Caribbean islands are beautiful. Inspiring. Breathtaking. But all of that becomes secondary and quickly fades away when you realize one thing: they want to kill you. Yes, you heard me correctly. The islands are out to get you. Hurricanes. Mudslides. Flash floods. Sharks. Tropical diseases. High surf advisories. It’s like looming death wrapped up with a sparkly 82-degree-and-breezy bow. Last summer, our island attacked us with dual force. Here’s how it went down…

After some lovely time spent outdoors enjoying the beauty that is the Caribbean, my husband, Seth, got hit hard with dengue fever. It’s one of those wonderfully fun tropical diseases passed on by mosquitoes that ranges from “Hate-your-Life-and-the-Fact-that-you’re-Alive-for-a-Week” to “Kill You” levels. Fortunately, the strain he caught was in the former category.

Dengue hits you with a whole firestorm of symptoms that you never realized could go together. It’s basically every terrible thing about the full-blown flu, plus,on top of that, everything hurts – your bones, your back, even your eyes. Don’t try to look side to side without turning your head. Trust me. Oh, how your eyes hurt. Oh, yeah – and there’s a rash. A full-body red, itchy rash. Then there’s vomiting, dehydration, and the inability to keep food down. All from a mosquito bite. And if you think you have dengue, whatever you do, do not take ibuprofen no matter how much your cramping and aching muscles call out for relief. There is some bizarre stuff going on inside of you right now and ibuprofen can apparently make your red blood cells explode or something similarly scientific. Take Tylenol. That’s it. Tylenol and sleep until it all goes away.

So here I am, home on a summer day and Seth is fortunately in the middle of a marathon nap back in the bedroom. Falling asleep isn’t easy when you have dengue because you’re in so much pain, so the relief of sleeping and not feeling that pain for a few hours is glorious. And that’s when it happened. My internal monologue went something like this:

What is that? A truck?

That’s a really loud truck.

Why hasn’t it passed by yet?

Wait – is this an earthquake?

Crap, it’s an earthquake.

Wow, it’s still going.

This is a really long one.

Maybe I should go outside.

Yeah, I’m going to go outside now.


– *Stops*  halfway between the living room and front door –


Wait…do I wake Seth up?

Our house could slide down the side of the mountain and he’d die.

But – he’s finally napping and getting some dengue relief.

If he’s still napping through this, then that means he’s really out.

Which is more likely to kill him – the earthquake or the dengue?


And then it stopped.

Yep, that’s me. Emergency responder to the rescue.

In actuality, we get earthquakes here pretty regularly. In fact, there were three in quick succession just this morning. Usually you barely notice them, or don’t even feel them at all. Sometimes they’re bad enough to loosen rocks that fall down the mountain onto the road. The one we got during Seth’s bout with dengue was the longest enduring earthquake that I’ve ever experienced here. Obviously, long enough for me to have an entire conversation in my head. Yet what it all boiled down to for me was – which was going to inflict the most pain and suffering on Seth? I went with the dengue (or “The Dengus” as a friend’s child calls it).

In the earthquake vs. Dengue Fever scenario, I was right. Me – 1, Island – 0. But it’s just a matter of time. This island has it out for us, I’m sure of it. For you. For everyone. Throwing death blows at every turn. I mean, beauty without adventure is pretty boring, don’t you think? Where’s the fun in that?

Written By:

Current Rock of Residence:

St. Thomas, USVI

Island Girl Since:


Originally Hails From:


Melissa is a St. Thomas, USVI-based 30-something and a 10 year island veteran who can’t endure even the smell of shrimp. It all stems from a childhood experience where a beloved grandfather told the once shrimp-loving four year old that shrimp was “yucky”. Her husband has requested multiple times that she undergo exposure therapy on the issue, but she refuses out of tribute to her grandfather. Melissa started her island adventures on a sparsely populated outer island in the Bahamas before moving further South to the “big city” of St. Thomas a few years later. The early island experience of dependence on a weekly mail boat to bring supplies (and the lack of Target) cultivated a realization that you can make almost anything you need. That means you can regularly find her feasting on fresh baked bread and homemade peanut butter and jam.

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