Whaddyadoallday? Real Life on a Desert Island Rotating Header Image

life on the beach

Summertime

OK. So it’s summer now. We just enjoyed the longest day of the year. It’s not that much of a variation over the shortest day of the year here near the equator, but one of my brothers lives near Chicago. His defeatist email response to that milestone was to note that he is now ‘on the long, inevitable slog to winter.’ I think he was being sarcastic. I mean, he must have been. After all, my northern friends always tell me that they simply LOVE living where they can enjoy all four seasons. (I could say the same thing too but I would be talking about the hospitality chain.)

Of course, everything is relative. (not just one’s relatives) And nothing is more so than one’s comfort level when it comes to temperature. If this were not true, there wouldn’t be a market for thermostat guards that urge you to: ‘protect your thermostat from undesirable environmental conditions and unauthorized personnel’. The Wall Street Journal even published an article earlier this month entitled “Let the Office Thermostat Wars Begin” (http://www.wsj.com/articles/let-the-office-thermostat-wars-begin-1465319614 ) claiming that “No workplace dispute is as divisive as where to set the office thermostat.’

Some people just run hot while other people run cold. Add in acclimation to your environment and you end up with my Chicago brother happily running around in shorts and shirt sleeves when the mercury crawls up to 50 degrees while I am searching for a sweater if the thermometer drops below 70. You would think, though, that here in the relatively unchanging environment of the tropics, there wouldn’t be much of an issue. After all, average monthly temperatures don’t vary that much here with highs and lows running between 80/70 degrees in the ‘winter’ time and 90/80 degrees in the ‘summer’. It never hits 60. It never hits 100. (Hello, Phoenix!)

Yet, just the other day I was talking to an Anguillian who commented that one of my friend’s dogs didn’t seem to be as stiff in his sad, little, cartilage-challenged, hind legs. I didn’t see the difference myself. But he was adamant. It’s the weather he said. The weather? Sure, the dog’s joints are less stiff because it’s summer time. In the winter when it is cold, he can tell that the dog is more painful and uncomfortable. And he knows this because his own joints bother him more in the winter. In the winter? Here? In Anguilla? (See average temperatures listed in the above paragraph…) Here? At 18 degrees north of the equator?

It makes me wonder if he has a space heater stashed away at home to get him through those cold, tropical, winter nights. If so, I am pretty sure his wife battles with him over where to set the thermostat!

Enjoy the season.

Yes, Sir, That’s My Baby

This will be a quick one. We have been crazy busy and I am exhausted between installing crown moulding in hexagonal rooms where no two walls or angles are the same and practicing medicine. We have been running, running, running.

However, as a follow up to the goat C-section blog (http://whaddyadoallday.com/?p=722) I wanted to show you mom and baby at 3 days in the owner’s yard:Goat 3 days

And then at 2 weeks, here they are out and about strolling the  neighborhood as I took the photo from my car (the baby is not quite as brave out in the real world):goat 2 weeks

Speaking of cars, our Subaru needed a wee bit of body work. Not because of a crash or anything. Just because of the corrosive nature of living on the sea. Michael took it to a guy who works out of his yard. The place is absolutely jam packed with cars. When we returned to pick it up, imagine our surprise when parked there next to our current car was our previous (first) island car. Remember this post (http://whaddyadoallday.com/?p=722) and the one it references? Our Suzuki was dear to our hearts; and just recently, we were commenting on the fact that we hadn’t seen it on the streets in very long. But there she was in her new, tricked-out, purple glory. (No, I do not know the pink car.)

good old carSome comfort, though, I guess that if the guy who did the body work for us has kept the Suzuki from completely dissolving into oblivion, then he probably did a good job on the little rust spots on the Subaru.

Meanwhile, good to see both the four-legged and the four-wheeled babies doing well.

Back to the Beginning – Whaddyadoallday? the Book

Yesterday, April 18th, was the 15th anniversary of the day we arrived in Anguilla to live permanently. We landed at the dock with three cats, carry-on bags and four checked bags weighing 70lbs a piece. (Do you remember when you could check that much? It pissed me off at first when the airlines limited me to 50lbs instead, but my aging muscles now thank the airlines for saving me from my own folly.) Everything else we owned was in a 40ft container enroute somewhere across America.

Amazing how times flies. It has been an interesting journey to be sure. Over the years I made attempts at writing the story in book form. Even submitted it to agents once but without success. It has been written and rewritten a billion times. Somehow ‘posting’ a book is so much scarier than posting a blog. Yesterday,  though, I finally pulled the trigger. Whaddyadoallday? Top Ten Questions People Ask When You Live on a Desert Island is now available as a kindle ebook on Amazon.

http://www.amazon.com/Whaddyadoallday-Questions-People-Desert-Island-ebook/dp/B01EGCW5DC/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1461077893&sr=8-1&keywords=whaddyadoallday

 

It’s the End of an Era

When last we spoke Michael was pulling rabbits from his hat, finding garage door parts stored away for decades but mercifully not forgotten. It turned out that there were also huge hurricane bars that were supposed to be added to that door. The original installer hadn’t utilized those either so that when the new guy hung the door with both springs it remained suspended in mid-air and wouldn’t fully close to the floor. (Sort of like a scuba diver without enough weight.) Calls to the manufacturer confirmed that the bars did indeed need to be installed. Michael pulled the last rabbit out by finding the bucket full of the brackets AND ALL of the screws to install the bars. And we could finally close the book on that last chapter of the garage door saga.

Now the garage door works. But we sold our car.

OK, that was for dramatic effect. We sold one of our cars. You know it too from a previous post. (http://whaddyadoallday.com/?p=521 ) This was our first car on island. We had just arrived to live full time. We were wasting money on rental cars. We needed to buy something fast and got lucky. At that time, the favorite vehicle of rental car agencies island-wide was a little Suzuki Vitara jeep. We figured that if the rental car agencies liked them (1) they couldn’t be very expensive; (b) we’d be able to get parts; and (3) someone would know how to fix them. Lord knows we didn’t want some fancy, high tech, computer-diagnostics needing, German parts requiring behemoth. (Even now the engine light on our other car is permanently illuminated because nobody can turn it off.)

We wanted the kind of car that I remember from my youth. The kind where you’d pop the hood and jiggle the choke with a screwdriver to get it started. (The Suzuki actually has a manual choke!) The kind where the air filter/engine exhaust hose is apparently considered an unnecessary embellishment. The kind where a guy could just fix it in his backyard because at the time even the legitimate mechanics on island worked out of their backyards. They just maybe had bigger backyards than the others.

That’s what we wanted. And that’s what we found. And then we neglected the poor thing. Thirteen years in my hands in this environment and I probably waxed her five or six times (likely all in the first two years). Yes, in California I washed and waxed my car constantly. But here it just seemed like such a sad waste of time – like making the bed. Why bother? Between the salt spray and the dirt roads it was a losing battle. So like making the bed, I’d only wash the car when friends were coming.

Ah yes, our poor friends would arrive after having left their nice big, clean, fancy cars in the United States and we’d make them claw their way into the tiny back seat of our tiny, two-seater car to tour around on the bumpy back (and front) roads of Anguilla with Michael sailing over the speed bumps and pot-holes giving everyone mild concussions to go with their rum-punch hangovers. Awww. Those were the days.  It brings a nostalgic tear to my eye reliving them now. Everyone would laugh and marvel and at how far we had come (or fallen) from our previous life. It was all so charming and romantic.

Thirteen years. That’s longer than I’ve ever owned a car before in my life. And that’s not to say that we were ever the kinds of people that replaced cars on a whim. After all, second place would go to my old Mitsubishi Eclipse that we sold at the age of 11 to move down here. But she lived an easier life on the paved roads of northern California with good hygiene and routine maintenance. Spoiled brat. Our little Suzuki left us at the ripe old age of 19 with windows that didn’t work, rotten floor boards, an air-conditioner that I pretty much forgot ever existed, and a radio that just filled a hole in the dash. But we kept her somewhat out of loyalty and because in this life we benefited from having a total beater car for hauling stuff to the dump or bringing plants home from the garden center and quite honestly, just having something else to drive when the newer car (that’s only 14 years old) was parked in someone else’s backyard for repairs.

Now we just have that other Subaru Outback (L.L. Bean version no less), and I feel I’ve lost something more than a car. I’ve lost a bit of that charm. I’ve lost a statement piece from my wardrobe. My old Mercedes was my LBD. My Suzuki was my crazy and colorful Moroccan caftan. And now I’m left with boring Bermuda shorts and a t-shirt. *Sigh*

So I let Michael handle the transaction. (Yes, we did actually get money for her still.) I couldn’t watch her go. Of course, she’s not going far. (Couldn’t even if she wanted to.) So it’s possible that I’ll see her driving down the road. And if I do, I’ll be happy for her…still out there with the sun in her headlights and the wind coming through her eternally open windows. But it just won’t ever be the same.

Catch you on the flip side, my friend. Thanks for a great ride.

car now

 

Deterioration

Damn it. Once again I find myself in the position of apologizing for being remiss in not posting. What is happening to me? When I was a young woman, I prided myself on my focus. Other people procrastinated but not me. I flew out of bed in the morning. I was never late. If anything, I was always early. What’s happening? Is this newfound tendency to delay a result of island time or island mind? Or am I just deteriorating?

I wouldn’t necessarily be surprised if it were the latter. After all, everything here corrodes. Things that you would never even consider might just fall apart just up and fall apart here. For instance, shoes. When was the last time your shoes just fell off of your feet? When was the last time you put on a perfectly, good pair of Teva sandals, took a few steps, and then nearly killed yourself tripping over the flopping soles that had suddenly separated from the shoe? It happens all of the time here. Michael now stocks something called Shoe Goo in spite of the fact that it really seems to be no more effective at holding shoes together than the factory-original adhesives. Hope springs eternal.

A few weeks ago, we were going to St. Martin for the day and I decided to ‘dress up’ in a pretty sundress and a spiffy pair of wedgie espadrilles. At least that’s how I left home; but during the course of the morning, step by step, inch by inch, one strap after another strap disconnected from both shoes until I developed unbearable leg cramps from trying to hold on to the soles with just my toes. I had to buy an ugly, cheap pair of sandals just to limp home. I would have thrown the tattered remnants of my original shoes directly in the trash, but Michael insisted we bring them home to fix them. Today they remain untouched in our garage in a pile of fallen footwear.

Shoe DoctorThen last night we had some friends over for dinner. No sooner did we have drinks in hand than one of them stumbled and nearly lost her champagne. The culprit? Her shoe. The front end of the sole had suddenly separated from the bottom and caught on the tile. I didn’t go in search of the Shoe Goo, but I did grab a couple of bulldog clips to save her from injury.

Other friends from up north were just bemoaning the fact that every time they arrive here to spend some time, they find their shoes falling apart. She even washes all of their shoes before they leave (an ever so slightly obsessive trait he was ignorant of until our discussion), but to no avail. The attrition continues as the glue just falls apart.

Inexplicably, in contrast, postal glues on unused stamps and envelopes behave just the opposite. If you leave them sitting around in a drawer around here, I wish you luck when you try to actually use them. They will have sealed themselves closed or stuck together so effectively that you cannot peel them apart again. (Hmmm. Now that I write that, here’s a thought. Maybe I can market envelope glue as my own version of Tropical Shoe Goo? Anybody know any venture capitalists?)

Anyway, adhesives, rubber bands, plastics, they all fall apart in this environment. What was really disturbing, however, was what we found when we were trying to repair/troubleshoot the drop lights above our kitchen sink. They had been going all wonky and flickering so we replaced all of the coaxial cables. Then they didn’t work at all. The guy at tech support at Tech Lighting suggested it might be the transformers. So we got out the tall ladders to reach up in the vaulted ceilings to disconnect the romex wire to take down the suspended shelf on which the lights were mounted to disassemble the electrical boxes to examine the transformers. And this is what we found:

Transformers

Now it is one level of annoyance to have your shoes fall apart. But it is another thing entirely to realize that this salty, humid environment is causing the insulating coating surrounding, no protecting, your electrical wiring to crumble to bits! That cannot be a good a thing.

On the other hand, this environment does seem to be really good for my skin. No forced-air heat or air-conditioning to dry out my complexion. Hardly any need for lotions at all (except for those with professed anti-aging effects).  So I guess if I have to run around barefoot under dim, shorted-out lighting, I can look decent doing it. Or at least my old, decaying mind can think I do!

 

 

GPS

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.

Milestones

I’ve been remiss in writing. I apologize. I’ve been distracted and busy with things. Not entirely ‘I’m living on a desert island’ kind of special circumstances things (though there have been the usual suspects of internet problems and cable issues and trying to get a wee retaining wall built). These have just been general living things and planning special occasion things. In addition to the minor milestone of this week marking the 12th anniversary of our coming to live in Anguilla, Michael and I will be celebrating a big wedding anniversary in May and are planning an indulgent one-month holiday in Italy. Coincidental to that, I wanted to send Michael on a special (we won’t mention the year) birthday bonding trip with his children. So he is just finishing up a week in Scotland with his son and a week in Italy with his daughter.

It’s always funny and sad how time gets away from you. Michael’s kids are grown now, really grown, married adults with grandchildren thrown in, living their own adult lives. Shockingly, my stepson is now as old as I was when we moved to Anguilla with a son of his own who’s going to be a teenager himself this year; and my stepdaughter is right at that point in her mid-thirties where she is exuberantly happy in her career. She’s feeling competent and challenged and appreciated – that perfect trifecta in one’s professional life. She loves where she is living. She loves her husband. She’s enjoying her life.

I can still remember being at that stage – vividly, in fact. I actually remember my specific moment of clarity. I was driving home in Northern California after a long but fulfilling day saving little animal lives. I was in my used but treasured red, convertible Mercedes 380SL. I was stopping at the dry cleaner’s to pick up my husband’s freshly pressed, Nordstrom suit. And it hit me. This, THIS, was my real, grown up life. All those years spent actually growing up and working towards getting there, and wondering what it might be like…how it would turn out…and suddenly there it was, clear as day, right in front of my eyes. I was in my mid-thirties, I was happily married, driving my dream car, living in California and feeling competent and challenged and appreciated in my career. That was my grown up life. And it was fabulous.

Then just a few, short years later, I walked away from all of it….from the car, from the house, from the job, even from a dry cleaner’s. (Well, not from all it. I still have the husband! ) It turned out, however, that on the other side of that inspiring pinnacle was the gnawing desire to do something else -to turn around and to create another kind of life. And that life, this life, certainly has its own kinds of challenges; but thankfully, it also has its own unique rewards.

For instance, the other day I was going to work in St. Maarten. I woke up in my oceanfront bedroom with my refreshing tropical breeze. I ate my breakfast of fresh papaya from my trees. I threw on my Bermuda shorts and sandals and drove my nearly twenty-year old, beat up, rusted out jeep to the harbor. Then I took the ferry from my British island across a channel in the Caribbean Sea and cleared immigration into French St. Martin. I strolled along the quiet, early morning streets of Marigot past the little café where Frenchmen were drinking coffee and smoking tiny European cigarettes to catch a public bus full of people speaking three different languages in order to travel over the hill to yet a third country to arrive at work (saving little animal lives).

And that’s when it hit me. This is my real, growing older life. This is it. It may not always be easy, but it certainly is interesting- my fabulous, uncommon, growing older life.

(Thank you, Michael.)

Hidden in Plain Sight

In a few weeks we will mark the 12th anniversary of living on this little 35 square miles of rock in the middle of the sea. Where does the time go? How is it possible that I have lived in this house longer than I have lived anywhere since I left my parents’ home? More importantly, how is it possible that I have lived here that long and can still discover new places and new people?  And I’m not talking about finding new things that are new to the island. I’m talking about places that have been here longer than we have and are simply new to us.

It’s bad enough that we actually got lost last Thanksgiving while heading for Limestone Bay. (see the “Staycation” post from November 26.) At least then we were heading to someplace we used to visit but hadn’t been to in a long time, and people build houses, and the roads change, and the bush grows up so everything looks different, and well, it was Michael’s fault.  But, yes, on that outing we ‘explored’ some back roads on this little island that we’ve never ever driven on before, but they are in what you would term “residential areas” where we wouldn’t really have any reason to venture. And yes, we did ultimately travel between two major points of interest since we started out from Crocus Bay and eventually stumbled upon Shoal Bay East; but I would bet that you could badger Mapquest for alternate routes for that trip until the goats came home and it would eventually send you to Antigua and back before it would ever suggest however it was that we got there.

But as is typical, I digress in my narrative just as we did on the roads that day. So….

Yesterday, Michael was making some Matzo Ball Soup. (And we turn again.). He had some Matzo meal in the pantry. (That’s just who he is.) And it is Passover. (No, we are not Jewish.) So he was making Matzo Ball Soup. He had the balls formed and the chicken stock made, but time got away from him, and he elected to hold off on serving the soup until today.

Today being Thursday, last night was Wednesday night. And Wednesday night is “Wings Night” at the Ferry Boat Inn.  We know this, but we have never been. Chicken stock, chicken wings, somehow the association was made and we headed off for the long 1.5 mile drive down the coast to this little, classic Caribbean beach bar and restaurant.

Where had we been all of its life? It’s adorable in that simple, island way. Nothing fancy. But a great location right on the water with a big square bar, fabulous breeze, and a lovely view.  The parking area was chockablock full, but there were still some tables left. So we settled in to enjoy our wings and fries and were surprised to only see five people that we recognized even though the place was primarily populated with what appeared to be “regulars” including a bunch of guys at the bar playing a giant version of the game, Jenga, made with a tower of foot long two-by-fours and requiring that the players always hold a drink in one hand when executing a move! (We have to get out the chop saw to make our own right now.)

You could just imagine Norm and Cliffie wandering in to knock one down at this island “Cheers”: casual and comfortable and fun. Just a really nice evening at a great little place. And to think that it’s been right there all along.

Every Silver Lining Has a Cloud

It has been unbelievably dry here lately. Sure this is a semi-arid island so nobody is expecting monsoons, but still. Last year we had over 50 inches of rain. This year we were registering less than 20. So in the midst of the hottest time of the year, we’ve also been suffering through a relative drought. In addition, it has been so hot that I could be sitting on the couch, wearing next to nothing, barely moving a single muscle, with a fan blowing directly on me, and I would still be sweating.  Even jumping in the swimming pool provided pathetically marginal relief in as much as the water temperature in the pool has been running well into the mid-90’s. Every cloud has a silver lining, however, and as uncomfortable as a Caribbean October can be this also happens to be the season when a look at the difference between life at 18 degrees north and life at other latitudes reveals a much starker contrast – a contrast that makes us honor-bound to acknowledge our blessings. 

First of all, we took that trip to Florida last week….the one where I thought I was going to dress up in layers and slip on heels and wear my hair down.  Well, it turns out that it is pretty beastly hot and still miserably humid in Florida this time of year, and the sun doesn’t rise until after 7AM which is totally uncivilized. So that trip didn’t turn out particularly well as a break from our norm (though I did see a movie in an air-conditioned theater and got to shop at big, air-conditioned, box stores), but it did relieve me of any unfounded envy for folks living in southern Florida’s climate. (I still covet their roads and shopping and restaurants and affordable air-conditioning. I just don’t envy their weather.) 

Having returned home we are starting to catch little glimpses of real life even further north. We have noticed that the folks outside on the plaza at the Today Show are already bundling up in the mornings to stand vigil hoping to meet Matt Lauer or to see themselves on tv.  Then I read a facebook post from a friend in Vermont happily(?) announcing that it was SNOWING while other friends emailed during a trip to Tucson overjoyed that they were missing a snow storm back home in Denver, and my niece in Maryland emailed whining about her weather asking what mine was like. And that’s all it takes to remind me that there are many worse places and few better places to be weather-wise than right where I am: heat or no heat, rain or no rain. 

We still desperately needed some rain, though. So we were really happy to find the weather satellite indicating a front or a depression (or whatever all those pretty colors on the image mean) brewing to the southeast of us and heading to the northwest. Contrary to our usual tendency to pray that the weather misses us, this time I was telepathically urging it on as it drifted west and then jogged east again until finally it brought us our much-needed precipitation. I am now happy to report that over the last few days we have enjoyed cloudy, breezy (sometimes quite blustery), rainy weather with nearly four inches of accumulated rain! And it is still raining off and on as I type. The plants are ecstatic. The cisterns are filling up. And I am downright chilly in the house even with all of the fans turned off. (Take THAT Electrical Company!) 

Sadly, however, the title of this post is not a mistype. The silver lining that is the rain did come with more than just its requisite, meteorological cloud. It brought with it a metaphysical cloud as well. While enjoying the coolness and the rain and the 49ers football game yesterday, our newest, HDTV, flat-screen, plasma television shorted out.  Not due to any apparent electrical storm activity. It just died. Perhaps from the damp. I don’t know. (Panasonic support said, in essence, ‘sucks to be you;’ and the internet is awash with references to the ‘blinking red light of death’ that is now the only pulsing sign of life on the unit.) Not to be deterred, though, we moved into the bedroom to watch on an old, big, boxy tv when the picture just up and died on that set, too. 

So now, just as the local cable company is finally completing the process of switching over from analog to digital feeds….the two televisions I have (or HAD) that were newer, digital-ready versions are dead.  That’s a proverbial cloud if there ever were one. At least I’ve got plenty of water to wash away my tears.

I Must Be Fading

I know that since I live on a tropical island, you probably think that I am talking about losing my tan. Not so. I’m actually talking about fading away completely. If you’ve seen the musical Chicago, you’re probably familiar with Roxie Hart’s husband, Amos, singing the song, Mr. Cellophane. He laments that “you can look right through me, walk right by me, and never know I’m there.” That’s what I’m talking about. 

But first let me go back to when I was still opaque and three dimensional. When we first moved here we were shocked by how many people, people we had never ever met, knew who WE were. We had only been living on island for about a month when we signed in for the ferry to St. Martin only to have the stranger at the desk say, “Oh, you’re the vets building out in Lockrum, aren’t you?”  Another day, I was walking from the ferry (someone who shall remain nameless wasn’t there to pick me up), and a stranger kindly offered me a lift. When I started to tell him where I lived, he said, “Oh, don’t worry. I know where you live. Your husband’s the tall, white guy with the long hair, right?” 

Then there was the time we were running a string of errands that included a stop at the paint store on our way to the Immigration Office. When we arrived at the government office, the woman there greeted me with, “Oh, you’re Georgia Paul? You need to call the paint store. They have a question about your order.” Once we even had old neighbors from California arrive on island completely unexpected and unannounced. They had come over from a stop in St. Martin at the spur of the moment with no idea how to find us. For some crazy reason, they chose to go looking for us at the Tourist Board where a very helpful (and clearly resourceful) person made just two phone calls to track us down and then directed our friends straight to the doorstep of the apartment we were renting! 

It was a little bit unsettling at first, living under a magnifying lens like that considering that in the States I lived a pretty anonymous existence. I worked almost 40 miles from our house so coworkers and clients were far away. Sure, I knew the neighbors who lived immediately around us – a few houses on either side or perhaps even to the far end of the court – but I could bop over to the grocery store, wander downtown to window shop, or go to a restaurant for dinner and never run into anybody I knew….or anybody who knew me. Here on this little island of less than 14,000 people, there is no hiding. We can’t do anything or go anywhere without somebody knowing it. 

So I’m more than a little bit mystified as to why now, 11 plus years later, people suddenly don’t recognize us anymore. This trend seems to be most apparent at that very same ferry building where, back in the day, people knew who I was before I’d even unpacked my good sheets and towels. Since then I’ve made the trip to St. Martin probably 250 times. With all of his business travel, Michael has exceeded that amount by far. Why is it, then, that now the folks checking in the passengers always ask me for my address in the States in spite of the fact that every single time I answer, a bit too pointedly I’m sure, that “I live here in Lockrum”? Then the woman who collects the departure tax inevitably tries to collect the $20 tourist departure tax amount instead of the $5 resident’s rate – often even demanding to see my resident’s stamp as proof that I really do live on island. 

I don’t know. Maybe it’s a good thing that I don’t stand out anymore. Maybe I have become an accepted and natural part of the landscape. In that case, though, I would think that I would have become more recognizable but instead, quite inexplicably, it appears that I am becoming invisible. Dr. Cellophane.