Tuesday 03 APR 2018 – Little Farmer’s Cay, Exuma Islands, The Bahamas
We are set to go to Little Framer’s Cay today. Glenn doesn’t want to arrive there until slack tide (4PM) though, so we have some additional time in Black Point. On land we go to take showers, but like everything else in a tiny village on a tiny island, this takes time. Most of this time is devoted to tracking down the dude who minds the laundromat (and therefore the showers) so we can purchase the proper tokens, not the actual shower taking. We try calling Laundry Guy on the VHS radio, as per wall instructions, no luck. Then, I see him and chase him through the laundry building where he disappears into thin air. Then, I point Glenn to a wrong bloke. Ah, frustrations. So we wait. Eventually, Shower Guy returns, but now Glenn is out, and because he has all the money, I freak a little out thinking this could be another missed connection. It’s not. Showers: $4/8 minutes. After an indulgent morning of 8-minute showers and fried fish sandwiches, we ready Netzah for departure. By 1:30PM we are on the banks sailing at 4-5kts into the wind heading 10 miles south.
At Little Farmer’s Cay by 4PM. We pick up a mooring ball ($20/night) to make life carefree in a strong current. Two other boats are here and a cell tower. This means the internet is better, which still means very bad.
Wednesday 04 APR 2018 – Little Farmer’s Cay, Exuma Islands, The Bahamas
Our walk into Little Farmer’s town involves a daring walk down the middle of an airstrip which doubles as the car access road to the yacht club, where we are moored. Okay, it’s not really daring at all, no planes come or go while we are on it, but how many times do you get to walk down a runway?
The town itself, when we reach it after about a mile walk, is small (66 pop.) and organized around a little harbor not surprisingly named Little Harbour. In the distance at the docks we see a small crowd gathered and looking down into the water. An animal, no doubt, but what kind?
Sea turtles. Three large beauties are lured daily by a wrangler who baits them with conch meat. The animals are rather tame and allow themselves to be touched and even picked up out of the water for modeling sessions with tourists. Periodically, they are joined by a humungous puffer fish and a tailless ray that play supporting roles in this “wilderness” show. It’s a bit sad. Today there is a big American dude in the water with the menagerie. His big American wife is shooting pictures with her big Chinese phone. And there are about ten or twelve more watchers from the tour boat on which they arrived, and on which they arrive every day. This stop is the turtle stop. There’s a pig stop too – where folks can swim with pigs. There’s a nurse shark stop, a lizard stop, a “bubble bath” spraying water hole. I suppose it’s what people do, a kind of reduction because not every adventure in life can be experienced fully. Contemporary people want to do a lot of things that they won’t be able to master well enough to pursue at the most intense level. So, they hire guides or take a cruise boat or a bus tour, so they can at least get a taste of some local authenticity. I don’t know… it’s all fine I suppose, but it’s the live animals that brings out a discomfort for me.
We turn back, heading toward the village buildings and stopping to buy a big straw bag out of small shack on the way. I didn’t really need it, not that I won’t use it, but it’s more a purchase of support than of need. I don’t buy many things because we are frugal, but the other night at Connie’s I was impressed with her patronage of the local crafts people of South Africa. Connie and Tony don’t have much money by North American standards) but they still find a way to back the causes that matter to them. I can’t help but think this (patronage, not handout) is one responsibility I haven’t borne enough on this trip.
When we reach the “convenience” store there is a lovely man by the name of Eron outside trimming coconuts on a table with a mini machete. We hang out chatting for a bit and soon we are drinking fresh coconut water and learning about the various states of the coconuts in front of us. Eron’s an expert, able to tell the quality of the interior of a coconut from the subtle clue played out on the exterior. It’s too bad we’re not staying a bit longer, he says, he would have his wife make us some coconut bread. I guess we asked a lot of questions about coconuts.
The day is turning hot. Lately, the average temperatures and the intensity of the sunlight have been noticeably increasing. After a long, cool winter – at least that’s what the locals tell us – we are starting to get hints at the oppressiveness ahead. A couple of weeks ago in Nassau on an 80-degree day I asked a resident if it “got much hotter” than this in the summer? Raised are-you-kidding-me eyebrows she let out a “Ha!” like I had no idea about the meaning of heat.
We leave Eron in search of cold beer. At the Ocean Cabin we get two beers at the bar in the back of the building. We have stopped on our way home and find ourselves in a good spot not only to get refreshed but also to avoid the massive downpour. As the warmer temperatures approach, the rain showers will increase to the point where they will happen daily. Right now though, they are still an infrequent occurrence.
Thursday 05 APR 2018 – Lee Stocking Cay, Exuma Islands, The Bahamas
Lee Stocking is a very quiet, very quick stop. Not far from Farmer’s Cay we have motored here by the afternoon. When we arrive there are only two other boats at the anchorage, just outside of an area with a couple of small houses on land. This is a pretty desolate area. In the evening Glenn and I kayak, each in our own directions, enjoying one of the stillest nights in a long time. The banks tonight look like a lake.
Friday 06 APR 2018 – George Town, Grand Exuma Cay, Exuma Islands, The Bahamas
Yesterday we mostly motored to George Town, stopping along the way to get some fuel and water at Emerald Cove. We anchor on the north side of the bay. Nothing exciting to report.
Saturday 07 APR 2018 – George Town, Grand Exuma Cay, Exuma Islands, The Bahamas
Today we get off the boat to check out the town of George Town. We have moved to an anchorage very close to the Exumas Market grocery store, which has a dinghy dock that will make provisioning (Monday) much easier. Today, however, we are just getting the lay of the land. With a population of 1400+, George Town is the biggest city and the capital of the Exuma archipelago. Though it is, in general, a small place, compared to the many stops we have been making over the past three weeks, it feels like a humming metropolis. (This is a woeful exaggeration.)
Along the way we stop at the Driftwood Café where we encounter a good menu and a fellow tourist and world champion in the sport of passive-aggressivity. Unfortunately, her skills (aimed at me) were no match for my world class dumfounded-confunidty act.
Monday 09 APR 2018 – George Town, Grand Exuma Cay, Exuma Islands, The Bahamas
AKA The Day we Found Ourselves at the George Town Hospital
So far I have been keeping our health information private. Well, ok, so far there have been no health crises of which to speak… Until now. In the effort to flesh out a full picture of this trip, ugh, I now relay the day’s activities for documentary purposes only.
About eight days ago… For obvious reasons, after the previous week of suffering, I purchased small bottle of liquid laxative and used half of its contents. This dose, while helpful was not, let’s say, really very helpful. In fairness, it had a lot of work to do. On the boat, especially when we get to the end of a round of provisioning (after a week or two), and the fresh produce has run out, our diets turn to things like rice, pasta, and other reconstitutable water-sucking foods. Because I’m likely not drinking enough liquids and not exercising as regularly as I usually do, these foods, even though coupled with proteins, tend to lump in my stomach. Enough said, this was my situation.
About two days ago… A lack of “activity” continues, inspiring me to consume half of the remaining dose left in my small bottle. Once again, only scant relief is to be had.
Yesterday… Bloat and agony firmly set in. In the afternoon after a round of ashtanga yoga, some specialized exercises, an aggressive hydration program, the remainder of my small bottle, and a two-mile walk around G-Town, I start to get worried. The town clinic is not open on Sunday. We plan to go back in the morning.
This morning when we (Glenn is kind enough to join me) again arrive at the dusty closed up clinic, I prepare to sit down and wait for the “island time” version of 9AM. “That clinic’s no longer open. You have to go to the hospital.” A lovely young hitchhiker yells out.
A half mile away is a large, pink stucco wall with absolutely no markings on it. Completely invisible from the road, but exactly how the security guard in town had described, a brand new hospital building sits on the high ground behind it. Inside, the air conditioning blasts the sweat off our backs as I register to see a doctor using my US driver’s license. The interior is clean and bright. It is decorated in peaches, creams, and natural finish oak. The floors have compositions of vinyl tile with coved base for better cleanliness. Wait! This looks eerily familiar to the many hospital interiors I designed as an intern architect working in upstate NY. I chuckle to myself a bit.
After about a two-hour wait (@ 9:20AM arrival, I am seventh in line), I see a pleasant nurse who takes my vitals and history and then, soon-ish, I see a doctor. (Not that this matters whatsoever, but this doctor had the most severe underbite I have ever seen in my life. Just setting the scene.) Very quickly, the doctor writes me a prescription for a stronger medication, telling me I would have to go further out of town to a pharmacy since they didn’t carry this at the hospital pharmacy. He does this without a single bit of physical examination and I don’t care because I am eager to start my new life on the other side of relief. Then, “Wait,” he says, “how long has it been?”
Give or take a few minor instances, “two weeks,” I say. He gets more serious. He presses on my abdomen. It’s not too hard, he feels, but “you need to get an x-ray to rule out a blockage.” Ok. I mean, yes, this would be prudent. It’s not like that thought hadn’t crossed my mind. “You will need to go to Princess Margaret for that though” OK. “In Nassau.” Wait. What? That’s right, George Town has no x-ray or ultrasound machine yet, so patients fly to Nassau. As the doctor describes how to get a plane online, how the wait at the hospital will be six hours because it’s public, how I will need a hotel room, I zone out. He thinks I should do all this before getting the prescription filled. My jubilation crumbles at the thought. Glenn and I leave weighing our next moves.
But here’s the thing about me, I’m a skeptic. Sure, doctors know stuff. But so does Dr. Trandafirescu. I give myself a slightly different course of action, against both Dr. Underbite and Dr. Wilcox’s advice. I will get the prescription filled and use it. If things don’t clear up, then I will go to Nassau. This makes more sense, I say.
We hitchhike to the pharmacy where I load up on several forms of laxo-medication. When I bring them home and, in concert, use them all, nothing works. I admit, this was, for a few hours, dismaying. But then I have one last thought, which I convince Glenn to consider: cod liver oil. When I was pregnant and my water had broken but my labor wouldn’t start, the midwives suggested a large dose of cod liver oil. This worked both as a laxative and as a labor starter in the most miraculous way. And it does again today.
There are many morals to this story that you yourselves can deduce. Instead, I leave you with this more important postscript. To see a doctor as a foreigner who doesn’t pay into the Bahamian public health system, it cost me $30. It is utterly shameful to think what this visit would have cost a visitor to my country. Perhaps if Bahamians charged more for medical services, then the people of George Town would have their own x-ray machine, but so far they have deemed this an excess that cannot yet be reasonably afforded. I’m not sure what the right balance is, but I was grateful to be able to be seen so humanely.