Monday, 15 June 2015

Gutter Discoveries

Yesterday was gutter-goo day. It happened because one day this past week it actually rained and my husband saw drips coming from gutter seams. Apparently this loss of water equated to a tragedy which necessitated moving this task to the top of the Sunday to-do list.

So we wrangled the giant ladder out of the storage room, wrestled with it multiple times, and--wielding a tube of insanely-gooey-gunk--my husband caulked all the gutter seams. Even the ones fully 2 stories, and then some, off the ground.

He discovered...
1) a dove on her second clutch of eggs for this year. This time only one egg. How she does this in our gutter is a mystery and I don't like to think of the poo. Once this baby fledges, we're netting that corner.
2) some rodent poo. I don't even need to elaborate on the nastiness of this finding. Let's just say that I am now fervently religious about keeping the UV sterilizer light in ship shape.
3) a cactus. WTF.

Monday, 8 June 2015


So many times I feel clueless here on St. Thomas. Like I will never quite "get it" about living here. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy so many people here and overall I find it pretty friendly. But when it's not friendly, there is no mistaking it.

Like at the post office. There is this one lady that works there and she is always miserable and last week she was downright mean and rude to me. For what? For being there? For being white? For having a need? I had 3 boxes to pick up. There was a mistake on my yellow slip and it only listed 2 of the tracking numbers. With a plethora of attitude, a slow saunter,  and some under-her-breath comments, she got those 2 boxes but wouldn't even look for the third. And I'm totally sure it was sitting right next to the other two.

So of course I tell my girlfriends. One asks me if she sucked her teeth at me. And although I said, "No." I started wondering... Did she suck her teeth? I don't really see people doing that. And then I came to the realization that I don't even know what teeth sucking actually looks like. Maybe people are doing it all the time and I'm just oblivious. It sure wouldn't be the first time!

So of course I ask my husband. He is the one that sees insincerity a mile away and recognizes so many things that just fly under (over?) my radar. He shows me the teeth-suck and I'm totally horrified. I have been seeing it all around! I honestly liked it better when I didn't know what it was and was oblivious to it.

And yes, she did suck her teeth.

Monday, 1 June 2015

Jumbie Limbo

Last night, I got back from roughly 54 hours away from St. Thomas. With 2 friends, 0 spouses and 0 kids. It was, in a word, needed. People that don't live here were perplexed that we considered going to Puerto Rico to be an escape from "the island." They're like, You do realize that P.R. is an island too, right? I find myself befuddled why anyone would say such a thing! Honestly, there is a freeway and a TJMaxx and (you must read this in hushed tones with bated breath) a Nordstrom's. I rest my case.

The return to the island was odd. I was glad to get back to my family and my dog but I had mixed feelings. It still doesn't feel like home, but it sure as hell doesn't feel like vacation. I do like being here--maybe it is because I'm headed stateside for a month in 21 days. I'm kind-of in limbo. I'm looking forward to being there but I know I will be missing my house and my friends here. I interchangeably call Georgia and St. Thomas "home," yet I feel like an outsider at both.

My impression of greater San Juan (outside of the retail presence which is impressive--did I tell you that there are multiple shopping malls?) is not all that great. There is a ridiculous amount of well-paved roads. There is a lot of graffiti and multiple franchises of "Condom World". There is so much spanish spoken there that it's like the native tongue...oh yeah, it is. It's American in a lot of the distasteful ways: urban sprawl, mega-malls, conspicuous consumption, fast food, poverty, wealth disparity, lack of public transportation. It's got the typical Caribbean shabbiness factor with the color of obvious Latin influence. Old San Juan is fantastic. Eat at Al Dente. As for the rest of the city, it's good for a shopping fix and food and driving in excess of 40mph.

My brain has lost its ability to process so much visual and auditory input at once. In the first store in the mall I was unable to focus on anything because of the colors, and bright lights, and music and people. I was distracted by the cleanliness of the floor and walls. I found myself overwhelmed constantly because there was just so much--of everything! Total. Sensory. Overload. There were so many platform heels in that mall that if added together would equal the distance to my house on St. Thomas. It didn't feel real, to be honest. After just a couple of hours I was practically exhausted from the overstimulation and the paralysis that ensued from the necessity of decision-making. I have become un-accustomed to having choices.

I did enjoy the friendliness of the people there. I felt like a stupid, selfish, mainland American because I can only speak English and nearly everyone there is bilingual. But it was not a problem except when some quantity of something got lost in translation. (Confession...I ate at Taco Bell...and I didn't want 7 burritos, I wanted a 7-layer burrito.) Nobody looked at me with disdain or acted like I was ruining their day because I needed some assistance. That part of living in the USVI is still pretty annoying. Also annoying--sales tax. Seriously, pennies stink. I get the whole sales tax argument, but can't we just roll it into the prices and end up only using quarters for change? Such a hassle.

In summary, it's great to get off the little rock even if only to a bigger rock. To get metaphysical about it, every piece of land on the planet is an island. It's also great to immerse yourself into the world of retail, not only to get some stuff but also to realize how un-necessary so much of that stuff is. It's great to hang out with the island besties without the family entourage because you can actually still have full adult conversations. It's great for the spouse to have to be the "go-to" guy and to have to think about meals and homework and logistics and groceries. And it's great to experience your teenage children WANT to give you a hug and profess their love and appreciation for you--that part is pretty awesome, actually.

Disclaimer: No marijuana was consumed or inhaled on this trip. The ashtray was not purchased and is included in this blog posting purely as an example of absurdity...obviously it's a misprint and should say Coki Beach.

Thursday, 28 May 2015

Rubbish Receptacles...

OK, so back in the continental United States you get in trouble if you dump your personal trash in dumpsters. We used to get the sideways-glance-raised-eyebrows from our neighbors when they found out we drove our trash to the dump transfer station--and then we got the condescending half-smile when I explained that it was so we could make sure we were recycling as much as possible. One of my neighbors exclaimed as she brought her perfectly-pink-gel-manicured-hand to her chest that she couldn't even think about ever putting a bag of trash in her car--gasp!

Here on my rock, there is no curbside recycling and no magic trucks that make the trash disappear for a small monthly fee. There are dumpsters. Lots of dumpsters. They are landmarks, actually. Like if I say, "Let's meet at the Red Hook dumpsters," everyone knows where that is. They probably would even say, "Cool. I need to take the trash today." I have my favorite dumpsters and there are some that I never use. Usually, this has to do with how difficult--read dangerous--is the driving and parking situation. There are 2 dumpsters in particular that are on the side of a busy road intersection and, realistically, there is no parking for them. Which means that people get very inventive. And when I say inventive, I mean ridiculous and/or stupid and/or insane and/or illogical and often hilarious.

Now these dumpsters are not clean or organized or regulated. Well, there is a sign that tells what is acceptable and what's not. But usually, there is a pile of the not-accepted articles at the base of the sign. There are chickens and cats living communally and I prefer not to think of the rodent life that is present. There are often odors that defy explanation, and mountains of cardboard because nobody, except apparently me, flattens boxes. It's shocking to us newbies--even to those of us who were kind-of connected to our personal waste generation stateside. And without any real large scale recycling on the island and a landfill that's become a toxic, unstable mountain, it's pretty tragic.

But, like all things here, there is opportunity around every corner. There are business opportunities...
And, shopping is a short list of what I or my immediate friends have found at our dumpsters just recently:

  • kids bike (in perfect condition)
  • wrought-iron lamp (with nice lampshade)
  • Rubbermaid plastic bins
  • tools
  • contractor-type hammer drill and circular saw (working)
  • plywood (almost full sheet)
  • wicker chairs
  • stainless steel lobster pot
  • fishing equipment
  • case of UNOPENED assorted liquor (score of the century I say)
And inspiration for communication that just doesn't happen stateside: in the same day, one of my friends texted me to let me know that she'll be late for carpool because she forgot her trash was in the back seat until she got to school and smelled it, so she had to run down the road to the dumpsters; and, another proudly published pictures on Facebook of her kid riding around on his dumpster bike. It's all good.

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Trading squirrels for iguanas...

July 12--that's the day I left my "stateside" life behind. It's one of those dates that sticks in the mind--anniversaries of life-altering events. The house sold, our belongings in a shipping container (somewhere but not altogether sure where), and the kids chillin' with grandpa for a couple more weeks in civilization--we drugged the dog, stuffed her in a carry-on bag and got on a plane that would take us South...16 degrees to be the next adventure in our lives.
Nobody could have adequately prepared us for what was ahead...and our adventure continues...