Have you ever wondered what it would be like to drive atop the Great Wall of China at 40 km/h? I can’t say I ever did, though these days, I find myself driving the equivalent on my rock every single day. As I blindly reverse up the steep street my car is parked on, I wonder if it will ever feel normal. I keep thinking someday that my heart won’t leap into my throat as I round hairpin turns, praying to God there are no oncoming vehicles, especially since I have three little kids in the backseat trusting me not to kill them.

Home Sweet Home

I live on the beautiful, but microscopic island of Saba, Dutch Caribbean. As many others have done before me, I am captain of the household while my husband pursues his MD at the Saba University School of Medicine. I think most significant others do not have three children in tow, but we felt like sticking together would be best for our family, so here we are. Plus, I did not want to miss out on the adventures.

On A Clear Day….!

This rock that I now inhabit is extremely vertical. No picture could have prepared me for the stunning precipices, charming cottages, and the lush vegetation reaching up beyond the clouds. The vibrant pops of flowers romancing the breeze… Saba is quite possibly the most beautiful place on the planet! For thousands of years, there was not a road connecting the little villages, just a system of trails. “A road would be impossible,” they said, until one man begged to differ.

Begun in 1938 and completed in 1963, just in time for the airport, we now have “The Road” which is entirely concrete, winding drunkenly around the island like swirls of frozen yogurt. I had read that driving here was challenging, but I thought I would be fine, since I had lived in Italy as a child and traveled extensively through tiny, fortressed, cobblestone villages. A lot of the Saban landscape actually reminds me of the famed Amalfi Coast. No sweat. If my dad could do it in a van with four kids in the backseat, I can surely do it in a mini station wagon with a mere three.

That’s our Road!

I can now tell you, officially, that driving here is indeed challenging, particularly for introverts like me who are very comfortable to move about the scene unnoticed, especially on the road. Being loud and making my presence known are not behaviors I generally practice. I like to follow the rules and blend in with average traffic patterns.

Unfortunately, this is not always possible here.

Blending in? Not in a place where honking the horn may save your life, even if honking makes you feel stupid and maybe even rude, and you just want to apologize to the truck you nearly locked fenders with. I like to drive the speed limit, especially because my vehicle is long, and I don’t want my children to hit their precious noggins on the roof when our uphill climb suddenly becomes a downhill slalom. My hands get clammy when I inevitably pick up a tailgater… I would pull over, but then I would be careening into the ocean. I am not trying to be annoying, but oh my goodness, now I am an inconvenience to someone, which I hate. Somehow, they pull around me, and I avoid eye contact like the plague.

This is terrible, remind me again why I wanted to go out today?!

Also, my steering wheel is now on the right side of the car, instead of the standard left side I have years of experience with in North America. So now, I am driving impossibly narrow roads, flanked by cliffs and rock walls (sometimes people and houses), feeling like I am 15 again learning the ropes, getting lost, and trying to turn around without losing traction or sanity. And sometimes, large rocks have even been known to fall off the cliffs onto unsuspecting drivers, thereby killing them…

So, who’s up for a joyride?

Blind Spot

The icing on the cake is the unpredictability of driving with a toddler and two infants. Simultaneous meltdowns are frequent and also very exposed as you meander the five seconds it takes to pass through one of the villages at 20 km/h and weakly smile at the locals like your 2-year old isn’t screaming, pulling her hair out (and maybe even yours).

Waving at everyone is normal here, and I awkwardly wave back like the butt of a cruel joke. I have even begun to “toot” my horn at people I recognize, as is custom here, except I do it with a big, doofy grin on my face because the only way to make something less awkward is to make it MORE awkward, am I right?

Ahhh, introvert problems…

At least my steering wheel has the Superman insignia stitched on it, offering some consolation to my cape catching on fire. And I thought the Road to Hana was bad…

How’s the driving on your rock? Any other island introverts out there who can relate?

Written By:

Current Rock of Residence:

Saba, Dutch Caribbean

Island Girl Since:

June 2015

Originally Hails From:

San Antonio, Texas, USA

Kelsi Folsom was born singing, much to the chagrin of her parents. After indulging in everything from jazz to rap to 80s power ballads, she took her set of lungs to Anderson University to get “properly” trained. She has spent the majority of her operatic career cross-dressing, as most mezzo-sopranos do. She unexpectedly fell in love with a Maui boy shortly after graduation and temporarily traded in her audition heels for marriage and motherhood. Although the latter has made pursuing music a bit more difficult, she seizes whatever opportunities come her way like traveling to Guatemala six months pregnant with her daughter to do lead vocals with the Metro Big Band Jazz Orchestra, singing at church, and recording her first and only single a month before delivering said daughter. Her most recent performance was with Maui Onstage in their 2016 production of Guys and Dolls on her former rock of residence, Maui, HI, once again cross-dressing as a Crapshooter. Little did she know, the reason she felt like throwing up before each performance was because she was dancing around the stage pregnant with twins. 

Now a mom to three: a 2-year old daughter and 9 month old “miracle” twin boys, Kelsi currently makes her home on Saba, Dutch Caribbean where her husband attends medical school. She loves being an Island Mama, but could do without all the bugs/insects, and could do with a few more beaches on her particular rock. When she is not putting on her best “Cherubino” while changing dirty diapers, you can find her picking mangoes, *gasp* reading, making donuts with a toddler, swimming in the ocean, creating her own mixed drinks, enjoying a nap, or trying to make sense of her life over french press. She blogs at Shameless Beauty and her writing has been featured on Red Tent Living. She is still trying to get the hang of nomadic nesting, but is loving all the adventures that come alongside globetrotting with an ever expanding family. She is wondering at the odds of starting an opera company on Saba or at the very least, a club. Or maybe she will form an opera-calypso fusion band…

Here’s to dreaming big, island hopping, laughing a lot, and discovering all the beauty wrapped up in the world.

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