The horrible Carnival Caribbean cruise that I took twenty or thirty years ago, was scheduled for: Bahamas, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, Turks & Caicos, Barbados, St. Lucia, St. Maarten, Grand Cayman, Jamaica; but we missing almost half of the islands due to sea weather so foul even the huge cruise ship feared to enter those waters, an erupting volcano on St. Maarten which covered the ship with ash and the island with death, and an insurrection on another island(s). Really, the cruise ship was threatened because it had refused an extortionary new port tax, so we did not put in, which no one had a problem with as the cruise line warned us that theft had escalated on that island in recent years. As for the islands that we did tour, well, tropical paradise, what is not to like? Unrepaired hurricane damage, poverty, obvious governmental corruption, drugs, and petty but personal theft, that is what. My camera was stolen, I demanded it back with foolish bravado, and got it back. I was abandoned by a SCUBA tour, and almost missed my cruise ship departure except that I made the dive shop owner drive me to the ship dock by my sheer will. I was a woman panicked out of her mind, and he did not want to be stuck with me. On one of the islands I found a terribly poor beggar selling soap in a women’s bathroom. The woman was dressed in rags, she had some strange skin disease (leprosy?), and dirty, unloved hair. I gave her an African dress I had brought with me on the cruise to give to some random woman, because I know many Caribbeans remember their African heritage. It was the ugliest dress I had ever seen, but perceptions differ and I knew someone would value it because it came from Africa. It was clean, made of good cotton, and well-sown. It was striped in horrible colors. The skirt was a narrow wraparound which would make walking in it difficult, but the blouse fit nicely with cap sleeves. When I gave her the dress, she wept. To her it was beautiful because it came from Africa, and it came to her freely.
The dress had been given to me by a random woman on a street in Bamako, Mali, West Africa. I was walking past that woman’s fallen down hovel on my way to the Peace Corps compound to do some volunteer business or another, when an anxious woman said “psst” to me from the doorway of her house. She motioned me inside, but I insisted she come outside for fear of the unknown. She refused and begged me to come inside. I saw how desperate she was, and I sensed that she was alone, so I went into the little mud room that was her house. She quietly opened a cheap metal storage trunk, unfolded the horrible dress from it, and offered it to me. No way, I did not want it even if it were free. In the broken French which was our only common language, she told me that she had to get rid of it. I understood her to say it was stolen and that she would suffer terrible consequences if it was found in her possession, would I please take it away, and save her? In Mali they beat thieves in public, they beat them savagely, and being a woman will not spare you. Maybe I sinned, maybe I was an "accessory after the fact" to petty larceny, I do not know, but I took the dress to protect that woman whom I did not know, who held my hand and thanked me. Now, the dress had come home to another African woman living on the other side of the Atlantic ocean. I hope that I did the right thing.
Caption: Carribean Cruise
by Annmarie Throckmorton 2018