on travel, thoughts, and the art of short fiction

A very long day

In Barbados on August 26, 2010 at 6:06 am

I can settle into a place like this. Even the breeze takes its time. I’m not sure if it was the orchestral ensemble of midnight’s creatures from fields near and far, so loud and sweet they drowned out the traffic (I’m on a main road).  Perhaps it’s the slow dramatic slip of the sun, which starts at six thirty, becoming a sweet memory by seven, but I can settle into a place like this. For the next week, I shall refer to myself as The Mermaid of Black Rock.

It was a tough morning.  I rose tired and groggy. Despite the ceiling fan and the oscillating fan by our bed, it was hot. At 7:30, I was in a heat coma and for lack of a better word, rendered lazy and baffled.

Clearly not from the Islands, my virgin palate was sucked dry from last night’s Mt. Gay Rum and coke experiment. I had played bartender. The same rules just don’t apply. What works in Brooklyn with Bacardi, does not work in  Barbados with Mt. Gay – lesson #3. I needed to work on my portion control.

Having rented a house right off of the main road in Black Rock, we made our way to the beach, first thing. We were a five-minute walk away.


Barbados is an island 21 miles in length. Everywhere you go seems to lead to the water. The water behind our cottage house was turquoise green bliss. It was like walking back into the womb. Fine feathery sand met my feet, an expense of welcoming ocean before me. I love swimming in the ocean. I list it as one of my hobbies. That being said, I am hyper-aware of the dangers and am proud to report that they were few and far between. Warm clear water for miles, free of jellyfish and sea urchins. This was truly one of the best oceans for swimming that I have ever happened upon minus a particularly refreshing expanse of ocean off the coast of Zanzibar. When I tell you that I spent hours swimming underwater and playing dead man’s float, I am not exaggerating.
We decided to walk further down the stretch of beach since we saw a cruise ship docked in the distance. We made our way barefoot and in the sand to Brandon Beach. It was if we walked a great walk to heaven. Brandon Beach was even more secluded, even clearer, even warmer and pristine than what we had left. Brandon beach was so warm and shallow, that I walked literally 40 feet into the ocean and the water never rose above my 5’5” frame. In fact, my head was fully above water the entire time. This was where the locals came to play. And I say this, with caution, because the expanse was still very secluded. Besides myself (The Mermaid of Black Rock) and Mark, I counted only seven other people.

We swam and floated until sun burnt and hungry we surrendered. Where to go? What to do? We were two people on a vacation having done no research. Having purchased no guide books, possessing not even a map, we followed our noses to a locally owned restaurants on the beach and ordered two lunch specials. My fresh catch of the day, fried in local spices was AMAZING! And let’s take a moment here please to pay homage to the gods of rum punch. The rum punch was phenomenal. The punch was strong, but it was sweet, it was fruity, but it was spicy and was adorned with freshly ground nutmeg. Oh man, I could truly settle into this place.


Day one and I don’t want to return. I’m reminded of my days in Mozambique. There is something so appealing about this life, something so sacred. A voice inside tells me I am a fool to be living in Brooklyn.

After lunch, we take a nap, because when in the Islands, do as the islanders do….

Restless after twenty minutes, I took an hour to work on my writing before waking Mark to explore the capital Bridgetown.

Bridgetown was a quick ride away in the ever-familiar converted cargo van for public transportation vehicles I have learned to love from my many adventures in the developing world. The van was crowded, but well ventilated. We sped along the road, music blasting, taking in the sights and sounds of our home for the next ten days.

Downtown Bridgetown too was familiar. There is something very uniform about colonial cities, the lush gardens, the fountains and surrounded compounds. In Bridgetown, it was charming how the ocean appeared always to be just in the distance.

Unfortunately everything closed early. We walked around downtown, happened upon a group of people practicing steel pan, found a cricket game, wandered into an open gallery to check out the work of a local painter and became familiar with what is honored as the oldest tree in Barbados, an enormous Baobab. It was a beautiful tree.

We wandered aimlessly, noting things that we would come back to do in the following days. We wandered and wandered until we found ourselves at the docks, a touristy yacht infested part of town. Cruise ships dropped passengers off here where they could buy diamond jewelry at a reduced price and shop till they dropped at pricey chain stores. We passed malls that felt like Macy’s and passed restaurants bearing tacky titles like “Barbados Bills” and “Slow Grind Café”.

Out of curiosity, we stopped in one of the restaurants “Slow Wine” for a sample of rum punch. Would it be better or worse that the punch we had earlier at the bungalow restaurant? No. The punch was terrible. It tasted like Hawaiian Punch sans rum and all.

After Mark questioned the waitress as to where to go for some good local fish, we were off, to navigate our way to dinner.

It seems everyone here has a Brooklyn story. Collin lived in Brooklyn for fourteen years and recalled each and every one of his former addresses to us while speaking of his glory years as a tennis instructor at Queens College. We took our fish to go and set off in search of a bus or cargo van to take us back. “Spitesville” we learned, was the name of our stop thanks to the kind waitress who had taken the time to orient us back at “Slow Wine.”

We scuttled back to our house and anxiously ripped into our flying fish with chips. I wish I could say it was an amazing and defining meal, but it just wasn’t. It was, to be honest sub-par. But hey, you win some, you lose some, but you keep on tasting and smelling and listening and touching and looking because you’re bound to discover something amazing – eventually.

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