on travel, thoughts, and the art of short fiction

Journey to Barbados

In Barbados on August 25, 2010 at 5:19 am

I am jolted awake. Crickets sing to me from the alarm clock on my phone. It’s four am and I’m not impressed. Clicking snooze, I roll over and wrap my arm around my sleeping boyfriend. Ten more minutes.

Thirty minutes later I’m in the shower grinning to myself. Barbados – I’m on my way to Barbados. Vacation time has finally arrived and I, lucky me, will be in Barbados for ten days.

Twenty minutes later we are walking down the quiet street. Brooklyn is a cool frame before the sunrise. She sends us forth with her blessings; after all, it’s vacation time and we’re going to Barbados. Our belongings are packed into the trunk of the car and we take off breezily down the street.

The plan is to drop the car off with a friend. Leaving a car unattended on the street for ten days is a big no-no, in the world of New York parking. We have arranged to meet Dee at five in front of his brownstone where he will drop us off at the airport and take over car duty until our return.

At five sharp we are in front of the house but there is no Dee. My boyfriend, ever calm and patient in the midst of adversity begins to call his friend repeatedly. When this doesn’t work, he heads to the porch to ring the buzzer. In the passenger seat I began to fill with silent unmoving dread. Our vacation, our beautiful Barbados vacation, I can see it slipping away and I am becoming restless and angry.

Ten minutes, twenty minutes, we are running out of time. Without another moment to spare, the car is parked and the keys are left in the mailbox with a note. With the vigor of Vikings, efficiently and expeditiously we pile our bags on the curb, hail a cab, load our luggage and speed off.

No matter how prepared you are, things just may not work out as planned. I smiled to myself remembering Maputo, Mozambique, two and a half years earlier. It had been around the same hour. The southern African sky was an intricate web of constellations and flashes. Bats swooped around us as crickets sang an alto melody. Being feasted on by mosquitoes, my friend Sergio and I waited in the empty courtyard by the gate. We had been in Maputo for a week and were headed further North, I to Inhambane, he to Namantanda. A taxi had been called to pick us up at precisely four am to take us to the bus terminal.

Eager for our journey we made our way through looming eucalyptus groves and fragrant magnolia blossoms, towards the large white gates near the sleeping guard, where our taxi was scheduled to arrive.
Leaning against each other’s backs for support, we made ourselves comfortable in the tall grass and waited. I didn’t mind the wait at first, neither did Sergio, the night was stunning. It represented the magnificence of Mozambique, fragrant, breathtaking, calm, melodic and mysterious.

One hour turned into two, then three. The guard ensured us that our taxi was coming. “Patienca.” He reprimanded us like children – patience. Watching the sky expand and welcome the hazy pale morning we weren’t so certain.

The mosquitoes had vanished and the sun was scorching by the time our taxi slid to a stop in front of the gate. We had missed our busses.

I hate to rush when I’m traveling. I need to be calm and balanced to get the most out of the experience. I’m easily frazzled and prefer to arrive early, take my time, have a nice breakfast, perhaps settle down with a magazine or two before boarding. My boyfriend Mark is more of an improviser. With minutes before the final boarding call, we are rushing towards the only food vendor in sight. The order is placed in my sweaty palms the moment our names are called over the loudspeaker for the final boarding call warning.  We sprint to the terminal and board the plane in time to learn that we have an hour and a half wait on the runway before we will be cleared for departure.

We settled in our seats to devour our breakfasts. Two hours later, finally in the air, exhausted by four hours of sleep the night before, I drifted in and out of consciousness.

The Bajan breeze greets us around three pm. We are looking for Mark’s cousin Michael. Mark has never met this cousin, and we find ourselves in the middle of an interesting game of “Where’s Michael”. According to Mark’s grandfather, the facilitator of the arrangement, Michael would be holding a sign to identify himself. We walk back and forth to the amusement of a crowd of taxi drivers for about an hour. There is no Michael.

Mark calls home, to get Michael’s contact information. His grandfather, well into his nineties, accidentally gave Michael the wrong information, leading him to believe that our flight would come in tomorrow and not today.

After more confusion, Michael himself is contacted. At work and not expecting us, we are told to sit tight until he or his son is able to pick us up.

My mood went from pure enthusiasm to dismal. Welcome to Barbados. We sat, on a curb in front of the arrivals terminal. Eager to move, I petitioned to take a cab but Mark was content to sit and wait, naively certain our ride would come any minute.

Creating a beach chair out of our luggage I resigned myself.  Closing my eyes, I tried to imagine I was by the ocean, but the sound of car engines and the light smell of exhaust quickly ruined that illusion.

are we there yet?

Three traffic humps adorn the street before the arrivals gate. Literally eye-to-eye with car tires, I am amazed. Every single car slows to a near stop easing the front tires then the back tires over the obstacle before continuing. Was this a lesson? Easy does it?

I couldn’t spot a single cross walk yet pedestrians seemed to have the right of way. If someone appeared as though they were even thinking of crossing the street, cars, slowed to a near stop to allow them safe passage.

In New York, people sped and clamored over humps as if they were things to be conquered. Here, people eased over the humps as if they were helping hands, friends to wish them a safe journey. I can’t help but relax a little.

At six thirty, the sun begins to cast a tangerine glow across the sky as it sinks down to eventually to disappear into an indigo twilight. While this magnificent show is taking place, our ride pulls up. Michael’s son, also named Michael, friendly and easy going, helps us into the car before sweeping us off to the guest-house we are renting. Cruising past fertile sugar cane plantations, the sweet breeze kissing my cheeks in welcome, I am possessed with the feeling, one that assures me everything is going to be alright.

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