Well, tomorrow morning life is going to change dramatically. Again. Cari goes back to school, and I go back to work.
For Cari, it’s been a fantastic, relaxing, rejuvenating and much needed three week break. For me, it’s been a… (searching for just the right words…) a … an unexpected but inspired four month weekend.
Just today I got word that tomorrow I will start a short-term contract for a company in Minneapolis to code a new web-based application for them. It’s not a long term gig, but it’s work. And I’m grateful. On one hand I never thought it would take this long to find a company that would let me work entirely from a remote location, but on the other hand, not working the first semester of Cari’s schooling is exactly what our family needed while we all settled in to this strange new land.
But more on this later. Right now I want to focus on my Mom & Dad’s visit and on Cari’s break. Happily, my parents were able to arrange there visit to coincide with Cari’s freedom so we could all spend time together. And we had so much fun! I’m not even sure where to begin, so, let’s start with Cari’s birthday.
Carina’s 35th Birthday:
My parents arrived just in time to help us celebrate Cari’s birthday on the 22nd of April. Her birthday gifts included things like a stethoscope and an otoscope, and of course, this amazing peanut butter chocolate cake that Andi made.
My Dad, Exploring the Local Flora and Fauna
The next morning my dad, the agronomist, got up early and went for a jog, and he came back carrying some “exciting” things he had found along the way, including a plant he had researched for his PhD but had never actually seen growing in the wild until he came to St. Martin, (I can’t remember the name of the plant), some wild grapes, and a bird’s nest that had fallen to the ground. If you know my dad, you’ll understand that this exactly the kind of thing you would expect him to do, and his findings made us all chuckle.
My parents had heard and read about Maho Beach, where the planes fly in just over your head and land only a few feet away. And Cari hadn’t been there yet either. It’s kind of a one-time beach because it’s small, always crowded, and of course, noisy. But it’s also fun to go there with people who haven’t been before, so we happily packed up the beach gear and headed to Maho.
Here’s a short video clip of a mongo 747 that nearly scraped our heads just before it landed.
(in case this video doesn’t show in your browser, here’s a link.)
My mom had been intrigued by the sounds of the little French village of Grand Case from earlier blog posts, and she requested that we spend an evening there visiting the shops and eating in one of the resturants. We were more then happy to oblige.
No trip to St. Martin is complete without a trip to the outdoor market in Marigot. Many of the vendors sell useless tourist trinkets and trash, but a select few sell things that are really, really cool. For example: Tagua nuts.
Yeah. Tagua nuts.
These nuts come from the Phytelephas tree, a type of palm tree. When you dry the nuts in the sun they turn hard as rock, look like ivory, and can be carved into all manor of fun little creatures or figurines.
It was a hot and humid day, and the market offered little protection from the heavy Caribbean sun. After shopping for a bit, my parents treated us to a fresh coconut and we all took turns sipping it’s milk.
A Quick Tour of The American University of the Caribbean:
Of course my parents wanted to see where Cari goes to school, so we walked up to school and took a quick tour.
Evening Sunset on Cupecoy Beach
The evening before my parents flew back home, we all went down to the beach, kicked off our shoes, and waded in the surf as the sun went down.
Having my mom and dad come visit us was a treat that is hard to put into words. We had such a fun time and enjoyed their company tremendously, and I’m profoundly grateful that they took time from their busy schedule to come and see us.
One of the interesting side effects of their visit which I had not anticipated was that as we showed them around the island, I found myself seeing it through their eyes and experiencing it as if for the first time. I was surprised how after only four months here, we are are already getting “used” to it, which is both good and bad. It’s good because we are no longer in shock at how different things are, but bad because we are no longer seeing the island with fresh eyes or being in awe at all that it has to offer.
My dad kept saying, “You guys sure are having an amazing adventure down here.”
And you know what? He’s absolutly right.
After Cari had fully recovered from her Maho Beach trip sun burn, we waited until the heat and sun of mid-day was mostly over, and then made the long drive up to Orient Beach.
This beach is something else. It’s everything you would imagine from a busy, beautiful world class tourist beach, and it’s one of the best places on the island to people watch. The energy of this beach is palpable, and it’s a fun place to hang out and watch people walking up and down the miles of white sand and crystal clear water.
Tanner’s hair: Sun kissed, often full of sand, and LONG. Despite our best efforts to pursued him to get it cut, he refuses. Three of his island friends have really, really long hair (thank you Dill, Ro and Jake) and he seems to think he’s going to look good in long hair too. (sigh). Once upon a time I would have forced the issue, but this is not a battle I feel like fighting. So, his hair gets even longer.
Pick Paradis Hike:
Pic Paradis is the highest point on the island, and there are two ways you can get to it: 1) Drive, or 2) Hike. Andi and I had already done the drive, but we wanted to do the hike as a family. Well, ok, minus Piper who is not old enough for such an arduous adventure. So Michelle graciously offered to stay home with The Pipster while Mom, Andi, Tanner and myself went on the hike.
It was fun, but it was also a lot hard work. And it was hot.
A lookout point about half way up. By this time we were hot and tired and drenched in sweat, and there was some grumblings about turning back. I bribed the kids to keep going by promising fruit smoothies back at the bottom, but only if they made it to the top.
Remains of the sugar plantation that existed for a brief time back when plantations were the thing.
Sweet scenery at the top! Yeah, the view of the island is pretty good too.
It’s now almost 1:00 am, and I’m the only one still awake. I wanted to get this blog post done before it all slips too far into the background and fades from memory. Time is moving so fast. We have already been here four and a half months. In about nine weeks we’ll fly home for a good chunk of the summer and spend time with beloved family and friends in New Brighton, St. Cloud, and Utah. When we come back, the kids will start school in a real schools, and I know when that happens time will really begin to fly.
So far our time here has been both hard and fun. The hardest part for me has been watching my kids be lonely and homesick. I’m excited for them to be in an actual school next year so they can make lots of new friends and fill their time by spending it with them. But it’s also been hard becuase for much of the time we’ve been here, we have more or less been motherless. Carina is working hard, and when she can, she spends as much time with us as possible. We’ve had to remind ourselves that we chose this, and even wanted it. And we know that it won’t last long. In fact 1/5 of our time here has already flown past us before we even knew what was happening.
Starting tomorrow, Carina will be a second semester medical student. Sometimes we look at each other and say, “How did this happen? How did we get here? We had SUCH a fun, beautiful, peaceful life back in St. Cloud. Why did we willingly walk away from that?”
But then I remember the words of my mother, who, when I was telling her about how we sometimes wonder why we left such a happy life, said to me, “Your life may have been happy, but where was the growth? You will all grow so much more by being in a place like this.”
And you know what? She’s absolutely right.