A couple of days before I left to come here to Eleuthera, a friend and I were riding bicycles in Atlanta. We ride bikes together a lot and probably enjoy the conversation as much as the exercise. On occasion we talk about American Idol, the iconic reality show that discovers America’s next great singer by performance and process of elimination. “What did you think of so-and-so being voted off this week? Who do you still like? Who do you think will win?” That’s the sort of conversation we’d have. I watch the show when I’m home and record it when I’m not so yes, it is a guilty pleasure of mine.
As we pedaled toward the towering chunk of granite in the distance, aptly named Stone Mountain, my friend paused and gasped. “What are you going to do when you’re in the Bahamas and can’t watch?”, she asked horrified. She’s a very intelligent person and immediately saw the humor in her statement. The inability to watch American Idol is not right up there with the care and feeding of starving children worldwide. I shrugged, said I’d probably struggle through somehow, and we continued pedaling and changed the subject.
Once here I realize I couldn’t care less about American Idol. Once yesterday during my limited internet access time, I stumbled across the information that Jacob Lutz got voted off. I’m not even sure when…last week, I guess. It was a headline on Yahoo and I didn’t even read the article. That was in my mind though when I received an email from a friend of mine here in Eleuthera. We had a brief email exchange which went thusly:
He: … Community must always lead and mentor its government.
Me: Well then that’s the problem in the US. Citizens can tell you more about who is on American Idol than who are their legislators.
He: What is American Idol?
I don’t know if he was kidding or if he was serious, although I suspect the latter. But I thought it a wonderful response and it got me thinking about what I value at home and what I value here in the Bahamas and how they differ.
Some of what I value at home is driven by work and the need to make money. I value my clients and being honest and ethical in what I do. I value houses as a commodity and communication as a way to relate to other human beings. If I worked here in the Bahamas I would have similar values because work is work. As far as I’m concerned it doesn’t much matter what I do as long as it is something in which I am interested and at which I can excel. I believe in fostering a healthy community and volunteering in some capacity to help meet that goal. These values or beliefs are ingrained in me and do not change by locale.
In Atlanta I also value my home and my dogs. I value independence and in order to have safety in my independence, I need the nesting and security of home. My house has a very open floorplan which keeps me from feeling boxed in, and my backyard is an intown forest. It makes me forget I live in the city and I see hawks and owls and songbirds and possums and raccoons and snakes. My dogs are my best friends. Not only do they guard the house but we go for walks, they keep me company, and they talk to me in ways that dog owners in tune with their pets understand. Again, I do not think that changes here. Home and dogs are two cornerstones of my life.
So what is it value-wise that really changes in the Bahamas in me? One big difference here is the lack of constant bombardment from advertisers trying to sell their goods. Everything at home has turned into a facilitator for ads. Watch this show! See our ads! Click here to see the funny video of a monkey dancing but first–watch this 20 second ad! Listen to this brief ad and your long distance telephone service is free! It’s constant and there really isn’t a way to escape it. I truly don’t think it’s important that Heinz ketchup comes in a new wide mouth bottle or that BMW is the Ultimate Driving Machine. (Disclaimer here–I do like BMWs a lot and I’ve personally thought since 1974 it is the marque of choice–but I don’t need to be told it by someone else.)
In fact, I think the whole key to the negativity of ads is in my disclaimer–don’t tell me what to think. I can figure it out for myself. And here in Eleuthera no one tells you what to think. You pretty much buy what the grocery store has to offer. They may not have new and improved liquid Tide or grass fed prime NY strip steaks, but they do have granular Ruth laundry detergent and ground beef. Which beach is best? No one really tells you because they are all good for different reasons. “Just go see, mon, take a left at the two coconut trees and then a right by the rock formation.” No one is trying to make money off the best beach because in the Bahamas, for the most part they are all public.
I’ve also been working on a premise for a while that the internet and social media and texting and cell phones and all the other media I’ve got at home and most people have in the States actually serves to isolate rather than bring together. It’s easy to sit in front of a computer and believe you’re part of a vibrant community because you’ve got 600 friends on Facebook and you know that some old friend of yours from grade school is going to Indianapolis for a job interview and that the ex-neighbor you never see is eating at some restaurant you’ve never heard of. These aren’t real connections. I am all for the internet–I think it’s amazing and if you’re an information junkie like me it’s nothing short of astounding. I miss that I don’t have constant access here. But I also recognize that I can’t hide behind the internet and pretend it’s keeping me busy. Here I need to actually seek out people and do things and create my own actual world as opposed to a virtual world.
Perhaps most overwhelmingly what I value here that I forget about at home is simplicity. It’s pretty basic here. My days have evolved into a simple routine that I like. I get up in the morning, drink a cup of coffee, eat a bowl of cereal. I put on sunscreen and my bathing suit and walk out the door in flip-flops and a towel wrapped around my waist. I walk a mile or two on the beach or climb treacherous coral rocks in search of treasures. I come back to the house and rinse off the salt and sand. I write until I’m really hungry and then head down the road to a great beachfront restaurant with wi-fi. I eat and surf or post to the internet, catch up on email and sometimes even work. I go to another beach or drive to some destination. I come back home and nap. I shower and get dressed and go to dinner, hopefully with friends. Thoreau and Emerson perhaps could do it, but personally I can only take so much solitude. It’s a simple life. It’s rewarding. And I’m finding a lot of value in reacquainting myself to me as I examine my thoughts.
Last night and this morning it rained here. Not for very long, but I’d been praying for rain so it was very welcome. This part of the island is in a drought; even resilient palms are yellowing and the beautiful hibiscus struggles to bloom. Too, my house here is supplied with water from a cistern–I shower, wash dishes, flush the toilets, do laundry with rainwater. With so little rain I worry about running out of water. So when it rained my heart leapt a bit with joy and I rushed to the window and reveled in the large drops plopping on the roof and into the gutters and showering the flowers and trees. I listened to the birds sing. After it cleared I went for a walk and noticed there were a few little tentative hibiscus’ spreading their lovely blooms in celebration. And seeing a hibiscus after a needed rain is far better than watching American Idol.