One of the things I appreciated about being in the Bahamas was the lack of commercialism. I didnt feel bombarded at every turn to buy, buy, buy. (with the major exception of the tourist straw market mentioned in an earlier post). We weren’t assaulted by advertising day and night. Granted, we mostly spent our time in very remote places that didn’t even have roads, let alone stores or billboards. But even when we went out shopping, I found a refreshing simplicity in the minimal offerings the stores had. Need peanut butter? One of the major grocery stores even in Nassau, the capital city, had two choices. Big or small. How easy! In the States I would have been standing there for 10 minutes trying to choose one out of 100 choices, and I by the time I finished shopping I would have left feeling overwhelmed, a feeling that is common for me in the States. In the Bahamas, if we actually found what we were looking for, we felt like it was our lucky day. In yet another way, less can sometimes be more.
Sometimes I think that the idea of having many choices equals a freedom of sorts, and perhaps in some ways it does. However I find too many choices can be paralyzing and numbing, especially when it comes to meaningless consumer goods.
The stores in the Bahamas featured only the basics, very few choices, and very high prices. But I dont think the Bahamians were totally miserable because of this….they seemed to me simply happy in a way that seems rare in America. And they just don’t buy a lot of stuff!
I did make a very funny discovery in a store in the Bahamas on our last day there. I had been looking for a pair of flip flops for the whole time I was in the Bahamas and surprisingly never saw any. But in the general store in Andros I saw a sign that said “Sale — winter mittens and hats”, along with a box on the shelf that said “mittens”. I couldn’t imagine that they were actually selling mittens when they didn’t even have flip flops! I asked the sales clerk about it and she said “We bake all year long, and when it does get cold, it feels REALLY cold and we all cover up”. I still couldn’t believe it. “Come on, really?! how cold does it get?!”. “Oh, it gets COLD!”. “How cold??”. “50 degrees – freezing cold!”
One of our favorite shopping experiences in the Bahamas was buying bread in Staniel Cay. We hadn’t seen any sign of fresh bread for weeks. (or fresh FOOD, for that matter, aside from the fish Captain K was catching). We were craving it. One morning on the VHF radio we heard an unusual thing, an announcement that there was fresh bread today at the “yellow house” in Staniel Cay. We were still a few days away from Staniel Cay and we started salivating already at the thought of fresh bread. When we got to Staniel Cay we asked where the yellow house was and were told it was just off the main road up the hill. “You can’t miss it.”. We thought the directions sounded a bit vague, but we went down the main road, found a hill, turned up it, and lo and behold there was the absolute brightest yellow house we have ever seen! It almost hurt our eyes, it was so bright. We couldn’t miss it! A large Bahamaian woman came out and we told her we were there to buy bread. She told us to come in and we stepped in to her kitchen, which was just a regular kitchen like you would find in any small house. The entire kitchen table was covered on loaves of fresh bread. The two varieties available that day were coconut and cinnamon raisin. Easy!
We’ll take one of each!
Paring life down to the bare necessities, the simplest things become so gratifying. Our one big splurge and indulgence while in the Bahamas was ice. Yes, ice cubes. what a truly wonderful invention! We never knew ice could be so good. We don’t have a refrigerator on board, so the only way to have anything cold was to buy ice. We spent ridiculous amounts of money on ice. We justified it by not buying drinks in bars, which was also very expensive. For example, at Normans Cay we spent a record $10 on a bag of ice at the one and only bar in a 30 mile radius. We were tempted to sit and have a drink at the bar, but it would have been about $10 for one drink, so we took our bag of precious ice back to Wee Happy and enjoyed our own cold drinks there. On the days we had ice, we felt we were living large!
Captain K takes in the chaos of the straw market in Nassau
the rich and poor are side by side enjoying the same beautiful waters in the Bahamas
– Capt’n K & Lala