Bahamas Castaway

Jan. 7, 2014, 6:39 p.m. | By Dylan Ahunhodjaev | 7 years ago

My Christmas in the tropics

Stumbling into the heat outside Lynden Pindling International Airport on the Bahamas' Providence Island, I can't help but feel a little out of place. Actually, "out of place” isn't quite accurate. I can't help but feel like some kind of pale grub thrust angrily into the full light of day, hissing at the alien sun and gasping at the warm island air. The Bahamas are a little different from Maryland in December. A single two-hour plane ride has brought me and my family here to Nassau, capital of the island nation of the Bahamas. The weather is a balmy 82 degrees; when we left our house in Silver Spring at six in the morning it was an above-average for the season 34. Driving in a van towards our hotel for the night, we are flanked by palm trees, the flawless blue of the Caribbean and a cloudless, sunny sky. And it's five days until Christmas. It's a little like a Jimmy Buffett holiday album: Christmastime in Paradise.

After a night in Nassau, we head for the island of Eleuthera, where we will be spending the majority of our trip. The domestic arrivals terminal at Eleuthera's Governor's Harbor Airport is about the size of your typical garage.

We pile into a serious contender for the title of World's Worst Minivan, a white Dodge Caravan with a roof that leaks (it isn't even raining), ceiling fabric that has been stapled (somehow) to the roof of the car and brakes that, when applied, make the always comforting sound of machinery that is about to give out. We make the journey down the island—stopping only for groceries that run about three times the cost of each of their American equivalents—before we reach our destination. The rented Bahamas Castaway villa. And with that car as our only mode of transportation on this 100-mile long island, we could tell we were in for an authentic castaway experience.

Photo: The view from the deck of our house on the Bahamas' island of Eleuthera.

I am relegated to the fold-out couch as per the usual guidelines of Ahunhodjaev family vacations. I am visited nightly by frogs (toads?) that cling to the wall above my bed and do not move for hours on end. I name one Johnny because it has a frightening Johnny Rotten-meningitis stare: two bulging black eyes that do not move but seem to follow me as I stir about in my room. My father encourages me to simply pick him up and move him outside if I find him so unsettling, but he won't go near it either so I don't take that as an encouraging sign.

I do not want to sound cynical, of course. Everything here could not be more beautiful. Our eight days in Eleuthera blur together in the best possible way; we wake up daily to a gorgeous sunrise over the Atlantic with a warm, constant breeze bending the palm trees and bringing small tropical showers to our doorstep. The beach we are staying on features pink-speckled coral sands and a spectacular reef that can be explored by snorkel or kayak. Every night is clear and (you guessed it) warm with more stars in the sky than I've ever seen.

Christmas comes and goes; I have to remind myself that it is even happening anywhere. Without the lights of my suburban neighborhood and the unpleasant snow-less cold, I have no way of remembering. Sitting on a pink sand beach in the full island sun, I think of our school with its work, teachers and fluorescent lighting only in the sense that it feels as if I could not be farther away from it.

Photo: Sunset on the castaway house.

That is probably the best part about this trip. I think anyone would agree that it is nice to get away from school and its worries every once in a while, but normally my winter breaks are spent at a walking distance from school and are not really "breaks" in the truest sense of the word. Here, at a completely different latitude, I feel as if I have escaped singing commercials urging me to shop until I drop, assignments that need to be completed and the constant ebb and flow of stress and boredom that characterize much of my time spent back home.

For ten days, the Bahamas were my paradise. I return to Blair with a healthy orange glow and some trinkets, minus a pair of sunglasses. I am three pounds heavier, fed on a diet of fried grouper, pineapple juice and a local delicacy for white breads and conch fritters (basically a fried ball of breading, spices and the Bahamian conch snail served with its logical companion in healthy eating, a bowl of spicy mayonnaise). This will be a trip I remember for a long time, and one I will also have to clarify was not spent on a cruise ship or at that Atlantis resort monstrosity. I had my island experience, and I think I got in an acceptable amount of relaxation, but it is its own small comfort to return home—even in the cold, dark wintertime.

Tags: Bahamas

Dylan Ahunhodjaev. Hi everyone--my name is Dylan Ahunhodjaev. The first name is Welsh (but I'm not Welsh) and the last name is Uzbek (I'm Uzbek, from Uzbekistan, or at least my dad is). My parents met in the Peace Corps. It's a cute story, remind me to … More »

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