Wal Mart? Hell no, we got Tung Fong.

Another island note…

In the past decade there have been a proliferation of new Chinese-owned stores on the island.  There are grocery stores and supply warehouses. And bars too with great names like the Yummy Yummy, the Hung Star Bar and the New Wai Thai.  But the store that was here long before all the newcomers, Tung Fong, in my humble opinion still remains the leader.  Tung Fong Store carries everything.  Need a good plastic bucket?  Go to TFS.  

How about a refreshing bottle of Boone’s Farm Apple Wine, a relic of my misspent youth? (Looking at you, Ricky)  Yes, they have that too.  I was unaware that the rot-gut adult beverage was still being produced so be sure to check the expiration date.  Karnival costumes?  You bet – masks, sequenced gowns, magical wands.   

There are hula hoops, shoes, bicycle tires, Hawaiian leis, canned goods, perfume, children’s toys, mops, flip flops, candles, kites, incense, hair products, Tiger Balm and everything else to fulfill your needs and wants.

Tung Fong reminds me of the mercantile stores of 19th century America, but island style.  They have it all, and when living on a rock this is really important.  A couple of years ago I needed to buy a tennis ball.  There are no sporting goods stores here so I went to TF.  I was able to buy a 3-pack for $2.  Upon arriving home, I opened the package and threw one to the ground.  Thud!  The ball bounced a mere inch off the ground and then begrudgingly rolled off under my cat, Pirate.  She was not amused, but more importantly, I wasn’t disappointed.  My physical therapist terrorist recommended using a tennis ball for foot massage so this just worked out fine-no bounce needed.  You wouldn’t see me on the court anyways (yes, there are a few on Bonaire).  Those days are long gone so Roger Federer can rest easy.

But this store has many fine products.  Need some attractive gift wrap paper?  You can buy it by the sheet.  The ladies will also cut off a length of ribbon for you.  It is charged by the inch.  The same is true for zippers.  This kind of custom service harkens back to the days when kids could by penny candy at their local corner stores.  I revel in the fact that this store still exists in the new millennium.  

So, the next time you are filling your cart at a mainland megastore with blank-faced employees seen after the reluctantly smiling greeter at the entrance, think about Tung Fong. It’s an all-in-one store and service with a smile.

Sailing the Blue Line

An aquatic Island Note…

Two blues dominate coastal Bonaire.  The shallow one shimmers like aqua velvet as the sun’s rays bounce up from the snowy sand bottom.  The other is indigo, a rich, deep shade, caused by fathoms of depth below.  It is where those two hues intersect that I like to do kayak sailing.  That is the blue line.

Look towards shore and the water’s dreamsicle colors capture my eyes, sometimes to my detriment. I struggle to break away from its beauty for the trim of my sail demands that I do.  If not, I’ll be knocked down in a Havana heartbeat.  

Dreamsicle blue off the coast by Tolo. Photo by Hettie.

Rotate 180 degrees out to sea and the cobalt blue reins to the far horizon.  That field of color is flecked with white caps now that the trade winds passing over the island can regain their speed.  This is open water.

Today, I go to The Rock to sail the blue line.  This is an unmarked dive site south of the salt pier known mostly by locals.  The Rock sits out from the coastal reef, an underwater island of dense corals, dug into white sand 80-100 feet below.  It’s also a perfect spot from which to launch a kayak due to its easy, sugar sand entrance.  Before shoving off, I check my gear and scout south.  In the distance are a group of palm trees marking Pink Beach.  That’s where I will head today.

In a second, I’m off on a fast beam reach, sailing the blue line.  Winds are clocking at 16 knots, gusting to 20.  The clue to ‘seeing’ a sudden gust is to read the water.  Its surface will ripple and darken before the sudden increased velocity hits the sail.  The first gust comes quickly and I shift my weight to port, the windward side if the boat.  Piece of cake.  But other gusts are more macho, demanding that I let out the sail and spill the force of the wind.  It’s all good.  This dance makes me feel alive.  I am centered, totally focused solely on wind and water.

I play this game until I reach my destination and do a fast tack.  In an instant I’m heading back to The Rock.  Out to sea, a thin line of shocking pink severs the horizon.  It’s a lone flamingo making way to the salt ponds of Pekelmeer (pickled lake) where it will soon feed.  Now, a tern circles my boat hoping that I might be fishing and will toss it a scrap.  Sorry, my feathered friend.  My hands are full just keeping upright with today’s winds.

Back on shore, I drop the sail, stash my gear and hoist my kayak onto the car top rails.  I sit in the open end of my station wagon, sunning myself dry and staring at the sea.  Ah, what a great way to start the day, sailing the blue line.

End of the Day

Another Island Note…

Sunsets are the last heartbeats in the days of our lives.  Down island, these solar shows are often spectacular as a tropical stew of land, sea and balmy air deliver an alchemy of spectral color.

Front stage is where most eyes aim as the sun sizzles at the horizon line.  But what is often missed is what takes place in the wings of the theatre.  On this March dusk I peer to starboard where pinks, golds and shades of cantaloupe blend into a palette that would make Gaugin blush.  

To port is an understated civil war clash of blue and gray. 

Interrupting this chroma calliope are grumbling grays and belligerent blacks reminiscent of Rembrandt skies from Holland. 

The drama above is suspended in time until darkness infringes on my vision and the rum drink is drained.  Thoughts turn to dinner now at the end of another island day.