Arriving on Long Island 14 years ago for a 5-day vacation began a process of changing our attitude of what we wanted out of life. We were the average Midwestern couple married 20 plus years, managed our own business together, involved in our church, our three childrens schools and the community we lived in. We had a large old farmhouse on 25 acres with a few animals that required hours of upkeep.
We were not world travelers but had been on enough cruises and traveled both coasts of Florida over the years to know we wanted to get somewhere less commercial and quieter. The travel agent said she did not know much about the place called Stella Maris but that it was on an out island in the Bahamas and it did not have any of the amenities of Nassau (ie.- golfing, night life etc!). Needless to say,we looked forward to just lying on the beach in the sun with nothing else to do.
Flying in a small 6-passenger plane from Nassau to Long Island was nerve wracking at first. The hum of the engines began to relax us as we enjoyed the scenery below. The view of the clear green water was breath taking.
Landing on Long Island, however, left us breathless! We thought for sure we were going to run into a building right on the runway. Imagine our surprise when we found out it was the airport terminal. We watched our luggage unloaded onto a wagon like the one we had at home to haul hay. Someone asked if we needed a taxi and we looked around for one but the man had opened the door to what looked like his personal car and we got in because he had already put our luggage in his trunk. He drove quickly on the left side of the road up a very windy road and we stopped abruptly on a hill. We asked where the hotel was and he pointed to a stone building in front of us. We had visions of a high-rise hotel on the ocean and began to get a little nervous but as we stepped out of the car and caught sight of the deep blue water with huge pounding white waves, all the lush tropical flowers, and palm trees around us we realized we were in paradise.
The fact that they did not have keys to the rooms and locked up the bicycles began to give us an understanding of how life on Long Island could be.
As guests in a resort, we were used to being greeted by the staff and treated well but as we ventured outside of the complex of Stella Maris to more of Long Island, we noticed while driving, others waved as we passed by them and in stores everyone met our eye and spoke a greeting.( I tried this in Nassau on the way home and did not get the same response at all and back in the states, people looked at me as if I was going to rob them!)
“Everything alright?” “You alright?” were typical greetings and a response was waited for. As we have gotten to know more of the local Long Islanders, they would remember our family and ask how they were, caring for us as individuals.
While in the bank one day, I waited in line and listened as people greeted one another asking how their families were, conversing back and forth. I thought everyone knew each other being a small island but I have found out that is not the case. Because Long Island is a long narrow island, some people do not see one another regularly so even doing banking is a social event. When my turn came, I told the teller what I needed, getting right down to business. She paused, looked at me and greeted me,” Good Morning, you alright?” She was in no hurry and I realized it was OK to slow down and enjoy those around me.
Busy with my weekly list in the grocery store one day, the clerk watched me for a few minutes and said, “Where are you going in such a hurry?” I am a fast walker, moving about trying to get too many things done at once. Again, I had not taken the time to slow down to “Long Island “time.
A friend from “up south” relayed the story of his first day on Long Island a few years ago. They had arrived late the night before and had no supplies to make morning coffee. He began a 2-mile walk into Clarence Town along Queens Highway. It was a beautiful morning with blue skies, gentle breezes and he was enjoying listening to the birds singing. However, his mood quickly changed as he noticed an older Bahamian man, who had come out of the bush with a machete, walking towards him. He had left before his wife was awake and his imagination was running wild with thoughts of “no one even knows where I am and I am about to be chopped into a million pieces and thrown into the bush…”. Closer and closer they walked towards one another and just before they met, the old man looked him in the eye and spoke, ”Good morning” and kept on walking. Machetes are not something we see a lot in the states!
We love the public radio that plays Christian music and preaching along with Rake n Scrape, popular music and relative informational talk shows. In the states, we have what is known as “separation of church and state” and cannot have religion, public radio, or TV mixed.
We also enjoy the Saturday morning show “Bahamian Music History,” which tells about Bahamian songwriters and musicians and where the music came from. To have the heritage held so high and available for all to hear is a quality to be proud of.
We dash for the radio at 8 am every morning to turn it up so we can hear the weather-“sunny, warm, chance of rain…” is the usual prediction. We enjoy the weather while eating breakfast on our deck every morning over looking the green water of the Caribbean.
The two sides of the island are so different from one another. Walking beaches on the “north side” are cliffs, reefs, rolling waves and deep blue water. Living on the leeward side we enjoy being able to grow native plants such as hibiscus, bougainvillea, coconut palms and many plants that we have raised as indoor plants in our home in the states. Peace fills our hearts to have so many beautiful plantings in the yard flourishing. The blooms add rich colors to our table and counters as centerpieces.
We named our home on Long Island Fairhaven. After our third trip to Long Island, we discovered in the book of Acts of the Bible, before Paul went to sea, he was to go into a port for the winter, Fairhaven, a safe harbor, a place to restore and rest, but he was not to stay. This is what we have found here on Long Island and wish for all who come to visit us to have the same restoration, relaxation, and rejuvenation in mind, body, and spirit. However, as we have found over the past years, there must be a change in attitude with this change in latitude and Long Island is the best place to do it.