Saturday, October 22, 2011

Autumn Leaves

Ahhh….Autumn is in the air for you folks up in the States.  My friends back at home have mentioned how excited they are to get their first spiced pumpkin flavored latte from Starbucks.  Or, how great of a time they had with their kids at the pumpkin patch/hayride excursion they went on over the weekend.  People are talking about warming up inside next to their first fire of the season, and I’ve seen recent pictures of folks wearing knitted hats and crocheted scarfs. 
However, for me nothing has changed.  I woke up this morning to the same 80 degree, clear, sunny day that I woke up to 3 months ago, and I’ll continue to wake up to this same sunny day indefinitely.  The sun rose at the same time it always does, and it only goes down about 30 minutes earlier than it did when we first moved here.  People down here say that there is a noticeable change in the temperature this time of year, but I’ve only noticed that the evenings are slightly cooler…I mean slightly – like, maybe 5 degrees.  I wear the same shorts, sandals, skirts and t-shirts that I’ve been wearing here all along, and I’m still throwing on a swimsuit after work for a quick dip in the ocean.  The doors to our home are completely open, with a warm ocean breeze coming through.  And, this weekend I plan on golfing all day on Sunday and going for a long run outside.  I haven't even checked to see what the weather will be like for either day's plans.  It’s assumed.            
Yesterday morning, as I drove my car to work through the hills, my windows down, the AC pumping and my sunroof wide open, I couldn’t help but think about what life was like for me back at home this time of year. 
I would be weighed down by the stress of the busiest time of year at work – impossible sales goals, endless emails and the deafening sound of the phone constantly ringing.  Days would be getting significantly shorter, the sun would start hiding behind the clouds more and more, and a damp coldness would be settling in.  Even though I had spent time piling on heavy and constricting clothes - a hat, a scarf, a jacket and boots, I’d inevitably scurry from my car to my office, uncomfortably trying to get inside as soon as possible and oblivious to anything or anyone else.  Taking out the dogs for a walk was an unwanted chore…waiting for them to go to the bathroom so that I could immediately hurry back inside to escape the elements.  As evenings got colder, I'd end up just wanting to stay inside and watch TV.  I now realize how confining a climate can be.            
Don’t get me wrong, I loved the comfort and coziness of a crisp, cool autumn day, sitting at home in a snugly sweater, making a hearty meal while watching football.  I enjoyed taking our dogs to play in the park when the leaves had changed colors and curling up on the couch under a blanket to warm up next to my boyfriend.  I had fun carving pumpkins and dressing up for a Halloween party with friends.  However, all of that coziness was somewhat tough to enjoy, knowing that the dreaded long, cold winter was close to follow, and to me the thought of another lifeless winter to come was often daunting and depressing.
Regardless, I always thought that the seasons changing was a guarantee – kind of like the sun coming up and going back down.  It’s surreal for me to know that people back at home are experiencing a change of climate when I’m not experiencing any change whatsoever.  Since we moved here in May, the weather has been relatively similar to what it's like back at home.  It wasn't odd for me to be at the beach, or outside hiking when my friends and family at home were also outside enjoying the weather, but now I'm realizing that our worlds are more different than they were at first.  All of you back at home are hunkering down for the looming winter, yet I'll continue to enjoy all the benefits that a beautiful day has to offer.  It's kind of like being in a time warp, but it truly makes me realize not only the impact that an environment can have on your life, but also how much larger the world really is.  I had no idea. 

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Boat Drinks

Last weekend I had one of the most fun weekends I’ve had since I moved down here.   It was full of many new friends, plenty of cocktails and lots of time out on the water.
It started out on Friday night at a beach BBQ charity event that my employer was sponsoring.  While I’m always happy to chat with people I don’t know, there’s something about networking for my own selfish/professional advantage that seems completely unnatural to me.  I spent most of the first hour staring at other people, rather than socializing.  In the meantime, I tried to take down a full cup – not a glass - of white wine that the bartender had given to me right when I walked in.  As I've stated before in prior blogs, there’s a big difference between an Island Pour and a Stateside Pour.  I keep forgetting that it’s important to specify, and I used up a good chunk of time waiting for nobody to look as I poured half of my wine out into an empty cup on one of the tables. 
When my boyfriend and I finally got hungry, we made our way to the BBQ buffet.  Upon filling up my plate with a variety of seasoned, sauced and smoked meats, I grabbed another full cup of wine and sat down at a quiet table in the back across from a welcoming couple.  It didn’t take long for the four of us to strike up a conversation.  After a couple of hours of chatting and listening to a very annoyed and annoying band complain about how bad the audio was, this nice couple invited us out on their new boat for the day on Saturday.  As I’ve mentioned, people down here never feel like they have too many friends.  They are so accepting and friendly.  It’s fantastic.  We eagerly took them up on their offer.
At around 10:00 the next morning, we met our new friends out on a dock as 6 of their closest friends trickled in one at a time behind us.  I quickly realized that we were the random couple that they had invited out on their boat the night before after they had had too many cocktails, and I wondered if they would remember our names. 
As the group grew to full capacity, the captain - meaning our new friend from the night before -assumed his duties and began taking down the necessary information for the day’s trip.  Since we had to go through Customs to get to our destination, everyone had to hand over their passports and yell out their dates of birth.  All I heard was….1980, 1985, 1983, 1984.  So, the odd couple was also the oldest couple and this was only reinforced by the hard core pop music blasting in the boat as we shot out of the dock and into the open water.  We heard just about every song that I had put on my most recent workout playlist, and a few more that I made note to add to my list.
Since this happened to be our friend’s inaugural boat trip on his new boat, things were especially celebratory.  Our jammin crowd of 10, soon-to-be-liquored-up people, made its way over to Tortola to get through Customs and off to our destinations.  Upon arriving in Tortola, Customs was quite busy checking in some of our other friends on different boats.  St. Thomas is a small island, so it’s no surprise that we were all friendly with each other and some of us knew each other through other friends on the island.  With this in mind, from there all 3 boats moved together to the first destination – cliff diving and doing some sort of cave diving under the water. 
After several attempts to explain this very dangerous sounding activity, only about 3 people out of probably 25 total people, swam out to this ‘cave’ that you could swim into by diving under water, swimming several feet and coming up on the inside of a hole in the earth that the sun shines down into.  Of course, you had to pray that the swells didn’t get too high and flush into this surrounded hole, drowning you in the process.  I think only 1 person actually ended up swimming to this suspicious hole - our captain, who's idea this was in the first place.          
Meanwhile, several people jumped out of the boat for a swim and a few others started climbing the cliffs to go jumping.  To put this in perspective, rock climbing and jumping off a cliff into a sea with undetermined depth, seemed safer to me than swimming under water several feet to see some light shining down through a hole.  Either way, I opted for a quick swim in the ocean to cool off, then got right back into the boat.

Once we had had enough of this stop, we took a long boat ride to our next destination.  Of course, the music was pumping, several girls were dancing, a few guys in the other boat were hanging off the side of their boat as it was going full steam ahead and our new friend's girlfriend had already puked off the edge of our boat.  It was shaping up to be an entertaining day.  All this aside, I took a few minutes to tune out the chaos and enjoy my surroundings.  It was a warm day and the relatively calm ocean seemed endless.  Our boat was quickly making its way down to the other side of Tortola, which provided a mountainous and rugged coastline.  With the wind in my hair and the sun on my face, I truly felt like I was in paradise.
Anyway, we eventually made it to a gorgeous slice of land that somebody claimed was the place where the Corona Beer commercials are filmed, but people say that about a lot of beaches down here, so I took that with a grain of salt.  Either way, it was beautiful enough to be filmed as a landscape for TV.  We anchored close to the beach and jumped out to swim towards solid land for a bit.  After a while, someone decided to bust open a full bottle of Strawberry Cruzan Rum, which we all past around for a few swigs each, then headed back to the boat. 

Finally, we were on our way to the Soggy Dollar Bar at Jost Van Dyke.  This is where I can find one of my favorite island cocktails – the Banana Pain Killer.  Once our boat cruised into the bay and anchored, we all swam up to the beach and went to the bar.  At this point, I felt a need for some quiet time.  I was exhausted from socializing with strangers for the last few hours, and I was feeling a strong buzz.  I grabbed my drink and my People Magazine and found a beach chair by the water where I plopped down for a long time, enjoying the latest brainless gossip and taking in the intense sunshine. 
After hanging out for a few hours we all got back on the boat and headed to St. John, which was the final destination for our crew.  Upon hopping out of the boat, we all headed to the Beach Bar for some food.  My personal favorite there is the Flying Shrimp, which is fried shrimp in buffalo sauce with a side of blue cheese dressing.  It’s so good that I can’t believe other bars haven’t caught on to it, and there’s no doubt that I look forward to it every time I go to St. John. 
Once we had finished our meal a few of us headed to the ferry to catch a lift back to St. Thomas.  The day was coming to an end, and it was time to say goodbye to our new friends.  I suddenly realized that I was sunburned, tired and ready to pass out in my bed…all signs of a most excellent day.