Let’s take a break from our land of conflict.
Dreams Versus Reality
The Caribbean is a land of dreams. Beautiful islands, lush waters, jungles and happy, welcoming people. That is what we see. Reality is always different. Not that it isn’t lovely but the experience of life is complex. We had been seduced and were building a home on a beautiful island with which we had fallen in love.
As a tourist what you see is a bewitching landscape and the lush experience of the moment. In fact the Caribbean is complex with a fascinating history. The islands had tribes that came from South America followed by colonizers from a variety of countries including Britain, France, Spain and the Netherlands. They fought each other and made islands their colonies.
St. Lucia went back and forth between Britain and France fourteen times. The locals speak a French based patois along with English. When we came to St. Lucia the patois did not have a written form but, by the time we left, it was written and, if you spoke some French, you could read it. The accent was the problem. Many of the island people had been enslaved and slaves were imported.
What We Expected
We expected we would make friends with the locals and we did to a limited extent. But mostly expats or arriving foreigners related to each other. The indigenous people had strong family connections.
We also expected that life would be easy and it was not, as we learned our way around a country with far more problems than we had assumed. Electricity worked well enough except when the utility by mistake sent 440 volts into our 220 volt house. A large dam had been built to supply water and when they turned it on they blew the mains in the capital. We had a terrible struggle getting a reliable supply. But finally an Irish friend of ours gave me the map of the island water system and I was able to secretly go out and open and close valves so we got water most of the time. At least we did after I had to threaten suit in an island where people never sue. At first we had no water. We got mains installed after I threatened suit but as our Chinese attorney said, “You may have mains water but there will be no water in the mains.” In time there was water in the mains after I snuck out and opened the right valves.
We lived in an open environment which was lovely except for the bugs, rats, crabs (200 feet above sea level!) among other critters. But we also had darling birds who ate lunch with us.
The island was a democracy with a small legislative body and a prime minister. In fact it was ruled by a few very wealthy families. Each of them owned a significant slice of the island. Electricity was produced by a utility which burned oil from Venezuela. In the distance from our house we could see the peaks of mountains where there was an endless supply of wind from the Atlantic Ocean. They could have generated electricity by wind power but the ruling family did not want that.
In short, it was much more complex than we had expected and the learning curve was steep. It was essential that we learn the ins and out and be tenacious. We had thought to retire on the island some day but learned some harsh lessons. The health care system was not good and if there was a serous health emergency the solution was to hire a plane and be flown to Miami or Martinique. When we left fifteen years later, after having had a wonderful adventure, we had survived. Our attorney said, “You lasted longer than most.”
What he meant was that people who did what we did, coming to the island and buying or building a home, found the island challenging at many levels. Most fled within a year or two.
These are some of the highlights and realities. I’m glad we did it, and we proved ourselves to be adaptive survivors. These are just a few of the many issues we faced but there were also numerous rewards. These islands are beautiful and each of them are different. I’ll go into descriptions of other islands in a later post. The climate is beautiful and the summers can be cooler than the continental United States. Winters can be ever so cozy and with adaptability the social scene can be rewarding. In all though, it is essential to be flexible and ready to face numerous challenges. We are glad we had the adventure.
Would such an adventure interest you?
If you want greater detailing of the experience there are numerous posts on my https://caribbeandreamblog.com .
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