Monday, July 7, 2008

Fire in the Sky

Our Internet connection at the rental house is kind of flaky, so the ability to post regularly is a guess at best. On the other hand, the urgent need to post regularly is fading in the face of what local's call Island Time (which is where we got the name for this blog.) Each day is pretty much like the next, gorgeous, warm, laid back, and time moves languidly. If something didn't happen today, there's always tomorrow. We post as often as we can, but we're not going to kill oursleves, you know mon?

Fourth of July
This is a double holiday on St. Croix. The Fourth, of course, is Independence Day. July Third is Emancipation Day, the day in 1848 that the Danish governor of the island declared all slaves free. So this is a big deal here.

I needed to go into Fredericksted on business Thursday the third. Don’t bother, I was told by the person I needed to see. The entire town was closed down. The roads had been blocked off for a parade, nothing was open. No business was being done on the third.

So we didn’t get into Fredericksted, the island’s second largest town (also the island’s smallest town, there’s only the two of them) until the next day. That’s where the Fourth of July fireworks are fired off.

Never having been there before, when we got into town we decided to park where we could and go where the throng on the beach left room for us. It’s part of the learning curve – learning by following the path of least resistance – and it worked for us. It turns out, there’s really no bad place for watching the fireworks. They fire them off the pier and you can see them from anywhere in town. So we pulled up a piece of sand and waited.

Music and the smell of cooking food wafted up and down the strand as we waded in the surf of the amazingly warm Caribbean. Maybe this shouldn’t have come as a surprise, but we had become used to the Oregon Coast. The Pacific shoreline in the Northwest is stunningly beautiful, but the water is equally stunningly cold. Wading even ankle deep is actually painful. We knew the Caribbean would be different, but your body has its own memory unaffected by the person who tells you the water temp is usually around 80 degrees. My flesh flinched as I lowered my first foot into the water. It needn’t have, I have had baths that weren’t as warm as the water.

Meanwhile the sun began setting, leaving the most spectacular oranges, pinks and purples streaked across the sky. People who see the pictures will assume we were standing in front of some phony “Caribbean Sunset” backdrop, because it was just too amazing, too beautiful to be real. But it was.

Finally the sun stopped showing off and the sky grew dark. It was time for the fireworks.

Setting them off from the long, cruise ship pier did two things – it made it possible for everyone to see them, and it created a second show. As the multiple bursts went off in the air they were reflected off the water in a mirror image display that was truly breathtaking. It was really the best fireworks show I’ve ever seen – no singles, all multiple sky bursts painting sky and sea flaming reds, whites, greens, blues and purples.

But still not as spectacular as that sunset. That would have been worth driving over for all on its own. (Check out our Flicker phoro page with the Caribbean sunset photos by going to and follow the link to Flicker on the lower left of the page.)

The drive home was not without incident, as police rerouted traffic so the thousands of islanders who had flocked to the small town weren’t all trying to take the same road home. I followed long lines of cars snaking out of town in every direction on roads I wasn’t sure of. I just stayed in line, assuming we were all going somewhere and that eventually I’d get to a road I recognized. It took a while, but in the end I was right and we got home eventually.

I’m still not comfortable driving on the left, and the lack of signs is still problematic to me, but I’m learning. I get where I’m trying to go, although I’m not always on the street I think I’m on. But with Tori manning the map they give newcomers as a security blanket, we usually get where we’re planning to go.

And if not, where we end up is interesting too.


Pat Kight said...

Hey, you're on an island. How lost can you get?

Direct link to the Flickr gallery is:

Fans can look for the "Pirates in Paradise" set.

- Yr Webwench

Jennifer said...

I'm loving reading your blog. We're also from Oregon and visited St. Croix in December 2007. I had the exact same reaction to getting in the water. On top of expecting it to be painfully cold, I expected there to be gross crap and god knows what else on the bottom, but once I got past that I was so surprised and delighted at being able to get in the water.

Keep writing! I'm very excited to hear more about your adventure.