Saturday, April 2, 2011

Getting to the "Point;" Sticking to the "Point"

Posted: January 28, 10:38 am | (permalink) | (0 comments)
“Hair,” whispered one amazed small girl, as she reached a tentative finger to touch mine. I couldn’t blame her – my hair is long, pale, and straight – and couldn’t be more different than the nappy hair of all her classmates and teachers. Dan and I are doing some volunteer work, tutoring students in math at the one-room schoolhouse at Black Point settlement, the next stop on our southbound journey.

How did we get here? Without a fixed address, we don’t have a library card. And a library loan wouldn’t be practical anyway, since we’re often not in one place long enough to finish a book – one of the delights of being on a passage is catching up on our reading. So book exchanges are common in marinas, cafes, and other places that cruisers frequent. We were sitting in the laundromat (or “wash house” as the locals refer to it), and I was perusing their well-stocked book swaps while our clothes and sheets tumbled. Although there were lots of novels to choose from, nothing appealed to me, not One. Single. Thing. If I read one more piece of fiction, my brain was going to atrophy. At the same time, I wasn’t quite up for some of the heavier tomes I’d optimistically brought along: “Water Availability for the Western United States – Key Scientific Challenges” or “A Culture of Improvement – Technology and the Western Millennium.” This was something I hadn’t known about myself and would never have suspected while I was caught up in the workaday world, but I was getting … not bored exactly … but after a while all the pretty palm-lined sandy beaches with turquoise water began to look alike. Browsing the bulletin board, among notices for a gospel concert and rooms for rent and exhorting all to keep Black Point “clean, green, and pristine” was one that caught my eye. It invited boaters to tutor students in reading or math at the All Age School. Now, I thought, there was a place our engineering degrees could help the community. Next thing we knew, we had relocated the wristwatches we had put away when we arrived here in December, and shirts with collars instead of t-shirts and shorts, and were spending weekday mornings at the school.

Black Point is an interesting place. The guidebook describes it as “an excellent example of a real out-island non-touristy settlement.” Just like in the US, the people who work at the fancy resorts can’t afford to live there, and this island is where they come home to, commuting to work daily in small skiffs with fast outboards, or the Island Shuttle. On the walk from the dock to school, we pass local fishermen cleaning their catch and groups of women and a few men sitting together in the shade weaving baskets and tending babies. “It [basket-weaving] relaxin’ to do wit’ your hands, like knitting,” one explained. The school itself serves kids up to grade 8; they go to Nassau for high school. It’s quite formal in the British tradition – the kids wear uniforms and every sentence seems to include a ma’am or sir – but it’s not backward. In fact, these kids are far more comfortable with calculators than they are with pencil and paper, maybe that's the point of our tutoring. In any case, we’re kept quite on our toes, doing everything from algebra to addition. Gonna be here a while, I think – at least until the wind changes.
Flash cards and foam dice help with math lessons

A woman weaves baskets that will be sold to cruise ship tourists in Nassau.  In a sense, this photo is atypical; most times we came by, the shade of this tree was a communal meeting place.  Babies were tended and news was exchanged while folks worked on their crafts.

(originally published 28 January 2010)