I moved out to Tortola on the 11th of December in 2012. My mum was aghast that I had chosen to move right before Christmas. Whilst I didn’t want to miss out my family’s holiday celebration, after waiting a long 6 months for my work permit to come through, I wasn’t going to waste another second of my new island life waiting around in the cold. Besides – flying out literally a day later pretty much tripled the price of my already costly plane ticket. And so I was off.
I stepped foot onto the tarmac at Beef Island Airport at dusk, ready to start my new life in the tropics with 3 suitcases to my name (that made their way to the BVI in their own good time). I was ready. After the arrival committee of mosquitoes had officially welcomed me to the country, I set about getting my life in order. To be honest, Christmas was far from my mind with my top priorities being: 1. Sorting out my work permit (I was only legally allowed two weeks to do so. Over Christmas break! Suffice it to say, it ended up taking three); 2. Finding a car; and 3. Getting a roof over my head. Luckily, I have an awesome group of friends who were already living on Tortola who helped me with 1, 2, AND 3 which stopped me from going round the bend. Up-heaving your life is stressful!
I had been kindly invited to spend Christmas day with a friend’s family. After waking up to a bottle of champagne being waved under my nose, I knew this was going to be a unique Christmas I would never forget.
Getting dressed for the day, I paused in front of my wardrobe and hemmed and hawed.The novelty of not wearing tights, socks, jeans, gloves, hoodies and jackets – in a variety of combinations – hadn’t worn off yet. I decided on a blue sundress and flip flops, one of my fanciest island outfits (and still going strong a year later! Only one tiny hole has appeared so it’s still practically brand new).
I was soon informed that this was going to be less of a traditional, eat-lots-of-food-and-snooze-on-the-sofa affair, and more of a “Christmas Crawl”. With three stops, two Christmas dinners and partying throughout, I was warned to expect food at all stops and plenty of alcohol. Pacing was key and strategy would determine who would make it through to the end. I was confident that though I was new here, I could rise to the challenge.
However, there were a few things to be learnt from the crawl in retrospect. Things you should prepare for on your Island Christmas Crawl:
- No one will stick to an actual time frame. If you are making more precise plans than a vague morning, afternoon, and evening, prepare to be the first guest there, causing your hosts to panic (“we know we invited everyone for 11am, but we weren’t expecting anyone until at least 12!”)
- Being a designated driver won’t save you from the beer, wine, cocktails and port being offered. We are in the islands, after all.
- Sunglasses are required. Scarves are not, unless Christmas games commence, in which case this can be turned into a handy prop.
- Your views will be be blue, not white.
- There will be less mulled wine, more Guavaberry wine. Lots and lots of it.
We set out to the first venue and after getting waylaid by a herd of cattle on the Ridge Road (who looked very festive I might add – one even had some tinsel around its rope), we were greeted with a mouthwatering traditional Christmas lunch spread. The smell of the turkey overrode our strategy, pushing all thoughts of portion control to the back of our minds, a move we would sorely come to regret.
After an afternoon with a lovely group that made me feel part of the family, we headed onwards to the next party. Previously determining that we would accept all drinks but graciously decline all offers of food, our plans were foiled when our top notch host insisted that, alongside our obligatory shot of guavaberry wine, we just try a little of this, a little of that… An hour or so later (and several pounds heavier) we ended up in an epic game of Pictionary. After my friend lost to the host’s grandma, we decided it would be best to move on before he challenged her to a rematch; it seemed that the whole “good will to all men” holiday spirit didn’t apply in his book to wily old ladies.
By the third stop along the way we were hurting. Full to the point of bursting with sore heads from that special type of hangover that comes from morning drinking, we dug deep and headed to the last party with grim determination. The drive down to Lava Flow was a little hazy at this point but I distinctly remember our little island car hitting every pothole along the way. We were greeted with bottles and bottles of port. And cake. It was the perfect end to my first Xpat Xmas in the BVI.