Our first two weeks...
Trip Start Oct 28, 2008
12Trip End Ongoing
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Where I stayed
Not remembering where the last blog ended, I'll recap. We arrived on St. John safe and sound. Dust and I spent 3 days at Cinnamon Bay Campground, which is beautiful but was still infested with mosquitoes when we got there. We cut our stay short from our intended seven days after meeting some fellow relocaters with a car (it was either ride with them or hitchhike into town) and finding an apartment. Liz and Emily are now our neighbors, and we love our little studio. It's the perfect size for us since we usually only use one room in the house at a time anyway. It's been so nice having all those little things I didn't think about needing like silverware, a cheese grater, and a shower curtain. Not to mention the blankets and brand new pillows Jane gave us the day we moved in. Jane and Sonny are our landlords and neighbors who built this house almost 25 years ago and divided it into apartments after their children moved out. There are 5 households here now, each with 2 people plus one with Tiffany (Liz and Emily's new roommate). We all seem to be fairly quiet with the exception of us and the girls when we drink too much rum and get chatty.
Dustin and I both got jobs right away, me at a place called Woody's (www.woodysseafood.com look for pictures of me!!! No, those are not my boobs.) which makes my first bartending job and I'm having a blast with it. Looks like a crazy place on the website, I know, but it's pretty mellow with the exception of Happy Hour and late night. Dustin is working at a new restaurant & bar called "Crazy Crackers" after the owner's pet Chihuahua who liked to get dressed up so much he had his own drawer full of dog clothes. They plan to open on December 1st and are in the midst of remodeling; Dustin has found he has an affinity for electrical work and can wire just about anything in the restaurant. Our workplaces are right across the street from each other and both within short walking distance of the house, as is just about everything else in Cruz Bay. We walk everywhere and a car isn't really needed. I met a girl who has lived here for 5 years and still doesn't own a car.
The people are friendly and say hello to each other upon passing, often honking and waving at people they know, and after 3 weeks I have a hard time walking down the street without seeing someone I've met. Because of the size of the island (population 4500) word gets around quickly and most people are courteous and welcoming. Treating others badly isn't really something that's tolerated and it seems as though people who make a bad name for themselves don't last long.
We've made friends quickly and have someone to chat with wherever we go. The owners of 'Crackers' (Dave and April) got married last Sunday at a gorgeous ceremony on the beach at Trunk Bay followed by a reception at the ruins in Caneel Bay. The day before they took us all to that same beach for snorkeling and sunbathing, then on a sunset cruise on my very first sailboat!! Lots of Painkillers were served on board- a local specialty drink with dark rum, pineapple juice, and the ever present Coco Lopez (cream of coconut). The chef for 'Crackers' cooked us all dinner afterwards and we made each other drinks with more rum... big surprise. All this was done with Dave and April's families who embraced us wholeheartedly, our party totaling just fewer than 20 for the festivities. I feel lucky to have met them all-the very definition of southern hospitality and sweetness. I missed the reception but Dust took pictures for me so I attached those for you too! After the reception everyone came to Woody's to see me, April in her wedding gown taking pictures with me in my Woody's gear.
Between the mosquitoes and nosee-ums (bugs I'd never heard of sometimes called flying teeth), the bug bites are pretty constant and I'm a little tired of being itchy all the time. Some days are worse than others, but right now I'm pretty low on bites... numbering around 8 or 9. The groceries here are super spendy compared to what I'm used to. My favorite comparison is that a liter of rum costs me $6.99 which is about the same as a head of iceberg lettuce. Between Cruzan rum and dollar beers for happy hour, it's much cheaper to drink than it is to eat well; a fact locals and tourists alike seem to embrace with gusto. There are some local crazies, mostly harmless with whom we all have much closer contact than I've ever had with homeless people. They too have their good days and their bad days; luckily for us they still have access to medications.
Since downtown Cruz bay has just a few streets it's hard to get away from anyone for too long and there's a circuit of about 4 or 5 bars everyone meanders through each night. If you're looking for someone when you're out you need only walk the 5 minutes it takes to get through that circuit and you'll probably find them. Locals I've met say this is one of the reasons you have to get off the island every few months if you plan to make it for longer than a season. Otherwise island fever will drive you insane. There is another small town on the other side of the island called Coral bay, but it's one of those don't blink or you'll miss it kind of places and people are more spread out there it seems. The rest is mostly national park and there are only a couple roads that traverse the island, all of which have the craziest turns and hills which you need 4-wheel-drive to get past. If that wasn't enough to deter you from renting a car here, they also drive on the left hand side of the road and half the streets in Cruz bay are one way with no lines and few signs.
Overall the island is clean although underdeveloped. For those of you that were with us in Playa Del Carmen, it's cleaner than that for the most part. The population is described as about 50% white and 50% West Indian (roughly) with some Latino mixed in from Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic etc. I hear more Latino music than I do reggae usually, although I've heard a lot of what's called calypso-usually involving steel drums. I didn't know I liked steel drum music so much, some of us are even talking about taking lessons at the church down the street.
My favorite event so far would have to be a tie between watching Liz get super excited about the donkey sticking his head through the window to eat her Chex mix and watching a parade through town after Obama's election. We've found since that donkeys seem to sense artificial cheese products and are less assertive when not lured by them. The parade brought me to tears as they were chanting Obama's name and playing band instruments in celebration. Seeing so many people united in celebration over a single event, regardless of its origin, gives me hope. The fact that it was something our nation did as a whole makes it that much more profound for me, and I hope any that do not support our new president can find it in their hearts to tolerate him with more grace than those of us who opposed the reign of Bush.
My least favorite event would have to be walking in the rain at night through a cloud of mosquitoes our first night on the island. Cinnamon bay campground was pitch black, wet, sticky, new to me and a little overwhelming after 24 hours of travel. The fact that I only cried a little bit that night still surprises me, my thanks to Dustin for assuring me we would be fine even if we were covered in 35 mosquito bites a piece and couldn't get our clothes to dry for all the moisture in the air.
Today is a "snow day" for Woody's, which means we're all taking the day off for some group recreation. I get to try out my new bikini and turn down a few more rum drinks to drink cheap beer while I lay in the sun. I love it here...
I miss you all and think of you often. If I hadn't already made you follow me to Mexico for our wedding I'd ask that you all come to visit so I could share the island's surreal beauty and laid back lifestyle. Just remember that there are places in the world where time moves slower and not to rush too much through your days.