Written by: KAJ SCHUT
A little over a year ago, my backpack (a true beauty) and I were ready to tackle another adventure. After 11 months of bunk beds in Latin America, a year of whisky, bagpipes, and kilts in Scotland, and a few weeks of cycling along the canals of Utrecht, we left town once again to feed our wanderlust. We packed my boyfriend (who I’d picked up along the way), several bathing suits, and some truly Dutch essentials (stroopwafels!), and made our way to the Caribbean.
The first couple of months in our new home revolved around getting acquainted with island life. Our first week on Bonaire, we bought a gorgeous green island jeep that was – as the tradition goes – held together by tie-rips and duct tape. We met our neighbor, a magnificent 90 year old lady, who fillets fish like she once was a marine creature herself. And we started our first jobs: filling tanks and cleaning salty gear, all with our eyes closed, so we wouldn’t be confronted with the constant flow of middle-aged Dutch men who find comfort in the act of undressing right in front of our noses.
About a year into our adventure, we had learned some important island lessons the hard way. Like not to walk barefoot in our garden at night (scorpions are true party animals, they all come out as soon as the sun sets), or that hoarding is an important survival technique (our containers tend to get lost somewhere between mainland Venezuela and our little rock, leaving us without). But, it wasn’t until just this past Wednesday that the island decided to teach me its most valuable lesson yet.
It had been a long, sweaty day. While living on a tropical island is amazing, working on one… not so much. Our alarm went off at 6:30am and an hour later, we started filling the first tanks. It was a busy day as one of the many floating hotels (aka cruise ships) had found its way to our port. Our little dive shop was flooded with ahem – rather large – cruise boat passengers, all eager to experience the “diver’s paradise” that is Bonaire. As you can imagine, getting them all geared up and ready to take that giant stride into the ocean is great for the muscles (you should see my arms!), but not so much for the hygiene of the armpits. Hence, by the time I got home at 6pm, I was longing for the soothing sound of running water that would wash away the feeling of complete and total exhaustion.
There I was, my hands and face covered in suds, my hair a white, bubbly cloud, just relaxing in the cozy shower space, giving soap some time to do its best work. I breathed out a sigh of gratitude to have finally made it to shower time. The only lifting I had ahead of me for the rest of the night would be reduced to putting on clean underwear. Then, a home-cooked meal and a good book and I would be rejuvenated.
I went to turn the water flow back on (because we islanders take Navy showers here) and… nothing. With soap covering my eyes and mouth, I blindly fumbled with the handles. Surely, this must be a mistake. But, nope – just like that, the water was gone.
That Wednesday afternoon, I learned that here, one must be prepared for all the things you had never even considered being prepared for. Like scorpion parties at night, empty supermarkets, and – most importantly – running out of water. From here on out, you better believe I’ll always have a spare jug near the shower. Because having soap in your eyes with no way to rinse it out teaches a much more memorable life lesson than any I have ever learned in school. In fact, it burned that lesson straight onto my eyeballs. Thank you for that, Island.
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What lessons has your island taught you that you’ll never forget?