Whenever we have visitors I like to get them to reflect on their trip in its many and varied ways. I sometimes incorporate parts of that, gained from conversations, in what I write, but I prefer to get impressions in their own words. Here is one fresh set of views, which has a wonderful perspective from an American visitor who wanted to see the island and find out something about her Barbadian grandparents.
Our Barbados experience was one we will long remember, not only for the beauty of the island and the warmth of the people, but for our post-9-11-type travel experiences getting there and returning to Washington DC.
We had planned early, read guide books, looked over maps, talked to others who had visited Barbados, and rolled out of bed very early the morning of our departure in order to arrive at the airport early and avoid problems, but Murphy’s Law took effect before our plane departed. Philadelphia was experiencing winds that were gusting up to 40 miles an hour; we had to wait for clearance from Philadelphia to take off but when we arrived in Philly air-space, our pilot was instructed not to land. We circled the city for almost an hour, while the flight we had booked so carefully took off for Barbados without us. We were rerouted and arrived at Grantley Adams International Airport more than 7 hours later than scheduled. Thank God (or Steve Jobs) for cell phones!! Our hosts were understanding; they’d had similar travel experiences in the past.
The immigration and customs and the baggage handlers in airport were efficient; they were obviously tired and wanted to get us on our way so that they could go home. As we picked up our rental car, we were asked if we had ever driven on the wrong side of the road, i.e., the left side, before. Fortunately, one of us had had experience. We were grateful to be able to follow our host home rather than try to navigate on our own, as it was almost 11 pm.
The next morning, we accompanied our host to a weekly lunch gathering of friends and acquaintances, several of whom had originally met at the Saturday morning Brighton Farmers' Market. We had crossed the center of the island diagonally to reach Bathsheba, in St Joseph’s Parish, and the Atlantis Hotel. We found a wonderful buffet lunch of familiar and not so familiar food. The food was well prepared and well served; we ate too much, of course, not noticing our over indulgence because of the beauty of the east coast.
We spent much of our time in Barbados exploring the south and west coasts, getting lost several times. The Bajans we asked for directions were generous with their knowledge and advice. Everyone we met communicated a sincere desire to answer our questions and give us any help needed: from the bus driver who showed us the way home at 11pm at night to the guys having a few drinks at a “provisional” bar on Sunday morning - - wasn’t that faded tee-shirt on one of the Sunday morning revelers displaying an image of the New York City skyline with the Twin Towers still in the foreground? Life seems to be lived in real time though; it is more than just motions. Each time we got lost, we managed to find our way back to Bussa, our landmark.
Our trip to the Saturday morning breakfast at Brighton Market introduced us to new friends and an eclectic group of vendors. As it was the day before Easter, the Easter Bunny came on his tractor, bringing freshly dug carrots for all the children. The Bunny loaded all the children in the wagon he was pulling and took them for a ride. They whooped and shrieked, as delighted children do. It is sad that many adults lose their ability to enjoy simple experiences in the same easy manner. As a retired educator, I was impressed by how well-behaved the children were. Would that parents in the area in which we live had the same high standards for their children.
At Brighton, a new friend, William, who had been born in Barbados but spent much of his life in Canada, asked around to get information for us about Rock Dundo, St. Michael’s, where my grandfather was born. He learned that the Great House was still there and he got some sketchy information from an old-timer about how to get to it. William and his wife picked us up the next morning and we headed to the Rock Dundo area but, as we didn’t know the exact street where the Great House was located, our guide consulted with some locals. We had to “tour” the area to find the house as it has not been taken over by the Heritage Trust and wasn’t easy to locate. We took pictures to send to our relatives.
We were impressed by a great many of the ways-of-life of Barbados and the friendly Bajans. One of the most impressive thing was that Bajans do not seem to let a “tight schedule” dictate how every minute will be spent; no one seemed to be in a huge rush to get to the next activity on their schedule early so they could “wait”. They always spent a few minutes visiting when greeting each other, asking for information, or otherwise engaged with others. Many Americans we know make a practice of hurrying up so they can wait – or so they can stress themselves into a cardiac arrest! Another wonderful aspect of Bajan life is the beautiful public parks and beaches, among them public beaches on the south shore and Farley Hill in St. Peter’s. Also, as a farm girl from Texas, I was very impressed with the sleek, good-condition of the goats, milk and beef cattle, and horses, considering there was a drought in progress.
The good news was we didn’t gain any weight from the wonderful Barbadian food; it is delicious but not fattening. The bad news was that it turned out to be harder to get off the island and back to the US that it was to get there. Because our plane was 4 ½ hours late taking off, we had to make an unplanned visit to Miami and leave for DC the next day. The Miami airport vendors were closed when we got there, but we were told the hotel had a restaurant and room service. It turned out the restaurant was closed and the kitchen was all out of food – so no room service. The bartender was just making her last call, as we crossed the lobby, so we didn’t have to go to bed thirsty as well as hungry. DC was in the middle of a heat wave when we arrived; luckily we had been acclimatized in Barbados.
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