It’s 4:30 in the afternoon and I just said to Shaun, “I’m so dirty.” His response: “That’s island life.” That comment made me laugh and got me thinking. I’m reflecting on the past week and how life on St. John is a dramatic change for our family. Like today, for instance I took a nap and woke up so hot and feeling so exhausted that I asked Shaun if he thought I had contracted Chikungunya, a mosquito-bourne virus that causes severe fatigue. The fact that I even took a nap in the first place is different that my life in the states. Also, we went to a flea market this morning.
Not only was I excited about it, but I was thrilled with the random items we found. We scored three super nice floats (my old neighbors in Charlotte know what this means to me), two TV trays that serve as desks and tables, a mirror for our bedroom wall, and a huge beach towel. Our towels still haven’t made it in the mail so the two of us plus Henry and Logan have been sharing two towels all week. Like I said, “I’m so dirty and that’s island life.”
Besides the almost daily naps, the flea market trip, and the fact that we are living on a rock in general, there are so many other differences. They aren’t necessarily good or bad, they are just different. We used to walk Henry and Logan around our Phillips Place apartment community in Charlotte and loved the people in the shops who gave the boys treats and put out fresh water for them. Now we load them up and take them to the beach for their exercise. Logan, at five, is learning to be the water dog we always knew he’d be. Shaun’s gently teaching him to swim, and today he even swam out to fetch a stick we threw into the ocean. Both pups are learning to chill in general.
Even Henry, my beloved, albeit wired, Scottie, is an island angel. He has made friends with everyone everywhere we take him. I’ve been so proud of these boys, and they’ve exceeded our expectations.
I came down to the island with some pricey bedding that I just couldn’t live without. Had to have it when we still lived in Charlotte. Now it’s still in the packaging not being used. For one, it’s so hot here. I’m praying people who’ve told us it will cool down drastically in about a month are accurate. Actually I hope they’re wrong and it cools down sooner, because Shaun is still as frugal as ever and doesn’t want to turn on our AC units. I can’t blame him though. We still don’t have island jobs and WAPA, the utility provider here is eight to nine times more expensive than in Charlotte. Also, considering we get our water from cisterns and it hasn’t rained very much since we arrived, we shower less frequently and less thoroughly than back at home. Another reason expensive bedding is silly. Oh well, I can admit my mistakes.
Changes in latitude have resulted in changes in attitude. I no longer feel irritated if a business is closed when it’s supposed to be open per their normal operating schedule. It is what it is here. Business owners on the island do what they want to do, and I actually love that.
I also love that there are no stoplights on the island. You just have to stop for random wildlife along your path. Today we saw this adorable baby goat on our way up the mountain. So precious!
I am really missing my old workout regimen- cardio funk and barre classes. I am a “class person” and staying fit is important to me. My workouts this week have been hiking, snorkeling, walk/jogs up and down mountains, and free weights alone on the deck and in our spare bedroom. It’s not glamorous and it requires more motivation. I think tomorrow I will see if Lem will Skype me in for class unless it’s too hot here to dance.
I used to love my trips to SouthPark mall. I curbed them substantially over the past few months, but the occasional trip to Lululemon or Anthropologie is something I do miss already. And I think more than anything else, I miss the convenience and- hold your breath for this- the low prices at Whole Foods. Living behind Whole Foods for six months was probably the worst thing I could’ve ever done in preparation for life on St John.
I haven’t washed clothes yet. Why does it all seem to come back to how dirty we have become? Ha! I did wash one of my favorite little rayon dresses in the sink, but since we don’t have a dryer, I found a solution. Going a full week without washing clothes is something I would have never done in Charlotte. Ever.
Bugs. More specifically, mosquitoes, are constantly on my mind. Remember I am terrified of Chikungunya. I am anti-chemicals, or at least I try to minimize the amount of chemicals in my life, but here, it’s different. I’ve gone through a can of OFF with the highest concentration of Deet. I’m not happy about it, but that’s island life I suppose. The mosquitoes love me. My zapper is my friend. We bought a second one today but it needs AA batteries, which we don’t have. The OFF Deep Woods and zapper battery fund will have to be figured into our monthly budget.
Along with the bugs, there are the critters. Lizards are all around us. I love them. Hard to believe but I do. While terrified of snakes, which people tell me are not on this island, I actually don’t mind the lizards or critters like hermit crabs along my hiking path or a mongoose running through our yard. We have lots of roosters around us. I like waking up in the morning to their cock-a-doodle-doos. I feel like I live on a farm, and that is so cool to me.
Cheap things are making me so happy. I’m talking about my new flatwear ($22 for four place settings), my new dishes ($12 at PriceSmart for four plates, salad plates, bowls, and mugs), my new cheap tumblers. After using Williams Sonoma items from my wedding registry for over seven years, you’d think I’d be missing the luxuries of our old kitchen. I actually don’t miss them at all. I am a deal hunter. And if it’s cheap and it’ll serve it’s purpose, it’s going home with me.
I always loved living in Charlotte, but I also always knew there was one thing missing. That was water. Water calms me and makes me happy. I love that we have given ourselves an opportunity to ease into island life and on a random afternoon we can just head to the beach and soak us some sun. I love that about our new life.
While there are certainly lots of differences in our old life and our new life, one things continues to hold true. Karma is a strong force and we just continue to meet kind, friendly, helpful new friends who are wishing us luck on our journey. St John is called Love City, and it really is. There’s something that draws you in to this place and it’s hard to describe. Someone commented on a Facebook post of mine that we were doing what everyone who’s ever been to St John dreams of doing. I’ve thought a lot about that. It’s my dream. It’s Shaun’s dream. And I do think so many people would be happy here. But those who can’t adapt quickly to things like the climate and the culture need not quit their day jobs. We’ll see you all when you come visit!
One of my favorite parts of this week, especially of today, is that it’s been seven days and we didn’t have to pack up and head out. We live here now- with the critters and the expensive provisions, and without the dryer and the local mall- and it feels like home. We feel so blessed that the first week has been so perfectly imperfect.
Ashley Cates, St. John USVI blogger.