Three days after The Bahamas confirmed its first case of COVID-19, Tiandra Bootle left New Providence for Abaco. Two months in, she said it’s the best thing she could have done.
“Honestly, it wasn’t my decision. It was really my parents (Martin and Joann Bootle). They said, ‘Come home.’ They just felt it was better for me to get out [of Nassau] than stay. If they could have dragged me out of Nassau they would have. I don’t know why they went into such a panic mode, but they just felt it was better for me and my son [Takhori, nine] to wait this whole thing out on the island rather than being in Nassau – and honestly, it was a good decision,” said Bootle.
The Bahamas had 96 confirmed COVID-19 cases across four islands – 74 on New Providence, eight on Grand Bahama, 13 on Bimini and one on Cat Cay.
“I did make the best decision, and it isn’t because we have no confirmed cases [on Abaco], it’s just because I wasn’t working, and being on Abaco, me and my son haven’t had to worry about anything. Everything is taken care of and we have a little more freedom over here, because I could just walk out my backdoor and we’re on the bay.”
The area the locals refer to as the bay, is a rocky shoreline in Cooper’s Town that runs along the settlements. Bootle spends a lot of her time there.
“I walk out my back door and it’s a two-minute walk to the waterside.
“With the lockdowns and curfews, it doesn’t feel claustrophobic. In Nassau, we don’t have a lot of yard space where we live,” she said.
At the bay, she said, they go “curbing”, a local pastime which she said entails using a knife to pry the mollusks from the rocks, which they use to make salad.
At the confirmation of the first case of the new coronavirus (COVID-19) in The Bahamas on March 15, Bootle, 32, was at the seven-week mark of her 10-week teaching practice (TP) and the culmination of a years-long journey of realizing her dream of becoming a teacher.
The new coronavirus interrupted the final step of a process that took her 14 years to complete from her first step into the classroom. It may have taken her longer than she had expected it would, even though it was journey she began as a part-time student while holding down a full-time job.
Education moved from the four walls of the classroom to online as The Bahamas and the world battle to contain the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.
With learning institutions’ shutdown for in-classroom physical face-to-face learning, Bootle did not know when she would get to complete the final three weeks of her TP. She was happy to learn she was graded on the seven weeks of TP completed.
“When it all ‘boiled down’, they graded us as is because we did a lot within that seven weeks.”
Bootle’s journey to becoming a teacher, which started in 2006 and included a six-year break, has finally come to a close. She has a bachelor’s degree and passed her teaching certification.
“I returned May 2016 and now I’m done,” she said of the long journey.
“To be honest, I wouldn’t say I can’t believe I’m here, but it’s kind of a surreal feeling because the break that I took when I wasn’t in college, I only thought about getting back in. And I felt that was the hardest thing for me to do, I don’t know why. But when I walked back through those doors going to class, I kept saying, ‘I have to finish.’ I always had the end in mind. Now that I’m finally here, I feel like I’m floating on cloud nine. It’s really a good feeling because this is something that I really wanted for a long time.”
Not only did she want it for herself, but she said getting her degree is something her mom wanted for her as well.
While 14 years may seem like an extraordinarily long time, Bootle accomplished her dreams going to school part-time while holding down a full-time job as a Starbucks barista and having to care for her son, who also needed her attention.
“When I first started, I didn’t have my son, so I went to school and did what I had to do. But I was really determined when I returned in summer 2016 because it was something that I really wanted to do. I really love my job at Starbucks, but I had to return to finish what I started and it’s something my mom really wanted me to do. She really wanted me to complete what I started.”
With the end in sight, Bootle opted to go to the University of The Bahamas full-time and work part-time to ensure she would finish this year.
“I kind of slacked off on him too because I put so much into school. And that’s why I really pushed to finish, too, because I was like once I’m finished, he could get all of my time and attention.”
Bootle said she is now ready for her next step and ready to return to New Providence.
“Now it’s kind of what do I do next, and I’ve been thinking about future plans and goals,” she said.
“It’s time to come back to Nassau. I’m just ready to get back to some type of normalcy. My job [at Starbucks] is open now, so while I’m waiting to hear back from the government or see what’s going to happen in September, I’m ready to get back to work,” she said.
When Bootle initially returned to Abaco, she said, she literally rested.
“TP wasn’t easy. I had a lot of sleepless nights and daily planning, so when I came [to Abaco] I just rested. I did the bare minimum.”
Over the course of the past two months, she’s also spent time ensuring that her son is on top of his schoolwork. When he doesn’t have lessons, she caught up on her reading and television. And she said she eats a lot.