New Year, New Culture

February 20, 2009
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New Year, New Culture

Most families were at parties with their friends, family, or co-workers over New Years. As for my mom and I, we were walking up and down the streets of Nassau, Bahamas during Junkanoo, the best-known celebration on the islands. During Christmas break my mom and I picked up our passports traveled over the islands for a vacation during New Years.

This was the first time I've used my passport to travel and ended up not only gaining a vacation but also a cultural experience. Out of all my past vacations this was the first trip where I had learned a tremendous amount about the location I was staying. Out of the 700 islands, we spent our time at one of the two most well known islands, New Providence, at the capital, Nassau. Every time that we hailed a taxi or took a bus to the airport, we were met with a full amount of information on the background of the islands and history that the native Bahamians were very eager and proud to share.

One aspect of the trip that I enjoyed was taking the local bus to certain locations. Not every tourist knew how to do this or was brave enough to go for the ride, but along the way, we leaned a lot. Traveling on the bus, we went through several back roads and went through the inner city where we saw homes and living conditions of the natives. It was not until then that I found out that the poverty rate of the Bahamas is a startling percentage of 9.3. Though this number is high, it is easy to see the truth in it by seeing the homes and way of life for the Bahamians.

Though there are several known facts about the Bahamas, such as the beautiful, clear waters and the many adventures to partake on, one fact I didn't know was that more then 50 percent of employment and income are based off tourism and related fields. Without the tourists, you can only imagine how much more the Bahamians would be suffering in their economy and living conditions. Thankfully, it is estimated that over 1,000,000 people travel to the islands over the course of the year. Just taking a look at the scenery of the islands and it's easy to see the attraction of this travel spot.

Arriving on the island, we were met with several tourist options and activities that were available for us to try. Over the course of our vacation we snorkeled in the clear waters over the reefs, relaxed on the beaches, and took a trip to the well-known resort, the Atlantis. When exploring the Atlantis, we signed up for a Dolphin experience and spent an hour meeting and interacting with the Dolphins in the cove. This experience was just one of my favorite adventures we encountered.

Though we learned much of the history of the Bahamas, my most enjoyed cultural experience was seeing the most celebrated holiday, Junkanoo. This event is held twice a year, on December 26th and on the day we went, January 1st. There is an excited energy and buzz leading up to this event that can be seen all throughout the island. We could not go anywhere without being reminded that the event was coming up. When arriving early to downtown to the streets that it was held, we found ourselves not knowing what to expect. But after enjoying a meal and relaxing for a few hours, we soon found out what the hype was all about. There was music blasting from different locations competing for the sound and cheers of excitement around every corner. It wasn't until the late hour of 11 o'clock that we saw the competing teams driving in with their floats for the parade and the drums of the members. Every float was surprisingly detailed and showed that many hours of labor went into it, as well as the festive and colorful costumes. Since we wanted to be back at our hotel when midnight struck, we headed back uptown for the firework shows. The most interesting fact about Junkanoo though, is that it doesn't start until around 1 o'clock and goes strong throughout the early morning, all the way until 9 in the morning if not longer. After waking up from the morning celebration, we turned on our TV to the local station that was broadcasting the event downtown. Never have I seen such an enthusiastic and colorful sight. It was an experience that I will always take with me.

All in all, Nassau had a lot to offer during our vacation. Whether it was the natural, beautiful scenery, or the festive cultural experiences, the Bahamas does not disappoint. Now I have another experience to take with me, and a little more knowledge on how life is for others that live under different conditions. Now I have another stamp to my passport, and I am just waiting for the next travel to come my way.

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