South Caicos: A Treatise on Abject Humiliation

In order to leave the Turks and Caicos, you are required to check out of the country with Customs, so John set about finding the office while Ellen, Jackson and I went on a hunt for wifi to look up weather for our crossing. This turned out to be a true hunt, as we actually had to cross the entire island to reach an empty, unused hotel that nevertheless had working wifi that we could snag from the parking lot. When we returned to find John waiting on the boat, we learned that he, in his inimitable fashion, had gotten us invited to dinner. There is a marine biology institution the island, and John had naturally run into the director of said school on the street, struck up a conversation, as is his wont, and somehow contrived to have all of us invited to a “potluck dinner” at her house. Never ones to turn down such an opportunity, we decided to go, but didn’t want to show up empty-handed, which left us arguing for far longer than we should have over what to bring. We eventually settled on fruit salad and threw it together rather hastily, leaving the boat maybe five minutes after the appointed dinner time. I was thoroughly unconcerned, and said so, as long familiarity with potlucks(as a stomach, rather than as a cook) has led to a marked relaxation about punctuality for such events, as people routinely show up hours after they begin, their tardiness thoroughly excused by their contribution of food.

In this blissfully naïve mindset, we arrived at the front door of this woman’s house and knocked vigorously for a minute or so. We had no answer, but could see people inside, so we opened up the door and ran into each other as we came to a screeching halt at the scene that greeted us. This woman’s “house” apparently incorporated the dining center for the institute, and the “potluck style dinner” was in fact no more than your standard school buffet. Thus, instead of the milling confusion, into which we’d hoped to blend without causing much of a stir, we found instead three long tables packed with students, all chatting animatedly together as they devoured their school-provided dinners. What’s more, at the sound of the door closing behind us, conversation died almost immediately, and every head swiveled to look a the four strangers who had just traipsed in without so much as ringing the doorbell.

We all stood staring at each other for a second or two, though it felt positively interminable, before John recovered from his shock and returned to his normal, garrulous nature(if slightly more flustered than is common). “We were, um, invited to come here by the head of the program” he began, somewhat awkwardly, before adding, with a bit more confidence “We brought fruit salad”. Unfortunately, names have never been John’s strong suit, and so when asked who invited us, we could only respond with “the head of the program”, who was not, unfortunately, in the room at the time to verify our story. Nevertheless, we were apparently deemed mostly harmless, and were invited to grab plates and food. We shuffled over to the serving table, trying very hard not to laugh at the situation as several dozen pairs of eyes followed us, though conversation had thankfully begun again, no doubt discussing the strange quartet that had just intruded.

John was back in his element, however, and he grabbed his food quickly and strode confidently over to an empty seat, while the rest of us hung back in a cluster, waiting for one another, apparently under the impression that any stragglers would be attacked. I placed our bowl of fruit salad at the end of the serving table, noticing, as I did so, how very out of place it looked, its green stripes clashing garishly with the stark metallic platters already on the table. The food was tasty, however, and the students, friendly. In spite of the awkwardness of our arrival, we were immediately embroiled in conversation upon taking our seats, and did not lack for subjects to discuss. Everyone was curious to know where we were from and what on earth we were doing there. This interaction was sadly cut short, however, because the students had to attend some bonfire, but we finally ran into our hostess on the way out, and she graciously thanked us for coming, without once poking fun at our untimely entrance. We went out for a bit that night and ran into some of the teachers from the institute at one of the local bars, but we ended up going to bed fairly early, as we had another long stretch ahead of us.

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