If you're an American you've probably used the phrase, "I have a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore."
That quote comes from a famous scene in the classic movie, The Wizard of Oz.
Dorothy is swept up in a tornado, farmhouse and all, and then abruptly lands somewhere over the rainbow in the land of Oz. When she exits the farmhouse, the scene moves from Black & White to "Technicolor" and she is wowed by the uniqueness of a place she had no idea really existed before that moment. Though she hasn't met the Munchkins at that point in the movie, still, the stark differences in the Land of Oz and Kansas quickly become apparent and then she utters that famous line.
I sort of get that same feeling the longer I am here on Abaco. I have been here for a little over four months and like Dorothy, I'm still wowed.
Some things are better... some things are worse... some things are the same.
There are still 24 hours in a day here on Abaco, but time is not reckoned the same as it is back in the states. That can be a good thing... and a bad thing.
It is good in the sense, Bahamians do not care how long I preach. Though there is a clock on the back wall of the sanctuary, nobody ever turns around to look at it. (I informed them when I started preaching here that I was going to put a sign beneath it which would read, "Remember Lot's wife"). That warning was unnecessary. I have preached for almost an hour on numerous occasions and nobody has even blinked. They love the preaching of God's word and I'm convinced they would easily listen for hours if I were to preach that long, (I'll not press my luck).
It is bad in the sense, if you are in a hurry to get something done, you'll probably be disappointed. The people here are not nearly as time oriented as Americans and have a more leisurely way of approaching most things. I've heard it called, "Island Time." Most services do not start on time and most events will be marked by many showing up 10 to 20 minutes late. So, if time and punctuality are critical to you, when you visit here you'll quickly realize you "are not in Kansas anymore."
COST OF LIVING:
My expectations when preparing for the mission field were the opposite of reality... at least in this place in this mission field. I thought I would frequent open air markets, peruse the produce, seafood, and local foods... haggle with the local vendors and walk away with a hundred dollars worth of goods for twenty-five bucks. HA! I had to wake up and smell the guava juice! That may be the case in some mission fields, but not here in Marsh Harbor.
First, there are no weekend open air markets where locals vend and peddle their goods, foods, and novelty... at least not to my knowledge.
Second, most everything here is two to three times higher in price than it is in the states. I took some pictures at the supermarket displaying the prices of some of the food here, (see the slideshow below).
I love eggnog and every Christmas season I usually buy a half gallon and enjoy that tasty holiday treat. Not this year! In case you can't see clearly, a half gallon of eggnog is $10.99! (I'll include this picture in the slideshow below).
Due to the high duty imposed by the Bahamian government on most goods, the VAT (Value Added Tax), and the cost of shipping, most EVERYTHING is substantially higher.
Now that may not be a problem when you're on vacation here and are only staying for a week, but when you live here, it definitely plays a role in factoring your living expenses. For instance, out of the sheer goodness of their hearts the former missionaries left their vehicle here for me to use for transportation. Recently, the alternator went out on that vehicle and could not be rebuilt according to the local alternator rebuilding dude. (This information was gathered after 10 days and after the alternator was lost at his shop and eventually re-found... time... tick-tock, tick-tock). Here on Abaco, the price for a new alternator is between $300 - $400 bucks! That does NOT include the cost of labor to install it. The price for the same alternator stateside - $122 dollars.
Having recently lost three hundred dollars per month in support, (two individuals and one church), my wallet has informed me, "We are not in Kansas anymore."
The foods, cooking, recipes, and terms here are distinctly different when compared to the states.
Breakfast is not always bacon, eggs, and toast. Breakfast is, pretty much, anything you want it to be. Last week at our Men's Breakfast, one of the men brought stewed fish. It was delicious but not what we have for breakfast back in Kansas. I'm "not in Kansas anymore."
There are no fast food chains in Marsh Harbour with the exception of KFC, but there are dozens of small "Take Outs" or "Take Aways" on the island. These places are sometimes no bigger than the storage sheds for sale at Home Depot or Lowes. Many of them are clean and the food is good, but not all. Remember, we are not in Kansas anymore and Health Department inspections and certifications... well, if they exists here, I have not seen them.
So, since pork is the cheapest meat you can buy here, most of these roadside Bahamian style fast food joints offer it in a variety of formats; from Spicy Wild Boar to Pork Souse. But you have to be careful, pork can quickly go bad if refrigeration is an issue and for some Take Outs & Take Aways, I suspect it is. I've only gotten sick once from eating spicy wild boar but it was most likely the culprit that long evening.
Obviously, fish is a mainstay for the locals... but they do not buy it in the store. It is locally caught and eaten often; for breakfast, lunch, and/or dinner, (BTW, the heads, eyes, and gills are left on the fish and are consumed by many).
Conch is also a local Island cuisine and can be prepared in numerous ways. For those who may not know Conch, (pronounced “konk”), is a large mollusk... an underwater snail. (You've probably put a conch shell up to you ear as a child to hear the ocean). Conch is prepared in a number of ways from conch salad, to conch fritters, to deep fried conch.
Land Crabs are also sold on the side of the road in various locations but I have yet to take that plunge.
Other mainstay dishes here are Peas 'n Rice which is almost always served as a side dish and Baked Macaroni and Cheese which is cut into squares and is also served as a side dish. Johnny Bread is also a widely used Bahamian food. It is a stove top bread, (some cook it in the oven), that has a firm and coarse texture with a touch of sweetness. All of these sides are very tasty.
I was invited to a member's house where they will be serving stewed pigeon tonight... not sure what that really is but I think it is actually the White Crowned Pigeon served like doves back in the states. I heard it is delicious.
Though there are no extreme dishes here as in other countries where the locals ingest a variety of insects, dogs, cats, and monkeys... including monkey brains, still, I'm definitely "not in Kansas anymore."
The people here on Abaco are a unique people.
For the most part, they are kind and considerate. Almost all will wave or nod at you as you pass them in a vehicle or walking. They are quick with their smiles and love to laugh.
Though I have had limited contact with the youth in the area, they seem to be respectful of their elders and are engaged with the world in which they live.
I'm sure there are some who are not so kind and I'm sure there are bad people here as well. Just last week a young wife went missing and was later found murdered and buried in a shallow grave. The husband and his mother have been implicated in that tragic event. Sin is real here and in the world and where there is sin, there will always be pain, suffering, and death.
But most people here are decent people. They are more receptive to discussing God and the Gospel than anywhere I've ever visited or lived.Though they are often confused by denominational creeds and doctrines, for the most part, they are more than willing to have an extended discussion regarding the things of God. THAT is refreshing.
The church here is a close knit family who realize great responsibility has fallen to them if the church is to continue on in this place. They struggle with commitment and dedication as do other Christians around the world, but they are willing to struggle. That is good.
Like I said at the start of this post, some things are better... the church here is one of them. We still have a long way to go before we become the church we need to be, but God is moving here on Abaco, and in Marsh Harbour.
Some things are the same... people here, just like back in the states, still need a real and up close relationship with Christ. For that, there is no substitute and that need is the same around the world.
Like Dorothy, I know I'm not in Kansas anymore... but my feet are set on a road - it may not be a Yellow Brick Road, but I am convinced it is THE ROAD God has chosen for me. I will follow it until it leads me home, to a house not made with hands... and I will take as many with me as I possibly can!
Please pray for me and this mission. If you can and God leads you to do so, please considering supporting it on a monthly basis. God bless you!