Thursday, July 17, 2014

St. John

I've been AWOL for a little while. In close succession, we hosted my wonderful sisters-in-law for the better part of a week and then jetted and boated off to the amazing island of St. John, USVI. This is a shot of Great Cruz Bay from our rented villa. I could definitely get used to this view and the active, no-nonsense lifestyle of this island, largely undeveloped and covered with wildlife. I wore a scarf around my head instead of attempting to style my hair and opted for sunscreen over makeup. We've encountered eagles, wild chickens, mongoose, deer, wild mules and donkeys, wild (or at least free-range upon the roadways) cattle and goats, peccaries (little, wild pigs) enormous sea turtles, sting rays the size of my kitchen table, huge fish which swam right up to our rented dinghy, and clouds of tiny fish which were not bothered when we snorkeled through their midst. As thrilling as the close encounters with the larger animals were, I'd have to say it was being enveloped in these clouds of tiny, iridescent fish that brought me closest to a transcendent state of mind. I'm a bit off-kilter as I resume real life now.

Imagining an alternate universe where this could be permanent real-life, I have to admit there are downsides. First, the price of the dwellings, and real estate in general. We checked the price of an empty lot in paradise and it was $80,000. The lot was a good 45 minute drive on winding mountain roads away from civilization. I cannot say enough great things about our gorgeous villa planted atop a mountain in paradise, but to many with western civilization sensibilities, a paradigm shift will be in order. The central living areas of most of these villas are not air conditioned. Individual units of varying effectiveness cool the sleeping quarters. It makes no sense whatsoever to turn on the oven. The entire living area becomes unlivable. I made the mistake of baking a potato, and won't do that again. Aside from cooking, I never spent time in this part of the house. The boys sat in front of the TV for the Germany v. Brazil World Cup game, but other than that we lived on the veranda overlooking the bay. The villa was perched upon and within a habitat of an unknown number of native species. As such, we had to learn to live with them a little. Truly, it was mostly my 16 year old daughter who had to live with them the most. Her bedroom was above the cistern, the source of water for the house. Water is delivered to these homes by truck, and the pipes for showering, laundry and dishes are fed from a large tank called a cistern. A section of the tiled floor under one of the beds in her room has a frame so the floor can be lifted for access to the cistern. I witnessed a few tiny critters evading capture through the cracks in the floor. They must be attracted to the moisture (don't drink the water). I joked with my daughter that she can now call herself the "mother of dragons" since most of her roommates were of the reptilian variety. The first night she was aware of them was unsettling, but since she is a wildlife lover who particularly loves baby animals, she became very brave and only worried about inadvertently harming the little guys who must have been newborns. They were less than an inch long with eyes way too big for their heads. They spent most of their time on the walls and ceilings. She thought they were adorable. I thought she was very brave. Once we re framed the villa stay as a highly luxurious camping trip, we all relaxed. This was around the time I stopped pulling out the blow dryer and makeup. Still, I insisted my daughter carefully shake out and inspect all her clothing before repacking it for the trip home.

Living anywhere without an airport or a large harbor for freight obviously affects the price of everything, and the quality of perishables. We had packed a bag of dry goods, mostly rice, pasta and canned items, knowing the St. John markup would be substantial. As it turned out, I made do with a sad, almost rotten head of romaine, some grape tomatoes, an onion, some mushrooms and an even sadder bunch of kale for the week, along with some garlic, olive oil, dried herbs and spices left from the last tenant of the villa. We also enjoyed the remains of a couple of bottles of island rum from the prior tenants and similarly paid forward what was left and presentable from our own food and drink. While I've been mostly gluten-free since April, I had to resort to eating regular bread on the days we packed lunch since we would be away from food sources, hiking or boating. Gluten free bread is too expensive on the mainland, so I didn't even check the price on the island. I thought about buying a bunch of organic carrots, which actually looked pretty decent, but they were $14.

I basically put this upon most of my rice or gluten-free pasta (which I had packed):

Tip: lightly sauteing sad romaine or kale in olive oil and fresh garlic greatly improves it.

I was happy to pay the price of a week of lowered nutritional standards to reap the benefits of being in this amazing place. If it's ever in the budget again, I'd jump at the chance.

1 comment:

  1. Beautiful! Thanks for reading!