We drop over the big mountain and my stomach falls as I clutch the armrests of the shaky jet. I turn towards my mom and smile; we land safely on the runway all the locals start to clap. As I exit the plane I feel a gust of wet wind slap me in the face. It’s about 80 degrees outside, not bad for a girl from Arizona, but the 100 percent humidity has already left me damp. As I head toward baggage I see a man playing the steel pans, and a lady accompanying him singing, tourists gather around to enjoy the island music and I find myself smiling. So this is the Virgin Islands where Mom grew up, I could get used to this.
As we drive to the hotel it’s all I can do to keep from throwing up. The windy roads, sticky air, and occasional goat to brake for aren’t helping my upset stomach. However when we pull up to the hotel all is forgotten, I am in the Virgin Islands, and that is a beach. One of the downfalls of being from the southwest is I probably only get a week of beach time every year, so when I go on vacation to one I maximize. This is how I spent the first few days of my Caribbean Vacation, on the beach, smothered in sunscreen with a hat and a good book. It wasn’t long before I was so sunburned I was looking for alternative means of fun. My mother, having been a local for close to twenty years decided she’d take me to some of the hotspots. This is how I became exposed to West Indian culture, something I now have a passion for.
Walking around downtown St. Thomas a girl from Scottsdale is bound to see a few unfamiliar things. A man walking his donkey around on a rope, women and men alike lined up in front of large trucks that appeared to be selling some sort of dumpling, and people with dreadlocks down to their ankles. How do they keep their hair like that in this kind of heat? Well as I walked around downtown in a state of awe looking at all the local jewelry and artwork and listening to the steel pan music I noticed something. I knew nothing about my Mom’s life down here. Where did she go to school, did she have dreadlocks, or play the steel pans? As I bombard my mom with questions she begins to tell me about her life, her small Catholic school and all the joys of growing up in the Virgin Islands.
The rest of my trip I try to embrace the culture, see what it’s like to be a teen in the Caribbean. I eat local West Indian cuisine, pig tail soup, curry chicken, and pÃ¢tÃ©. I dance to the wonderful calypso music slowly and gracefully, and the reggae fast paced and jumpy. I attend a Father’s day celebration in Frenchtown and even experience a West Indian Church. I learn of the importance of saying “Good Morning” or “Good Evening” at the beginning of a conversation, and how to eat oysters right out of their shells. I make friends with stray dogs and local boys at the beach, and learn the secrets of tanning with lemon juice on my body. Yes, by the end of my trip I was very much an Island girl, although I was never able to climb to the top of that coconut tree like my mom, I guess that’s her own special talent.
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