There are always certain things that remind you – in no uncertain terms – you are in the tropics.
Stunning sunsets. Swaying palms. Gentle turquoise waves lapping on golden sand shores. Sure, these are the classic indicators that you’ve landed somewhere between the 30s. But those would be boring to write about, wouldn’t they? Which is why you’ll find none of those here. I’ll leave that to the tourism bureaus & travel bloggers.
Instead, we’re going to talk about the things that really bring it home that you aren’t in Kansas (or Wisconsin or Washington) anymore. The things you will invariably and inevitably see when you live – or spend a lot of time – on a Caribbean island. The things that will amuse you, entertain you and sometimes even scar you for life.
This sounds fun, doesn’t it? Let’s begin.
Unusual Gas Canisters
Throw off that protective shroud of mainland safety sensibility people, you’re in the tropics. This is a place where it won’t be unusual to encounter your fellow islanders at the gas pump filling up all manner of decidedly non-government approved vessels. Forget those red plastic containers with the yellow nozzles that you were required – by law – to rely on back home.
That is just WAY too much oversight on a tropical rock. And please don’t think for one hot second the cashier sitting behind the glass in her air-conditioned cubicle is going to come out and say anything. She’s not going anywhere and the only thing she’s going to say is “hello” to her uncle who is the one filling up said questionable vessel. The motto here appears to be “If it don’t leak, fill it!” So far I’ve seen mason jars, plastic buckets and – my personal favorite – a Martini & Rossi gallon wine jug being used to transport flammable fuel from the pump to God knows where.
While bizarre animal sightings may vary by island, on my rock we have rasta goat. He is a strapping, young male whose horns have been painted a festive red, yellow & green. Yes, it appears he has been branded the mascot of the island rastas. But he is as equally reclusive as he is flamboyant. In fact, I have only seen him once.
Unfortunately, I was too lazy to hang a u-turn and capture photographic evidence of the stylish guy. (That alone might be a sign I no longer find the unusual, well, unusual…when a goat with rasta-painted horns isn’t enough to entice me to alter my travel plans.) But another island dweller confirmed rasta billy’s existence, so I know I wasn’t hallucinating. It has now become my mission to again find the cloven-hooved cutie and preserve his impressive makeover for posterity on my iPhone. I’ll keep you posted.
Ok, there IS photographic evidence of this, as I encountered the same sweet kitty each time I returned for a follow-up appointment with my orthopedic surgeon recently. So did my friend who visits the hospital often for her prenatal checkups. Between the two of us, we have amassed an impressive collection of Hospital Cat snapshots.
But let’s put aside the reasoning for humans being there and focus on the fact that there is A CAT IN THE HOSPITAL. All the time. I’m not sure why this surprises me. After all, I’ve stayed in said hospital overnight as a patient and, trust me, a cat is the least shocking thing you’ll encounter. Yet the cat does surprise me. Every time. True, I’ve been away from the states for a long time and things might have changed, but I just cannot imagine having a non-sanctioned, non-therapy animal roaming the halls of a US hospital. At least not without causing a melee. But hey…we’re in the tropics now. Nothing to get excited about.
Tourists In Golf Carts Wearing Swimwear – And Nothing Else
I don’t even know where to start with this one. The safety? The propriety? The utter ridiculousness of it all? All I am going to say is, come on people…common sense. I know you’ve escaped your cruise ship for the day and damn if you’re not going to work on achieving that golden island tan. But really? Putting aside possible temperature considerations where you come from, would you ever, in a million gazillion years, consider driving a golf cart around your hometown sporting a pair of swim trunks or a bikini? I didn’t think so.
While a cover-up won’t save your skin from road rash when you inevitably overturn your electric powered chariot during a high-speed maneuver (a favorite of cruise ship visitors, based on my observations), it will at least save our eyes from the sight of your pasty white flesh jiggling about as you blast through the pothole-riddled roads of our island.
Which brings me to the final sighting that guarantees you are in the Caribbean…
Potholes The Size Of Connecticut
Back in the US, if you find your heart racing when drivers come at you the wrong way in your designated lane, you rightfully might believe they are drunk. Or high. Or both. I’m sure you also may be predisposed to even dialing 911 to report said driver. Well, put those damn phones down people. You’re in the Caribbean. While the driver may well be under the influence of something, it is far more likely they are in your lane because they are trying desperately to avoid being swallowed up by the ginormous potholes on their own side of the road.
Whether you yield or play a game of chicken is entirely up to you. But since I drive a heavy-duty 4×4 SUV and the transgressors in my lane are more often than not driving a Japanese wind-up toy car, I usually opt for stopping and letting them do their thing. Not only does it keep my blood pressure low and preserves what’s left of my 20-year-old Dodge, but more importantly…if I stop to let them pass, I have a better chance of spotting rasta goat lounging in the weeds nearby.
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I’m a writer living on the Dutch Caribbean island of Bonaire. Originally from the U.S., I followed my heart to the tropics in 2011 at the wizened age of 43. Since then, I’ve been blogging to inspire and entertain. I love kitesurfing, a good gin & tonic, and corgis.
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