Category Archives: reflections

Returning to island life 2011

Island life…….it’s all good but not easy….our friend Mark Cave says “If it was easy everybody would be here!”
Leaving the states wasn’t easy…we flew out of Ft. Lauderdale on Bahamas Air. A few of you may not understand, but there are many sayings that give an understanding about Bahamas Air.
“Bahamas Air is a Christian airlines….only God know when it’s leaving and only God knows when it will arrive”!! Another is “ if you don’t care, fly Bahamas Air”!

John and I finally got to the check in line with way too much luggage and all the computers went down for over 45 minutes. They assured us no one would miss the flight and that only meant everyone would be late getting into Nassau. Our flight to Long Island was to leave Nassau at 1:30. We didn’t arrive til 12:30. But that became a blessing as we were carted on a golf cart across the tarmac to immigration to the head of the long lines and flew thru customs. Because we had come in on Bahamas Air and were leaving on Bahamas Air they were holding the plane for us, which was wonderful for us but not the others who were now ½ hour late!

50 minutes later we were “home” on our beloved Long Island with our “bestest Bahamian buddies”- Gloria and Gregory waiting to pick us up. Driving down Queens Highway we began to see some of the destruction of hurricane Irene. Roofs covered with blue tarps, palm trees uprooted, flooded yards and parts of the main (well only road!) washed out. Arriving at our house we were relieved to see no damage except for our driveway having a bit of ruts because we built on a big slanted hill. Weeds were abundant although a friend Gerry had gotten most of the yard weeded for us, there was still lots of work to be done. But first we had to begin the task of taking everything out of the house we had stored for the summer-deck furniture, tables and chairs, grill…just to get into the house. Thankfully Gregory and Gerry had taken the hurricane shutters off for us! Because we have no electricity –long story for another time- we knew we only had a few hours of daylight to work. So we did what we absolutely had to do and then sat on our deck to enjoy our view and the sunset….the first of many!

We slept like content babies after falling into bed right at dark-barely 7:30!! Daylight brought a whole new list of things to be done and sweating was on the top of the list! HOT, HUMID and NO BREEZE! John and I have never been on island this early in Oct. and it felt a lot like Florida we had just left and August in Ohio! AND MISQUITOES……hungry little devils they are!

I unpacked our 5 large and 3 small suitcases trying to put things away and find other things. We only lived in the house last April for 3 weeks so neither of us could remember what was where! John worked on getting the generator hooked up so we could have power later….we NEEDED fans to sleep but that wouldn’t happen for a few days when he and Mark got our solar up and running! Gloria had us over Saturday morning for souse-a Bahamian soup that fills you wonderfully. After our breakfast together we left our friends to drop things off at our “cottage” we had rented for 2 years before building. That’s where our van decided it needed a break and sat for 3 days before being towed to our local repair guy where it is still setting. This guy is good but very, very busy so he is “getting to us”. The good news is our 89 Ford p/u truck runs beautiful-well after John fixed the 3 leaks in the radiator! We had to be careful not to drive in the rain because the hurricane blew out the driver’s side window and John hadn’t had time to put it in yet!

RAIN?? Oh we have had it come in droves everyday!!! It was a welcome difference in weather for us. Usually we reach the island in time for hard east winter winds and barely any rain, so we were enjoying the refreshment. However, it did have a down side….the mosquitoes were worse after every rain, our driveway was rutted more with each downpour and it got more humid with the wind dropping right off! The good news was that our cistern stays at overflowing no matter how much water we use!

John has been busy besides fixings vehicles getting things set up so we could “live”. We literally spent so much time trying to find things we were dancing circles, so we needed to get a place for everything and my John is very good at that. However, that meant moving something before we could use it, sometimes 2 and 3 times. Most of his tools or needed items are down the driveway in his “Homeboy Depot” as our 53 ft storage trailer is known as! So he gets his exercise many times over during the day! Getting the solar here and installed was a huge stress for him mostly because he really didn’t know how any of it goes in. We are very thankful for our great friend Mark Cave, as I said! We ordered 6 solar panels from Kansas solar way back in early Aug. 4 of the 6 arrived fine but 2 were smashed although they tested ok so they did put them up and so far so good. John has gotten so many projects up and running but I am so proud of him that he has slowed down and is living the “island life”-willing to let projects rest while we head to a beach! Most of you know John, know this is huge….HUGE!!!


Clouds parted finally for a few hours the last week of October. Hurricane season would officially be over in a few days. Refreshed by the sun, Sybil strolled down Queens Highway to visit the old woman living back in the bush. They spoke of a possible storm approaching Long Island and admitted to one another they were a tad nervous. The sun and blue skies relaxed them a bit.

Later that week, the storm took a name, Noel. Its path directed away from Long Island; nevertheless, dark, heavy clouds rolled off the ocean. For three days, the outer edge of Noel hung over Andros, north of Long Island. Winds howled, sheets of rain blew sideways against the hurricane shutters, electricity blinked. Darkness surrounded Sybil inside her small house. Pushing wavy, dark hair off her face, trying to relax her brow, she reached for the lantern.

“This is a blessing,” she said, speaking aloud to the silence around her. “The storm is missing us, and we are getting a little rain from it,” she tried to convince herself, yet the saturated ground from all the rain concerned Sybil. Prayers flowed from her heart for the people on other islands where Noel was hitting, south of the Bahamas. Shuddering, she imagined mountains rushing to meet the sea, pushing rocks and mud through homes and towns. Lives would be lost and what little possessions they had, destroyed.

The sun came out three days later. Rain passed as clouds floated off the island. Long awaited blue skies prevailed, rejuvenating her, even though she did not know what lay ahead of her. Wading through huge puddles in the yard, Sybil felt childlike. It was good to be outside again after being cooped up in the house. Driving up Queens Highway, she observed a few trees down, easy to clean up, she thought. Suddenly, a small fishing boat paddled towards her on the road. Slamming on the brakes she exclaimed, “What on earth?” It was then that she noticed all the water around her.

“How could this much water be here?” Thoughts flooded her mind. Flooding was exactly what had happened. Six feet of water covered the road for as far as she could see, making it impassable by any car or truck. In the distance, she noticed cars floating, with only rooftops exposed. Front doors of surrounding homes were pushed open, revealing swamped rooms, and floating furniture.

Earlier that morning, Sam had quickly put his old fishing boat in the new highway river.

“Folks need to get from the north end of the island to the south somehow,” he told Sybil. Sam, in his 78 years, had always loved the island, caring for the people.

Cars and trucks were left on one end of the flooded area, a willing soul was on the other end to transport everyone where they needed to go. Young boys carried belongings to and from the boat as Sam ferried people across the vast waterway. Children splashed in the water’s edge. Their giggles and shouts lifted Sybil’s mood. To be young and carefree was a blessing, but she noticed the worry in their parents’ eyes.

Memories of fishing with her husband swamped her as she got into the boat. It could have been a fun ride like those of years ago; however, the surrounding devastation tightened her stomach. Sam pushed the boat off as they slowly made their way forward. It was odd for Sybil to view the island this way. Coconut and banana trees, crotons, hibiscus, and electric poles standing in water, cans, plastic store bags, and paper, lying hidden in the bush for years, floated freely past them. The air smelled fresh and clean, but this would change in a few days because of stagnante water.

Ahead, girls in heels and skirts waited on dry asphalt. Overdressed for their unexpected boat ride, they needed to get to work. Mothers with young children, stood with suitcases. A trip to Nassau for the weekend to visit family had turned into a week of waiting for many Long Islanders. When news began to reach Nassau about how badly Long Island was flooded, their anxieties grew.

“Long Island mashed up bad” was the word out in Nassau. Stella Maris airport opened finally five days after. Even so, getting home to Clarence Town would mean another boat ride like this one and hailing a ride for the 30 miles in between. She heard from the talk on the boat that Hamilton’s, Deadmans Cay, and Grays, further south of Sybil’s settlement, were flooded as well, making for a long day. A quick prayer for peace and safety sprang from her heart.

That prayer was only the beginning of ones that Sybil would whisper during the following weeks as she moved about her beloved island, seeing the damage first hand. Days were busy with repair, cleaning and clearing. People not affected by the storm helped folks who were. Everywhere stories flowed, always with gratefulness and blessed attitudes, a common trait of Long Islanders. Visiting numerous old folks, she repeatedly heard,

“In all my years, I never seen so much water. I thank God no one hurt. We blessed for sure.”

James, the gasman, besides losing all his furniture and belongings, had to fish numerous gas tanks out of the bush. With his usual colossal grin, he stated, “It’ll be alright, I just thankful not one head was hurt in all this. Bless the Lord. We be alright”

A family of seven living near Sybil recovered only a pile of clothes and a couple pictures from the walls. Even before the four feet of water receded, they waded into the house to clean.

“The kitchen was full of floating food mashed together with dog food, cereal, bread, and cans,” one sister shared.

Electrical systems, walls, and cabinets were replaced in the house.  Two of the sisters made an unplanned trip to Florida just before Christmas to order new furniture and appliances. This would stretch any budget, discouraging many. Nevertheless, the family worked hard together to rebuild their home joyfully, reinforcing Sybil’s faith and love of the people of Long Island.

Further south, Sybil’s long time friends, Charles and Sara lost all they had in apartments they owned, their livelihood. Not realizing how fast the water was rising, they waded across the road to the apartment building hoping to save some of the newly refurbished items. Opening the front door, the water gushed in, causing them to stumble, almost sweeping them away. Realizing their lives were in danger, Charles yelled to his wife,

“Woman go back, you can’t help us now. Sara, GO BACK!”

“I wanted to help and be with Charles. I was scared for our lives. I turned around only out of fear,” Sara relayed to Sybil following the storm. Memories still fresh, Sara collapsed in Sybil’s arms, sobbing uncontrollably. It was hard for Sybil to see her usually strong friend so fragile and distressed.

Late one afternoon, a month after Noel had passed, Sybil dragged herself down the path from Charles and Sara’s house. She had painted all day, feeling every bit of her 60 years. Weary from all the work of the past month, she needed to rest and relax.

Sighing Sybil thought, “I still need to check on Rodney and Kerry.”

They were Sybil’s young, newly married neighbors who were full of zest for life. They shared with Sybil a tale of their adventures during the flood. It brought resounding laughter to all, easing Sybil’s heart.

Rodney began, “We were worried about the Doc and his wife alone out on Whelk Cay. Doc called to say they were land locked and running out of food. Having a tiny car, Doc knew his car wouldn’t make it through the three feet of standing water on the road.  He wanted us to get the big truck from the auto shop to drive out with food.”

“That sounded like a good idea,” Kerry interrupted.

Rodney continued, “Talking to Gregory, who had driven out on the road trying to get to Doc and Becca, he told us no way any truck, no matter how big, could get thru that road. The flooding is one thing, but the road has narrowed, the brush on the sides has grown in, and no one has taken care of it. We discussed the possibilities and decided to take our two kayaks and paddle the three mile road waterway.”

“We got supplies from the grocery store for Doc and Becca, loaded coolers and drove to Whelk Cay,” Kerry explained. “We hadn’t driven far when the water started flowing across the road. The big salt ponds at the edge of the road, usually dried up, are huge lakes now, and stinky from stagnant salt water. The water on the road has nowhere to go. It will be a month or more before it is clear enough to drive. We loaded the kayaks with two coolers, six jugs of water and backpacks of food. Rodney was the first in the water. Suddenly he cried out,

Oh, that water is chilly!”

Kerry interrupted excitedly,  “Dark, murky water was waist high. No way was I walking through that! My wonderful husband was my hero, pulling me in my kayak, supplies and all. I settled back to enjoy the ride. Just as Rodney got used to the water it became shallower, and my ride was over. We had to take everything out of the kayak and carry it along with the supplies. Dry land was not as much fun to travel on hauling all that!  Soon the water lay before us again, and I was the “Queen” riding in her carriage once again! This became our system for the next hour, pulling the kayak in the deeper water or carrying our load on dry land.”

“Finally, I got tired of this, and my queen had to walk,” Rodney said playfully. “We were both tired and hot, but I realized from the bends in the road that we were only half way to our friends. Sweat pouring down our faces, we grew quiet as we trekked along, images of their joyous smiles kept us moving.”

“After slopping thru very yucky water, carrying gallon jugs of water and a back pack, we reached the end of their road. The sound of the waves crashing on the beach ahead lightened my load a bit. That ended quickly. Ahead was one final deep valley with at least three feet of water. We turned and looked up a very steep hill filled with prickles. The hill looked good to us! Because of my backpack, every other step I took seemed to pull me down the hill. I zigged and zagged until I finally reached the top and could see blue waters and their house!” Kerry summed it up.

Rodney took over, “Doc and Becca could not believe that they were hearing voices and seeing people! We talked for a few hours and even went for a refreshing swim in their cove. We promised to return the following week with more supplies; and as soon as our truck could get through, we would get them out. The trip back was lighter and faster, much to our delight! All the way home, we discussed easier ways to get to them next. That was three weeks ago and since then we have hiked all the way from Guanna Cay on the beach to their house and walked through the standing water on their road again. BUT, NO MORE KAYAKS! She,” Rodney said, reaching for his bride’s hand, “has been a real trooper, and we have made it another adventure to tell!”

Sybil heard that news of the flood on Long Island had reached other islands and the United States. Money and shipments of needed belongings poured in from families, friends, and strangers. Gratitude floated up and down the island. Humbled by all the help, tears of appreciation flowed from blessed Long Islanders!

Penny and her husband John winter on Long Island. Her love for Long Island and its people will be a source of the fictional book she is writing.

The flood of ’07 on Long Island was real, the story is fiction based on actual Long Island stories.

Change in Latitude

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.