Insects and infections.Noisy nights and strange neighbors.Hyper dogs and bored offspring who don’t yet understand “Island Time.”Not nasty enough?Okay: Rude dude choking his chicken in the bushes below our balcony; hostile neighbor kid piling dry plywood on my blazing BBQ grill.There are worse stories, but let’s keep this PG-13.
Somebody asked me if a Sabbatical like this brings constant Paradise–or is the BreakAway road pocked with potholes? Of course there are plenty.And while complaining rarely helps, here—by request—is a short, requisite rant about…
11 Predictable Problems in Paradise
Surfing the interNOT. We chose our places to stay based on purported internet access. But so far, all 3 destinations have had disappointing, if not maddening, connectivity.Makes this project (and communication in general) a major head-banging challenge.
Feeding the bugs.At times, my children appear to have chicken pox. And nights are often punctuated with slaps and curses and rabid scratching. But it’s just the mosquitoes, no-see-ums (sand fleas), and more.Even free-basing deet doesn’t help.
Feeling faraway.I rarely mind not “being there.”But helplessness drifts in like stormy seas when a close family member is in surgery, the house is exploding with its second messy plumbing disaster, and imperfections persist that Paradise can’t fix.
Going without.Living with less is part of the Mission—and good for the kids.But frustration quickly elevates when one is unable to get essentials like a guitar pick or sandals.2 deliveries of necessities to St. John didn’t make it before we left.And one can waste hours “in search of” on islands.
Ride the rip-offs.The St. John gas attendant, for example, will fill your Jeep to $23 and not have $2 when you give him $25. Or the dollar bus driver will take your money twice (she paid the fare; he didn’t see/know it so paid the man again). Encounters like this happen on a daily basis.Make it a game (and carry small bills). Or simply say, “Happy New Year!” and consider yourself the richer.
Pre-negotiate most everything.It took some “hold-ups” by porters, taxis, and vegetable vendors to remind me of this mantra.First ask, “What’s this cost?”And when a restaurant hands you a menu without prices, ask for another or just leave.
Paying the price.These islands are expensive, naturally.But they’ve proven to be manyfold worse than expected—200%+++ markup on everything. Our travel budget included hefty per diems that have been, to paraphrase President Bush, woefully misunderestimated.
Doing island time.The Slow Movement is cool, but getting blown off is a bummer.In a recent 12-hour period, a playdate didn’t show.A fishing guide didn’t show.And neither did the caretaker/cleaner.As a part-time adult, I can accept it.But the kids were genuinely hurt.
Managing eating disorders.I’ve become a grocery sherpa for the kids.Restaurants serve warm wine and cold meals.Buffets become an inebriated feeding frenzy.A simple “club sandwich” arrives as something unrecognizable.OMG:I miss my kitchen?
Being held hostage.Transit brings risks.Some movers view customers as sub-human cargo.At one airport, they took our water at security and then put us in a balmy waiting area for a few hours.There was no snack shop, no vending machine, and no drinking fountain.Thirsty?Tough.
Bad (or rude) service.Disinterest in tourists is a science in some places.But so can be rudeness (especially on the American islands), where macho machine-gun banter can be the cover charge for getting attention.When my Jeep broke down in the middle of the road, right by a service station, getting “help” from the attendant (!) went like this.
ME:So sorry, but you want help me move dis broke Jeep outa da way?
HIM:(long pause)…Don’t want to.
ME:Ha!Okay.You just take da wheel and I poosh.
HIM:You not strong enough to poosh!
ME:Yassuh!Assa good one!Allright allright:I just leave Jeep hee-ya; not my sah-vees station; I doan give a sh*#!
HIM:No no no—can’t do dat.(pause, stare)You tryin’ put me to work!
ME:Yah well, I can see you very bizzee in dat dere chair.
HIM:And I can see you ain’t go noplace wid dat brokedown Jeep.
ME:Okay.Dat sound real good den.How ‘bout I just sit right hee-yah wid you all day den.
HIM:(stands up abruptly, but we’re both smirking by now)…Put dat ugly ting in neutral me-son; I show you how to poosh a Jeep.
ME:And I owe you a cold beer, me-frenn.
But who ever said travel was easy?Or settling into a new place with strange food, currency, customs, and characters?Gosh, if it were easy and cheap and risk-free, people would be doing it all the time.Money aside, I’m reminded often why a guy can only tap the moxie to do this every seven years or so.
And while I’m happy to rant, may I also state that—as is true anywhere, people are mostly kind and honest, and will go out of their way to help a stranger.That’s even more true on islands like these, because it has to be.
No, Paradise isn’t perfect.But it can come pretty close—with enough patience, persistence, and (to quote the Rastas), positivity.
your writing continues to be inspired, regardless of the source of the inspiration. it’s pretty easy to sit up here freezing and ranting ourselves whilst we forget that in the end you trade the sub-zero (not appliances) for bugs and the snow for broken down jeeps… or you grab your double woollies and cc boards and appreciate the crisp solitude and stillness of our wonderful forests.
Ah yes. I remember that winter beauty. It’s not flowers & aquas, but there is something so pure and crisp and pristine about it. The delicate light blues and pinks at sunset in the ice. The forest green against the fresh white snow. It’s stark, but peaceful indeed. Thanks for reminding me, as there are likely many more winters in my future…
Your ability to keep spitting out words amid world-class distractions is indeed impressive. Keep it up. Do salted air, sandy feet, and island beer fend off writer’s block or magnify its debilitating symptoms? I echo the comments of several other readers: Keep us posted on both the sublime and the ridiculous. You are our chronicler of unimagined wonders and frustrations. We expect the truth! One request: Last we heard, the youngest among you had suffered a serious injury. Could we have an update? And while we’re on the subject of Breakaway Breakdowns, it appears Rose Plumbing has competently addressed the two back-home water disasters to which you referred. The remnants of the debacle have been saved for posterity. All is well. No need to come home yet.
Well thanks, Buddy–glad to hear plumbing is working despite disasters and -55 windchills and all. Thanks for the cheerleading too; as you know, the writer’s world is a lonely one, so it’s good to know somebody is out there’! Writer’s block? No problem, mon. My mind writes all the time; my hands take pics the rest. The issues instead are the slow, frustrating pace of posting both pics and words. Techno-constipation. I see why other bloggers go for a simpler site. But perhaps this cumbersome process keeps me from getting (too) verbose. As for CurlyGirl, her injury is nearly “healed.” Still not pretty, and not sure when she’ll have a fingernail, but all is well. She’s since moved on to an ear infection, which keeps her outa the water (big bummer) and into eardrops. That’s what you get for bodysurfing and snorkeling daily, I guess. This too shall heal. More sublime, ridiculous, and “truth” to come, *kh