The small graces of small islands

Living in a small island can be a study in contradictions for islandistas.

Admittedly there are times it is frustrating for us with our with more worldly tastes – personally I wish there was more theatre, more art, more restaurants, more options for partying, more career options.

Not that we’re not getting there – there are more options for partying than ever before, a greater diversity of restaurants, more things to do when you lime and with the CSME, the Caribbean really is our oyster now – in fact, at least 3 of my good UWI friends (hailing from two different islands) may be moving to my island soon. And we are able to move between different islands with ease. Well, not as much physical ease as two years ago thanks to LIAT and Caribbean Star merging and BWEE ‘rationalising’ – rampant eye-jucking abounds in air fares these days. But in terms of social and cultural ease, true islandistas (and islandistos?) get it – the whole region is our stomping ground – we go from carnivals to music festivals, meeting and greeting friends along the way.

Anyhow, back to the point at hand which is the contradictions. On the one hand,small island life can seem restricting at times. But on the other hand, it is that same restrictingness that gives small islands their endearing graces and intimacies. In an island, you can never feel alone.

Take for example this just started work week. I have returned after a lovely, long vacation and at the bus stop and on my regular bus yesterday morning, everyone greeted me – “I wasn’t seeing you in long – how you doing?”

I love that in a small island people feel comfortable and familar enough with each other still to do that. There is none of that (stifling in its own way) anonymity and detachment that you get in larger societies – if people haven’t seen you for a month- so what? You could be dead in your apartment and people wouldn’t notice. You could be kept in an underground bunker for years (a la Austria) and people would not be prying enough to notice or wonder.

It’s not like that in most of the Caribbean. I love that it is so.

Another example. A young schoolgirl got on the bus this morning but she didn’t have exact change. So when she got on, she said ‘good morning’ and then she asked if anyone had change for $10. While no-one had change, they made sure that they gave her exact bus fare to get where she had to go – and she had to take two buses. If that happened in another country, tough luck. No-one would pay attention to you. Moreover, people go out of their way not to pay attention to you – in other countries I’ve visited, people seemed literally afraid to even make eye contact, far less to say ‘Good morning/evening/night’ or even nod in greeting.

So there is still much to be said for small island living.

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