by Michele Bigley <Submit your comments to the author>
I used to be afraid to go to the toilet by myself. I thought there were giant boogie men that lived in the bottom of the bowl. Just waiting for a little girl to spray their face with urine, and moments before the little girl finished spewing, they would grab her and pull her into the huge depths of the sewer and eat her as a side dish to poop. My mom knew my fear and always escorted me to the bathroom, knowing she would always be there, I used to hold it until I got home from school.
I tell that only so you'll know why I was terrified of traveling alone.
But I was meeting the ship that was carrying me around the world, and going a day early in case my flight had any problems. None of my friends or family could join me (and I begged like a brat in Toys R Us). So I was left to roam Nassau's beaches on my own. My hotel room was kind of nice. Two double beds, a cracked window, an unlockable door, a freezing shower, a great view the football players from Eurethra's rooms, and an almost white toilet. This was the first time I had ever stayed in a hotel room alone. Immediately I got bored and took a walk through the town.
Dotted with "I love Nassau" T-shirts, cheap rum, vendors sprouting "Buy This," and dodgy corners that no one in their right mind would enter, I wandered the Bahaman streets. I turned right into an alley boasting of music and celebration and found a festival of people walking down one of the non-tourist-infested streets.
It turned out to be the Junkanoo Festival. Where the football team who won the final game of the year celebrates by making costumes and banging on drums through the streets. Lines of dark faces shook down the road, while flags waved, and kids cheered. Tourists stuck their heads in and out of clutters of people looking scared, and unsure of the crowd--far different from their Paradise Island tuxedo-clad locals. For some reason, I didn't feel nervous. I felt closer to the little kids dancing and waving flags then I did to the sun-burnt Americans. I wanted to soak in the celebration--far different from anything I was used to in Southern California. Where cops break up parties planned months in advance when the clock strikes 10. I stood smiling until the last victor turned down the alley and then took in a spicy Caribbean meal at a local restaurant.
Feeling good, I got back to my hotel around 9 and asked the young girl at the front desk where to go out that night. Traveling alone seemed easier than I first imagined. I could go where I wanted, when I wanted, and how I wanted--and now I wanted to dance. She told me that there was no way that a young blond American girl could go out on her own in Nassau without getting raped, beaten, killed, or all of the above. She then said to go to my room and wait while she called her cousin, who would show me around town.
When the powerful knock on the door came, I opened the quivering handle and met a gargantuan man. Not only was he well over 6 feet tall, but he was fatter than Santa and had a bigger smile than Ronald McDonald. His first words, said in the doopety-doo of island tongue were, "you smoke?"
Leading me up to the roof of the hotel, Chris explained that on an island the best thing to do is "relax mon" and for him relaxing was a couple of fatties. Big fatties. He sparked up and started zoning on the millions of stars overhead. I felt a chill overcome me as I inhaled and allowed my head to flutter away with my guard. He spoke of his respect for women, his 10 sisters, and wonderful mother. He talked about gangs in the Bahamas that are imitating Americans. He talked about the good life, the slow life. I started to feel comfortable with this teddy bear. Confessing that I was a little afraid of traveling alone, as a woman, because men usually assume that if you talk to them, you want them to bone you. Then he asked me to sit on his lap.
Outraged, I thanked him for the J and the conversation, said no thank you and stood up. He shook his head, muttering, "Americans, I thought all of you was like Baywatch." That was when I walked away, went into my room, and put the other bed up against the door. Feeling like a fool for actually letting my guard down with Rasta-man.
Traveling alone takes a lot of guts, a lot more strength, and captains guarding our walls. The truth is, the stronger we are inside the more men--especially foreign men--will not know how to deal with us. Chris wouldn't have done anything, unless I told him it was OK, all it took was the knowledge of what I wanted (or didn't want). Classically, women don't claim their power, and thus, men attempt to take advantage of that. I learned a lot that night, about myself, about traveling. I learned to respect all those millions of women who have ever taken a trip on their own. Because more than men, when women travel, they have added pressures. On top of watching their backs, and avoiding shady mosquito men, they also have to remember to have a good time.
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