In the past, I took moments like these for granted, and was utterly dismissive of the beach. (After all, sunbathing in the Caribbean is not for us regular locals, but for hippies, beach-bums, gigolos, and tourists, not so?)
Indeed, the whole concept of enjoying the natural delights of island life always seemed wanton and blasphemous, especially given how Caribbean people are routinely stereotyped as simple, happy beach folk with a smile on the face, a Calypso song on the lips, and a glass of rum punch in hand. Should we not go about proving to the rest of the world how modern and un-island we truly are?
Those were the foolish thoughts we were encouraged to entertain, thoughts that seemed reasonable when I still lived in the Caribbean and getting to the beach - even on my hilly island of Trinidad - was a mere half an hour's drive to the coast.
In those days, the beach was an occasional Sunday thing, something to do less for the sea-bathing, and more for the ritual of getting a freshly fried Bake-and-Shark, seasoned with Scotch Bonnet pepper and shadon beni leaves, and laden with tamarind sauce, juicy pineapple slices, crisp lettuce, and a myriad of other treats.
The beach was an afterthought.
At the forefront of our collective minds was the prospect of foreign travel for the purpose of amassing more legitimate treasures: Air Jordans and shell-toed Adidas sneakers, processed foods meant to satiate our developing taste for Red Dye 45, slogan tee shirts, acid-washed denim jeans, and all kinds of plastic trinkets.
Furthermore, we thought the 'sun, sand, and sea' would always be there, not so?
Not so, at all.
On a trip to Tobago last year, I watched as the entire shoreline of Store Bay was consumed by the sea for days after a freak storm. The other beaches were completely covered with mountains of Sargassum that had begun to rot, in what can only be classed as the side effects of global warming. Over in Trinidad, the main coastal thoroughfares were left to fall into ruin; a clear show of disinterest.
Upon my return to the U.K. with its omnipresent, mouldy dampness, infernally grey skies, and bleak buildings covered in centuries-old layers of grime, I got it. Even with the knowledge that I chose to leave the islands behind - for a variety of historical, economic, societal, and familial reasons - to live in a place where the enjoyments are of predominantly cold-weather fare and European culture, I got it.
We, the people of the Caribbean isles, are indeed simple-minded and foolish.
But not for the oft bandied-about reasons.
We were forcibly shipped to the islands, forced to work for centuries, and then left to our own devices when it became more convenient to do so, with the message that the once bountiful region was now deemed worthless. And we believed it.
In turn, we too have turned up our noses at the island-ness of it all, even as the modern-day offspring of those who first extracted wealth from our shores sneak back to their tucked-away Caribbean retreats each winter by the plane-load, the yacht-load, and the private jet-load. They sit and bask in the rejuvenating sun, eating healthily from the earth and enjoying the best of what the islands have to offer, whilst we cram ourselves into our imported cars with the A/C on full blast, snaking through impossible lanes of traffic in our hobbled-together versions of cities with a Starbucks mocha latte in hand, and high-heeled booties on the gas pedal.
On this trip to Grand Cayman, I made it my business to be present at the shore every day, with bare feet covered in powdery, shimmering sand, my eyes dazzled by the glint of sunlight on the water. I oiled my skin profusely, and read in the shade.
I drove around, yes, but then I walked in the midday sun with the iguanas, blackbirds, and stray chickens. I felt alive as the heat penetrated my bones to the marrow and sweat poured down my body. I found pomceythere, zaboca, chennette, and rough-skinned lemons in season at the market; breadfruit trees heaved under the weight of its bounty on the downtown streets, and I watched closely as the fishermen brought in their haul of marlin, redfish, and conch every morning.
I drifted off into the balmy evenings, taking in the scent of the warm soil and fielding bites from an assortment of flying and crawling things as I watched the sun dissolve into a mass of purple, pink, and orange clouds. And then I awoke to do the very same thing the next day.
That is luxury, too.
St. Agni's wear-everywhere MIYO Mules
La Roche Posay Thermal Spring Water Mist
C + TB Meditation Essential Oil Roller
IDIL Botanicals Sambac Goddess Shimmering Body Oil
A Good Read: Walter Benjamin's On Photography
Bottles of beer, water + SPF 50 sunblock.
And a fan. Because, heat.
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