Island lessons: Bonaire

A little over a year ago, my backpack (a true beauty) and I were ready to tackle another adventure. After 11 months of bunk beds in Latin America, a year of whisky, bagpipes and kilts in Scotland, and a few weeks of cycling along the canals of Utrecht, we left town once again to pursue our  wanderlust. We packed my boyfriend (who I’d picked up along the way), several bathing suits, and some truly Dutch items (stroopwafels!), and made our way to the Caribbean.

The first couple of months in our new home revolved around getting acquainted with island life. Our first week on Bonaire we bought a gorgeous green island jeep, that was – as the tradition goes – held together by tie-rips and duct tape. We met our neighbor, a magnificent 90 year old lady, who fillets fish like she once was a marine creature herself. And we started our first job; filling tanks and cleaning salty gear, all with our eyes closed, so we wouldn’t be confronted with the constant flow of middle-aged Dutch men who find comfort in the act of undressing right in front of our noses.

About a year into our adventure, we learned some important lessons. Like not to walk barefooted in our garden at night (scorpions are true party animals, they all come out as soon as the sun sets), or to hoard (our containers tend to get lost somewhere between mainland Venezuela and our little rock). But, the island introduced me to its most valuable lesson on a Wednesday afternoon.

It had been a long, sweaty day. Living on a tropical island is amazing. Working on one, not so much. Our alarm went off at 6:30am, and an hour later we started filling the first tanks. It was a busy day as one of the many floating hotels, also known as cruise ships, had found its way to our port. Our little dive shop was flooded by obese cruise boat passengers, who all wanted to experience the ‘Diver’s Paradise’. As you can imagine, getting them all geared up and ready to take that giant stride into the ocean was great for the muscles (you should see my arms!), but not so much for the armpits. Hence, once I got home at 6pm, I longed for the soothing sound of running water that would wash away the feeling of complete exhaustion.

Here I was. My hands covered in soap. My hair a white, bubbly cloud. My boyfriend staring at me, trying not to laugh. Just minutes before, he jumped into the shower, rinsed off the smell of sweat and, in no time, was as fresh as a field of tulips in spring. I, on the other hand, needed a little more time for the soap to do its work.

A few seconds ago I was happy and dry. Glad to be back home, where lifting was reduced to putting on clean underwear. Ready for a cold shower, a home cooked meal and a good book to finish the day. Now, however, I’m standing here. Wet and absolutely terrified. Covered in soap. Without running water. As the boyfriend left the shower, the water stopped running. It just stopped, without any warning.

So, that Wednesday afternoon the island taught me a lesson. It taught me to always be prepared. To be prepared for scorpion parties at night, to be prepared for empty supermarkets, and – most importantly – to be prepared for water outages.

I now have a secret stash of water bottles, so I can teach my island a lesson: I’ll water my plants whenever I want (not so often), and I’ll have a shower whenever I feel like (very often), because I’m prepared. So come and get me, little island of mine, I’m ready to teach you a lesson. Never mess with a girl and her backpack, ’cause we’ll always win.



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