What Is Going On?

When you travel, it is expected you won’t always understand the customs of the place you’re in. Still, we’ve been in Bonaire for some months now. I thought we’d got used to this place. Except stupid me, I am left confused. What is going on?

The people of Bonaire are cool. After all, it’s normal for them to speak at least four different languages: Dutch, Spanish, English and their official language: Papiamientu. Most speak more languages on top of that: French, Friesian, etc.

They are also a genetically and culturally diverse people. The influence from the South American continent, combined with Bonaire’s Spanish and Dutch history profiting from African and indigenous slavery makes these descendant people quite unique. Imagine a Dutch-South American-Afro-Caribbean accent. I’m still not doing it justice.

And they love their little island. Basically, after they finish high school, many Bonaireans move, go to university and/or spend time working in Holland. Those who come back to Bonaire spend much of their lives living in the sunshine, outside the main path of hurricanes, and welcoming thousands of visitors every year. They camp on the beach with their families at Easter. They dive and swim as a basic requirement. Bonaireans are surely blessed.

Except Covid is just settling into the island. Yesterday, there were 35 new cases. Today 37 – a record-high number. For an island of twenty thousand people, that is a significant number of cases. The island brought in a swift lockdown by last weekend – but only kind of.

We can still go to the supermarket, get our dive tanks filled and we wait for the drogist to open. People here have furloughed protection from Holland. I’m not saying they aren’t struggling right now, just that this European safety blanket is important. Particularly for a tiny Caribbean island which relies so much on tourism.

What’s going on then? Many people are still gathering in social groups, though they aren’t supposed to. The government has stopped short of a curfew. Meanwhile, officials are counting at least twenty current Covid clusters. And tourists from Europe are still coming. People are clearly trying to operate here as normal.

Then there’s the vaccine. Bonaire has been lucky – they’ve been receiving a steady supply of Pfizer vaccines from Holland for about a month now. Because it’s not heavily populated, it’s straightforward in theory to swiftly vaccinate the whole island.

Only the whole island doesn’t seem to want vaccinating. Jack heard a Bonairean friend express concerns about how they can’t cure cancer but they can suddenly come up with a vaccine? Suspicions abound. Indeed, only about half the over-60s have registered for their vaccine so far. If this so-called vulnerable group is down on numbers, what about the healthier, younger groups?

Do the authorities have to make the Covid vaccine mandatory on Bonaire? Will doing certain things like visiting the supermarket end up being possible only with a vaccine? If not, it seems unlikely at this rate 70% of Bonaire’s population will willingly have this vaccine – which is ironically readily available to them. Unlike many other places on this planet. What is going on? These boys had fun climbing onto Edna just before Christmas.

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