A Hitchhiker's Guide to the Exumas

This is a sort of follow up post to my Dinghy Dilemma experience. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, right? So, here’s the latest in our adventure. Mark is captain and cruise director this week as we have some guests aboard. We wanted to give them the full experience of a vacation, so the kids and I left the boat and are staying at a condo. Let me just say that this is NOT a sacrifice, and it has been quite a treat for each of us. Elizabeth and Michael have loved playing in the chlorinated pool with other kids and watching a few shows on TV. I have liked the washer/dryer combo (an ongoing theme in my posts, I know), long showers, and the fast internet connection. The other night, I indulged in watching the finale of The Bachelor live, rather than intermittently streaming on a spotty connection. Bliss. Needless to say, we are not suffering.

However, the place is a bit removed from town. It is at least 2 miles in either direction to a grocery store and the main town of Georgetown. That has meant some long walks. A few times, people stopped to offer a ride, I just couldn’t get up the gumption to accept. This left us pretty stranded and wishing we had our dear old dinghy! I had packed a portable VHF radio to keep in touch with our cruising community, but we were too far away for it to work. I quickly realized that we were stranded… landlocked… isolated. Sure, there were taxi cabs I could call, but the price of rides back and forth would add up quickly, and I needed to save my rum money! (priorities, right?)

St. Andrews
On Sunday, I decided to check out St. Andrew’s Anglican Church, built in the 1800’s. Visiting local churches has offered us a wonderful glimpse further into the communities in which we’ve stopped. I allowed ourselves 40 minutes to make the trek, and decided to talk to the kids about “the old days” when people walked almost everywhere, and in some countries still do! No reason not to include a bit of a history lesson to distract everyone from the heat and glaring sun! We made it there in 30 minutes, with 10 minutes to catch our breath. It ended up being a great energy burner, as we then sat through a 2+ hour Lent service! But, God took care of us, and during the greeting, a lady said she’d seen us walking and thought we were just out for a stroll! She wouldn’t think of letting us walk back! Thus began a new life lesson – hitchhiking 101.

The following day, I decided to test our luck. Michael had expressed (in so many words) his need for a free day. “A day without church or school,” were his exact words. In my drive to make sure we didn’t fall behind in schoolwork due to sailing time, I had been doing school even on Saturdays. We all could use a free day. And I wanted to try this whole hitchhiking thing out! Please note, I had heard from various cruisers that it was very safe and acceptable to hitchhike on this island. I just wasn’t too sure about the etiquette. Do I actually stick out my thumb? Do I follow the usual safety rules and walk against traffic, making it hard for someone going my direction to stop? Do I offer to pay for gas expense? Gas here is NOT cheap! I had a lot of questions, and I definitely didn’t want to offend anyone.

Souvinier
Finally, I decided to carefully walk with the traffic and see what happened. My goal was to get to the main town and check out the library about which I’d heard great things. Elizabeth also had earned enough points (part of our behavior system) to buy a souvenir, so she wanted to hit the Straw Market. We’d only walked a few yards from our place when a 20-something gal pulled over and offered us a ride into town. She was headed to the grocery store, right next to the library – what luck! The kids and I hurried to hop in, and we had a nice (fast) ride into town, all the while getting to meet a new person! This could be fun!

Once we got there, I thanked her over and over again, wondering if that was payment enough. Then we walked to the library. This is our “free day” remember? Little did the kids realize that they had a good hour in that quaint little children’s room of the library, reading all kinds of books. I even showed Michael some books about the planets and moon (our last science unit), and Elizabeth was thrilled to look through a National Geographic book about insects (our current unit). But don’t tell them their learning…
Georgetown Library
While they were pouring over the books they had found, I got a chance to find a few books for myself, too. The library membership costs a whopping $3.00 per family, so we stocked up. The kind volunteer at the desk assured us that we could keep the books as long as we liked, as long as we didn’t sail away with them! The place was a gem for cruisers offering a vast book, DVD, and audiobook selection in order by genre. It is very unusual to find such a nicely organized and fully stocked library in the islands. Most of the time, I am rifling through a stack of paperbacks that have been left in the dock offices by other cruisers for a book swap. But very rarely are any children’s books available. I absolutely LOVE libraries, so I was in heaven, just breathing in that old, musty book smell that my Kindle just doesn’t provide. Do you think they could come up with an old bookstore-scented Kindle cover?? That might make for some electronic reader converts!

Elizabeth in Library
Michael reading National Geographic
After the library, we grabbed lunch and ran into some of our cruising friends. One of them offered to dinghy us back to our hotel, but I declined. It was a risk, but I really wanted more chances to try out this hitchhiking thing. Before we left, we headed to a souvenir shop and looked around for a special seashell to add to Elizabeth’s collection. While the kids were examining shells, I asked the storeowner all my pressing questions about hitchhiking dos and don’ts. She giggled, but gave me a quick summary of how it works. Yes, use the thumb. No, don’t walk against traffic. No, no need to offer money, but a heart-felt thanks is payment enough. She assured me once again that people give rides all the time on their way to and from town. The Bahamians are such a kind people. We have been very accepted as outsiders, feeling safe and welcomed at every island. Unlike the Caribbean, we have not had to lock up our dinghy at the docks or worry about being accosted by boat boys or souvenir sellers.

Playing at Pool!
As we started walking back, armed with the rules of the road, we quickly got a ride. When we arrived at the hotel, I felt I had a new freedom. No longer would the kids and I be trudging up and down the narrow sides of the road in the tropic heat. But I also realized I had to talk to the kids about hitchhiking in general. I needed to specify that this is NOT something we do everywhere, but only in places where Mom and Dad know that it is safe. And the learning continues…

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