Caribbean Diversity

 

How about a little break from the American electoral intensity?

In the past I had been posting about the Caribbean. I thought I might now share some experiences and information about some of the islands. It is an amazingly diverse universe. We tend to think of them as just a collection of palm tree covered islands with beaches and numerous large resorts. Not so.

Martinique

This island is a possession of France and therefore has a large French population. The island itself is gorgeous. In the south it is relatively flat with some hills but as you proceed north you arrive at two large mountains, one of which is an active volcano. The rain forests on them are lovely. In that area is one of my most favorite resorts. At the edge of the rain forest sits a restored plantation house with a large pool area in front. We went off season and it was quiet. One evening we had dinner in the main area all to ourselves. Habitation LaGrange was a treat.

The grocery stores feature French delicacies and a luscious array of wines. There is an array of small and larger French resorts. Since the French treat their colonies as if they are in France proper, the roads are excellent and everything is up to date. Since we were looking for properties to rent for our business we got  acquainted with the Beké who are the descendants of the original planter families. We made some good friends.

Highly recommended. If you speak a little French it is better but not essential. Almost everyone speaks English. But you must say Bonjour! My joke is that if you speak no French, they speak no English. If you speak a little French they speak perfect English.

Barbados

A little further out in the Atlantic is an island which is a part of the sea floor that got pushed up long ago. Its fairly flat but has truly lovely beaches. It is English speaking with some wealthy English in residence. We found restaurants very much to our liking. There are no mountain vistas but if you want to hang out at the beach it is quite nice. Very comfortable villas and hotels.

St. Martin/Sint Maarten

For a reason I never understood this island is half French and half Dutch which gives it diversity. Again, everyone speaks English and there are really nice small hotels to choose from if you aren’t interested in a large chain’s resort.  With the French influence the dining out was quite nice. It is much favored by Americans.

The Cayman Islands

Very well known by the scuba set. Everything is air conditioned and you can see screens on all windows. That is because sometimes there are a lot of mosquitos —not always. It is generally best to stay in a beachfront resort on the beach because it is a coral island and less well tended beaches have sharp coral in the water. Best to wear booties. The center of the island is scrub and not very attractive. Look out to sea and go scuba diving.

Turks & Caicos Islands

A huge attraction is that they are not far off the Florida coast so they are easy to get to. Not highly developed oddly enough. Nice resorts and villas. The water colors are magnificent and the beaches absolutely lovely. Uncrowded and laid back. Just below the Bahamas. If there have been recent hurricanes check it out carefully to know if things have been repaired.

An Array of Other Islands

The islands listed above are the ones we handled to rent villas but there are many others such as the Netherland Antilles just off the coast of South America, tiny islands like St. Vincent and Dominica. If you like to move around year to year the Caribbean islands offer a glorious display.

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

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Creating Characters and Plots by Roger B. Burt

Stepfamilies: Professionals and Stepcouples in Partnership

Whatever Happened to Community Mental Health by Roger B. Burt

Being a Tourist in the Caribbean – Part 1

 

Asking What’s the Point

Maybe this is an idiosyncratic viewpoint, but perhaps it is good to think about why one is traveling and where one is traveling. Is this a vacation designed to sit by the pool and read or are you interested in really getting to know the location? Asking those questions opens not just the purpose but possibly the world.

The Caribbean for Us

My wife and I had spent many years going to the Maryland shore in the summer to be at the beach with our four children. When at last they were grown, we had a broader set of possibilities. Yes, we had done things like taking them on a really neat vacation in Northern Ireland, but now we could travel and design adventures just for ourselves.

But what happened was not quite on our plan. I had been in a catastrophic accident when someone drove his SUV in my driver’s door which sent me into years of surgery. At last came the ability to travel. We had business in California and went on to beautiful Hawaii. It was terribly far from the East Coast and we thought about seeking tropical options closer to home. We had friends who were considering a location for their boat in the Caribbean. We joined them when they went to look for land to build a home base. That took us to the island of St. Lucia in the Windward (eastern) Islands.

What did we know about St. Lucia? Nothing. Why were we going? For an adventure with friends. And so we were trekking into the back of the back as well as developed areas. It was an eye-opening experience. St. Lucia at the time was developed, but not highly. And, we could get in touch with the island people who were quite friendly.

Recognizing Potential

On the first trip we went to a mid-size resort our friends had chosen. We thought there would be night life. There was none. A band played but no one showed up. A day gamboling in the sun robs you of energy and if you are there on a honeymoon or in a passionate affair then evenings afford other pleasures.

Over time we experienced many different kinds of resorts. We saw large resorts and cozy inns. Either we stayed or we found it desirable to see what we might advise people about. Why was that? Because our friends didn’t buy land, we did and then we built a house. As described in another post, we ended up renting the house we built when we weren’t there and that led to a rental business including several islands. We needed to be able to advise people.

We much preferred the cozy inns and cottages or villa rentals. They came with the opportunity to know the local people better and to experience the depth of island living. Of the larger and better known resorts only two intrigued us.

Diversity of Resorts:

Some of the larger resorts are those of well advertised large chains. On occasion we had reason to stay in the northern part of the island since that was where we were building our house. Sandals has three resorts at the top off the island. Being waterfront they have next to no views except of a flat ocean. The glorious mountain views were elsewhere. We were told they discouraged people from leaving the resort. What a terrible shame! They advertised drinks available at all times. What that means was they circulated with water and soda which decreased demand for beer and wine.

The small inn in the north, where we stayed, was cozy, engaging and close to wonderful restaurants. Happy hour was a treat. One evening I became attentive to the music they were playing and was told it was the music of the French islands. The name of the music became the name of our villa. There were so many opportunities.

As to tours, we recommend taking a day tour of the island. The cheaper alternative is a minibus with 16 people inside. Clearly getting your own driver for a personal tour would be our preference. Yes, it is more expensive.

A Rich Environment:

I’ll leave it there for this week. Part 2 will be posted next week.

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

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

Magical Tour

 

Where have you been that enchanted you?

Making a Beginning

In St. Lucia we had found a glorious lot with stunning views and a builder. Now it was time to focus on what to do. We thought to build a modest vacation cottage and found a Canadian builder by the name of Wayne who had come to the island and ended up marrying a St. Lucian woman. He stayed and built a business. For us it was like having an American colleague to plan with. After all Canadians were just like us except they said ”aboot” and “eh”. (No offense Canadian friends.) Wayne suggested we go on a tour to look at various types of homes and to get to know the island. It sounded good to us.

Beyond Belief

When you come to a tropical island like St. Lucia, very often you station yourself in a large resort, maybe take one tour and there is no in depth exposure. Since we had been looking at land we were already beyond simple tourism.

Wayne had just imported a Mercedes sedan from Martinique and we set off. Since St. Lucia had been a British colony, they drove on the wrong side of the road. Wayne was then on the wrong side of the car as he drove. But then a little disorientation helps break people loose from tired perspectives.First we toured houses on the more developed north of the island. He barged in and we looked around. There were many different types of houses.

Into Another World

Then he took us south. The north is lovely, with wonderful beaches, a myriad of restaurants and all manner of resorts. It is much more developed and the capital, Castries, is nearby. But when we went south we went into the lush interior which includes the rain forest and toured the area of the Pitons, They are the two towering mountain remnants of the volcano that once ruled the island.

We passed through banana plantations and the lush quiet of the rain forest. From time to time we passed a man carrying a machete. We had to get used to it because that is their primary tool in agricultural work. They nodded and usually gave us a shy smile. If we were walking, a man might gently come forward and softly ask “May I speak with you, Sir.” At first we thought they probably wanted money, but, in fact, they just wanted to meet these venturesome strangers.

I was utterly enthralled by one lush mountain valley. There were huge boulders on the plain clearly indicating the monumental volcanic explosion millennia ago. At the end was one small house. Wayne took us in to see it for our thinking. There was a woman inside tending a fire. He talked to her briefly. She seemed to accept our presence without comment. On we went through plantations and one mysterious valley after another. The quiet was notable and it never felt threatening which was surprising given that it was a strange new world.

A Brief Stay

Later Wayne took us to Stonefield Estate which was his plantation. The pool had a stunning view of the pitons and it came complete with a parrot. Mac was the plantation manager and when we asked the parrot where he was the bird would crane his neck and scan the area. There were so many endearing features and we were being drawn in deeper.

Upon Return

When we returned to the north of the island we settled down with Wayne to talk construction. We told him we only wanted a starter cottage we might expand later. He nodded and then suggested we might want something a little bigger because we might want to rent it out when we weren’t there. That was intriguing. He suggested three bedrooms, each with their own bath. And then of course to rent it we would need a pool. And how about putting a cottage with a pool in the plans. Just in case—for the future.

Gulp! He said we didn’t have to do it all at once. He could begin and as we found funds he could continue. We were hooked on the island and the developing adventure. We purchased the land, went home and began to send money. This was just the beginning.

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

Reframing This Blog’s Focus

 

Having concluded the two series called Women and Our Future and How Are You America?, its time to bring on new foci. These foci will be interwoven. Among them will be the transformation of the world as we empower women. It is very far from over. Also I will be returning to the inner life of the Gaia’s Majesty Trilogy and bring in some other adventures.

Examining Patriarchy

In the coming months I’m going to mix the sequence of the themes. I found I could not continue with the examination of the coming role of women without looking at men. Oh them? Yes, them and, of course, I’m one of them. And quite honestly in my life I find so much about men and their culture distressing. Certainly there are remarkable men who have made significant contributions, but I am also troubled by much of what I’ve seen and experienced. And so from a different standpoint I’m going to explore the issue of patriarchy. It turns out to be a complex subject open to evaluation and, yes, speculation. As we go forward in our changing world we need to look at patriarchy, what it may represent and where it might be leading us. The road ahead is complex and for me searching possibilities ahead is my daily bread.

More on the Roots of the Gaia’s Majesty Trilogy

We will continue to look more deeply into the Gaia’s Majesty Trilogy. Books have roots and many forms of inspiration. One root is my support of feminism, but there are other things feeding the books which deserve an airing.

Post War Europe

And there will also be departure. I’m going to share some memories. As I’ve been writing my posts I find I suddenly am touching memories of things I and my family encountered in Europe over the years after World War II.

A Caribbean Adventure

Also on the international front will be posts about the Caribbean. My wife and I had a fifteen year adventure in St. Lucia. We stumbled upon it with friends and were entranced. We built a home and then also stumbled into a business. You notice I use the word “stumble” because so much of what we do in life is exactly that no matter how planful we are. Getting to know such a culture in depth is truly interesting.

More on the Andromeda Women

With a different slant there will be another series related to the Gaia’s Majesty books. I’ve given a little information about my view of the women who are so central to the story. Their history is diverse, fascinating and revealing. Yes, they are fictional characters, but I no longer view them as such. For me they came alive and have substantive meaning. I feel a need to share my thoughts.

Come join in the fun.

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