Sunday, November 22, 2015

Dirty Laundry - Different Standards

The Caribbean islands are different than say America, Canada, New Zealand and most European countries.  You are probably thinking D-uh!  But let me explain.

As I have mentioned before, many of these countries are newly independent (last 50'years or less).  This means they don't necessarily have the economies, infrastructure and thus monies for things we take for granted.  Or these things are in the process of being set up or fairly new.

This means that there may not be garbage bins readily available and thus liter here and there and there.  Oh, and cruisers that bitch about having to pay for trash disposal....please stop.  These are island nations with limited space and struggling infrastructure for their own people.  You might have to pay a few dollars for the disposal of your trash - get over it!   

Roads may have not shoulders but plenty of big pot holes.  The use of speed bumps vs traffic lights is brilliant to control speed.  Think about it, an entire island with no expensive stop lights because of strategically located speed bumps.  So smart. 

Building codes, zoning and such, may or may not exist but are certainly different than what we know.  They appear more lax.  Most restaurant bathrooms will have running water but probably only cold water.  The chance of paper towels -less than 25%.  Bathrooms are fewer in quantity than we are used to and thus guys use the out-of-doors more....sometimes out of view and sometimes in view.  Tom asked a gas station attendant if they had a bathroom - it was a nice gas station.  She said no and told him to go out back behind the building.  It was 10:30am in the morning.  Also, some laundry places only have cold water for washing clothes.  

We've only experienced one blackout while shopping.  It was in a grocery store in The Saints and the backup generator had the lights back on within 2 mins.  The local guy in the aisle with us just kept shopping along in the dark as if it happens all the time.  Outlets for charging electronics at cafés are few and far between, nothing like the plentiful outlets at say a Panera.  Don't forget, on the French islands the outlets and power (220) are different than our American power (110) and plugs.  

Most houses have electricity but on some islands they don't have running water in many houses.  Instead, they use community standpipes and a community bath and laundry house.  Stop and think about that for a moment -a community bath house!

Food standards are different as well.  Most restaurants are open air - as in the sides are open.  Kitchens are small and open as well.  It's not unheard of to be eating at a restaurant that is someone's front yard and the food comes straight out of their family kitchen.  No hair nets or gloves.  But you will probably be eating off real plates with real silverware vs plastic and styrofoam.  However, you will see plastic and styrofoam in ditches and in the water in some places.  Street food is from tents, coolers and rough grills vs fancy food trucks.  Eggs are usually sold in the grocery store off a regular shelf in plats of 30 or plastic bags of 6 or 8 and not from the refrigeration area.  Or you buy them from the "egg lady" at a roadside stand or her house.

I've mentioned this before but public transportation standards are different too.  Buses are usually mini vans that carry 19 but there is always room for one more.  

Things are slower as well.  One thing takes all day for cruisers.  ALL day.  Food service is slower - even fast food.  Customs and immigration can be slow and filled with bureaucracy and inconsistencies. Buses, the line at Digicell, the grocery store check out line or wherever line, simply flows at a different pace than we as American's are used to.  And of course you've heard it from me tons of times.....the internet /wifi can be slow and iffy at times.  Merchants, retailers/shops, services have set hours of operation but those are only guidelines.  You may go to a shop at 10am because that is when they open.  However, the shop is closed and no one is there.  They will open when someone arrives to open it.  I am not just talking about mom and pop shops but established retailers.

The standards and pace are just different down here.  Not necessarily worse or better.  Just different.    

Why am I telling you all this?  One reason is that the above is part of what (to us) makes the Caribbean interesting and a unique adventure each day.  Two - to prep anyone wanting to visit or cruise the Caribbean.  This way you have a basic idea and you won't be shocked.  This will also allow you to make the mental adjustment needed so you don't drive yourself nuts (and others as well) and instead just go with it.  Three - a warning for some......if you are a neat nick, or gem-a-phobe, or you like structure and orderor have to Facetime/Skype every Sunday with the grand kids, then you might want to plan your holiday or cruising somewhere else.  Case in point -  I met a cruiser in the last season that did nothing but complain about how hot she was, how slow the line was we were in, how dirty it was, and how by making this change and that (Americanizing) things could be so much better.  I couldn't figure out why she is down here.  And sure, we can all have a bad day but I got the strong feeling complaining about Caribbean things is her way.  Why she is making herself miserable? (and anyone around her for that matter).  

Actually, there are lovely beach resorts where someone rakes the beach every morning before the sun rises, where the grounds are perfect and staff waits on your every need.  If you like that sort of thing, book your holiday there.  Heck, we like to stroll on those beaches at times, but we realize that's not the norm aka the "real" Caribbean and not the Caribbean we came to see and experience.  

No comments:

Post a Comment