Veronica and I were paired together for our home stay in Tarpum Bay, which was about an hour from the Island School. I had been there once before for our very first day of teaching and was excited to come back and learn more about the community. It’s different here on Eleuthra because they don’t have addresses, so finding our home stay house was a unique adventure. For example, “turn left at the yellow sign then drive until you see no trees and turn left etc.” We had to ask three different people before we found my host mom’s house. Fortunately for us everyone knows everyone here on Eleuthra! My host mom’s name is Brenda, which I thought was funny because that also happens to be my mom’s name. When we first arrived I was nervous and did not know what to expect. Brenda greeted me with a hug and kiss and was so welcoming. She made me feel like I was part of her family. Below I will give you a little play-by-play for each day.
Friday- I got dropped off and Brenda made dinner, which consisted of half a baked chicken, rice, corn and for dessert we ate chocolate ice cream. I am allergic to gluten (wheat) and was mostly nervous about not wanting to make it difficult for Brenda. However, she was more receptive to my allergies than most people I have encountered here. I appreciated not being laughed at! Brenda went to bed at 7 p.m. that night and I just ended up watching T.V. until I fell asleep. I had my own bedroom, which Veronica and I shared with a private bathroom attached. I got about 10 hours of sleep that night and it was the most peaceful sleep I have had while in the Bahamas.
Saturday- Brenda woke up at the crack of dawn (freaking 3 a.m.), her usual time, and started canning tomatoes with her brother and sister-in-law. I woke up at about 9 a.m. and got ready for the day. I wanted to help Brenda all weekend, but she wouldn’t let me do a single thing. She truly treated me like a 5-star guest. I observed their process of canning: smashing the tomatoes, pouring the liquid with a funnel made of leaves into old beer bottles, then placing them into a large metal tin (what we would call a metal trash can) where the bottles boiled. It was not what I thought it would be. No Mason Jars like us Oregonians are used to using. Then Brenda made us a traditional Bahamian breakfast, which consisted of some sort of fancy sausage, grits and a bucket load of oil. Brenda mostly made sure we were fed and then let us do whatever we felt like. I wished she would have gone and done more activities with us, but she said “I’m old and I don’t go out anymore.” The activity for the weekend was a dog show which I was rather excited about because 1. I have never been to any type of dog show and 2. I wanted to see what types of dogs would be there. Brenda insisted on driving us even though the park was about a three-minute walk. That is just how things are here on Eleuthra. The dog show had about eight dogs total and they all belonged to rich old white people that have retired on Eleuthra. It was not exciting but I enjoyed interacting with all the families that came. People are so friendly here, they just come right up to you and want to be your best friend. I love it!! Veronica and I walked around the town and got some snacks then ventured home. Brenda fixed us a snack then we all watched T.V. together and visited while she prepared our dinner. We had chicken, salad and canned green peas. Everything here comes out of a can and served cold. I was just so happy to have chicken that wasn’t covered in breading. Our visit with Brenda was so enjoyable. It’s hard to explain or really get into it, but we really connected. She went to bed early once again while I watched a movie. I forgot to add this earlier, but I tested her sister in-law’s sugar (blood glucose) and did a bunch of education with her including nutrition and exercise. Diabetics here don’t have access to a machine that can check their blood glucose everyday so I was glad I could provide that service for her.
Sunday- I was wide awake at 8 a.m. thanks to the rooster right outside my window. I got up and ready to attend church with Brenda. I wore a dress but felt rather under dressed because everyone here goes all out with their best clothes on Sundays. I was expecting the church to be packed and I asked Brenda why many people didn’t show up and she said because it was cold outside. The cold seems to be pretty debilitating to the Bahamians (they wear snow coats when there is a slight breeze and we are in tank tops and shorts). The first hour of the church service was singing and then the second hour was the sermon. It was so loud and different from all the churches I have been to back in the states. I was mostly wide eyed at how into it the pastor got. I will try and attach a sound bite I took from it. Church was an awesome experience to say the least! In the Bahamian culture, Sunday dinner/lunch is when they go all out and make a crap ton of food. Brenda served us BBQ chicken, rice and beans, beats and potato salad. The portion sizes were out of control! I was so full but the food was sooooooo yummy. Plus I finally got to experience what their Sunday meals are like. For people that can eat gluten their families make like 20 different starch options. Brenda, Veronica and I visited for a long time and learned a lot about the culture, her life and what it truly means to be apart of her community. We presented her with gifts to remind her of Oregon and Linfield College. I had to try so hard not to cry when we left. I honestly did not want to leave. By the end of our stay Brenda referred to us as “her girls” and told Janet and Jay she didn’t want us to leave. It was so hard to leave her, but we exchanged emails and plan to stay in touch with each other.
On the surface my blog post seems to really only explain what we physically did during our home stay. It may not even sound that exciting but it is hard to put into words our connection and deep conversations
we had. Brenda taught me to live every moment like it’s your last, to cherish your family, treat strangers as if their your friends and be giving. She truly is an exceptional person and I am so happy I had the opportunity to stay with her.