The Table by the Toilet

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We sat down for drinks and dessert, watching the dinner crowd meander down the street. Some people wandered into the restaurant feigning interest in the menu. It became very clear that their true intention was to use the toilet. Some were quick while others lingered, such was our view from the table by the toilet. Two men with young girls announced they were “just looking” when offered a table. The two girls already running in between seated dinner parties as the men checked their phones. The staff and dinner guests did not appreciate this intrusion that went on unchecked, the men were oblivious.

Later a table of six were seated nearby. The men never removed their caps or engaged in conversation with the females in the group. Nowadays, it seems many do not even dress up at all to go out for dinner. Another man came in and placed a to-go order. The staff confided that a couple of parties had not honored their reservations. Worse than that, though, are the groups with children who drink only ice water and keep asking for more bread, both being free of charge. We’ve watched the staff sweat, work, and be gracious under pressure. In this case, there wasn’t much reward reflected in the tip!

Still more came in the restaurant….to use the toilet. Such was our view from the table by the toilet.

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Great Expectations

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Tourists on the island are fun to watch. We’ve sat in many a beach bar during lunch and restaurants or Lolos for dinner watching them. Many a passer-by hunting, looking for that killer meal. Often they come preloaded with what they want to eat and it may not be on the menu. They stop to read the offerings — “Just looking, maybe we’ll will come back”, we hear them say.

Here on the French side the variety is mind boggling. Food that isn’t all brown and beige! What a delightful change! Complaints about small portions and long waits? —that’s right you’re not in the USA anymore. Small businesses are what we love so much about eating on St. Martin. Seriously, if you want American food, stay on the Dutch side or home for that matter. Here we are on island time, make the adjustment. After all, a slower pace is what vacation is all about!

The French have made an art of creating fine crafted dishes, “menu”. The luxury of the taste not quantity is of greatest importance and you’ll have room for dessert! Some dishes aren’t even available in many areas in the USA. Take advantage of their expertise.

The locals incorporate spices from their native lands to their Creole offerings, which can be on the hot side. They have perfected barbecued meats (including Carribean lobster), stews and beans with rice. A whole fish, complete with head and bones is a favorite. Make sure it is a fillet if you want to avoid the bones and being stared at.

To be fair, the French have a preconceived notion Americans need to be aware of. When ordering beef dishes medium rare is supposed to be more red on the inside. Americans have been sending this back to the kitchen for more pink, which is actually medium. So now medium rare is automatically made medium. This has caused problems for those who know the difference and the meat is over-cooked. Make sure you clarify this with your server!

Another first for us, in our friend’s home, another guest from Switzerland had supplied the wine for dinner. Bill opened the bottle and set it back on the table. After a French exchange with the host, we were informed that the guest expected Bill to serve the wine. Huh? Is this a custom we don’t know about? Anyone know of such a custom? At home, as hosts we will pour for our guests.

I suppose we all have great expectations!

An Eye Opening Experience

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Alice in Wonderland drank potions to change size as she journeyed down the rabbit hole. Here on St. Martin there are many magic potions as well. Alcohols infused with fruits or herbs range from medicinal to sublime. Some have taken this traditional art to that point. Why not have the best of both worlds…enjoyable and titillating, while healthy at the same time?

Our modern notion of potions has gone as far as to embrace smoothies and juicing. The ancients were far more diverse and forward with their approach. Modernity has been defined by its prudish and self righteous view of older wisdom. They, and their children, now pay the price, having traded this wisdom for convenience. The centralization of everything from food sourcing and preparation to pharmaceutical owned, drug dispensing doctors having taken over.

I’m optimistic that the pendulum has swung to the extreme and is now on its way back. Many are finding modernity’s methods and systems two dimensional and suffocating. Artisans are sprouting up, bringing quality and life back into forgotten trades. The quest to relearn the benefits of herbs, growing our own food, canning, and creating things with our hands; is the new wave.

We’ve lost our connection with the earth progressively since the industrial revolution. Many are awakening to the fact that our consumer-driven lifestyle — bigger, faster, more and more, is not only unsustainable, it is not very satisfying either. We go on vacations to escape our daily life. We teach our children: Get a good education, job, car, house….etc. Use credit. So now where there was once only one tv per house, we have one per bedroom, plus living areas. One car per household has become one per person — sometimes even more! We spend more time in our cars and work, often times, than our houses we’ve mortgaged, the bank and state owning us. We’ve inadvertently become slaves, managing a lifestyle instead of a life. No wonder we need to vacate it!

We’ve lost our connection with one another too. Computers, smart phones, social media — a generation that no longer knows how to be social face-to-face. Children do not know how to speak with adults or show respect, in fact are taught “stranger danger.” Manners, civility, and common courtesy have pretty much disappeared from society and it’s not just the children! What a shame. The ability to speak with those of other ages is helpful for jobs and all other life experiences. Intergenerational interactions give history, experience and wisdom for the future. I look forward to seeing communities diverse in age re-emerge. There is a fullness to life, a deep respect, a youthfulness, a natural interdependence that occurs in this type of exchange.

Our transient culture has made us independent at the cost of multidimensional relationships. Peer only friendships give camaraderie and support while going through similar experiences. Diverse age friendships offer hope that there is light at the end of the tunnel, a differing perspective, challenging us to think and grow. We can learn to understand each other without a magic potion. It takes mindfulness, though, to go out of our way to make it happen. The sooner we learn that we all need one another, the better off humanity will be.

…These the musings of someone who drank an eye opening potion!

Breath

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Inhale, exhale, focus on the breath. Follow its rhythm, just like the rolling waves of the sea. The chest lifts as it fills with air. Slowly, it descends as the body expels used oxygen. The wave rises, curls, and releases up onto the shore, then retreats. The breath merges with the calming sound of the ocean. Even in the stillness there is movement. The body is never static. Sitting or standing internal observation feels the motion. Gazing off toward the horizon, there too are ripples of distant waves yet to arrive on the beach. Nothing is truly void of some activity. The sand yields to the force of wind and wave.

Inhale exhale, focus on the breath. Move with the breath, hold a posture. Breathe through any discomfort. The brain chatters negative messages. Come back to the sound of the waves. Follow the breath. The chatter yields as the movements and posture continue. The muscles become energized and flexible. Time to lie down and commit to memory all that the muscles have learned. With eyes closed fully aware that even in the stillness there is movement. There is breath. There is life.

Silk Cotton Communion

Taxi drivers delivered a group to the Silk Cotton Gallery. Ruby told her story. She reflected on her youth. A handful of collared pencils from her father. Her journey as an artist began. Although born in Aruba, her father always wanted his family to come home to St. Martin. She shared more details of her life and family. Art not only was her love, it also, for a time, was therapy. She felt compelled to paint.

Just then Dukey, her black dog, caught an iguana. It struggled in vain in the toothy grip of the dogs mouth. The scene became gruesome when later the half eaten iguana lay on the ground lifeless. All of the beautiful green color was gone. Dukey, however, was proud of himself and his prowess as hunter. Ruby had been upstaged.

She then stood behind a table with a colorful crochet cloth. Displayed on top were Johnny Cakes and rhum punch. As Ruby talked of the true St. Martiner and their hospitality, one of the drivers distributed the small cakes to the visitors. Then she encouraged everyone to come to the table and partake of the punch. Church happened in that moment, beside the old silk cotton tree. There we had communion, in simplicity. We were all guests at the table. We were all one.

Dancin’ in the Rain

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The wind changed direction.
Icy breezes blew.
The rain marched through with a vengeance.
Sun bathers huddled together under flimsy cover.
The storm quickly past leaving a chill behind.
Tables and chairs pulled away from the roof’s edge.
Then we noticed the music with its cheerful melody.

A couple felt inspired, the man took the lead.
They danced in the cold dampness, with  smiles upon their faces.
The mood changed.
The crowd applauded.
We enjoyed the impromptu show.

The wind had changed direction.
Storm clouds surfed along with the flow.
We were caught unaware, left to feel the cold.
The moon was at its fullness, pulling tides higher than before.
The wave’s greedy hands ripped at the shore.
The sand was no more.

But dancin’ in the rain is a reminder.
It is the calm within the storm.
They brought the others comfort and made us all feel warm.

Resolutions and Revolutions

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My wish, my intention on this trip to St. Martin may have been unrealistic. After all, every vice is highly accessible and inexpensive. Still I set an intention. I wanted to lose weight and drink less. Six weeks into it, a wake up call. Failure in both areas became my new reality. Time to regroup, take stock, and begin anew.

Cold turkey, stop drinking on the island? Yes, that’s even more difficult than cutting back! However, saying no becomes easier as friends realize what’s going on. Peer pressure is treatable. I admit, hanging out with friends and dinner time are most challenging!

Next, reviewing the food intake is more problematic. Identifying where I’ve gone wrong is somewhat elusive. We already share our meals, so portion control is not the issue. It must be what is on the plate. Many things I do not eat at home, I’ve indulged in. For instance, the “pain”….French baguettes and croissants, plain and chocolat. The only thing that comes remotely close in the USA is bread from an Italian bakery. The taste, the texture, the crust, it is a sensual experience. French fries, not everyone has awesome ones, but we’ve found a place. They have the perfect crunch and saltiness, with just enough softness inside, so incredible with mayo. Main dishes usually come with choice of fries, rice, mashed potatoes — and if you’re really lucky, pomme de Terre au gratin. Thinly sliced potatoes, layered with creamy goodness, wow. Pizza, marguerite with whole black olives, a French classic. The addition of oil infused with pepper flakes gives it just the right amount of heat…..c’est si Bon! I also love all the lovely sauces, mushroom, wine, Demi glaze, bechamel, curry…etc. Eat more salad! ….salad with grilled fish and Creole sauce, hot and spicy. We rarely eat dessert but when we do, I only have a couple of bites.

Why is it he can lose weight eating the same things I do?

In the past, I’ve kept a food journal. It has been a helpful way to keep myself accountable. I would also count how many cups of coffee (which I’ve pretty much given up), water and glasses of wine per day. Seeing everything in black and white is another form of accountability. It is also instructive for tailoring my diet and correcting areas where there may be too much intake of certain foods. Being honest with yourself is really important. I will take notes for the duration of this trip. Three months of elimination of offensive calories will then help to reset my mind and body. Then reintroduce, in moderation, some fun treats. That’s the plan for instilling my new habits.

Consistent exercise will round out the regimen. At home these opportunities are already part of the schedule. Here on the island, we’ve been swimming, walking, and playing volley ball. It sounds like enough but maybe I can do better!

With 2017 commenced and only three weeks left in our trip, I will tweak what I put into my body and increase cardio movement. Walking is so important as it helps to keep my thoughts and attitude in check. Negative thinking will ruin my resolve and results. We shall see how I progress.

Now I start work on being true to myself on my journey of becoming the person I want to be as I implement this course of action. Let the revolution begin!

Sloppy Joe

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St. Martin is a collection of characters. Each one is unique. We were just introduced to another. He’s a sailor who island hops alone. He told us that he believes in many institutions, the only institution he doesn’t believe in is marriage. I can’t tell you his real name or where he’s from, he might vaporize me…even though he thinks I’m hot — my sister and I that is. Only she’s really not my sister. Bill impressed him by claiming us “sisters” and two other women, who stay home and take care of the kids, as his wives. Bill said we were from Utah, Mormon — because they want more-man! Our new friend hoped we could be “neighbors” and “visit”…he says that about all the hot girls.

“But wait, what was that thing about vaporizing people?!”
“Yes, you can’t imagine how many seek out this service.”
“What kind of people?”
“Ah, you don’t want to know. Yep, we’re all going to hell.”
“I don’t believe in hell.”
“Well, we’re all going in the same direction.”
“Ya, north.”
Silence

Wow, so, never mind, keep sailing and “visiting” your female “neighbors”. Certainly being alone for too long has affected you in some way. In turn forget about meeting us. We’d rather not be vaporized, seeing that it’s such a beautiful day in the neighborhood…”Won’t you be, O please won’t you be, won’t you be my neighbor.”

Yep, that just happened.

Dive In!

Marigot has a local hot spot! We have not ventured there at night for several years now, only drive through. It just doesn’t feel safe. This beautiful town was bustling with high-end shoppers, the weekly open air market, and restaurants everywhere. The marina was also busy with boaters, surrounded by shops and popular bistros. There was always a wait, although the prices were on the high side. Over time, even during the day, coke dealers and addicts appeared near shops, who were trying to conduct legitimate business. The seedy element grew unchecked. Some say when the Euro lost ground, many closed up shop, further contributing to Marigot’s demise.
During the day, there are, thankfully, still many places to visit. Recently, we’ve become aware of new parking rules that are causing difficulties for tourists who are unaware. The “Blue” parking zones require a clock disk to be displayed on the vehicle’s dashboard, with the time of arrival. Time is limited to one and a half hours and ticketing can be quite the ordeal. So far, it seems to be a failed attempt to ease parking congestion.
Last night, some dear friends invited us to dinner in Marigot! “Oh my! A nighttime outing….there!? Well, they live here, it should be alright,” so I reasoned. There are a group of restaurants at the foot of the knoll where Fort Louis stands. They are situated beyond the mall by Marina Port Louis. As we approached the area, we saw the red, white, and blue lights illuminating the fort above. Our table was ready and waiting. One of our little group was also the server. It was a happy reunion, with the past crew from Aloha, in what turned out to be, a super fun spot.
O Plongeoir, is a wonderful gem. Our party enjoyed one another, while diving into some tasty dishes. The evening was such a great experience. The restaurant had a lively vibe besides the good food, the prices were reasonable. We felt completely safe and look forward to a return visit! We smile as we think that the restaurant is aptly named.

Speaking of Dive Bombing

The sugar birds have always brought a smile to my face. Provide them with sugar and they will always visit. They sing and chirp as they nudge their way to the sugar bowl. I wonder if they are yelling “hey! it’s my turn, it’s my turn”. My feathered friends sure do make a lot of noise!

Recently, I was lounging on the terrace, near where they feed. I looked up just in time to realize, a sugar bird realized, I was in his flight path! He quickly dodged me, although to me it felt like a near miss! They are so fast, like tiny missiles, fluttering within earshot.

When we ate at Karibuni on Pinel island, each lunch brought on a new near miss. They are so single minded in their focus for a sugar fix. We observed a man, one time, who turned his table into theirs by sprinkling sugar on it. He was surrounded, enjoying the sugar birds selfish companionship.

Just this morning, a lone bird made his way on to the breakfast table to steal a taste of melon! At least we know the melons are sweet.