Monday, June 27, 2011

Liquid Sunshine?

When I woke up this morning it was raining, and it did not stop all day.  After experiencing beautiful weather for weeks, it was the first day where the weather remained rainy and overcast without any sign of the sun.  It reminded me of Chicago.  In fact, this rainy day is the only thing that has reminded me of Chicago since I’ve been here.  Yet, most St. Thomian’s seem to have an unusually positive reaction to the rain.
I’m not clear as to why people down here like the rain, but they undoubtedly seem to feel up-lifted by the change in climate.  While my cable guy spent an entire day setting up our account last month, it started raining on and off.  Instead of complaining about having to work in the rain, he welcomed it by referring to it as ‘liquid sunshine’.  When I got to work today and asked one of my co-workers how she was doing, she responding by saying, “I’m great.  It’s raining, isn’t it?!”  Another one of my co-workers told me that she’s always liked the rain, but particularly likes an overcast day since it’s a welcome change from the bright sunshine that we experience every day in St. Thomas.  Huh?
Since I moved here to escape gloomy weather, this is incomprehensible to me.  I find the rainy weather in St. Thomas to be hugely disappointing.  I look forward to a bright sunny sky every day, and I’ve gotten to the point where I expect it to be a nice, clear, warm day.  I’d even go so far as to say that I feel somewhat entitled to beautiful weather.  After all, didn’t I leave my entire life behind in return for warm, sunny skies?  So, on a day like today I actually feel a little cheated.
However, even if I hadn’t experienced the blustery winters and damp cold springs of Chicago, I still don’t understand how this rainy day would be an acceptable change in the elements.  For one thing, the rain brings unbelievably humid, sticky air.  Currently, I can feel my skin stuck to the leather chair that I’m sitting in.  In addition, anything that’s cloth, like our bed linens and clothes, become damp.  What were once dry, clean clothes hanging in our closet are now turning into spotted, mildewed, dirty laundry.  It’s even too humid for my hot pink nail polish to stick around.  In fact, I painted my nails last night and I still don’t think they are dry. 
In addition, the contrast between the moist air and the slightly cooler temperature can be a little confusing.  This morning, I endlessly stared at the clothes in my closet - unsure if I should dress for mildly warm weather, or just warm weather.  Finally, I decided to put on a pair of khaki pants and a long sleeve top, thinking that pants would be good for a more temperate day.  However, I was freezing in my office, since the AC was able to run at full blast without any interruption from the sun beaming through the windows.  Even my car appeared to struggle with the contrasting weather.  When I turned on the defogger, the inside of my windshield cleared up quickly, but the cool air conditioning on the inside of the window, hitting the warm air on the outside made the outside of my windshield fog up.  I couldn’t win.      
The only other things that seem to like the wet weather better than the local islanders are the mosquitoes, which only further reinforces how strange it is for people to be okay with this mugginess.  I’ve already commented in other posts about the mosquitoes, but I can’t reinforce enough how thick and vicious they can be.  The fact that I recently learned about dengue (den-gay), which is the Virgin Island’s version of malaria, isn’t helping.  And, I could probably do an entire posting on the strangest places that I’ve gotten bit, but being bit on top of another bite is a distant first to any of the other places.  So, I put on bug spray every night when I get home.  It’s a ritual now.
Alas, tomorrow is a new day, and like most days it’s likely to be 85 and sunny with only a 30% chance of rain.  All of the dank air will be pulled away quickly by the warm sunshine, and it’s not likely that we’ll get another gloomy day like this for the foreseeable future.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

A New Normal

I have to be honest that the last few postings I’ve written haven’t come to me as easily as prior postings.  I wouldn’t say I’m running out of ‘material’ to write about, but after 6 weeks on the island my daily life isn’t striking me to be as unusually funny as it once did.  In fact, strange though it is, St. Thomas also has some wonderful characteristics that have recently captured my attention.
What’s most striking to me is how friendly people are down here.  If you sit at a bar for long enough the people next to you are likely to introduce themselves.  We’ve made several friends this way including a nice couple from the states who invited us to go hiking and swimming with them on St. John the following weekend.  During our hike they taught us that you can actually eat cactus seed, referred to as cactus ‘fruit’.  It tastes like a sweet tomato, but is a pinkish-purple color.
Last Sunday while I was sitting on the beach, one of our new found bar buddies walked up to us with his wife and asked us to come over for dinner that night for some fried food and cocktails.  We enjoyed a great evening meeting new people at their home and learning more from them about living on the island. 
One night at dinner we struck up a conversation with a nice couple at the table next to us.  When they learned that we were new to the island they reassured us that the island craziness can, ‘work for you and work against you’.  For example, the first year this woman had been on the island she received over 400 parking tickets because she worked downtown and parking is terrible in that area.  However, when she went to pay her tickets, only 2 showed up on her record in the system. 
One of my co-workers took it upon herself to buy me four ‘Fix-a-Flat’ tire repair kits because, as she informed me, they are going to be needed when a hurricane hits and things blow around so much that you’re likely to get a nail and/or screw in your tire.  She bought us four because one year she got two flat tires on the same car at the same time, and she knows we have two cars. 
So, it’s been easy and fun to find new friends, and it’s very comforting to know that the people down here will take the time to help you out and look out for you a bit.  With this in mind, it’s definitely more of a small community feel down here, which has been a refreshing change.
Of course the island offers the obvious amazing traits too like good weather, beautiful beaches and exceptional views.  However, after living here for only a little while you tend to enjoy these qualities in a different way.  For example, the closest beach to us is a great place to sunbathe and hang out on a Saturday afternoon, but I look forward to going down to the beach after work for a long swim more than anything.  In fact, last night during my swim I found a sea turtle and a sting ray, which I never would have seen on a busy Saturday or Sunday.  In addition, the normal everyday views from the roads are beautiful.  However, nothing compares to the rewarding scenery you find at the top of a hill after a long, rigorous hike up a trail that that you never would have found unless a local friend showed you the way (see picture of Ramshead at the bottom of this blog site).  And, the weather…it’s nearly perfect.  The warm air coupled with a nice breeze coming off the ocean is impossible to compete with and makes being outside the only option when you have some free time.  In fact, now that I realize how wonderful the weather can be, I don't think I'll ever want to live in a place that isn't warm year round again.              
Don’t get me wrong, I still find plenty of things to be out of the ordinary.  Today I drove past an old fire hydrant that looked as though it had tipped over, yet no water was coming out of it.  Last week when I asked someone how their new grandchild was, she answered by saying that she was good but definitely not sleeping through the night because she’s being ‘titty fed’.  So, this strange new world remains a puzzling place, but I’ve learned to embrace it more over the past couple of weeks, and I’ve found that it’s surprising how quickly things can transition from being completely foreign, to being a new sort of normal. 


Monday, June 20, 2011

The Virgin Island Daily News

I find local newspapers to be an insightful form of information wherever I go, so it seems prudent for me to dedicate a posting to our local, Pulitzer Prize winning newspaper, which is referred to as the Daily News.
The Daily News sells for $1.00 and is published 7 days a week.  It’s quite popular among the local islanders down here, as it tends to be a common conversation starter during lunch when many people spend their time reading this 65 – 70 page periodical.  Like most papers, the Daily News is made up of several different sections but my personal favorites include, the Virgin Islands section and the Caribbean section. 
To clarify, the Virgin Island section is dedicated to only the Virgin Islands portion of the Caribbean, so naturally it’s the first section of this paper.  These are all the stories that the Daily News leads with.  More specifically, stories in this section have recently been dedicated to every single Virgin Island high school graduation that has taken place in the last 2-3 weeks.  I’ve literally read stories about graduating classes of 2 people on the front page of the Daily News.  And, I can honestly say that just about everyday for the last few weeks, some high school graduation has made the front page – right next to the local hospital embezzlement trial story.  In today’s paper, the principle of the island’s most recent graduating class stated that he is most proud of the fact that all 10 of his graduates have been accepted by colleges.
The Caribbean section of the paper is focused on the other Caribbean Island news outside of the Virgin Islands.  This captivating section’s headline story was on President Obama’s recent trip to Puerto Rico, which according to the Daily wasn’t received well, since that island has a 16% unemployment rate and skyrocketing crime statistics, yet Obama seemly only came to town (for 4 hours) to receive campaign donations to the tune of $1M.  In addition, this section reported that the latest governor elected for Turks and Caicos is a career diplomat from Britain who most recently has been their ambassador to Warsaw, Poland.  I wonder how long this guy lobbied for his new, much warmer, gig.  Finally, and this may come as a shocker, but the Daily reported today that Hugo Chavez received a visit from Fidel and Raul Castro.  According to the Daily, Chavez appeared in photos wearing a track suit while they met to discuss inter-country relations and world issues.   No worries…the Chavez and Castro families are coming together to save the world, one track suit at a time.
The paper also includes some interesting information regarding a variety of other topics.  For example, it will cover what cruise ships are coming and when.  Typically, this includes how many people will be on each ship, so you know how busy the town will be.  On the busiest day, a cruise ships could bring roughly 9,000 people to the island.  This is a lot considering that there are only about 50,000 people here.  There is also a little blurb on crime in the islands that tells you what type of crime has occurred at what time and where.  The Daily News includes a brief summary of what will be discussed throughout the week in the local senate.  This typically includes a surprisingly equal amount of time split between the island budget committees and the environment. 
I can’t help but mention that on Sundays there is a Faith and Religion section that I’m absolutely dying to discuss at length.  However, considering the risk involved in my potential to be sarcastic at the expense of the Lord, I’m going to refrain from any comments on this section.  However, in case you’re wondering, the “Thou Art Highly Favored” women’s conference will be held at 8:30 on Sunday.
So, that’s it.  The Virgin Island Daily News reporting at its best…hot off the press!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Lights Out

It’s about 7:00 p.m. and the island is pretty quiet tonight.  The only sounds I hear are the pleasant chirping of the birds, an occasional neighborhood dog barking, and the persistent humming of generators.  This is because over the last 24 hours the power has gone out countless times.  In fact, in the time it’s taken to write this posting the power has gone on and off twice. 
It all started at about 1:00 in the morning last night when I was abruptly awakened by the sound and feeling of the ceiling and box fans shutting down.  At this point, I realized that the power was out.  We don’t have air conditioning and our generator is in the shop, so things got a little stuffy.  In fact, the stuffier things got, the more awake I became.  And, since the mosquitoes thrive in still air, they were out in a full force attack.  I got up and put on some bug repellent, while my boyfriend lit some citronella candles.  Then I continued to toss and turn most of the night while the electricity proceeded to turn on and off until my alarm mercifully went off. 
When I got to work, most people agreed that they had had a fitful night of sleep as well, and we were all relieved to be in an air conditioned building, especially since the power continued to go on and off all morning.  The building I work in has what one of my co-workers proudly proclaimed to be, ‘the best generator ever!’ when the power went off as she was trying to train me on how to use the company computer system.  Apparently, having a good generator means that when the power goes out at my office, the lights flash off, the generator automatically kicks in, and the lights go right back on.  This all happens over the course of maybe a minute, but it still blows my mind that this is how things function down here, and I can’t avoid being a bit distracted by it.  The lights go out, and I immediately look around at everybody else for a reaction.  However, I’m constantly confused by how unphased everyone is by this disruption.  They all continuously keep working away on their computers.    
I’ve been told that the cost of electricity in St. Thomas is 10 times more expensive than in the States, and we all know that the electricity functions pretty smoothly up there.  The paper today reported that there would be a 10% increase in electricity soon.  I’m dying to know what they plan on improving with this increase.  Will 10% more actually get them to figure out what most of the civilized world already knows?
What’s most perplexing to me is what is, or isn’t going on down at the Water and Power Authority (WAPA).  Whenever I think about the happenings inside the walls of WAPA, I can’t help but imagine that, similar to Desmond in the TV show Lost, some poor idiot has been put in isolation under a hatch at the WAPA facility and is being told to enter the same code into a computer over and over again, or else the power will go off.  When he has any sort of lapse in this mundane duty, there’s an outage.  This is how much sense this is all making to me.  I’m actually drawing parallels from the island of St. Thomas to a fictitious, mystical island that has black smoky blobs, unicorns and Matthew Fox on it.  However, it is becoming very clear to me that the way things go on St. Thomas are often inexplicable and confusing.  You have to simply go along with it. 

Monday, June 13, 2011

The House

I’m not the type of person that warms up to things quickly, so it’s no surprise that adapting to my new house has been a challenge for me.  When we came to look at the place I immediately liked the laid back, Caribbean feel of it, and the ocean view was undeniably beautiful.  However, upon moving in I realized that I had my work cut out for me.
The house itself is relatively simple to explain.  Basically, picture my old place in Chicago - a 2 bedroom condo in a 32 story high rise that includes a doorman, pool, gym and dry cleaner and is located in a major metropolis.  This house is the exact opposite. 
Of course, I’ll be more specific.  As you approach the place, you’ll find that it’s a white cement house with green trim, located at the very top of a hill.  The center of the house is a hexagon shape with the kitchen and living area open to one another, and 3 large sliding glass doors that open up to the back of the house.  There are two hallways leading off either side of the main room where the bedrooms and bathrooms are located.  In typical Caribbean fashion, the ceilings are high, giving the place an airy feel.  A large deck wraps around the entire back of the house, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean and a golf course that runs through the bottom of a steep valley.  The area we live in is quite lush, including many trees and plants that provide a great deal of privacy from one house to the next.  In fact, there is a feeling of quiet seclusion when staying here. 
Our new abode came furnished, so the place was turn-key but definitely wasn’t ready to be lived in when we got here.  After a couple fitful nights of sleep, I realized that this house hadn’t truly been lived in for some time.  In fact, it was reminiscent of a summer house after a long, long winter.  Closets and cabinets had a musty smell, the furniture was dusty and there were countless dead bugs.  I spent days washing every dish and all the linens.  I cleaned out all the cabinets and closets and washed down the bathrooms.  Items that I knew we wouldn’t use were boxed up and stored away.  The things that seemed completely unusable, like the George Foreman Grill with the dead roach caked onto it, I took upon myself to throw out.  No doubt, getting the house in order was a seemingly endless and at times frustrating task. 
Over time, I also couldn’t help but notice that there are many mysterious quirks with my new residence.  Despite several attempts to fix it, the freezer hasn’t worked since we moved in but the refrigerator is working just fine.  The other day, one of the two ceiling fans didn’t work, but when I turned them off and on again they both turned on without any issue.  When we first started using our TV, it would shut off after 5 minutes.  Inexplicably, it started working perfectly one day and hasn’t been a problem since.  The alarm to our house started beeping the other night, causing me to frantically wake up my boyfriend, convinced that someone was breaking in.  Curiously, it wasn’t an intruder but rather our alarm simply beeping as though a door was ajar.  It didn’t stop beeping until sometime the next day and has yet to turn back on.  I’m actually concerned that I may have caught whatever ailment this house has because last night after dinner, I broke out into a rash on my face, back and chest that miraculously disappeared without a trace about an hour later.  So the house never ceases to be a baffling phenomenon that could very well be spreading. 
However, in recent days I’ve realized that my house is growing on me in a way that only a true home can.  I get a familiar and comforting feeling when I’m driving up to the house at the end of the day, and the deck is quickly becoming one of my favorite places to find some solitude.  In fact, over the weekend I spent the majority of my time at home.  I stained some new Adirondack chairs with my boyfriend, read in the hammock, took a nap and BBQ’d on our grill.  By Sunday night I undoubtedly felt an attachment to my new home that I hadn't felt before.  Of course, there aren’t any amenities like my place in Chicago, but when I look out over the island from our home and take in the blueness of the ocean with the lush green island hills; it’s easy to forget about the luxuries of living in my prior world. 

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Short, Short Stories: Part II

BBQ Bonanza
After spending a couple of weeks on the island, I have to say that I’ve been pretty impressed with the food down here.  I’ve had some of the most excellent fresh fish dishes, plenty of jerk chicken and some delicious BBQ. 
One night while meeting some new friends at a bar, we started to talk about how much we all like St. Croix.  My boyfriend and I were there for a long weekend last summer and we had visited a beachside BBQ place with the best BBQ I’ve ever had.  When I brought this place up to our new friend, he knew the exact place that I was referring to.   ‘Oh’ he said, ‘Did you have the BBQ chicken?’  I told him that I couldn’t remember if I’d had it, or not.  He responded by convincingly saying, “You’ve got to try it the next time you’re there. They throw a couple of chickens in the belly of the pig and roast it all together.”
Our car was running on empty one day, so we pulled over to get gas at the local gas station on top of the hill.  After several, unsuccessful attempts to get the gas pump to work, my boyfriend went inside to see if he had to pre-pay.  As he walked inside, a very helpful, yet impatient Latino man was walking toward me.  He approached me and said, “No gas now.  Maybe later.”  Uncertain that I heard him right, I responded with a “Pardon, me?”, conscience of how Midwestern my accent must have sounded.  He confirmed what I thought I had heard him say by yelling, “Later.  Later.  Gas coming later.”
I got in the car and waited for my boyfriend’s return.  As I looked around the gas station I noticed that it was really busy with cars coming in and out frequently.  In addition, there was a huge gas truck parked in the lot by the tanks.  How could they possibly be out of gas?      
When my boyfriend returned, he confirmed what my Latino friend has just told me.  There was no gas at the gas station.
Time is on My Side
I have now visited Kmart enough times to know that I want to get in and get out as quickly as possible.  Since I needed some items for my closet, I couldn’t avoid another chaotic trip to the busiest store on the island.  My boyfriend and I decided to divide and conquer.  I rushed over to the closet section to find some sealed containers that I could put clothes and shoes in.  He went to go find a plug that he needed. 
I proceeded to conscientiously price out the different types of containers to see which ones I could get the most for my money with, since I needed several of them.  After thoughtfully looking them over and deciding what I wanted, I stacked the containers together and met my boyfriend at the checkout line. 
All the lines were long, so we just picked the closest line to us and waited…5 minutes passed, 10 minutes passed.  This line wasn’t moving, meanwhile every other line was becoming shorter and shorter.  Practicing my patience, I decided to grab the US Weekly that was calling my name on the magazine rack.  Naturally, it was last week’s edition, but I was thankful to get my mind off this slow moving line. 
Finally, we got to the front of the line and greeted the cashier with a friendly Caribbean, “Good Afternoon”.  Without any response whatsoever and no expression on her face she slowly and solemnly went about her business.  Finally, she got to the tower of containers that I had stacked.  However, rather than unstacking them and scanning each one individually, she lazily scanned  the entire tower at one time, ultimately only charging me for one container.  She then proceeded to move on to the next item.  Not wanting to confront this depressed lady, and somehow feeling as though this was owed to me after standing in line for so long, I didn’t say a thing.  I proceeded to the exit door, had the usual lady scan my receipt and obliviously glance over my cart and walked to my car without a shred of guilt.
Cactus Head
My dogs are avid retrievers and love running to catch the tennis ball in our front yard whenever the opportunity presents itself.  Our yard is framed with cacti, so it’s inevitable that the ball will land in one of these prickly plants at some point during our game.  These particular cacti have protective hook-like edges on them that break off easily.  Since the dogs compete with each other to be the first to catch the ball and bring it back to us, they don’t think twice about diving head first into one of the cacti in our front yard, resulting in a head and face full of spiny stems.    
One day after playing outside I noticed that Oakley had several of these stickers hooked in his head, face and chin.  I felt bad for him since saw a little blood on his chin from one of them.  So, I carefully pulled them out and put them in the garbage. 
A couple of minutes later when I was lying on the couch Oakley came over and started begging for some attention.  As I was petting him, I noticed that I had missed pulling out one of the cactus stems from his chest.  I gently pulled it out and set it on the coffee table to be thrown out later.  Oakley, inquisitively looked at this thing, curiously sniffed it, and then...he ate it.    

Sunday, June 5, 2011

The Lizards: It’s War!

It took my dogs, Oakley and Thor, about a week before they discovered lizards, and they haven’t been the same since.  It all began one afternoon when a very brave and clever lizard came up to our screen door and instigated a staring match with both dogs.  Oakley and Thor, not having any awareness of lizards up to that point, were in awe of this creature.  They both stared right back at it (see attached video).  And so it went for quite some time, until I ignorantly provoked some action by enthusiastically encouraging Oakley by saying ‘You get that lizard.  Get Em!’.  If I could turn back time and take this back I would, because my encouragement sparked the beginning of endless battles between the lizards and my dogs. 

Oakley immediately responded to my cheering him on like any good dog would, he started barking at the lizard and did not stop barking.  Curiously, the threat of a barking dog didn’t bother this particular lizard, as it continued to look back at Oakley, and Thor at this point, without any movement whatsoever.  Somehow this little guy knew that the screen door was protecting him from the dogs, so his course of action didn’t change at all – he proceeded to stare back at the dogs.  Meanwhile the dogs became more and more on edge and entered into a fit of excessive barking.  Since I was reaching my breaking point with all the noise, I decided to see what would happen if I let the dogs loose on this cocky lizard.  I sneakily opened another screen door that lets out onto the deck, and the dogs busted through with conviction.  This time the lizard quickly ran away, and it seemed that the problem was solved.  We all came back inside and things settled down.  That is…until the same arrogant lizard came right back to reenter another staring contest.  Clearly, this lizard was taunting my dogs, and it was working splendidly.  Again, the dogs began barking and the whole charade continued over and over. 
So, the weeks went on and there were several similar encounters.  Oakley is already an intense dog, so this only made life worse for him.  One minute he’d be quietly sleeping on the floor, the next minute he would be jumping up, yelping and lunging at what may or may not have been a lizard on the porch.  There were several times when I’d look up to see both dogs sprinting down the porch with the hopes of chasing down one of these guys.  Thor has been so eager to catch a lizard that there were a few times when we thought he may take a dive off our very elevated porch with the hopes of hunting down his prey.  Even at night both dogs would be tantalized by what they were convinced was the sound of a lizard out on the porch.  However, none of their eager efforts resulted with any success.   
Finally, one afternoon when I was out on the deck, quietly reading and relaxing, the dogs once again disrupted the peace by running down a lizard from one side of the deck to the other.  And, I’m proud to report that at last they had cornered one of these creepy crawlers.  However, as the lizard went into his standard frozen mode, Thor did nothing but stare closely at it for some time, apparently thinking that he was dead.  Oakley also simply stared at him, allowing Thor to take the lead (see attached video).  This was not at all how I had imagined the catching of one of these lizards would go.  After weeks of disruptive encounters, I wanted to see some blood.  However, similar to the dogs, I had no idea what to do in this situation, either.  I stared at the lizard for some time, too.  Finally, I got bored with this and scared the lizard into moving along down the porch.  Oakley, unwilling to let this opportunity pass him by, scooped up the lizard into his mouth.  Of course, I ended this whole adventure quite quickly after that.  In a rage of panic, I shouted at Oakley to ‘DROP IT!’  He immediately dropped the little fellow, at which point the lizard scurried away to safety. 

I’m not really sure how this war will end, but I will say that I have seen less and less lizards whizzing around our deck, so I’m hopeful that the dogs have taken control of the situation and will continue to guard our deck with honor.             

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Strap on Your Seatbelt

It would be a total disservice not to include a posting with regards to the driving in St. Thomas.  It’s so glaringly hazardous that I simply can’t avoid writing on this topic.  And, I'll admit that it would probably be cathartic for me to share my feelings on this subject.
There are a variety reasons why driving is dangerous down here.  Mainly, the terrain is so hilly that the roads tend to have steep inclines and declines and several sharp, winding turns.  Almost all of these roads are two lane highways that have been squeezed into the side of a hill.  With this in mind, there aren’t any shoulders to pull over, and there are many blind driveways.  Since the island landscape determines where roads can go, they tend to meet at very odd angles.  There are several 30 degree, or even 15 degree turns, none of which have 3 way stops.  Among other things, this creates a difficult blind spot when turning left, especially since we all drive on the left side of the road - in cars designed to be driven on the right side of the road.  Throw in the occasional dog, iguana, goat and/or drunk in the road, and it’s a miracle that anyone survives down here.   
Island driving etiquette is another puzzling matter to be discussed.  Apparently, the Islanders use their horns to communicate that they are allowing someone to turn in front of them.  In return, the person turning honks as a ‘thank-you’.  So, when approaching a tough 3-way intersection where only one road has a stop sign that may, or may not be facing the actual road it’s intended for, someone just might be nice enough to honk and let you turn.  If this happens, then you can only hope that you’ve pulled into the opposite lane enough to maneuver your car around a 30 degree turn without hitting any on-coming traffic as you turn onto the next road.  In the meantime, you better somehow remember, while you’re making this death turn, to honk back a friendly ‘thank you’.
The most confusing part about driving in St. Thomas is the speed at which people insist upon, because it severely contrasts with the Islander’s personalities.  ‘Island Time’ is prevelent down here, which basically means that there isn’t a sense of urgency to get things done.  For example, when I called someone for help getting local auto-insurance, the outgoing voicemail said she would get back with me within 24 hours.  After leaving at least 2 more messages for her, I still haven’t heard from her, and it’s been about 2 weeks.  So, 24 hours to one person is 2 weeks to another person.  Yet, when performing the most dangerous thing we do everyday (driving), urgency is endless.  The other day, we were driving along the road when someone raced passed us at 50 mph by going into the opposite lane around a sharp turn, barely avoiding an on-coming car.  It was a total suicide mission.
Of course, I’m completely terrified to be out on the roads.  I find myself gasping and grabbing onto things in a fit of panic when cars cross the double yellow line, which happens often, and I obsessively stare at and hug the white line on the side of the road.  In addition, I’m making a conscience effort to drive very slowly - adding to the pressure since this tends to encourage tailgating.  Finally, I’ve found naming roads eases my anxiety and helps with my sense of direction, because most of the roads don’t have road signs.  Some of these road names include Death Hill, Speed-bump Alley, Coconut Corner (Coconutty is more like it) and K9 Straightaway.   
In fact, I’m so preoccupied with the risk of driving down here that when meeting some of my co-workers for the first time, I was in awe of how long they said they had been living here.   When some of them told me that they had been here for 20 or 30 years, I immediately took solace in the fact that they had survived driving on these roads for that long.  Upon bringing up the subject of driving several times with them, they casually agreed that some people are crazy drivers.  Their advice was to go slow, avoid the pot holes, keep it in 2nd gear on the down hills and park far away from other cars when in a parking lot.  That seemed way too simple to me.  There must be more to the story.  I’m convinced they're wearing helmets.