Prior to my official move to Paradise Island, an incident beyond my control left me stranded on this rock for 60 days. What was meant to be a transitional five-day visit became an unexpected two-month stay. I call it my “island initiation,” being subjected to a crash course on how to survive in Nassau. But in this time period, I also stumbled on treasures more valuable than any pirate’s booty.
The first lesson came along when I had to go emergency shopping as a result of my situation. When I learned that I would have to stay on the island for an extended period, I immediately arranged for more clothes and personal effects to be shipped my way. I was expecting that my package would arrive in two weeks. Nope. Some gifted mind in the post office forwarded my shipment to BAHrain instead of BAHamas. Seriously.
Since my suitcase held enough clothes to last only five days, I was bent on going downtown to shop for more. So I did. On a Sunday. When most stores were closed. The island’s people are church devotees and don’t work on Sundays. Duh! I neglected to think that I was no longer in Las Vegas where establishments were open 24/7 and public transportation was easily accessible. Not around here, darling.
Of course, in true island fashion, there was also a power outage. Desperate to try on some outfits, I had to change in the dark, even stumbling on a sales lady on my way to the dressing room. The unsuccessful fashion hunt and the afternoon’s heat and humidity wore me out. I eventually gave up and went home empty-handed.
After that epic fail, I resolved to go to the mall the next day. It took me an eternity to pick out what suited my taste, but I was quite content with the bundle I collected. When it was time to pay, the cashier wouldn’t take my credit card because their system was down. Alas, I had to whittle down my selection to only two items. That was all I could afford with the cash I had.
As I paid, I asked the cashier, “It should be easy to get a cab outside, right?”
She slowly shook her head, “No.”
“How do I get back downtown?”
“You can take the bus. But the last run is at 6:00 p.m.” She checked the time. “You better hurry!” She walked me to the bus stop and made sure that I boarded that last bus. During the ride, I watched the bus driver and his sidekick enjoy their beers to unwind from their day. I clutched my shopping bag as the bus made its way back to town.
Well, guess what? When I stepped off the bus, the cruise ships had left the dock and downtown Nassau had turned into a ghost town. I found myself walking on a dark, deserted street with closed shops and no taxis in sight. Waaahhh!
I racked my brain until it occurred to me that the British Colonial Hilton was a stone’s throw from where I stood. I made my way to the iconic hotel and hailed a cab from there. Brilliant!
By this time, I was famished. I spied a nearby McDonald’s and thought I heard a Big Mac calling my name. I negotiated with the cabbie about taking me to the drive-thru, but he said it would cost me a little extra. I better reserve enough cash to pay for this taxi ride, I told myself. But then I wondered out loud, “Have you had dinner?”
“I was about to pick up some jerk chicken. Would you like to try some?”
“Sure!” Why not? I was starving.
“Thank you for trusting me,” he said as he drove down dark alleys and streets unfamiliar to me, all the while pointing out notable places like where he used to live or in which direction the stadium was. It was the best guided tour I’ve ever had.
“What is the name of this jerk chicken place?” I asked, as he parked the cab next to it.
“There is no name,” he squeaked and looked at me as though I was crazy to even ask the question.
Smoke billowed from the anonymous shack. It was unlit yet surrounded by a few locals who appeared to have been waiting a long time. My taxi driver jumped back in the cab and took me to another place instead since this one was obviously having some “technical” problems.
We wound up in a restaurant that had an adjacent jerk chicken stand. A young man emerged and they exchanged big hugs.
“I grew him up! I grew him up!” my cabbie beamed, putting an arm around his buddy who added a chicken breast on the grill. While my dinner special was cooking, they regaled me with stories about their family connection and other reminiscences.
In case you’re wondering, I made it back safely. Mark and I were already on a first-name basis when he finally delivered me to my destination. He even gave me his card with a number to call in case I needed a future ride.
I walked in the door with a bright smile on my face, a shopping bag of clothes, and a styrofoam package carrying the prized jerk chicken (plus smashed mac and cheese). I shared with my husband the authentic Bahamian dinner spiced with tales of my adventure.
“We’re going to be just fine here,” I declared, licking the jerk chicken sauce off my thumb.