When we left at the beginning of March of last year, the house was in tiptop shape following months of work to prepare it for a number of planned rentals in the late winter and early spring.
We all know how that went.
The island government — in an act of brilliant prescience — simply closed Bonaire. In this way, the island and its residents were spared the worst of the Covid epidemic. A slow and smart re-opening happened in summer and fall, mostly for Europeans. As Americans, we were sad to not be able to check in on and visit our island home, but we were also certain we did not want to be the people who brought the ‘Rona with us to Bonaire, so we waited (and waited and waited) patiently for the go ahead to return.
This came in October and involved a circuitous route through Aruba and Curaçao. When we arrived on island in late November, there were only a couple of cases; as I write today, there are close to 70. Island authorities are attributing the spike to holiday gatherings.
As all of this Covid craziness swirls around us — here and in the United States — the nature of Bonaire as it exists right here at Villa Salentein provides a soothing antidote to the turmoil. The beautiful blue Bismarck palm fronds rustle in the breezes that give Bonaire its name. Loras and parakeets visit the yard in the early morning. There are two variegated agave blooming in the front of the house that are drawing in gorgeous troupials for feeding. The common agave that we planted as little tiny pups five years ago all across the oceanfront side of the house are now ginormous and will be blooming soon, drawing in all the birds and reptiles and insects that we love to watch.
In the ocean, the water temperature has finally cooled to a point (81/27) where the corals have started to recover from an unprecedented bleaching event this year. When we swim or dive, we see all our usual friends: the colorful parrotfish, blennies, schools of tang, eels, hogfishes, groupers and the occasional spotted eagle ray in the shallows. Out a little deeper over the edge of the reef is the school of large margates that we make it a point to locate on our very first swim in the ocean after arriving. Just yesterday, on a dive of the house reef, the margates let us approach while a green turtle passed through the school. It was a crowded but beautiful group of creatures (humans included) all sharing a small spot in the ocean…and a testament to Bonaire’s early efforts to protect its coral reefs.
We look forward to sharing all this with family, friends, and visitors again soon enough. For now, here is a video from Elias taken on a dive between Andrea II and home.
When we people who live in cold climates entertain fantasies of the Caribbean getaway, there are few visions that are more alluring than lounging with a cold beverage on invitingly warm and soft furniture while watching the sun descend below the horizon.
This fantasy is so alluring, in fact, that there is an actual name for the cold beverages involved in the fantasy (“sundowners”) and that these Caribbean sunsets feature heavily in promotional literature meant to sway those of us on the fence about whether we want to fork over boatloads of cash to watch the sun (that large, warming, ever-present sun) take its daily sojourn across the sky toward its final, breathtaking drop into the Caribbean at dusk.
I am here to assure you that, yes, it is worth it.
It is so worth it at Villa Salentein that pretty much all normal activity — whether work or play or meal preparation or reading or swimming — ceases for the time between 6 and 7 p.m. (18:00 to 19:00 for our European friends). Electronic devices are set aside. Sundowners and snacks are prepared. Laughter and conversation abound. Then, as the sun gets close to the horizon, devices are hastily retrieved. Selfies might be attempted, as well as inexpert group photos with the sunset as backdrop that result in mostly silhouettes. In our family, I would hazard a guess that a large portion of phone memory is taken up with attempts to do the Salenteinian sunsets photographic justice -- a notoriously difficult feat!
Sunset time is jealously guarded no matter the day or the sunset condition (save for the rare day of full-on rain). Though it seems counterintuitive, some of the most lovely sunsets are the ones in which there is an aggravating-looking bank of clouds at the horizon making it difficult to even see the sun as it closes in on its destination. And yet the sky afterward becomes streaked with oranges and yellows and reds that gradually fade to purples in a glorious technicolor show that goes on long after the sun is down.
The Villa Salentein sunsets represent our family’s daily tradition on Bonaire of slowing down, disconnecting from machines and connecting with each other and nature. Sunset is the best part of the day, every day.