“We’re leaving tomorrow.”
Katie and François are going back to New York. I’ve watched their daughter Louise become a full fledged toddler as she traveled down our street over the last five months, with whichever parent wasn’t surfing. The semi-tamed cats on the street learned to move more quickly in tandem.
With their departure, there are no more children on our street. The triplets returned to Philadelphia when their school reopened, so there are no more scooters to dodge, or questions about cats or the space station.
Elana has gone back to Boston, no longer able to avoid going into the office. Ada fled to Grenada during the last lockdown, and is reluctantly heading back to London soon, to take care of some things. Others left earlier, as soon as flights resumed after the volcanic ash stopped falling.
For many, for a long time, the choice to stay in Barbados was not difficult. Home, whether it was Canada, the US, the UK or the EU, had high Covid numbers and more restrictions than here. It was winter— cold, rainy or snowy— and there were few flights, even if you wanted to brave air travel. There were no direct flights to Canada for 4 months and if I’d gone I would have had to quarantine for two weeks and still been unable to visit family and friends.
But now? Vaccination rates at home, wherever that may be, are higher than in Barbados. Pubs are open in Britain, and friends in the US post excitedly about going to a movie, gathering with friends, the return of live music. For many, Barbados was always just a temporary stop, an extended vacation, a safe haven, or a remote working location that was better than their usual kitchen table or desk. There are still restrictions at home but there also seems to be hope that this will finally be over, or at least manageable.
And so people leave. The community I have developed grows smaller.
And yet, some stay.
Of course, I have made friends here who are Bajan, and this has always been their home. Yet there are Welcome Stamp Visa holders who will soon be at the end of their first year, and are trying to confirm a second.
Simone went home to see her parents and attend some meetings and a wedding, but is back now. Richard reluctantly considers a trip home to deal with a leaky roof. The two British couples we have met through him are planning another year; the children like their schools and they have planted a garden on the other side of the yard from the mango trees.
I too will go back “home” this summer. There is business to attend to: selling a car, seeing my doctor and dentist, sorting the boxes that were packed by others when I decided to stay. I desperately want to hug my children, to laugh and drink wine with my sisters. But I will return.
We have extended our lease here till January. We talk about a ski trip, but the odds are good that we will keep Barbados as our base. The climate, the culture, the people, the ocean and the beauty that surrounds us every day; it has enchanted us. Scott and I are enchanted with each other.
How can I leave now? I still have not been quick enough to get a picture of the monkeys that walk almost daily on the fence outside my kitchen window. I haven’t seen the racehorses sea bathing at Pebbles Beach at dawn. My surfing is improving, but I want to be much better. Because of travel restrictions, no one has yet visited us in the place that we chose specifically because it was large enough for company.
Perhaps visiting me in Barbados will be someone else’s brave travels!