I brought my little "product of ebay" Radio Shack shortwave radio with me to the Bahamas, and finally got some new batteries for it last night, during our walk after we ate the best Italian food I have ever had in a new Lucaya place called Cappuchino (the owner/chef at Cappuchino, a young Italian man, seemed thrilled when we loved his seafood linguini special. I am not a big pasta guy, but this was incredible food).
The shortwave reception down here is very good. I spent this morning listening to Radio Stockholm discuss Pippi Longstocking and varying Swedish views on international adoptions by lesbian couples (I was rather surprised that in Sweden, which I find on the whole progressive, this should still be an issue). No matter what country in the world one reaches, life retains a kind of oddity that is indefinable, and yet rich and inescapable. The community cable channel had a feature "looks who's 1!", in which one year old photos were displayed, along with slogans like "love from mom, dad, the grandparents and all the aunts".
I've been read "Codes of Love", by Mark Bryan, who was one of the guys who was involved with The Artist's Way series. I'm not much for "self help" books, but this one, about deciphering the various codes and mysteries of family relationships, is very good. I've nearly finished the book, and actually set aside the several novels I've got in progress or on deck to bat until I do. The book's theme of piercing misunderstanding, and the necessity of "going home again" appeals to me.
We got dressed for hiking today, as we were bound for the Rand Nature Preserve. We asked the fellow at the hotel to hail us a cab, as the desk clerk had advised that bus service to the nature preserve was problematic. It turned out a limousine was taking a couple to the nearby Freeport Airport, so we were able to bundle along. Being chaffeur-driven to a hiking trail in a stretch limousine is a new experience for me, but it was highly affordable, and rather nice.
When we first arrived at the nature preserve, the Catholic high school across the street seemed to be having morning assembly. A rich Bahamian voice assured the class taught by Miss Doe that they needed to abate their noise so that things could continue, and that their break would not be extended by the noise. Soon they had apparently quieted down, as the loudspeaker began to lead them in morning prayer. Meanwhile, we were hunting God in our own way, one natural wonder at a time.
We arrived at the nature preserve at 9:45 a.m., some time after its 9:00 a.m. opening. The staff had not yet opened the little visitor center, but one of the construction workers working on what appeared to be a new visitor center pointed the trail to us. After we passed a couple of caged flamingos, we found ourselves on the "loop trail", through a pine forest.
The trail was flat, wide and easy, satisfying all my preferred trail ingredients. We saw hummingbirds flying nearby, drinking from what looked like bottlebrush plants. The entire nature preserve, roughly 100 acres in size, had been donated by a family to a public land trust. Some of the flora was not native; we saw banyans and Australian pine and various other 'not from the Bahamas' things. But we also saw scores of birds. At one point, we saw six woodpeckers pecking away into pine trees in rapid succession, each sighted within the space of five minutes from the other. They looked a bit different than any of our Texas native woodpeckers. They had bodies which alternated white and black coloration. One had a red patch on the back of its head, which made me wonder if this was gender differentiation.
We came to a gate which said "flamingo pond" or some such".
Inside, a little lily pad pond had been constructed, perhaps
fifty yards by forty yards. We did not see any of the flamingos at the marsh (though flamingos are native to a different Bahamas Island, a few are kept here), but we did see a small green heron, a couple of grebes, a cormorant-looking bird, and numerous turtles. The waters were filled with lily pads and little mosquito fish.
We stopped in at the vistor center after a first circle of the half hour or so "loop trail", paid our admission fee, and then decided to loop again. At one point, I saw a green bird in a tall tree with my binoculars. I thought he was a parrot, but he flew away before my wife could confirm for me that he was a parrot. We learned from the "folded piece of paper" brochure the park gave us that the Bahamas have only one native mammal, a cat-sized rat on Exuma, and all other mammals are exotics.
We were simply amazed by how many cute flowers we saw in bloom here and there.
When we finished at the Rand, we began to walk into downtown Freeport. We had made some progress when a small bus stopped and offered us a ride the rest of the way into town. My wife asked the driver if he knew a good local place to eat lunch, whereupon he drove us to the back of a mini mall, to a place called, if I remember right, Brother Mo'. It was a nice little cafe with booths. The waitress came and recited us the menu in lieu of paper menus, and soon we had full meals of barbecue chicken with peas n rice. The food was very good. The place seemed to be a real "locals" place, as nobody but Bahamians, my wife and I came in the entire time we were there.
After lunch, we went to the Bahamian Telephone Company to buy me a phone card ("how much per minute to the US?", I asked the nice woman who sold me the card; "1 dollar a minute, isn't that ridiculous?", answered the saleswoman, adopting the policy that frankness is the best sales technique). Then we went to the post office to pick up stamps. Bahamian stamps are often simple, pretty marine and wildlife scenes, and the woman behind the philatelic counter seemed personally flattered that we would compliment the Bahamian stamps. We stopped in the Winn Dixie to get guava jam (my wife had picked up a Bahamian calendar which had the recipe for guava duff, the local regional dessert, so the jam was an essential). The slow pace and easy friendliness in the grocery store reminded me a bit of Austin's grocery store in Gurdon, Arkansas. I liked the woman ahead of us in line who needed help to count out the change she needed to give to pay out. As sometimes happened in Los Angeles, she seemed to be buying more than one family's groceries at once. We stopped in another shop or two, and then caught a bus (actually, the "buses" are all small vans costing a dollar a ride) back to our hotel. I've sent off a set of postcards, picked up some work e mail, and now I'm ready to relax.