I don’t need the calendar to know when March has arrived. All I have to do is listen. Along the shore that banks Kaya Playa Lechi, the street that fronts my home, the incessant calls of Laughing Gulls can be heard. And they do laugh, “ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, haaaaaaaaw.” It is a guffaw that takes about 10 seconds. And when dozens chime in, it becomes a sea gull cacophony, an avian Woodstock, a comedy hour laugh-in with feathers. Don’t take offense though. These black-hooded beach bums really aren’t laughing at you.
They could be laughing at the cruise ship tourists, though. March seems to be the height of the Boat-tel season. The passengers who don’t book day tours often stroll down Kaya Playa Lechi in search of something. The adventurous spread towels over the coral strewn shores. It looks like a bumpy seaside visit to me. Others stop and gawk at the local fishermen as they gut the day’s catch and throw the entrails to the frigate birds and pelicans. The more entrepreneurial of the laughing gulls also enter the fray. This is no joking matter. But I often feel that George and Martha from Kansas are just filling time on island until the big ship blows its whistle, signaling their impending departure. The striped-and-plaid clad waddle back to the dock in anticipation of the frosty boat drinks that await them on deck. If it’s Tuesday, it must be Bonaire.
March also marks the return of the Dutch to their homeland. Many come here for the winter months to avoid the cold wind, rain, and gray of the North Sea weather. But as spring approaches, many flat landers head back for the blooming of tulips, the growing anticipation of warmer weather, and the release of happy cows into the polder, just liberated after months in their winter barns.
This third month of the year also kicks off turtle surveys. This is my fifth year volunteering for Sea Turtle Conservation Bonaire’s annual fieldwork. We ply the leeward coast of Bonaire from the Willemstoren lighthouse in the south to Playa Fungi in the national park to the north. Circumnavigations of our offshore partner, Klein Bonaire, also take place at this time. We do turtle counts, capture those that we can, and enter all their stats into a database to determine the status of the four turtle species that frequent our waters.
In some ways, March is the same for me as it was in the States. I still celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day with Guinness and a dram of Irish. I get to see the NCAA National College Basketball Tournament albeit through a convoluted arrangement to streaming video, black boxes and a friend with stateside Direct TV. Yes, the Big Dance is delivered to my living room. That is until the local Internet goes south. Then I get to miss the last two minutes of the victory game of my Ohio State Buckeyes over Syracuse. They now head to New Orleans and the Final Four. Too cool.
But most of what happens here in March is unique to the island. The month marks the beginning of the dry season. It is in the spring that the leaves fall from the trees because of a lack of water. It is also the prelude to our meager island agricultural harvest, which happens in April. So as the Southern Cross starts its lazy slouch, hanging out on its side just above the horizon, I ponder the days. Kids fly kites on the trade winds in anticipation of Kontest di Fli, an annual kite flying competition. That winter ‘chill’ of cool nights has left. The heat of the day gets stronger and my ceiling fans spin constantly now in the PM. It is Island March, another grand passage of time while living in the tropics.