Just a few weeks ago, I was given a reminder of some of what makes life on a small rock so wonderful. Yes, as we are all too familiar, there are the frustrating aspects of living here – drama, rumors, inadequate dating options, lack of crucial items like Suave deodorant (seriously, this is a COMMON brand, right?). But then there are the amazing, redeemable aspects as well – like when the community really comes together after a tragedy to support one another.

Recently, there was a house fire on island. Two families lost their homes. No one was hurt – that’s the most important thing – but many of their possessions, if not most, were lost. The families are in temporary homes. Hundreds of other residents were temporarily evacuated from the immediate area due to fears over toxic fumes. It was a frustrating inconvenience for most of us, but we gathered at the local bowling lanes and pub to ride it out.

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Almost immediately, people began to plan how to help the affected families. Offers to donate clothing, furniture, etc. poured in. The local Red Cross jumped into action. Everyone was ready to assist in whatever way they could. A meeting was organized to avoid duplication of efforts. I was nominated to create a way for those who wanted to help to donate funds, whether they still lived on the rock or had moved away. All who have lived here know how difficult and time-consuming it can be to get specific items here. Now imagine losing everything in a fire and then facing the impossibility of replacing those things on a rock where there is no Home Depot. Or Ikea! Or a shopping mall whatsoever!

After looking into the options, I settled on one of those crowd-sourcing fundraising sites. Knowing the naysayers and busy bodies (and just plain curious) of the internet would want to question where the donations went, I explained in as much detail as I could muster how the funds would be allocated and how the entire account would be audited. What can I say? Working for the government has taught me to be audit-ready at all times.

And then, a funny thing happened. People began donating in staggering amounts. More people forwarded the social media posts about the fundraiser than I could have ever expected – even going so far as to call me an “island leader” and thanking me for organizing the donations. Some certainly questioned if this was an internet scam or if I was just trying to “get attention”, but those were thankfully few and far between compared to those who gave generously and volunteered their time as well. I felt proud of my rock. I felt very much a PART of my rock. I felt deeply that this is my home and my responsibility to do my best to help.

That got me thinking… I’ve lived in so many different places for extended periods of time, why haven’t I ever really consider myself a “local” before? How many times have I moved to a new place and immediately began thinking about the next new place? How many times have I lived somewhere, complained about its drawbacks, but not really cared to make any effort to improve anything? How often have I bowed to peer pressure and joined the chorus of haters? I don’t have great answers to those questions for the many places I have lived, though I like to think I look for something to love about every place my career or wanderlust takes me.

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At least for this rock, which has truly become my home over the last six years, I am a real resident. I am invested in the success of this place. When disasters large or small happen, I am duty-bound to help out. I feel that in my bones now. And when I am annoyed by the inconveniences of island life, I remember that I am, informally at least, an island leader. I can likely do something, no matter how small, to make those inconveniences less impactful to my neighbors. I’m not just visiting here or vacationing. I’m not just keeping the seat warm this time. This is home. I live here and I care. Deeply. This is MY island.

Written By:

Tara Hill

Current Rock of Residence:

Cuba (previously: Kauai; Scotland)

Island Girl Since:

2004ish

Originally Hails From:

Kentucky

Tara’s home rock is located on the southeastern tip of Cuba (ok, ok, you do the math, er, geography…) and is a tiny Mayberry of a place. It’s also a Peyton Place. Ya take the good with the bad. She has spent 6 years here already and can foresee many more. She knows at least half of the cars on her rock and waves to many more. She also knows the previous approximately 3.5 owners of each vehicle on the rock. It’s a place where people come and go but the cars stay behind.

She spends quite a bit of time learning the unwritten history of her rock. She has an informal Adventure Club that seeks out the mysterious tunnels under the golf course, the best high altitude lookout points, and the forgotten historical forts that dot her rock. Life here is an endless summer sleep-away camp.

Tara is currently a happy 44 year old American spinster who enjoys making her own decisions about money, following the adventures of her own career, spoiling her dogs, and accepting puppy kisses – no matter who cares if it’s icky. She hates the cold and plans to spend the rest of her life south of the US Interstate 10. She considers black flip flops equivalent to “formal wear”. Due to the limitations of her strange, beautiful rock, she has taken up a number of habits she may never have fallen in love with when she lived back on the mainland: namely ceramics, painting, homemade greeting card making, and playing the piccolo. Her current diversion is publishing two volumes of poetry on Kindle. She also enjoys writing, snorkeling, off-roading in her 4x4, SCUBA diving, hiking, gardening, and practicing the art of being an extroverted introvert. Let’s be frank, mostly, she just loves her two dogs and a cat.

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