Dreams Versus Reality

 

Let’s branch out a little from this world of fraught political realities.

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.

Complex History

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. Which often meant slavery.

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.”

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.

Other Realities

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 mountain 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 Chinese 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.

In Conclusion

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 .

Gaia’s Majesty-Mission Called: Women in Power by Roger B. Burt

Roger B. Burt’s Amazon home page

Creating Characters and Plots by Roger B. Burt

Stepfamilies: Professionals and Stepcouples in Partnership

Whatever Happened to Community Mental Health by Roger B. Burt

Adventure in the Caribbean – Pt 1

 

That Life Plan

Most of us would like to believe that we have a life plan. As I look at my own life and the lives of the people who came to me for counseling, I have to say it seems we have a plan but very often it does not play out. Life gets in the way and stuff happens. That is not to say that this is a bad process because the twists and turns can be rewarding each in their own way.

A Terrible Twist of Fate

I call it “ultimate determinism”. There are many people who believe that whatever happens to us is of our own making. In short, we determine everything that happens to us. My contact with my clients and life in general leads me to declare—rubbish! What matters is what we do with life events.

I was coming home from the office one August night. We had dreadful problems with the elevators in our building and we often waited a long time for an elevator. On this night it came at once. By that happenstance I was a bystander at a head on collision. A speeding SUV hit the pickup truck in front of me, bounded off and swerved back directly in my driver’s door at high speed. And so I was thrown into what I called “The Pits of Hell” with six years in and out of surgery at Baltimore’s Shock Trauma.

Life Returns

At last I was mobile and my wife and I went to a professional meeting in California. We decided having gone that far to continue to Hawaii. I’m a sun person, my wife not, but she loved it and said if we could find us such a place she would gladly go. On the flight back I drew circles on the map of the world. The six hour travel time in the air we were enduring could take us to places like Teheran or Buenos Aires. Not to my liking.

We shared the experience with some friends who told us they were going to a small tropical country in the Caribbean called St. Lucia. They were devoted sailers and wanted a home where they could sail year round. We took their invitation to go with them to look at land.

How Interesting

The island was luscious and the people welcoming. We toured, we looked and they found nothing suitable. But we were very interested.

Back at home we began a research. At the time there was a small publication which monthly discussed each Caribbean island in turn. We studied them and at last I called and asked to talk to one of their staff. Her assessment was detailed and interesting. She told me not to go to Guadeloupe because the “natives were restless at the time” but we might like French Martinique although it meant investing in the Euro. But number one on her list was beautiful St. Lucia.

Just to Take a Look

We decided to go back and look again on our own. This time we studied the costs on the island in more detail and took different twists and turns. Land was affordable by comparison to such places as Barbados—by a very great deal. It also had the advantage of being English speaking.

A real estate agent introduced us to a builder from Canada who had married a Lucian and settled in. He was reassuring and it was like dealing with an American who said “Eh” and “Aboot”. And then one day we came to a hilltop with stunning views. The lot was affordable, we were hooked and we bought it. And so began a fifteen year adventure we had never expected.

Much more to come.

Gaia’s Majesty-Mission Called: Women in Power by Roger B. Burt

Roger B. Burt’s Amazon home page

Creating Characters and Plots by Roger B. Burt

Stepfamilies: Professionals and Stepcouples in Partnership

Whatever Happened to Community Mental Health by Roger B. Burt