Whaddyadoallday? Real Life on a Desert Island Rotating Header Image

September, 2013:

Ch ch ch ch changes

The other day someone asked me if I thought living in the islands had changed me. As a result, I have pondered the philosophical answer to that question. But that’s hard. I’m a scientist at heart so without a control group (i.e. some part of me that hasn’t been living in the islands), how can I possibly know how I might have naturally changed under any other environmental circumstances. Surely, everyone must experience a normal metamorphosis over time or at least I hope that I would. Maybe not. In my case, however, I do believe that I am changed in many intangible ways that I will try to touch on in future posts. Today, however, I have been prompted to focus on a very tangible difference in my life/lifestyle. (And as a nod to a friend who keeps asking me to include more photos, I will.)

What brought me back to this topic this morning was the fact that I had to register one of our two cars. First, we have never been drawn to buying new cars. In fact we’ve only done so twice. We’ve also never been the types to sell our cars every few years. But the cars I own here have long outlived the 9  year old Chevy Monza we drove cross-country when I moved from Pennsylvania to California back in 1985 and the 10 year old Mitsubishi Eclipse we sold when me moved to Anguilla.  Today, our good car is a 13 year old Subaru Outback, but it was our backup ‘beater’ car that I had to register today. That car is a two-door Suzuki Vitara jeep that we bought used when we first arrived on island. We chose the model because at that time those cars were the workhorse rental cars on island. We figured that due to their popularity they would be reliable and repairable.

And while I have no doubt that we overpaid for the car at the time, it has been exactly that even if we haven’t always repaired everything. The air-conditioner died years ago. The radio died as well. In spite of replacing one of the electrical mechanisms, the windows barely go up and down and even then only with assistance. The driver’s side door slowly came completely unhinged, held for a while with welding, but ultimately gave up the ghost so we had to find a replacement door at a scrap yard in SXM. The new door is still a little wobbly but is holding. We just don’t have a key for the lock.

In the meantime, water got into the car even when we bothered to force the windows up so the seats have rotted away in places with a pillow filling in the biggest hole. I jerry rigged the rusted and broken seat adjustment under the driver’s seat so we can still both drive the car. But I ‘m just not motivated enough to get the back of the passenger’s seat to hold a position at all. So it’s permanently flexed, if you will. Meanwhile, the floor boards are rusting through so that soon we will be able to assist momentum by dropping our feet through to the pavement ala Fred Flintstone.

It still runs, though. It pretty much always has. And amazingly enough it still has value. People often ask us if they can buy it – the last inquiry coming just a few weeks ago from a guy who apparently wants the engine. The problem is that our good car does occasionally have trouble. And keeping the jeep as a backup is cheaper than renting a car when needed. So we keep it. And it passed its inspection this morning with flying colors. Of course the inspection amounts to honking the horn, flashing the lights and proving the brakes work. Luckily it’s not a beauty pageant though the inspector guessed that the jeep was 14 years old when it fact it is 19. Yes, 19 years old and 210,000km in a brutal environment where it lives a sadly neglected life.

Has living in the islands changed me? For now, I’ll say that it certainly has changed my cars. As evidence of that I offer the following photos: of the last car I purchased in the States (my lifelong dream car) and of my little jeep (that was coincidentally born at about the same time the first photo was taken).

car then car now

Yes, that’s me. Many, many years ago.

I did NOT include a photo of me next to the jeep today….in my raggedy old sundress with my hair in a ponytail and wearing nearly no makeup. I’ll only go so far to make a point.

Let’s just say that while the dashboard of that jeep has somehow managed to survive all these years here without a single crack, I haven’t been quite that lucky.




I’m a city girl. Well, I’m not actually a ‘born and raised in Manhattan’ kind of city girl; but I was born and raised and attended college and university within the city limits of Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. I never lived in the suburbia of the Brady Bunch let alone the rural extreme of a Green Acres. So when I met Michael and went to UPS the first time to mail his sister’s Christmas present, I was a little bit taken aback at the address he told me to write on the shipping label. It read: “1/2 mile west of the golf ball, Sublette, Kansas.” No need to dwell on the true identity of the landmark golf ball it referenced. Suffice it to say that she lived way, way out in the country.

Of course, back in the day, a good part of Anguilla’s charm was in its small town feel. There was only one telephone exchange, 497, which meant that you only had to tell someone the last four digits of your phone number since the 497 was understood. Now there must be well over a dozen different exchanges. There was also only one street that had a name – well, at least only one that anyone knew of. Now lots of streets have names though, in all fairness, probably nobody knows most of those either. But whether we admit it or not, whether we embrace it or not, the world and this little island have come a long way in the last decade.

In those ancient times ten years ago, I would have been forced to give directions to my house based on the ‘golf ball’ like markers of a certain colored trash bin at one corner, the presence of a lively herd of goats perched on their favorite rock pile at the next turn, and the ultimate feeling of being in the middle of nowhere and totally lost as confirmation that a guest was still heading in the right direction. Those days are gone forever, though. The proof is in the fact that when a friend in St. Martin was planning a weekend getaway to Anguilla, I turned, solely out of habit, to Google Maps to give him directions to my house; and before I realized the futility of my ways, there they were.

Yes indeed. You can type in directions from: ‘Blowing Point Ferry Terminal, Anguilla’ to ‘Banana Wind, Anguilla’ and damn if it doesn’t take you straight to the end of my driveway. ( I’ve always wondered how far the drive was. Apparently, it’s 2.2 km even. ) Granted, even the mighty and powerful Google Maps doesn’t know the names of the streets here….not even the modern marvel of the Jeremiah Gumbs Highway (otherwise known as the ‘third right’ in the directions); but it delivers you directly to my door. What an amazing world we live in!

Of course, old habits die hard. When someone asks me my phone number, I still tend to respond with the last four digits and then go back and fill in the first three.  So maybe it’s not so surprising that a local café placed an ad in the newspaper here that perfectly illustrates the struggle between the old and the new when it comes to our modern world. On one hand, the phone number is listed not even with just the seven digits of the exchange and the subscriber number but rather with both the area code for Anguilla AND the ‘country code’ of 1. Such attention to detail would imply that the owners are reaching out to touch a truly international crowd. And yet, in a throwback to a bygone era, the café’s location is listed quite simply as “Somewhere in Sandy Ground.”

Mind you, not even ‘across from the cricket pitch’ or ‘on the back side of the salt pond’ or ‘on the road to the hydroponic farm.’ Just ‘somewhere’.  Well, good luck with that. At least if you can’t find them, you can always call.