Season’s Greetings – Island Style

Seasons Greetings from!

Since my last post was about six months ago, I bet you thought that I forgot all about my island obsession, didn’t you? Ha! Not a chance!

In accordance with the saying “You’ve gotta work hard to play hard”, I’ve been putting my nose to the grindstone for a while and it all finally paid off with another glorious trip to Anguilla! I just got back a few days ago and it was as difficult as ever to leave a place that I love so much. But, because I feel that my ties to my wonderful friends there (actually, I just refer to them family now) get so much stronger every time I visit, I have zero doubt that I’ll be back very soon.

Part of my “play hard” effort involved building the above sand snowman with the one-and-only Garvey Lake at the SunShine Shack, on Rendezvous Bay. I initially had the intention of sending pictures of it to my friends at home, who were buried under ice and snow at the time, but I later decided that that would be too cruel.

I give Garvey most of the artistic credit while most of my time went into constructing a solid foundation (i.e. making a big dense pile of sand), conceptualization (Garvey initially insisted on a two-tiered sand snowman, as shown below – can’t blame an island guy for not knowing there should be three – but after putting my foot down, the sand snowman got a proper midsection), and following Garvey’s directions to turn it into a masterpiece.


And here’s Garvey posing with the finished product:

Garvey and our sand snowman

A few days later, I returned to the SunShine Shack with Francie (of Udder Chaos fame) and her family to find that the rain and tide had really done a number on the sand snowman – large pieces of its head had crumbled off and the body looked like an amorphous blob. With Francie being a true engineer (“We gotta fix it!”) and me being a mushy-hearted brain-dead girl on vacation (“Poor sand snowman!”), we set about reconstructing a new version.

You may have seen the 2nd sand snowman in Francie’s tweet here (or on Facebook), but for those of you who didn’t, take a gander at sand snowman 2.0:

Sand Snowman v2 - he likes Corona

Not too shabby, right? This one shed the scarf and clearly likes a cold drink.

I hope that you all have a happy and healthy holiday season and many new island adventures in 2014!

See you next year!

See you next year!

A New Lesson Learned In Anguilla

I have a secret to tell you: I can be really really dense sometimes.

I mean, I think I’m of at least average intelligence (after my morning caffeine, anyway) but I’ve noticed that my brain can be pretty stubborn about absorbing things when it feels like it. I can’t even count the number of times that life has had to beat me over the head with the same lesson over and over again until I finally GET it.  (I just hope that I “get it” more often than not!)

I’m telling you this because, on my most recent trip to Anguilla, I managed to learn something new as a result of being “bombarded” with one version or another of a single phrase throughout my visit. I had never heard this phrase before on Anguilla or anywhere else, really, but I had four different people say it to me in four completely separate instances just on this one trip. Coincidence? Maybe.

What was the phrase, you ask? Well, it was

“Why you actin’ like you a stranger?”

The first time I heard it was in a conversation with a friend who said something that could’ve been taken in two different ways just because of the particular phrasing that was used. I knew full well that my friend was intending to say something nice, but because I’m such a comedian, I chose to feign offense at the second interpretation which could’ve come across to some as a mild threat.

After my oh-so-dramatic expression of horror that such terrible and menacing words should be said to me, my friend laughed and responded with “Now you actin’ like you a stranger!”. My initial reaction to that (besides laughing at my own very good joke, of course) was just to think to myself “Oh, that’s so nice. This person considers me to be a good friend!”, but I can’t say that I really thought anything more of it at that point.

The second time someone said it to me was after I arrived at another friend’s house, and one of her family members was sitting outside on the front porch.  I hadn’t met this family member yet, so I just politely asked for my friend and waited at the bottom of the front steps. When my friend came out, she said “Girl, why you standin’ out in the sun like you a stranger?” and she quickly escorted me up onto the shady porch where I was greeted with laughs over me being so silly as well as some very nice hugs.

Again, I was flattered to be considered a friend to someone else, but I also thought about what a coincidence it was that I had heard this same phrase twice in just a few days when I had never heard it before. Was it something common that I had just happened to miss all these years? Hmm.

The third time occurred after I had just finished a nice meal while sitting at the bar of a restaurant. I was on vacation and was wearing a dress with no defined waist so, needless to say, I had just stuffed my face with waaay more food and drink than was probably ladylike. (This is one reason I sometimes like to sit at bars for meals – so no one but the bartender will judge me for the sheer volume of food that I can down in one sitting.)

A good friend that I had met on my very first trip to Anguilla showed up at the restaurant to have a drink at the bar. He sat next to me and we chatted and caught up for a bit. He couldn’t stay for very long, but when he asked the bartender for his check, he asked to have my meal put on his tab!  I said “Oh, no! You don’t have to do that!”, to which my friend responded “I know I don’t have to do it. I want to do it.”.

It was a very nice gesture, but all I could think about was how much food I had ordered, so I continued to protest by saying “Thank you, really, but I can take care of my check. It’s really not necessary for you…” at which point my friend, with friendliest look of minor annoyance that I have ever seen, abruptly interrupted me and said “Stop actin’ like you a stranger!” and he paid for my meal. There weren’t really any laughs this time, and to be honest, his reaction shook me a little bit. I hadn’t intended to offend my friend, but it was clear that I had done it anyway. I decided that it would be best to just thank him for being so kind. He smiled, said “You’re welcome.” and left.

At that point, I started thinking more about this phrase and what it meant that I was hearing it so often. Clearly it’s a really nice thing for someone to say, but had I somehow been acting inconsiderately and offending my friends? A bit of worry set in.

The last time that I heard these words on this trip was on a particularly cool night on the island. I was wearing a sleeveless dress and was feeling downright cold in the breeze that was blowing through the restaurant in which I was eating. I mentioned how chilly I felt to my dinner companions, and one of them jumped up and left the group. He returned with one of the brand new oversized shirts that he had planned to sell for his business. It was big enough for me to pull over my dress and cover my arms. (I may have looked ridiculous but, hey, I was warm!)

I thanked my friend profusely for saving me from the cold and asked him how much he sells the shirts for as I pulled out my wallet to pay him. He said “Why you actin’ like you a stranger?” and motioned for me to put my money away. I felt badly for taking something he could have made some money on, but he just wouldn’t hear of me paying him for the shirt. I thanked him for being so nice to me and I let it go…outwardly, anyway.

So, since I got home, I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means when someone says “Why you actin’ like you a stranger?”.  The most obvious explanation is that someone who says this to you considers you to be close enough friends that there’s no need to act so formally with them, as you would with someone you don’t know at all. It’s a way of saying “You should know me better than to think I would treat you like someone I barely know, because we’re closer than that.” In some instances it can be said as a lighthearted comment as in my first two examples, but in cases where people are trying to do something nice for you as in the last two instances, it can convey some slightly offended feelings.

From my own experiences on Anguilla, in the smaller circles of which I’m a part, I see that good friends still do nice things for each other just for the sake of doing something nice. It’s not to get something in return, to chalk up an IOU for a later date, or to prove that they’re a better person than someone else. No. They offer and do these things just for the sake of doing something good because that’s just the way it’s supposed to be. Personal relationships are incredibly important in a small island setting and nice sentiments like this can play a big part in preserving close community ties.

I’m ashamed that this concept is as foreign to me as it is but I live in a world where, sadly, this kind of attitude and the close friendships that it leads to are very rare.  When someone does something for you here, something is pretty much always expected in return. It’s for that reason that I worry so much about looking like I’m taking advantage of someone when I accept a gift or a favor. I worry about how I’m going to even things out so I don’t come across looking like a mooch or, worse, entitled to being showered with freebies.

So, it’s that thought process that carries over to Anguilla when I visit, but I realize now that it’s completely out of place with my closest friends there. The phrase “Why you actin’ like you a stranger?” has taught me that 1. I need to have more faith that people can still be truly kindhearted in this world and 2. I have to learn to be much more gracious when I’m lucky enough to be on the receiving end of their kindness.

I can still continue to do nice things for my friends as well, but I shouldn’t look at it as paying them back for what they’ve done for me but, instead, just as a sign of appreciation that they’re good people and that they’re in my life.

I know, I know. It’s all so very sappy, right? Yes. But sappy is good when you can regain some faith in humanity, isn’t it? I know it’s going to take me some time and effort to change my mindset to think as my friends have taught me, but I hope know they’ll be very understanding as I make the adjustment.

I knew that I loved Anguilla because the closest friends that I’ve made there are some of the best human beings I’ve ever known, but “Why you actin’ like you a stranger?” gave me some deeper (and beautiful!) insight as to why that is. I’m so lucky to have found them.

Thanks, Anguilla, for another great lesson.

Yes, I’m Heading Back to Anguilla

*Update 3/14/2013: I have been told that arrests have been made in all of the most recent robberies on Anguilla. I’m relieved to hear it and now feel a bit better for the safety of all who live on and visit the island.

I’ve had several different versions of this post sitting in my drafts folder for over a month now. I had intended to somehow address my personal feelings about the recent incidents of crime in Anguilla, but I felt that my thoughts had always been too scattered to come up with a decent post. Now that I feel like my brain has settled down a bit on this topic, I’m going to try one more time:

Word of the crimes that have occurred in Anguilla in recent months has left me in a twisted state of anger, sadness, helplessness and fear. I worry for my good friends who have been victims of or witnesses to this crime and I wish there was something I could do to help them. As an outsider, though, I don’t feel I can do much else besides express my concern and pray.

Yes, crime happens everywhere. It is certainly more prevalent here at home in the Washington, DC area than it is on Anguilla – there’s no doubt about that. Occurrences on AXA, though, affect me more for two reasons:

1. Over the years of visiting the island, I have, probably unwisely, settled into a mindset in which I believed that nothing bad could ever happen on Anguilla. It’s paradise, and bad things don’t happen in paradise, right?

Now, though, this unrealistic image of my favorite place in the world has been shattered and it is absolutely heartbreaking for me. I know that this is really my fault for having unrealistic expectations and I need to come to grips with the fact that Anguilla has the same problems that exist everywhere else in the world.

2. When anything happens on a small island like Anguilla, it’s more likely to happen to someone you know than when similar things happen at home. In larger populations, if we’re lucky, it’s easier to isolate ourselves away from the “badness” because we usually don’t know anyone involved. On Anguilla, though, it’s a lot more personal.

Since I first visited the island, I’ve had too many conversations with good friends about their direct experiences with crime on AXA and it distresses me. You see…I’m a worrier. It’s a bad habit that I have when it comes to people I really care about.  I think about my friends having to live and work every day in places that I now suddenly see as being so vulnerable because of recent events. I know it’s not healthy to worry about things out of my control but, I don’t know, it’s just seems to be how I’m built. I try to keep it under control, but let’s just say that I’ve never prayed so much in my life.

Do I worry about going back? The truth: Yes.

I feel that my reaction is the same as if something bad happened to someone in my own neighborhood, which has unfortunately been the case, recently. There’s someone out there doing bad things, and I don’t want to take a chance at becoming another victim. I’ve changed my activities here accordingly.  If my local police department finds, arrests and punishes this person then, yes, I’ll feel better, but I’m not sure that I can so easily go back to that same level of comfort I had before. Maybe, if enough time passes without another incident, I might begin to forget my fear.

Will I be going back to Anguilla any time soon? Yes.

In fact, I have just booked my next trip and I’ll be heading back in a few weeks. Just like at home, though, I will definitely take more precautions and will make careful choices as to what I do while I’m there. Safety is a big concern for me when I travel.  I can’t ignore what has happened, but I definitely still think it’s possible to enjoy myself safely in a place that I love so much.

I’m glad to hear that there are efforts being made to fight the crime situation on Anguilla. I hope that they are successful and that Anguilla’s reputation is not too severely damaged in the long run. It’s not fair to judge an entire island based on the actions of a few bad people, but the truth is that this kind of publicity is hard to play down when trying to attract new visitors.

There are plenty of AXA-regulars who have declared their intent to return despite what has happened, me included now, so we will do our best to continue to support the island however we can. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for a good solution, though, more for the sake of those that live on Anguilla than anything else.