Sunday, January 22, 2012

Virgin Gorda!

Since last weekend was a three day weekend, my boyfriend and I decided to pull together a last minute trip to Virgin Gorda in the British Virgin Islands (BVI).  Virgin Gorda had been at the top of my list of islands to visit in the BVI because I had heard a lot about how beautiful The Baths, or large volcanic boulders, are there.  So, last Friday we hopped on a couple of ferries and made our way over to the BVI to spend our time on one of the more beautiful islands I've been to since moving to the Caribbean. 

It was getting late by the time we got there and we were hungry.  So, we got our rental car, checked into our room at Mahoe Bay and went over to Spanish Town for dinner.  I should note that the island is so small and safe that when I asked the hotel rep for a key to our room, he said they don’t have room keys.  The rooms and villas were always unlocked, and they never had any problems.  I was completely impressed by this, and couldn’t help but feel a true sense of comfort knowing how safe the island is.
Spanish Town is one of the main towns on the island, and it has a handful of restaurants, bars and shops to explore.  Since it was only a 10 minute drive from our hotel, we had dinner in Spanish Town every night we were there.  Our favorite place was Chez Bamboo, which served some delicious curry lobster and had the best Caribbean atmosphere.  However, we also enjoyed watching the NFL play-off games at one of the local sports bars there called Bath & Turtle, which was busy with avid NFL fans, cheering on their teams and checking out the winners on the enormous game of Squares that was posted on the wall of the bar.  I couldn’t help but be surprised that American football was quite popular there since it is a British territory.
On our first day there, after making some breakfast and enjoying coffee on our patio, we went to The Baths, which is the biggest tourist site in the BVI.  Since it was early when we got there and there weren’t any cruise ships to flood the island with tourists that day, we had The Baths to ourselves.  After paying the attendant a small fee, we took a short, quiet walk down the hill towards the water.  Once we got to the ocean, the sight of countless, enormous volcanic boulders, was overwhelming.  The combination of the crystal clear, blue ocean with these huge boulders lining the shore was beautiful.  I had never seen anything like it, and it was obvious why this place was such an attraction. 

A view of The Baths

We started our trek through ‘The Caves’ of The Baths, which was a rugged, very tight walk.  We often had to duck down or get on our knees to get by.  At one point, I couldn’t help but think of the movie 127 Hours as I placed my foot in-between two massive, slippery rocks.  But the walk was worth it, and I enjoyed taking in the uniqueness of these lava left-overs, especially at that particular time of the morning when the boulders were casting some dramatic shadows inside The Caves.  Once we got to the end of our walk, we came to Devils Bay which offered a small but very beautiful beach for us to relax at before hiking through The Baths to get back. 

Kevin walking through
The Caves

Devil's Bay

By the time we had finished walking back to the entrance of The Caves, we were starting to get hungry so we took off and headed to get a bite to eat before driving back to our hotel.  Lunch was delicious and the view from the top of the hill where the restaurant was located was breathtaking.  I tried to capture the beauty of the island from our restaurant in the below picture, but I’m afraid it only scratches the surface of the panoramic view that we had. 
View from The Mind Shaft

Driving back to the hotel, we were able to take in the island a bit.  At one point during our drive the island got so skinny that we could see the Caribbean Sea on one side, with all of the British Virgin Islands in the distance, and the Atlantic Ocean on the other side, where the coast is reminiscent of what you would see in California.  With the sun glistening off the water on either side of us, it was hard not to fall in love with the beauty that this island had to offer. 

Waves hitting the beach on the Atlantic side of the island

We spent the rest of our day lounging around the hotel beach where we sea-kayaked and took in the sunset from our beach lounge chairs.  These were the prettiest sunsets I have seen since moving to the islands, and we made note to grab a bottle of wine to enjoy with the sunset for the next night.  It was the perfect way to spend our evenings together.

View of the sunset at Mahoe Bay Beach

The next day we decided to grab some snorkel gear and head to Savannah Beach.  Savannah Beach is a long, open and quiet beach.  There was a strong breeze that day and we enjoyed reading and sunbathing before heading into the water to snorkel around the small coral reef that ran along the beach.  We didn’t see many fish, but we practically had the beach to ourselves, so we had no problem hanging out there until grabbing some lunch and going back to our hotel. 

Savannah Beach

Typically, we don’t like sticking around our hotel too much when we are away because we like to explore our surroundings, but the place was so nice and the beach was unbelievably beautiful, so we ended up spending our 2nd afternoon there, too.  This time we decided to do more sea-kayaking and spend time snorkeling which came highly recommended by the hotel representative. 
I’m glad we stuck around because the snorkeling was very good.  I can’t begin to tell you what type of fish and sea animals I saw, but they were unique and at times a little terrifying to be around.  After seeing some sort of blue eel-like creature, I immediately swam back to my boyfriend as quickly as possible, convinced that this thing was following me.  Thankfully, it must have been just as afraid of me because I never saw it again.  Relieved, I continued to swim around the coral reef and enjoyed the rest of our time in the water. 
By the time our last day rolled around, I didn't want to leave Virgin Gorda.  It was one of those vacations where you want to stay for one more day.  However, staying wasn't an option, so we enjoyed our last morning on the island, getting in one last snorkeling excursion, before packing it up and heading back to St. Thomas on the ferries.   

Thursday, January 5, 2012


Typically, I don’t like to blog about anything that is work related for obvious reasons, but something happened at work on Tuesday that I simply cannot ignore. 
I’ve been relatively busy the last couple of days due to the three-day holiday weekend, and because I’m covering for my co-worker who is on vacation.  So, for most of the day on Tuesday I was focused on catching up and keeping up with the tasks coming my way.  As I worked away, emailing and returning phone calls, I was unanticipatedly interrupted by an abrupt, forceful jolt to our building.  I should note that it’s not uncommon for the building to make a similar type of sudden jarring movement whenever the air conditioning turns on and off, so at first I contemplated whether or not I should be concerned.  Alas, I was convinced that this wasn’t typical movement from our building.  No…it seemed to be a more alarming thunderbolt type of blow than I usually experience throughout the day.
Before I continue, let me take this opportunity to explain the building so that we’re all coming from the same perspective.  The building was constructed about 11 years ago and includes 3 stories with a 2 story garage beneath it.  Our insurance agency takes up the entire 3rd floor and a small space on the 1st floor.  The building was built into the side of a hill, so once you turn off the main road, you have to drive up the side of the hill, around the back of the building, then turn to go down a steep decline to drive around the front of the building, past a few visitor parking spots, then around the opposite side of the structure, down into the garage.  The building was originally designed to house a small bank, so once you turn in, there is a ‘drive-through’ type of area that you pass.  My office is directly above where the bank customers were expected to drive through.  The building overlooks the entire main harbor of St. Thomas and all of Charlotte Amalie, and appears to be a beautiful, yellow, red-roofed, relatively new, Caribbean property.
Now that you have a sense for where I work, I will continue with my story.  So, after this unexpected thud I was alarmed enough to investigate the situation.  I walked out of my office and noticed that I wasn’t the only one that seemed to be concerned.  Some people agreed that it was simply the air conditioner, others were convinced that something actually hit our building.  Determined to get to the bottom of this, we all walked around, looking out the windows to see if we could find the source of the problem.  Shortly thereafter, someone declared that, in fact, a pick-up truck, without anyone inside of it, had rolled backwards down the hill and into our building.      
Shocked, I immediately went to the window where I could witness this drama.  As I looked out the window and down toward the back of the building, indeed there was a pick-up truck with its back fender lodged into the side of our building.  A small crowd of people were gathering to assess the damage and more and more of my co-workers crowded around the same window that I was peering out. 
Of course, this incident sparked much conversation about the building.  My fellow co-workers reminisced about the time when someone blew a tire in the bottom floor of the garage, and that, too, shook the building.  Another co-worker declared that the after the FDIC inspected our building, they rejected it as a site for that aforementioned bank due to safety issues.  To this day there is no bank in our building.  I mentioned to my office neighbor that should we experience an earthquake, I had already planned on immediately moving from my office to the main part of the building, rather than staying in the extension of the building over the FDIC rejected ‘bank drive through’ where we work.  Of course, this type of chitter chatter continued throughout the day and proved to take precedent over the work accumulating on my desk.
Still slightly disturbed by the prior days incident, I couldn’t help but to further devote some time to this subject with the office manager the next day, since she also manages the building.  She explained that the driver of the truck did not feel comfortable pulling into our visitor parking area because it was too tight and steep.  Therefore, he decided to park the truck on the road that goes up the side of the hill and walk down to our building so that he could come to our office to renew his auto-insurance.  After taking care of his timely business with us, he walked back to his truck only to find it stuck in the side of our building.  I guess the impact of his car hitting a 3 story office building didn't seem to explain the broken glass that was all over his car because he claimed that the broken glass was due to someone that had broken into his car and presumably caused this disaster.  Granted, this is a man that had left his keys inside his truck with the windows open and the vehicle, stuffed with a load of crap, unlocked.  It was clear to me that an individual so quick to blame another person for this fiasco, probably wasn’t prudent in parking his car to begin with.  My only question is, how could someone so careless not have simply tried to squeeze his pick-up truck into our impossible visitor parking area to begin with?
Anyway, the more likely scenario is that he either parked on the hill but didn’t put his car in gear, or his brakes went out.  My guess is that his brakes went out, since he probably would have noticed right away if his car wasn’t in gear.  Either way, this doesn’t seem to be a mystery that is too hard to solve.  After the truck was towed out of our building and on solid ground, did the brakes work or not? 
Regardless, the cops were called and insurance claims were filed, and a few days later it was a distant memory.  However, I can’t help but think about how this would have been handled in the States.  With all the terrorism scares up there, they’d probably call the FBI, a bomb squad, the cops, the fire department and evacuate the building.  Down here, these types of things grab people’s attention, but they certainly don’t wreak havoc on the day.  Once people see the show, they tend to accept it for what it is and move on.  Almost as if to say, ‘oh, yeah, of course that crazy guy’s car rammed into our building’…they don’t seem to question it any further.  There’s no talk of putting up ‘No Parking’ signs where this person parked, or fencing around the area that the car hit, which is right next to the building's airconditioning units, to prevent this from happening again.  It’s simply accepted and that’s that.
So for any of you that are wondering what my work-life is like down here, there you have it…a typical day at work in the Caribbean.  I’d blog about the cat-fight that happened today in our parking lot, but that pales in comparison to a truck hitting our building.  Don’t you think?