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Things to Do in Saint Martin with Kids

There is so much to do in Saint Martin/Sint Maarten! Go beyond the beaches and explore some of SXM’s kid-friendly activities. Discover ruins, fly through a rain forest, or feel the whisper of a butterfly’s wings. Make your time on Saint Martin the best family vacation ever!

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The Zoo may not be as large or as varied as animal parks in big cities, but it is the perfect size to see with kids in an afternoon. Learn about endemic animals as well as exotic species.

How to get there: Drive to Pond Road in Philipsburg and go north on the Saltpicker’s Roundabout. Turn left at the end of Pond Island and follow the signs.

Cost: $10 for adults and $5 for children

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The Butterfly Farm is a magical place for kids. Walk through a butterfly enclosure and let the papillons softly land on you. Learn about different types of butterflies and moths.

How to get there: Drive toward Galion Beach on the east side of the island. Take the turnoff to Galion Beach, and the farm is on your right.

Cost: $14 for adults, $7 for children

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Loterie Farm has something for everyone. Located on the grounds of an old sugar plantation, this site is loaded with both history and modern outdoor entertainment. You can take the nature hike, relax by the state-of-the-art pool, or try one of the three zip lines: the kids’ Tarzan zip line, the ropes course zip line, or (for the very adventurous), the extreme course. Keep an eye out– you may see the resident vervet monkeys! The park is closed on Mondays.

How to get there: Go north from Marigot and turn left at the “Pic Paradis” sign. The park is on your right.

Cost: 5 Euros for the hike, 25 Euros for the kids’ zip line, 45 Euros and 65 Euros for the medium and extreme zip lines. Pool chair a towel is 25 Euros up, and is required for pool entrance. The park takes US dollars as well.

Buffalo Wild Wings has a fun kids’ area at the Blue Mall in Cupecoy. I haven’t been there personally, but I hear that it’s a favorite with the expat kids.

How to get there: Blue Mall is located west of Maho in near Cupecoy Beach.

Cost: Price of food

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Seaside Nature Park is a little slice of farmland heaven. You can ride horses on the beach, play on the playground, or feed the animals at the petting zoo. The park also has a playground and a trampoline!

How to get there: From Maho, go through Simpson Bay to Cole BayTurn right just before Daily Extra Supermarket, and take a left at the end of the road (From Philipsburg, turn left when you come down the hill to Cole Bay Go through the one-way street, turn left, and then go right before Daily Extra Supermarket). You have to drive through the GEBE power plant, which seems odd, but you are going the right way!

Cost: $60 for a an hour trail ride on the horses. Petting zoo is $5 per adult and $3 per child. Bags of feed are $1 each.

Feeding the Donkey and Horses in French Cul-de-Sac is a great free activity to do on your way to the beach or Pinel Island.

How to get there: From Marigot, go north until you find the round-a-bout toward Pinel Island in French Cul-de-Sac. Turn left at the school and then follow the road past the school and up the hill to the donkeys and horses.

Cost: Free!

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Carousel is our favorite ice cream store. Not only does this place offer delicious ice cream and cotton candy, it also has a full-sized carousel in the back!

How to get there: Located in Simpson Bay

Cost: $3+ for ice cream. Carousel ride is free with purchase on Wednesdays.

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Sonesta Kids Zone is a great place to drop off your kids while you relax at the pool. The awesome staff will take care of your kids with games, movies, and fun while you get a break.

How to get there: In Maho. you can’t miss it.

Cost: In order to visit the Kid’s Zone, you have to either stay at Sonesta or purchase an all-inclusive day pass, which is about $90/person for adults.

The Movie Theater is perfect for those days when your beach plans got rained out. Tickets are actually cheaper than most U.S. theaters.

How to get there: Located in Simpson Bay

Cost: $7

Free Outdoor Movie on Mondays at Porto Cupecoy is a fun way to end the day. Just be sure to check the exact time, as they often change it, and ask ahead of time for the title and rating of the movie. Sometimes it’s a family movie, and other times it’s an adult movie. You can buy popcorn and ice cream at Rendezvous.

How to get there: Drive west from Maho and Cupecoy or south from Marigot.

Cost: Free!

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Free Kids’ Movie Night at Kim Sha Beach is a good Friday night activity. Adults can also enjoy the food and drink selection at Buccaneer Beach Bar.

How to get there: Coming from the airport, drive through Simpson Bay and turn right after Burger King. Park at Buccaneer Beach Bar.

Cost: Free!

Layla’s Restaurant and Play Ground is one of the few jungle gyms on the island. Enjoy the French Caribbean and let your little monkeys play the day away.

How to get there: Coming from Marigot, go southwest to the “handle” of the island. After Sandyground, you’ll see Layla’s on the right.

Cost: Price of food

Coconut Trees Go Karting is great for older kids and teens. Enjoy some healthy competition and adrenaline!

How to get there: Located in La Savane.

Cost: $15

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Feeding Fish in Simpson Bay Lagoon is always fun! You can feed the big tarpon from the Simpson Bay bridge, or you head over the north side of the Causeway and feed the fish by the sunken sailboat.

How to get there: The bridge is the best place, but you can go almost anywhere!

Cost: Free!

Aquamania Playstation is basically a floating playground! It’s a jungle gym on a boat. All the monkey bars, swings, and slides with none of the bruised and scraped knees.

How to get there: In Simpson Bay, park at the beach lot east of the bridge. Walk south on the beach to Aquamania on Kim Sha Beach.

Cost: $10 and up

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Port Marigot Fish Market and Farmer’s Market is lots of  fun for the whole family. The fish market is a good way to view sea creatures without getting wet. Take your kids around 8 or 9 in the morning to get the best peek at all the fish and lobsters. The open-air farmer’s market is open almost daily to greet visitors fresh off the boat. Find lovely local art, cheap souvenirs, and fresh produce. Oh, and don’t forget to get a fresh coconut with a straw from the coconut man!

How to get there: Located on the waterfront road in Marigot.

Cost: Free!

Fort Louis and Fort Amsterdam are two of Saint Martin’s oldest structures. Fort Louis is an easy hike up a few flight of stairs and offers a stunning view of the surrounding area. Fort Amsterdam is a short walk up a slope. In addition to having a beautiful ocean view, this fort is also the site of a pelican nesting ground. Be sure to keep an eye on your little ones– both forts have a steep drop.

How to get there: Fort Louis is located in Marigot. You can’t miss it. Park in town and walk up, or take the back road to park near the top of the hill. For Amsterdam is just southwest of Philipsburg. Approach Divi Little Bay Resort from Philipsburg (or use the Sonesta to make a u-turn if coming from Cole Bay) and make a left into Divi’s road. Park before the gate and let the guards know where you’re going. Walk to the far end of the resort until you hit the fort.

Cost: Free!

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Beaches are, of course, the most popular family activity on Saint Martin. The best beaches for kids are Friar’s Bay, Pinel Island, Simpson Bay Beach, Indigo Bay, and Galion Beach, Kim Sha Beach, Divi Little Bay Beach.

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Driving on the “Friendly” Island

I’m not sure if the crazy driving on Saint Martin contributes to the island’s nickname or if it totally destroys it.

To be honest, I don’t often miss the triple-lane freeways of Phoenix, although there are some days that I’d give anything to be flying at 70 miles per hour on an overpass. Saint Martin has one main single-lane road going all the way around the island. A wandering cow in Cole Bay can cause a man commuting from Philipsburg to be late for dinner. It doesn’t help that the driving culture is generally pretty reckless and spontaneous.

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Fortunately, you never really get over 40 mph on the entire island, so collisions usually aren’t too serious. And they do happen often! The ordeal of waiting a few hours for officials to show up and do paperwork is not worth it in most cases, so people usually dust themselves off and keep going. I’ve seen a motorcyclist collide at an intersection in front of me and go flying over the top of my hood, pick himself up, climb back on his bike, and zoom off on the center lane while the freshly-dented sports car rolled along on its way.

Standstill traffic is normal, too. I have literally put my car in park in the middle of the street, locked it, taken my dog on a short walk, and come back to my car just in time while waiting for the bridge in Simpson Bay to go down.

My drive today was particularly aggravating, so I switched my brain from “American time” to “island time” and sat back to enjoy the entertainment of the crazy roads.

First, I drove through a construction zone in Maho. Traffic on both sides of the road was at a complete standstill as two people traveling opposite directions had stopped to chat. One lady even got out of her car to walk up to the window of the other driver’s car! We all had to wait a couple minutes as they finished their conversation before we could continue on.

Next, I watched as someone in front of me became impatient with the slow traffic, pulled out into the opposite lane, and drove on the wrong side of the road until he could see the source of the jam and slide back into the right lane. I thought I was going to watch someone die of a head-on collision.

A bus driver stopped in the middle of traffic to pick up a woman who was waiting, but not at a bus stop.

After this, someone went halfway through a round-a-bout backwards to turn into a driveway rather than going all the way around.

Then, someone flashed me and zoomed in front of me so they could do a left-hand turn in front of me, although I was already halfway blocking the turn and nobody was behind me.

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Going up a hill, a group of bicyclists were holding up traffic as they slowly pedaled to the top.

At the bottom of the hill, a funeral procession had parked in one of the lanes, totally preventing traffic from going up the hill. A limousine was leading the caravan and has simply parked in front of the cemetery. People in suits were milling around the road as behind them, cars waited at least a quarter mile back. I wanted to roll down my window and suggest to the poor commuters to try a different route home, but I opted instead to turn down my Caribbean jams out of respect for the funeral and leave the drivers to their long wait.

Once in Philipsburg, a bus made an impossible turn through moving traffic as other drivers maneuvered around him. I waved to a little boy I know as he and his mom passed me on the road– walking.

People jumped out into the road to cross it and just assumed we’d all stop for them. And we do.

Everywhere I went, people slowed to wave and call out to each other, bus drivers greeted one another with a honk, and greetings flew from pedestrians to drivers and back.Sonesta Resort

Like I said, I’m not sure if this craziness proves that the island is friendly or if it proves that it’s not.

I’ve just decided to just stay as safe as possible and accept it for what it is. After all, I’m the foreigner here and I need to adapt. Even if that means driving five miles per hour, watching bikers fly past me on the center line, dodging goats, and smiling all the way!

 

 

Spring Break!

The best thing about being a teacher is being a grown-up and STILL getting spring break. I’m not in education anymore, but my friend Ally is, and she decided to spend her spring break on the island with me!

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Those of you who are also expats know just how wonderful it is to hear from friends back home. You also know that it’s a hundred times more wonderful to have them come visit you!

I spent the days she was here showing her all the best parts of the island. If you have a few days on the island and don’t know what activities to choose, these are the things to do.

We managed to hit seven of Saint Martin’s 37 beaches in four days:

Airplanes at Maho Beach, SXM’s best-known tourist attraction.

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We relaxed on Mullet Bay Beach.

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Indigo Bay Beach is beautiful. Kito wasn’t too sure about the waves.

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We decided to be ‘Mericans and get McDonald’s ice cream at Great Bay Beach in Philipsburg.

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Plum Bay Beach had impressive waves the day we went. We tried to get a Little Mermaid-style splash photo…

We also went to Kimsha beach and Long Beach for a few minutes, but didn’t stop to take photos.

Naturally, we had to take advantage of the clear water at Mullet Bay and go snorkeling.

We spent some time in both of the island’s capitols, too.

Philipsburg is the Dutch capitol. Jack Sparrow apparently lives there.

Marigot is the French capitol. We visited Roland Richardson’s art gallery, Fort Louis, an open-air market, and my favorite French bakery, Sarafina’s.

Stacey and I also took her to Fort Amsterdam and Pic Paradis, the highest point on the island.

Of course, the week went far too fast. But it left us with many new friend memories!

No matter how far away you move, some friendships will never feel the distance.

The Trainless Island

What do you do when you have twelve kids who love trains but have never seen a real one? You take them on a train ride, of course!

The island of Saint Martin doesn’t have a train, but the kids from Player Development SXM know a lot about them anyway. Each day, these boys and girls gather on the little league field to practice for baseball games and improve their academic skills. Many days, my friends and I join them to help with reading and math or coaching.

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When practice and homework is done, the kids run inside the repurposed shipping container that serves as their clubhouse to play with their favorite toy: the model train set.

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The kids are excited, because this summer, they get to ride a real train. In August, they’ll be packing their bags for the long trip to Toronto, where many dreams will come true. They get to watch a Blue Jays game, see Niagara falls, play against a Canadian little league team, and ride a real train for the first time. For their homework, some of the kids have written about their hopes for the upcoming adventure:

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For many of the kids, this will be their first time off the 37 square-mile island.

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Many of the kids dream of being a pro ball player, and this will be the first time they get to witness a major-league game.

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This is a really big deal for them.

The logo for the team is, of course, a train. Coach Tom asked me to design it for the team, and my friend Andrea made it into a t-shirt for the kids to wear during the trip.

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Like it? You can actually buy one for yourself, or send one to one of our kids! All the proceeds of the purchase also go toward the kids’ plane tickets. Make a difference for these kids. Click here!

 

Atlanta and the Importance of Art

Who are more important, engineers or artists? My answer: yes.

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There are few things as abysmally boring as being stuck in an airport layover in the early hours of the morning. For this reason, I am thankful for airport museums. Currently, I am sitting in the E terminal of the Atlanta airport, following a wonderful hour-long art excursion through each hall.

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Ceramic artwork by Sunkoo Yuh

The wandering visitor will find the Atlanta, Georgia airport a wealth of culture. My personal favorite display here is the Ceramix series, which is disbursed throughout the terminal.  Click on the photos below for information on each piece.

There is also a fascinating series on the African-American experience in Georgia. Some things cannot be explained in words; only in art.

I also found a variety of other art displays, ranging from flying vegetables created by (you guessed it) an Iowan artist to what appeared to be African tribal Jedi light sabers.

The presence of these displays reminded me of a children’s book I flipped through the other day. Frederick by Leo Lionni is about a little mouse who seems to do nothing important. While his friends gather food for the winter, he gathers sunshine and colors. Everyone thinks he’s a little crazy– until winter comes. Then, everyone is sad, hopeless and hungry. Leo gives everyone hope by sharing his sunshine and colors in vivid descriptions of summertime. The message behind the story is that art is important. It sometimes seems entirely impractical, but the reality is that our souls crave art and beauty. Without it, we shrivel up inside.

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“Dad of the Day Award” goes to the man teaching his four-year-old to appreciate art

 

Some of us are naturally gifted to solve math problems, and other of us can create fantastic worlds with a paintbrush. Some of us have the guts to save people from burning buildings, and others of us have the heart to coax forth music from ivory keys. “Let each man pass his days in that endeavor wherein his gift is greatest,” said Propertius. Even if that means inspiring others with giant mosaics made from business cards! This is exactly what John Salvest has done. His Atlanta display is a giant two-panel rendition of Propertius’ quote.

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Our culture tends to highly value the sciences. This is good and beneficial for our society, but we cannot forget to also value art. This morning, scientists give me the gift of flight. Artists give me the gift of joy. I thank God for both. Use your gifts, whatever they are!

 

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Fairy Tale Puppets

Flying Like Tarzan

I have always thought that being high above the ground is one of the most exhilarating feelings in the world. I was the kid who climbed up so high in the trees that the branches were almost too thin to hold me. One of my top bucket list items is to jump out of an airplane.

Naturally, when we found out that there is an epic zip-line on our island, I was excited to try it out! Both Ben and I had been waiting all semester for a chance to try it out. We finally went with my family when they came to visit over Christmas. IMG_2882

The scariest thing about the zipline is the amount of freedom you get. There’s a quick training at the beginning and people along the way to make sure you know what you’re doing, but you get to strap and unstrap your own harness to the  cables and go as fast as you want. In the U.S., they make you sign your life away and still have extra safety straps and all sorts of things to make sure you don’t stub your toe and sue them. Here, you can’t really sue anyone. So you get the extra freedom and less assurance of a pain-free experience.

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I’ll take the freedom any day.

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That’s one thing I love about Saint Martin: fewer guardrails. You can climb all over Fort Amsterdam and practically hang off the cliff, if you want to. They don’t care if you touch the 300-year-old walls and they assume you’ll be smart enough to not walk off the edge.

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It adds a little more adventure to life.

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Eight Things TCKs Want from Their Friends

Do you have a friend who grew up overseas in an expat family? Have you ever wondered how you can better connect with them? Often, Third Culture Kids can be difficult to get close to. They’ve had drastically different experiences than people who grew up in their home culture. They get asked the same questions a thousand times and have developed rote answers. They don’t expect most people to understand their perspective and experience, so they avoid the frustration and don’t often try to explain it. Instead of asking the same old questions, try this instead.

  1. Ask them about their life journey, not where they’re from. And be interested in the answer. Don’t ask where they’re from and expect a single answer. They don’t have an answer to this question! This week, someone asked this question to my husband, Ben, who is a TCK. His answer? “That’s a good question.” Ben will usually answer this question based on the person’s apparent interest level. To casual inquirers, he says “Phoenix,” which is where we lived in the U.S. To people he’ll see again, he usually tells them he grew up in Africa. To people who really seem interested, he will explain that he was born in Burundi, grew up in Tanzania, went to high school in Kenya, and lived in Phoenix for college.

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    Ben and his friends in Tanzania
  2. Ask thoughtful questions. I wonder how many times TCKs have been asked if they rode elephants to school. Or if they speak African. Or if they had a pet lion. Or if they know someone’s cousins friend’s sister, who lives somewhere on the same continent. Nothing will shut down a conversation like a thoughtless question. Instead, ask a meaningful question about the TCKs life abroad: Where did you go for family vacation? What was your favorite sport when you were a kid? What did you do in your free time?

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    Stevie at the source of the Nile
  3. Accept their life stories. When you’re sharing stories about childhood pets, and your TCK friend starts talking about the pet monkey or monitor lizard, just listen. Don’t make a snide remark about being shown up by your friend’s story. Don’t suggest that they’re bragging. They might be, but probably not. Remember that all they have are stories about cross-cultural life. While your normal was a suburban home, two cats, a dog, and a basketball hoop in the driveway, their normal was a cinder-block one-bedroom, a parrot and a herd of goats, and bilingual soccer games with a plastic-bag ball in the shadow of Mount Kilimanjaro.

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    Lizzie feeding a giraffe
  4. Be patient with cultural nuances. TCKs have grown up with a variety of cultural expectations, and although they’ve become adept at being cultural chameleons, they don’t always know exactly what expectation belongs where. That funny pronunciation, the way they use their fork, the avoidance of eye contact with the opposite sex, the different concept of time… all of that can be attributed to culture. Don’t make fun of it or act like it’s stupid. Roll with it. Or, if you feel it should be corrected and you’re in a position to do so, explain it with respect.

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    Zach on safari
  5. Make them your most trusted news source. TCKs get annoyed by Western media’s botched coverage of issues in their adopted countries. They get even more annoyed by people who trust the media more than their own experiences. Listen to your TCK friend explain the realities of their world, and believe them. You could never understand the issues better than they do simply by watching TV and reading a few articles.

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    Ruthie and a Burundian drum
  6. Let them teach you to think globally. Culture is so pervasive that we often fail to recognize our own cultural tendencies. Be open minded to the global perspective of your TCK friend. At times, he or she will challenge your Western attitudes, philosophies, and perspectives.

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    Crossing the river
  7. Recognize that they have deeper experiences than you do. Your TCK friend is likely multilingual, has lived in three or more cultures, and has seen things you’ve only ever heard of. Bilingualism means they can communicate with more people, and with a greater framework for thought. Multiculturalism means that they have a more well-rounded view of the world. More varied experiences means they’ve seen much of the world, experienced social studies in real life, and likely have gone through some sort of trauma that you cannot identify with.

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    Maiden voyage on Lake Tanganyika
  8. Be the friend that sticks around. TCKs are familiar with good-byes. They’re used to people coming in and out of their lives, and they certainly don’t believe you when you say you’ll stay in touch. People rarely do. Be the friend who follows through. Write letters. Ask how they’re doing. Set up Skype dates.
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    Ben’s zebra selfie

    Third culture kids, did I get it right? What else are you looking for in friendships?

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

 

 

 

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.