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Journals from HHPA/HESC 398 Island Health Care: Type 2 Diabetes in the Bahamas January Term 2012

2012-01-18 Homestay Adventures: Christian & Travis

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I survived the home stay and had a great GREAT time; we definitely got introduced deep into the Bahamian culture. When we arrived at the Mackey’s house they were relaxing in the garage and didn’t even get up to greet us. Everyone in the van was worried about us, no one more so than my roommate Travis and I. Joe Mackey was sitting eating his dinner and watching the news. Joe chatted with us about some general stuff while Juliet fixed our plates. After a dinner of baked chicken, mac and cheese, rice, and some sort of green bean salad we chatted some more and continued to watch the news. Joe was pretty talkative but Juliet seemed quiet and reserved. During the first 3 hours we were there nearly 11 people just came into the house. Some would buy soda and things from the Mackeys, others would bring money and leave with something in their hands…Travis and I were convinced they were selling drugs. Turns out the Mackeys just run a convenience store out of their garage and those mystery items they were selling were small phone cards. Phew! The Mackeys don’t have any pets but they feed the strays that come over so they’ve basically adopted them. The “pets” include about 6 chickens and 6 cats and one dog. They just throw their scraps out and let ‘em have it. Trav and I were by ourselves in the garage for a bit and out on the driveway one of the cats paused to look at us…With an enormous rat dangling from it’s mouth! Pretty awesome stuff. P.S. Chicken will eat left over fried chicken.

The next day we had tea for breakfast and some strange grouper stew. Basically they stew all the leftover parts from a grouper fillet; the spine, head, fins, etc all get thrown into a pot with water, butter, potatoes, and onions. It was extremely boney but surprisingly meaty and very good. After that we were all just sitting around watching TV so Travis and I decided to go for a walk around Waterford. About to head out, we gave the Mackeys some notice but Joe insisted we get a ride with him and get dropped off in Wemyss Bight. We hopped in the back of someone’s pickup and dropped Joe off at work then we were dropped at some random crossroads in Wemyss Bight (a little more than a half hour’s walk back to Waterford). Across from us a group of guys were playing softball so we started to watch. We kept our distance at first but were waved over by a cool guy named Craig. Craig is a solid guy who looks like he’d make a great defensive tackle for a football team. He told us all about the team we were watching and the Eleuthera league (we were watching Waterford and Craig plays for Wemyss Bight, the previous champs). Craig spoke to the coach of the other team who let us bat for them while they took the field. If you’re imagining a pristine field with a fences and good bases and trimmed grass, you’re way off. The field is full of rocks and the grass in the outfield is patchy and very sandy. There’s no fence so when the ball rolls into the high grass it’s a ground rule double; in the air it's a home run. The fences and the backstop are rusty and there are no bleachers. The players share gloves and only a few have cleats; some even go barefoot. I was only wearing flip flops and after slipping my first at bat I took them off and went barefoot, ouchies. Apparently, our tryout was impressive because before we knew it they had us in the lineup for that night’s game with Trav batting lead-off while playing left field and myself playing center field and batting clean up because I was the “big hitter”.

After some more practice in the field the whole team piled into Coach Glen’s truck and we got some fried chicken from a local take-out spot. Once back at the Mackeys we relaxed and watched TV until dinner was ready. Juliet prepared pan-fried grouper (the fillets from the original fish we had for breakfast) with cole slaw, corn on the cob, and pasta. The pasta sauce was composed of cream cheese and…well that’s it. It was great and I cleared my plate quickly.

Travis and I were anxious and ready to play ball; the games were supposed to start at 6pm and it was already past 6 by the time we finished dinner. By 6:30pm we were sure we’d be missing the first game, and finally shipped out around 7. When we got to the field, hardly anyone was there! That’s Bahamian time for you. The first game didn’t start until probably 8pm. People continued to trickle in all throughout the evening. Dougie Smith field in Rock Sound is the place to be on a Saturday night. By my estimates probably 200 people showed up to watch and play. The crowd is loud and they get “rowdy,” as many of the locals put it. Many of them drink beers or other mixed beverages and have a grand ol’ time jeering the umpires and making fun of the players. Craig was playing 1st base for the Wemyss Bight Potcakes who ended up rolling to a victory over Canon Bay. Craig had an inside the park home run; the big boy can definitely scoot. Toward the 7th inning of that game we began to warm up and Travis and I both had some pre-game jitters. Being the only Caucasion folks deep in the heart of the Bahamas can be a little intimidating for anyone, especially for Travis, who was leading off for us. After a pregame peptalk by Coach Glen the Waterford Warriors took the field and played some solid ball to start. Leading off, Travis came to play to calls of “white boy” and  “cali” and “yankee”, but he got a single and started stuff off right. My first at bat was a ground out but a good sacrifice as Travis scored on the play. By the end of the game Juliet had our back in the stands and instead of “white boy” we were getting cheered on as “Joe Mackey’s boys”. Travis finished 3 for 5 including a triple with a couple RBI’s and 3 runs scored. I finished 2 for 4 including an inside the park home run (that left me with a skinned up shin) with 5 RBI’s and a run scored. The game was back and forth but ended up barely losing 16-14 to the Rock Sound team. Everyone was very proud of the Waterford Warriors who are by far the youngest team in the league, composed of 16-18 year old boys.

After the game the Mackeys were proudly waiting for us and had many praises for our play. Joe did take the time to point out that I played well except for tripping and falling on my face while running down a line drive into the gap in left center. We all can’t be perfect. The Mackeys love their sports, Juliet was passionately telling us prior to our game that swinging on the first pitch is basically suicide and you always get out. She says you have three strikes to get out, why do it on the first one!? Joe is the president of the league and umpires many of the games. On the long drive home they were talking ball with us the whole way. Travis and I could sense the pride and large change for their acceptance of us into their house, community, and culture. That game seemed to put us on the map in South Eleuthera and many people made comments to us the next day, which made us much more comfortable and gave us a sense of community with the Bahamians.

On Sunday after a breakfast of tea, we caught a bus up to Bannerman Town near Princess Cays to experience some authentic Bahamian religion. We ended up at St. Mary the Virgin Anglican Church and quietly tried our best to blend into the Catholic procession. They were very welcoming to us and even gave us a shout out. I had never been to a Catholic mass that I can remember, and singing hymns is a very foreign thing for me. After church we returned to the Mackeys' house and did some exploring, making our way to Downhome Sports Bar and Club. We hadn’t eaten anything but tea since we got up at 8 and it was now nearly 1pm, so we were definitely starving. Some boys woke the owner up for us, although he was getting some much needed sleep. Normally his bar doesn’t open until 6pm and he keeps it open until 6am, EVERY DAY. Last night after the softball games was especially busy and he was eager to let us know about the huge party we had missed. He invited us to come back at any time and we let him go back to sleep.

Sunday lunch/dinner was served at 2pm and was composed of pork chops, rice with sausage, and salad. The rice portions were enormous, probably close to 3 cups of cooked rice. Too bad the stuff is always delicious so we ate it all and went back for seconds. Juliet returned home from working at the airport for Bahamas Air. We asked how work was and she replied “I don’t know, I slept for half of it”. Juliet can sleep through anything; legend has it she has even slept through a Junkanoo which about the loudest thing they have in the Bahamas. She also brings her little convenience store with her wherever she goes, packing an ice chest with soda and water while also carrying a box of chips to sell. She sells them at work as well as the softball games (where she sold out on Saturday night).

We returned for another round of softball in Wemyss Bight that afternoon to watch the games. Unfortunately we didn’t play because Waterford wasn’t scheduled. We did get to see the girls play and it’s good to know the community supports their athleticism as well. By the end of the games it was time to return to our Linfield family back at the Island School.

Overall, it was an incredible experience that truly opened my eyes to the Bahamian culture and broaded my horizons as a person. Growing up in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho I have lived a very sheltered and easy life, it was difficult for me to step out of my boundaries and into such an uncomfortable situation. The homestay was one of my biggest concerns coming into this trip and now it will be one of the best memories I will take back with me. Travis and I exchanged addresses with Mackeys so we can continue to be in contact.

Christain

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