Sunday, January 09, 2011

Dispatch From The War On Animals

As I mentioned yesterday, I'm down in the Caribbean for two weeks to document the underwater life of one of the most pristine reefs on the planet.

Imagine a day that started at 2:30 AM, included 15 hours either on an airplane or in an airport, and then arriving to find an island-nation in the midst of a tumultuous change.

That was my day yesterday, and yet I managed to go to bed with a smile.

I'm on Bonaire. Bonaire recently re-formed as a municipality (I have to understand what that terms means better) of Holland. It had first been a member of a class of islands under Dutch control called the Antilles. A few years ago, Aruba broke off, and now all islands in the class have been dismissed to direct control by Holland.

The island also changed its official currency from the guilder to the American dollar, and waived an entry visa for all guests (I think you still need one if you plan to stay longer than 90 days, but that's more to insure you don't take a job from a Bonairean).

Construction that began in 2007, the height of the housing boom, remains unfinished and in some cases, there aren't even signs that completion will ever come. The main industry here is dive tourism, and naturally, Americans are a huge part of that. I guess that went by the boards when the markets crashed too.

That certainly implies that as America goes, so go many smaller countries who have become dependent upon the American economy, tourism and imports.

A chilling sign was the appearance on local television (satellite, I think) of two channels catering to Chinese). One wonders how quickly the focus will turn from Americans to Chinese, as it has in Brazil, Peru and any number of Latin American nations.

including Venezuela, a nation that lies just fifty miles or so to my south as I type this. Hugo Chavez has made noises about wrenching these islands from Dutch control and seizing them for himself, but I seriously doubt he has the resources to do it.

I'm sat on a porch overlooking an inlet from the ocean that surrounds an island about a mile away. That island was owned by Harry Belafonte, who prohibited development while he owned it (he's a resident down here as are many celebrities who want to get aweay from the media). He gifted it to Bonaire a few years back with the same proviso.

So far, they've held steady. Looks like they will for a while.

Speaking of media, the only American "news" network I get with any regularity here is FOX, so I heard about the shooting in Arizona, but figured it had to be exaggerated in some way. Little did I know it would be understated. See, they never reported in the half hour I watched about Sarah Palin's Facebook posting targeting her.

I must undergo a dive orientation today, followed by a "mandatory" check out dive. The orientation is required annually of anyone who wants to dive in Bonaire, along with a $25 annual fee to help with the upkeep of the national park.

Hard to think of an island only 20 miles long as having a national park, but there it is.

I'll write more as jet lag sets out and island time sets in. Until then, ayo!