Monday, April 6, 2009

Busy in Nassau

Kristen here - I know, I's been a while. We've really been enjoying ourselves since we arrived in Nassau. I'll try to cover as much as I can remember. No, I haven't been drinking that much, I just have a really poor memory and we have seen and done a ton!

Our sail over here from Bimini was sent directly from God. It's funny, we left Bimini with a forecast of no waves and 5-10 knots of wind. I said to Chris, "Wouldn't it be nice if we could have 15 knots of wind and no seas". We knew it was impossible, but one can always dream. We traveled north from Bimini and then turned east to cross the Banks towards the Northwest Channel. Once we turned, we had 10-15 knots of wind, virtually no waves at 40-50 degrees off our nose. It just doesn't get better than that folks. We sailed the whole day. It was just an amazing time. I know passages like that doesn’t happen often, so we relished the entire day.

That night we had to turn directly into the wind to head toward Nassau, but we just couldn't complain after a day like that. I tried to go to bed at 8:00PM, but the kids couldn't figure out where they wanted to sleep. They ended up switching beds twice before finally going to sleep at 9 or 9:30. I decided to get up at 9:30 to make coffee. Chris wanted me on deck at 10:00 so we both could take the boat through the Northwest Channel.

We were a bit nervous about passing through the Northwest Channel. Basically the Banks are a large area of 15-20 feet of water. They funnel through this 500 foot wide channel into the Tongue of the Ocean. I know that when depths change radically, so does the water above it. I also know that when a lot of water is forced through a small channel things can get tricky. We had read that the current can be strong through this area, and if the wind is opposing it you can run into some interesting seas.

Well, I won't go into too much detail, but everything ended up working out perfectly and we didn't hit any rough seas. Once we were safely through the channel and into the calm ocean, I turned to Chris and said, "Ok, now that we're through, were you thinking we would hit a wall of 10 foot waves once we got to the channel like I was?" Chris said, "You were expecting that too?!?!?" Again, it's funny what irrational fears will creep into the corners of your mind. We had a nice motor the rest of the night to Nassau, New Providence Island.

We weren't sure of what to expect once we got to Nassau. We had talked to many of the residents of Bimini who gave mixed reviews. We had read that crime was bad, and someone from Bimini said there was a lot of gang activity. They said we would be fine, but it was a dangerous place to live. When trying to find a hotel for Noni and Poppi, every place was either really nice and astronomically expensive or reasonable with horrible reviews. We chose a place recommended by a person who lives here that Chris knew from online.

We were overjoyed to see red and green buoys leading us into the harbor. Nothing like a little water depth security! We pulled up to our dock and were greeted by Noni and Poppi!

YAY! It was awesome to see them. The kids had made presents for them, and just couldn't wait to hand them over. A young boy was also on the dock and he looked excited at the prospect of another boy coming to the marina. Once we got the boat in, Noni and Casey went over to say hi to the boy. It turned out that he was cruising with his mom, dad and three sisters. Unfortunately he was leaving in the next 1/2 hour to go south. That kid was not a happy camper.

I said my hellos to Noni and Poppi, and then quickly went to the marina office. On the way to Nassau, I got a little rough with the grill and broke the propane regulator. I needed to find out quickly if anyone sold it locally. If they didn't we needed to order one asap in order to get it w/in the week. As expected, nobody had it and Chris ended up ordering it. That proved another piece of info to be untrue. We read that it takes a minimum of three weeks to get any sort of mail in the Bahamas. A store cashier in Bimini said, "No way, the mail boat comes once a week!", and we got our part w/in one week from the states to the Bahamas. (Note from Chris: We had the parts sent FedEx International for $58 in shipping costs, so it wasn't regular mail)

The next info that turned out to be untrue was the safety here. We have been all over the island by now and we've had absolutely no problems. Now most of the stores have bars on the windows and doors. They also have doorbells to "buzz" you in. You can't just walk into a store. Most stores and establishments also have a security guard on the premises at all times. This leads me to believe that the city is dangerous, but we haven't seen anything that makes us uncomfortable. Well......ok, there was one incident.

Last night Chris and I decided to have a nice dinner out on our own. We left the kids on the boat with Noni and Poppi and grabbed a cab to a place called Arawak Cay. We were told that this is where the locals go to eat. Ok, we set out originally to catch the bus, but found out that the buses stop running at 6:00 PM on Sundays. So then we grabbed the next cab we saw. Actually you don't grab a cab, they grab you. I swear you get asked about 20 times per mile of walking if you need a cab! So, the next cab that asked, we took. We got to talking with the driver, a woman who had grown up in Nassau. Then she all of a sudden remembered that she took a call before picking us up and was on her way to pick up another fare. We told her no problem, there was plenty of room for more, and we were in no hurry. She headed off in the opposite direction to get her other fare. On the way she saw a friend who told her to pull over. Ordinarily this would strike us as odd, but after having been here for a while I now realize that this is just the way things go. (The day before our bus driver stopped his full bus to pick up fish at a roadside stand for his dinner) She said, "She better have seen Mother Theresa if she's asking me to pull over with a fare in the van!". As it turned out, her friend had recently gotten engaged and had to give the driver her wedding invitation. We gave her our congratulations, to which she yelped in excitement suddenly realizing that her friend had passengers. We got on our way again, to pick up the forgotten fare.

This is where it gets fun. The driver pulls to a curb where two guards are standing. They point to a woman down the street and say she's the one who called for a cab. We stop for the woman, who hops into the front seat and quickly realize that she's not all together. It seemed that she had been drinking or something. She asks the driver for three bucks so she can buy some chicken on the way. The driver asks the woman if she has money to pay for the cab fare. She doesn't have the money, but someone at the destination does. Chris and I are sitting in the second row of seats being very quiet. The driver pulls over to the side of the road. She dials two phone numbers the passenger gives her, but one is out of order and nobody answers the second one. Then the driver calls her dispatcher and gets no response. The passenger starts rummaging in her purse. This is when Chris taps out "I Love You" on my leg and grabs the door handle, ready to push me out if something goes wrong. The driver pulls into the road, heading back to where we picked up the lady originally. Ah, I think, she's heading back to the security guards. What a smart woman! Back at the security guards she tells the woman that she will talk to the dispatcher and see what they can do. Then she tells the guards the situation. The driver was worried that the woman would accuse her of denying service, and wanted a neutral party (the guards) to know what was going on. After that we were back on our way to Arawak Cay. I asked the driver if she's ever had any serious trouble in her cab. She said no, and that dismissed most of my worries about Nassau being a dangerous place. It's no problem Mon! Come to Nassau!

So, lets see, what else have we been doing here? We had planned to go to Atlantis, but that has been a bust. I started calling to reserve a slip 3 days ago with no luck. They are booked solid for a week. I have, however been running there every other day. You can walk around the place and look at the pools filled with marine life such as puffer fish, rays, starfish, striped bass, and other tropical fish. You can also use their beach as well. I saw the water slides and they looked like fun, but if we end up not going there (which I think will be the case at this point in time) I won't be disappointed. The big draw of Atlantis for us would be the water slides and the Aquarium. We've pretty much aquarium’ ed ourselves out at this point, and the water slides look much better online than they do in person. They looked cool in person, but not $200 a night cool.

We went to Cable beach and tried to find the public beach access. We didn't see it from the bus, and when we finally stopped in front of a hotel, we decided to just go through the hotel to the beach. We ended up walking down the beach a way and going for a swim in front of a Sandals resort. A Bahamian selling polished conch shells started chatting with us and said to "just lie down on the chairs and keep low". We didn't understand him at first. He kept telling us to just relax and lie down. I couldn't figure it out until he pointed to the security guard walking around the beach. He told us that they check for wristbands. I believe you had to have a wristband to be on the beach, because it was a resort. The local was trying to keep us covered. That was quite nice of him. The kids and I were swimming for a bit before this, but Casey got bit by a crab on his toe and we ended up leaving shortly after that. We tried to get to the street through the resort, but a guard stopped us and told us we had to walk back down the beach to where we came in through the other hotel. "No problem mon!"

Once back to the street, we saw a vendor selling Mr. Handsome shirts. I'll have to post the picture of Casey and his dad in their new "Mr.Handsome" shirts. They're cool Hawaiian shirts that look very striking on Chris and Casey. Anyway, the vendor had some hanging up in a straw market (a shack like building selling mostly tourist goods and things made out of weaved straw), and I wanted to check them out. Mom ended up buying a bunch of t-shirts from one lady, while another lady tried to sell her a shirt that Kaitlin had been admiring. We got talking to the lady for a bit and she gave Kaitlin a kiss. She tried to give Casey a kiss, and had quite a strong hold of him, but Casey pulled away before she planted one on his cheek.

On the way back from the beach we accidentally caught the bus going in the wrong direction. We piled onto a jam packed bus. The driver had three kids sitting next to him which we soon found out were all his. They rode with him after school till he was done at 7PM. The littlest one was a 2 year old girl, the next was an 8 year old boy and the oldest was a 12 year old girl. They were extremely nice kids. The boy and littlest girl were sitting in front with their dad. The older girl was sitting next to me. The little one was starting at us with the biggest, most beautiful brown eyes the whole time. Her sister said that she liked to look at the tourists. I said it was probably because we were different. After the oldest said yes, I said that I liked to look at them because they were different to us. The kids all seemed to think this was funny.

Because we were going in the wrong direction, our ride was about an hour long. But, after meeting that family, I wish it was all day! I talked to the kids about school. The oldest was in 6th grade and loved math. Since I had just finished teaching 6th grade math I asked her about it. I was surprised to hear that she had been learning the exact same stuff that I had been teaching Casey!

Her dad talked to us about the bus. The buses here are privately owned. He said that you can make a living if you own two buses. He called his bus the "Money Train". If its full, I'm making more money, he said. We actually got his bus again yesterday, and he had it jam packed full again. He was quite a character, and quite a crazy driver as well. When we left the bus, we gave the kids some money and told them to share it. They were simply beautiful children who were extremely polite, well behaved, cared for each other and were friendly and a pleasure to talk to.

Two days ago we went to the local pirate museum. We had been told that it was fairly good, and not just a tourist trap. The Bahamas had quite a pirate laden history so we decided to give it a try. It was actually a neat place and worth the stop. They had a full size rebuilt pirate ship replica inside that you could view inside and out. It was fun for the kids, and they learned a bit as well! The place really gave you a feeling of what it was like to be a pirate. One room was set up like a ship being boarded by pirates. It was a dark room with a some barrels and a ships railing on one side. On the other side of that railing was the railing of a pirate ship, and pirates jumping off. Lights flashed and you could make out the ship with each flash of light. The sound of fighting could be heard as well. Kaitlin had to hold my hand tight for that one! Behind one door of a replica port of call, you could hear people whispering something. Every time we came near the door they said, "shhh, someone's coming". When we backed away they would start whispering again. After a bit we looked up and saw a motion sensor. The level of work that went into this museum was quite impressive!

Yesterday we went to Fort Charlotte. A tour guide led us through the fort, or should I say quickly pointed out 2 areas, gave us 15 minutes at the gift shop, pointed out 3 other areas and then asked for a tip. I would have felt gypped if it was just us, but a whole bunch of other people where there as well, and they had to leave immediately and get back on a bus! We stayed behind and went back to read the many plaques around the fort that explained the history of the place. It was quite fascinating. The fort and its inhabitants had quite a hard time due to disease, damp living space, and hatred from the locals.

All in all, so far our experience in Nassau has been wonderful. The people here are all very nice. Everyone is very helpful, and we've needed a lot of help. Things are a bit different here. Take the bus for example. There are no bus route maps. The buses all list the roads they go to on the front bumper. They are numbered, and the same numbered buses go to the same places. You have to ask a local what number bus goes where. You can get on and off a bus wherever you want. Simply wave at a bus to get it to stop for you. When you want to get off you yell out, "Bus stop please". You also pay the driver when you get off, not on. This is really nice, because then you can find your money once you have sat down and have it ready for when you get off.

Most people here are black. We are the minority. It's a weird feeling. Today I almost said African Americans, but they're not African Americans, they're Bahamians. Nobody here is afraid to say black people and white people. I get an honest feeling that it's just a way of referring to skin color and doesn't hold any prejudices with it. It's like when we were in North Carolina. There is no feeling of entitlement from the locals, they are genuinely nice. I don't know if it's because they rely on tourism or if it's just their nature, but they have definitely made us feel welcome.

I’ve forgotten to talk about Potters Cay, conch salad and prices of anything from the states. This will be a reminder to talk about these things in the next post!

No comments: