I learned some valuable lessons this past week that have made me a better person. Well, at the very least, the lessons make me want to be better. For sure.
Culturally speaking, I am pretty ignorant when it comes to cultures other than the one I was raised in. I try to listen, to pick up things I have heard over the years and I believed these gems of wisdom helped me to be more accepting of people and ideals that differed from my own. By my own, I am referring to my very vanilla, middle-class upbringing; somewhat sheltered. I mean, I didn’t even know what an avocado was until I was almost out of high school and saw people mashing them up and putting them in burritos. I didn’t even know what a burrito was! The closest I had come to Mexican food were the Banquet frozen enchilada TV dinners in the aluminum foil tins. Remember those?
Rick and I arrive in Nassau, The Bahamas. We exit our tiny plane and walk the very long, hot, humid walk through the airport to baggage claim. As we round the corner towards the escalator, a very tall, smiling black man says “Welcome Home” to us. “Oh we’re aren’t from here.” I reply, to which he says, “When you are here, you are home.” His smile was wide from ear to ear.
Now, the reason I mentioned it was a black man, in case you were not aware, is that 85% of the Bahamian population are African-American. It matters to my story.
Nassau embraced us. It wasn’t because of where we were staying or how much money we had or didn’t have. I struck up a conversation with a beautiful lady who drove a taxi. She told me that in their town, you were either really rich or poor, and there was no in between. I think she may have been a bit surprised at our request to leave our 5-star Resort with all of the World Class restaurants and have her to take us where the town people eat. We took her recommendation and ran with it, trusting her completely.
Lesson 1 – The best food can be found where the regulars flock to get it.
We walked into Oh Andros, this somewhat of a dark and small wooden place on the water. People turned to look at us, but quickly went back to their conversations and their laughter. Man, can those Bahamian women laugh. I was sitting next to this one lady and I don’t know what she was saying, but her laugh was so infectious, it didn’t matter. I had tears from laughing, just hearing her joy.
Lesson 2 – Laugh and Don’t Care Who Hears You
Honey, we had the best meal. They couldn’t take good enough care of us. People would walk in and everyone knew everyone. I loved it.
People in Nassau drive very fast. Very fast and on the opposite side of the road. They don’t seem too concerned with red lights. What I will tell you though, is that they watch out for pedestrians and will stop and usher you across regardless of the time of day or what they have going on. They also honk. Constantly. I talked to one of the tour guides about this because their honking really carried no aggression like it does here, and it was kind of confusing me.
“Oh yah Mon. We honk to remind the driver in front of us to get a move on, and we honk because the people driving by us are our friends, and we want to get their attention”. I love that. He said they don’t get angry when they drive because why? Why get mad? It’s a good day, every day, and everyone should be well. Besides, no one sues each other in the Bahamas. “They just shake your hand and say Sorry Mon.” 🙂
Lesson 3 – Why Be Angry?
Over the course of our week, we had very little to be concerned about. If something wasn’t quite as it should be, the people around us could not be more apologetic. Sincerely apologetic. It was not in their nature to wish any harm or bad days to us. They could not do enough to make us happy. If we were happy, they were happy and God smiled down on them. How can you harbor any frustration when all you hear are kind words? Every local person that we passed by, whether it be in the hallway at our hotel, or on the street in town, said hello to us…..asked us how our day was…….wished us well. I asked another local about this, and he told me that if he was walking down the street, and a lady was walking towards him on that street, he must say hello and acknowledge her politely. He said if he did not, and he arrived home later only to hear his mother say, “I heard you were on the street today and passed by my friend and did not say hello.”, he would receive a smack on the side of his head! LOL He said this is how they are raised. You never ignore. You greet each other kindly and show respect. Respect for each other is respect in yourself.
Lesson 4 – Say kind words to all you encounter
I could not get over how hard everyone worked in Nassau. They were not lazy. It was incredibly humid and it had to be uncomfortable. They were dressed in their best. The ladies cared very much about their hair. I loved that! They were grateful for their jobs so that they could support their families, and they were tireless. Not once, did I hear one person complain about having to be at their job. So different from all the whiny, complaining people in America who hate their jobs….as if they don’t have an alternative and if they don’t have an alternative perhaps for lack of an education, than be grateful for what you do have and what you are paid to do it. I feel 100% confident any one of my Bahamian friends would take it from you, gladly.
Lesson 5 – Be thankful for what you have, and show pride in yourself
Lastly, this kid on the water taxi said the reason Bahamians go so slow is “they got nowhere to go.” This brings me back to my earlier point about Bahamians being 85% African-American. Who cares! They didn’t care if I was white, yellow, brown or purple. I was honey. I was sweetheart. I was beautiful. And when we checked out of our hotel to leave these people, I almost started to cry. I had somewhere I had to go, but I didn’t want to. We are raising generations of lazy, disrespectful children with no work ethic, who focus on what they don’t have than what they do have. People are rude. People drive angrily and aggressively and we judge solely bases on appearance, color and financial status. Enough.
Lesson 6 – Live a Colorblind Life
Don’t Worry. Be Happy. I hope to go back someday.