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

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

Summertime

 

It’s summertime and the livin’ is easy. We travel, visit relatives or cool off in the water, so I cut back a little. There will be no posts this week and from now through Labor Day there will be only one post a week—typically Monday. 

I’m sure by Fall there will be lots to cover.

Have a great summer.

Roger

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