Tuesday, January 6, 2015

The Ugly Side of Eleuthera

This is a post about garbage.  Yep.  Stinky, fly-infested, stray dog eating, poor-people rifling, mounds of refuse. 

If garbage does not interest you, leave now.

But in case you're curious about how most of the world deals with it's garbage, you know, from a dorky anthropomorphic point of view, please carry on.....

For much of the island there is no trash service.  Live on the highway and have a lot of trash?  Sure.  You can hire a trash service.  Live on a side street and only generate a few bags a week?  Nope.

So then what?  You've got to take your garbage to the dump yourself.

Raise your hand if you know where your closest dump is.  OK.  Quite a few.  Now, keep your hand up if you can bring all of your garbage to the same place, unsorted, no matter what:  Batteries, car oil, glass, plastic, cars, furniture, boxes, fish guts, etc.

I find only my hand up.  (And my Eleuthera friends.)

This, above, is the entrance to our dump.  It's only a mile up the street, surrounded by farmland, and at the end of this road is the cool, blue, gorgeous waters of the Bahamian Sea.

Our trash has one heck of a view.

But what do we do?  How do we drop off our trash?  Does someone meet us at the gate and tell us where to drop off our refuse?

Can we sort our own recycling or is there someone there to sort it for us? 

Here is a step-by-step instruction manual for bringing your trash to an Eleutheran dump:

Step 1:  Load your garbage in your vehicle, preferably a pickup or something that doesn't get filled with flies.  Oh, man.  The flies.

Step 2:  Drive to the dump.  Keep driving until you find a pile of crap you think looks the best and come to a stop.

Step 3:  Remove your trash as quickly as possible before your children in the car are eaten alive by flies.  Oh, man.  The flies. 

Step 4:  Chuck your garbage into the pile.  Preferably far into the pile so anything nasty or personal is lost amongst the masses. 

Step 5:  Watch with a weird sense of satisfaction as your junk returns to it's home, The Land of Garbage.

Step 6:  Continue with steps 3-5, as quickly as possible because of the flies.  Oh, man.  The flies.

Step 7:  Get back in your car with all 1,876 flies that entered your vehicle.  Turn around and drive to the highway.  Quickly.  Watch out for strays and poor people rifling through the garbage.  Yes.  We regularly see both.

Step 8:  Get on the highway.  Open all of your windows and flap and swish all of the flies back out.

Step 9:  Go home, or to the store, or wherever, to make more trash.

Like I mentioned before, everything, EVERYTHING is brought to the dump.  There is no recycling.  There is no NOTHING.

Wanna know what they do when the dump gets full?  Are you sure?  Are you really, really sure?  (All my environmentally focused friends may want to close your eyes for this next part.)

They burn it.

Once a week or so, a bulldozer comes in and pushes all of the trash into manageable piles, then the entire thing is set on fire.  Pallets and plastics, cars and cans, diapers and dog poop.  It all burns.  And the resulting flame is so hot that even the metal melts and the glass shatters into nothingness.

Yes.  I know.  That is a LOT of soot and debris and coarse particulates added to the atmosphere.  Al Gore is cringing somewhere with his Nobel Prize.

But you know what?  The above photo, that I borrowed from Google images, is a slightly over-exaggerated view of some of our beaches here on the island.

Trash washes up in TONS onto all beaches.  Small, large, plastic, glass, shoes, lighters, caps, and an inordinate number of glowsticks wash up onto our shores.  The nicer beaches, and those more frequented are cleaner as tourists and expats do a cursory beach clean-up every now and then.  But walk around the corner, just past where the beachcombers go, and the above photo is pretty accurate.

Miles of beautiful pink sand, crashing waves, sea kelp, and hundreds of tons of garbage.

Do we take it all to the dump where it is burned, thus polluting our precious air?

Or leave it on the beach where it is picked up in the ebb and flow of tides to choke, strangle, and kill millions of air and sea life all over the world?

Man.  That's a tough one.


Alright.  That's enough of the heavy.  I will end with this:  If you have a recycling program, please use it.  We find 10 to 1 plastic bottles and caps.  Also, if you take a cruise, please keep a close eye on your shoes.  For real.  We find dozens of shoes on our favorite beaches each day.  Weird.

Reuse, if you can.  We keep all cardboard, most plastic bottles, ALL plastic bags, and many aluminum cans, and re-purpose them though eventually they too end up at the dump and the inferno.

Use refillable water bottles, rechargeable batteries, hand-me-downs, etc.

Reduce, reuse, recycle.

Then come for a visit and we'll take you on a dump tour.  It's something.  

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Fish and Fish's Fish

This is what we do.  We fish.  Not with a pole but usually with a spear and a Hawaiian sling.  What do we shoot?  Things that we eat. 

Except this big 'ol barracuda.  We don't eat barracuda because of the insanely high levels of mercury typically found in these hunting masters.

But sometimes Jerry will shoot one anyway.  Especially when a five foot long cuda keeps swimming around the children.  Then it has to go.

You can imagine that it's a bit risky to shoot one of these things.  They are impossibly fast, and have nasty attitudes.  If you don't make a good shot, that thing is coming back for you.  So Jerry had help from two local dudes we often go fishing with (with whom we fish).  Three giant guys, one giant angry fish.  It took three spears and a LOT of girly screaming (from the men as the cuda tried to eat them in revenge) to get that thing in the boat.

But only after it escaped a few times and had to be shot again, and again, was it manhandled into the boat where the kids and I tried desperately to stay away from those teeth as it thrashed in the throws of death.  

When we got to town, we gave it to some local friends.  They ate well that night.

Not all fish that we, and by "we" I mean mostly Jerry, are so toothy and vicious.  This giant African Pompano swims in sharky waters a few miles away by boat.  They swim in schools and range in size, this one being a bigger specimen.

Jerry shot this one first, then had a backup spear from another fishing friend.  That's typical with spearfishing; whoever shoots the fish first, and they take turns, gets to keep the fish.  Any subsequent shots taken by others are to help with the final take down.  It's OK.  Hunting is fun even if someone else shot it first.

We got about 11 pounds of meat from this fish.  Yum.

The kids are learning to spearfish, too.  Paige shot this strawberry grouper with a pole spear.  These smaller grouper are very spearfisher friendly as they are stupid and let you take repeated shots before finally going off to hide. 

What's most impressive about this fish is that Paige was in probably 15-20' of water when she shot it.  And with a pole spear, you have to be a few feet away from the fish, not yards off like with a sling.  She's a pretty good darn swimmer.

Confused by all of this spear talk?  I'll post about that more later.  I'm sure you're very excited. 

This is just one of Josh's kills.  He's pretty good at shooting flounder, crabs, lobster, and other smaller fish like strawberry grouper.  But this is a tiny bar jack he shot with a sling while practicing his aim.  (A sling is like an underwater bow and arrow crossed with a slingshot.)

Hitting a big fish is one thing, taking insane strength to shoot the spear fast enough to penetrate the scales from farther away, especially at a moving target.  But Josh shot this tiny fish from a few yards away.  AND HIT IT.  I can't even catch one with a net.

No wonder he was boy junior archery champ for the entire camp two years ago.  You would be too if you could hit the bulls eye over and over and over.

But yet somehow miss the toilet.

I digress......

My spearfishing prowess is still developing.  I am pretty good at shooting things that don't move, like crabs, lobster, flounder, and lionfish.  My best shot was pretty cool though.  I shot a lionfish from behind as it tried to hide in a cave while it was watching Jerry and the kids swim by in the opposite direction.  It did not see me.  But I saw it and shot him from behind.  It was awesome.

This isn't a lionfish in the picture of course.  This is a mackerel that was caught on a fishing pole while trolling for fish near Cape Eleuthera.  I get credited the catch as I reeled it in.  Big whoop.  But it did taste very yummy!  (We don't eat these often, again for the high mercury content.)

Over all, we enjoy our time spent with faces in the water and spears in our hands.  We aren't always successful, but that's OK.  Try, try, try again.

This last photo is cool.  While getting ready to fillet a grouper, the kids discovered a squirrelfish halfway down the throat of a grouper.  Jerry shot the grouper while the poor thing was trying to have his breakfast, minding his own business.

All of the ocean better beware, The Man with Spear!!