Tag Archives: Saint Marten

Terrestrial Fauna on Sint Maarten

The Island of Sint Maarten is home to many exotic plants and animals. From the coconut palms, to the brilliant fish,  to the dozens of lizard varieties, to the flowers, Sint Maarten/Saint Martin’s wildlife is one if its biggest tourist attractions.

The iguanas are by far my favorite Sint Maarten land animal. They are brilliantly colored, they are gigantic, and they let you get pretty close to them in some areas of the island. They also run comically and it’s entertaining to watch them scurry away and leap into the nearest body of water if they become frightened. I wish I could take one home to the U.S.as a pet when we leave!
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This snail was moseying around our apartment one night when I caught it on camera. I would have caught it in a different way if I had realized what it was. This is one of the Caribbean’s most viciously destructive invasive species: the giant African land snail. It is wreaking havoc on our islands and causing concern among environmentalists. Quite an impressive feat for such a slow-moving animal!

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Pardon the fuzzy image below. I think this is a mud crab. He was pretty skittish, so I couldn’t get as good a look at him as I would have liked. This critter’s body was a good six inches long! I found him on the driveway into a friend’s apartment complex. He was intimidating enough to cause uneasiness in one of the residents, who was hesitant to try to get past the crab on his way home.

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What I found on my front porch was a little more exciting and definitely less awesome. This centipede was about four inches long. I started screeching when I saw it, and it scurried away, trying to find refuge in our neighbor’s apartment. I wonder what our neighbor thought about the racket outside as I hollered at Ben to get the bleach and kill it, and then danced around shrieking when the dying centipede writhed and wiggled much too close to my feet! And yet I still thought it was worth it to get close enough to take a photo.

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As long as I am talking about land animals, I certainly cannot neglect to mention the cows. This cow blocked traffic for a few minutes on our way back from Philipsburg one day. We don’t have any cows on the western arm of the island, but up the hills there are quite a few of them.

Cow SXM Philipsburg

These are just a few of the animals living on the island of Sint Maarten. Hopefully, my camera and I will find some more animals to share with you later!

Until then… keep smiling!

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Caribbean Cooking: French Onion Soup (On a Budget)

I love St. Maarten for many reasons– one of them is that “France” is right next door! We get the language, the culture, and the food– oh, and is the food delicious! Of course, you can’t have French food without French onion soup, so I decided to make some at home. This is my budget version of French onion soup.

Step One: Gather ingredients.

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-Two medium onions

-1/4 cup margarine or butter

-Salt, pepper, and parsley (Thyme would be better, though)

-1 1/2 cups of water

-Chicken or beef bouillon to make 4 cups broth

– 3/4 cup white wine

-2 teaspoons of flour

-Cheese

-Bread Bowls

Step one: Slice onions thinly, top to bottom. If you need to have a good cry, this is a great time to do it. You’ll be weeping buckets by the end of this step anyway.

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Step 2: Melt butter in a pan, add herbs, and stir in onions.

Step 3: Stir onions frequently until they are a deep golden brown.

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Optional Step: Become distracted and forget to stir the onions. Burn the bottom layer, scoop the rest into a new pan, and do your best to remove the smell of burned onions from your home.

Step 4: Add flour and stir.

Step 5: Add wine and stir.

I have no idea what kind of wine is best for this, but I chose Lazo Chardonnay because it was cheap and I liked the shape of the bottle.

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Step 6: Add 4 cups of broth, the water, and half a teaspoon of pepper. Turn down to simmer for half an hour and stir occasionally.

Preheat the oven to about 100* C. All you need the oven to do is melt the cheese on top of the soup.

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Step seven: Pour soup into bread bowls.

I baked my own bread bowls from scratch. Because I have that kind of time in my life right now. If you have kids, a regular job, school, whatever, by all means save yourself some sanity and buy them from the store.

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Step 8: Generously sprinkle cheese on the soup. I bought a mozzarella and provolone mix, but to be authentic and fancy, you should use Gruyere and Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Step 9: Put the soup in the oven until the cheese melts. Or don’t.

I put the soup and bowls in the oven to get that melty-cheese deliciousness, but it might be better to do this when the soup is served in actual bowls. Leaving the soup in the bread bowls so long before serving made them a little soggy. But if you like that, go for it!

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Step 10: Serve and enjoy. Yum!

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Adapted from an Epicurious recipe

Sint Maarten, The Netherlands, and Holland (Explained)

As many of you know, I am currently living in a Dutch island in the Caribbean called Sint Maarten. Some of you may be geographically befuddled about what exactly “Dutch” means and what country my island belongs to. Never fear, you’re not alone. Actually, until I watched this video about a year ago, I had no idea that Holland is not actually a country. If you don’t know the relationship between Sint Maarten, Saint Marten, Saint-Marten, the Netherlands, and Holland, this entertaining video will clear things up! Have fun.

Holland, the Netherlands, and the Dutch Caribbean

Liked that one? Here are a few more to widen your understanding of the world.

The United Kingdom (And a Whole Lot More) Explained

The American Empire

Where is Scandinavia?

How Many Countries are There?

Worst Shopping Trip Ever

It’s funny now, but it wasn’t funny when I was in the middle of it. Our first full day in Sint Maarten did not include the beach, fresh seafood, or any of the things you probably thought I’d do as soon as possible. Instead, we spent pretty much the whole day on biggest shopping fail I’ve ever experienced.
One of the blessings of living in or complex is a little Chinese general store just a quick stroll down the hill. It has most of the things we needed to buy, including cups, canned food, and even plates (they say “love apple” on them, whatever that means, but hey, they’re plates). It also has a lot of things we don’t need, but were very entertained by– plastic cups with anime bears, and a set of tiny drawers with the same badly-translated Chinese poem on every drawer.
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We bought some of the things we needed, but we had heard that a discount store in Philipsburg, the capitol city, was having a killer closing sale. We didn’t know how to get there, so we asked our complex’s maintenance man where the bus station is. He offered to give us a ride to Maho, where buses leave more frequently. We gladly accepted his kind offer, and he actually drove us all the way to Philipsburg, so our bus ride to the end was short. Our first stop was Cost U Less, where things might cost you less on the island but definitely cost more than in the States. Let’s just say we won’t be buying cereal here. We bought a few things and moved on to the store with the sale, Save A Lot, and found decent prices for many of the things on our shopping list– sheets, comforters, couch cover, curtains, knives and block, pillows, doormat, etc. The selection wasn’t so great, but at least we got things we needed and liked.
Or so we thought.
We took a taxi home, because no bus would be able to take us and our bulky bags. We finally made it home, and began to unpack.
Our first problem was that the curtains I chose did not fit on the rod in our bedroom. The second problem was that they looked ridiculous in the living room. We despaired of our curtains and moved on to the bedding. We slept on my wrap-around skirts last night and used clothing-stuffed bags for our pillows, so you can imaging how happy we were to have sheets. One problem: they did not fit. The sheets said that they were for a full bed, but they were about a foot too short! We bought three sets, sadly. This also meant that the blanket we bought did not fit. The door mat didn’t work either– every time the door opens, it sweeps the mat to the side.
At this point I was feeling pretty discouraged. I flopped down on our half-sheeted bed and stared dejectedly at the ceiling. Ben walked in, carrying the box that held our new knife set. “Are you OK?” He asked. I said that I was frustrated because everything we made the trip for we couldn’t use. “It’s going to be OK,” he said, as he opened the box. He slid out the knife block  and, lo and behold, no knives. Just an empty block and the cutting board that came with it. We stared at it and I wasn’t sure whether to laugh or cry. Ben shook his head and burst out laughing. I laughed, too. Sometimes, you just have to have a sense of humor.
We ended up using the bedspread as curtains, the top sheets as fitted sheets, and the doormat as a rug in the kitchen. We went shopping again today and found sheets that actually fit. I don’t really know what to do with an empty knife block or those silly curtains, but sometimes you just have to take things with a shrug and laugh a little. As Ben says, stuff like this comes with being a foreigner. You just have to make mistakes and learn. You just have to let those annoying things that are different from “home” roll off your back. It won’t always be easy to laugh at the things life throws at me, but at least I’m learning.
View from our apartment
View from our apartment