September in “Paradise”

I often get asked by my stateside friends how much longer I plan on living down in the Caribbean. More specifically, they want to know if I’m planning on living here forever. I find it rather baffling that this is where their mind goes, as the world is getting more and more transient, so I don’t typically expect anyone to commit to one home for the rest of their life. Regardless, I usually respond by explaining that forever is a long time, but since we just bought a house here, I can say with certainty that we won’t be moving back to the states in the foreseeable future. Although, if I have to be perfectly honest, I don’t see myself living in St. Thomas forever, and there is one main reason for this: September.

I know that I have complained before about the heat and the bugs and the mugginess that this time of the year brings. Frankly, I don’t feel like I have a right to I complain, because I don’t have much to complain about. My life is good. Really good. However, the month of September is terrible on this island, and it brings with it a general sense of overall discomfort every year. Allow me a chance to indulge in some catharsis because this month, of all the months, is when I miss Chicago the most.

Here comes the sweat...

Here comes the sweat…

First, let’s start with the heat. This morning, I was out the door for a run at 6:30 am. Before leaving, my husband asked me if I was going to “push it” and do 2 laps, rather than 1, on our usual course. I responded by saying that I was “pushing it” by simply getting up and doing the run. I have nothing to prove. “Pushing it” for me these days is a 10 minute mile, maybe even 10 ½ minutes. Seriously, I can go back to the states and run mile after blissful mile at a pace that is at least a 1 ½ minute faster. A cool breeze, a flat surface and one of those fancy sidewalks, and I could actually be 2 minutes per mile faster!

To put this in perspective, during the USA vs. Portugal game at the World Cup this year, they had the players take an unprecedented water break during the game because the weather was so warm. These were professional, well-conditioned, world renowned athletes. FIFA had NEVER allowed a mid-game timeout for water before, but they granted an exception because the game was being played in the Amazon. In fact, a Brazilian court ordered that timeouts should be granted when it’s 89.6 degrees or warmer. I made a mental note of this. Flash forward to today. The heat index today in St. Thomas is 97 degrees. So, I’m not even being sarcastic when I tell my friends that I’m running in Amazon-like conditions.

I’d like to summarize this point by relaying the notes I made from my run this morning, via the Run Keeper app (which I highly recommend). They were: “Brutal. Humidity is extreme. Muggy, nasty day.”

Let’s move onto the bugs. I’m scratching my ankles as I write this because I’m covered in bug bites. I’m also covered in scars from 3 years of getting these vicious bites. I truly cannot think of anything that I loath more than biting bugs. Given the humidity, the rain, the still air, and the heat, the bugs are out in droves right now. It’s not just mosquitoes, but it’s also those stealthy no-see-ums, or sand fleas. What kills me about the bug situation is that I’m getting bit inside my own home. Last night, while trying to watch TV, Kevin got bit so badly by the bugs that this morning, his back was completely covered with bites. He has literally painted his body pink with calamine lotion.

An island girl's battle cry

An island girl’s battle cry

Unfortunately, there is no escaping them. This is because here in beautiful, sunny St. Thomas we don’t use central air. It’s too expensive. Instead, we leave our homes open to the elements year-round. I refer to it as “camping inside”. In fact, Kevin went to Home Depot over the weekend, looking for a thermostat for our non-central air, bedroom only unit (long story), and they don’t even carry them. We have to order one online.

How I haven’t gotten dengue fever yet is utterly perplexing. With all the bites I’ve gotten, I expect to contract it any day now. Last week, I read in the Wall Street Journal that Japan had diagnosed two cases of dengue – two. They immediately responded by sending out a crew of people to spray the streets for mosquitoes. I find this to be a perfectly appropriate reaction. Like the Japanese, we too should be in full panic mode. And yet… here we are.

To top it off, this is hurricane season, and tourism is at a lull. Many of the business owners close up shop and head up to the states. Kevin and I literally had to try 3 restaurants in St. John this weekend before we finally found one that was open. These shop owners are escaping the heat and the low season by visiting lovely, quaint places that serve fudge and have American Flags hanging from them. Places that have perfectly manicured lawns that smell like freshly cut grass. Places where the A/C endlessly flows to the point where you can blow dry your hair and put on fresh makeup without breaking a sweat. Places where you don’t have to cake yourself with a chemical, whether it be sunscreen or bug spray, in order to head outside. A place where one shower per day will suffice, and where you can wear blue jeans every day.

Welcome to September.

Welcome to September.

But, I digress. My point is, I can typically take the hassle of living on this island. I have accepted that the power goes out sporadically, that it’s insanely expensive to live here, that the crime rate is high, and that the local people don’t always make me feel welcome.

But, the fact that there is a bug biting the back of my neck right now, while I sweat through my clothes to write this blog? No. That’s just not okay. September always manages to break me.

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Christine O'Neil

About Christine O'Neil

Christine moved to St. Thomas in May of 2011 after years of being encouraged to give up her corporate life in the city of Chicago by her then boyfriend, now husband. Upon experiencing this whirlwind of change, she discovered that the sunny life of an island girl was healthier, happier, and simpler than the old hustle and bustle of the stateside world she once knew. Although the islands prove to be an often backwards and sometimes puzzling place to live, Christine has learned to laugh about how silly life can truly be down here. She now appreciates the islands for what they are and tries to balance the nonsensical aspects of rock life by enjoying the many outdoor activities the islands have to offer such as golfing, running, paddleboarding, boating, and windsurfing. You can read more about Christine’s experiences on her personal blog,

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12 thoughts on “September in “Paradise”

  1. Great perspective Christine. September was my first full-time month living in St. Croix. Brutal is the perfect word, especially being fresh from the clean, manicured and icy AC land of Florida.

    Hang in there, drink plenty of fluids

  2. Having lived here, Providenciales , for 40 + years…..bugs !!!! And yes spent the last 3 weekends with loads of rain…hence …BUGS….
    1. Live on a hill / you get the breeze and view
    2. Make sure all screens are in good repair
    3. Mosquitoes coils !!!! Before daylight…locate them on both sides of the doors you frequently use. Also have them a bit away from the door …basically giving you a ” bug free zone ” on the way to the house….
    4. Keep as many lights off as possible.

    Good luck…

  3. ALSO…If you have dogs and cats….and 2 enterance doors…pretend you’re letting them in one…and them make them run around to the other door to rid them from mosquitoes before opening the door…..

  4. That is the perfect description of St. Thomas for the month of September and precisely why I run away for the month. I’ve lived in St. Thomas almost all my life and September has always been the worst. Too hot, too buggy, too many chances for hurricanes. Plus many businesses (restaurants close) slow to a creep. So I head to the states and prepare for the next 9 months. In other words, buy what I need to take back to the rock in October like…clothes, housewares, groceries, all the products you cannot get there or cost way to much. My usual line is “I take the month of September off to go on vacation to save money”! No Wapa bill (or at least dramatically reduced)…..LOL!

  5. After spending 12 years of Death-tembers (what I call September in STT) I have decided it was enough for me and so I always leave for the month. Right now I am freezing my butt off in San Francisco and loving every minute of it. I don’t miss the heat, humidity, bugs or hurricane warnings – see you in October!

  6. I feel your pain! I work in a shop downtown, and the tourists come up to me and say…… if it’s this hot in September, what’s it like in June??? I explain them that September is the month locals all love to hate, because it’s the most miserable month here. What I WANT to say is…… there’s a REASON you got such cheap tickets to come down here this time of year!!!

  7. Mosquito coils work. Can’t go wrong with fans either. There is an outbreak of Chikungunya in Jamaica as we speak and it is mosquito borne. Do whatever you must to keep them off.

  8. I will be moving to St. Thomas this fall and spent a couple weeks there in September. I’ve been wondering how will I manage annually in September. With a school age child, it won’t be feasible for me to go off island that month. My initial thought is if this is a taste of the heat in hell then I need to work harder to ensure I get to Heaven. My other course of action is to not leave to house during the day.

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