I have lived on my little rock for over 6 years now. Though I will never be able to call myself a true Statian (that right is reserved for persons with their IBH cards – “I Born Here”, as my husband puts it), I think it’s fair to now consider myself somewhat of a veteran rock-dweller. With a few years of experience under my belt and many mistakes of my own made, spotting the newbies has turned into a fun trip down memory lane. I think back on my early island days, remember what life was like with fresh eyes, and can’t help but laugh at the blissful naiveté of this era.

Each stage of island living is one to be embraced. I look forward to seeing what perspective the years ahead will bring and in the meantime, feel grateful for the lessons I learned in my newbie days.

Here are just a few of the things that might identify you as a rock-dwelling newbie – things that may change for you as the rock years go by:

1. Random roaming animals are still cute to you.

If the sight of that little calf or fluffy donkey standing by the roadside still induces a full blown OMG, it’s soooo cuuuutte!! attack, you may still be a freshman to island life.

island goat_WWLOR

After a couple of years of that calf/donkey/goat’s herd knocking your trashcan over every night and spreading your garbage along the street for you to pick up in the morning, eating all of your plants, and pooping all over the porch – your perception of what is “cute” changes.

If I overhear someone say, “Ohhhh, look at that chicken and her babies!!”, I imagine they’ve not lived here long enough to know that many of those baby chickens grow into roosters – roosters that sit on the fence next to your window and crow every 14 seconds starting at 4am for hours at a time. Even the most zen of island earth mothers have been driven to hunt for heavy objects to throw in a fit of early morning rage (or even resort to searching Amazon for BB guns).

2. You see Coralitta and still think, “What a pretty flower!”

Coralittla, also know on some islands as the Mexican creeper, is an invasive vine that will cover not only your fence, but your gate, your trash can, all of your trees and other plants, the side of your house, your car, and even your dog if he sits still long enough. On Statia, it is a huge problem growing on the sides of virtually every road, in the bush, and covering vacant lots.

Corallita_WWLOR

The vine’s roots descend up to 8 feet into the ground, and they can propagate from small tubers that look (but unfortunately do not taste) like little sweet potatoes. If you miss just one of these when removing the plant, it will grow straight back. It also grows faster than any other plant in your garden. A fence cleared of the vine will be covered again in a mere week with enough rainfall, inducing serious hair-pulling and primal screaming from the numpty who spent their entire Saturday pick-axing and clearing said fence (Yes, I am that numpty).

3. You are still surprised when you receive bad service.

If you are going to order a lot of drinks or a complicated cocktail at the bar, be prepared for the server to huff, puff, and possibly suck their teeth at you and the universe who sent you to their establishment. That’s just how it is. You may as well get used to it or start drinking Heineken. Simple as that.

4. You embrace roofless cars.

Dune buggies, golf carts, roofless jeeps – they all make you look super cool and are likely exactly what you pictured yourself driving in your pre-rock-dwelling island day dreams. Plus, they’re just more fun than a regular car. Maybe you will even get lucky and there will be no rain for a couple of months, and you’ll get lots of time to show it off. Then November arrives and the heavens open every couple of hours for 3 months straight. I’m British – I know rain – but Statia rain is something else entirely. It’s like rain on steroids. If you are out in the downpour for longer than about 7 seconds, you are soaked to the underpants and you may as well stay out in it because you can’t possibly get any wetter. After a few months of looking decidedly uncool driving around in a bright yellow raincoat and attempting to dry out your 3rd cell phone in yet another bowl of rice, you may find yourself ready to trade in your fantasy wheels for something that has a roof. And doors.

5. You still spend your days sun-worshiping.

I have found that usually anyone who spends their weekend lying on the beach working on their tan is either a newbie or under the age of 25 and hasn’t started worrying about looking old yet. Once a few lines appear on your perma-tanned visage, you may start to wonder if all this intense tropical sun is really all that good for you. If you are like me and are basically so white you are borderline blue, a few healthy doses of 2nd degree sunburns and the peeling lizard-skin aftermath will have the same effect.

*click for image credit

Before you know it, you’ll find yourself hugging the shade with the locals. One Statia-born lady I know was helping us with a beach clean-up and took shelter behind a 2 foot square No Swimming sign to avoid the sun. My first thought? Now there’s a long term island girl!

6. Friday night = party night!

Statia has a population of only about 3,500 people. So, after a while, one Friday night tends to blend into every other Friday night in an alcohol-fueled, Wait, was that last week or the week before? kind of way. Of course there is the added issue that on a small island, whatever you did (or whomever you did) on Friday night is all over the island by 9am on Saturday morning, probably before you have even lifted your rum-sozzled head from the pillow and, possibly, started your walk of shame.

Having a baby has certainly taken away a lot of my desire to go out (where would I get the energy?!) but in reality, I can’t truly blame my daughter for my Friday night apathy. After a few years on a small rock, when you have visited every bar on the island 20 times over (there are like, 6), and you have been hit on by the same drunks every week for a year, you tend to be pretty much over the whole scene. At least on a regular, every Friday sort of basis.

7. You constantly post Look At My Fab Life Facebook updates.

As soon as you arrive to your new rock, it feels almost obligatory to post as many pictures as you can, posing in as many exotic, sunny locations as possible, and to only update your status when you are doing something fabulously tropical like swimming with a turtle sipping on a piña colada. When you have lived here for a while, however…

Oh hell, who am I kidding? That shit never gets old, no matter how long you’ve been here… enjoy the cold suckers!!

Statia sunset_WWLOR

  –   –   –

How do you spot a newbie on your rock?

Written By:

Claire Blair

Current Rock of Residence:

St. Eustatius (or Statia to her friends), Dutch Caribbean

Island Girl Since:

2009

Originally Hails From:

Wiltshire, UK

Claire ended up as an accidental island girl. A false start on a volunteering trip to Ecuador ended up with her finding a little environmental project on the small island of St. Eustatius, the “Golden Rock” of the Caribbean, at the end of 2007. Having a grass-green thumb, the idea of two months working in a beautiful botanical garden in the tropics sounded too good to miss. So she packed her bags, gave up her humdrum office job in the UK, and journeyed to sunnier climes.

While there, she met a quiet Park Ranger with an impossibly big smile known as “Gadjet” (thanks to his talent of fixing pretty much anything) and fell madly in love. Not just with him but his lovely island too and after many return visits with tearful goodbyes at airports (people would stare at the snotty-faced hippy openly wailing in the departure lounger), she decided to make a permanent move in 2009.

Six years has brought beach parties, SCUBA diving, gardening, lobster BBQs, a marriage, highs, lows, a beautiful baby girl, and all things in between. Life is not always easy on the “Golden Rock”, but through it all Claire’s favourite love story is still her own.

Although she misses family (as well as Tetley teabags, proper cheddar cheese, and greasy fish and chips), when she walks out of her house each morning and sees the ridiculously blue Caribbean sea 50 ft below her front gate, she smiles. She just can’t help herself.

Want to read more posts by this writer? Click here.

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