Friday, December 30, 2011

Festival Kicks Into High Gear

Last night the Festival Village opened, and the Crucian Christmas Festival kicked off for real. Carnival rides, food, games of "chance." Fun. There have been events leading up to last night, the youth Calypso contest, a parade in Christiansted, pageants. But the village opening is the real start.

For the next week very little work will get done on St. Croix. There's the Quelbe Tromp, the J'Ouvert (must be experienced) a food fair and two big parades, plus a lot of other things.

Every Caribbean Island has its own celebration, and the Crucian Christmas Festival's is St. Croix's.

Anyway, here's the story I wrote last night on the festival, and here's the video Tori shot.The picture above is 6-year-old John Hazell riding the merry go round.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Problems in Paradise

It has come to our attention that some people – you know who you are – get sulky, even snarky, when we post photos of beautiful warm beaches. Especially when the places they live are covered with snow and ice and they spend the winter wiping their runny noses and trying to figure out exactly how many sweaters they can put on at one time.

But to show my heart is in the right place (my chest) I hereby present a list of 12 things that are NOT great about living on St. Croix. To make up for all the perfect weather.

A Dozen Things That Are NOT Great About Living on St. Croix

1 - Hurricanes and hurricane season. Even when there is no hurricane heading for you, it's not fun. It's a low-grade worry for six months of the year, occasionally punctuated by the imminent arrival of a major storm. When a hurricane does come, the power always goes out and stays out for a while.

2 - Grocery prices. Milk is over $7 a gallon, a loaf of bread will run about $4. Virtually everything costs more, except for cigarettes and rum, which are dirt cheap, but since we quit smoking earlier this year only one of those has meaning to us any more.

3 - The price of electricity. The electric bill is always shocking, usually close to $400 a month for us, and it's not like we have air conditioning. And the service from WAPA is crappy. The power goes out for no apparent reason, usually during football games. But when the power bill comes, it's a "sit down and have a drink moment." Fortunately, rum is cheap.

4 - If you love football and follow a west coast team (Seahawks!) you almost never get to see your team play on TV. The networks always assume you want to watch some team you don't care about (the Giants, Jets or Falcons) or some team all right-thinking Americans hate (the Cowboys, Pittsburgh, Philly) when what you really want is the Seattle-San Francisco game.

5 - Availability of fresh water. When the tour guides say, "don't drink the water," they mean it. We get our house water on a cistern that collects rain water from the roof. Certainly it is "green," but we have seen some foot-long centipedes crawling into the dank, watery abyss that is our cistern. We purchase all our drinking water at the supermarket. See note about "Everything is expensive."

6 - Cistern showers. When the power goes out for any length of time, the slab of concrete over the cistern is moved. We tie a bucket to a rope, drop it down into the dark and haul up the water. Our first year we lost power for nearly a week after hurricane Omar. We learned very quickly how to shower with one bucket of water, and to flush the toilet only when absolutely necessary, once a day if possible.

7 - Headlights. Most Crucian drivers keep their high beams on at all times, in fact, they seem unaware they have two settings. Blindness, and hilarity ensues!

8 - Dead Iguanas. Seeing one of these ancient dinosaurs flattened on the pavement just seems so wrong. They are the worst roadkill ever. "Roadkill Iguana" would be a great name for a rock band, but it's lousy to see on the road.

9 - Litter. Speaking of lousy to see on the road, St. Croix is a beautiful place, as long as you don't look down. A lot of people litter here. Just throw trash out the car window with no shame. They also just throw their puppies away. There is a severe, (and sad) problem of overpopulation of dogs and cats.

10 - Customer service is a joke here. There's practically nowhere to shop for the day-to-day stuff except one of the island's two Kmarts. Mix St. Croix's poor idea of customer service with the really bad attitude of all Kmart employees and you can just ruin a whole afternoon.

11 - Shipping. Amazon won't ship electronics to the island. Other places charge an arm and a leg because they say it is "not in the United States." Well, it is! St Croix is a US territory and postage is the same here as anywhere else. And the postal service is unreliable in general. Several times packages sent from the states just never arrived to us, lost in Puerto Rico where mail goes to die.

12 - People stateside, especially in northern, snowy states, get all grouchy when you post photos of beautiful sunsets and warm, sunny beaches while they're shivering in their igloos. Sometimes they even leave snarky comments on the blog. Imagine that!

There. Everybody happy now? Good. Then you won't mind if I post this picture. Just another day in paradise.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Happy Caribbean Christmas!

Merry Christmas from the Baurs and island friends – from left, Alan, Kate, Joey, Max, Tori (the Queen of Christmas!) and John. The Happiest Christmas ever to you all!

And a new year full of really cool stuff!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Happy Christmas!

I've posted this picture before, back on the first Christmas Eve we spent on the island. I don't think I've ever taken a better one. This was literally ON Christmas Eve 2008.

When we posted it back then, a friend in the Northwest commented that they were expecting a white Christmas, "so there." As if that was somehow a good thing and she was one up. My only response was "My sympathies." I was born in Chicago. I've seen all the snow I'll ever need to see for the rest of my life, and shoveled it. Snow is why we moved to the island, that and frozen rain and black ice and other such temperature deprived precipitation.

Got a few errands to run today, and Tori is involved in some major construction project that I'm supposed to not see. I can't imagine what it is. And then if we have time, we'll run down to the beach. But we'll definitely run to the beach Christmas morning, because we have to take a family picture.

Happy Christmas to all our friends! jb

Friday, December 23, 2011

Velvety Sunset

This was taken abut a year ago, 13 months, to be specific. It was opening night for the Good Hope School production of "A Midsummer Night's Dream" that Tori has directed, and curtain was another half hour away. So I wandered down to the beach behind the school and shot this and a few others.

The show was amazingly good too.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

More beachside toes

I've already shown you my toes in the surf. Tori's are much nicer, and she has better legs. This was after she'd been snorkeling off Dorsch.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Five Pictures From Sunday Afternoon

'Twas the week before Christmas
And all 'cross the sand

Not a creature was stirring

'Cept Max, getting tan.

Seriously, we just got back from the beach and I wanted to share these. This isn't the beach we normally go to, but a cruise ship was in and Dorsch usually gets a little crowded. This is what we saw when we pulled off the road just north of Rainbow Beach, which is just north of Frederiksted. Virtually empty stretch of white sand.

That palm tree in the distance? This is it, close up.

Max, ready for all sorts of water sports.

And a ballgame on the beach, with the cruise ship in the background. Playing are Tori, Max, Natasha and Alan. Alan is closest to the camera. He's been going to college in Canada, which explains why he's so white.

And that was our Sunday afternoon, and we still got home in time to see some fairly crappy football.

But we have to exclaim to the tropical skies,
"Merry Christmas from us down here in paradise!"

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Nice Thing About the West Side

We get great sunsets over here. Really great. They almost look like a studio photographer's phony prom backdrop, but they're real. This is from Frederiksted's waterfront.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Silly Girls

This pic is from last Easter, I think. They were making candy in the kitchen, and Millie and Tori got a little silly with the icing.

Millie, by the way, is doing great at school. Just so ya know.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

St. Croix Christmas Boat Parade

It's really the best of everything. Sultry tropical night, full moon, choirs, boats decorated with Christmas lights, fireworks, Santa Claus – who in the islands arrives by boat, not reindeer driven sleigh.

It's St. Croix's annual Christmas Boat Parade. We've gone every year since we've been here. Hard to beat. It's rapidly become my favorite island tradition.

Rather than write about it again, I'll give you these links. This is the story I wrote for the Source last night. This is the video Tori shot.

We had a great time. The only thing is, every year when I go to cover it for the Source, I ask myself, "How come I don't have any rich friends with a boat to invite me to parade with them?" As fun as this is, I'll bet it's a lot more fun from the boat.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Vincent T. Mason Coral Beach Resort

I don't know who Vincent T. Mason was, but he's got a nice stretch of beach named after him. This is about a mile down the coast from Dorsch, almost to the southwest corner of St. Croix. When I took this I was standing right at the line between this park and Sandy Point National Wildlife Refuge, where sea turtles nest. Here's a link to a story I wrote on sea turtle nesting a couple of years ago. It was very cool, an amazing experience, although it has nothing to do with this picture. Also, Sandy Point was were they filmed the last scene from "Shawshank Redemption," where Morgan Freeman walks down the "Mexican" beach to where Tim Robbins is working on his boat. Also cool.

Oh, and perhaps most important, this is the beach where Tori and I filmed "Wooing Wenches," a pirate love story. If you haven't seen it yet, don't miss it!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Into Each Life Some Rain Must Fall ...

And when it does, you get something like this. Taken almost two years ago down on Dorsch Beach, I believe.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011


Serendipity means discovering something you didn't know you were looking for. And that was the case with this pic. Last week I was covering the World AIDS Day march and candlelight vigil in Frederiksted, and my camera went belly up. All I had was the camera on my phone, and the battery was low and going fast.

The community marchers were followed by the band from St. Croix Central High School, who were followed by police car keeping traffic at bay. And it was dark, so the headlights were on and I figured I could use those to illuminate the pic.

I don't actually remember taking this picture, but I found it later when I downloaded the files to the computer. The police car's headlights backlit one of the band's flag twirlers, and I happened to catch it the moment her red flag flashed in front of her. It's a little soft, a little blurry, but I thought it was a very cool shot.

Like someone or other once said, it's smarter to be lucky than it's lucky to be smart.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Change of Pace

Like so many people, I have a blog because I don't get enough guilt in my life. Obviously. I mean, it sits there and I always mean to write something, then I get busy.

Then, last night as I was sorting through the computer's photo library and finding all these terrific pictures just sitting there, I realized I had a better option. Instead of feeling guilty about not writing, at least I could post some of these pictures a couple of times a week! Which give you a good glimpse of island life without having me go on and on and on. And someone or other said they were worth a thousand words a piece so I'll be way ahead of the game. So enjoy.

Those are my toes in the surf at Cheney Bay (it's pronounced sha-NAY bay, and was not named for any politician.) OK, that's not a spectacular picture, but it's a place to start.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Chilly Night

First, sorry so long without a post. Sometimes life just happens. Which is what the blog is supposed to be about – life in the Caribbean – but it gets complicated.

Here's a bunch of little things to catch up on.

It actually felt chilly last night. I checked the temp around 10 p.m. and sure enough, it as unusually cool. I won't insult you by saying cold. But cooler than usual. 72 degrees. I checked and at the same moment in L.A., around 6 p.m., it was 57.

Yesterday was the last day of the official hurricane season. It was a busier than usual season, the experts say, but you couldn't prove it here. And I'm not complaining. Closest action we got was Irene, which was still a tropical storm when it passed here on its way to annoy New Yorkers.

The end of the season means we can let our guard down a little and break into the box of hurricane food supplies. There's a can of beef stew in there, and a lot of canned peaches.

It also means the tourism picks up noticeably. And Christmas and Festival are right on top of us.

Anyway I wanted to get this posted, and have other work I've gotta finish up. I'll try to post more often. If lie doesn't get in the way.