Island Life

Saba Earthquake Takes Bill Gates by SurpriseIf coffee isn’t enough to wake you up on a Monday morning, how about an earthquake?

As Joel was pouring his second cup of coffee this morning and I was happily tapping away on my computer, I began to feel a rumbling at around 10:30 am. The door to our bedroom started to shake and my chair along with it.

This was not a cause for alarm, because it was a gentle shaking…the kind that feels like it could come from someone’s overly loud music. You know what I mean, that teenager proud of his new Camero complete with loaded stereo system. As he drives around, he’s king of the road and wants everyone to know it. He treats us all to his latest taste in music. It’s always some kind of head-banging rock and it ALWAYS has lots of bass.

You can hear him long before he comes down the street. BOOM, BOOM, BOOM. Your floor shakes. Your house shakes. And you sit in wonder as to how this person will make it to the age of 20 with his hearing intact. (Joel calls them the “hearing aid fast trackers”)

Ahhh...RainbowsOkay, it’s been 3 weeks now that we’ve been back in the Caribbean. And it truly changes you.

Often, friends ask me to talk about the differences between life in the US and life in the Caribbean. I have done this in an earlier post, but only hinted at the differences that I’ve experienced at the core of my being.

Here, I can breathe.

And it’s not about the lack of pollution. It goes way deeper than that. There’s something about the energy of a place where everyone sees time and ambition differently. Things naturally slow down. There’s nothing to prove. Tomorrow is actually another day…and it’s okay to continue what you started tomorrow.

There is a comfort here that feels like stepping off the treadmill and resting.

And while you might not realize it, it’s not just your mind that changes…your body changes too. For me, one of the first things that I noticed as I calibrated to this island energy is my breathing.

Santa enjoys SabaJoel and I escaped the big winter storm in the Northeast, just in time to experience Christmas in Saba!

I figured that even though Christmas is old news at this point, it would be fun to share our experience this year. I thought this year would include more of the same from last time, but I was wrong on that account. Saba is full of surprises and we had our share this time!

You may recall our first Christmas in Saba, when we went down to the Saba airport to greet Santa, who gave his reindeer the day off and flew Winar to Saba instead. If you recall growing up with department store and Mall Santas, having one fly in by plane is quite a sight. I’d imagine the children of Saba feel quite special to have St. Nick comandeer a whole plane just to visit them for a day.

Joel & Heather Flowers in Sugar Hill New HampshireJoel and I have been in the US for a couple of months now, as you can probably tell from our lack of posts recently. What happened was, we got really busy. We got busy because we stopped living our simple life right about the time we arrived in the US. We keep asking ourselves how it happened – how did we go from living such a simple life to being as busy as we are now? We’re chasing time again and in this post I’ll share everything we’ve realized after our experience.

Drivin’ My Life Away
The first thing we noticed was driving. In Saba, we never had to drive anywhere – well, admittedly, we have no car in Saba! But we don’t need one because our cottage is so close to everything. The destinations that require a car are few – perhaps Wells Bay and scuba diving – both easily reached by car or hitch hiking.

King of the Road
The minute we arrived in the US, we started driving…and driving…and driving. 2 hours from the airport to our home in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. 15 minutes one way to the grocery store. 3 hours to Boston for some of the classes and conveniences. And more driving for business trips. It was shocking how different it was to have all those miles of road to drive – quite a difference from a 5 square mile island!


Kitchen Lizards!Remember we tried our hands and hearts at having a dog (Mini)? As you recall, our weekend dog extravaganza went amiss due to allergies — and Joel’s phobia of delayed caffeine consumption. Our newest arrival did not show up by choice. It was more of a shriek-jump back-take a deep breath kind of thing. Our newest arrival is the kitchen lizard – and I found him.

Saba from the planeWe love when our blog readers give us ideas for posts – this one comes from Jon, who is coming to Saba with his family in July. Jon has one day and will be coming over on the Edge, a ferry that goes from St. Martin to Saba.

Agalychnis callidryas Gaudy!You probably remember me mentioning the beautiful sound of the Saban tree frogs in previous posts. These elusive little creatures are legendary in the Caribbean as providers of bedtime lullaby, while tourists sometimes lie awake and wonder what that sound is! The tree frogs are part of what I love about the aliveness of living in the Caribbean – so close to nature, teeming with sounds, smells and sights that embrace Mother Earth. Whenever I return to the US, I feel much less connected to this dynamic force of nature, so unusually quiet, so far from the soil and the wildlife.

The Road That Couldn't Be Built!Many of you who’ve been following our blog – or perhaps those of you who know Saba – have heard or seen “The Road.” The Road is the only road in Saba. It goes from the airport, through Hell’s Gate, Windwardside, St. John and The Bottom – Saba’s 4 villages.

The Road is nothing like I have seen in the United States – there is no blacktop, which is good because it would be sticky and stinky in the direct Caribbean sun. There are no yellow lines – or any lines for that matter – denoting lanes for cars to stay within. In fact, The Road looks more like a giant’s sidewalk – it is made of concrete, which is easily made in Saba due to the proliferation of rock found throughout the island. There are small cracks in between massive slabs of concrete, just like the cracks in a sidewalk.


Water drop
Well, we finally know what it’s like to run out of water! We went through a dry spell in Saba, with little to no rainfall, which to vacationers, was probably heaven. But to us residents, it was not so exciting. Every day, Joel would go out and check the level of water in our cistern, watching it get lower and lower. For the new readers of our blog, you can learn more about the perils of relying on nature for water in this previous post.

Conservation Newbies
Now I admit, we are still neophytes at this water conservation thing. We thought we were doing really well at first, but come to find out, it was unusually wet for the first few months of our tenure as Saba residents. So we have to go back to the drawing board and really learn some new water conservation skills.

How Big Is Your Cistern?
As we talked to our more experienced island friends, we realized just how inexperienced we are at living off the land. For example, Cedric told us that in his first house, his family of 4 lived with a 3,000-gallon cistern. To put it in perspective, our cistern is 6,000 gallons – so we have double the water capacity with half the people! Cedric laughed as he reminisced about he and his wife telling the kids, wash your hands – but be careful of the water! When Cedric built his new house, high up in the mountain, he included a 40,000-gallon cistern! No more fears of water shortage there!

Nice Butterfly!You may have seen the pictures of the orange butterflies that Joel took on Mt. Scenery? Well, there are about 27 varieties of butterflies on Saba, not to mention all the species of moths – so given my track record, I won’t definitively say what they are! The orange butterflies behave in ways I’m used to from my limited US-layperson’s observance of butterflies. They flutter along, stop on green flowering plants and tend to sit with open wings. They were also very accepting of the human interlopers that we were, allowing Joel to get some good shots.

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