As I sit on my tiny front porch practicing “social distancing” this beautiful warm and sunny morning, the question occurred to me “HOW ARE MY OTHER FELLOW WOMEN WHO LIVE ON ROCKS COPING?”

After going through all of the major storms and hurricanes which struck the US Virgin Islands since Hurricane Hugo in 1989, I felt like, “Oh! I’m retired now anyway so I can handle this “self quarantine” business easily. At least this time, we’ve got our electricity, running water and 95% internet, TV, and telephone connectivity. My husband made sure that we’ve got plenty of food, cleaning products, toiletries and drinking water. So we can still live reasonably comfortable. Life will still be pretty normal for us.” Wrong!

It began with the closing of schools at the end of the week of March 19. I had prepared a small group of dancers from my weekly Recess Dance Club to perform for the residents of our two resident senior living homes, which has been a standing annual event. Their costumes and hand props were all ready. My dancers were “performance ready” when I left them on the afternoon of March 10.

Little did I know, thanks to “COVID 19”, that ended up being the very last time that I saw them, with no idea of when we’ll meet again. We were scheduled to visit and entertain the elderly that very next Saturday. But by then, our Governor had ordered all schools closed and most social activities, especially those involving the elderly, to be postponed until further notice.

I also received emails and phone calls informing me that all of my volunteer guest reader and guest speaker events had been cancelled indefinitely. All of my usual activities, for STUDENT VIOLENCE PREVENTION WEEK, AUTISM AWARENESS AND INCLUSION WEEK, NATIONAL CHILD ABUSE PREVENTION WEEK as well as the NATIONAL WEEK OF THE YOUNG CHILD, TEACHERS APPRECIATION WEEK, and especially, SENIOR CITIZEN APPRECIATION MONTH were indefinitely cancelled,

Then, the school year ended with no summer camps. None of the programs I’d usually volunteer at opened. Those that were held, had become “VIRTUAL”.  I’ve remained socially distant, going no further than my front porch since March 11. All of my regular summer activities became nonexistent. The pool where I had began to frequent for Aqua-Therapy also closed. As a recent retiree, my financial situation was fine! No worries at all! But, suddenly I was in a precarious predicament. Plenty of time and money, but no place to go! I felt as though I have been “LAID OFF” with pay until further notice.

So I have become acquainted with living in the new Virtual World. Zoom has become my way of traveling, communicating and attending various workshops, seminars and conferences all over the world. I now conduct an online Arts & Crafts Club for Children on Facebook. And I have also joined a letter writing ministry with my local church congregation. My iPad and house phone have suddenly become my two best friends. They keep me from getting bored. To the contrary, I have become extremely busy now!

Are there any other women living on rocks experiencing similar situations?

JoAnne a.k.a

Current Rock of Residence:

St. Thomas, USVI

Island Girl Since:

August 1984

Originally Hails From:

Baltimore, Maryland

Thirty-five years ago, this short and sassy senior citizen, having had enough of harsh, bitter cold winters, as well as the hustle and bustle of big city life in her hometown, decided at the ripe age of 32 years that she would kiss life in Baltimore goodbye and become an Island Girl. After a few visits to St.Thomas in the United States Virgin Islands, applying for work each time, this nearly emotionally burnt-out Caseworker was offered a job that would totally change her life forever.

So, on the bright sunny morning of August 23, 1984, she flew away from home and arrived on the island with nothing but four suitcases of summer clothes, another tote bag full of swimsuits, and enough money to live on until she would get paid from her brand new job. Changing professions from Caseworker to Pre-School Instructor proved to be a true blessing!

Working with the island’s children from 1984 – May, 2019 has put Mrs. Saunders in touch with hundreds of the island’s children who filled her days with true delight.

For her first few years on St.Thomas (also known as Rock City), Mrs. Saunders explored the mores and traditions of island life as a young adventurous bachelorette until July 11, 1992 when she surrendered her heart to St.Thomian Anthony H. Saunders. They are still completely inseparable to this very day. With this marriage comes a rather comical dilemma for JoAnne at times. Having taught and cared for the island’s children for the past three and a half decades, many times now Mrs. Saunders has gotten opportunities to meet back up with former students who knew her as “Ms. Matthews.” But, these students’ children only know her as Mrs. Saunders. And there have been several occasions when JoAnne has had to settle family disputes, because the children insist that their parents are mistaken when they call her by “the wrong name.”

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