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“No maps.”  Dwayne, the friendly Bahamian at the tourist office, smiled and told us, “No maps.”

“What?” Our family had just arrived on Grand Bahama Island and we were ready to start exploring. 

“No maps. Long time now.  We order from Nassau. The government they order maps,” Dwane said, shaking his head sadly. Smiling broadly he pointed to the counter,  “But I have a map here. Some people take a picture.” 

On the counter Dwayne had a grainy black and white photocopy of a tourist map.

“Really?  No maps? The hotel? The airport?”

Dwayne look down and said sheepishly, “The businesses, they don’t pay. Nassau won’t order maps. We run out. Now we wait.”

 We took pictures of Dwayne’s map.

Cell phone in hand, we headed out for our first adventure: Lacaya Beach. I had been to the Bahamas once as a child with my family and we had stayed at a brand new resort right on Lacaya Beach.  My clearest memory of that time was swimming with my brother straight out from the beach and finding huge conch shells.  We brought them back and sold them to the shuckers for pennies. Paradise! I recognized the hotel right away. It was multi-storied with the shape of a cruise ship.  Funny, it looked closed. Maybe it was just a quiet week and the only rooms occupied were on the water side.  Weird, it was a vacation week. Soon we realized many things were closed. The International Bazaar was boarded up and buildings everywhere were missing roofs. The hurricanes!  We had forgotten first Irma then Matthew had hit these islands, but it went deeper than that.

We got the lack of maps. The maps couldn’t just be reprinted.  It wasn’t that the businesses didn’t pay— many of them simply didn’t exist anymore.

It was a sobering realization. Some of the luxury resorts had re-opened, some had just been abandoned.  Investors moving elsewhere to build new, glitzy more modern resorts.  The old ones were deemed outdated and worthless.   Hard to imagine oceanfront property could be worthless.

The  Bahamian people live in concrete houses. Most are still standing in various states of disrepair.  The people were friendly but we noticed everyone was older, from the waitresses, to the gas pump attendants, to our scuba guides.

I found a recent article lamenting the island woes…

“Grand Bahamians must stop fantasizing about the past and recognize that the days of the Princess, Shalimar, Laker Airline, and the International Bazaar are gone.

We must forget those things that are behind and press towards new economic ideas, innovations, and self-preservation. We must now make Grand Bahama what we want it to be, and not what it used to be.

We must do so by making it easy to do business in Grand Bahama, encouraging entrepreneurship, supporting small businesses and stimulating economic growth. This is the path that Grand Bahama must take in order to re-invent, re-invigorate, rejuvenate and revive its economic status in these Family of Islands.

Wise words.  Bahamians are not so different from Vermonters. They are struggling to keep their youth.  They are struggling to attract new businesses.  Their country is a magnificent natural resource that they are looking to keep— not change.  They are looking for ways to make the home they love have a viable future.  Paradise everywhere comes at a price.

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