That Island Life

Back in 2008, when Barack Obama had just won his first term as president of the United States, one of the many empty critiques of his freshman year of service was the vague complaint that he was too aloof. Too calm. “We need to see that he is ANGRY.” I remember these critiques well because I heard them not only from the standard racists who liked to pretend they were mere political pundits, but also from other black people – both those who thought of him as God and those who were unsure of his ability to lead even though they stood in line for several hours to vote for him. Luther, Obama’s Anger Translator from the hit show, Key and Peele, was a satirical way of implying that President Obama was too blasé about many of the jabs blatantly thrown at him by the Republican party.

“Uhm…Island life,” was my friend’s shrugged response to the complaints that our president wasn’t “angry” enough. Tamara grew up in Hawaii, only coming in mainland to New York City as a college student. I doubt that even to this day the woman owns a proper pair of shoes. (For a work party once, she actually asked if she should wear her dress up flip flops.) She maintained that no one from she and the president’s home state probably saw President Obama’s chill level as a flaw. “I doubt any Hawaiian even noticed he was chilled out most of the time. Like, did you ever notice your Southern accent when you were growing up in New Orleans?”

Intellectually I understood Tamara’s analogy, but I did not understand it personally.

Until…

I came to the islands to end all islands…the Seychelles off the coast of East Africa. I have only been here five days and will be leaving right after Christmas, but I can see Tamara’s point already.

It is really hard to get yourself too wound up when you are surrounded by gorgeous waves of clear water bordered by lush greenery and gigantic boulders that look like they have been chiseled by sculptors into clever puzzles for your brain to figure out.

I have not driven regularly in 15 years. But the people who insisted I needed a car to navigate Mahe, the main island on which I would be staying, gave me the keys to this itty bitty Hyundai with the steering wheel on the right side. They then told me “Good luck” with a smile and walked off like I had not just been given a woefully incorrect car. Once driving on the streets of Mahe, I was even more perplexed as to why these people with their wrong cars were also driving on the wrong side of the street.

But, for some reason, I find it difficult to get vexed each and every time I am driving up a hill only to have another itty bitty vehicle all of a sudden facing me. It is rather funny, actually. And the many drivers who I nearly rear end when I have to back up in the middle of the only narrow road to turn around and then drive forward because I did not back up enough to turn properly, then back up again because I still underestimated how much I needed to turn…well, they are noticeably different in their responses than when I have done this during holiday breaks back home in New Orleans. I don’t even recall hearing a horn being furiously blown and sometimes when I look in the rearview mirror during my third time backing up, the driver behind me is simply shaking his head in amused disbelief. Not even a frown.

This morning, I found ants in the sugar jar of the little studio apartment I booked through Airbnb. “Ants in my sugar,” I mused. “Perhaps I will not need sugar in my coffee after all. Perhaps I do not need coffee. I need to go to the beach.” I then gingerly put the top back on the sweetened home of my ant friends and got in my itty bitty, woefully incorrect Hyundai and proceeded to spend 4 minutes backing it up and turning it around to get it out of the security gate.

I think I felt my deepest connection to our president when I thought I broke the washing machine in my little studio and had to tell my host. Through the screen door that led into her house, I saw her sitting on the sofa with a glass of wine.

“Uhm, Marlaine…I think I pressed the wrong button on the machine or something,” I stammered. “There was a puddle of water on the floor. I mopped it up and hung the mats out to dry, but I don’t know what I did to the washing machine. Sorry.”

She laughed and called her husband. “Alex, isn’t this funny? The machine at the salon and at the apartment BOTH broke today.”

Alex found this funny, too. He took a sip of whiskey and waved me off.

“I will look at the machine later. Marlaine needs more wine. She has been sick for two days so she has not been able to drink.”

Then, Marlaine began to tell me how miserable she has been subsisting on water alone. She goes on to share gossip that her clients at her hair salon shared with her while she put highlights in their hair and trimmed their tresses.

Alex pours himself more whiskey and realizes he is “being very rude, shame on me” and asks me if I want a glass, too.

Neither of these people mentions the washing machine again.

Island life.

2 Responses

  1. Lovely and funny post. I can’t wait to visit the Seychelles.

  2. LMAO! I’m just getting around to reading this. Amazing. Yes, that is indeed island life. Beautiful!

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