That’s Life on the Smallest Rock in the Caribbean

It’s quarter to 6 in the afternoon in January. It’s “winter” and the sun is going to set soon. The slanting sunlight is casting spectacular shadows on the hill opposite and the shadow of Mount Scenery is visible on the sea down below. My husband is standing by the side of the road. One car drives by. The driver, vaguely familiar, hangs out the eternally open window and hollers, “It’s on its way!” without stopping.

It happens often nowadays that people on the island look familiar. That’s what happens when 2,000 people share the same rock, go to the same grocery stores, and travel the same road over and over.

A second car drives by, again the driver shouts something about Brian being on his way. I think this guy must be working at the airport then. Good.

This is your typical island scene. People standing by the side of the road chatting and waving to people in cars. It’s islanders and fellow islanders. Of the 2,000 inhabitants, about 500 are students at the med school. So technically, the island has 1,500 people here that know or need each other in one way or another and we’ve got to look out for one another.

The medical school and its students make up about a quarter of Saba’s population. The impact is felt in the life of the Sabans and Sabians, expats, pensionados, colonialists, peace seekers, adventurers, professionals, and escapists that this rock attracts. In December, the students go off island for Christmas break. This means that shelves in the shops go empty, that the roads go quieter, and that there are no tickets left either by boat or plane to leave the rock in December and return in January. Once, there were even some students that chartered a plane just to make it back in time for the beginning of the semester. No joke. So we were happy we managed to get tickets to leave this Christmas break. One downside to being a teacher at the high school is having to vacation during the school holidays. Still, our island fever definitely needed some quenching.

saba airport

On the way back, however, our bags got stuck in Sint Maarten. That day, three extra flights and an added luggage-only flight to Saba did not suffice to get all the students and our bags over too. That’s how small the Twin Otter plane is that lands here. I prefer to call it a flying bus service. Chances are you know some people riding that bus and you can catch up on the latest melly even before getting back on the rock. Besides, it’s always good to set foot again on Saba’s soil. We feel like celebrities as we are waving at familiar faces and chatting with Customs, taxi drivers, and acquaintances coming to pick up or drop off someone.

Three days later, as I’m doing my weekly grocery shopping like everybody else, one of the guys who works at the airport approached me and told me our bags had arrived. We then called the person at the airport. They know where we live. No problem.

So now my husband is waiting by the side of our road for the guy who runs the airport desk to drop off our bags. He’s passing through on his way home anyway.

The third car stops, the guy gets out, unloads our bags from the back of his car, and drives on, his arm stuck out the window. Saying “thank you” seems almost extravagant. After all, it goes without saying that we do what we can to help our fellow islanders. This is what happens when fewer than 2,000 people live on the smallest rock in the Caribbean. We are where we want to be.

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Rhiannon Jorna

About Rhiannon Jorna

A traveller at heart, this landlubber has managed to stay in one spot for five years now. That is because her heart has found a home on one of the smallest rocks in the Caribbean: Saba in the Caribbean Netherlands. Before her 30th, her travels have taken her around Europe, to Australia and New Zealand, Canada, the US, Malaysia, and Thailand. Turning 30 in a big city like Kuala Lumpur made her and her husband reevaluate what's really important and so they meandered their way to this beautiful tropical rock. A childhood dream of hers was to have a portal into a different world where time flows differently, so she could read an entire book, step back into Reality and only 5 minutes have gone by. Let's say she's not quite found the portal, but instead a rock where time takes its own pace. The former concert goer and adamant believer in the power of books has not had one moment of regret of adding her rolling stone to this amazing rock.

Adding to the workload of teaching English language and literature at the high school that consists of fewer than 100 students and the care for a cat and a husband, she now also has the care of her adorable baby twins. When they are not trying to pull the cat's hairs or daddy's beard, their mom tries to find the time to a) soak up the Caribbean lifestyle and b) sleep, which is supposed to come with point a), but somehow never materializes. Now also there is a new point in the line of personal development: c) write about the perks of living on a rock compared to her long ago life. This 'life BS' (life Before Saba) seems a distant past, where the words 'work load' and 'busy' and 'commute' meant something else entirely.

Anyhow, if you're curious about life on Saba and/or with baby twins in the Caribbean, be sure to check in every once in a while to her blog,

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17 thoughts on “That’s Life on the Smallest Rock in the Caribbean

  1. Great job, Rhiannon! You were one of the first people I met on Saba (by virtue of a secondhand crockpot 😉 and…true to your blog…our paths have crossed innumerable times since. I am glad someone wrote about our rock 🙂 I always thought we had some good stories to share 🙂 Congrats 🙂

  2. Having lived on this island paradise for an extended period if time I miss my second home all the time. A visit back told me that I need to reconsider my life choices. To live on Saba again is my dream.

    • Our life choices determine who we are! One thing I’ve learned moving around the world is that it gets easier to leave a place, especially nowadays with social media and Skype. Time to make that dream a reality?

  3. I toured Saba briefly on a land tour from the Caribbean Explorer, and I loved what I saw. I hope to get back there and stay on Saba for 5-7 days so I can soak up the culture. What a beautiful island paradise!

  4. Hi Rhiannon, i loved your post! Especially since I am about to move to Saba for my husband to start medical school. My name is Kelsi, I am a 27 year old world traveler from Texas, and I have a 2 year old daughter and 8 month old twin boys, so i feel ya on the twin thing 🙂 I also write and keep a blog. I am excited to hopefully meet you island side!

    • Hi Kelsi, just ask around and local people here can point you in the direction of ‘the other twin mom’, I am sure. Actually, there are a surprising number of twins on the island. Mine are the definitely the youngest, though yours would be the next youngest on the island when you arrive.

  5. Nice read Rhiannon. I love SABA! Living on SXM.
    SABA is totally island whereas SXM is more cosmopolitan.
    I go to SABA to chill out!

  6. Saba sounds like a place which should definitely be on my bucket list. In reading your article, I was a bit confused about the how and when of getting to the island. I’d love to get some info on that as well as where to stay while there (I was thinking one to two weeks – time is needed to soak in the local atmosphere). I am older and not into physical adventures, but love “people adventures”. Any help you can give me would be g r e a t l y appreciated. You really “got” me with your blog.

    • Hi Ginny, thanks for your comment. For an idea on where to stay, best visit as I don’t know what’s ‘your game’. You do have to have some basic form of fitness as there is a lot of walking up or down to any hotel. “People adventures” here are easy. Just sit in a bar and wait! Please visit my blog and read the post on “So you think you can live the dream?” for a better idea on what life here’s like. Thanks again for commenting!

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