Easter Lockdown

2014 was the first Easter I spent in the “civilized” Bahamian world. The previous Easter holidays throughout my island tenure were spent either in Miami or on some far-fetched remote island where I had no idea what was going on in the world of commerce. Though last year, I got a rude awakening when I discovered that the entire country shuts down for 4 full days over Easter weekend. To top it off, no one bothers to affix signs to their store windows to alert the shopper of their altered holiday hours; you’re just supposed to know.

happy easter

I was raised a good Catholic girl and attended private Catholic school from preschool until the 9th grade. I went to church, said my prayers, and proudly sported my plaid uniform complete with Mister Rogers-style sweater. I was privy to the Easter Jesus story and, like any American child, I also simultaneously looked forward to a visit from the Easter bunny. In the religious sense, we recognized Good Friday and Easter Sunday but I don’t ever recall the entire country going into lockdown mode.

My introduction to the Bahamian version of the Easter holiday weekend started on Good Friday last year. I can’t remember the exact details, but I know we had just come back to the island after being away. Our fridge was barren and, even more horrifying, we had no alcohol. Not a drop – no wine, beer, or even a splash of rum buried in the back of the cabinet. I had promised to host a dinner party for a few close friends that evening so my husband and I went out to run our errands and stock up. On occasion, you will find island business establishments closed for no apparent reason. The hardware store, although not advertised, closes from 12- 2pm each day for lunch and is closed every Saturday and Sunday. Sometimes the shop gal will have to pop out to pay her power bill and the pharmacy will be closed for 45 minutes midday. Usually the grocery store will stay open – unless there is a wedding or a funeral, in which case the owner and every employee will be attending, leaving no one behind to man the shop.

On this particular Good Friday, upon a quick circuit of town, we realized that everything was closed. Hmmm… No food, no booze. Desperate, we even swung by a liquor store which is known for being open for a few sneaky hours on Sundays. The owner was sitting nearby drinking beers and playing dominos. When we asked him when he was opening for the day, he laughed and informed us that nothing is open on Good Friday and we should have stocked up the day before. While the rest of the island was apparently preparing to spend the day in deep reverence of the resurrection of Christ, he was settling in to work on his domino slapping skills. We decided not to push it.

*click for image credit

Feeling defeated, we made our way to our local watering hole where a familiar bartender greeted us. Our usual drinking companions were already posted in their usual drinking spots. We plopped down on the bar stool and requested two Kaliks.

“No alcohol on Good Friday,” said our bartender.

She is known for her good spirited, sassy attitude so we presumed she was just messing with us.

“I’m in NO mood to joke,” I replied.

But alas, she was serious. Evidently no place of business is allowed to sell or serve alcohol on Good Friday. I was aware of this regulation on voting day, but Good Friday?! (Every 5 years on voting day the entire country shuts down and no alcohol is permitted to be sold so that everyone can fill out their votes with a sober pen.) I must have had a look of absolute grief on my face (or the look of a pathetic alcoholic, one can’t be sure), so our bartender glanced around to see if anyone was watching before sneaking us a couple cranberry juices spiked with a good helping of vodka. We learned this was also what our drinking companions were sipping on, although they assured any inquisitors that it was just good ole fashioned non-alcoholic juice.

After the vodka calmed my nerves to a level where I was able to regain functionality as a “normal” member of island society, I realized that I was still dealing with the conundrum that we had nothing to serve our dinner guests.

Being a child of the Social Media Era, I did what anyone would do in the event of a disaster: I reached out to my trusty friends in the world of Facebook.

fb

My island Facebook friends immediately came to my rescue, offering up bottles of liquor and wine. I had friends that were out of town for the weekend, and I knew where their hide-a-key was, so I generously took them up on their offer to borrow a bottle of vodka. We managed a vacation property at that point in time, so for good measure, we also raided the wine refrigerator in order to service our dinner party. Everything was eventually replaced after the holiday weekend, but thank goodness for a few bottles in a pinch.

It’s not that we can’t survive a Friday evening on the island without a bit of booze (well… actually I don’t really know; I’ve never tried), but the principal issue is counting on your ability to purchase something only to realize that you can’t purchase something and the fact that this is a regular occurrence on this island. We bought a printer about a year ago from the local stationary store, thinking that since they sell that particular model that they would keep printer ink in stock. Nope. They haven’t had that printer ink in stock since we bought the machine. Lesson learned: when you see something you need, or think you might need in the near or not-so-near future, buy it. Buy it all.

In spite of the complications, our Good Friday dinner turned out wonderfully. We have a large chest freezer with enough meat in it to feed the entire village in the event of a hurricane, so I pulled out a few steaks to grill and was able to round up some veggies and potatoes. Another island lesson: make do with what you have.

Easter Lamb

Easter Lamb

So it wasn’t the biggest catastrophe ever. The stores ended up opening for a few hours on Saturday, so I was able to stock up for the rest of the weekend. Easter Sunday was quiet and relaxed. I made deviled eggs and we had a lovely afternoon roasting a whole lamb at a friend’s house. Easter Monday (I had no idea there was such a holiday, but evidently there is a sizable list of countries that observe it) was also mellow and business resumed as normal on Tuesday.

Though it all worked out, this year I was fully prepared for an island-style Easter, doing all my shopping by Thursday. And for good measure, I also put an annual alert in my calendar: “Easter Weekend – Stock Up!!”

I will not be foiled again.

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Mariah Moyle

About Mariah Moyle

In 2009, Mariah washed up on the beach of a remote island in the Bahamas. That island, as per the most recent census, had a population of 7. And it was at the island's only beach bar that she met her future husband. Forget checking little boxes on Match.com to find your perfect mate; if you need to find someone with the right amount of crazy comparable to your own, head to a sun-bleached tropical island. Upon marrying her Australian-Bahamian husband, she was granted legal status to live on any of the 700 rocks that comprise the Bahamas.

She fell into the vagrant world of construction and has lived and worked on numerous rocks throughout the Bahamas during her tenure as an island girl. She has recently landed in the "big city" of Nassau with the hopes of completing the house that her husband started about 10 years ago and finally establishing some roots. But as with the sailboats that ply these waters, you never know where the winds will take you.

Her and her husband are dedicated to their careers in construction project management, real estate, and island living consulting with their self-made company M&M Management. Nevertheless, Mariah still finds time to indulge in her favorite island activities which include kiteboarding, paddle-boarding, beach yoga, and taking her three Potcakes (island dogs) for long walks on empty beaches. You can follow her website, www.outislandlifebahamas.com/ or on Instagram @outislandlife.

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17 thoughts on “Easter Lockdown

  1. For 41 years, I consider Easter holiday the best ! Christmas is great, but 4 days of holiday mode….no gifts…no decorating …less organized parties…just fun and the weather is usually perfest…your best way of just the everyday dealing with island living……always buy 10 cases of beer and 2 cases of wine…when you get down 2 and 1….. Repeat…then the holidays are covered…or hurricanes….or late cargo ships….

    • I completely agree! Now that I know the drill, I’m prepared for every holiday. It makes it so much more enjoyable if you run all your errands prior and then just focus on relaxing for the whole weekend.

  2. I remember as a child everything shut down on Sunday’s stateside. I kinda miss the simplicity of it all. Not the mega stores that stay open no matter what. Can’t wait to become an island family!!

    • Unfortunately we (Americans, Canadians, etc) are so accustomed to having everything readily available 24/7. It’s really not a big deal for stores to be closed on holidays, as long as everyone knows that it’s going to happen and you know to stock up before hand!

  3. Loved your comment about “buy it all” When we built our house in Roatan I stayed behind stateside till it was finished. On one trip down I went to the store and came back with a brand of hotdogs we like. The Hubby remarked..”is that all they had”. Well no..but I was just being polite and didn’t buy a few packages. He said..when you see it “BUY IT ALL”

  4. It used to be worse. These days you are able to find a little shop open somewhere selling something. But always prepare to Easter like you’re preparing for a hurricane, which includes leaving the island.

  5. I sympathize with the “Buy It All” mentality, I really do, but I usually leave one of what I want on the shelf, in the (possibly vain) hope that the almost empty space with the one lonesome item will remind the order clerk that the item needs to be reordered.

    • Leaving “one” tells the clerk “we better order something else to fill up this space”! On my little island, it also means that we won’t see it again for at least 8 months, by which time we have learned to live without it.

  6. Great idea… Stock up, but it used to be that all of the food stores (and of the several none was much larger than a small convenience store) all got their supplies from the same supplier on the ext island, so if one was out of it, nobody had it!

    • I just had that happen with pineapple juice, no one on the entire island had it. It was like there was a run on pineapple juice!

  7. Yup, even Christ had a pretty boring weekend just hanging around (oops, sorry). I could suggest going to a Hindu or Muslim country over Easter but they don’t drink either, and their firework displays are a bit scary!

  8. Also every one has to buy fish for Fridays dinner. There are long lines at the docks on Thursday and all the fish are usually gone by the afternoon.

  9. Love these stories……We own a Restaurant on our rock and it is published in our local paper, verbally reminded during our liquor licensing interview and double checked by local law enforcement …..No alcohol to be served on Good Friday or Voting days…..Thank goodness I usually work both those days so a little easier to get through that 24 hours………..AND YES! If you find something ‘buy them all’….From matching curtains to hairspray….. 😉

    • Glad to hear it’s in your newspaper, hopefully it gives customers a heads up! I think a lot of tourists (and myself included) have been surprised to find that no alcohol is served at restaurants on Good Friday. I think a lot of people’s highlight on a tropical island vacation is being served a fruity cocktail with umbrellas in it. Kind of disappointing when you can’t get one!

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