Dear Andres Modak –
Most people these days use some sort of news alert system. Nifty, right? You just set the words and phrases you want to monitor and…wowza!…like magic, you get a concise summary each day of stuff that pops up on the internet that mentions things you are interested in. Uber convenient.
I am personally a fan of Google Alerts, and of the myriad things I track, my beloved island is one. So imagine my absolute delight (could hardly contain myself actually) when, lo and behold, yesterday a link to a story in the mother of all US business publications ended up in my inbox. That’s right, the Wall Street Journal took notice of Bonaire.
Of course, I immediately clicked and started to read. Sadly, my euphoria was rapidly colored with a tinge of disappointment. The story was a travel profile featuring you, a guy who “escapes to Bonaire to unplug.” That was not the disappointing part. After all, everyone for the most part chooses to be here precisely because it is NOT Amsterdam or Seattle or, gasp, NYC.
People here like the slower pace, the lack of pretentious folks (although, sadly, that is changing as the island grows), the charming eccentricities of island life (to paraphrase a favorite website of mine). We don’t even mind putting up with occasional inconveniences like boat problems in Curaçao that leave our grocery store shelves void of fresh fruit and vegetables for days at a time. (Yes, believe it or not, we do have grocery stores here despite what you would lead WSJ readers to believe. As wonderful as our local fishermen are, we are thankfully not forced to rely solely on their catch of the day for our daily sustenance. Nor are we forced to forage in the mondi for essentials.)
But to be honest, there is one thing I do mind. It’s when people portray Bonaire in a deliberately inaccurate light. Especially when it happens in conjunction with promotion of a personal agenda or to make one seem more sophisticated for blessing our decidedly second-world rock with a visit. It is true we don’t have Starbucks or McDonalds or even a Kmart like some other Caribbean islands do. But, and this should be something near and dear to your own heart, we do have a really nice homewares shop that sells fine European things. Stuff to rival your own collection, actually. So we are not totally bereft of stylish shopping options here.
Yet if you can overlook the utter lack of soul-destroying chain shops and national brands, life here is pretty sweet. We have the basic conveniences of modern life like solid cellphone service (yes, my local service provider even has roaming services when I return to the “big cities” of Europe and the US!). And, even though you don’t seem to believe it, we also have consistent internet access (well, unless you subscribe to Telbo as your ISP…but that is a different topic). In fact, grab hold of your mug with the fine European pedigree, the internet service on the island is so reliable that I manage to run an international business here. So do many of my friends and acquaintances. I know…it’s hard to believe, isn’t it?
We even, if I may be so bold, have a culinary scene that defies our island’s small stature. It is, based on my personal knowledge, better than some first-world places I’ve lived. In fact, I give mad props to all the chefs here who, despite the challenges inherent in operating a restaurant in these conditions, manage to put out delicious gastronomic delights on a nightly basis. They are amazing precisely because they face and overcome obstacles that big city chefs could not dream of. And, since I’m not a huge fan of cooking myself, I do eat out. Often. No complaints here. But then again, I’m no longer a big city girl who defines myself by how sophisticated my palate is compared to normal folk, so maybe my standards have slipped a little since becoming a US expat all those years ago.
But back to the WSJ article. To be fair, as a writer who has profiled CEOs and entrepreneurs myself, I totally get that what an interviewee says can be morphed into a different sentiment in the finished story. Those in my profession try really hard to capture the essence of the subject we interview, but occasionally we miss the mark. Other times we’re spot on, though. I’m not sure which it is in your case.
To be sure, I’d love to meet up with you and Rachel next time you manage to tear yourselves away from your terribly busy lives in NYC to visit dushi Bonaire. Of course, I can imagine selling overpriced white plates and bedding to pretentious millennials is very hard work (although, I do find your company name to be a cute play on words…well done! Bravo!). So if you can’t make it down soon, no worries. I live here full-time, and will still be here next time you manage to get away.
We can grab a cup of coffee. (Yes, we have several decent coffee shops here, too…with air conditioning and good espresso and everything!) I’d love to show you both around and introduce you to nice, fun people, especially since you are confounded by the lack of human interaction surrounding your family’s quaint bungalow on the busy oceanfront street in downtown Kralendijk. I can imagine all the foot and vehicular traffic that passes by your vacation home each and every day can be absolutely intimidating to a well-heeled New Yorker like yourself. So I sort of understand your professed isolation.
Also, if you need a tip on finding less obscure flights to our beautiful island to help facilitate your return, you’re in luck. I’m happy to report that United operates a direct flight every single Saturday right from your nearby airport of Newark. DIRECT! Can you imagine?! The flight even leaves at the humane hour of 9:00 a.m., so you won’t have to get up super early or anything. You can Uber over to Jersey at 6:30 a.m. or so, traffic should be lighter at that time of the morning, right? How positively convenient!!!
And, if you can manage an escape in high season, United operates multiple EWR-BON flights each week. The joy! All these Newark options should save you considerable travel time since you can avoid first flying to Miami, Houston or Ecuador to grab one of those recondite flights you have been forced to take thus far. Again, making it easier to get here for a quick, totally unplugged vacay.
Looking forward to seeing you soon!