Tag Archives: St. Thomas

Yesterday I Had a Shower in the Street

I live on St. Thomas, Virgin Islands where public transportation is unreliable, taxi service is expensive and the most dependent form of mass transportation is unregulated. Still, I felt it was time to teach my 12-year-old how to navigate the island without depending solely on me and my trusty 10-year-old Toyota. When I gave her instructions for catching the “safari” – the open air, unregulated form of mass transportation most popular on the island – she told me she was scared. “Yeah right,” I thought to myself. She had caught the safari dozens of times with her grandmother. But as her mom, it’s my duty to remove her fears, right? So it was her first day of summer vacation when I decided to take her to work with me. I would park my car downtown and we would take the safari to work. Rain was forecasted for the day, but it was only overcast when I was lucky enough to find a parking space. So I took my chances. My first pointer to her: when depending on the safaris take an umbrella – you never know when it may rain.

The ride to work was great, as I continued to give her pointers. She confided that riding the safari with me was embarrassing. Why, I inquired. “If you ride the safari by yourself that means that you’re independent. If you ride the safari with your mom it probably means that she doesn’t have a good job, so she can’t afford a car.” I was surprised at the junior high logic. When I asked her “where does that leave us?” she couldn’t answer. “You should never make assumptions,” I told her, “cause we can never really know.”

I counted the walk up the hill to my office a good early morning activity. By lunchtime it was pouring and VI Alert messages to my phone confirmed that we were under flood watch. My plan of walking to and from the cafeteria had to be reworked. Umbrella in hand, we caught the campus shuttle to the cafeteria. An hour later, it was still pouring – hard. We had missed the shuttle back to the office. Luckily we were able to catch a ride with a colleague in a company vehicle. There were only two seats in the vehicle, so my 5’7” daughter had to sit on my lap.

The rain continued.

By 4:50 p.m. I got concerned. I started to feel that I had made a mistake in choosing this day for our safari ride. It was raining harder and harder. And it was flooding. We walked from my office down to the bus stop sharing our sole umbrella. I was thankful though – it was a covered bus stop. Well all of a sudden gusty winds began blowing the rain directly under the bus stop. I screamed out as the cold water wet me from waist down. And with everyone one else, I jumped on the benches. By this time, it made no sense wondering if I had made a right or wrong decision – I accepted that this was going to be a learning experience different than I had planned. Standing together on the bench with my daughter, cold wind and rain blowing up against us, I began laughing. Burst out laughing! She was pissed. We were drenched. She found nothing funny to laugh at. One by one everyone under the bus stop had gotten rides. That left the two of us. Then she began: “Mommy my shoes are soaked. Now I know what my friends were talking about….” “Mommy this safari is taking too long…” “Mommy do you realize that this was the worst day for us to catch the safari…” The most impactful: “Mommy, I can’t wait to get into our Toyota, without the rims…” I assume that she added “without the rims” because she had desperately missed the vehicle that, at this time may not look the best, but served a good purpose.

On the safari ride back to town I realized that my daughter had learned more than I ever expected. “It feels so good to sit in a moving vehicle,” she said. “I don’t know how anyone could not learn to drive, like my grandmother. I must get a car,” she continued. “Mommy imagine that some people have to do this every day…”

When we made it into the car she shouted out: “Yes! Yes! Yes! I missed my car!” The look of relief on her face was priceless. She took off her shoes and showed me her feet. They were wrinkled as though she had been swimming. I must admit, this whole thing was likewise an experience for me. It reminded me that I have so much to be grateful for.

As the rain continues to pour outside, I’m now safely at home, wondering how the homeless are making out. I wish that there was no homelessness and that safe, reliable transportation was available for everyone. I can’t change everything in the world. But right now I’m grateful for everything I have been blessed with. I can guarantee you that my daughter is too. She learned a much greater lesson than I even imagined.

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Living the Sweet Life…

Ah… the joys of sitting on a low step, feet spread far apart, leaning forward slight, ravenously peeling the skin off of a mango, then sinking my teeth into its juicy flesh – the yellow nectar of this wonderful fruit spilling around the sides of my mouth and running down my hands, sometimes to my elbow. It’s mango season! Time to eat my belly full of one my favorite fruits. Mangoes for breakfast. Mangoes for snack after lunch. Mangoes for appetizer before dinner. Can anyone ever get enough of mangoes? Growing up we had several mango trees in our yard on St. Thomas. The Julie mango tree was right at my door step. I could never get enough of that one. And as plentiful as that tree was, we always watched the fruit waiting for just the right time to pick them. We hardly allowed the fruit of this particular tree to fall to the ground – they were too precious. Every year during mango season, family from near and far would come for their pick off the tree.  Strangers, even, would come to our yard to get their pick when we weren’t there.

On the other hand at my grandparents home in St. Croix there were so many mangoes that I didn’t know what to do. The sheer size of their property allowed them to grow more trees, and their trees seemed to grow much taller and wider than those at our home on St. Thomas, producing so much of the treasured fruit. A tree that produced a purple mango with thick skin was near the entrance of their yard. That tree produced an enormous amount of mangoes! No matter how many people came by for their share, the supply never seemed to dwindle.  But those purple mangoes were not my favorite. I liked the small round ones at the tree further up. I also liked the ones from the tree all the way on to the back of the property. But even having so many mangoes at my disposal, I still looked forward to the days when we would drive to other parts of the island picking different types of mangoes that didn’t grown on my grandparents’ property. Not only did we get to eat our heart’s desire of any type of mango we wanted, there were so many that I could be picky. Yep, I only ate the ripe-but-firm ones, the ones that had little or no bruises on the skin. Anything else wasn’t good enough. But I would eat a mango until there was no yellow left. My Grandma Madge would say to me in her heavy Antiguan accent, “yuh gyal, nuh badder eat deh sudden dung to the seed bare so… me hab one pail ah mango here fuh yuh.”

But if you really want to know what mango heaven looks like, you must go to Dominica during the summer. I remember the countryside of LaPlaine, where my mother was born, being loaded with tropical fruits – every tropical fruit you could think of. We would wake up to a bucket of varieties of mangoes freshly picked mostly by our cousin Handel. And the coconuts, another of my favorite fruits, were also picked and lined up waiting for us to choose which ones we wanted to consume first. Handel treated us like royalty! (Sadly we lost Handel on a New Years day many years ago – a casualty of a drunken driver. The family has never gotten justice for his death.)

As a child I never remember anyone having to pay for mangoes. Maybe that was because children don’t have to pay for anything anyway. For the most part mangoes were shared freely. They were in such abundance! What else would people do with all those mangoes? Has anyone noticed that mangoes are not as abundant as they used to be? Not only mangoes. I’m observing a decline in other local fruits. I’m can’t name a single place on St. Thomas where someone can find a cherry (gooseberry) tree.  A couple of years ago when I was pregnant and couldn’t wait for my usual supply of mangoes, I decided to buy some mangoes from a fruit stand. I asked the lady where the mangoes were from. I looked at her in disbelief when she told me Puerto Rico. What! It was bad enough that I had to actually BUY mangoes, and the mangoes were not even locally grown! It’s not that I have anything against fruits from Puerto Rico. It just seemed strange to me that before, mangoes were so plentiful that someone could make a good hustle from selling the mangoes that they collected for free out of their or someone else’s yard. Now we had to import them.

 For me, because mangoes are seasonal I try to eat as many as I can when locally grown ones are available. Luckily for me, my daughter’s grandmother also shares a love for mangoes and supplies us with bags full at a time. But still, this delectable fruit doesn’t seem to be as plentiful as it once was. So if you happen to catch me eating one, or see me admiring your tree, or see me stop my car to pick up a freshly fallen fruit – bear with me. It’s mango season!

Irony of a Single Mom; 5 Signs of a Pitiful Social Life

What to do on a Saturday night on St. Thomas when the children are gone? My children’s godmother recently offered to keep my children on a Saturday night so that she can spend some time with them and give me a little free time. Yippee! A free Saturday night!

The first thing to do was find out what’s going on for the weekend; so I text a couple of my friends asking where’s the lime to find out what’s going on. “Lime” or “liming” is our word for partying or hanging out. None of them know anything. That’s the first sign of a pitiful social life: your friends, the people who actually hang out more than you, have no idea what’s going on.

I decided to text my friend Rashidi, a radio personality on the popular station 105 Jamz. Surely he should know what’s popping. And he does. His response to me: “U trying to lime?!” Second sign of a pitiful social life: no one takes you seriously when you say you want to party.

Rashidi is hosting a karaoke night with music by DJ Pete after. Sounds good. But his gig is on Friday. My free day is Saturday. The only thing he knows that’s happening on Saturday is something that – let’s say I would have been delighted to attend 10 years ago. Just as I finished my texting session with Rashidi, my daughter brings me an invitation to our cousins’ 10th birthday party on the beach on Sunday. Third sign of a pitiful social life: your children have more invites than you do. But it was still Friday, so I remained hopeful.

Saturday morning I went on a cleaning spree. After all, I would be partying my night away, right. So I decided to do something worthwhile with my day. By 8 p.m. after cleaning, dropping off my children to their godmother and shopping, I decided to text a few more of my friends to see what I should get into. They all mention the same event that Rashidi mentioned the day before. But like me, none of them really want to go to that either. I log on to Facebook. I can get some hints of what’s happening there. Shawna has already said that whatever we do, she isn’t coming. That’s a bummer.  Finally Tiffy mentions a club, this new club that we can go to. Now, Tiffy is a chic that knows how to have a good time. But not even she has been to this club before, so we’re all skeptical. By now it’s 10:30 p.m. My eyes are getting heavy. Fourth sign of a pitiful social life: you’re tired before the party begins.

I’m not quite sure what happened between 11 p.m. on 2:46 a.m. That’s what time it was when I realized that I had fallen asleep. I woke up around 8 a.m. Sunday morning feeling great! Fifth sign of a pitiful social life: sleeping the whole night through feels just as good as “liming.”

Well there you have it. They irony of a single mom – when we finally have some free time, we don’t know what to do with it. I guess I’ll be homebound for the next few weekends until Kassav’s performance at the Reichhold Center on Oct. 28. With this Saturday behind me, I’m really looking forward to Kassav. Bye… we have a beach party to get ready for.

*Everyone whose name is mentioned in this blog gave permission to have their name and likeness used.