“So what are your stories going to be, from Barbados?”
Richard and I were swapping accidental travel stories: my participation in a parade and horse race in Italy, his in a small French village’s wine festival; my travels on a local water taxi on Aberdeen harbour in Hong Kong, his line dancing at a small-town America county fair.
I thought a moment.
“This.” And by this, I just didn’t mean the easy conversation with like minded people, with rum drinks on our lovely veranda, serenaded by the frogs and the wind in the palm trees. I didn’t just mean the tropical breezes coming off the turquoise ocean waves so near to us, or the surfing I do in them.
I meant all of that, and so much more. I meant the community I have established in Barbados in the last 6 months. I have made friends: Bajans born here or transplants who arrived years ago, for love or surf or both; remote workers who, like us, plan to stay a year or more; more transient visitors, here for a month, or two, or maybe six.
I meant the way I cook, having adapted to local products and the random variation in what may or may not be available in the stores this week. I buy fish from my favourite vendor at the market, and make casual conversation with the men playing cards or dominoes while my purchase is being filleted. I know where to go for the best coffee beans or a good haircut.
I meant the rhythm of my days, the relaxed pace, the high level of physical activity, when even if I’m inside the windows are open wide to the trade winds. (And the occasional neighbourhood cat!)
Unlike all the other countries I have been in, here I am no longer a traveller. I live here. Although I came down on a tourist visa, I am now on a 12-month Welcome Stamp Visa. I may not be here permanently— I still own property and pay taxes in Canada— but I am officially a resident of Barbados.
Scott and I deliberately timed our Welcome Stamp start for the week before the National Pause (lockdown), although we could have delayed it. We are not tourists seeing the lockdown as an inconvenience to our holiday and debating whether we will leave because of it; we are residents committed to doing our part to help the country get through this outbreak.
The lockdown has slowed the growth of my community. Plans to meet some on-line acquaintances have been delayed until the lockdown lifts. Jaana and I chat on WhatsApp instead of on the beach or the rooftop terrace of Café Luna. I talk to our neighbours on the edges of our properties, or from the safe physical distancing of our surfboards.
But there is no hurry. We’re here for a while.