Documenting us for the trip to the Bahamas, we visited the excellent official website of the Bahamas Tourist Office. The site in other languages is quite complete, but it lacks numerous sections that are present on the site in English. The one dedicated to American tourists is by far the most complete. By exploring the English section of the site we were attracted to a program organized by the ministry of tourism called “People-to-People Experience”: a free program that allows you to experience culture, lifestyle, cuisine, learn about history and meet the inhabitants of the Bahamas.
To participate, just fill in the registration forms on the web site, indicating the place and dates of our stay, what you want to visit and what our interests are. The tourist office promises to use this information to find a Bahamas ambassador who will improve our vacation experience by sharing their way of life with us. Among the various options are mentioned: the opportunity to enjoy an authentic Bahamian meal, to attend a religious ceremony or religious songs, visit a local school, attend a tea party.
AN EXCELLENT RECEPTION FOR TOURISTS WHO DO NOT WANT ONLY THE SEA
What lies ahead is something that I would have liked to do here where I live to welcome tourists. I always thought it would be nice to welcome those who visit our country in order to make them discover the most hidden and most beautiful corners of our areas. Let him know our lifestyles, what we eat and how we live. Looks like they are trying in the Bahamas. Congratulations.
Intrigued by this opportunity, we decide to fill out the online form. We opt for a visit to the school to involve our two children more – Andrea and Mattia. Three days after completing the form we are contacted by our “ambassador”: Samantha Gierszewski-Fox who works for the Bahamas Tourist Office on Long Island.
We reply to the email and the next day we receive another email from our ambassador, who informs us that she has already set up a meeting with a Long Island primary school to introduce us and our children to a local school and meet other children in their range of age. All very efficient. The days pass and we approach the date of our departure. In the meantime, we exchange several emails with our ambassador.
The day before our appointment to visit the school, we write an e-mail to Samantha to confirm the visit. A few minutes later she answers us and then calls us on the phone confirming that the visit to the school would take place the next day. The next morning, Samantha picks us up at the hotel where we were staying and takes us to visit the school.
VISIT TO THE ELEMENTARY SCHOOL
A really interesting experience: we visited an elementary school – the Glintons Primary School – in Clifton Settlement, a small village on Long Island. The school is made up of three classes of children. We were warmly welcomed by school Principal Mrs. Ruth Smith and the teachers whom we thank for the opportunity given to us. The children were fabulous, they immediately fraternized despite the obvious language limitations. They welcomed us with a welcome chorus. The children are all dressed in yellow shirts, green ties and green trousers. The girls have a yellow shirt and overalls with a green skirt. It feels like being in an English college.
The school is small, but very nice, with outdoor games: slides and swings. A small basketball court serves for children’s activities. Classes are welcoming and bright with desks, chalkboards and books. Education in the Bahamas is compulsory for ages 5 to 16. Primary school lasts six years, then the boys move on to secondary school which lasts five years. Over the course of these five years, the children attend a three-year middle school course, followed by a two-year high school course. Education is taught in English. Public education is provided by the Ministry of Education and Culture and is free for everyone.
EXPERIENCE WITH LOCAL CHILDREN
We visited the three classes, then Andrea remained in one class to follow the lessons of the children of his age, while Mattia went to another class, but he did not want to be alone, and after some time he wanted to return with his brother. We handed the children the drawings that Andrea and his classmates had made specifically for this visit. The Bahamas children looked at them very curiously. We had also brought postcards of the places where we live to make the children understand where we came from – but unfortunately we forgot them in our backpack … it would have been nice to show the differences in landscapes, vegetation and buildings between Europe and the Bahamas. Maybe next time …
When the recreation bell rang, the children, after putting their belongings back in place, ran out to the games. A little girl took Mattia and didn’t leave him alone for a second. While Andrea was accompanied to the games by three new little friends. Together they went on the slides and the swing.
The school principal kindly informed us that the next day they would have gymnastics and that the children could return to play with the local children. She would have thought of finding someone to take us back to school. Andrea enthusiastic would have liked to return the next day, but Mattia didn’t want to know. So we reluctantly had to decline the offer of the very kind school principal.
A TOUR OF THE ISLAND
After an hour of visiting the school, our ambassador Samantha proposed us to visit the monument to Christopher Columbus which is located at the northern end of the island. We have gladly accepted to be able to see this historical place where Christopher Columbus made his third landing in the new continent he discovered. Which would later be called America in honor of the Florentine Amerigo Vespucci, the first to understand that the lands discovered by Columbus were not part of Asia but were a new continent.
The road to reach the monument is at the limits of practicability with a normal car. But the place where the monument is located – from which you can enjoy a spectacular view of the bay below – is certainly worth the inconvenience of the road. The view sweeps from the cape where the monument is located to a vast lagoon with blue water and white sand cordons. In front of the monument there is a lighthouse and then a precipice from which it is possible to see the entrance to the lagoon of the ocean waves.
Going back our guide also takes us to visit the most northern point of the island road. Along the way she illustrates the names and properties of some plants. From here a short path – which begins after passing a concrete bridge almost completely destroyed by the last cyclone – leads to another beach on the ocean side. Unfortunately, the beach is full of waste probably brought by the storms of the last hurricane that hit the island only two months ago.
AN EXCELLENT INITIATIVE
Samantha also offers us a visit to Dean’s Blue Hole, the deepest marine blue hole in the world, which is located in the south of the island about 80 km away from where we are. But the children are tired and going 160 km on the road would be a problem and then we do not want too much advantage of the kindness of our guide. Without a doubt, the experience of the People’s to People program of the Bahamas Tourist Office is an experience to do!
This post is also available in: German