Eleuthera: The Eyes Open

Monday Madness

I woke up to find that Dayna had no voice any longer. We decided to go to the clinic ASAP and get her some medicine. This is not a new event for her, so we anticipated getting some Prednisone and antibiotics, but we didn’t know what it would cost. We brought $1000 cash between the two of us, and hoped the clinic would accept credit cards.

As we waited in the clinic to be seen, we were told that cloth masks weren’t good enough but that we could purchase their paper masks. Having no alternative, we agreed and the allergic reaction Dayna was having didn’t approve of the airflow constriction, causing her to begin coughing. Eventually we were taken to the back where the nurse was shocked that neither of us had a fever. Dayna felt just fine. Her voice was the only issue here. Despite the fact that this isn’t a common COVID symptom, the nurse explained that it is common policy to test for COVID in cases like this.

As expected, the test came back negative. We overheard a conversation in the hallway through the curtain and the word “Prednisone” was repeated a few times. We got the prescription and continued the vacation. Oh, how much was the visit? With the added cost of the test and the masks and without the use of health insurance, we paid out of pocket about the same that we would have paid here in the states to see the family doctor with the assistance of insurance for any illness. The prescription drugs were also more affordable. I was starting to wonder if our healthcare overhaul in the US under Obama might have been a scam.

So much potential!

More beaches, more local fare, scenic views that took our collective breath away. The six people on this trip are all Christians and we all look at the world through that lens. We could see the decaying remnants of agriculture and we could see fruits, cows and chickens growing wild, so there was no question this island could grow pineapple, mango, banana and livestock. We saw the food prices here and we saw a lot of people doing nothing at all. Rolling dice and drinking beer was a common sight all throughout the day outside one of the stores. We had more than one conversation about how a small group of people could buy a plat of land together and homestead there. It was all hypothetical and uninformed, but the mystery of the Bahamas was growing.

Tuesday: The Queen’s Bath

Queens Bath, Eleuthera. | world | Pinterest

The next day, we visited the Queen’s Bath. I had done no research on it, but my friend described it as a place where water collects from the waves into gentle pools. Sounds nice! My hiking sandals had started to give out, so I just wore flip flops for this one. Once I got there, I missed the sandals. The baths are just a short walk from the rough side road, a walk on stone and coral. Lots of coral. Sharp coral. Uneven ground. Your flip flops will get wet and slippery. Your feet will hit that coral. You will wince and grit your teeth. Bad words might come from your mouth. But the baths are beautiful and my friends jumped into one of them. I didn’t do this because I didn’t trust my flip flops to get me over to that area. Put this one on your list of “must dos” if ever you get to Eleuthera!

That day, we paid a visit to Lenny Kravitz’s favorite restaurant. Lenny wasn’t there, but the food and drinks were all great! Like every restaurant visit, it was expensive. Offsetting our food costs with shelf-stable food that we brought really made this trip for us. If we hadn’t done this, our cash would have dwindled quickly! And again, this was a party of Christians. Nobody was going to want for any necessities as long as any of us had resources. We shared appetizers and made sure that everyone got the full experience at every stop.

Wednesday: Hello fellow Americans!

Before we traveled, a member of our party had reached out with a general call to anyone on the island who had a need for a few volunteers. A librarian had a need for a sign to be placed so people would know when the library was open and we were glad to assist her. We showed up to the small library and walked in to find a rather stern woman glaring at us. We could tell that she had money, as her clothing was quite nice, and almost certainly imported from a fashion catalog, which meant it was expensive. She argued with the librarian and told us that we are in another country and must follow the laws of that country or their immigration services would expel us.

We walked out of the library and formed a prayer circle, praying that God would soften this woman’s heart. We had no idea who she was, but she had threatened our remaining stay with a line of activity that would have likely included a stay in a third world confinement facility. Unbeknownst to us, the librarian told this official that her conduct was not very Christlike and then they both left the library to see us in prayer. Quite the contrast! We had plans to have lunch with her, but that wasn’t for a few hours, so we decided to visit another American on the island, this time a missionary.

We had seen the EBTC sign near the road, along with the well-maintained building and lighted basketball court, but I hadn’t known what that was. EBTC stands for the “Eleuthera Bible Training Center” and the missionaries there are training pastors and residents in Bible study and church leadership. Our eyes were opening to the island and why certain things were the way that they are.

Biblical instruction is taught in the public schools. The students can recall many stories from the Bible and recite much of the content. The instruction does not include a firm grasp on the gospel though. Instead, the emphasis is on law. The Law and Gospel divide is one that is more of a theological term than a litigious one. The Bible demonstrates the expectation that God has for His image bearers. And through example after example, premise after assertion, the Bible makes it clear that we are all children of Adam, crooked deep down, unable to meet the requirement of holiness that one must have in order to see God. The Bahama school system tells the students to behave. The Gospel tells the hearer that there is a solution for those unable to perfectly behave, and his name is Jesus. The name of Jesus is known on the island, but the power of the gospel is misunderstood. It is not taught in the educational system, and it is not explained in the churches.

Introducing people to the relief of the gospel is the mission of the EBTC. Even in a culture saturated with biblical knowledge, for it is a culture with the appearance of godliness, but denying its power.

A standout memory of the home of the missionaries was a huge pair of handmade oars up on the wall. The oars had been used by Haitian illegal immigrants who made landfall on the island. When this happens, they scatter into the jungle as quickly as they can. If they are captured, they are immediately sent back to Haiti without any trial or interrogation. The boat they come in on is also burned on the beach. The oars were left to the side though, and picked up. The people of Haiti are not coming for welfare and they can never become citizens, nor can their children. They do the work that the Bahamian people won’t do for themselves for anyone who can afford their services. They aren’t so much coming for opportunity but they are escaping life in Haiti.

Lunch time came and we met with the librarian. Well, officially she has no title for she is not a citizen of the Bahamas. If she had a title or was receiving any compensation that would be construed as work, and work was the reason for the unpleasantness that morning.

What’s the backstory here?

Eleuthera used to be a vacation paradise. I say “used to” not because the beaches aren’t fantastic now, but because the entire island was once maintained and utilized. There were resorts, golf courses, farms and more. Jobs abounded and this was the American answer to nearby Cuba. They were the top exporter of pineapples in the world, they supplied chicken meat and eggs to the region, the people were employed and benefiting. This infrastructure was developed while the island was a part of the United Kingdom territories.

I highly suggest you read this article, even though it is from the New York Times, for some context.

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The Bahamas gained their independence in 1973. At some point, the new local government informed the people that their working in their agriculture or their hospitality jobs were demeaning, and amounted to slavery. This was true in their occupations as well as the upkeep of the island in general. The people had been taken advantage of, and the using of the facilities that remained, and also the removal of these facilities, were both things that a true Bahamian ought not do. So the towering concrete silos that once held chicken feed are left to crumble by the roadside. The jungle encroaches on the highway. Many of the people are without meaningful employment so they rely on a Universal Basic Income that barely covers their rice and beans. Babies are not diapered as the diapers are too expensive and the poorest of them don’t have running water to wash cloth diapers. Pregnant women must move to the capital island once their pregnancy reaches the sixth month because there is no clinic on Eleuthera with the facilities to handle the delivery of a child. Dentistry is nonexistent and people will pull each others teeth when the pain gets too great to bear.

Lenny Kravitz has arraigned for free dental clinics to pop up twice a year and they have been shut down by the government. Why? Because that is work and the Bahamian people ought to be taking care of their own. Nevermind the fact that they hadn’t been taking care of their own. They just ought to. If Lenny Kravitz can’t get dental services in here, how are we supposed to be permitted to hang a sign at the library?

The schools teach a truncated curriculum, just as they teach a truncated gospel. The people are literate and can perform basic math, but their history is the government version and many classes that we would see as important don’t matter as much to the context of these people. At least not to the government who sets the agenda. What matters is that the children are all wearing nicer clothes than what my office job requires of me. And based on clothing, the people dressed the nicest are the government employees, followed by tourists, followed by the small business owners.

I didn’t see any foreign-owned business whatsoever. That is because it is illegal for any business to be owned by a majority owner that is not Bahamian. Once that change was made, almost all industry on the island stopped. Companies don’t want to invest in the production or the distribution in a place where they don’t hold any controlling interest. And with this, the items for sale at the small stores dotting the island are quite eclectic, consisting of whatever the shop owner was able to procure, often with frequent visits to big box stores to supply their own store shelves.

This is what happens when the citizens take on an oppressed demeanor and allow the government to make their decisions for them. The island was once prosperous and it has taken nearly 50 years of decay to reach this point. It is still a viable vacation spot, but for how long? The magnificent beaches aren’t going away, but the access roads to many of them are treacherous as it is, and nobody does anything to improve them.

Where does this circle of oppression begin and end? It really doesn’t. Where does the fault for it lie? The government? The citizens? I don’t know where each side’s responsibility begins and ends. I have spent one week in the Bahamas and a majority of my life in an economic system that, while imperfect, has provided more prosperity to the poor than any government program ever could.

Did we see anything on this trip that validated what we were told and what we read? Yes we did. But that will be in a future post.

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Published by CoffeeSwirls