It was different. I have to admit that. But the locals didn't seem to think it strange...at all!
Pets are one thing. Cuisine is quite another.
It was summer. Hot, humid and sun shiny. That's the best I could do to describe the Bahamas in the summer of 2005. It was hotter than I could remember for the past five years since we had been coming down to the islands.
The people were always friendly...and fat. Or was it always fat...and friendly. Well one of the two. The delicacy was chicken, lots of starchy foods and the ever famous conch- a large snail harvested from the sea and eaten raw, souped, deep fried and grilled.
It was a great place to spend summers. This year, we, the family found out a whole lot more about the island folk.
My name is Carl. My wife is Nan and our twins are John and Sally.
I am sharing this story with you so you can be aware. If you plan to visit the Islands remember you heard it from me first.
So we have pretty much toured the whole Island of Grand Bahama in the Bahamas. But we never made it to the East. This Vacation was going to take an Easterly tour of the Island.
We were staying at the Beach Front Resort in the main city of Freeport this year. Needless to say, the resort was neither on the Beach nor was it really a Resort. It was a few scattered bungalows in a pine forest with lots of lavender, hibiscus and palm trees. The huge poster of the beach with two beautiful models greeted guests at the lobby. Nan figured that was the Beach behind the whole Beach Resort title.
The rooms were clean, and the air conditioning was cool. We liked it.
"We'll never get there if we don't leave now." Nan shouted through the whole bungalow. I was still brushing my teeth but I growled in support of my wife. John was bouncing his basketball and Sally was brushing her hair vigorously in front of a mirror.
"That's it! We are skipping breakfast. Who cares for coconut vanilla French toast anyway." Nan had barely completed the sentence before everyone was out the door... including me. Ha.
Breakfast was great. The locals sure know how to do food. We always put on about 10 pounds each when we vacation here. Yeah, ten delicious pounds.
"How long is this ride going to be?"
It was Sally. She is the younger of the twins and the more feisty too. Don't let her sweet baby face fool you...ever!
" Honey, we just started out. It's about 40 minutes to the settlement they call High Rock and another 20 minutes to the Pelican point."
" Why do they call it Pelican Point?" John asked. He was sticking his head in and out of the window bracing his face for the strong cool breeze.
" Why do you think stupid? The probably have a lot of pelicans out there." Sally piped out before I could.
"Is it true dad ?"
" Sure why not. Lots of Pelicans." I smiled. The windows were all down. The breeze was great.
"Pelican pets. I bet they have pelican pets. Hey, can we get one too dad?"
John leaned forward into the front seat.
I was hoping Nan would handle this one but she didn't. Nan had her shades on and her seat rolled back as far as it could without whacking Sally in the face.
"Uh...no!" I finally said.
" I doubt the locals keep any pets actually. Not much animals survive on these flat limestone rocks."
I didn't really know but I hadn't seen many cats or even dogs around. Pretty good guess I thought.
It took us actually 50 minutes to get to the High Rock settlement. We didn't anticipate the poor roads and what the locals called the 'pot holes', holes in the road so big a pot could fit in.
Soon we came over the high hill. At the bottom was the welcome sign.
'Welcome to the Home of Hospitality"
"We are here honey. Waky wake." I slapped Nan lightly on her thighs. She stirred and pulled her shades down.
I drove down the palm lined road. The coconut trees must have been recently planted because they were short and of uneven heights.
"Here we are." We pulled up in front of the Beach restaurant. And this was seriously a beach and there was a restaurant too.
Ok. So this is where things started to get ...let's just say odd.
We all piled out of the car. John and Sally ran down to the beach and started to splash their feet in the water.
Nan pulled out the beach basket with towels water and sunblock.
We hadn't sat down on the pretty white sand for too long before we saw them.
"What the heck is that Carl?"
"What Nan? I was just settling down. What the..."
There was a curious site. There was a local young boy walking out of the pine forest and heading into the beach water. That wasn't the strange thing. It was what was coming out of the Bush behind him.
A furry little grey creature with darkened eyes, long bushy tail, and long out stretched claws was walking up behind the boy.
"Egaf! Can someone warn the kid." I looked around but there was noone else and my family seemed paralyzed by the sight.
Well, even I could not have guessed that it was about to get even stranger.
The grey fury creator walked up until it was alongside the boy. Then the boy reached over picked it up and walked into the sea with it.
While my mouth, and the mouths of my family, all stood wide open, the boy and the..the thing were frolicking around in the water.
It took us a while but we were soon able to close our mouths. But noone wanted to return to the waters.
No worries... that was what we told ourselves anyway. It was lunch time. We packed up and headed to the beachfront restaurant. It was the Bishops Beach House Restaurant.
John and Sally were covered in sand. They had dried off but the sand was very friendly on the islands. They made their way to the table leaving a trail of white sand prints through the restaurant. Nan shook her head from side to side. I just hoped it was a part of the norm.
We had barely taken a seat when we were met by our waitress. She waddled over in a black shirt with bright big yellow hibiscus prints and a short black skirt.
When I saw the legs protruding I was a bit sorry for the skirt.
"Welcome ta de Bishops. What yinna gon have?"
By now we were semi fluent in Bahamian dialect, we knew she was asking what we wanted to order.
" well what's good?" I asked.
" and non fattening?" Nan added.
"It all be good. We have de special island soup. Full a de native meat, vegetable and de conch too. We also ha de native salad. All native vegetable and de native meat."
" That sounds good doesn't it honey? How about we try the soup and salad. Maybe some chicken and fries for the kids- uh native meat and fries I mean." I chuckled.
"Well, I do love my salad and all. Hmm. I think I'll have a side of fries and uh, native meat as you say."
"So de order be one native soup, one native salad and tree fries and native meat. Is correct?"
"You got it. How long?"
"Not too long Sar. We stripping the meat and preparing it now."
The waitress walked away.
"Nothing like the outer island. Freshly prepared chicken. Nice!"
"Yay chicken!" John and Sally said almost simultaneously.
" yeah, who doesn't love chi..."
Before I could get the words out something caught my eye. The waitress. She was entering the kitchen from the side door. She was dragging something behind her. It was the same type of grey furry, black eyed creature that the boy had an hour ago.
The creature wasn't fighting her but seemed to be a bit distracted.
"Wa...why is she draggin that thing toward the kitchen?" Nan asked with a look of horror on her face.
Just then another waitress walked past us. She had just seated another family.
" yes Sar"
"I have a question. I noticed something a while ago. Out there by the beach
There was a little boy with a grey furry creature. It went in the water with him."
I stared at the waitress.
" Yes Sar. Is me son Matchew. And him little Cooney. You have a question Sar?"
"Aha. Well. Is it friendly? The Cooney. Is it safe?"
The waitress threw her head back and laughed.
"Sar, it safe, it fun ta play with and den it delicious."
She walked away still laughing.
"Native meat man"
That's when I froze. John and Sally were too busy playing swords with their forks to notice. But not Nan. Oh no, Nan was more alert than I was. Her eyes popped out of her head and she sat upright so fast nearly knocking the small wooden table over.
"Cooney as in Raccoon. Pets? Native meat? Carl...!"
"No need Nan. Let's get out of here. I grabbed John by one hand and Sally by the order.
We headed for the front exit.
I shouted behind us.
"Thanks but no thanks. Cancel the order please. No pet Coon for us today!