Our day started, as it normally does down here, with one of Max’s delicious breakfasts. His kitchen helper crew did an awesome job with the French toast – maybe too good a job. We already had students arriving for VBS when we got there.
Today we visited the Red Bays settlement in the far Northwest corner of Andros. We were told it was a long drive, which apparently means anything over 15 minutes. It took about 30 minutes.
This isolated settlement has its own unique culture and history:
Andros Island, Bahamas, served as a refuge for freedom-seeking Black Seminoles who escaped from Florida. They began landing secretly on the island in 1821 after the British in Nassau reneged on their promise to help the Seminole Indians and Black Seminoles fight against White aggressors in Florida. While conducting research on Andros Island in 1937, anthropologist John Goggin met Felix MacNeil, a descendant of the Florida Black Seminole refugees. His encounters with MacNeil and others led Goggin to conclude that he had positively identified the legendary “Wild Indians” of Andros Island as descendants of the Florida Black Seminoles. The majority of residents in the present-day settlement of Red Bays on Andros Island are descended from those original exiles from Florida.
We ran a VBS in the primary school, which again was well suited to our needs. We arrived to discover some students already waiting when the bus arrived. Our youth quickly engaged with these students and some actually remembered some of them from the last trip. With the curriculum set and a few prior days of process improvement under our belts, we gave the kids a pretty good VBS.
We rounded out our final VBS day with a lessons learned meeting after the students had left. We’re always on the lookout for how we can make the process smoother and the experience better for the kids who attend our VBS. Several good suggestions were taken down, to be incorporated into the 2021 trip (yes, we’re already planning! Talk to any of us to learn more about what it’s like if you think you may want to go!)
All in all VBS went pretty smoothly and soon it was time to explore Red Bays. Eugene is an excellent tour guide and knows just where to go and who to talk to, so we were quickly to a traditional homestead where we learned about the basket making process practiced by the residents of the Red Bays area. Several folks bought baskets which seems to be one of the staples of the Red Bays economy. While Red Bays is largely self-sufficient, producing most of the necessities of life for its residents, money is useful in obtaining anything that can’t be produced locally.
In addition to the basket weaving demonstration we learned about the process that goes into preparing the crabs gathered on Andros to be edible. This process includes placing them in a pen for a period of time so that their digestive system can be purged of unhealthy things they eat in the wild, and they can be fattened up on sweet fruits and leaves. We finished out that lesson with a lesson on how to catch and pick up a crab. Several people practiced this skill, and luckily, there were no injuries.
In the evening we were all invited to a dinner party at the home of the local school superintendent along with some members of the local FONA board and other supporters. FONA determined after the last trip that the best way to serve the population of Andros was to include a local board consisting of people currently residing on Andros (our “boots on the ground” component). All in all we had a great day making and strengthening connections with folks from different parts of the island.
Howard, R. (2006). The “Wild Indians” of Andros Island: Black Seminole Legacy in the Bahamas. Journal of Black Studies, 37(2), 275-298. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/40034414