Monthly Archives: February 2016

Two Girls Downtown

Sand and sun, tanzanite, johnny cakes and chapels. Downtown Philipsburg is as eclectic and international as you could ask. Philipsburg is the capitol of Dutch Sint Maarten, and its narrow streets hold a mixture of history and modern trends. Alyssa and I took an afternoon to explore this mix of past and present.

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Visitors to Sint Maarten often arrive by cruise ship. The first thing these tourists see is the Boardwalk, which is a sunny strip of sidewalk that borders Great Bay beach.

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Philipsburg was founded by a Dutch Navy captain named John Philips in 1763. Until the 1950’s, this area was relatively quiet, as far as tourism goes. At one time, it contained Sint Maarten’s only port, and saw just a handful of large boats each year. Later, as the island’s tourist industry expanded after World War II, bigger piers were built to accommodate cruise ships. It became one of the Caribbean’s busiest ports, and today thousands of vacationers stream off the gangways each week.

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The Saint Martin of Tours Catholic Church is located on the Boardwalk. The St. Martin of Tours Parish is celebrating its 175th anniversary this year! The church was named after the island’s own namesake, a 4th-century bishop whose feast day is November 11. When Christopher Columbus “discovered” Saint Martin on November 11, 1493, he named the island in honor of Saint Martin’s feat day. Naturally, the island’s  first Catholic church was also named after this saint.

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The Boardwalk holds many lovely surprises, like the reggae band we found and the little open-air restaurant where we stopped for icees.

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Iced drinks are the perfect refreshment on a warm February day in the tropics.

 

 

For many, the Sint Maarten experience stops here, on the edge of the aquamarine bay with a beach chair and a bottle of Heineken. But there’s so much more to downtown than just the boardwalk! Take a quick stroll down any one of the alleys leading to Front Street, and you’ll enter a whole new layer of the tourism district.

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Front Street is a wonderful place to shop if you’re not into paying sales tax and don’t mind dropping a good bit of cash of fancy goods. It’s also a good place to get a snack from local street cart vendors.

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Apparently, it’s also the perfect street for walking your pet iguana.

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The man who photobombed this picture was a pretty good salesperson. He caught our attention by jumping into this shot, and then managed to convince us to sample his wares. The face cream was nice, but neither of us were willing to pay $120 for it!

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The Sint Maarten courthouse is the most recognizable building on the island. It’s even featured on the country’s flag. It was built in 1793 and still serves as the courthouse.

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Front street is also home to a beautiful Methodist church. We stopped to take a look inside. This building was the first Methodist church on Sint Maarten. It was built in 1851, about century after the Methodist denomination was introduced to the West Indies by Nathaniel Green.

Beyond Front Street is (you guessed it) Back Street. There are many paths to Back Street, but my favorite is Old Street.

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Old Street isn’t really that much different from the rest of downtown, but it does have a certain charm about it. Maybe it’s the 50’s-era car permanently parked in the middle of the walkway, maybe it’s the big blue castle at the end of the street.

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My personal favorite place on Old Street is the art gallery. The family who owns it came here recently from Holland. The wife creates beautiful and unique art for her gallery and teaches art classes on the weekends. Her husband has a windsurf business at Le Galion Bay. His most recent work of art, he told me, is a crayon drawing of Winnie-The-Pooh.

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Back Street is for the locals. The prices here are significantly lower than those on Front Street, and you can find anything from Nike shoes to a washing machine in the stores. The look of Back Street is unique– huge stores sell appliances, old Dutch homes buzz with modern life, and local art covers the walls.

Cannegieter Street, or Third Street, as some people call it, comes next. Every day that a cruise ship docks at the port, Philipsburg Market is open. Dozens of vendors sell their goods along both sides of the road. Shoppers can buy all kinds of islandy things here. The crocheted cover-ups are my favorite.

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Pondfill Road comes last. This street is part of the main road that travels the perimeter of the island. Pondfill also runs along the Salt Pond, where slaves used to harvest salt for their masters. Salt slavery on Sint Maarten began in the 17th century. In 1848, slavery was abolished on the French side of the island, and subsequently Dutch slaves began to escape across the border for their freedom. Because of this, Dutch slave masters released their slaves and began to pay them wages for their work in 1848, although it would be 15 years before emancipation was officially legislated. There is now a monument to the salt slaves in the center of the round-a-bout on Pondfill Road. I took the picture below on Sint Maarten’s Day, when paraders marched down Pondfill dressed as salt pickers.

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As you can see, downtown Philipsburg is more than a place to tan or shop. It is the center of Sint Maarten’s history. There is so much to do and see here, but you have to go beyond the tourist district to see it all! Wherever you are, get out and go exploring. Happy adventures!

 

Some photos courtesy of Alyssa Fry. Visit her blog at ColorMeYellow.net

 

 

 

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Foodie Tuesdays: Paleo Pumpkin Bread

Do you love healthy and delicious desserts? Of course you do! Today’s recipe is from Anna Bradley’s blog, Sunny Side Ups. Anna’s husband, Nate, was my admissions advisor way back when I was entering undergrad. Recently, the Bradleys adopted a sweet 3-year-old boy from Uganda! Anna’s blog is filled with delicious recipes and their adoption journey.

You can find the paleo pumpkin bread recipe here!

Paleo Pumpkin Bread | sunnysideups.org
Image from SunnySideUps.Org

A Day with the Coast Guard

One of the most important jobs in the Caribbean is that of the Coast Guard. These brave men and women are ultimately responsible for the safety and security of the islands. They are often an unseen presence, but Ben, Stacey, Turner and I had a chance to meet them up close during an event this week.

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Protecting Caribbean waters is an international effort. There are four primary countries that protect Saint Martin: Netherlands/ St. Maarten, France, Great Britain, and the United States. We had a chance to explore a boat from each of these nations and talk to the crew.

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This is the Poema, a Dutch ship outfitted to stay at sea for two weeks at a time. We thought the gun at the front of the ship was pretty snazzy. Not something you’d want to have pointed at you!

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I never realized how many knobs and buttons it takes to drive a military vessel. The more I learn about the military, the more I respect and appreciate them. You can see one of the ship’s officers through the window, giving a tour and answering questions.

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Jay and Sandy gave the Poema additional cool points just by stepping on board. Sandy is a classmate of Ben’s at American University of the Caribbean. We stopped to say hey before making our way to the next vessel.

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The biggest boat I’ve ever driven is a canoe. I was happy to sit in the driver’s seat of this police boat, but I’m glad I don’t have to actually steer it.

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After leaving the friendly Nederlanders, we boarded a small floating piece of home.

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We approved of the name.

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As much as I love being an expat, there was something wonderful about seeing the flag of the good old USA. I didn’t realize how much I miss seeing the Stars and Stripes until I stopped for a moment to watch it flutter in the Caribbean breeze.

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Here’s Captain Stacey, ready to embark on the Reef Shark.

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It was nice to stop and talk with some of the American Coast Guard. Expats, no matter their situation, are always eager to talk with someone from the home country. We compared overseas experiences, talked about where we’d been born, and discusses what’s best and worst about the change in location. Suddenly, Arizona and Georgia and Michigan didn’t seem to very far away from each other.

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Turner enjoyed the maps in each boat. Some of them were extremely detailed.

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I had to smile at this quirky hula girl on the dash. She’s a little out of place for a ship stationed in Puerto Rico, but I appreciated the touch of humor in this room of gadgets and gizmos.

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I attempted to quickly attune my ear to French accents after the familiar U.S. drawl of the American officers. The Sualouiga is a fairly large boat, with a massive engine and a larger crew than the vessels we previously toured. What struck me most about the tour was the number of back-up safety features that our guide pointed out to us. Nobody is going to die on this boat!

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Ben admired the wood interior of the control room. He especially liked the classic wheel.

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I wish I could remember how many horsepower this engine has. The boat had two of them, in addition to a couple of large generators. To put the size in perspective, the engine came up to my shoulder. I would have liked to stay longer and look closer, but the engine room was hot and stuffy. We moved on.

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Our next stop was a Sint Maartin rescue boat. It’s a little orange boat suited for choppy seas and quick returns. Everyone on board was relaxing with cool drinks on the hot afternoon, so we took a quick look around, thanked them, and went back to the pier.

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We watched the patrol boats perform crazy maneuvers in the bay.

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What’s a military fair without camo face paint?

We tried shouldering the 100-pound packs the Coast Guard wear to train in. Thy bulletproof vest was heavy enough for me, but Ben and Turner could join the Coast Guard if they wanted to!

Since guns are illegal on the Dutch side of the island, this is the first time any of us have held a firearm in months. They were unloaded, of course.IMG_2183

Our final stop was a huge Dutch ship. We had to wait a bit to go on board, since the commanding officer was preparing to walk down the gangway. It was cool to see the show of military order and respect that accompanied this event.

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The gun at the front of this ship was gigantic. We’ve come a long way since cannons!

 

Ben especially appreciated this helicopter on the ship’s landing pad.

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It’s good to know that our security is in good hands. I’ve always had a lot of respect for US military, but now I have a high regard for Dutch, French, and British military as well. Experiencing the work of international military alliances firsthand is something I’ll always remember. I hope they come together to do this event again next year! It was definitely one of my favorite things that we’ve done on the island so far. Where else can you freely tour and photograph military vessels from four different nations?

Dreams of Tomorrow

I believe that every bad quality can become something positive. Stubborn people know how to stand their ground. Argumentative people make great lawyers. Messy kids grow up to be creative adults.

I always thought I was discontent. My parents gave me the opportunity to travel the United States (the plan is to visit every state before we die; I still have ten to go). Every time we went somewhere, I’d leave begging my dad from the back seat, “Can’t we just move here? Why can’t we live here? Wouldn’t it be cool to live by Such and Such National Park? Wouldn’t it be cool to get RAIN sometimes? The baseball team here is so much better than the Diamondbacks! Can we move here? Why not?” There was nothing wrong with living in Phoenix. I had a great house and a great community. I just wanted something… different. I thought I was ridiculously discontent, and I probably was. It was something I had to pray about and work through. But maybe the root of my interest in moving somewhere else wasn’t really a contentment problem. Maybe the root of it all was my wanderlust, and I just didn’t know how to productively channel it yet.

I still feel that wanderlust. I still feel restless and look forward to going somewhere new. According to my college psychology textbooks, I’m going to outgrow it in about five years. Despite what the experts say, I doubt that it will ever leave me. I’ve tasted the expat life, and I don’t know if I can ever go back and put down roots. Even here, on the tropical island of Saint Martin, I feel a restlessness. I want to peek behind the curtain and find out what comes next. I want to sell stuff, pack, and move again. I want to discover someplace new.

Some of my most breathtaking moments are sunsets after surfing. I like to paddle out away from the waves, sit on my board, and watch the golden highlights play over the azure surface of the water. I love to watch the blue sky turn slowly cotton-candy pink, reflecting in pastel colors on the waves. Yesterday, as I watched the sun set behind the hills of the island, I couldn’t help but realize how lucky I am to be able to experience such a moment. I felt like God was painting a watercolor masterpiece just for me. How many times will I surf at sunset over our two years here? Fifty, maybe? A hundred? I wonder what it will be like to say goodbye to these tropical evenings.

Do you want to know the truth? I’m OK with knowing that this won’t last for the rest of my life. I’m OK knowing that I’ll have to sell my board in a few months. I don’t mind that I probably will never live on an island again. I’m OK with a limited number of ocean sunsets. I can’t imagine a more wonderful place to live than Saint Martin, and I love being here. But there’s so much more out there to discover. I want to spend as many days as possible watching the sun set over the waves while I live here, but I also want to watch it set over the buildings of Prague someday. I want to stargaze from the bottom of the Grand Canyon. I want to reach the top of Kilimanjaro. I want to ride a train in Toronto with my friends and a whole passel of Little League boys. I want to go to a K-Pop concert, a Sydney opera, and a Broadway show. I want to snorkel the Great Barrier Reef.

In a year and a half, Ben’s medical school basic science classes will end and we’ll move again, this time for his clinical rotations. According to those who have gone before, we have virtually zero control over where we go, and we won’t know where we’re going until it’s almost time to leave. We could be moving states every month or so for two years. You know what? I think I’m OK with that. I might even be looking forward to it. There’s so much to experience in this great big world of ours, and I’m ready to take it on.

Goodies from Secnarf’s Place

Today on Foodie Tuesdays, we are going to meet a local food wizard and learn to make sweet potato pudding.

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Meet Frances! Born and raised on St. Kitts, Frances moved to Saint Martin 30 years ago with her husband, who relocated for work. She can work wonders in the kitchen. I met Francis at a local event, where she was selling delicious meat patties, pies, puddings, and cakes.  She calls her business “Secnarf’s Place,” and you can find her at almost any public trade show or market event.

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As you can see, Frances loves to cook. Before she retired, she worked in a store nearby. Now, she spends a lot of her time in the kitchen, baking for her family or preparing for an event. She told me that she stayed up all night to make fresh-baked goodies for her booth. She doesn’t mind the work, though, because she loves what she does. “I like to use my hands,” she says, “It’s like a work of art.”

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Frances’ culinary skills aren’t limited to the oven. She also makes her own all-natural fruit and vegetable juices. All she adds is a little bit of sugar for flavor, if it’s not quite sweet enough. Passion fruit is her best seller. “It’s so much better than what you can buy in the stores,” she says. No preservatives, no shipping. Just natural goodness!

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I asked Frances what her favorite food is. She thought for a moment before answering, “Sweet potato pudding.” The pudding is actually what sparked Frances’ interest in cooking. When she was a girl, her mother would make sweet potato pudding every year as a special Christmas dessert. As she got older, Frances would help. The rest is history.

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Here is how you can make sweet potato pudding, as described on Jamaican Caribbean Favorites. You can visit their site to learn how to make many more awesome Caribbean dishes!

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Sweet Potato Pudding:

Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs sweet potato, grated
  • 4 green bananas, grated
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup grated coconut trash
  • 4 cups coconut milk
  • 3 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp mixed spice
  • salt to taste
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • raisins
  • rum to taste
  • 2 oz melted butter
  • Greased 9 inch pan

Directions:

  1. Mix grated potato, banana, coconut trash, raisins, flour and baking powder.
  2. Combine coconut milk, vanilla, sugar, butter, rum, salt, nutmeg and mixed spice.
  3. Add milk mixture into potato mixture and batter until smooth.
  4. Pour mixture into greased tin and let sit for 30 – 45 minutes.
  5. Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
  6. Serve hot or cold.

A Woman’s Heartbeat

Never before have I been brought to tears by a drum solo. I am brought to tears by newborn babies, adoption stories, and my sister’s piano pieces. Never by the banging of drums. But this day was different, and this drummer was different.

It was the kind of day where time slips away silently and unnoticed. I was at Sint Maarten’s annual Art in the Park trade show, surrounded by art and some of my favorite people. As at every public event, Youmay Dormoy brought his New Generation Drum Band to perform and collect donations for operating costs.  Cool, I like drums as much as anyone, and I was excited to see it. The kids and youth marched forward in their colorful, traditional island garb. Little shoulders supported big white drums, older boys placed expert fingers on trumpet keys; I even caught a glimpse of a musical conch shell in someone’s hand.

The drumming was great, all of it. It really was amazing to see twenty musicians keep themselves in step and in rhythm. I enjoyed it and took some photos. But nothing struck an emotional chord in me, until one young woman came forward to solo on the bass drum.

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There was something about her poise, her confidence, her posture that made me stop to stare. There was something about the resonating boom of her bass drum that complemented perfectly the delicacy of her lace hem. She was a picture of feminine strength and beauty. I felt tears well up behind my eyelashes.

Is it sunscreen in my eyes, I wondered? No, it was this woman, this living embodiment of beauty and strength. In the twenty seconds of spotlight she had, she became an icon to me.

If we are honest, every women wants to be strong and beautiful. In the deepest cores of our feminine hearts, we want to awe the world with deep strength and captivating beauty. It is innate in our souls.

I wonder how often we unknowingly bring others to tears with a show of the strong and beautiful. I wonder how many times we unconsciously step into our twenty seconds to play to the beat of our hearts. I wonder how many of us walk through life believing we are nothing, yet capturing the eyes of others with a life of inspiring womanhood.

Don’t despair, beautiful friend. You are strong. You are beautiful. You were created that way, and you will show the world in your way, in your time.

 

 

Trash, the Island, and My Latest Article

What’s the worst thing about an island community? The eco-conscious among us would likely say sustainability problems. Image it: we have over 75,000 people on a 37 square-mile rock in the middle of the ocean. Where is all that nasty groundwater run-off going to go? Where is all the trash going to land?

Now, before you check out of what you think is going to be yet another Greenpeace-style soapbox rant, consider the delicacy of our microscopic ecosystem and the impact that you can make on it. Even if you don’t live in the Caribbean, you may want to visit some day for a vacation (Do it! It’s beautiful here). You may be surprised to find out that visitors have a gigantic impact on the appearance of sustainability of the island.

How? Find out in the article I authored for Seven Seas Magazine. The article’s title is “The Other Side of the Island” and it is on page 30. Let me know what you think! Do you have any other ideas for how tourists can contribute to a healthy ecosystem?

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Art in the Park and Canada!

We’re bound for Canada! But first, we’re participating in Art in the Park right here at home. One of my favorite memories of my childhood hometown is Art in the Park. Flagstaff, Arizona held it this festival annually on the lawn of the library. It’s something I missed when we moved to Phoenix. Now that we live in Sint Maarten, Art in the Park is back on the agenda!

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Some of my paintings that will be for sale at Art in the Park 

The best of SXM Art in the Park for me is that I get to be a part of a booth this time. If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you know that I volunteer with a local Little League team that incorporates academics into its daily program. This summer, we all get to take a trip to Canada to watch the Blue Jays play! The Rotary Club is sponsoring the trip, but of course we are teaching the boys responsibility by having them fund-raise as well.

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The kids have been working on their merchandise for a long time. Coach Tom and his wife, Lisa, came up with some great ideas. The team has a rock tumbler, and they’ve polished a couple hundred rocks over the last few months. We’ll put magnets on these and sell them for a few dollars. The kids are also making lanterns with a Canadian maple leaf on the front. I’ll be contributing some of my paintings to the fundraiser, as well.

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K. shows off one of her favorite rocks

Here’s how we made the rock magnets:

  1. The kids ran around the baseball field, gathering various little rocks.

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2. The first week, Tom tumbled the rocks with some abrasive. They came out clean, but still pretty rough. The kids washed all the gritty gray liquid off and Tom added new abrasive.

3. The second week and third weeks, the rocks were tumbled again.

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A. found an amethyst!

4. The fourth week was the last week of tumbling. This kids washed them off and shined them. We put a little lacquer on them to make them even prettier.

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5. Finally, we glued the magnets on the back. They’re ready to add some natural beauty to your fridge!

The older boys worked with volunteers to drill holes in coffee cans for the lanterns. Then everyone had a chance to paint the leaves Canada red.

Stacey and I are working on an informational display for the festival, too. All the kids and volunteers traced their hands on the background.

If you’re on Saint Martin, come visit us this Sunday (February 14) at Emilio Wilson Park in Cul de Sac between 10 and 4:30! Just head to Philipsburg, take the round-a-bout north instead of heading east to Cost-U-Less, and look for the park on your left a little past the baseball field. Let’s send these kids to Canada!

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One of our boys and Fred, a real, live Canadian! Also, note volunteer Andrea’s enthusiasm in the background. We have fun here.

 

 

 

Thanks to Stacey and Tom for providing the pictures for this post!

The Haunting of La Belle Creole

They have forgotten us. We have faded from memory, like our flesh faded from our bones centuries ago. Yet we are here, invisible yet seeing, inaudible yet hearing, intangible yet sensing. Our spirits laugh with the lapping waves. We cry with the soaring birds. We moan with the wind. And we rage with the storms.

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There was a time when warm blood flowed through our bodies and warm flesh wrapped our bones. We walked on the shore then, cooling our feet in the ancient and everlasting waters. We ran under the tropical sun from shore to shore. Our children dove from the cliffs—how different they looked then!—into the clear waters of the reef. We tasted the sweet meat of the crab and danced in the firelight to the rhythm of the tide.

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Then they came—the strange men with strange words and strange clothing. They were harsh and resolute, and we hated them. They brought with them their vicious dogs, their explosives, and their lust. We grew weak, and our children died with raging heat in their bodies. Our women and men died with boils and scars. We wailed as our loved ones died, and we buried them with broken hearts near the sacred islet. I died, and I lay in the chill earth, away from the warm sunlight.

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They left, and came again, this time with their cannons and ships and slaves. They had already forgotten us, and they walked on our graves. I heard their footsteps on the ground above. They dragged their cannons over our graves and shattered our silence with their wars. They annihilated our peace with the crack of whips on human flesh.

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They left, and others took their place. Generations lived and died. We slept in peace for a hundred years, with only the occasional wanderer to stir us.

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They came. Their machines roared, rattling our bones. They dug over our resting places, and built great structures over our graves. I felt the pressure of a great tower over my body. We groaned under the weight. Many people came from the whole world over, and trod on our sacred tombs. We moaned, but our cries were lost in the wind. Our bloodless beings saw the blush of the new bride. Our bleached bones saw the sun-kissed skin of the happy travelers. We remembered what we had been, and what we had lost. And we remembered that we were forgotten.

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Our moans whirled as wind around the whitewashed walls that had become a monument to our destruction. Our screams filled the air, and our souls ripped from our broken bones. We broke through the sandy earth, through the cracking concrete to the surface. We felt again the humidity of the air. We knew again the roar of the sea. Our tears of rage and loss poured from the heavens, and the rush of our agony ripped through the trees. We stirred the elements and raged from sea to sea, screaming our anger through the darkening sky. We saw them pour from buildings and take flight from our island home. We saw them take cover in every nook and cranny. We saw that they were afraid, and we took our vengeance.

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We tore through the quaint buildings, tearing with invisible claws at the rich furnishings of each room. The sound of shattering glass was lost in the volume of our screams. We threw the books, the paintings, the decorations out of the windows and doors. We destroyed their world, just as they had destroyed ours.

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We satiated our lust for vengeance, and we regarded the havoc we had wreaked. Shredded curtains floated in the gentle breeze. Glass and splinters carpeted the earth. Not a living soul was to be seen.

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Only dead ones.

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We could not return to our graves. We could not penetrate the earth again. So we haunted the empty rooms, weeping in silence. We could not return the decayed flesh to our bodies or our island home to our children. We could only swear to defend the site of our sacred graves to the end of time.

 

These eerie photos are were taken in the ruins of La Belle Creole, a resort that was deserted after it was heavily damaged when Saint Martin was struck by Hurricane Luis in 1995. Local superstition states that the resort was built over an ancient Arawak grave site, which is why no modern building projects have been successful on the peninsula. Of course, I don’t believe in haunting spirits or jinxes, but I found the legend interesting and the ruins creepy enough to warrant a paranormal telling of La Belle Creole’s story. 

Papa Dan’s Pizza, Behind the Scenes

This is a special installment of Foodie Tuesdays! Today we are going to visit one of Sint Maarten’s best restaurants, Papa Dan’s. Come with me to discover delicious pizza flavors and the elements of business on an island.

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Papa Dan’s is located near American University of the Caribbean, between Tung Yuen Market and the coffee shop. It has been operating for nearly a decade, and has become an important part of the local community. The restaurant is hugely popular with students; at any given time, one can see AUC students walking briskly to class or study group with a pizza box in hand. It’s little wonder that the shop attracts so much local business. The surrounding neighborhood is constantly filled with the aroma of baking pizza, and once you try a Papa Dan pizza, you’re hooked. Why? Because there’s a lot more to Dan’s pizza than just pepperoni.

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I arrive at Papa Dan’s on this warm tropical morning, camera in hand. Dan Passerieu greets me at the back door and gives me a quick tour of his little kitchen. Cooled boxes of fresh toppings line one wall: cheese, veggies, meat, and tomato sauce for the traditional and barbecue sauce, jalapenos, pesto, and honey for the adventurous.

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The first thing you will notice when you visit Papa Dan’s is that the menu is no ordinary menu. Dan shows me the lists of pizzas and explains where some of the unique combinations came from.

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Student’s Special, a combination of mozzarella, Gorgonzola, pepperoni and honey, was the first special he created. Dan tells me about the history behind this pizza. Before Dan lived on Saint Martin, he ran a restaurant in Paris. He first came to Sint Maarten to visit a friend of his, who was a student at AUC. Dan fell in love with the island, and decided to stay.  His friend was a regular visitor of the shop, and always ordered the same thing- pepperoni. Finally, Dan insisted that he had to try something else, and concocted Student’s Special for his friend. Before long, Dan was getting constant requests for this pizza, so onto the menu it went.

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There are actually three other pizzas inspired by students. Dan named these pizzas after regulars from the school who ordered the same combination of toppings every day. If you visit Papa Dan’s, be creative with your toppings and tell your friends to order the same; who knows, your creation might end up on the menu!

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My personal favorite is Sugarmama, a combination of Gorgonzola, mozzarella, goat cheese, and honey. I would never have thought to put honey on a pizza, but it’s a surprisingly delicious addition.

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Making specialty pizzas on Sint Maarten is not all culinary art and creativity. Running a restaurant on an island poses special challenges. Dan’s current problem is a late shipment of mushrooms. Because everything has to be imported from the U.S. or Europe, he explains, you can’t always get what you need as soon as you want it. If a shipment is delayed, there’s nothing you can do. That’s the island life.

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I watch as Dan creates a pizza. First, he prepares fist-sized lumps of dough.

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Next, he runs the dough through a rolling machine.

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He tosses the circle of dough in the air.

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Next, Dan smooths a spoonful of sauce on the pizza.

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Finally, he adds cheese and toppings. This pizza is pepperoni. Dan’s favorite combo is mozzarella, mushroom, spinach, Gorgonzola, garlic, and honey.

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He places it in the oven. The warm scent of baking dough fills the little kitchen.

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Hot pizza, ready to eat!

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Before I leave the kitchen, Dan slides a hot pizza from the oven into a box and hands it to me. The distinctive scent of warm goat cheese floats up from the box. I smile, looking forward to the sweet-and-salty Sugarmama ambrosia that awaits me.

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