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The islands themselves were sparse of shrubbery and almost desolate. Hurricane Hannah in 2008 had wiped out much of the causeway between North and Middle Caicos, turning our travel between the two islands into a bit of a history lesson.
Unlike our experience in Providenciales, there were no barriers to prevent tourists from witnessing immense poverty. We did stumble on some efforts to cultivate the local economy, such as the Middle Caicos co-op that sold the work of resident artists. Mostly, however, we had to come to terms with the fact that opportunities for economic prosperity exist primarily in the tourist industry on Providenciales. Despite these sobering realities, Ben and I nonetheless found some joy and relaxation in two beautiful locations on these islands - the blue-green waters of Mudjin Harbor and the quaint charm of Barracuda Beach Bar at Pelican Bar Hotel.
Returning back to our hotel, we remembered that many of the staff recommended Da Conch Shack, a restaurant situated in the Blue Hills neighborhood of Providenciales where most of the TCI locals reside. (Getting there was quite interesting - let me just say that the true test of a marriage should be whether you can laugh with your spouse while a) being in a car together as it starts to get dark and rainy and b) realizing that you are lost, that you have no map, and that island roads are unmarked and have very few lights.) Meandering onto the restaurant's premises, a charming, open-air place on the beach with white picnic tables, we quickly realized that we had stumbled upon a very merry wedding rehearsal dinner. Dozens of people, some of whom looked like they were going to a New York charity gala, lingered by the tables looking like they had just gone to foodie heaven. And no wonder! Food at the Da Conch Shack is simple but served in massive, delicious portions. Ben and I plopped ourselves along one of the beach-facing counters and indulged in heaps of conch fritters, cracked conch (tastes like fried calamari), curry conch with fries, sides of mac and cheese, and peas and rice. It was a beautiful evening until the rain started to really pour - no, even then, it was pretty wonderful. I don't think I've ever been more happy to let the wind sweep rain drops into my face, perch myself next to my husband, and just be.
Up next: Cognitive dissonance - dealing with the ugly and the beautiful in TCI.