If you’re on Facebook you know this game and you’ve probably been tagged. If you’re not, the basic premise is to post 25 random facts about yourself. I thought I’d post 25 things about living in the Caribbean. Here we go:
1. Living on a hunk of rock sticking out of the ocean, you’re exposed to all the power the natural world has to throw at you – tropical storms, hurricanes, earthquakes, floods, waterspouts, thunder that cracks right over your head and lightning that’s way too close for comfort.
2. You learn to take the approach of a hurricane very seriously. If you’re lucky, it will only strike you a glancing blow and you can have a Pimm’s party on the balcony. But you’d better be prepared for the worst. That storm’s probably going to make landfall somewhere.
3. Creepy crawlies are a fact of life. We’ve got mosquitoes, cockroaches, ticks, bugs of all persuasion, lizards, snakes (though thankfully none poisonous), spiders, rats, tarantulas, land crabs, and my personal favorite, head lice. Get used to them.
4. You don’t go to the beach as much as you think you will. Unless you’re a trust fund baby or a retiree snowbird, you’ll find that you have the same work and family demands on your time as the rest of the world.
5. Yes, we do have a few beaches we keep to ourselves. They’re not in any guidebooks and the taxi drivers won’t offer to take you there. Sorry, I can’t tell you where they are or I’d have to kill you.
6. You’re living in a different culture. Take the time to learn about it. Say hello to the lady behind the counter when you enter a shop. It’s expected. Know that when you go to a restaurant, it’s going to take some time. Time to get seated, time to get a drink, time to have your order taken and time to be served your meal. In fact, you might want to have a snack before you go out to eat. There’s no point complaining too much, because that’s the way it works. You’re on Tortola time now. The government, the bureaucracy, the driving, the parking and the yearly trip to Labour and Immigration – they all come with the territory.
7. December is amazing – the weather is spectacular and the tradewinds keep things cool. Boxing Day on the beach…heaven.
8. Unfortunately, as surely as there’s December each year, there is also September. It’s unspeakably hot and humid. The breeze has gone wherever breezes go in September. The mosquitoes are out in force and it’s the height of the hurricane season. Best just to go on vacation.
9. Talk about multicultural. Audrey has classmates from the B.V.I., the U.S., England, Scotland, Jersey (old Jersey, not the new one), Australia, Ecuador, Brazil, France, Ireland, South Africa, Zambia, Holland, Israel, Canada, the Cook Islands and various other Caribbean nations. And that’s just grade five…a veritable fifth grade United Nations.
10. Be prepared for houseguests who stay a long time. And who don’t understand that you’re not perpetually on vacation just because you live in the Caribbean.
11. The night sky is a revelation. After years in New York, I’d almost forgotten what was up there. I can look out my bedroom window at night and go to sleep with the Southern Cross. I’ve seen Venus and Jupiter hanging out with the Moon. I’m looking forward to the next Transit of Venus in 2012.
12. There aren’t many sights more enchanting than the full moon shining on the Caribbean Sea. It almost makes you believe in magic. Or God.
13. The range of tropical fruits is marvelous – mango, papaya, guava, passion fruit, banana, pineapple, coconut, grapefruit, bitter orange, plantain, soursop, lovely little yellow key limes. And, of course, sugar apple.
14. Those white noise machines are totally unnecessary when you can fall asleep listening to the waves breaking on the rocks a hundred feet below.
15. If you’re into water sports, this is the place for you. Snorkeling, scuba diving, sportfishing, sailing, kayaking, windsurfing, swimming, surfing – we’ve got it all. Of course, we have no cinemas, galleries, malls, bowling alleys, theatres…well, you get the idea. So if you’re not feeling like getting wet, it can be hard to keep yourself amused without resorting to rum.
16. Ah, the rum. You knew I’d get to that eventually. The best in the world, at prices a fraction of what you pay in the States or the U.K. You get the malls, we get the rum.
17. And then there’s the hot pepper sauce. At any given time, we have at least 6-8 different bottles in our cupboard plus what we make at home. It’s something of an addiction. Happily, Audrey is an island girl and can hang with the heat.
18. The colors are astounding. Unlike the deeply saturated, earthy hues of Tuscany, the colors in the Caribbean paintbox are clear, bright, transparent, hot. Primal, primary colors. Pink, yellow, green, orange, white. And blue, so much blue.
19. Look for the green flash, a phenomenon which supposedly occurs on a cloudless night when the sun crosses the horizon at sunset. I’ve never seen it and am not convinced it exists. Maybe if I drink more rum…
20. You will gain a new appreciation for water if you spend much time here. With no source of fresh water except rainwater or desalinated sea water, you begin to respect water as a precious commodity. It’s not to be wasted or squandered. Turn off that tap when you brush your teeth. Do you really need to flush? Here in the land of sun and fun, we don’t flush for number one.
21. The Caribbean gave barbecue to the world. The word barbecue comes from a Taino Indian word, barbacoa. Apparently they barbecued everything…beef, pork, chicken, fish. Did I mention they were cannibals?
22. Which brings us to jerk. As a Carolina girl, born and bred, I recognize and appreciate the slow cooking of highly spiced meat over hardwood. The Jamaicans up the ante with the spices and use pimento wood instead of hickory. Ah, the joys of jerk. A trip to Jamaica to sample jerk at the source is on my short list of things to do. Soon.
23. I’m a home cook and a big fan of home cooking. Home cooks from the myriad cultures that made their way to the Caribbean (not always by choice) have all left their mark on the cuisine. With influences from Africa, India and Chiina, to France, Holland and Spain, how could it be boring?
24. The Caribbean is a wonderful place to raise a family. The children all swim like fish. You only need to buy them clothes for one season – no winter coats. And they all hate to wear shoes, a definite money-saver. The kids obviously love it, judging by the number of them who come back here to live after they finish school. You apparently can’t get rid of them after university.
25. The pace of life is slower here. Much slower. Are you hurrying toward anything, or just hurrying? Stop. Breathe. Live. You’ve only got one life. Don’t rush it.