I do love Curaçao. I love living here, I love its 'prickly kind of beauty', its contrasts, its contradictions. To me, this tiny island that so few people have heard of -- and of those who have, most relate it to a blue orangey-tasting liquor -- is paradise.
But paradise, any paradise, comes with drawbacks. And, depending on who you are and what you love, the drawbacks and their relevance to you may vary:
Prohibitive traveling to -- well, anywhere. We may be just off the coast to Venezuela, but flying to Caracas (a 40-min flight) is just as expensive as the just-under-three-hour flight to Miami. Even Aruba, which is a stone's throw away (if you're, say, Walter Johnson), isn't exactly weekend-escape cheap.
Cost of life. I mean, this is an island. And the soil isn't particularly fruitful (though that's changing; more on that later). So everything is imported. Take a stroll through the produce section at a supermarket and I dare you not to gasp at the prices.
Choices (or lack thereof). Again, it's an island. Containers full of goodies come -- and get snatched up (in spite of ridiculous of pricing) faster than you can say Yay! And they leave behind nothing but a memory, because chances of restocking within a reasonable time span are nil. Even weather offers no variety -- which might seem like a wonderful thing when you're sitting up in North Dakota in the middle of winter, but -- trust me, one summer of 30C temps and no wind, and the idea of snow becomes so much more appealing.
Limited socializing. There are 150,000 people living in Curaçao. It's not Saba (pop. 2K), but if you've ever lived in a small town, you know how quickly these 150,000 become more familiar than your family.
I could keep going. Everyone who's lived here, whether native yu di Kòrsou or imported, has their own list of complaints. For those of us who stay, though, the negatives are a matter of perception. Sure, traveling is a hassle, but how often do you really need to travel? Everything's more expensive and there's little to choose from, but it's a relaxed social atmosphere; do you really need that much? And there's a small-town charm to knowing everyone, even for antisocial curmudgeons like me.
|Image: Eureka Booksellers|
There are ONLY TWO BOOKSTORES in Curaçao. And while they have a decent selection (maybe even more than decent) in Dutch, I don't read Dutch. My bad, I'm not integrating or assimilating or whatever. Sure. But the fact remains that, to an avid reader like myself, not having a single bookstore that I can browse through for longer than five minutes is torture.
But -- non-Curaçao residents tell me -- now there's Amazon (and other online book sellers). Sure, browsing a website is not nearly as much fun as browsing a bookstore (there's that book smell missing, for one) but -- hey. I can get books. Problem solved.
Let me explain why that solution is no solution at all. On the 6th of June I ordered through Amazon two books for my poetry reading circle. First problem: international shipping isn't always available, especially for second-hand items (the books I wanted, a volume of Rilke's poetry and Rimbaud's Illuminations, were not available new). I finally found one that did ship internationally (supplied through Amazon) -- which brings me to the second problem: the cost of shipping was more than the price of both books together.
Okay. Fine. I ordered anyway. It wasn't even expedited shipping, but it didn't matter; I only needed these books by the end of July, when we'd start reading one of them (the poetry group was kind enough to leave the decision of which to read to which one arrived to Curaçao first -- cool group of people). Six-seven weeks should be enough time, I thought.
I thought wrong.
By July 20th, when nothing had arrived, I contacted Amazon. A super friendly guy checked on the packages and told me one had been returned "due to damage in transit". I'd been issued a refund; did I want to place the order again? Yes, sure, but what about the other one? "It seems to have arrived at the destination," he told me. "But the carrier is delaying delivery for some reason. Never seen that before." Great. "I'll issue a refund for that shipping charge," he said. I really appreciate that, but what about my book? "The package will be delivered by July 25th. By the absolute latest." Well. Okay, then.
July 25th came and went. No book. I gave up on it. And then yesterday this showed up in the mailbox:
Yesterday was August 6th. My order was placed on June 6th. Two months. And the reason was written all over the envelope.
Third problem: when I say no one knows where Curaçao is, I mean it. Not even postal services. Some creative (and certainly well-intentioned, if misguided) soul added St. Eustatius to my address. The only relationship Statia (as the island is known in these parts) has to Curaçao is that once upon a time (pre 10/10/2010) they were both part of the Netherlands Antilles.
|Large red circle is Curaçao. Teeny circle at center right is St. Eustatius.|
Yeah, real close.
Well, no wonder the package was delayed. Except it doesn't seem to have made it to St. Eustatius, either. Instead, there's this:
|Misguided. No sh*t, Sherlock.|
And don't even ask about Rimbaud's Illuminations, the other book I ordered (which I reordered after it got returned because of "damage in transit"). Amazon says it'll be delivered Aug 20th. If past experience is any indication of future expectations, it should arrive somewhere in late September.
Bottom line, though: I have a gorgeous volume of Rilke's poetry. Having given up on ever receiving it, you can imagine how outrageously pleased I was yesterday. And there you have it, a silver lining after all: shattered expectations do, sometimes, lead to unexpected joys.