Firoozeh’s brother Farshid travels a lot, and because he’s saved so many airline miles, he often treats his family to free trips. After François and Firoozeh have been married for a year, Farshid offers them a free flight to the Bahamas, and they accept. When they arrive in Nassau (the capital of the Bahamas), however, they realize that they should have booked hotels and tours already—it’s spring break, and everything is booked through the week. Even after they find a room, the noise from the spring breakers keep them up all night.
François and Firoozeh’s trip to the Bahamas gets off to a bad start—and in fact, one of the recurring themes in this memoir is the way that Firoozeh’s ideas of what constitutes a good vacation (Hawaii, Paris, etc.) are shown to be very different from the realities of visiting these places.
François and Firoozeh spend all day trying to find a way to leave Nassau and travel to another island as soon as possible. Eventually, they learn about boats to the other islands. Firoozeh guesses that some of these are drug boats shipping cocaine, but François convinces her to wake up early the next morning and go to a mail boat bound for another island. The boat turns out to be an ordinary vessel, and it takes François and Firoozeh on a beautiful trip to the island of Spanish Wells.
François and Firoozeh decide to go to a quiet island, rather than continuing to spend their time around noisy spring breakers.
François and Firoozeh notice that they seem to be the only tourists in Spanish Wells. A cab driver takes them to a hotel that seems to be completely vacant. They dine in the hotel’s restaurant, which is delicious but very expensive. After a few days, Firoozeh meets the owner and learns that he’s from Abadan, Iran. He worked at the same company as Kazem, and knows Firoozeh’s old neighborhood. The owner asks François and Firoozeh if they could do him a favor: serve as judges in the year’s Miss Bahamas beauty pageant. They agree, though Firoozeh is reluctant to do so—she’s spent too many years learning to overcome the “rigorous standards” of female beauty.
Even when she’s traveling with François to a faraway place, Firoozeh keeps getting reminders of her family—here, for example, she learns that the hotel owner is from Kazem’s neighborhood. Firoozeh’s involvement in a beauty pageant creates a problem: as Firoozeh has explained in the previous chapter, she’s opposed to the notion that women should worry about their beauty in order to please men.
The next day, the pageant begins. The two other judges, in addition to François and Firoozeh, are a beautiful former pageant winner and a wealthy, drunk Canadian who owns a big house in the Bahamas. The contestants are all dressed in costumes representing their industries—one of them wears a lobster costume representing the lobster fishery. The emcee for the competition asks the contestants clichéd questions such as, “If you could solve one problem, what would it be?”, and the contestants participate in the talent and swimsuit portions of the competition.
The beauty pageant proceeds ordinarily, with the different contestants showing off their beauty (the swimsuit competition) and talent, while facing superficial tests of their intelligence and quick thinking (the question portion of the show, which consists of boring, clichéd questions).
The judges retire to discuss a winner. The Canadian is too drunk to remember the pageant, and the former pageant winner emphasizes the need for an articulate winner. François and Firoozeh are drawn to an “underdog” candidate—she’s overweight, not particularly physically attractive, and doesn’t seem to have many fans. In the end, the judges agree that this woman will be the winner.
François and Firoozeh convince their fellow judges to vote for a winner who’s not particularly beautiful at all, but who is articulate and intelligent—upholding the former beauty pageant winner’s requirement (the Canadian, it’s implied, is too drunk to protest).
When the judges announce their decision, the crowd screams with fury—by far the most popular candidate, a conventionally beautiful woman named Chantal, has lost. François and Firoozeh manage to get out of the auditorium before the crowd kills them. That night, as François and Firoozeh fall asleep, they can hear the crowd chanting, “Judges paid off!”
François and Firoozeh make the crowd angry, but Firoozeh seems satisfied with her decision: she’s fought conventional beauty standards, just a little, and proven that women can be successful for reasons other than their bodies (or, as she discussed in the previous chapter, their noses).