CAYE CAULKER LIFE circa 1970 & 2007

The glorious days of the outhouse. Most people had it timed to go before sunset. Sometimes there would even be a queue. People respected when it was occupied. There was no need to walk to the tip of the dock and knock on the door since the door was usually left wide open so as the occupant can enjoy the cool trade winds and the spectacular view of the Barrier Reef in the utmost comfort of doing the deed as I have ever experienced. Sometimes if you were bored of staring out to sea, you could simply look down in the hole below your bottom to yellow tails and chad's in a feeding frenzy.
My grandfather's outhouse was shared by several beach homes in the heart of Caye Caulker. My grandfather Valentin Alamina was born on valentines day hence the name, and comes from the historically famous Alamina boat building family.
Those days there were little 'picado' roads or trails from house to house. People walked or rode bicycles and dogs wandered randomly to neighbor's homes having figured out that they can get about 5 meals of left-over's daily. The stray dogs were not left out of the generosity of those days. There was something simplistic and functional about the outhouse and we felt no shame in going there.
The average outhouse was three to four feet square by 7 feet high. Many were single holers, but often they were double holers.the outhouse had always seemed a fitting memorial to the ingenuity and practicality of their founders, those restless, imaginative spirits who first caught the scent of opportunity in the Caribbean breeze. Those of us who were fortunate enough, in our younger years, to have enjoyed the luxurious splendor of completely private soul purging within the wooden confines of this hut over the water will forever have memories of an era that has become extinct on the island.

Caye Caulker circa 2007
(rambled, disgruntled thoughts at Easter time)
  • 5 catamarans anchored on the corals out front at the reef.
  • 20 boats coming straight from the cruise ship, filled to capacity of 40 passengers each descending upon the hapless sea creatures at Shark/Ray alley.
  • Snorkelers kicking each other in the head with fins, packed so tight like a school of sardines in the vast expanse of the Caribbean Sea.
  • The kids are out of school and tearing up our gardens.
  • The water taxi's are making twice as many runs from the mainland and the people are pouring in like sand through the hourglass.
  • The hairbraiders, novice restauranters selling bar-b-que in quick slap up stalls & heavy drinkers maintain their positions under any shaded tree near the sea.
  • Why walk when you can drive. Traffic Jam. Roadspill. Roadkill.
  • Evenings punctuated by bad loud music.
  • Backpackers still arriving with dreams of diving and fishes still in their heads.
  • The stray dogs are twice their weight with all the left-overs thrown about.
  • The churchbell rings and the faithful sing.
  • No doctor fly, no sand fly.
  • Too much thieving going on to buy a rock and chase the ghost.
  • Locals & ex-pats all living off the backpacker dollar.
  • Ms. Mahlers, Martinez, Chiney, no burger king or mcdonalds.
  • The sun rises in the east and sets in the west. View both from the split.
  • The Sharks & Rays have too much company.

  • "there isn't much to see on the island itself, but what you hear makes up for it."
  • "I use to skinny-dip, now I just chunky dunk!"
  • "Caye Caulker is so laid back that it's damn near upside down"
  • "Is there water on the other side of the island"
  • "a nice little drinking village with a fishing problem"

Which reminds me of a conversation I had last year while dancing to a rap song on the dancefloor in Oceanside next to Ms. Shirls, a tall svelte sixty something islander with a truck-load of kids, dressed in hip huggers denim, tight shirt, a size eight of barefootedness, dancing the latest moves rivaling any MTV rap video ho.

She Put me to shame.

Ms. Shirls: "Ms. Tina, you see me hea, I got nine pickney (kids) and I still look good and I still could paaaty with the best a yous"

Me: "That's good Ms. Shirl's, proud a ya"

Ms. Shirls (still dancing): "I'll never get old, I'll just ugly away"

Me: (belly laughter)

Ms. Shirls: "the only problem is when we come out at night bathe-up, make-up, smell sweet, we look like a nice juicy ripe cashew fruit.

When we wake up in the maaawning, we just look like a big old chewed up cashew fruit."

Me: (rolling off the dancefloor to get a drink and digest that one)

Which reminds me of another conversation I had recently with White Kerub (a name she got after winning a punta contest on Garifuna Settlement Day in Hopkins), a Canadian woman in her early forties who was castaway on Caye Caulker for 7 straight years having lost her passport from about year one. She was too afraid to go to the Embassy and get another after over-staying her time, since she thought she might be deported and could never return to her beloved Caye Caulker.

Finally, with the help & love of Bigness, Jr., who she met earlier, thanks to me the matchmaker, she was able to work on her EXIT STRATEGY. When BJr. got home, he missed her, so he pushed her to go in and get a new passport, so he (a Caye Caulker native living in Canada) could ironically send for her (the Canadian lost on Caulker) to come to Toronto with him.

Gone since February this year, I got one email from white Kerub which told me that being with Bigness, Jr. (a union carpenter with the film industry in Canada) was like following a bouncing ball. They were changing locations every couple of weeks, but she loved the excitement after "Go Slow" Caye Caulker.

So to finish what's becoming a long winded story, White Kerub & Bigness, Jr. just came back to the island for a visit, just in time for Hurricane Dean. We're sitting at Stallions in the little thatch roof hut, paper thin walls and 2x4 uprights we evacuated to high in the hills of San Ignacio (our hurricane shelter, in other words, strong structure NOT), Merci we had no wind or rain & what were we thinking?

We're talking.....

Me: "How did you work out your immigration/passport problem then. Are you legit now?"

Kerub: "Gial, first I lie to get a Police Report and tell them my bag stolen in the bus to San Ignacio. Then I take that report to the Embassy. I was nervous. The woman behind the counter took my application and then told me to hold on. I was sitting there for an hour sweating bullets, expecting the immigration to come get me anytime & then the woman come back out."

Me: "yeah.."

White Kerub: "Gial, I can't believe it, she just handed me a new passport right there, only took an hour!"

Me: "what about immigration?"

White Kerub: "I asked her about that, told her I wanted to go home Saturday, she said no problem, I already called them & took care of that. I was in disbelief. "

Me: "thats amazing"

White Kerub: "Gial, when I got to Toronto, as we were landing the Captain announced that it was -40 degrees outside. I only had on a t-shirt, flip-flops. I had no warm clothes, I didn't want to get off the plane and was huddled at the back under a comfy blanket, I had to be kicked out. Then I wasn't even sure Bigness, Jr. would be there waiting for me as promised"

Bigness, Jr. interjects in the conversation: "Hell, I didn't even recognize her, if she didn't yell my name, she could have walked straight pass my nose she was such a mess. I stood there for a moment wondering, is this what I sent for, I took my jacket and threw it over her, took her to a nice suite the set had me staying at. After a good scrub-down in the tub, she looked like the girl I remember.

Me to Kerub: "So you happy to be back on Caye Caulker then?"

White Kerub: "I can't believe I sat on Caye Caulker for 7 years stareing out to sea"


ZHP said…
Nice site! Greetings from Mexico! :)