2017… seems like just yesterday it was being ushered in with fireworks over the lagoon on Orient Beach. Loud music wafted up the hill from the parties below. New Year’s day found them passed out on beach lounge chairs. We are usually low key and wake up in time to wish our family well.
This year there will not be any fireworks. This will not dampen the planned festivities around the island though. We watched as trucks pulled up to Alamanda with lights and speakers in preparation for the live musical party they’ll be hosting. Our French friends invited us to join them but we are staying Dutch side. Our plans include a three-course dinner and an eighty’s dance party, costumes are optional.
Many people are looking forward to putting a period on 2017. It began with promise of change or new beginnings, which was embraced as hopeful. So many events have taken place this year with nature especially taking center stage. Extreme weather, war and political meddling have all left their mark on peoples lives. In 2018 we will continue to feel those repercussions. We all hope for a bright future – for ourselves. It feels like a perfect storm is brewing. It is the easiest to see on St. Martin, since it is only thirty-six square miles.
On the Dutch side the dump that fills the great salt pond burns emitting toxic fumes. There seems to be little governmental concern for the health and well-being of the people or the environment. (Though we have heard there are remedies finally coming. We’ll see) On the French side plans to build on an archeological site proceed.
Rules and regulations seem to burden inhabitants while lining the pockets of those in power with money so they can enjoy their lives. Those in power have forgotten they are public servants. Looks to me more like they serve themselves and those who line their pockets while the masses feel the weight.
We can see it easily here with a drive around the island and speaking with the locals. The Dutch side has no unemployment benefits, no job, no pay. Imagine renting a space without a roof, wondering if and when there will ever be one again. Does the landlord have insurance or money to make the necessary repairs? The only appliance that works is the stove. The electrical system is ruined and the refrigerator or maybe the lights, air conditioner (if there was one) or fan do not function.Those with windows and doors find themselves blessed. Those who are lucky enough to have a good employer have been also given food and sometimes shelter.
Both sides have so many rules and regulations, while insurance companies are on a “don’t call us, we’ll call you” mode. So many people are in limbo, waiting. Businesses often use their own monies in order to open again. Owners on the French side do not receive the government assistance that their employees do. And for those employees now without work, the stipend isn’t enough to live on and people are happy to work. Jobs are scarce.
2018 begins in the height of the tourist season. Resorts are double and triple dipping. They collect insurance, timeshare fees, and assessment fees all the while re-renting undamaged rooms at top dollar. Some, we’ve heard, fired their staff. It is unclear whether they’ve received a severance package even if the newspaper reported that they had.
Cruise ships have been returning bringing bus loads of people to Kim Sha Beach, the new temporary Orient Beach. The French have nothing more to accommodate such tours. Buses and taxis would bring many visitors over to Orient, but not as of yet. There are only two actual beach bars, the Perch Lite on the clothing optional section of the beach and Chez Leandra. The latter will be providing food soon but…there are no chairs. Hopefully Phillipsburg is busier.
The future looks bright for some. The four-month mark is around the corner, though with so many waiting for the basics. The new zip line on the former Emilio Wilson Estate, and before that, a sugar plantation profiting from slave labor. Emillio’s great grandmother is buried on the property where they buried their slaves. His vision was for the people of the island to use some of the land as parks and soccer fields. He entrusted the government with this task. The house was to be a museum displaying things from days of old. His own people in the government sold everyone out to make the zip line deal. He and his brother have nice villas. The profits will go back to the cruise ships. Once again the people and environment lose. The land at the summit had been untouched for almost two hundred years. Not anymore.
It is rumored notaries on the French side have falsified documents and possibly stealing land and properties from locals. We heard Pierre Beauperthuy was murdered possibly for his land. He had an old house with all things St. Martin for the public to visit. His family was given the land by Napoleon.
Piraterring has changed its looks but is alive and well.
It is easier to see it here and we, of course, so want to help out. To right the wrongs, to smooth the way for all people to be able to survive and thrive. This is after all what true community is. Even so, we can leave to our warm, comfortable life where we come from and continue to be complacent about both countries, and the plight of our land and neighbors. We, so far, have escaped their indignities. We’ve learned life lessons from — and changed our “world view” from our connection to the people of SXM.
May we continue to change in 2018 and beyond until we recognize we are all brothers and sisters here to share and enjoy the same planet. The “haves” and “have-nots” were invented through colonization and privatization. We are all God’s children. In the beginning it was dominion, not domination. We yearn to get back to “the garden” where there was plenty and peace.