Cultural differences

Our friend is flying home to Boston today so we'll be back to our normal routines again. From today our days will not be filled with as much dining and exploring out, but instead we'll be back to preparing the boat for our Pacific Crossing that is rushing towards us at a fast pace. I will also be back with the computer to catch up with work that's been neglected in the previous weeks of "vacation". As of the strong winds in the bay outside we have decided to stay another week here in the beautiful town of Santa Marta before continuing to Cartagena. 

I know I'm repeating myself, but what a wonderful change to be here in a South American country. The West Indies are great in many ways: the beautiful beaches and lush nature. The scenery, the sailing grounds and the volcanic mountains are equally attractive and especially in hurricane season, you can still find astonishing places where your boat is the only one in the bay which gives a sense of disconnection to all and everything. You can also get a hold on good craftsmen for boat restoration and repair, for that Antigua and Grenada seem to be the best. But no matter how much we tried to see it, the culture and way of living didn't rhyme well with the way we see life should be lived. Here in Colombia people are happy though they don't have much in terms of money or security. They find joy and thankfulness in each other, music and just the fact that they are alive. People work hard for the little money they make and they are, generally, very friendly and hospitable to both natives and visitors alike.

In many parts of the West Indies (of the islands we've visited), many of the people we met seemed unhappy for some reason, or unmotivated is maybe the right word. There are many West Indian people that work hard, but most of the ones that you meet, are either extremely unproductive or have an attitude problem or in many cases, both. Something else that could frustrate us immensely is that people rather spend hours and hours, days after days waiting in the shade for that right tourist to pass by who they can overcharge for an, often, bad service or for not such a valuable product, rather than lowering the price and offering a smile, to be able to sell more. The philosophy on how to make a living and keep your visitors and clients happy seem to be the extreme opposite in the West Indies as opposed to a country like Colombia and many other places on earth.

The native West Indian people are also often racists towards white - some are better in hiding that than others, and inevitably, it creates a tension and feeds the negative energy from both sides and a segregation between locals and visitors is an unfortunate fact. Even many of the expats who've chosen to settle on the islands, has become equally bitter and pessimistic, probably due to how they've been treated, this is especially the case in Antigua (Falmouth Harbour area in particular). Sorry to say, but it's one of the most depressing places we've ever been, not because of the beautiful beaches for which they are so famous, but because of the fact that such a large amount of its population, whites as well as blacks seem to be fed up with life and they spread that negative energy all around. I would like to not have to mention any of this at all, but after having lived in the Caribbean for two years, it is a fact impossible to ignore. The only two ex-British islands we've come across that gave us a real positive overall experience were Grenada and Nevis, especially due to the kindness of the people we met, and we can't recommend them enough as lovely vacation destinations. 

The French islands are generally more hospitable than the British in our opinion, and the smaller ones of them, Marie-Galante and Les Saintes, are some of our favorites in the Caribbean - and the special sort of small-island-vibe is very much apparent on both of them. St Martin and St Barts will forever be very close to our hearts but unfortunately in this case, it is mainly because they reminded us of the mixed culture of Europe rather than the one of the other Caribbean islands. I have so much more to say about the West Indies and as soon as I have an opportunity I will go through them all one by one, but for now we are just happy to be someplace else to be able to get a real perspective of our past two years that we've spent over there. As you might know, we had never planned on spending such an extended amount of time in the West Indies, but different events kept us there for longer time than what we wanted and so we tried to make the best out of it according to our possibilities. But it is not before now that we are out of there and being in the light of this new, inviting and hospitable culture, that we can establish a fair look upon what we've actually been through.