Written by: Christine O
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.
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.
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.
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.