Round & Round
Island Notes 42
Things are ever changing even on a small island like Bonaire. The Bevolking, the civil registry, just released new census numbers last week. We now have 15,414 people living on island, up 2% since December. One hundred and six different nations are represented in that population. Over two-thirds are Dutch Antillean, most born on Bonaire or neighboring Curacao. As you might expect, the largest immigrant group are European Dutch at 10%. But 5% come from the Dominican Republic, 4% from Columbia, and 3% each from Venezuela and Peru. Americans have decreased here from 3% to 2% in that time.
And for the rest, we have quite an eclectic smattering of folks from around the globe—Ireland, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Cameroon, Israel, Saudi Arabia–just to name a few. For some reason the Bevolking lists people from the Hawaiian Islands separate from other Americans. Perhaps it’s time to update their categories. Hawaii became a state a half century ago.
What does all this mean? More traffic for one thing, and drivers with many different driving styles. It’s an international smorgasbord of motoring methods on Bonaire roads, and it can get crazy out there. In response to the increased flow, the government just completed a rotary, a roundabout, a good, old traffic circle. Since the first of the year, the overwhelmed intersection at Kaya Industria and Kaya International has been closed for construction. This has lead to convoluted alternate routes to get around island. But no matter, we were promised that the new rotonde would be completed sometime before Christmas.
So it was with much surprise when I noticed the other day that Kaya International was open as we headed to the store. I suggested to Hettie that we drive down to check out the new traffic circle. What happened next must be prefaced by an explanation. Changes here come quite slow. When they do happen, and especially way ahead of schedule, there is a sense of elation, a kind of runner’s high, a bit of tropical madness.
As we approached the circle, everything screamed, “I AM NEW!” in the blazing afternoon sun. Bold, white lines commanded where to stop. New asphalt was deep black from just being poured the day before. Letters painted on the yellow, circular centerpiece greeted those just released from the Flamingo Airport down the way. “Bon Bini Na Bonaire”-welcome to Bonaire. It was all too overwhelming. I was euphoric. I sped about the circle once-twice-three times, laughing madly all the way. Hettie was duly impressed with the new circular, even giggling at times. So I continued around again and again and again. On the sixth orbit, I was abruptly urged to begin re-entry.
“I am getting dizzy,” protested my spouse.
“Oh. OK,” I mumbled and dutifully steered back to the real world again. “That was GREAT, huh?”
“Yeah, that was just fantastic!”
It is times like these that I realized we have changed as people since moving here. Our repeated circumnavigation of the new traffic circle was the highlight of the week. What’s more, I am not embarrassed to admit it. It was a wonderful celebration. I mean… simple things are why we moved here in the first place.
Bonaire has no traffic lights and continues that fine tradition. Well,there is actually one traffic light on island, but it is installed in front of the Pasa Bon Pizza place. Apparently, the owner who is from New Jersey thought the light might attract more customers. Another roadside attraction.
What will the next big event be? Well, they are already starting construction of another traffic circle at the opposite end of Kaya Industria. That will be complete the circular bookends to this very busy thoroughfare. Who knows when it will be complete, but one thing is for sure. When it is done I will be back for another multi orbit voyage around the new rotonde.