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To VG--part 2

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To VG--part 2

Postby Lex » Wed Mar 16, 2011 12:00 am

Here's the second part of the report on our trip in 2007. I hadn't re-read it for a few years.

This is the more subjective part of the report. Again, I intended to use this to digest the experience. That was when I was still on vacation and there was so much time for things like that. Now I'm just going to bang it out or it'll never get done. I basically like my life here, but I like being on vacation better.

We're back from our first time staying on VG. We liked it a lot. We've been going to St John since the mid-80s and were ready for a change. We've been talking about it for a while and my wife is pretty sick of hearing me whine about the changes on STJ. Too much development and popularity has changed STJ in ways that make it less of a good fit for us anymore. A lot has changed there and I find very little of the change to be improvement. We were hoping to find somewhere to go that had more of what we originally fell in love with on STJ and less of what I don't like. Once we thought of trying to retire there. The changes on STJ have made it more attractive to some people who wouldn't have cared for it in the mid-80s, but have also made it less appealing to some people who fell in love with it then. We've been to Kauai a couple of times and do love it, but seem to have Caribbean hearts or souls.

There's much to be said for returning again and again to a familiar and beloved place. It's very comfortable to know where everything is and how things work. Treasured memories are refreshed. But when the changes in ourselves and the changes in the place start to diverge too much, the return can start to evoke sadness for what's been lost. Nostalgia starts to weigh heavy. There's also something to be said for going to places we've never been. There is a bit of anxiety, but also an element of excitement and surprise. So we wanted to try a place in the Caribbean that’s fresh and new to us, where we don’t have a sense of history or nostalgia. A place where we can only see how it presently is--and not know how it was. We've met folks who were on STJ for the first time and were absolutely stoned on the beauty of it all. We wanted to be those folks again and not have the experience tempered by a degree of loss, by a remembrance of how it used to be. This is perhaps the mid-life crisis in our relationship with STJ. We have a still comfortable but no longer exciting marriage with the island. We think we miss the thrill of a new love affair. We'll probably get to STJ again sometime. It has a place in my heart always. And, of course, on our first trip to STJ, we met people who told us that we should have come 10 years sooner, before all the change started.

I really like VG. It's all good. We'd been there once before, briefly, on a day trip. I remembered it clearly and I've been looking at a lot of photos. I'm really entranced by the boulder/beach/ocean land/seascapes. Everything was even better than I had remembered it and imagined it, better than the pictures. Better than the pictures!!! This was a continuing theme on VG----actually seeing places that I'd seen in photos and finding them to be even more stunning than the photos had prepared me for. Too frequently the reverse is true. I kept photographing the same scene at Devils Bay or Spring Bay. My wife would point out that we already had plenty of photos of it, but I would point out that the light was different now. When I'm on vacation I'm going slow enough to notice. There's a shot of Spring Bay beach taken from over by the Crawl and another shot of the rocks to the left at Devils Bay that both left me awestruck the first time I saw the photos. It was a bit mindblowing to actually see these in their real live, 3D glory, sort of like stepping into a photo. The image in my mind matched the scene before me and there was a bit of a mental gasp. Sort of like the odd experience of seeing a celebrity in public. I've had the good fortune to have visited a number of beautiful places and really found VG stunning. The boulder beaches on the southern part of VG are a really rare and dramatic variety of beauty. And we had such magnificent weather.

I was hoping that snorkeling would be comparable to STJ and was pleased that it was. Much of the coral was in good shape and there was good variety of fish. Didn't see any turtles, which is always a special treat for me, but we did see some rays at Spring Bay. We bring our own masks and snorkels and were able to rent fins at Guavaberry. I always appreciate not having to deal with fins as luggage.

October is definitely low season. It suited us fine. I can't fathom how our experience would correspond to being there in peak season. I don't know if it would be so different that I wouldn't like it. We went at this time this year to celebrate a "milestone" birthday of my wife's. We usually stay out of the Caribbean between mid-August through November. There are enough other months when possible hurricanes aren't even going to be in the picture. But we may rethink those dates now that we've had a taste of low season. I like not having many people around. Some places were closed, but plenty were open. I still don't believe I'd consider going in September, but hurricane season is good as long as there's actually no hurricane slamming into the island that we're on or disrupting travel in that part of the Caribbean.

There were other tourists staying on the island, but not many. We enjoyed it because it really heightened the experience of being in the West Indies and being a guest and visitor in a different culture. STJ has become so Americanized that the West Indian population and culture is becoming less and less apparent and involved. The word "local" has a different meaning on STJ than it does on VG. Most businesses on VG are owned and run by West Indians. It seemed that the local population is still very much in control of their island. I read one trip report in which the writer speculated that because local people have maintained control, there is an absence of the tensions and resentments found between mainlanders and the local West Indian population on many islands. Part of what initially attracted me to the Caribbean was the opportunity to visit and experience a different culture and it seems that there's more opportunity for that on VG. It really felt like we were in the old Caribbean. Again, I don't know how different things might feel in March.

There is some development happening on VG, but it appears to still be fairly well under control. Some of the real estate regulations certainly contribute to it being kept in check. We headed up toward Mahoe but really weren't too interested, so turned around before very long. The road's kind of rough or we might have continued out of curiosity. We had a look at Little Dix and Leverick---lovely, but they weren't what we'd come for.

We did have a number of absolutely perfect moments. These are things that for me are the delight of a vacation. They show that I'm moving slow enough to be aware of where I am in the moment. They're generally small and subtle, rather than great dramatic moments with dolphins and double rainbows. First one was sitting out on the deck at Mad Dog after spending our first morning on the island climbing around the caves. Some reggae was playing, the day was clear and gorgeous. Sitting there with my wife, drinking my ginger beer, I was very happy and totally content and it struck me that I was in heaven. There was nothing that was missing, nothing that I would change. Nothing at attl. Nothing that I would add or take away. It was perfect. It wasn't like heaven, it was heaven. It was the kind of moment that I might recall when I’m very old and on my death bed. And the grace was that I recognized it when I was there in the moment, rather than after it had passed. And there would be any number of other such moments during our stay there. One actually did involve a rainbow, but most were small and seemed almost ordinary. Easy to miss if I'm not going slow.

I change when I'm in the islands. I'm at my best there. Not my most productive, but just at my best. And priorities shift. Before going, I posted the question of where could I watch the Red Sox in the ALCS. Turns out that there is a tv next to the office at Guavaberry. We decided to watch the game one night, but really didn't last too long. At home I like my sleep, but on VG I was up before sunrise, excited about the possibilities of the new day. I also fell asleep early and easily. So we started falling asleep by the third inning and gave up. More than not being able to stay awake, though, there was just something weird about sitting and watching a television while on vacation. And the game didn't have the same significance. It seemed to have to do with another reality. I brought my iPod and a small player. We used it out first night, then never seemed to remember it after that. Usually we don't watch tv or videos. I don't bring a laptop or find a computer so i can check in with the world. The cellphone stays in the luggage. By the second day i stop bringing my watch along. I do without all of these things that seem so essential when I'm home and I'm utterly content.

VG suited us well. It was really everything we'd hoped it would be and more. No sadness for what's changed and what's been lost. We're spared that there. Only great delight in how it is today.
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