Tag Archives: AUC

Saying Goodbye, Caribbean Style

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American University of the Caribbean knows how to say goodbye in style. Dr. Testa, the senior associate dean, is moving on to a new place and a new position. So, the school threw him a tropical party for the staff and students to enjoy!

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The funniest part of the celebration was the Dean Testa bobble-heads that faculty members auctioned off. The best part was the yummy food. There were so many things to taste! Fruit juice, ice cream from Carousel, fresh fruit, coconuts… yes please!

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One of the tables was made to look like a traditional Caribbean dress, complete with someone wearing it.

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We managed to get one of the last coconuts from the coconut man.

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To top it off, a local youth drumming group came and played a few songs. It doesn’t get better than tropical fruit and steel drums! Happy trails, Dr. Testa.

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Holi on the Beach

It’s like a color run with food instead of running!

  
  Photo source: Vikasacharya

Holi is an ancient Hindu festival that celebrates the advent of spring. It occurs each year around the spring equinox.

The legend behind Holi is the story of a prince who is rescued by Lord Krishna from his arrogant and evil father. The king’s wicked sister tries to burn the prince, but she ends up being consumed instead. As the story goes, people put the ashes from the fire on their heads. 

Today, Holi is celebrated with a party in which participants throw colored powder on each other, eat special food, and drink. Hindus as well as non-Hindus participate in Asia and around the world.

  
Celebrating Holi Sint Maartin-style means a party of on the beach, of course! The South Asian Medical Student Association at AUC hosted Holi at Mullet Bay. After the colored powder ran out, everyone played a game of beach volleyball. According to some of the participants, the colors did not wash off in the ocean. I’m looking forward to seeing whether shampoo takes it out or if some of the med school students will have tie-dyed heads for a while.

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!

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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Making the Dean’s List

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Med school is a beast. Last semester, Ben spent ten to twelve hours daily on medical school activities: lecture, studying, practice problems, tests. He worked hard, and it paid off. He finished the semester with a 93% average, honoring all his classes.

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American University of the Caribbean recognizes its honor students each semester with a ceremony and dinner reception. It was awesome to watch my smart, handsome man walk across the stage and receive his Dean’s List certificate!

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A few other awards and honors were recognized during the ceremony. One of these is the community engagement award. Ben G. (not my Ben) and Kyle M. received this award for their work with the SXM Little League Player Development Program, the tutoring and baseball program I volunteer with. One of the faculty members read a speech written by each of them. Hopefully, a few other AUC students had their interest piqued at the ceremony and will start volunteering with us, now that Kyle and his wife, Andrea, are leaving the island.

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After the ceremony and my enthusiastic admiration of Ben’s certificate, we headed to the student lounge for some free food and conversation. I was impressed to see prestigious faculty helping to serve the food. That shows what kind of community we enjoy here at American University of the Caribbean.

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Hopefully, we’ll be here again at this time next semester! Please keep Ben in your prayers as he works hard toward his goal of becoming a medical missionary and hospital founder in East Africa.

This is the Life!

Island jeep, surfboards, tropical French countryside. This is the Caribbean life, and we love living it.

Most days are filled with studying for my husband, Ben and his friend Matt. They work hard at medical school, and were both selected as teacher’s assistants in Anatomy for good grades. Their life mainly consists of flashcards, lectures, and tests. But there are days, the best days, when they have a free afternoon.

This is one of those days. As we usually do when Ben and Matt have a break, we wax down our surfboards and get ready to ride the waves.

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We’re rolling down the road with the Caribbean trade winds tousling our hair. Matt’s new (make that old– really, really old) jeep is topless, and I’m amazed to realize how much more I notice without walls and windows to restrict my view of the sights around me. I’m feeling a little squished in the back seat with the surfboards taking up most of the space, but there’s no way to feel claustrophobic in this open jeep. I cling to the side for dear life and lean out of the car a little, enjoying the breeze and the floral scents around me. I jump back a little as a motorcyclist, breaking the world record for the longest wheelie ever held, goes zipping by us on the center line.

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I look behind me, where the wall of foaming water is raging toward me. I feel a little vulnerable way out here in the middle of the water on my board, but my nervousness turns to adrenaline as I face front and paddle like a maniac. I feel the foam first, hear the roar of energized water, and then I’m shooting forward like a rocket. I gather my wits and push myself up to my feet. I balance myself and smile. The reef below me seems to rush below my board. The wave slows suddenly, and the board drops away beneath my feet. I’m plunged into the warm tropical waters below, and I come up coughing and gasping and ready for more.

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I’m in the back seat of the jeep again. It’s a terrifying yet exhilarating experience, sitting in this little island car with no seat belt and barely any seat, for that matter. But I love it. Up the road we go– people, houses, and animals seem to fly by. Ben and Matt joke that driving here is like a video game; you have to dodge the pedestrians, potholes, cars and animals that jump out in front of you at every turn. I watch as the scenery around us changes. We go through the hills, where the goats and cows chew lazily, watching the flurry of human activity on the road. We go past little houses, painted powder blue and pink with neat, white trim. We zip through Grand Case, where women in bright dresses and men with dreads chat in French on the porches of stores and cafes. We crawl through the traffic of Marigot, inching past quaint 19th-century storefronts. Ahead, we’ll pass the oceanfront neighborhoods of the rich and famous.

I bite into the heavenly sweetness of a peach brioche. Stopping at Seraphina’s, our favorite French patisserie, is a surf day tradition for the three of us. Ben and Matt opted for chocolate twists, their usual favorite. We watch the boats on Marigot’s docks bob up and down in the water. In the distance, Anguilla’s long coastline hides the horizon, where the sun will soon set on our afternoon of freedom.

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Med School Block Week

Well, it’s here again.

Block week is the week before blocks, which are a set of important tests that happen four times per semester at American University of the Caribbean. It’s the time when many pizzas are consumed, many blank stares are met with, and many Netflix shows are ignored.

I am always glad to not be a student during block week, but I admit that it’s a little rough on the spouses, too, especially the first time around. I last semester, when we were experiencing our very first block week ever, I wasn’t sure I was going to survive. I can’t go to sleep unless Ben is there, so I stayed up late every night waiting for him to get home. There was a night he never came back from the study rooms, and I finally fell asleep at 2:00 AM. Those of you who know me well will understand what a struggle it was to go to bed that late! Now, I’m more used to it and it’s a lot less stressful to Ben. It’s just a part of life.

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But block week isn’t all bad– at least for us spouses! One thing we all look forward to is bake sale. During the weekend before block, the AUC spouses organization holds a bake sale in the main building of campus to feed hungry students and spend time with each other. We sell nachos, drinks, and desserts to make money for our group activities. Last semester, we made enough for us to go to the zoo, do craft nights, and spend a day at an all-inclusive resort.

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Bake sale is great because we get to meet and encourage hundreds of students. I love talking to them as they pass through the line. Another great thing about bake sale is eating the dregs of the chocolate frosting out of the container with a spatula and not being judged. And of course, getting free nachos is always awesome. But the best part is spending time with friends and making new ones!

Tropical Thanksgiving

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Happy Thanksgiving weekend from the Johnsons! This was my first Thanksgiving outside the United States. Here’s how we celebrated it, expat-style.

Since Thanksgiving is strictly a U.S. holiday, nobody on Sint Maarten got the day off work or school. We weren’t too bothered by this; two of Ben’s classes have ended, so he only had to be at school for three hours. We spent the extra two hours in the morning catching some waves at the beach.

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Waves at Mullet Bay

 

Usually, we run in a Turkey Trot (Thanksgiving 5K) on Thanksgiving morning. I have to admit that I felt a little guilty for not running on our family’s annual race day! Between my  bad knees, the humidity, and the lack of Thanksgiving festivities, though, I was definitely happy to “settle” for boogie boarding to earn my extra Thanksgiving dinner calories.

Another tradition that I missed was the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Instead of that, I watched Phineas and Ferb in Spanish while Ben was in lab. Maybe I’ll be able to catch some parade clips on YouTube later.

The one traditional thing that I definitely did for Thanksgiving was cook! It was a little lonely to be in the kitchen by myself– usually, my mom, dad, sister, and I all work together to make Thanksgiving dinner. This year, we went to a Thanksgiving potluck with our church group, AUC’s Christian Medical and Dental Association. I made bread rolls and pumpkin pie. I didn’t have a pie pan, so Ben put a sign next to my casserole-dish pie that said ” πr2 .” I don’t know if anyone got it, but we thought it was funny.

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Pumpkin Spice Latte Pie

 

Since there were three other people also making pumpkin pie (Thanksgiving calls for a LOT of pie, people!), I decided to make pumpkin spiced latte pie with chocolate swirls. You’re welcome, Starbucks lovers!

Check back Tuesday for the chocolate pumpkin spiced latte pie recipe on my new weekly segment, Foodie Tuesdays!

I actually got to enjoy three Thanksgiving dinners! It would have been four, but I missed the one put on my the AUC spouses organization because we rented a car that day and needed to get all our shopping done.

The first Thanksgiving dinner I had was the Saturday before Thanksgiving. My friend Stacy invited us to share in their holiday celebrations with their visiting family. She and her future mother-in-law made a delicious, home-cooked, Southern-style feast!

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Thanksgiving Lunch at AUC

 

The second Thanksgiving meal I had was at lunch on Thanksgiving Day. American University of the Caribbean doesn’t give students the day off school, but they do give a free lunch with turkey, potatoes and all the traditional fixings!

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Thanksgiving Potluck with CMDA

 

The last Thanksgiving feast we had was the potluck with CMDA. There were about 30 people there– friends, neighbors, classmates, and people we’ve never seen before. There was a row of tables filled with aromatic dishes, and more dessert than anyone could handle. Yum! CMDA president Blake carved the turkey, Ben carved the ham, we said a prayer of thanks, and then we all sat down to enjoy the meal and the beautiful ocean view from the porch.

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I was thrilled to see these little guys at the potluck.

 

When we got home later, we Skyped my parents. Even though we missed them, my sister,who was in Wyoming for the holiday, and Ben’s family who are in various parts of the world, it was good to be able to talk to family and share a part of day with them, even if we could not share a meal.

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Ben carving up the ham

 

What an amazing sunset. What a great day. We have so much to be thankful for: food, friends, family, video chat and email, the kids and coaches on the baseball team, our island paradise, school, church, and so much more… most of all, the saving grace of God. He is so good to us, and has blessed us more than we could ever imagine.

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Catch a Wave and You’re Sitting on Top of the World

Normally, getting my face slammed into gritty sand and then dragged for a few feet isn’t my idea of fun. But sometimes, the pain is worth the ride.

I think that’s how life is.

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You see a big wall of water coming at you, and you feel your heart leap into your mouth. You can choose to duck your head and swim under the wave….

…or you can put yourself right in front of the wave for the chance to be lifted high and ride, exhilarated to the shore.

And then you’re so pumped you go do it again.

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Isn’t that why we do the hard things we do? We do them because they give us a sense of purpose, they make us stronger, they diminish our fears, and they make life a ride worth living. What would life be if every time we found an opportunity, we just ducked our heads and swam under it? We’d never make a difference in the world. We’d never follow God’s purpose for our lives. Sure, if we avoided the wave, we’d never have them drag us under and smash us into the ground, but then we’d never learn how to get back up and keep going. And we’d never find what it’s like to (as the Beach Boys put it) catch a wave and sit on top of the world!

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That’s why Neil Armstrong went to the moon. That’s why Martin Luther took a stand for Biblical truth. That’s why Irena Sendler smuggled 2,500 Jewish babies out of harm’s way. That’s why Harriet Tubman risked everything to work the underground railroad. That’s why we’re going to medical school and living on this tiny little island in the middle of the ocean.

We have to take those opportunities, we have to follow our calling. We have to ride those waves to get where we need to be. Otherwise, we’re just floating in the ocean.

What’s your wave?

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Community Action Day at American University of the Caribbean

What do you get when you combine packed buses, hundreds of purple t-shirts, smiling faces, and a giant rain storm? No, not the first day of your third-grade church camp– but good guess. You get American University of the Caribbean’s 2015 Community Action Day!

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An AUC Student Tutors in Reading

I love organized service projects. Our undergrad university put on a day of outreach each spring, and all the students got a day off classes to do yard work for the elderly, paint over graffiti, etc. I was happy to find out that AUC does essentially the same thing, although a day off school is not an option here. The event organizers offered about two dozen different CAD activities, and students and campus groups could sign up for whatever they choose. Ben and I decided to go help with the Little League Player Development Program, since I already volunteer with this organization.

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Coach Tom Shows Us the Science Room

We met our group at AUC and took a bus over to the baseball field. Not too many kids had arrived before us, so Coach Tom gave us a tour of the team’s clubhouse. The clubhouse is a wonderful place. It’s made up of three shipping containers– one filled with science stuff, one dedicated to reading, and one full of exercise equipment. Every week day and Saturday, the kids come to the clubhouse for tutoring and baseball practice. Coach Tom and his wife, Lisa, along with whoever shows up to volunteer, help the kids with math and reading. This kids are rewarded with baseball cards and time to play with toy trains and the science projects.

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Ben and His Classmates Tutor Kids

About 25 kids showed up on Saturday, and all the volunteers sat down with a child or two to help with reading. As they finished, kids and AUC students moved to the field to practice baseball.

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A Beautiful Day for Baseball

In the Caribbean, storms rise up out of nowhere and drench the earth with driving rain. It’s rainy season now, so it was not really a surprise when the heavens opened and poured the waters of all the seven seas upon us! We all congregated under tarps and into the containers to wait out the rain.

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Even AUC Professors get Involved

When the rain let up a little bit, Lisa drove Ben and I next door to the local university, where the Migratory Bird Festival was being held. She went back for a few kids at a time when the weather finally cleared. We colored some pictures of birds, learned about their feeding habits, and adopted a Gaiac tree to raise. Since Sint Maarten has been in a drought this year, there was an exhibit on drought and how it affects the birds–ironically, it was partially damaged by the rain and had to be moved inside!

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Raising and Planting A Gaiac Tree Helps the Ecosystem Thrive
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One of the Kids Discovers Pond Life

At noon, we walked the kids back to the baseball field. Most of the other volunteers were playing catch with the kids. We said goodbye to everyone from the team and piled into the bus to head back to Cupecoy. It had been a great morning.

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Most photos courtesy of Tom and Lisa Burnett