Whaddyadoallday? Real Life on a Desert Island Rotating Header Image

Airport

Easy come, easy go or not

I know that I’ve spoken before about how difficult it can be getting people here to this island. And I know that I’ve written before about what an ordeal it is getting things to this island. But really isn’t the definition of insanity doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results? Well, call us crazy.

We’ve been crazy this whole time. Way, way back when this whole ‘living on a desert island’ dream was just a twinkle in my eye, I read Herman Woulk’s classic novel about middle-aged angst prompting Norman Paperman to pack it all up and move to a Caribbean Island. It’s requisite reading for folks who turn around and attempt the same thing. But it was published in 1965. Even in 1998 we were sure that things would be different. Imagine how hope springs eternal as we sit here in 2014 living the dream yet still clinging to our delusions that mail will arrive in a timely fashion and that planes will do likewise.

I am thinking about this as we prepare to see off our third set of visiting guests in the past five weeks with a two week break coming before the next ones arrive. (Bad weather up north seems to make people remember that we are down here with an empty room.) These folks are leaving by boat and the seas are very calm today so I don’t think there will be any issues.  The last couple, however, was not nearly so fortunate.

Robin and Faye visit us from England. They fly to Antigua and then over from there on the local, Caribbean airline, LIAT. Now, historically, LIAT has always been given a bad rap (not to say whether that was deservedly so, but yeah it was deservedly so) hence the pithy plays on the meaning of the name as Lousy In All Things or Leaving Island Any Time (just not when scheduled). Anyway, our English friends fly Liat into Anguilla. They have had good experiences and bad experiences, planes on time and planes that simply flew over and elected not to stop for them. But recently the airline’s performance has been better.

Even when they arrived this time, they were only delayed about 30 minutes. That’s not so bad except that there never seems to be anyone at the airport to give you updates. I’m sure there are Liat employees about. They are just never anywhere where you can talk to them. And the electric arrivals and departures boards haven’t worked since the week they were installed. Flight Status links on Liat’s website give you a schedule not an update, and I just cannot sit on hold long enough for someone to answer their phone. Nevertheless, they arrived safe and sound at which point I thanked them for their lovely Christmas note that I had conveniently placed on the dashboard of the car having only just retrieved it from the post office on my way to fetch them at the airport on that the 12th of February! (Even the post travels by plane, you know.)

Fast forward (Ha ha, I crack me up. I mean slow forward. Remember where I am.) past all of the rum punches and sunny beaches to the day of their departure. On Liat. Back to Antigua. We arrived at the airport in plenty of time. They checked in. When asked if the plane is arriving on time, the agent’s response was, ‘we believe the plane is en route as we speak.’  Sly. Very sly. ‘We believe’. Do we look like we just fell off of the mango truck yesterday? Even so, Faye and Robin encouraged us to leave them and go home, but we’ve fallen for that one before only to have them arrive back knocking at our door when the plane didn’t come.  We insisted. We’d wait.

An hour later the plane landed. Not bad by Liat time.  We said our good-byes and headed home. Between loads of laundry I checked my email. There was one from Faye. My first instinct was to think she was kidding. But she was not. They boarded the plane, the engines started, smoke billowed out, and they were back in the departures lounge waiting for a new mechanic or a new plane or who knows what.  Their 3:30P flight was then hoping to depart by 7:30P. (This is exactly why they always spend a couple of nights in Antigua before heading home so they are not among the panicked throngs of passengers wondering how they will make their connections with British Airways or Virgin that same night.)

They were, however, without food or water since the airport restaurant closes at 5P. So I emailed her back and told her to meet us in the car park. We threw together some cheese and meats and crackers and chips and threw in a bottle of wine and before you know it we were tailgating in the parking lot of the airport. When the world gives you lemons, make charcuterie!

tailgateP.S. They did get to Antigua eventually meanwhile a good time was had by all.

The Travail of Travel

Anguilla is a wonderful place to be, but it is a difficult place to reach.

Today we leave for a few days in Kansas City – quite literally three days. To accomplish this we will be off island for six days.

When we first moved to Anguilla, American Airlines had Eagle flights from San Juan three times a day. That meant that we could catch the early morning flight off of the island, connect with onward flights in San Juan, and reach a destination in the States that same day. Likewise coming back home.

There follows a very long story about changing aircraft, longer runways, requested government subsidies, denied government subsidies and all sorts of machinations. I will not bore you with that. The bottom line is that the flights all but disappeared and then disappeared entirely.

Now flying into and out of Princess Juliana Airport on the adjacent island of St. Maarten is the only real option.

Unfortuantely, we can’t catch an early, 9AM flight out of St. Maarten because the ferries don’t start running until 7:30-ish. So we sit at the house with the cats put away into a manageable two rooms and sit around doing silly stuff (like writing this) to pass the time. Around noon we drive the car to ferry building. We pay our departure tax, go through security, and take the ferry over to the French side of St. Martin at the Port of Marigot. Next we catch a cab over to the Dutch side to the international airport. (In case you aren’t keeping track, that’s three countries so far.) Then we fly to Miami. (That makes four.) Clear Immigration. Go through customs. And…..here’s the good part…..go to the Miami Airport Hilton hotel to spend the night because that’s as far as we can go today.

Tomorrow morning, we’ll get up, haul the bags back to the airport, check in again and fly to Dallas and finally on to Kansas City arriving 24 hours after we left home.

Of course, nobody ever said this was  going to be easy.