Means there was only girly swim diapers at Plaza. Horrific, I know.
After the daily deluge dealing with toddler tantrums, planning meals, running errands, bear hugs, and midterms is over, Chris and I sit down and mull over “The List.” That is, the list of pros and cons for each new job opportunity: pay, travel (lack thereof preferably) its locale (not Texas, ideally,) its outdoor offerings, its educational offerings for all parties involved, etc. And then we try to assess the weight of each category. With all these decisions to be made, sleep is somewhat scarce.
While thinking of the future it is hard not to reflect on the past. Looking back (not too far back either,) I remember how Chris traveled what I remember as 50% of the year, but what he says was actually 30% of the year. What does that mean? Chris missed 30% of Holden’s first year of life and about 15% of Casey’s, all to keep our family afloat. In those times he was gone I sent a bajillion gigawatts of photos and videos, but of course, it was not the same. The comfort during that time period was nothing other than the good old American dream: you work hard, you pay your dues, and slowly and surely life becomes steadily easier.
That is what the Hovensa opportunity was for us. Yes it was a move to the Caribbean and great career experience for Chris sure, but it was also the culmination of sacrifice for the greater good of our family: a place with reliable hours, a comfortable wage, and with such much natural beauty in both the island itself and in many of its inhabitants. In short, a living balance in which our family could learn and love and grow together.
While I will miss it, I sometimes think it best that our time here was so limited. While many people move here chasing blue-tinged dreams, the reality is that the cost of living is high and the professional opportunities are low. This creates an entirely new definition of bitter (i.e. those who came here with an ideal and then feel trapped and limited here.) It certainly doesn’t happen to all, and I don’t think that would happen to us, mainly because we wouldn’t have been brave enough to take the leap with two kids without an escape plan, but at least we will leave here with our idealism intact and a healthy balance in place.
And what of it? Is it possible to strike a happy medium? To provide for your family but keep your tail out of the rat race? To appreciate the comforts that come with the allmighty dollar without allowing it to consume you? How about paying $6 for a half carton of milk but drinking your White Russian with a view of the ocean?
I think so. I think both the rigors of our Austin life and the generally-laid back “oh hey I see you are trying to get into traffic..let me immediately stop and beep you in!” life we led here helps maintain a healthy perspective into the need for the ying and yang of life. And I can’t wait to see where our next adventure leads.
But for now, I’m going to machete open some coconuts from our front yard while we still got ’em. Gather ye coconuts while ye may!
A tourist actually said that to me this weekend at the Purple Papaya (adorable little shop in Christiansted.) I had stopped in on our way to lovely Shoy’s Beach seeking air floatees for Holden. Didn’t find the floatees, but did find a large monster truck School Bus with a cursive St. Croix written on the top. Score. Grabbed it, and a blue monster jeep for Casey (lest I risk the wrath of a child shorted,) and waited in queue. An older couple was ahead of me purchasing ornaments or shot glasses or some other touristy stuff. The woman, smiling in a little haze, backed up into me and stepped on my sandal.
Her: “Oh I am so sorry!”
Me: “It’s OK.”
Her: “I am too relaxed, I shouldn’t be this relaxed!”
Needless to say, it made me sad that she felt guilty about being so stress-free, and brought back memories of the WASP-y states. You can spot a tourist a mile away here. They are the sunburned people obsessed with cataloging every second of their vacation instead of just living their vacation, snapping picture after picture of every crack in the Christiansted fort. And feeling guilty for drinking a beer at noon. For shame! Gotta love ’em though, they help the economy stay afloat, and will hopefully help sustain this place long past the Hovensa takedown.
Still, it does make me think about our impending move. Wherever we end up (and it looks like we will have quite a bit of options, because Chris is a rockstar) next I just hope we can avoid the constant state of high blood pressure frenzy that is typical American society.
BTW, the floatees (found at Cane Bay Dive Shop for only $4!) were a success. My not-quite-3-year-old can swim like a pro with them (especially with the help of his monster school bus)
I really think we have a shot at getting him swimming entirely on his own before his third year. And his little brother got the smaller-kid floatees, and spent 30 minutes going back and forth in the ocean between us. “now mama” and “now dada” he said with that huge, sunbursting grin of pride.
After the swimming the kids created an amazing Pollock-like painting:
And Holden consequently perfected his tortured artist gaze…
Life is good.
Is it possible to be so spoiled by the brilliant colors of paradise that one welcomes a monotone sky and sea? Today while on a sunset walk, I noticed that the heavens were a neutral tapestry of grey and dark blue shades. It is the type of sky you typically see during a Floridian sunset, but not one that I have seen often on STX.
I didn’t get a picture, but it looked something like…
Typically, a Caribbean sunset provides a dramatic backsplash to the shifting and impossible blue hues of the ocean.
Both equally lovely, for different reasons.
I am not a stranger to something being so incredibly gorgeous that it nearly painful to look at. You know that scene in “American Beauty” with the bag? You know the bag scene, surely!
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Anyway, life tends to be like that a lot. Through the regular tantrums, the worried brow of a laid-off papa bear, the daily stresses and struggles, stream the rays of exquisite sun.
I see them in the innocent, wide smile of Casey:
When a much deserving-dad gets a break from life stresses to get pummeled by Neptune
When a loving Grandparent plays with their beautiful grandsons
That one formed right above our driveway.
With all this color saturation and sensory overload, it is no wonder that the occasional grey sunset is a welcome and beautiful sight.
Spoiled? Maybe a little.
Yup, that mostly-metal monolith in Saint Croix– the sprawling factory that contributed millions annually to the VI government and stood as a kind of 2001 Space Odyssey-like beacon for many people seeking a professional vocation– is closing up shop. And with it goes Chris’s jobby job.
I am not going to dwell on the reasons why or the implications for the island, since I am neither a shareholder, fortune teller, nor spokesperson, but many fear this is a kind of doomsday for STX. With over 2,000 people (includes contractors) on a 50,000-people-island now laid off, it is tough to argue with what appears to be the logical conclusion of increased crime and depressed economics. Still, many folks are hopeful that the island will pull through with the same stoic spirit shown during the aftermath of Hurricane Hugo. I desperately hope that the latter prevails.
Regardless, my family will sadly not be here to take part in the island’s renaissance, because of that whole needing a job to feed the kids thing. So, it amounts to an adventure cut off at the knees. The upshot??? Chris gets to keep the green jumpsuit. And oh do I have plans for that thing. Think the gnome in “Amelie,” only as a jumpsuit…that is industrial green.
So you might be asking yourself what one thinks after moving from Texas to the Caribbean and then finding themselves needing to move again in a mere 6 months?
The exact recipe of one’s musings is: half parts dumb shit. Other half lucky stiff.
Dumb Shit Interior Monologue:
We just unpacked that last box and the second car ISN’T EVEN HERE YET. In fact it will never be here. What if there are no jobs to be found elsewhere? What if the jobs to be found are somewhere really crappy and industralized? Woe is me, woe is me, pity party. Better shed a salty tear into the salty ocean while I still have it. Ok, moving on.
Lucky Stiff Interior Monologue:
I’m such a lucky biotch. Chris was home every. single. night. We ate dinner together as a family every. single. night. Even if he has to go back to the musician’s (consultant’s) life on the road, at least there was this half a year of sweet normalcy wrapped within an amazing adventure.
After all, how many people get paid to move and and live in the Caribbean for half a year? How many toddlers have a vernacular consisting of the regular use of: gungalo, hermit crab, iguana, bush cat, moko jumbie, sea grape, high tide, and a sundry other free, wild, and incredible words? Not many. I am positive that my kids will remember the transition from the primal fear of roaring waves and gritty sand, to the ecstasy of jumping madly into the waves like a long lost best friend they just saw not more than two days ago (but it seemed like an eternity.)
We were warned many times by well-intended veterans to check our idealism at the door when we moved here, and I am so grateful we didn’t heed that advice. Of course, we had the benefit of living what amounts to an extended vacation, so there wasn’t much time for the silver to tarnish. Yes, electricity and milk are nearly triple the price of mainland, but such is the price of living on a rock in the middle of the bluest blue sea your mortal eyes will ever behold. We cut back and didn’t spend money on useless crap. Voila, a life was made.
To make an analogy, you know in the film adaptation of “Contact” where Jodie (arguably) dies and is standing on her beach version of heaven? Yeah that. Every day.
So where will the next adventure lead? Not to the unemployment line, ideally.
Maybe to the apple crisp smelling-mountains…
Maybe to the fireplace-cold…
Possibly to a sunset over a desert that sprawls red and forever…
After all, there is such a lot of world to see.
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I do know that after a nearly 10-year period in the same town, this precious adventure has been a soothing balm to my wanderlusting soul, and I hope we will always maintain an ongoing relationship with the island, even if must be just the occasional summer vacation. And even if the next step puts us right back where we started in the ole Lonestar State (grumble grumble.)