Uncategorized Patrick Mead on 11 Feb 2011 04:27 pm
On the 3rd full day of our cruise, we pulled into Barbados. On our first trip to an island, Kami and I like to take a bus tour to get us oriented. If we get to come back, we then know the areas we would enjoy visiting again. The ship pulled into Bridgetown, the capital where 80,000 of the 290,000 island inhabitants live. This island used to belong to the Arawak Indians and then the Carib Indians. When the Portuguese came, they called it “Bearded Ones” or “Barbados.” The reason they called it that? Unknown. It seems like a good Hidden History assignment… but I don’t have that kind of time right now.
After the Portuguese came the Spanish and then the British. In 1966, Barbados became an independent nation while remaining part of the Commonwealth (which means that the British monarch is still a figurehead leader of the country). After a drive through the capital city, it is hard not to become depressed. The poverty is staggering. Homes are tiny and shabby, somewhat like those you’d find in Appalachia back in the 1910, pre-war era. We had expected Barbados to be a place of beauty and glamor after reading about it but it became plain that the only way to see it that way is to be flown in, take a limo to a gated resort, and never leave.
The roads are poor and mainly single lane. As in many former British colonies, it looked like nothing had been fixed or painted since they became independent. The reasons for this are complex and there are a lot of people out there who have earned their Ph.D.s while studying it. It isn’t a matter of “British people, efficient — natives, not so much.” We would learn some of those reasons as we traveled this week… but we haven’t come up with a solution.
We took the bus to a part of the island known as Bathsheba. Finally, there was the natural beauty we had been told about! We took several pictures while dodging heavy rain showers that would come out of nowhere, machine gun us with rain for 5 minutes, and then disappear as bright sunshine came again. I’ll post some pics of this area over on Facebook later this weekend.
Then, the bus driver took us up to one of the highest points on the island. There, tourists were let out to take some pictures (several buses were there) and get a “complimentary fruit juice or rum punch” at a small hut that also sold drinks and souvenirs. There was a sign that said “Highland Adventure” but we didn’t understand what the adventure part of it might be… until we looked over and saw four members of the Barbados Army standing off to the side in full combat gear including bullet proof vests, American built and supplied M-16s, and sidearms.
Kami and I looked at each other and wondered what that was all about. The men just stood and stared at the tourists. A couple older tourists went over and tried to engage them in conversation (they were veterans of WW2 and Korea and wanted their pictures taken with them). The soldiers were not unkind, but their body language didn’t encourage interaction. One of them went on break and walked over to a small picnic table right beside the souvenir/drink hut. As he sat down, the barrel of his M-16 swept the crowd. He laid it on his lap, directly pointing at the stomach of a small boy and his grandfather who were sitting opposite him. I prayed for our safety and asked God to make sure no round was chambered… and we adjusted where we were standing.
Eventually, we climbed back in the bus. We had seen the two pretty bits that were open to the public. Most of the rest of the postcard views are behind gates and reserved to the uber-rich (Tiger Woods was married at one of them). We crawled through choked traffic and were dropped off at the ship. We were glad to be back.
The next day, we went to St. Lucia. It, too, was a poor island but the feel was very different… in a good way. Next…