Learning the Ropes

Island life is beautiful no doubt about it. The swaying palm trees, the rhythm of waves crashing on a beach, the smell of briny salt water, and hot sand in your toes, and the sunshine glittering on the blue water, it all creates a harmonious feeling in your spirit. I grew up with a deep connection to water and I feel most at peace when I have water source near me. When we got the opportunity to live on a tropical island, we felt the magnetic draw to the lifestyle. From the day I met my husband, Jimbo, 14 years ago, we had a collective dream to live by the ocean. We traveled to the Caribbean on our vacations and diligently socked away money for a retirement plan that included sailboats and blue waters.

How very lucky we are, to be called to Great Guana Cay to live and commune with nature. To do so, in our younger,middle age and with a young son, we feel truly blessed. We examined what the risk/rewards are for uprooting our beautiful American life-style to transplant in a foreign country. I had spent a summer on Nantucket in my college years working as a nanny, so I knew the confinement an island can bring. I also studied abroad in Austria my Senior year of college and I knew culture change can challenge even the most free-spirited individuals. Again, I must learn the importance of flexibility and rise to the challenge of island living.

There is a saying “Abaco ain’t for sissies”. And while we knew that island life, beautiful as it may be, can have a lot of limiting factors. The accouterments of our daily American life will no longer be a part of our new lifestyle. But neither is the hectic pace and over scheduling that once demanded our time and energy back at home. Here, you have to flow with the “island time”. Patience with all that is, is the most important skill.

I have always worked with limited patience. I like to set my sights on something and have it instantly. Opening yourself up to the art of patience also requires a bit of surrender. It’s only be two weeks and I am learning that the only thing I really have control of is how I react to things. I can’t speed up the movers who held our belongings ransom for two weeks, I can’t re-paint our house in a few weeks time, and I can’t get errands run in a relatively short amount of time. While our schedule is no longer filled with appointments, coffee dates, yoga classes, after school activities, you still have to schedule your day around ferry schedules, grocery re-stocking and taxi availability. The act of surrender helps to transition us from being accustomed to instant gratification to quiet, contemplative act of patience.

Speaking of out of control, on our second night on Great Guana Cay, we went to enjoy the sunset at the local beach bar, “Grabbers”. We met some fun families from Florida, played on the paddle boards and had a sunset cocktail when Jim finished up his day at work and joined us. When our hair and skin were drenched in salt water and our fingers were good and pruned, we decided to head home. Jim got in his cart and I went to load up my golf cart only to find it was missing?

“Where’s your golf cart?” Jim asked…”It was parked right here!” I insisted. Well, welcome to the island! Two days in and I was Lready indoctrinated. I thought you could leave the keys in the cart anywhere on the island?! Well, you can, anywhere but the local bars. Apparently, it is common for drunks visiting the island to “borrow” your cart to bar hop. Even though all things are in walking distance in the Settlement, the visitors can’t stumble their way from one spot to another.

A feeling of dread washed over me, when the realization set in that my island transport is now missing. But, Jim just shook his head and we drove through the settlement to find the cart. You really can only go so far, as it is only a seven mile island, and according to Jim, it will turn up somewhere. Lo and behold, the cart was parked cattywhompus at the ferry dock. The local islanders exclaimed they saw a very drunk man and his friends roll up in the cart and then they got in his boat and off he went into the sunset…with my golf cart keys in his pocket!!!

So now we had a golf cart, but no way to operate it. Most golf carts have universal keys but mine has a “fancy” key so tracking one down could be a problem. We happened to drive to where some local fellas had a match of bags going on and one fella had the “fancy” key. Phew! Crisis averted. But I still had to get a copy made. This is where surrender and patience becomes “key”.

The next day I had planned to take the ferry boat to the main island of Abaco to grocery shop and pick up paint at the hardware store, there, I can also make copies for my golf cart key. 🔑 Very convenient. Well, at least you would think so. After hiring a cab to take me to three different hardware stores, I finally tracked down my paint, but no one could make a copy of my “fancy” key. “Try the locksmith,” an islander suggested. Fantastic!

Well, upon arriving at the locksmith, we learned that they were only open until noon on Fridays as many stores close for locals to do their paycheck banking. It is not common for direct deposit banking in the Bahamas so all working people take the payday afternoon off to go to local banks to so their banking. The taxi driver then took me to the grocery store, Maxwell’s, which I found to be very well stocked and VERY busy. The grocery delivery comes Friday mornings, so the whole island tries to get first dibs on the freshly stocked produce and goods. With no luck on the key, and a trunk load of house paint and groceries we made it back to to the ferry to wait in the hot sun to return to Guana Cay. The key will have to wait for another ferry trip to Abaco. and while the taxi driver was sweet and accommodating, for two hours of errands she charges $60 to return back to the ferry dock! Ouch! Jimbo reminds me that we no longer have a car payment, gas or insurance but that taxi ride still smarts in the pocketbook for sure. Surrender.

Patience is a virtue. This is quite true. But like fuel in a gas tank, you can run low and on fumes with patience. It reminds me of this song I loved when I was a little girl called “Have Patience” from the Music Machine… the chorus:
“Have patience, have patience
Don’t be in such a hurry
When you get impatient, you only start to worry
Remember, remember that God is patient, too
And think of all the times when others have to wait for you.”

Well, our patience was put to the test with our movers. We had many quotes when it came to moving our belongings to the island. Because you get charged a 33% duty tax on all imported goods to the Bahamas we had to be quite selective in choosing what got to come with us to the islands and it gets quite expensive. Of course, paddle boards, bikes, beach chairs and cookware made the cut. A few beloved treasures were chosen and blankets and pillows are a must, even though some houses come well equipped with nice bedding you still want your own things. All other things were sold or donated. We put one apartments worth of furniture into storage in case we need to evacuate because of hurricanes etc. So, we only needed 400 cubic feet of a moving truck to bring to the island. We went with the cheapest mover, but we surely paid the price for that choice.

On moving day, the movers arrived FIVE hours late. They arrived with a Budget truck not a legitimate moving truck. This should have raised red flags, but we were so exhausted from a full days move the day before and emotionally spent that we disregarded the fact and focused on getting our family to the island. They packed up our things and left our home looking like an empty shell. How funny that a house loses so much of its character and charm when all its fillings have been taken away. We trusted the head mover when he said that the move should take seven days and we would hear from the dispatcher shortly. Jim booked a work trip to Fort Lauderdale to coincide with the movers arrival in Florida to help delineate what goes on the shipping container to Guana Cay and what remains in a storage facility.

Jim arrived in Ft Lauderdale but the movers did not. The moving company did not return several of our phone calls and no one would return emails or texts. We got very concerned that they had our stuff for 9 days but they were nowhere to be found. Had we just paid someone to steal all our belongings?

We used our patience and surrendered to the fact we had no control of where our things were and when and if we would ever recover our belongings. We used our positive thoughts and redirected any anxiety by focusing on transitioning to our new living space. We played in the surf, learned how to dive for lobsters, and began painting the space to make it feel more like our home. We trusted that we will be okay even if we had lost the very last of our belongings.

Finally, after 13 days we heard from the movers. We couldn’t get straight answers from them when they would deliver our things. We had reserved space on a shipping container to go to the Bahamas on Friday, but there was no way the mover was going to hit the mark of delivering our stuff even though he picked it up 14 days prior. They arrived with the truck on a Saturday, but of course the shipping yard was closed until Monday. After a lot of back and forth with the mover, who demanded us to pay for the days he had to wait for the shipping warehouse to open, they delivered our belongings to the warehouse.

Once our belongings are loaded on the shipping container they will be transported to the Bahamas to go through customs. We had to diligently itemize each box before moving to be accounted for by the Bahamian customs team. They will go through each box and determine the duty tax applied to each of our belongings. We anticipated this might be a lengthy process on the Bahamaian side, but we never thought we would get such delay from the American portion of the move.

We had to exert plenty of patience and trust in the abundance of the Universe to know that we would be reunited with our treasured things. It was messy and difficult. But as the snail says in the song from my childhood, “when you get impatient, you only start to worry”. Anxiety can only be felt when you don’t feel control over the future. Releasing yourself from “future thinking” and anxiety takes practice. All you really have is NOW. So that is what we did. We focused on the present, our family and our new beautiful surroundings. My husband seems to have an unlimited patience tank. Perhaps that comes with his line of work, his mastery of sailing or just dealing with me in general. But I learned from him in this situation. Just like in sailing, you must be flexible, trust in your inner compass, use patience and keep a steady hand and things will right themselves.

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3 thoughts on “Learning the Ropes

  1. Christine Quintana August 11, 2018 — 11:20 pm

    Ah, so good. Feel like I’m going through the whole experience with you & my heart starts to race & then you talk about patience. This is good practice for me too. I’m so very proud of you & all that you are doing. Keep up the writing so we can stay a part of the life you lead.
    Love & miss you so much,


  2. So did your belongings ever arrive????


    1. Still haven’t received our stuff🤦‍♀️


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