Thursday, April 26, 2012

Why I wouldn't want to live on a Caribbean island

 by Richard L. Weaver II, Ph.D.

When we went to “Super J’s” grocery store for milk on Friday — they received no shipment on Monday and said their next one was due on Friday — they were already out, if they received a shipment at all.  We had to purchase half-gallons of Lactose-free milk at $15.99 EC$ (more than $5.00 U.S. ) each, but we were totally dependent on island deliveries, and for most of the week (all except the first 2-3 days), we could not have our regular skim milk.
That isolation and dependency would be difficult to tolerate for very long.  It reminded me of Skagway, Alaska, where residents are totally dependent on the grocery deliveries by container ships, and in Skagway, residents can only purchase what comes in those containers.
There are numerous reasons for not wanting to live in this environment, and the above example is a minor one to be sure.
We lived in Hawaii for a year, and our feelings at that time were similar to those now.  First, w enjoy the change in seasons.  We have never disliked snow; however, the kind of weather conditions going on right now back home (we skyped our son and daughter last night) — cold, rain, snow, sleet, and ice — almost makes me want to reconsider this thought!
A second reason I wouldn’t want to live on a Caribbean island is also weather-related, too.  We don’t like being hot (sweaty hot) and wet all the time.  (I’m writing this essay at 8:00 a.m. on our last day on St. Lucia (Saturday), on the bed in our air-conditioned bedroom on the ground floor of our rather luxurious (well equipped) rental house — three stories overlooking the town of Rodney Bay, the whole Bay area, and the Rodney Bay Marina.
(Our landlord, Greg Skinner, who has been ushering us all over the island, goes around in an open, faded, short-sleeve shirt and Bermuda shorts all the time — but he is always perspiring.)
There is another reason for not wanting to live on a Caribbean island, and this has to do with a factor we found in Hawaii as well.  Really, it’s no different than living in the south in the United States — but I don’t like it and find it hard to tolerate.  Last night, for example, I killed 2 mosquitoes in our bedroom.  I’ve killed many flies, crushed 2 cockroaches with my flip flops, and destroyed hundreds of ants.
Just an aside here.  When my wife and I went to a nightclub in Waikiki (we lived in Kailua on the other side of the island for a year), we could see movement on a wall near where we were seated.  When the lights came up after the performance, we noticed that the entire wall was covered with cockroaches!  Covered!
I don’t mind insects during one short season (summer) of the year but to have them year round — and ants all over the floors and counters (just as in Hawaii) with everything having to be protected from them, is hard to tolerate every single day during every season.  Give me a break!  Give me winter!
We have been in local markets (on St. Lucia they are called Vendor’s Markets or Vendor’s Arcades) on many Caribbean islands (and around the world).  They are interesting and full of local produce, crafts, and artifacts, and one trait found in every one of them is the necessity of bargaining for anything you want to purchase.  Some people may bind this fun and think they have discovered real bargains, but I prefer set prices, less aggressiveness by the vendors, and cleaner venues.
One more aside here.  When we were in Bangkok, Thailand, some vendors at their “knock-off mall” would actually grab your arm and try to pull you into their cubicle.  We found more aggressiveness there than in many other locations worldwide.
When we visited a local market in Granada, once when we were on a cruise, my wife and I looked around to discover we were the only Caucasians there.  Now, I want you to know this is not the least bit scary or risky for us, and we were never worried about being robbed or kidnapped.  Often, my wife and I seek out places like this precisely because they are local, interesting, and do not (at least blatantly) cater to tourists.
In general, we have found malls that cater to tourists are fairly predictable.  For example, today (our last day in St. Lucia), we went to three separate Vendor’s Malls in Castries (the capital).  They were big, full of individual stalls, and each stall was staffed by a middle-aged, local woman.  (Most men who staff the stalls seem to be elderly (retired).)  These places tend to be dark, in need of more ventilation, and somewhat musty in their odor — fun to visit for a brief time.
In Castries, the three vendor’s malls are in the dock area near where up to 5 cruise ships can dock at one time.  Think about this: Castries is a town of about 55,000.  If 5 cruise ships were in port at the same time, it could add up to 15,000 people to the local population.  These malls would be teeming masses of humanity!  Fortunately for us, when we were there, no ships were docked in port.
There is no doubt that a few of the reasons why I would not want to live on a Caribbean island have to do with the life and lifestyle with which I have become accustomed — but this shouldn’t come as a shock.  For example, I like strict sanitary, hygiene, and cleanliness standards.  There is something to be said for government control, regulations, and laws.  When businesses (or communities) are left to regulate themselves or set their own laws, everything erodes and degrades.
There are so many things I expect.  For example, I expect to be able to drink the local water.  In Beijing, China, just as in St. Lucia, you cannot.  I want to eat vegetables grown on the ground.  In certain places in the world you must be careful or you are likely to contract amoebic dysentery.  For example, this is true in Pakistan.  Also, I like to have choices in grocery stores; the smaller the population (as in Australia), the fewer choices you are likely to have.
I love traveling, and I love sampling other lives and lifestyles.  I am a people-watcher, and while waiting for our ride in St. Lucia, at a number of different places, I watched how local people dressed and acted.  When we traveled I observed how those in other cultures lived.  This is a treat, to be sure.  And, in many cases, I have observed that the lives of many in other cultures are simple and less complex than many in the United States.  By contrast, I prefer our modern conveniences, technical “necessities,” and the complications and complexity we have.  When it comes right down to it, I wouldn’t trade my life or lifestyle for any other in the world!
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At the website St. Thomas Traveler there is a very cute, short, delightful (tongue-in-cheek) essay, “Living on a Caribbean island is truly the stuff of dreams” (January 23, 2011).   The writer, Lyssa Graham, says: “Living on a tropical Caribbean island is truly the stuff of dreams, provided, of course, that those dreams include nightmarish scenes filled with every kind of six-legged critter imaginable along with a healthy dose of reptiles, amphibians and people-eating plants thrown in just to round out the dreamscape.”  She supports my arguments completely.

At 43things you will get a large number of personal reactions to or thoughts about living on an island.  Even if you may not want to live on an island (anywhere in the world) the responses here are great to read.  Some of them refer to Caribbean islands.
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Copyright April, 2012, by And Then Some Publishing L.L.C.


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