Thursday, March 17, 2016

What If You Can't Afford Toilet Paper?

All vegetables but for potatoes, onions and tomatoes are in the stand-up cooler

I was wondering, what do the local people do who don’t have enough money for the toilet paper?  I have not sought out an opportunity to ask anyone that question—my mother taught me there are some questions that should not be asked and that maybe are none of my business.  I’m putting this question in that category. 

I have mentioned that paper products in the Bahamas are expensive.  I saw a woman getting off the ferry the other day carrying a plastic bag of with (2) 4-roll packages of toilet paper and my eyes turned into saucers.  I thought, “She’s got $32 worth of toilet paper there!”  Paper towels are treated like gold by us now.  We filled the open spaces along the hull in the bow of our boat with individually packaged paper towels and toilet paper before we left the States.  Although we’ve always looked for the paper towels with the “choose a size” option, we now use 1/2 of a small sheet whenever possible.  

Some things are quite reasonable in the grocery stores.  We hadn’t figured out why, but a cruiser explained to us:  “Everything that comes from a country within the British Commonwealth does not have duty tax placed upon it.”  So, we can buy lamb chops from New Zealand for $5/pound and beef for $4/pound.  The tea biscuits and “Digestives”, shortbread and thin ginger cookies that come from England are very inexpensive.  Anything from the U.S. is NOT.  All goods and services include a VAT (value added tax) of 7%.  Tips are usually included in the bill for you at restaurants.
Best burger we've found, at Harvey's

The local fish, conch, lobster, snapper and so forth are affordable at the grocery store.  Once it’s prepared, the cost rises significantly.  The 4 oz. of salmon filet from Alaska is incredibly expensive.  A box of Triscuits may be $10 and a bottle of my favorite flavored creamer is $9.00.  We have cut those out of our regular diet.  However, we can buy a huge block of cheddar cheese made in the Bahamas for less than $3/pound, and eggs that are a little less than we pay in the States.  Fresh whole wheat, raisin, white or coconut bread (when you can get it) is quite reasonable.  Ice cream is a major luxury.  
Bahamians make two beers:  Kalik and Sands

Cruisers tend to come into the country with crates of American beer onboard.  The local beers, Kalik and Sands are good but not cheap.  Since I don’t like light beer, I can’t fairly evaluate the flavor, but I’d guess there’s a reason that Americans go to the trouble of bringing their own.  Rum is inexpensive, however, and comes in about 15 flavors, I think.  I’ve tried a couple of them.

Fresh water is valued highly here. Water is in short supply on all the islands but for Great Abaco and Grand Bahama, so to grow one’s own food seems fairly unusual.  Fresh water is stored in private tanks above ground by each house. Hot water faucets are generally nonfunctional.  When we fill the water tanks on the boat, we may pay anywhere from 20 to 35 cents/gal.  Water is not offered in the restaurants but is provided upon request.  
This road cut reveals the porous limestone rock and minimal soil on the islands.

The issue of fresh water affects the grocery store prices as well.  Fruits and vegetables are all shipped to the Bahamas, and the variety is limited.  We did see tomatoes growing on the vine in one person’s backyard only on Green Turtle Cay. The other reason that we do not see personal vegetable gardens is that the soil is virtually nonexistent here.  The islands are made from calciferous deposits from shellfish over the millennia.  The ground is therefore basically limestone and quite porous.  
Live conch (large snail) in its' shell.  

It seems that the foods that are produced by the people who live here are either from the ocean, or naturally occurring such as coconut.  Perhaps there are more products but I haven’t seen them.


Bahamian money is exchanged 1:1 with American money.  Their money seems a little prettier however.  Everyone seems to have a mobile phone just like the Americans.  When we have had to replace a part on the boat, the cost was three times what we could have purchased it for on Amazon.  However, the shipping would have made it ridiculously expensive and we would have had to wait for a few weeks.  It’s the Bahamas.  

1 comment:

Mark Bennett said...

Beer is a problem in tropical island countries. For some reason, it's always light and flavorless, yet expensive.