Month: March 2013

a lack of children’s books

Warning:  this is one of those rambling posts with a big heart.  

I realized that all my pictures and stories from Bonaire had no people in them.  This is not unusual.  It stems from a couple of reasons.  One, I don’t like having my picture taken and therefore I am sensitive and uncomfortable taking photographs of other people.  Two, this discomfort leads to me being a really bad people photographer because I try to do it quickly and they often end up blurry.  And three, I’m wary about posting pictures of people without their consent.

So what does this have to do with children’s books?

I’m getting to that…hang in there.

Despite the dearth of “people pictures”, I met some fabulous people on my trip (thanks to my godmother who is an extrovert and over the past 25 years has created a wonderful support system in Bonaire, of both expats and visitors).  I would like to share one such person with you tonight.  Renée, an expat from South Africa, sailed into Bonaire with her husband many years ago on an around the world journey. They never left.  Her life on the island is very full, she shows visitors some of the best spots on the island for snorkeling and tells them exactly what they are seeing.

Renée took me on a night snorkel which is an experience that I am very glad to have had.  Her knowledge of the life under the water is quite extensive and she loves what she does.  Her giggle is infectious.  She obviously cares about animals.  This is evident in the way she treats her own cats.  She also volunteers for the local animal shelter.

Okay, now I’ll get to the children’s books.

The animal shelter on the island has a monthly flea market in a building in Kralendijk.  People donate clothing and other items, and the shelter gets all the money from the sale of these items.  Renée is in charge of the book section.  One day my godmother and I helped out by weeding out some of the older, moldy books to make room for new books.  When I got to the children’s book section, I was told to keep all of them no matter how old and grungy because they are the most popular of all the books.  A person can pay $1 and get a book, then return it and get another.  Books are in Dutch, English and Papiamento (the local dialect).  Children’s books in English are scarce, despite English being taught in the schools.  The library only has Dutch books.  So the flea market is the only place you can find English books for little money.

This is a picture of how many English children’s books there are.

Children's Books
English Language Children’s Books

If you are like me, you are appalled that this was the extent of the “library”.  Even if many of the books have been taken out by children, this is a very small selection to choose from.  I have fond memories of taking lots of time to choose a book in my small-town library when I was young…we had 3,000 people in the town and an entire room of children’s books.

I decided to do something about it, thinking that when I got home, I would send a box of books immediately to the island, alert all my friends and have them send books.

Well, it’s not that easy.  To send even a small package can cost upwards of $50.  This is one of the drawbacks of living in paradise, your supplies and packages come from container ships that arrive from Venezuela or from the occasional airplane that lands from other countries.  So I am trying to figure out another way to get books to the kids on the island.  I thought of contacting various scuba diving groups around the world and seeing if they would consider taking a book or two in their luggage.  In the meantime, if you know of anyone that is going to Bonaire soon and wouldn’t mind bringing a couple of kid’s books down, give them the animal shelter website address. Basically this is a no-brainer, there are two groups that benefit from this, the animal shelter AND the children of Bonaire.

For more info on the shelter and Renée, hop on over to these sites:

http://www.animalshelterbonaire.com

http://www.infobonaire.com/reneesnorkeltrips/snorkel_trips.html

In the meantime, I still have not shown you a picture of a person..that will have to wait until the next post.

Sunsets

What better way to end a week of posts about a Caribbean Island than to show some sunsets.  The clouds were not totally cooperative, I have yet to see a green flash (something that is on my bucket list).  However, the sunsets are still beautiful and there’s something about seeing them over water that makes them even more stunning.

It is a little weird to be posting these last pictures when I look out the window and see snow.  But I am enjoying the snow too, sledding, snowball fights, building a snowman and hot chocolate with our niece’s family.  There’s a time and a place for everything.  And if I want to go back to the island, all I have to do is close my eyes and dream.

Textures

I love finding textures and patterns in the world around me.  Bonaire has some wonderful textures and patterns.  You don’t have to work hard to see them.

I especially loved the acacia seed pods.  I’m pretty sure you will see their influence in my sculptures in the future.

 

The Wild Side

At long last, we get to the wild side of the island of Bonaire.  What’s there?  An abandoned building (see Windows), a lighthouse, some waves crashing into the beach and a whole lot of environmental art.  I loved it.

The term “wild side” comes from the fact that even though there are fish and coral on that side of the island, you would be a fool to go in the water to see them.  Between the waves, the wind and the currents, you could get seriously maimed.  Some people have tried it, some have not survived.  It really doesn’t look that ominous but remember, there is no beach here, it’s all coral and rocks…makes for a bumpy landing if the water gets a hold of you.

We saw very few people, but lots of results of their handiwork.  Using what the ocean has offered up, they made some very grand altars.  I could have spent all day here, both making things and taking pictures of them.  However, lunch called…we moved on.

Photographer’s note:  Due to the salt spray, the lens misted up, some of these pix might be a little, well, misty.

The dark side

After promising that I would take you over to the Wild Side of Bonaire today, I have changed my mind.  I want to show you one more thing on the leeward coast.  After we passed the ship terminal for the salt flats (you can see it through the window in the previous post) we came upon some little white huts.  The positioning of them was curious, there were two rows, with a window in back and a door in the front.  Each building is about five feet tall at the peak of the roof (on the exterior, the interior was considerably smaller due to the thickness of the walls).  The doors all faced the ocean, if there was any kind of wind reversal (a phenomenon that can be as destructive as a hurricane) the buildings would be submerged.  At first all I could see was the great photo op.  Then my godmother said “Those are slave huts” and the day took on a different meaning.

I knew that the history of Bonaire included slavery.  The stories go back to the 15th and 16th centuries when the first inhabitants were forced into slavery.  In subsequent centuries, slaves were an integral part in any business that developed on the island, including the salt pans.  Seeing these huts that were so photogenic and knowing that slaves lived in them, stored their belongings in them and were made to work in the salt flats was a difficult exercise.  And yet…visually they are remarkable, with the white building against the blue of the sea.  I loved taking pictures of them.  I would hate to have to live in one.  And I hate that anyone else had to.

Don’t be fooled by the picture of the interior.  A person could not stand up in one of them.  It’s not a place you would want to hang out in, rather it’s a place to store gear and maybe take a nap.  Now these huts (and a group of red ones further down the road) are considered monuments and are maintained.

Windows

On our way around the southern tip of Bonaire, we came across two structures that had been abandoned and had surrendered to the elements.  Perhaps it has become a photographers cliché but I was thrilled to find some amazing photo ops, especially looking through the windows.

The first structure was on the south side of the bridge that takes the salt from the salt flats to the ships that carry it across the water.  The second building was on the west side (the wild side, see tomorrow’s post).  Both were made of stone and looked like they could stand as is for eternity, but of course they won’t.  Mother Nature will see to that.

 

Salt Flats

Ever wonder where the salt that is used on the roads in the winter comes from?  Well evidently, if you live in Canada, it comes from Bonaire.  Water is let in to the salt flats, and then allowed to evaporate, leaving the salt and other minerals.  The salt is then piled up, put on ships and carried off to Canada.

One day we drove around the south side of the island where the salt flats are.  I did not see any large flamingoes while I was there, but I have heard that they love to eat the creatures that live in the salt flats and hang out there regularly.

The color of the water in the salt flats is different than the ocean.  (See the previous post.)  I would look to the right at the deep aqua blue and turn my head and look at the light aqua blue…really cool!  There is also a rust red color that is fascinating.  For pictures of other colors on Bonaire, click on the the post called “Colors!”.