Check-In

We were given a six-month visa to stay in Bonaire by possibly the most eligible bachelor on the island. I mean, I don’t know if he is a bachelor, but if he is, he is likely the best-looking one on Bonaire. He was like a Dutch demi-god; tall and blond with a slightly sunburned, upturned nose. And a happy one at that – smiling genially in his police immigration officer uniform.

Of course, I showed no interest – other than professional, since I was there with my wonderful husband. But what an entry. Who are these people on Bonaire? Dutch, or Caribbean, or both?

In fact, many of them seem South American. Unsurprising since the island is relatively close to the Venezuelan mainland. I just googled it: only 50 miles. The customs lady definitely had strong Latina features. We listened to her swap Spanish with Dutch and flip into English with her colleagues.

And while the immigration officer/deity was detached and ethereal, she questioned us on the location of our children. Normally, she said, all crew were required to present themselves for check-in.

‘Ah,’ Jack said, brightening up. We’d read this and were ready for a response. He explained we weren’t sure whether to bring them or not, since reduced numbers of people in official locations are encouraged. The real truth was that neither kid wanted to come with us, though I was sure Lu would have been gutted if she the potential bachelor view her parents had right now. Creepy-sounding, But there you go. I didn’t make the rules up.

‘It’s ok,’ Jack said, passing her our passports, ‘they are definitely our bambinos.’ He smiled to emphasise his point. Plus, it had given him the chance to drop a little Spanish into the conversation. He favours this approach. He did it when we first arrived in Florida, with our Cuban Uber driver. Until her English proved better than ours. I’ll never forget Lulu melting into the backseat.

The customs woman stopped now. She frowned. Uh-oh, I thought.

‘You left them on the boat – on their own?’

Jack and I exchanged a confused glance. Then I got it. Bambinos means babies.

‘No, it’s ok, they are teenagers,’ I piped up.

‘Ahh,’ she said, still frowning and flipping through their passports, ‘that’s different.’

Jack shrugged sheepishly. ‘You know, for us they are still bambinos.’

Another moment I wished Lu was here for. The language-based faux pas on Quest is one of our specialities. Frankly, we haven’t had enough of them this season – yet. Now we are in Bonaire, all bets are off.

We left customs and immigration into the main town. The first two things we saw was a Cuban cafe and a Dutch-style waffle shop. Surely if there is one place you can smoke a pancake – it must be here.

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