Tuesday, January 17, 2012

How Is This Real Life?

It was meant to be an innocent night. How could a night that started watching Virgin Island middle schoolers performing 'Godspell' turn into naked hot tubbing? This, I can tell you.

I met Loren three years ago in Italy. He had a trucker hat emblazoned in pink lettering, "I <3 Cats" and taught me how to order a cafe macchiatto, "Una cafe macchiatto, per favore!" Needless to say, we became quick friends. But as friendships made abroad tend to do, we limited ourselves to occasional Facebook messages and chats. Luckily, his photos of the USVI came up on my newsfeed while I was listening to Coldplay and inspired my move to St Thomas. (see first post for clarification)

Now, Loren was staying in St John, just a 20 minute ferry ride from where I was living in St Thomas (it should be noted that for islands named after saints, they are a haven for sinners) The ferry leaves conveniently on the hour, every hour so when I finished at work at 5, I hopped on the 6 o'clock ferry and was seated, watching the opening number of island kids, dressed as clowns by 7.

Since it seems everything runs on island time here, including children's productions, it wasn't until 10 that Loren and I were headed to the bar to grab a quick drink before the last ferry left at 11.

As we were playing one of my favorite games, Two Truths and a Lie, to help pick up where we left off three years ago, "I backpacked in SE Asia without a cell phone or guide book." Of course that was Loren's truth, I had to reach back into my adventurous Italian days and tell him about getting in cars with strangers. And just like my writing now, we lost track of time and direction and then it was 11:10 pm. The ship had sailed and there was now a Caribbean straight between me and a decent bedtime.

There might be lack of electricity, money, morals and water at times on the islands, but there is never a lack of booze. In the small area of Cruz Bay there are at least 10 bars open until 4 am that are happy to "island" pour you Painkillers and Bushwackers until you're certain that any place that could hold this much alcohol must be the right place for you. Loren and I flitted between a Spanish bar that I'm certain was in someone's garage and doubled as a stripper's joint during the day and a literal shack above someone else's house that served only Red Stripe and 40 different flavors of Cruzan rum. We shut down the place at 4 am and bumped into a fellow teacher on the island who gave us a ride back to Loren's place.

Now, I try to drink responsibly, if the days in my sorority taught me anything, it's that I'm useless hungover and large glasses of water between drinks are my saving grace. So when we got back to Loren's, I was more sleepy and almost anxious at the fact that I had to be a fully functioning Activities Director at 9 am, than drunk. But not Loren and his gaggle of fellow drama teachers.

They were as naked as the day they were born within 5 minutes of walking in the door and into the hot tub. I've been around nude people before, I used to be on the high school swim team, I've even been known to get nude in public before, but that was after large amounts of alcohol and running were involved. So a dilemma presented itself, do I get naked, jump in the hot tub and join this random drunk Americans in the USVI party or do I demurely sit on the side, dangle my legs in the water and advert my eyes as much as possible from the nipples and peens peaking out of the hot tub and highlighted by the full moon. Don't worry mom, I chose the latter.

I sat until I literally couldn't keep my eyes open, then found an empty palm tree patterned couch and fell asleep for three hours until I caught the first ferry back to my "real life," playing Bingo with guests at a 4 star resort.

That is how a middle school production of 'Godspell' had me hanging out with naked people in a hot tub at 4 am. God bless the USVI.

How Snorkeling Can Save You

It started as one of the most annoying mornings of my life: the girl who lives in the room attached to mine, barged in, shouted Spanish and failed her arms all about. Since it seemed to have developed into a regular occurrence, me, my ear plugs and sleeping mask bolted out of bed and said, "I am sleeping." Which in my sleepy state I still noted was a contradictory statement. The girl left the room but not without letting me see her eyeballs roll around her head. Little did I know, I was the one being rude.

My roommate, Jaz, is one of the sweetest little Peruvian girls I ever met. Not that I've met many Peruvians but still, she's a world-class kind of sweet. She says universally nice things like, "Have sweet dreams," and "Hope you have a wonderful day!" This kindness didn't go unnoticed by one of the chefs at the resort we work at and quickly Jaz and Jon became an item.

Although Jon is 30 and Jaz 23, they were a hard partying couple, complete with an almost totaled car crash on New Years Eve and lots of close calls when buying drugs. But they liked eachother, a lot. So when Jaz decided to take an all-girls weekend trip to Puerto Rico, Jon was livid. It would be time away from him, he said, "Time that might be spent meeting another guy!" But in Jaz's mind, she loved Jon and no Don Juan from Puerto Rico could change her mind about that.

Jaz spent three blissful, drunk days frolicking about PR, celebrating San Sebastian with all the happy and also drunk boriquas. And then Jon picked her up at the airport in St Thomas.

In an unfounded and jealous rage, he threw all of Jaz's clothes, make up and cell phone out his balcony and into the waiting Caribbean sea.

Jaz was petrified that she was next to be thrown over and ran the 2 hillacious miles back to Sugar Bay and our room. Out of breath and commanding only 70% of the English language, Jaz retold the last 12 hours.

Through both of our tears and constant hugs, I told her I had befriended the owners of a chartered catamaran and we could go out of a whole day of snorkeling. Her eyes lit up. Hopefully this sea adventure will be a lot less traumatic than that of her and Jon's possessions.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Strong Hand

Public transportation can be described best as it's called by the locals, a "safari". That's right, your local bus from here to anywhere on the island is named after an American-invented word where rich people hunt close to extinct animals to hang on their walls to any scare anyone under the age of 17.

But it is properly named. Imagine a Ford 550 but instead of the bed of the truck, they've place 4 to 5 bench seats and covered the roof with a clusterfuck of tin and scrape metal. It's amazing.

The safari travels in only direction in a large loop around the island but costs just one dollar to anywhere unless you go downtown by the port where most of the shopping and hospital are located, then it's a shocking $2.

Yesterday I borded the safari to go to the hospital (nothing was wrong with me, besides my nerves. See post below) A few minutes into my safari, a young, large girl with an extremely tight purple top climbed aboard.

"Good morning everyone," she shouted cheerfully. There were about 8 people on board and one blessed soul said good morning back.

"Do you like movies?" she asked no one in particular. "because dey showcase how everyone who fornicates is going to hell." Shit just got real.

I had to look back because as much as I love eavesdropping, I love getting a good look at a young girl who doesn't like to have sex and is willing to tell a safari full of strangers about it.

And then shit got weird. She was missing a hand. Everything below her left wrist was gone. This passionate anti-sex haver had just one hand. A hand similar to a "strong hand" that my sorority sisters found really freaks the shit out of me and would wake me in the middle of the night, clawing me with a strong hand screaming, "Take it! Take my strong hand!" but sorority love torture is for another book. 

I continued to listen to the ranting and raving about how movies glorify sex and will send us all to an early grave until my stop at the hospital.

An hour later, once I was done pooing in a container (again, please see below. I just don't poo in a plastic vial for no reason.) I climbed back onto the safari and a few seconds into the ride, I heard "Do you like movies? You know they break all the 10 commandments, right?! They'll send you to an early grave."

Cool hand Luke was at it again.

Friday, December 16, 2011

So Official

A book could and should be written about the USVI St. Thomas health department.

In an attempt to profit off seasonal employees from the states, USVI state law requires most employees to have Food Handlers Certificate. Even if you have nothing to do with food, if you're around it, you have to have it. Normally, I wouldn't mind the disorderly fashion a subpar government building takes on when dealing with assinine documents. I did live in Italy where I had to elbow two elderly gents just to get to the head of the post office line. However, this certificate really is shitty. 

Shitty in the most literal sense. The topical paradise of the USVI requires a stool sample in order to obtain the Food Handlers Certificate. Not as in some odd bar stool carving competition where the most unique design wins. Stool as in poop, doo doo, dookie, ca ca, shit.

What in God's green earth is in my poop that's not in my blood, urine or saliva?!

You would think the kind souls at the health department would make this process easy for you: you're secreting yesterday's yummy goodness. They have to have some decency about it, right? Wrong. They are she devils, or he devils, I just happened to see only females during this humiliation process.

This is the cup they give you to collect your precious nugget. My hand isn't that giant.

I'll spare you the details of the collecting process, unless you really want to know, then I'll tell you all about it. But it wasn't as traumatizing as I thought it could be.

I had to give the sample before 10:30 am but had to come back at 1:00 pm to get the results and my certificate. Feeling proud of myself for overcoming my extreme aversion to poo, I ventured to Red Hook to buy Christmas gifts for my mom and sister.

One o'clock came and I returned to the hospital to pay $30 for the card and to be told I was parasite free. What a relief. And the final product is....

I'm so official, all I need is a whistle.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Good Morning

In the research I've conducted (that would be Google searches, let's get real) I've picked up a valuable lesson of saying Good Morning, Good Afternoon or Good Evening to every St. Thomasian. They prefer it over hi or hello. Easy enough.

An older kitchen worker sat down next to me at lunch today.

"Good morning," I cheerfully said to her.

Without looking up from her rice and beans, she spat out "you know you already said that, right!?"

No, actually I didn't. But you can't have someone sit next to you while you're both eating at your place of work and just not say anything. Maybe I am southern.

"We can say it twice, can't we?" I asked.

She went back to eating. I went back to listening to my Peruvian roommates speak Spanish.

Good morning, Bitch.

At least this is where I had lunch.