Latest Trip

Bequia: Room with a View

Posted on: Thursday, January 8th, 2009
Posted in: Travelog, 3rd Stop: Bequia, Latest Trip | 11 comments
We done good.  Although the family obsessed and argued and made a science out of indecision when picking our places to stay, in this case, it was worth it.  This new temporary home is 2die4.  Opening the door, seeing the endless sea, and hearing the crashing-wave soundtrack instantly confirmed all hopes, and erased all doubts. 

We’re in the top level of a brand-new, 3-story condo on Friendship Bay.  The view is that magical shade of teal; some rolling green hills and peninsulas; some shanties and villas and two hidden hotels (with way cool beach bars!); and some boobies and fishing boats bobbing in the bay.  


And the best part?  We got a delicious deal, direct from the American owner (whom we “met” on TripAdvisor), because the place wasn’t finished and on the rental market yet…
So while our temporary home may lack a peeler and beach towels and a functional ceiling fan (it seized up right after it was installed, according to the caretaker), it’s impeccably fresh and well-executed.  The design is smart, the furnishings are tasteful and the deck is stunning.  We lucked out.  

The kids know it too–and that warms the heart more than the sunshine that beats in nonstop.  They were giddy–dancing and screaming like Little League champs–for a long time after we moved in.  And it wasn’t just the water and view and obvious stuff; they were even gaga about the mosquito netting on the shared bed, and jumped in and just played together (with no arguing!) all giggly for an hour or so.  (Then, of course:  CAN WE GO TO THE BEACH NOW?)  Yes!  

Forgive me if I refuse to leave this place and just keep taking the same pictures over and over…
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Leaving St. Vincent, Garden of Eden

Posted on: Wednesday, January 7th, 2009
Posted in: Travelog, In Transit, Latest Trip | Leave a comment
Sometimes when you travel (if you’re lucky), you land somewhere that you don’t want to leave.  And maybe you’re not even sure why you ended up there in the first place.  So it was with St. Vincent…

SV made our itinerary purely due to transit connections.  And as the plans got super-sized, a 3-day recovery layover seemed only fair.  An opportunity to see another island…  A chance it might be a Garden of Eden…  Off most people’s radar… Better check it out!
How fortunate that we did.  Because when you’re on a BreakAway, a secret aspiration is bliss, in some form, on some day.  Bliss comes and goes.  It might be a common payoff of a family cabin, favorite hike, or hidden beach.  But never always.  There are no guarantees—and it’s more moving when it sneaks up from behind and surprises you.
It did here.  Over and over.  In flowering yards and from the window of a taxi.  Under a pummeling waterfall and beneath giant bamboos.  Inside a funky restaurant and alone on a beach at sunrise.  Watching the children harmoniously playing in a pool and later reading to each other in a shared bed (!). 

Sometimes, you find what you’re looking for.  Even when you’re not sure where you are. Perhaps that’s a good time to move on—like leaving a feast when you’re not quite stuffed, and still sober enough to savor it.
So Mr. Andrew, our favorite, faithful taxi driver and tour guide in pressed white linen, arrived 10 minutes early and helped us schlep our luggage into the back.  He shepherded us like floating bobbers through the bureaucracy of getting on board (a security gate here; a tax to pay there; a hidden ticket stand; a labyrinth for luggage storage). 

He then suggested he call a friend on Bequia to pick us up—great idea.  And with a smile and a handshake, suggested we return when we have more time.  Another great idea. 

The ferry ride was dramatic, not only because SV and Kingstown slowly receded into the memory bank, but because the swells were huge.  The massive ferry (laden with trucks and cars) bobbed up and down like a merry-go-round pony.  Walking across the deck was an adventure in itself.  But only a few sorry souls got sick. 

We raced a stunning Windjammer with myriad sails.  The ship won, and had her sails coming down before we headed into the main harbor town of Bequia, also known as Port Elizabeth (because she once took a short dip there). 

Our home for some 18 days, eh?  Oh my, it looks so tiny.  SV has only 90,000 residents, but suddenly seemed massive.  This little island (pronounced BECK-way, by the way) has about 5,000, and suddenly looks too small. 
Suffice it to say that if you blow out your flip-flops or step on a pop top here, you’re probably SOL if you need new sandals or a good doctor. 
“Bequia is like St. John was about 40 years ago,” sailors and Caribbeanheads told me.  Upon first impression, I’m thinking they should have said 55.  Or more.  But our ferry pulled up, and we disembarked, aiming to find out. 
Two taxi drivers awaited—one called by Mr. Andrew, and one arranged weeks ago by our rental agency.  They were father and son, 3rd and 4th generation Bequians.  Now, some folks might have been pissed that only one fare was awaiting, and we’d screwed up by arranging two cabs. 
But these two?  They thought it was hilarious.  What a small world!?!  And to think Andrew JUST called!?!  Can’t believe you’re the same family!  We all laughed.  They answered some questions and gave us cards.  And assured us we’d be seeing them more, and they’d be available for anything, any time.  (And they have.) 
We lugged our luggage and selves into the back of an old Nissan pick-up (that’s a first-class taxi down here), and enjoyed a picturesque 10-minute ride to Friendship Bay, where our next home (and chapter) was waiting. 
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SV…An Eco-Island Unto Itself

Posted on: Tuesday, January 6th, 2009
Posted in: Travelog, 2nd Stop: St. Vincent, Latest Trip | 6 comments
Thanks to a day-long tour with a wise driver, a guided walk through the Botanical Gardens, and random chatter with loquacious locals, the SV green (and other countless colors) took on new meaning.  They instinctively practice the Simplicity and Slow Movements here—while also industriously growing their own. 

Even the kids gawked, picked, tasted, and asked away—wherever we went.  SV is rich with nature and resources, to be sure, but it also offers a fine model of how to sustain it all.  
These seeds served as "war paint" for the Carib indians.

These seeds served as "war paint" for the Carib indians.

  • Live simply.  Most folks don’t have much, but don’t need—or want—much.  They live well with less, and not much goes to waste. 


  • Garbage control.  Speaking of waste…Plant matter becomes fertilizer.  Glass is recycled.  Scraps might feed animals.  And the tiny garbage dump—where they first sort and recycle commodities and compost plant matter—is cleverly concealed behind tall plants. 


  • Turn it off.  Polite signs remind you to turn off lights when you leave a room or bathroom.  Motion detector and timer lights are common.  And few houses glow at night.
  • Water power.  SV generates up to half of its electricity from a series of long, oak pipes that catch the water from the mountaintop and take it to turbines waiting below.  How cool is that? 
  • Water away.  Unlike most Caribbean islands, SV has ample supply.  So things seem greener and cleaner.  Best of all, gardens and plants need never go thirsty.  And yes, you can flush!


  • Grow your own.  Not every house has a garden.  Produce is cheap, after all.  But most do, and take pride in nurturing their own tomatoes, peas, beans, mangos, bananas, and more. Almost always organic, of course!  
  • Grow your own…ganja.  As for the 3,000 industrious Rastas, their fields are way high near the top of the volcano, where the best soil sits.  Their little huts dot the hillside.  Don’t go there (although the police occasionally try). 


  • Try doing without.  Glass of water with dinner?  Another napkin?  Window screens?  Most Vincentians live without many amenities—and expect you might try the same. 
  • Be sheepish.  They love their mutton—and other locally grown meats.  So even in the city, sheep may be tied to a tree or mowing a lawn.  Same goes for goats and cows. 
  • Be chicken.  It’s a safe bet that most eggs and chicken meat don’t come from the store, since chickens strut most anywhere.  They can live off your green scraps, you know. 


  • Watch your head!  Some towering trees bear fruit the size of footballs—including avocado, mango, and breadfruit.  There’s even a seed called the cannonball.  When they’re ripening (and falling), look up. 
  • Practice plateau-ism.  Like the grape fields of Italy and the rice paddies in Asia, crops grow in some dang steep places.  A little “watch” house is sometimes nearby so the worker can take a sun—or even weekend—break between toiling stretches.  DSC_0029
  • Share vehicles.  Up to 24 passengers will pile in and out of privately-owned mini-vans that are used for public transportation.  The vehicles bear loud names like “Righteous,” “Exodus,” and “Star Boy.”  The drivers know fast only; a co-pilot takes your dollar; the bass booms.  Hitchhiking is common, as is jumping in and out of a pickup. 

Street Scene

  • Get eats on the go.  Fruits and veggies and snacks appear at little stands wherever you turn.  They may look ramshackle, but each has a permit and undergoes health inspections.  Renegades are not given a warning; they simply lose everything—on the spot. 


  • Find fresh fish.  Ask anyone, and they’ll tell you the best source for some fresh seafood.  Usually, it’s relative or neighbor, about a block away.  You must get it fresh in the morning. 

Fishing Village

  • Bring on the blossoms.  Flowers glow from unthinkable places and in unimaginable colors.  Our Botanical Gardens guide could turn a bloom into a baby in a bathtub, or a leaf into a butterfly—and even make “the sensitive plant” close its leaves instantly. 
  • Eat locally and seasonally.  “No no no, don’t eat mangos now—not in season so not from St. Vincent.”  True, true.  And why bother when starfruit, green oranges, and papaya are plentiful now?  Taste treats appeared made of delicacies we’d never even heard of. 


  • Eat most anything.  The inside of some ugly fruit makes a great starch dish.  This plant makes a tasty tea.  Cook with these leaves for the taste of garlic.  Roast this one over fire then slice it with some hot sauce.  Etc.  Etc.  Etc. 
  • Heal thyself.  Our guidebook’s advice regarding medical care on St. Vincent?  Don’t get sick or have an accident here. Yet perhaps Vincentians don’t have all that much need for Western medicine.  Many would mention “we are returning to the land instead of to drugs” for remedies—a tea that cures a cold, an herb that soothes sore bones, a tuber that aids indigestion. 
No wonder they all look quite healthy, with little obesity.  And it’s no surprise that they like to wear bright colors, and seem incapable of taking things—especially their island’s beauty and riches—for granted. 
It’s a good way of life, with nary an Applebees, Bruegger’s, or Starbuck’s to be found. 
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Second Stop: Saintly St. Vincent

Posted on: Monday, January 5th, 2009
Posted in: Travelog, 2nd Stop: St. Vincent, Latest Trip | 4 comments
I’ve got a feeling we’re not in America any more.  Heck, we may not even be on planet earth.  This volcanic island is so blooming green and steep that the Hobbit might feel out of place.  But oh, what beauty!  A comforting vibe emanates from the happy people, the flowering foliage, and the ever-visible sea itself.  

Already three days seems too short, but that’s what the itinerary states, so we better dig in.  In no particular order, here are some first impressions. 
  • Caribbean authenticity lives here.  While not quite Harry Belafonte’s West Indies, this is the real deal. 
  • Black & white.  I’m guessing White folk make up at most 5% of the population (1%?), yet that didn’t seem to matter; never crossed my mind till now. 

Street Scene

  • Music is booming.  For the first time in years, classic rock was nowhere to be found; instead, local sounds and reggae throb nonstop from every bar, car, and boombox.
  • Caribbean independence.  In the Virgin Islands, there are strong ties to the USA and Great Britain; here, the connection here seems chiefly to itself.

Flag of St. Vincent

  • Tourism, what tourism?  Although they say visitors have replaced bananas as their #1 crop, only 7 small planes land daily and they must be empty these days. 
  • Culture lives.  The colors, food, and vernacular taste like seafood, plantains, and nutmeg; when Vincentians describe a local dish or delicacy, they get all smiley and excited. 

St. Vincent Laundry


  • Speaking of flowers!  Thanks to rich volcanic soil and ample rain-forest water, flowers and gardens are in bloom everywhere; they take pride in feeding themselves from their soils and seas. 
  • Simple living.  Many live in near-poverty conditions, though the place is clearly on the upswing; despite 30% unemployment, Vincentians carry on and take care of each other. 
  • Signs of the Times

  • Men & women.  A convivial but competitive machismo abounds (I met a man with 16 children); men honk and bark and gesture with abandon, while women dress pretty and stick with their kind like flowers. 
  • Posh spice.  Like all islands, there are some massive mansions with views of bliss; story goes that many of those rich folk left young, made their money, then came home to retire. 

Wonderful Waterfall

  • Kind & gentle.  Manners matter, and even if many have modest education or assets, they conduct themselves with more class than most people back home.
  • Get-lost land.  I met people from all over the world who have landed in this sanctuary to relax, recover, retreat, and get lost; they never looked out of place. 

Soccer on St. Vincent

  • Prideful & quirky.  Chest out, shoulders high, eye to eye and yet so laid-back; about anyone will chat you up till you can’t escape but don’t, don’t! take their picture or cop no attitude.
  • Return guaranteed.  This seafood-craving, reggae-loving, green-yearning gardener-cook may be biased, but I honestly think this likely among the last “undiscovered” gems around; next time, I’ll slow down and stay a while. St. Vincent Bamboo
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Passengers Held Hostage (But it Could Be Worse)

Posted on: Sunday, January 4th, 2009
Posted in: Rants & Roadkill, Travelog, In Transit, Latest Trip | One comment

“Island time” works well for, well, not working. Not living off deadlines. Not getting anywhere by any particular time or worrying about much. But “island time” fails miserably when trying to catch ferries and make airplane connections. 


The ferry floats away from saintly St. John.


The good news is we made it off St. John and on to St. Thomas.  Then Anguilla.  Then Antigua.  And eventually to our destination, the island of St. Vincent.  And it is breathtakingly beautiful.  Worth the hassle?  Of course (but that’s easy to say now).  The bad news is the day was, as expected, an endurance test, only worse. 

Stuck on the Ground

"Island time" and flying skeds don't mix well.


“Island time” was taken to new levels, and I don’t mean 20,000 feet in the air.  I mean:  Refusing to let planes land.  Stranding people in airports.  Canceling flights.  Holding passengers hostage and inventing a form of “island torture.”  They call it a “soft strike.” 

It comes courtesy of the air traffic controllers on the island of Antigua, a hub for Liat island-hopping airlines.  Seems the Controllers want more money, or something, and the government won’t pony up.  So…they create chaos out of flying (which is already chaotic down here) and make everybody really, really mad (in all senses of the word). 

We’d already received angry and defensive e-mails from the airline.  Every cabbie or airport employee was talking about it—or refusing to.  And frankly, there probably hasn’t been this much drama down here (other than hurricanes) since Reagan and Troops invaded Grenada 20 years ago. 

As for me, I got scolded by a flight attendant and frightfully threatened by a security officer (who was about twice my size).  A Gamegirl was stolen from right under my nose.  And I witnessed unprecedented airport panic and paranoia.  And that’s saying something, since air travel has been increasingly unpleasant since 9-11, if not before. 

In the Antigua airport, most chairs were taken.  Most garbage cans were boiling over.  And the food stand was down to hot dogs and warm beer.  At one point, I stared at an (empty!) garbage can for an hour or more, convinced that this was the appropriate mediation focus for the day. 

Airport Purgatory

Stranded. I meditated on this trash can.

A TV preacher barked in a Patois growl while a nearby CD stand played short samples of reggae, Jamaican toasting, and soca at full volume.  At one point, I thought I would scream.  But instead, I must have zoned out, because that’s when the new pink GameGirl (a necessary drug for CurlyGirl on a day like this) was pilfered.  Disappeared like magic.  

We got lucky.  Our plane flew.  We got out of there, and onto St. Vincent only a few long hours late.  Needless to say, we went out for a celebratory dinner and stayed up way too late.  When getting there is not half the fun, getting there feels twice as good. 

  • On St. Vincent, “island time” is alive and well.  And suddenly, slowing down to soak it all in is a euphoric experience.

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Leaving St. John…Paradise Island

Posted on: Saturday, January 3rd, 2009
Posted in: Travelog, 1st Stop: St. John, Latest Trip | One comment

There must be other places as beautiful as St. John, USVI. And if there are, I sure hope to see them before my travels cease. Meanwhile, leaving is not easy. The packing and practicalities stink, naturally—but moreso because here is that rare place that makes it easy to relax, let go, and lose track of time.


Trunk Bay. On just about every "Top 10" beach list.

Where have these 18 days gone? And how could our BreakAway be 1/4 over? Despite a gradual descent into Island Time, hours race by like the swift little bananaquits that flit about crazily every morning.


The days have flown by like 3 little bananaquits.

Maybe the next island on our itinerary won’t be in such a hurry to teach that you can’t slow down time, even while you can slow down yourself. Hope so. But I’m in no rush to find out.

I AM always in a hurry to get long travel days over, though. That’s St. John to St. Vincent. A hellish day of travel that, with any luck, will be a “good” adventure—never mind that Liat Airlines (an island hopper down here) has already sent out emails warning of impending delays, cancellations, and worse.

Some sort of air traffic controller’s strike. Or something. “Plan” on it.

So what does this travel day look like?

  • Pile the luggage in the Jeep.
  • Drive across St. John to Cruz Bay to board a boat.
  • Ride that ferry to port Charlotte Amalie (on St. Thomas).
  • Catch a cab to the airport.
  • Do security, customs, luggage, and wait, wait, wait.
  • Walk on a runway to board a little plane.
  • Fly to one island, but stay on the plane. Wait.
  • Fly to another island; transfer planes (after a 3+ hour wait).
  • If possible, leave the airport to have dinner and see something.
  • Arrive on St. Vincent, late.
  • Cab to our hotel.
  • Find something to eat. Swim in the pool? Move in and C-R-A-S-H.

We’ll be in St. Vincent for 3 short days, before moving on again.


It's hard to leave St. John, where beauty abounds.

Moving on to see “more” seems silly at the moment. Perhaps no island could be better than St. John. But I’ve been here many times, even lived here for a half-year.

But back in Minnesota, in the throes of winter, in fits of courage and excitement and seductive web-travel-planning, we set out to see the Caribbean. Get lost, but NOT in America.

Pack those bags. Fasten your seat belts. Spread those wings. Let’s fly.

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Just Another Day…On Drunk Bay

Posted on: Friday, January 2nd, 2009
Posted in: Travelog, 1st Stop: St. John, Latest Trip | One comment

Yes, it really is called Drunk Bay.  And it’s arguably the wildest, waviest, rockiest beach on St. John.  Hardly anybody goes there.  It’s a long walk.  Gets real hot.  Swimming is impossible.  Ain’t no bar.  But visual grandeur and surprises?  Guaranteed.  The latest trend (and surprise) seems to be making coral humanoids.  

Here are a few.  To meet more, visit my flickr page...


What do you do with a drunken (coral) sailor?


She likes to tan in the nude (and needs sunscreen).


He should have read the fine print on the Viagra label.

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New Year’s Eve, Coral Bay Style

Posted on: Thursday, January 1st, 2009
Posted in: Travelog, 1st Stop: St. John, Latest Trip | One comment

Spaghetti dinner with friends was fun, but nobody wanted to stay up to see the years collide. Except the kids, of course. But they need sleep. I don’t. So by 11, this modest house party was over and there wasn’t an awake soul around me.


HAPPY NEW YEAR! In coral! In Coral Bay, USVI.

I’ve never missed a NY midnight, yet hitting the hay became my decision. I was nearly horizontal. But then the church bells started ringing…

“Come to church!”

Oh yeah! I remembered. The Moravian Church just across the bay holds NYE service at 11—and rings bells like crazy at midnight. They sing and sing and then shake hands and wish each other Happy New Year with smiles of contagious hope.

So my clothes came back on, and I headed out the door. I was late to church, but God don’t mind. And neither do Moravians. Once in the classic old structure, I was clueless about which hymnal or page to follow—and not being a Moravian, that happened a lot.


The Moravian Church has been there for many, many New Years Eves.

But not to worry: A parishioner would appear—head bobbing and voice booming—from beside or behind and hand me the right book and get me on the same page.

All singing was a cappella—no piano, organ, no guitars. Just loud, proud voices echoing through this gorgeous old sanctuary. A church like this thinks nothing of hymns with 12 verses and a chorus each time between them. The lyrics were all about starting anew, the passage of time, faith and renewal.

Repeat! Repeat! Until you believe!

In between hymns, the pastor might say a few things in Christian Island Patois. Through his words, through wide-open windows, two live bands—one reggae and one classic rock—came crashing in like noisy (but not uninvited) guests.


"This better not end up on some stupid blog!" they said.

“Legalize It!” “Tumbling Dice!” “Suzy Q!”

We must sing louder to drown all that out!

At midnight, hoots and howls from the streets and bars joined a clamor of car horns, conch blasts, and fireworks. But nothing compared in sheer volume to the peeling of the bell we sat under in church. That thing must have rung hundreds of times, for five minutes or more.

The sound was glorious and made it impossible to think. Feel it! Listen! Resist the temptation to plug your ears!

One more hymn, and we received the benediction. May the Lord bless and keep you…lift his countenance upon you…and give you peace and prosperity fo’ the who’ yeah a-haid!  Amen Amen Amen!  

Church is out. A New Year begins. It’ll be just like starting over.

Then came gentle handshakes from folks age 3 to 103. The only other White person was a beaming, elderly lady with messy hair, a humped back, and a yellow rain slicker. A number of fellow worshippers kept hold of my hand and said,

“I’m glad you came tonight.”

So was I.

Unlike the island-bro many-moves handshakes (that’s so fun, but so macho), these grasps were simple, caring. And nobody worried about that pushy, dated, dress-for-success suggestion: Always assert a firm handshake.


Early January 1, 2009. A new day, and year, dawns.

On the way home, I stopped by to sing more, but now on to rock and reggae with fellow St. John sinners. “Work of Art” was thumping big backbeats at Skinny Legs while dressed-up natives and dressed-down locals rubbed shoulders with Yachty babes in black lace and their East Coast boyfriend bums in Polo shirts.

The bartender charged me half the usual price for my red wine and knocked twice on the well-worn wooden bar. I took communion.

Then on to Island Blues. Drunks danced with abandon and filled the air with smoke to the sounds of butchered Hendrix and Stones. One local cutie would soon have her choice between two tan men competing for her attention like the geckos here lazily joust over a bit of sugar.

I stayed till almost 2. The party had only begun. Happy New Year.

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Medical Emergency…Requisite BreakAway Bummer

Posted on: Saturday, December 27th, 2008
Posted in: Rants & Roadkill, Travelog, 1st Stop: St. John, Latest Trip | Leave a comment

When on Sabbatical, expect many surprises—not always good. You can BreakAway. But you can’t run away from the Bad Thing. Moreover, you may unknowingly step out of the comfort zone and into the danger zone. So remember this 5-word mantra: I knew this might happen. Repeat. Breathe deep.

Smashed FingerCurlyGirl has had two strikes already on this trip: a bee sting on the deck and fire ants in her pants in the parking lot of a restaurant. But today she struck out, got beaned, got ejected from the game, AND sent us all into extra innings in the ER. A smashed finger in a heavy door can do that. It can ruin your day—maybe more. Even if you’re a comeback kid.

When S*#@ hits the fan, I like to envision the WCS (worst case scenario). Deal with that first. In this case, death seems unlikely. Surgery? Possibly. But we might still make our plane to St. Vincent next Sunday. Guitar heroine-ism may be compromised, but there’s always piano.

Still, I hate emergency wards. Who doesn’t? The good news is that, so far, (as we say in Minnesota), it could be worse. Today’s long day—one that went according to no plan—went something like this.

  • 10:40.  I leave house to go pick up friends B&E, who arrived from NYC last night but are carless (thanks to car-rental overbookings and incompetence), in a house atop Bordeaux Mountain. We are all planning to go to Maho Bay beach for the day. Coolers and gear are packed. Snorkeling and Red Stripe await.
  • 10:45. As I pull out of the driveway, CurlyGirl screams and AllBoy comes rushing out the door. She has caught her hand in the heavy door. The winds are strong; her hand is small. Partner comes out to help. I leave post-haste as drama unfolds, convinced that this is just sibling stuff.
  • 10:55. Atop Bordeaux Mountain, I can’t get to B&E’s house, because construction vehicles are in my way. I negotiate with Guys who move heavy machinery. Then back down the steep hill to B&E’s house—a death-defying act in its own right. I’m loving it.
  • 10:58. Mom E is waving and yelling from their house as I try to get there. I wave back. I am calm. Navigating steep, pot-holey hills and fresh mud backward in 4WD. How cool is that?
  • 11:01. I arrive. B&E’s 2 daughters greet me, concerned. I am told by the Adults that there is a Medical Emergency. CurlyGirl’s finger is cut open. I call home. Girl caught her finger in the door a SECOND time—after I left—when the wind slammed it shut again. This time: Serious. “I think the end might fall off,” Partner tells me in a very shaky voice.
  • 11:05. Phones stop working. We try them all—landline, 2 cels. I must get home. I suggest that B&E and 2 daughters come with me, or they’re stuck atop the Mtn all day. They pile in.
  • 11:12. I drop the Family at the bottom. Head home, up the other side of the hill. Partner greets me, in near panic. Blood is everywhere. This is unusual. I take a look. Indeed, middle finger is “dangling at the tip; might fall off.” CurlyGirl’s shock symptoms on the couch (watching “Tinkerbell”) suggest this is serious. No movement. Pupils dilated. Shallow breathing. Even AllBoy looks shocked.
  • 11:15. Phones are working again and calls are made to the local medical practice. Dr. C (we go way back) explains that his clinic is closed (it is Saturday, after all) and the ER is probably the best option. Though they have no X-rays. Yet on-call doctor is credible and does mastery stitchery work, if needed. Good to know.
  • 11:18. Strap Self and Partner and Boy and Girl in car. Head back down the hill. Drop Boy with Family B&E, who get to beach via temporary use of Crusty Jeep.
  • 11:20. Girl and Partner ride in back seat. I put on music in vehicle. Children’s Pain Killer begins to take effect. Visions of St. Thomas surgery rooms dance in my head. “I knew this might happen…”
No BreakAway is complete without a visit (or 2) to the clinic.

No BreakAway is complete without a visit (or 2) to the clinic.

  • 11:40. Arrive at St. John’s Only Clinic. Nurse and doctor are awaiting, though it’s doctor’s day off. Impressive. They take us straight to a room, hand me paperwork. They schmooze the patient, who does NOT want them to remove the bandage. Much loud crying.
  • 11:45. They unwrap bandage. Girl screams bloody murder…for next 20 minutes or so. They gradually wash, dab, fondle, pick, probe, confab, and ponder.
  • 12:05. Dr. explains that the cut is severe, nearly through the finger. Straight through middle of the fingernail. They could remove fingernail, but that would hurt more—and nail may act to hold finger together. Don’t know if bone is broken or crushed. Don’t have X-rays. Can only wrap tight and hope it holds.
  • 12:10.   They rewrap the finger, to the sounds of Girl screaming and thrashing. It takes 2 parents to hold her down. I show her pictures of rock stars and bad ads in Rolling Stone magazine to try to distract. It works, at times. She likes Brad Pitt. Yells NONONO when I suggest I grow a mustache, beard, long hair.
  • 12:15. Dr. pulls me aside for a pep talk and discharge marching orders. Finger too small to do stitches, splint, surgery. Let’s just hope. (Smile, shrug of shoulders.) No swimming til at least Tuesday—no ocean, pools, water. Tap water here is NOT good. Wash with bottled water. Use disinfectant. Rewrap daily. Try “liquid band-aid” first times in water next week, but know that stuff stings. (I’ve never heard of it.)
  • 12:17. If fever or green pus, bring in immediately. Know that infections are more common and severe down here. Even the air has germs.
  • 12:20. More paperwork. Sign off; copy insurance card. No cost. Doctor leaves.
  • 12:22. We exit. Head to downtown Cruz Bay to buy medical supplies as suggested, pick up some seafood to cook for dinner, and find B&E a rental car using old contacts.
  • 2:30. Supplies are in hand. As is fresh tuna, salmon, London Broil, and prawns. Car procured after much drama with old ‘friends’ at local car rental joint (owner will rent his own jeep and drive his beater). I stay in Cruz Bay to wait for B, ensure closure on the rental car deal, and drive Crusty Jeep back to Coral Bay.
  • 4:00. Home. Start chopping vegetables and cooking. Good therapy. Never mind that the knives here are sharp and I cut my middle finger…
  • 5:55. CurlyGirl is strong. Her parents are spent. Dinner is served (the first course).
  • 10:55. Dinner is over. Children’s painkiller is served (again). Step outside to thank the stars and repeat: 

“I knew this might happen.”

  • 11:55. Retire.
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Let History Not Go to Ruins

Posted on: Tuesday, December 23rd, 2008
Posted in: Travelog, 1st Stop: St. John, Latest Trip | 2 comments

Annaberg Plantation ruins rock.  The National Park Service has a big challenge maintaining all their holdings, but they’ve kept this treasure from going to ruin.  With a view of the Sir Francis Drake Channel (great sailing!) and Tortolla (great daytrip!), there’s a lot to go right.  Today was a treat for the camera.  Beaches and vistas offer not so much to focus on.  But here?  A sea of plenty.

Annaberg Sugar Ruins: A sweet slice of history.

T’was a pleasure to be here on BreakAway, on a more leisurely pace.  Rather than rushing through this requisite stop, we were able to wander, ponder, and linger.  What a great day for home-schooling.  This temporary teacher was able to mostly shut up and let the sights and stories speak for themselves.  

For about 100 years until 1848, this island grew tons of sugar cane on 75% of its land.  That fact is hard to digest–because the terrain here is rough, rocky, and steep.  But even harder to ponder is that the peak population then was shy of 2,500.  1,000 Danes, and 2,500 slaves.  Clearly, everybody worked long and hard and in nasty conditions.  

A Rocky Proposition:  Faraway Farming on Precipitous Mountains

When the bottom fell out for their crops–most of which had been shipped back to Europe–they shut down the sugar mills and freed the slaves.  Most Danes went back home, but some stayed on in what was then called “The Danish West Indies,” and have generations still here.  Heck, there were Danish-speaking visitors touring the site on this day.  

Walls with stone, coral, and shells remain popular.

Since my own lineage is 50% Danish, I enjoy getting in touch with this rare heritage connection.  The streets and sites still host Dane names; “bergs” and “steds” are everywhere.  Heck, even the native patois still holds Danish language and lilt–along with African, English, and more.  As local leader and legend (now 90-something), Guy Benjamin, once said to me with a smile, “We were Danes here once too, you know!”

As for the slaves, most were given a piece of land, and most stayed.  Many descendants still live here, are regarded as the native settlers, and hold what are now sometimes valuable expanses of property.  Some post-slavery anger and edge carries on, to be sure.  But the vast majority are kind, proud folks.  Their traditions live on in the schools, churches, festivals, and daily life.  

It's impossible to envision farming by hand here.

St. John Becomes a National Park

Although there’s virtually no farming today, at least 75% of the land remains natural and raw–thanks to the Rockefeller family.  They bought up that land from Denmark, saved one pristine, rare flat slice (with seven small beaches) to create the famous “Rock Resort,” Caneel Bay.  Then, in 1956, they gave the rest to the U.S. National Parks.  We can’t thank them enough.  

That pristine treasure is what makes this island so singular.  Most beaches are public with NO development.  There are only two resorts and just a handful of condos.  You can find groomed hikes, decent facilities, and even an underwater snorkel trail.  Best of all, you can find countless places and be completely alone in untouched Caribbean wilderness.  

Like this purple succulent plant, the past lives on...

Dozens of ruins are still diligently maintained throughout St. John.  But Annaberg is the largest, most popular, and most storied.  A trip there helps put the puzzles of the past together, while also providing breathtaking beauty, awe, and perhaps a few ghosts.

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