St Thomas is wild, chaotic, and wonderful! From the breathtakingly amazing views to the clear blue water to the haphazard homes plucked on the mountainside in complete ignorance of the “laws” of gravity, this place is a study in contradiction.
You are surrounded by obscene wealth and heartbreaking poverty. There is an undercurrent of hostility to the state-siders. We bring our money to spend, which supports life here, but we also bring traffic, drive up housing prices, and we can leave when the inevitable pitfalls of island life become more than we can handle.
As a state-sider, there are definite adjustments that you must make to live here. One, the grocery stores are limited and expensive by state-side standards. A block of cheese that I paid $2.50 for in the mainland, is $6.99 here.
Ironically, alcohol is sinfully cheap and way too easy to obtain. Frankly, it is very much a way of life here.
Gas is pricey, and you really must have a Jeep, or at least a 4-wheel drive vehicle, because the roads are practically vertical up the mountain and full of potholes. You also drive on the left side of the road, so you must constantly be ultra-aware of what you are doing. One false move and you hit someone or slide down a steep cliff. Frankly, I feel like I need to be drunk when I’m riding around on these roads! I am still not brave enough to take the wheel myself!
You cannot escape the mark of Hurricanes Irma and Maria. These storms devastated the islands a year ago, and the scars are deep and unmistakable. There is a nostalgia and ache for the life before “Irmaria” and a sadness that pervades every conversation about it. The locals are hanging on and desperately trying to return to normalcy, but the money has been slow to return. The governmental system which was “challenging” in the best of times has faced steep obstacles. The very lackadaisical Carribean lifestyle that calls to us is the very challenge that makes rebuilding slow and difficult.
I have been fortunate to be here with a friend who has roots on the island. She has introduced me around, and it has been wonderful. The people have been open, hospitable, friendly and generous. I cannot express enough gratitude for the opportunity she has granted me to live and work in this unique and wild place for the next month.
I already feel the pull of the warm, tropical air. I’ll be back in a bit…