Caribbean musings #1 The new school run
When you transplant your life to a different part of the world, certain things stay the same. You still get woken up (by small children) early in the morning, make breakfast, get dressed. You still do the school run.
Yes, the school run. The daily journey to school. The daily race against the clock with three children, three school bags and three lunch boxes in tow.
Because it's routine - something we've done for years - the bit before we leave the house feels very familiar - but with the added luxury of not having to put on coats and hats and look for gloves that (vaguely) match. But once we're out the door it all feels very different here. Very tropical. Very Barbados.
In the UK we walked to school. It was often grey and a bit rainy. We were usually in a rush, striding past rows of terraced houses. And I stuggled to navigate the pushchair and two children (on scooters) over two busy sets of traffic lights, two pelican crossings and lots of narrow pavements.
There are no pavements in Barbados and school is more than a few miles away so we have to drive. The rules of the road are very informal here. Often, the car in front has only one working brake light and an I-can't-be-bothered-using-indicators policy. And there are children standing up in the back. Every now and then the driver waves their arm out of the window when they want to stop and talk to their friend or buy a newspaper from the side of the road. And the traffic is bad. Slow moving along the narrow streets.
But we are accompanied by the sea. Glistening turquoise and calm all the way to the horizon. There are coconut trees and always lots of blue sky on the drive up the hill. We go past a row of dilapidated chattel houses, orange peeling paint, yellow, pink, with small wooden verandahs at the front and corrugated iron roofs. Oscar points to one that has no roof and walls that have caved in. He asks why it has trees growing from the windows.
Every day we see the same bearded man brushing his teeth in a tap outside his house. School girls with braided hair, chatting, waiting for the bus in their white and blue sailor style dresses. The sweet lady at her small blue table selling tamarind balls, packs of crackers, plantain chips and bottles of drink. The morning sun and the shade of the mahogany trees.
A few days ago, on the school run, I stopped to let a group of elderly ladies in straw hats and formal clothes cross the road and a young boy, no more than five or six, stepped down from the kerb. He was holding hands with a tiny girl in a uniform who looked about three. And was no doubt accompanying her to pre school.
Lila, my oldest daughter, sitting in the front, noticed them too. It was 32 degrees. She wondered how far they'd have to walk on their own. In the road. And we drove in silence the rest of the way, arriving at school just in time to hear a flock of parakeets flying overhead.