Wednesday, September 10, 2003

When my taxi driver picked me up in front of my office this afternoon, there was already a young couple in the taxi with their two young, blonde daughters. My driver was giving them an island tour...with a detour to pick me up and deliver me home. The woman struck up a conversation with me. They're from Barcelona and are here on a cruise. She said she'd been here two years ago (also on vacation) but had not enjoyed the experience. She said she thought it was a beautiful island, but she found the West Indians quite unfriendly or downright racist. I said I understood, because I LIVE here and I find a lot of the residents to be unfriendly. And I also understood the racism remark because my African-American boyfriend experiences more racism here than I twisted is that? I was told when we first moved here that many West Indians don't like black folks from the States, and tend to look down on them. Go figure. She asked how long we've lived here, and when I told her we've been here three years without going back to the States during that time, she was shocked. I explained that we leave early next month for 10 days on the West Coast, and that getting away might make me like this place a little more. She asked me what I missed about the mainland and I rattled off a few things. But after I reached home, I really started thinking about that question--not only what I miss about the West Coast, but also what I would miss about this place if we left. Here are some of the things that came to mind.

What I miss about the West Coast:
Family and friends, of course...first and foremost; hearing my boyfriend play "real" music in "real" venues; bookstores; coffee houses; art house movie theatres; fabulous public libraries; great shopping; theatre; concerts; mountains; rivers; lakes; snow (occasionally); professional sports; the freedom to get in the car and drive long distances; drive-in movie theatres (there are still a few); camping; great Mexican/Chinese/Thai/Indian food; neighborhoods that each feature their own vibe with coffee houses and markets and shops; sidewalks (or someplace to walk in one's neighborhood besides a windy, hilly, very narrow road with no shoulder); going for breakfast or coffee with a good friend and spending hours talking and laughing; mail delivery; newspaper delivery; uninterrupted electricity; lawns; parks; Target; good public transportation (one woman here phoned a radio talk show because she was irate that a couple of tourists had ridden the bus...her argument: How dare they?! The buses are for locals!" Whaa...??? The whole economy here is dependent on...TOURISTS!)

What I would miss about this place:
Constant warm weather; living in flip-flops 24/7 (yes, even at the office); the totally mellow, low-key, stress-free lifestyle; the setting of our residence and all of its absolute quiet and darkness at night; crickets, tree frogs and gekkos; the pond below our balcony and all of the ducks, pelicans, herons and moorhens that live there; feeling safe enough to keep the sliding glass doors open 24/7; being within walking distance of a world-class beach; being able to ferry to neighboring islands; sitting in our living room and looking out at the Atlantic.

What I wouldn't miss about this place:
MOSQUITOS!!! Having to worry about hurricanes; unfriendly, rude people (and this is a tourist destination!); an almost total lack of service being exhibited in any service job; a movie box office that opens late and doesn't start cooking the hot dogs until well after they're you almost miss the beginning of your movie (which will probably have Spanish subtitles...and we don't live on a Spanish-speaking island!) and you can't enjoy a dog, to boot; "paper ladies" (who hold up traffic during the morning commute by selling newspapers on the side of the road); power outages (if I have to reset the clocks one more time...)

What I don't miss about the West Coast:
Cold winters; gray, rainy weather; rush hour traffic; sometimes noisy neighbors; the hustle and bustle of a mainland lifestyle.

There's always a trade-off no matter where we are. Our families envy us...we envy's the never-ending cycle of discontent and longing. I guess all we can do is try our best to be present wherever we find pay attention to the details of our lives as they be vigilant enough to remind ourselves to feel gratitude for wherever we find ourselves. I truly do believe that there are no accidents...that we're where we're meant to be...when we're meant to be there. This past year has been a time of wonderful, deep, freeing growth for me (hideous job rantings aside!) The QUIET that this place gives me...the CALM I feel in my setting...the BEAUTY I see all around me...the EASE that comes with an island lifestyle...all of it has provided the right "greenhouse" environment for me to grow into the person I'm meant to be. And for that, I'm truly grateful.


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