By Debbie Lynn
It is 6.30 AM, Sunday. Anse Mitan, Martinique
The sun begins to illuminate the sky and the reflecting light makes everything look pastel, like an old painting. The horizon is delineated by a slightly darker shade of blue, separating the sky from the water. The ocean is flat as far as the eye can see; proving to me again how there are so many, many illusions that we live in.
The distant melody of an island coming to life serves as a reminder we are, somewhat, back in civilization. The dogs barking, airplane thunder, cars and buses honking—a rooster acknowledging the dawn of a new day. It all fills the air. A subtle hum of Sunday is also present—church bells and muffled French voices. It is land sounds, familiar sounds; life.
There is a slight breeze this morning.
A nice reprieve from the howling and relentless winds we have had. The sea takes on such a different flavor when it’s calm; that idyllic color and look as seen on TV in far-away places or romantic advertising, and in the minds eye this is what the “Caribbean” is like—yet in reality… it isn’t.
The clouds are nestled in to the base of Mt. Pele like an amour protecting it from harm. Another illusion forming right in front of me. I know the mountain is there, we’ve climbed it; felt its steep armor, its might and cool mist, but today, it is shrouded and invisible.
I watch a huge cruise ship come in from afar. It looks like a 30-story building lying on its side. Three loud horn blasts signal its arrival dockside and preparations for the disembarking of the masses begin. The ship is filled with thousands of hopeful tourists wanting a taste of the “Carib Life.”
What they will actually get is shop after shop of made-in-China trinkets interspersed with Rolex watches and Crocs rubber shoes.
In a few short hours, the harbor will be a buzz with jet skis, dive boats and the roar of the incredibly unnecessary 700 horse power engines—-the pride of every young man. Oh, and the music is prevalent everywhere, but not a mellow Bob Marley reggae; it’s techno, wha-wha-I-just-took-a-hit-of-helium-Mickey-Mouse-voice screeching. The same song, over and over. The constant thumping is the anthem of the harbor and it is so loud sometimes you cannot hear yourself think. The screaming, alcohol-induced shrieks of tourists thrilled by the excitement of fast boats and warm water will replace the tranquil sounds of the tranquil bay.
Just another day in the West Indies.
The multi-cultural atmosphere is a sight in itself and everyone is trying to speak each other’s language. Soon, with a shrug their shoulders, communication gives way to the universal smile and hand signs. Somehow it all works. Each island down the chain has its flavor, its lifestyle, its personality. The poverty can be heart-wrenching, yet there is also an enchantment of a sincere Caribbean nod and a smile. The simple life, a solid life; a life that is nurtured by azure waters, a tropical environment in the middle of the Atlantic so far away from home.
Oh, how jaded in an entitled life we sometimes live.
Romanticizing the Caribbean from the brochures is all but a dream buried under layers of burning garbage, pollution, poverty and despair. If you look past the wanna-be façade, in to the thick jungles of the isle, you can easily imagine a place that was once pristine, didn’t need phones, computers or the noise.
The deeper we go into the villages the more our appreciation grows for what we have and don’t have—it’s pretty simple. Experiencing the traditional old ways of island life trying to meld with the new is quite a clash. It seems so backward and trite, a little sad and distorted, but this is just a jaded perspective of an outsider looking in.
Editor: Alicia Wozniak