Running for the Bus

The largest buses on the island are for the tourists. The van size is for taxis and local busses. I’ve never used one, although other visitors have and enjoyed the experience. The price hasn’t increased much over the years either. It’s up to $1.50, $2.00 with a customary tip. The license plate reads ”BUS” and the front window displays a card with its destination.

The other day we were on our way to Orient Beach. As we passed through Quarter d’Orleans, just before the bakery, a women began to run toward the corner. She suddenly stopped walking and it was apparent that she had missed the bus. I alerted Bill to stop the car. We asked her if she wanted a ride and where was she headed. In her best english she told us Marigot, for work. We made it clear that we would take her as far as the main entrance to Orient Bay.

Amazingly, traffic made it possible for us to catch the bus at the Orient Beach stop. Also lucky for the lady, the bus was still loading. We honked and motioned for the driver to wait, which he did. We were happily satisfied to watch her catch her bus and not be late to work. It felt good to be a small part of the island’s fabric.

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A Rough Start

Daniel Defoe’s “Robinson Crusoé” was ultimately the tale of privilege and colonialism. The indigenous man who saved Crusoé from his own cannibal tribe, became his servant. He also had to convert to Christianity and was renamed Friday.

That is not the part of the story I want to linger on though. After Crusoé becomes stranded on a Caribbean island he had a tough bout with malaria. In his fevered state he was no longer able to keep track of the days. Within the first few days of our arrival on St. Martin, I was bedridden with a fever and cough. The cough lingered for quite a long time after my recovery. Being waylaid in a sick bed put a damper on our social life. Bill was worried and stayed around at times to take care of me. So many people and places we wanted to see.

We had booked a sail with “Peggy & Paul” to St. Barths. The day of the excursion, I realized I probably shouldn’t be going but they had to have a certain number of passengers or it would’ve been canceled. After our return, we had scheduled dinner in Orient Village for 7 pm. It was only happy hour with the sun beginning to set.

We chose the Yellow Sub to hang out for a drink. JR the bartender, a fun Frenchman, was very helpful when I asked if he could make some kind of remedy for my cold symptoms. He called it “Glug” and even gave us the recipe. The most important ingredient is the Rhum. French Rhum, like what’s used in Ti Punch, fresh lemon juice, honey, and hot water. “The difference is that regular rum is made from molasses and the French make theirs from sugar cane”, JR told us. The drink was warm and soothing and once I finished it, needed a nap. I spent most of that evening in the car while Bill and our friends enjoyed mussels at Cote Plages. They even had blow jobs without me!

The next day was spent in bed. Bill went to the Happy Buddha, which was next door to where we were staying, to get me some noodle soup. It was just what the doctor ordered and I slept and sweated trying to work the sickness from my body.

After losing a whole week, I can’t imagine only being here on St. Martin for such a short time. By now we were staying in our timeshare at Simpson Bay Resort, I still call it The Pelican. As I laid in bed recovering, my compensation was the sound of the waves rolling onto shore. I imagined them washing over me and carrying away my cold.

I watched as the day began quietly with colors splashed across the sky. What would the day bring? Cruise ships guide along the horizon bringing crowds filled with anticipation, the sun reflects against the boats anchored in the bay, a passing shower, a rainbow; all the possibilities. Workers arrive to groom the sand and prep the lounges. The beach bar opens and music is added to the sounds. People claim their palapas as the beach fills. Pigeons visit our balcony, playing a haunted flute like melody.

The first tour of colorful kayaks round the jetty as the make their way into our little cove. The guide yells helpful instructions for the snorkel portion of the groups agenda. Off they swim in search of fun and fish. Each day a new tour arrives.

The smell of bacon fills the air as the first club sandwiches are prepared. The sound of children’s happy voices playing and discovering mix with those of planes taking off in the background, music, and thunderous waves. The day finishes off with a beautiful sunset that casts a “Rio Oro” on the water. The liquid gold connects back to the sun giving hope for a healthy tomorrow.

Like Crusoé, I lost track of time as the days melded together. Bill was my guy Friday who took great care of me! Note: no natives were harmed in this story.

Spinning Yarns

I’m amazed and confused by the rumor mills of certain SXM FB groups. Salacious tales filled with lust and hopeful speculation have been making the rounds once again. Some people have flattered themselves with fictitious tales of sexual invitations. Bill’s numerous photos of me have been touted to be advertisements with ulterior motives.

Our love for each other, our friends, and the island are undeniable. These silly stories, on the other hand, are. The only time we would solicit anyone is on FB, enticing the sale of my paintings.

SahlmanArt or sahlmanart.com….gratuitous sales pitch!

Feel free to be jealous of us! We know it has all been a precious gift and plan on riding off into the sunset together. Believe what you want, buy the art!

P.S. Next time tell us the latest rumor. We love to laugh!

Upon Arrival

11/25/18

What a sweet treat to have been able to travel nonstop. The airline monopoly has left us mostly in the “go to jail” or “chance “ category. We roll the dice and play on ever hoping to “collect $500”. Direct flights are an effective tool for maximizing time on beaches instead of airports. Even sweeter was the treat of having good friends with their smiling faces awaiting our arrival. (The airport has since partially reopened for both arrivals and departures through the actual building.)

SXM Juliana airport has improved their makeshift operation from last year. We found our way through the marked maze to immigration and baggage claims. At this time there were two chutes with ramps where workers tirelessly “schlepped” bags from the chute to the roped off area where impatient passengers waited en masse. Customers who identified their bags expected them to be delivered to right where they were standing. Workers did their best to keep things moving repeatedly telling claimers to go to the perimeter where their bags stood. This was the only point of contention in the entire process which was relatively quick.

We picked up the rental car and followed our friends home. After settling in, our gracious hosts welcomed mutual friends to celebrate our “homecoming” and another couple’s departing. Yes, this is the friendly island. Looking around the room, we feel blessed. It’s like we never left and jump back into the island social life immediately. Just another reason why SXM is so special.

Game Day

I have to admit that I could care less about football. My husband, on the other hand, has his favorite team and knows their schedule. Even on the island a contingent of fans plan where to view the next showdown. On the Dutch side there are many sports bars to satisfy this American pastime. The French also have a few locations catering to these guests. We’ve gone to a couple of different bars and Bill has been generous enough to do without from time to time.

All in all these games have been fun to watch along side of other “expats”. At times it gets downright rowdy. Fans sure do get passionate about their teams failures and success!

Most places offer snacks or dinner with their beer specials. Dinghy Dock prides itself on their IPA selections. (They have great mac ‘n cheese too!)

For me not being so into the whole experience, it actually has been rather enjoyable!

Morning Walks

Birds sing. Dogs bark. Roosters crow. Cars speed by, often too close for comfort. The sun is hot. The breeze is cool. Each step is a victory. The small cove is the reward. A rocky beach awaits, lacking in comfort. There is place to sit and observe. To the right are tall cliffs. Rocks spill into the sea. Pelicans perch on a large outcropping, their own island in the water. Grouped together in the sun, they contemplate fishing. One rises high as a kite. Floating, flying, scouting, diving, he repeats his mission for food. To the left a flat ridge juts out. Locals take their positions also to fish. On the beach today two more men join in with bucket and net, casting and checking. One stands booted in the surf.

The sky is blue with some haze along the horizon. St. Barths is clearly visible. St. Kitts and Nevis are heavily shrouded. Statia can also been seen to the right. Saba is there too, but the cliffs block her entirely.

The wind is stronger here in this little cove, yet peaceful with a pretty view. Anticipation calls me to this spot. I will answer again tomorrow.

Beige Plate Dilemma

I have been forced, tricked into a food rabbit hole. What began as a quest for having children has become an ever elusive one for health. Over the years, I’ve cleaned up my diet beginning with cooking dinner; to discovering how things are made from scratch; learning the value of organics; trying to keep track of new chemicals and additives; and finally attempting to avoid these harmful substances even on raw foods. Thirty-plus years of striving and somehow I’m still not quite healthy. Autoimmune issues continue to plague me. To add insult to injury I’ve also gained so much weight while Bill has gotten thinner and stronger from this venture.

At home it is much easier to develop good habits. We’ve added more smoothies, cut way down on meat, oils, cheese (milk products), eggs, grains (especially wheat), and alcohol. “What’s left to eat”, you ask? Fruits, vegetables, and greens in their raw state. Our kids bought us a juicer. Celery juice is first thing on the list to drink each day. Bill doesn’t participate in this new ritual, but joins in with the first smoothie of the day. Over time my joints began to move without pain once more.

Everything was beginning to move in the right direction and then it was time to travel to SXM. In place of some of our practices, Bill will heat some water with lemon and ginger. This is a great alternative morning kickstart.

All this preambling to say — it has been challenging, especially, surprisingly, on the French side, to find the food options I need. “Salads are the answer “, you say! I thought so too. Ceaser, Thai (Bo Bun), and other offerings come with either cheese, meat, or eggs. One café custom made me a lovely plate but it still had a bit of cheese. So much for salads a la Susi!

Menus list appetizers, snacks, or tapas. Next time you’re ordering, consider how many items are fried, cheesey, or brown…..I’ll have a side of fries with that.

Entrees revolve around meats, which are a protein containing fat. Too many of these tax the digestive system, especially the liver. Pasta is another category, a favorite, except when having to avoid processed grains. More often these days everything is a la carte. It is becoming more and more rare to have a salad and vegetable included with a dish.

So here’s my question….on the French side, how many locals eat the same things at home that are also on the restaurants menus? Believe it or not, the Dutch side has been more accommodating with the salads and veggie options I desire.

So here’s your homework: next time you go out to eat, look at your plate noting the color(s). How much of a particular food group do you eat generally? How many fruits, vegetables, and greens do you eat compared to meat, grains and starches?

Let’s challenge one another to eat less fried, less meat and processed grains (bread and pasta) and interject more berries, nuts, fruit, veggies and greens.!

Happy New Year! 😊🍾

Sounds

Listening to the sounds of the island is always a calming treat. We don’t realize how much we miss it when we’re away until we return and are privileged to hear them again. Down by The former Club O, the palms sound like gentle waterfalls. Last year I didn’t think so, but of course Irma has changed so many things about the island. There no longer is a gardener to tend and trim the dry stalks that hang like makeshift curtains. The wind tickles the brown fronds into making music.

The solitary setting has become a bit of a bird sanctuary. They interject their particular songs and calls over top of the waterfall sound. In the background the constant roar of the ocean reminds us that we are not in a rainforest.

These are the settings we take for granted during our stay. Our souls, however, instinctively do not—and yearn for another chance to have the sound wash over us.

Opting Out

Christmas Eve we will have dinner with friends at Vesna. Christmas Day will be spent on the beach and a happy hour drink at a local beach bar. Boxing Day we’ll celebrate our friends anniversary with champagne after time on the beach. A very simple holiday season on the island.

SXM is still teaching us we have too much stuff. We are slowly making some progress each year but sentimentality keeps getting in the way. We spoiled our kids and raised their expectations for what they could receive. Our parents taught us to try to give our kids a better life then our own. We’ve since learned that such thinking is unsustainable. Bigger, better, more, more, more is ultimately neither satisfying nor a responsible way to live.

I finally said no more gifts when they’d show up in the recycling bin or closet corner. As a kid, my sister and I looked forward to Christmas and birthdays for those special gifts. Delayed gratification was just a part of life and we knew not to expect anything the rest of the year.

Nowadays we shop throughout the year purchasing not only what we need but what we want too. Our kids are adults and do the same thing. Hopefully they will, as we’ve had to, learn the difference between need and want choosing to live with less. It is stressful to have so much to take care of. Our suitcase of clothing for this trip reminds us we have plenty.

Vibrant

Everything about Orient Bay and the Village fits this descriptor. People are happy to be here, whether working or playing. Our favorite time on the beach is the weekend when the local French come out with their entire family. The children laugh and frolic in the sand and surf. Water sports abound, especially kitesurfing. They fill the sky with colorful sails. A section of beach has beach tennis courts set up. Young and old enjoy this ever popular newer sport. They host tournaments and offer lessons that seem to be regularly taken advantage of. We participate in the sunset yoga classes and have a drink at the bar afterwards.

Village life bustles day and night with cafés, bars, and restaurants. The Petite Casino is back providing the convenience of groceries. The little bakery next to Yellow Sub too, offering scrumptious macaroons and chocolaty pastries.

Once the sun is down people enjoy live music at various locations. The restaurants open at seven pm but when I’ve been too early have been invited to sit at the bar for glass of wine. Some places it’s hard to even get a table. They fill up so quickly.

A total of three beach bars grace what last year after Irma was an abandoned beach. The look is more rustic and quite charming. We love the openness of the beach but are conflicted—our friends who’ve lost their businesses. We truly miss them. Some say change is good. Sometimes it is just a matter of getting used to the new way of things. Change is constant on SXM and the difference from last year is huge. For now we are embracing the good vibrations, fun people, and warm December weather. It’s hard to believe we are only days away from Christmas!