Life in Paradise…the US Virgin Islands

Living in the US Virgin Islands

Mawnin’, Mawnin’!

Good morning!   Living in a culture of less stress is one of the reasons we’re here…us and the many other ex-pats who call this home.  One the morals followed by everyone here actually decreases your stress …. and it’s simply by just by greeting every one you meet!  It’s very important to acknowledge those you are passing, greeting, or asking a question to……with either a version of ‘Good Morning’, ‘Good Afternoon (and BE sure it’s after noon!), Good Evening and Good Night are one and the same.  Saying ‘Good Night’ is the most difficult for me, because it doesn’t mean quite the same.  Often you hear the local responses as, “Mawnin’ Mawnin!” or “Okay”…sometimes “Alright”.   Whatever the verbage, it all means the same…”Hello, and have a great day”!  Just saying this and looking someone  face to face  really does help relieve any stress…it’s nice to always have someone saying something positive to you…no matter what time of day or wherever you are.  Mawnin’, Mawnin’ to you all!ImageImage

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Tropical Storm Prep…Candles, Batteries and Rum

Here comes Isaac! Here comes Isaac!!

Experiencing what was to be my first Tropical Storm/Hurricane with the onset of Isaac was similar to planning a birthday party for my son.  Batteries, candles, cake,  and of course alcohol (a good option for the parents…not the kids).   Of course, the hurricane shutters were closed and locked, unfortunately not by us but by the condos which left us two days before Isaac was to hit without any breeze or light.  As it turned out, Isaac chose a different path and all we received were a couple of windy nights and intermittent rain showers, unlike those in the States.  Power came off and on, no more than it does any time during the week….something you should be aware of if you’re coming to live or visit the islands.  The real problem occurred AFTER the storm … and had nothing to do with it.  We (the condos in which we live) lost power for 6 days.  Now I know this is nothing compared to what people have gone through in Hurricane Katrina or the ice breaks in the winter, but it still is not a fun situation after about 12 hrs.  But, we survived by eating out each meal (costly!), having one battery fan to help with sleep, and using our Hurricane lantern and a myriad of candles for reading.  No internet, but luckily during the day we could plug our phones in at work and anxiously search FACEBOOK and emails on our Smart Phones in the evening.  Lots of drinking at our favorite beachside cafe helped too.  All in all it was an adventure….and certainly helped prepare me for the next REAL Hurricane!

Bar time!

Bar Time!

After Isaac is gone....

Isaac Morning After

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Perfume of the Island

I’m constantly looking to replicate the perfume of the ocean….in fragrances, body products, candles.  Walking along the sea this morning I was reminded again of the many fragrances of the ‘the island’….the sea air, slightly salty and oceany, the many green smells from all the grasses over the rolling hills.   The flowers are everchanging, tropical reds, oranges, and purples each offering different scents….that fresh cut grass smell reminiscent of childhood is always here as mowing is not cut short by winter.  Even when driving around the island you notice new and different scents, often a result of the many roadside produce stands and the offerings from the famous Chicken Shack …. along with a myriad of outdoor cooking in open air restaurants, backyards.  I’ve never been so constantly ‘hungry’ all of the time!   The intermittent daily rainfalls lasting about 5 minutes or so, momentarily refreshing the earth and bringing you that quick scent of rain.  Smell, 1 of our 5 senses…  is in abundance here…BREATHE!

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Rainy Day Blues…..

It’s hurricane season here, our term for Fall. So far nothing yet…..  and you can hardly count the intermittent daily showers that last a minute or two, a ‘rainfall’.  But, it does rain occasionally and on an island where the ‘what to do’ is basically the beach, snorkeling, boating or just relaxing by the pool….what do you do when it rains? How about a drive through the Rain Forest?  It’s beautifully green, a bit of an eerie feeling driving through…almost as if you can feel the history of the people who lived on the plantations there several hundred years ago.  There are ‘watch houses’ that look similar to an outhouse spaced along the way where men stayed to watch over any theft or trespassers….a place called the Domino Club offering drinks and specially made bottles of a’ healing’ alcohol, a beer drinking pig who now drinks O’doule, and stepping in here you can only imagine what the place was like in the early 1900’s!  Cheers to a rainy day on the island:

              

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Flamboyant!

The incessant beauty of color is everywhere here on the islands with the multi colored buildings and endless array of flowers…no matter what time of year.  But spring brings us here the most beautiful tree on earth…. the ‘Flamboyant’ very aptly described!  Blooming around May and into August, it’s like viewing a continual piece of art with background colors of the turquoise sea, the brightly painted yellow houses,  the lavender and red trimmed businesses….it’s so magical I have to admit I can’t even seem to get the true brilliance  on my camera!  Sometimes seen in south Texas or south Florida,  it  never appears to be quite as rich of a color or to as bountiful as it is here on our Caribbean island.

Looking out over the rolling hills from a distance while out driving to work or running errands, it’s like ‘eye candy’ for the soul…spots of brilliant orange tucked in between the greens….displacing the mind from any stress or worries, if only for a moment.  If I only had a dollar for everytime I have said, “This has to be the most beautiful tree on earth…..!”  But then again, living on the Virgin Islands is worth more than a million in itself!

Flamboyant!
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Every weekend …

Every weekend, we take a drive around the island, choosing a place that we haven’t seen before or the ones we enjoy the most and just want to dig a little further.  St. Croix, though the largest of the three Virgin Islands, is still comparatively small at only 28  by 7 miles. The far east end is the easternmost tip in the US to watch the sun rise, you’ll see cactus here….and what a beautiful place to be at 5:30 in the morning!  West end is full of rolling green hills and the Rainforest, and a coastal drive along the North Shore is breathtaking.

History lovers will find the architecture here absolutely amazing….very Caribbean in it’s vast array of colors….no aluminum siding here! An architectural rainbow of solid stone buildings with bright red tile roofs line the cobblestone sidewalks that are still standing from the Danish design constructed by African slaves….this is  ‘downtown’ Christiansted.  Houses extend uphill from the commercial area, including portions originally as settlements for free blacks,

The other town, Frederiksted, was constructed in the 1700’s around the beautiful and stately Fort Frederik to protect the from PIRATE raids  … there are still cannons perched over the water to ward off invaders…. Aarrghh mate!  Walking through this area takes you back in time as if nothing has changed, the buildings still have barred windows, the colors faded, and many have literally crumbled to the ground,  but you get the sense of timelessness here…despite one of the older buildings downtown is now a KFC!

Aerial View of Christiansted     

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Saturday Morning Market

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Saturday morning is market time here…one of my favorite places to be!  Every weekend we head out early to see what’s ‘in season’ this week

(sometimes not early enough… at 7:30 most of the ‘good stuff’ was gone…including all the watermelons) .  Today we find a myriad of mangos, which I’ve grown to love making mango daiquiris and today I’ll try a recipe for mango cake!  There are always plantains and bananas it seems, and recently soursops and passion fruit both of which are used here for making ice cream and drinks. Breadfruit is plentiful too…though we’ve yet to try that one.   Eggplants are in abundance and always calls for eggplant parmesan, eggplant casserole, and whatever else you can come up with!  In season, meaning May and June, lettuce and tomatoes are ready but since they are more of a ‘cool temperature’ vege..neither last long in season due to the heat…so grab em when you can!  Thousands of coconuts here, in fact, always look up when standing under a palm ….when they’re ripe, they drop!  Easily found roadside anytime for coconut milk and  coconut oil is good for cooking as well as to rub on your suntanned skin:)  Cucumbers grow well too, along with sugar cane, though we’ve yet to try that.  You’ll find lots of hot sauce ..small, hot peppers grow without a season in this humid, hot weather!  Though ‘hot’ for us is 89…. usually the summer temperature and winter temps at 84, the ‘feeling’ of it differs drastically and from personal experience living in Texas last year, I would have done anything to be ‘hot’ at 89 degrees!

Aside from the produce market is the fish market….coolers of whatever fish is in season usually caught just a few hrs. before customers arrive.  Lately there’s been a lot of Conch (haven’t tried that one yet) and lobster, and this time we saw lots of the Rainbow Parrot fish which we both refused to eat due to the principal of just how beautiful a fish it is….and has anyone ever ordered that at Red Lobster???  You’ll always find crabs crawling up the wire cages on the roadside too, but again, I can’t bear to purchase those that I’ve just seen at the beach or alongside the road!  One night recently traveling home from the cliffside bar we came upon several people out walking with flashlights and cars lining the roads….??  Found out that this was ‘crabbing’ and they make a pretty penny for those large crabs they catch!

Food is easily accessible at the market, but you’re limited at the one of three grocery stores and I sorely miss fresh strawberries and peaches, blueberries and blackberries.  Another blog, I’ll let you know more about the groceries available here….believe me, changing your diet will probably be one thing you will do if you choose to live in Paradise!

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What’s it like to live in paradise?

Living on an island is my dream come true…one of my life’s goals, somewhere on my bucket list.

 I always knew that’s where I wanted to be after visiting Ambergris Caye in Belize 10 years ago.  I didn’t sit and make plans on how to do it….but following my intuition got me here.   That’s a whole other blog topic, which I will tell you as I add to this, but for now I want you to know what it’s like to live on one of the three US Virgin Islands: St. Croix (where I am now), St. Thomas, and St. John…. and the differences from living on the mainland….especially the cities:)

The beauty of the island is one of the main reasons we’re here, the stark blue and turquoise sea….along with the new requirement of  relaxation every day…often we change the word ‘relaxation’ to ‘predictable’.   Oh, there is stress here too… not every day is spent at the beach or drinking rum at a beach bar…though those are two things we reach for every moment we can!   Since moving here  five months ago,  I see something new and different, hear language that I struggle to interpret,  and experience unfamiliar smells every day…new experiences that I’ve always wanted to share  with those who might wonder, “what’s it like to live there??”  So I’m beginning this blog and aim to add new experiences for you to learn and make your own judgement…maybe you’ll choose to come visit and lie on the beach, snorkel, or dive for a few days…eat freshly caught lobster, try Cruzan rum… or perhaps you’re even thinking of moving here.  I hope this gives you insight from ex-pats who thinks this is just about as perfect as you can get…for me (and my beloved Jim!)

                                                                                                                                                                                   Julie in Paradise

 

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