Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Club Med: An escape from hell?

The last time I was in the Caribbean was 1996, I think. It was sometime around when I finished my dissertation; a friend who needed a vacation then talked me into a hastily-chosen Club Med getaway for singles on Turks and Caicos. I didn't love it, because it was basically summer camp for adults. They kept hassling us into party games and get-to-know-you activities of the type I loathe. I eyed the empty beaches at the other resorts hungrily the whole time. Now I see on their website that T&C is rated closer to the "most active" end of the scale, rather than the "most serene." Uh huh.

They made you sit in groups at the dinner table. I got into a lot of interesting conversations with the camp counselors. One had been a fashion industry work-a-holic in Toronto, and had come to Club Med on a last-minute stress escape. After the week package, she was climbing the stairs to the airplane and froze at the door to the plane. "No, no, I won't go back!!" she screamed. She turned around and fled back to Club Med where she begged for a job. She was still working there, years later, doing the only work that was going begging: teaching wind-surfing under the brutal midday sun. She was as dark as a raisin, but seemed happy. Happier, anyway.

When I went snorkeling one day, I discovered whilst bobbing in the water that my snorkel partner was the kitchen baker who made the bread. It was truly awesome bread, I can still remember the texture and flavor. I had a lot to ask him about it, but it wasn't really the right time. I do remember him saying, "It's pretty easy to get work down here, everyone needs a boat captain or a cook." And he had off for most of the day. Too bad he had to get up at 3am, which I could never do.

If you're wondering how the "singles" thing went -- someone made a pass at my friend (the guy who taught trampoline) but I dodged all human contact apart from the help staff and a badly discordant earful of William Gibson reading Neuromancer to me via tape during long walks on the beach. I was ready to ditch him after the first sneering chapter, but didn't have enough paper to read.

See you all when I get back. This time I'm going with Neal Stephenson in book form -- we'll see if it goes any better.



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