories of and loved... Now, brightly lit as a strip mall with pink table cloths and plastic plants and no smoking signs... the food was quite good, but I ate it on the porch, candle and Rothmans burning, trying not to feel shaken at how bleached-out it all looked and felt. I love Eleuthera, my father's ancestors were among the adventurers, I spent many childhood summers in Harbour Island, I grieve for the ancestral land that my father's family sold away for pittance. On this latest trip my family and I were blessed by the beauty and the wild remoteness and the mysterious deja vu that always takes a hold when we are travelling through the green and rolling hills. Inside we could feel the knots of Nassau fear and pressure and paranoia begin to loosen and unravel. We dared to speak aloud of making the trip far more often. What can I bring with me when I go back? What can I contribute? How can I help to raise up Spirit in our Eleuthera? I am thinking...

6 comments:

Teri said...

Hi Lynn

There is much work to be done. I've been away from Eleuthera for more than 30 years and yes, I am on my way back there...to HELP those poor desolate people. Perhaps I will have to open a business and employ somebody, but it's up to US not always the guvment them...especially when they WON'T. So don't think too long Lynn,,, ACT!!!!

Blage said...

Very powerful post. You have an amazing way of describing people in plight and peril with dignity and grace. I also came from a small rural community where so many people struggle to just survive enduring so much humiliation and degradation. Keep witnessing.
Fare thee well,
Blage

PJ said...

I've run across this particular post of yours several times now. It's quite good, Lynn.

Hasn't Eleuthera always been something of a test of survival? All the stories I read have that element to it. When I look at the landscape, I see how it is so weathered -- and the beauty of it.

Thanks for sharing your story, Lynn.

pj

My Eleuthera blog

William said...

Hey Miss Lynn, i am from harbour island, but know much of eleuthera well, I hear you man, but think the picture you paint is bleaker than the reality, it depends on the settlment you are talking about, but gregory town is quite a livley place, you have alot of homeowners and resorts there, my brother has just started an organic farm on the highway out side gregory town, bluff is my favourite place in eleuthera, i worked there at the school for a year, and that place os so peacful, people have their space and their dignity. i know what you mean about all the fallen down houses and villages that seem to be dying and its true, but we eleuthrans are tough people, it would only take a few folks to come home and start up some small bussinesses and that would freshen the place up with some more life, eleuthera is a cherished place by many though , one of our countries most beautiful islands. The thing that happened in gregory town in the last five years or so, is that all the big drug dealers were busted across eleuthera actually, that represents alot of money, but yeah i think building an eleuthera that isn't dependant on drug lords or mass tourism, but an integrated economy of eco tourism,farming, fishing and artisan manufacturing would be a very good thing. thankyou for you beautiful writing style and your thoughts on eleuthera.

Liz Jamieson said...

I think I understand what you are saying - and what a brilliant of writing about Eleuthera. A little on the negative side, but I think you are seeing it like it just might be, for most. Away from Harbour Island and all the fluffy stuff going on there. I admit I didn't understand what I saw at all, on Harbour Island. I was born in the Bahamas but grew up elsewhere. So maybe I'll never get it. I love your writing style. I wrote a very small piece on Eleuthera too - its on this page - neaar the bottom. http://www.squidoo.com/toptenthingsforme

Martin said...

I was linked to your blog by Liz ( above) - what is Eleuthera like now? - 3 years after your blog was written.

I always thought that reliance for a main industry on tourism is problematic.

Martin

Blog Archive