crumbs from your table

Posted on March 8, 2009

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crumbs-from-your-table

The tourism industry has created a lot of questions in my mind, especially in the last few days. Interestingly, I’ve been sent on a Caribbean cruise, er uh, conference by my employer. Extreme mass consumption is the name of this game.

The countries we have stopped at are well known for their poverty. Yet, because of how beautiful they are, the rich like to travel there. So the poor become dependent on the rich, as they come and spread their wealth; in a very measured and controlled way. Will the poor ever alleviate their poverty in this way? No, taxi drivers will forever drive the rich. Maybe they’ll become successful enough to purchase a vehicle for their business, or even a fleet. But they will remain working class, paying poverty wages to their employees.

The Cayman Islands was quite beautiful from a distance, but once there, all I saw was the condos and homes of the rich and famous, roads with no sidewalks, and trash all along the way. I found this out by attempting to walk to downtown. My goal was to find a little bar and have a beer with a local and find out what the place is really like. A place like that was not found. There were only cheesy tourist traps. The idea of having a beer still gripped me, so I resigned to the only option I could find in the touristy downtown of Georgetown . . . the Hard Rock Café . . . where I had a beer alone . . .

There were buried gems, though. The first arts and crafts table I came to caught my attention. I was so engrossed in the beauty of the artwork, mostly sea shells and coconut shells, that I was startled by a “hello” by the girl selling the merchandise. I was startled again as I looked up into the most beautiful smile I’ve seen on this trip. I told her so and thanked her.

The other gem came a little later. I was being stubborn, determined not to give in to all of spending traps. I didn’t sign up for any excursions ranging from $50 to $200. And I decided to walk to town. The map said it was a 30 to 40 minute walk. They must walk really fast there, because after walking for 35 minutes along a loud and dusty highway, I returned to the port. Good exercise is a good thing, though.

After a long overdue restroom break, I sought out taxi driver that had no passengers. He bid me ride in the front with him. He is a three generation native of the Cayman Islands. I, the ignorant America, had no idea if Cayman Islands was a county of its own or what. So I ventured a question. He explained all about the British Empire and all of the countries it has controlled. The Cayman Islands is still under British rule. The taxi driver is a British citizen. Rather ashamed of my ignorance, I was fascinated but relieved when he changed the subject. When he asked what brought me here, I explained that it was paid for by work and that I had never been to the Cayman Islands or on a cruise or even to Miami. He was surprised and asked my line of work. I told him that I’ve been working with people with disabilities for 28 years. He told me his 20 years old son works in a school with 5 and 6 year old special needs kids. I could tell by his voice and the look on his face and the words that he said that he is a very proud father. We started the conversation talking about how all of the rich people lived along the shore as we drove by mansion after mansion. He said, when you are rich, you can live anywhere you want. I commented that the more rich you are, the more options and choices you have in life, but the more poor you are, options and choices dwindle to, “You do what you gotta do, period”. The taxi driver nodded very knowingly. We concluded the conversation with the shared value that all people deserve a chance, all people deserve options, not just the rich. The poor do and so do people with special needs. That’s why he is so proud of his son.

In all of the glitz and glamour, noise and clamor, I’ve seen and felt what matters, I’ve found the ground of my being in the smile and warmth of a young lady selling jewelry and the conversation with a taxi driver that I’ll never forget. I wish I would have asked him his name . . .

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