Friday, June 25, 2010

Bahamian Directions, a way of life

Anya and I took off on our own adventure today to find a place we had only ever been driven to before. Which of course meant, we got lost. We drove for a bit, got stuck in traffic, drove another way for a bit then finally my lovely but exasperated daughter wisely said from the back seat, why don't you just ask for directions. So I did, we stopped into a store and went in. We were kept at the counter for some time for the wonderful fellow who worked there told us the majority of his life story which we were glad to hear. A bit later he gave us directions to where we originally intended to go. I would have done my best to repeat them as verbatim as I got them but that is impossible as they seemed to change slightly every time they were given. He was incredibly helpful but there was a certain way about the manner in which he gave directions that was slightly confusing for my Canadian brain. Here are a few I received this afternoon.

Street names were never used, instead landmarks have become the name of streets for example "you know the store that sells flags.. that street". Besides non moving landmarks the presence of people was used to direct me as well. One of my favourite examples was "the corner where the peanut seller know the guy that is always there, turn towards that corner". My favourite was the reference to the hot dog vendor across from the vacant lot well not that street but the next corner..turn there".. As he went on my grin grew bigger, I knew I would get lost again but this time I would would be doing so with a mission, to see the neighbourhood the way he does.

I left with my head spinning with the many visuals he had given to me and off we went to find the store. I noticed, the flag store, the peanut seller, who apparently is always there, the hot dog vendor with the huge line up of customers and the vacant lot where kids were playing. I was impressed that these directions worked. I would have done better with the left then right kind of directions but after we arrived at the intended store I realized that the man's directions (and to be honest all Bahamian directions) are built around their way of life. I really do not know if he ever buys those peanuts, or hot dogs or plays ball in the vacant lot but this is his corner of the world and he knows the important things like people not just street names.

While I was a bit frustrated at first with the directions I realized that if I had received a left or right version of them I would have missed the peanut seller, the hot dog vendor and the vacant lot. I would have missed the true reason why I am here, people. I am so glad God gave me the opportunity to notice this small part of Nassau today, and I hope to continue to find (and understand) directions via the way of life on this Island. It is a remarkable perspective.


  1. You may meet everyone in town just by using them as landmarks!

  2. I'm not so sure this is a bahamas thing. People are always driving me nuts with landmark style directions in good ole T.O.

    At least here, if i get frustrated there is always map quest.

  3. Interesting way of looking at things. Never would have looked at it like that...and yes i too would have missed the peanut stand, hot dog vender and vacant lot. All though i would remember those direction much better then left right street names.. thanks for the step back and really looking at thing! xo Adrienne