by Tinah Tran by Tinah Tran
Visiting an island, there must be something in the air, in the ocean water or in the sea breeze that makes people let down their guard.
Last year, my husband and I retired to a Dutch Caribbean island. The island is very beautiful with light blue sky, dark blue water, and a constant ocean breeze bending all palm trees to one side. The local people are very nice. There are no aggressive peddlers pushing merchandise in your face. There are no timeshare sellers trying to get your attention. It is a wonderful place, but it is not a paradise.
Every year, millions of tourists visiting the Caribbean islands. Most of them let down their guard and throw caution to the wind. Folks that would not think of going to supermarket in swimsuit in their hometown, walked around town and in grocery stores barely covered. People that would lock doors at home went in and out of their hotel rooms leaving doors unlocked. People that would keep valuables out of sight, left expensive cameras and equipment out in the open or in unlocked vehicles. Women that would not talk to strangers at home forgot their caution and were friendly with total strangers just because they were on an island.
We hope and pray for the Alabama teenager who disappeared in Aruba. She evidently let down her guard. At home, I am sure that she would not go anywhere with a couple of strange men, black or white.
There is no paradise on earth. Dutch Caribbean islands are nicer than most, but they do have problem just like any locations on this planet. Petty theft is common, especially on tourists that are careless with their belongings. Robbery happens once in a while. Murder is very rare but it does occur. Police forces on these islands are not familiar or well equipped to investigate or fight crime. Faced with any serious situation, they would have to get help from a sister island or from the Netherlands police force. Dutch law, based on Roman civil law influenced by Napoleonic codes, protects the bad guys and severely restrict the victims' right to fight back. Owning a gun without a license on these islands will be punished with minimum of 2 years of jail time. Victims cannot use deadly force on robbers if they just want to steal. In order to convict a person, there must be two separate witnesses. Just a victim's words against a bad guy would not be enough to convict him.
People living on these Caribbean islands move with a different beat, great for relaxing in good times but frustrating to cope with in bad times.
There are a few hundred American expatriates living on this island. We learned to live with the system. I love the place, but it is not a paradise, even though my husband said we could see paradise from here. Yeah right!
Tinah Tran [send her mail], an engineer, lived in the US for 30 years, and is now retired on a Caribbean island with her husband.