Bahamas – 1987

Barfing in the Bahamas – Or why I stopped going on vacations with my parents.

1987 was a memorable year for me, mostly because I finally graduated from the USF College of Business.

As a way to celebrate the event, my mother announced that we would all be taking a trip to the Bahamas. I was leery of traveling with her after our 1983 trip to Europe; but mother assured me that she would book a suite and I would not have to sleep with my parents. That was the plan anyway. What happened will be summarized below, with some words and pictures. 

About a week before the trip, my Dad announced that he wasn’t going. He didn’t say why, he just decided not to go. Dad was a very wise man. I should have known something was amiss. Mother pressed on, regardless.

In 1987, landing a commercial jet in the Bahamas was dodgy at best. The plane landed on asphalt, then rolled onto crushed coral and finally stopped with its nose sunk inside a clearing in the trees. It took a few minutes for someone in a tractor to pull the plane back onto the runway. There was no real airport terminal. You walked down the stairs, grabbed your luggage and found a bus. Welcome to the Bahamas.

The Bahamas, at the time, were like most Caribbean Islands. The rich people and expensive hotels lined the coast, and the poor people lived in the interior. Also, the drinking water was often filled with bacteria so everyone drank beer or Coke. The roads were great on the coast, not so good in the interior. It was also hot and humid, but after living in Florida, it was not that bad.

We were booked into a suite at the Holiday Inn Paradise Beach. This turned out to be a so-so hotel and the suite was just a single room. Upon seeing the room we both returned to the front desk to ask why a single room was considered a 4 person suite. They said because there was a couch in the room. They also did not have anything else, and gave us a fruit basket as compensation. And then they sold us on the meal plan, because food was expensive in the Bahamas, so it was in our best interest to eat most of our meals in the hotel. 

I was not happy. Not the usual teenager unhappy, but the new adult kind of WTF unhappy. I was 22, a college graduate, and was about to spend a week sleeping next to my mother. I just wanted a beer and some quiet time alone. What I got, was considerably different.

It’s called a conch or sea snail. It’s a big deal in the tropics. It is supposed to be delicious. The Bahamians mainly use it for bait, or sell it to the tourists. For my dinner, Mom suggested I have the conch soup. She opted not to have the conch soup. That should have been my first hint. So, it was either the conch or the orange juice I had (I forgot concentrated drinks were mixed with local water); but something gave me a massive case of food poisoning. Not the “one barf and I’m OK” type, but the full blown “Oregon Trail Everybody Dies of Dysentery” type. I should have been in bed for 2 days. Instead, Mom wanted to press on, regardless.

Have you ever been on a bumpy (no A/C) bus ride while suffering a raging case of stomach distress? Have you ever barfed on a sea turtle at the Bahamas Aquarium? In some of the pictures below, you can tell I’m either going to barf or just did barf. I lost track of how many times I was sick. Let’s just say I lost some weight during the trip.

It all culminated with me parasailing high above the water; and figuring out how to barf breakfast at the same time. The wonderful thing about high altitude barfing is that the particles dissipate, and the wind helps to cleanup any remaining drool. My Mom made sure to take lots of pictures as I hung in the air like a puking piñata. The slightly good news was that the parasail ride pulled out the remaining food poisoning, and I spent the next 3 days relatively healthy. Afterwards, I did see some great sights, got to SCUBA dive and spent some quality time with my mother. In the end it was an adventure.

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