Food Fairs and Chainsaws

You might think we spend all of our time here on St. John sunning ourselves on the beach and drowning in Painkillers. Sadly, not true. We do other stuff, too.

Last week was Carnival in St. Thomas and we decided to go check out the Food Fair. It’s a big deal. Government workers get the day off to go. No joke. And it’s just one day, so we jumped on the ferry last Wednesday to check it out and I’m so glad we did.

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Getting back and forth on the car ferry. It’s like our Geo Tracker is amphibious. Sort of.

Normally, I would be skeptical of such an event. I’ve been to things like this over and over, hoping for handmade peach ice-cream and Mrs. So-and-So’s Famous Fried Chicken- you know, like in all the books I read when I was a kid. Like, suddenly I’m going to just walk into the Charlotte’s Web State Fair. Not surprisingly, I’m almost always disappointed by generic funnel cakes, fried snickers bars and maybe some turkey legs from Costco sold by pseudo-professional vendors. (One notable exception is the Pony Swim in Chincoteague, VA where you can get stellar oyster fritters. Really. You should go.)

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Butter Conch Platter. So tasty. So much butter.

Anyway, the St. Thomas Food Fair was phenomenal. Packed with people. Tons of stands set up by church ladies, farmers, families, school groups and small vendors from throughout the Virgin Islands. It was very homespun and very solid. All the food was traditional and everything we had was fabulous. It definitely helped that people were very willing to advise us on which stand had the best whatever while standing in line. We got several excellent steers. It’s like a very frenzied, very caloric scavenger hunt where everyone was actually on the same team.

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Saltfish Pate

There were people selling johnnycakes, stew chicken, butter conch, whelks, and pates stuffed with shark, conch, saltfish, beef or veggies (pates here are like little fried hand pies with kind of a chewy crust. They are amazing.) There was a roti stand. There was tons of sweet stuff too, the usual suspects like coconut tarts and pineapple tarts but also stew cherries, gooseberry tarts, sugarcakes (which I think are pretty much just sugar), pumpkin fritters, and banana fritters. Of course there were Ital stands and tons of natural juices, drinks and tonics. There’s a guy in St. Croix who apparently sells kallaloo every Saturday in some square there, and he made the trip. It was delicious.  The whole thing was spectacular and I highly recommend checking it out if you’re ever in town for STT carnival.

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Chowing down on some seafood kallaloo.

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Lots of high tech signage.

On the way back to the car ferry, we stopped at Home Depot. Because it is a complete sacrilege to go to STT from STJ without going to Home Depot. Also, our internet, which used to be excellent, has been acting shady and we were told we needed to cut back some “bush” (trees), to give our antenna a straight shot to the tower. We were advised we’d need something called a pole saw for this…so we picked one up. Yeah, it turns out that a pole saw is quite literally a chainsaw on a 9′ pole. Did not see that coming. Anyway, now we have a pole saw. A really cheap one. It’s bananas.

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Thought wearing all my clothes at once would count as protective gear.

The chainsaw end is heavier than than you’d think and the pole is pretty flimsy so it just bounces all over the place. You’re supposed to secure it to yourself (according to the directions) with this super shoddy shoulder harness. Once I made it onto our very steep hill, that strap seemed like way more of a commitment than I wanted to make to a chainsaw so I took it off. It was so heavy and so unwieldy I ended up just kind of flailing around wildly in a sea of “catch and keep” which is an almost impenetrable thicket of thorns and prickers. I comforted myself by screaming “Help Me” and “I am not a landscaper” at regular intervals. You know, to relieve the tension. Complete miracle no one was injured.

But at least the internet is moderately better.

 

 

 

 

 

 

We’re Baaaaaaack!

So, yeah, it’s been a while. We’re back at home in St. John. We’ve been back for about 6 weeks. We put aside our dreams of an epic road trip this year, tucked Coachese into a storage space in Indianapolis and got the hell out of there. We’ve done a lot of harebrained stuff over the years, and most of the time it’s pretty much worked out. Not so much with Coachese. Not yet. Anyway, on the way home we spent a few more weeks in Florida, visiting family and gathering a bunch of stuff to take back with us to the Virgin Islands. This time the bulk of our luggage consisted of 175 lbs of bumper plates (weights) for our barbells. Not even kidding. We are fairly ridiculous.

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This is Frances. All suited up from our flight. At this point we’re in a car on a boat and we’re almost home. Wembley is in the back, drugged senseless.

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This is what happened when we finally got home.

Having abandoned our house in the tropics for the better part of a year, it should not be surprising to learn that we came home to quite a mess. This was enhanced by the fact that our house was a disaster even before we left. More on that here.
Now that we’re back we’re trying to make the house more livable and settle into our island routine. We’ve made some progress…cleaning, painting…finding, buying and installing some actual appliances (beat it, hot plate). We built a makeshift plywood kitchen counter that should be temporary but that I’m sure we’ll be stuck with for years to come. Also, more cleaning.

Somehow, while we were gone, our toilet broke. That was a pretty big drag for a while, as I’m sure you can imagine. The house came with this crazy, power-flush toilet which is apparently really water efficient but for which no one on island had any parts. So now we have a brand new toilet. Go us. Cross that one off the list. To give you a glimpse of our glamorous life in the tropics, here are a few of the things that are still on the list:

  • Figure out why our water tanks seem so empty. Like almost everyone here, we collect the rainwater from our roof to use in our house. For everything. There is no city water. So the rain falls on the roof, flows through our gutters and collects in these big tanks outside. Theoretically, unless there’d been a crazy drought, our tanks should be brimming with water because it’s been raining and we haven’t been using the water for a year, right? But when I bang on our tanks they seem mostly empty. I’m not a scientist, but I think somewhere, somehow, we have a problem.
  • Get the pool refilled. We drained it to deter squatters while we were away. Also, we switched to a saltwater system because buying chlorine and chemicals is horrible and I was always turning our pool green. Again, not a scientist. Apparently, we are missing a part from this new system and we need to buy either a mysterious part or a whole new salt system. Plus, we have to talk a water delivery guy into driving a tank truck up our road. Also we have to find the water delivery guy before we can talk to him. Here’s the thing, the pool is tiny and we never used it much (partly because it was always green and very scary) so it’s kind of tempting to just forget about it, but looking at an empty pool is way more depressing than you think it would be. Let’s hear it for first world problems.

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    Beautiful, no?

  • Get our driveway paved or at least graded. Our driveway is a little treacherous in the best of times. Last year, no shit, some tourists in an SUV mistook our driveway for the road and skidded down our hill and almost into our house, taking out a couple of trees in the process. They were fine, don’t worry. The best and weirdest part? It was actually a bride IN HER DRESS with all her bridesmaids on their way to her wedding. It was a very surreal morning. Anyway, the driveway is much worse now, so we really need to get on that. We know a guy who will help us with this but he has to get his ‘dozer back from the country. So…no idea.

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    This is a shot from when the Wedding Crashers crashed last year. That’s their car hanging perilously by a tree. Jennifer’s expression is completely unscripted.

  • We need to build a fence to keep the donkeys, goats, and deer out of the yard. They eat everything, they poop everywhere, and Wembley hates them. It looks like there used to be a fence around the property so I’m thinking this might not be a huge deal. I’ve been wrong before. In the meantime, we built a very ramshackle contraption out of pvc pipes and chicken wire to grow a few vegetables on our own. You know, so we don’t get scurvy. It was very flimsy so we spray painted it black. Now it looks sturdy. I think we’ve got a solid 7% chance that we’ll actually get to eat some of these things before the animals destroy them.
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    Flimsy.

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    Sturdy.

  • Replace the shack deck. We have a little rental cottage/shack and we actually have a lovely lady renting it as is, which is nice. She’s very brave. But it has a deck that is about to fall over and we are determined to replace it before we have to hide her body in the woods after she falls off and kills herself. The soil here is very rocky and I can only imagine what a pain in the ass grave-digging is. Plans are actually kind of underway for this project (the deck, not the grave). We’ve talked to people. We’ve tracked down a dumpster. We’re hopeful. This could be a win.

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    The dumpster is here!

  • Find a better place to sleep. Our house is super weird. It’s like a studio with a sleeping loft that you need a ladder to access and can’t really stand up in. So we don’t sleep up there. There’s a bedroom on the pool level, but you have to go outside to get down there and there’s this weird platform thing that’s built in and the space isn’t that usable. Like, for instance, you can’t actually fit a bed in there. So we just keep all of our freak show fitness stuff down there. Also, there’s no bathroom down there, so if you have to pee in the night you have to go outside, up the stairs and into the main house. It’s not horrible, it’s just not ideal. So we don’t sleep down there, either. We sleep on the pull-out couch in the living room. Which is next to the bathroom. Because we have priorities. We need to do something about this whole situation. Ideally, we’d like to build a little workout area with a shed, tucked somewhere out of the way. And add a bathroom downstairs. We live in hope.
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    This should be our bedroom. What? Doesn’t your bedroom look like this?                  CrossFit St. John Sweet Spice. Membership: 2

     

Probably you can tell this list is really more for us than for you. I’ve heard it’s good to make lists. Apparently it helps you be more productive. Fingers crossed on that one. In the meantime, we’ve been having a good time catching up with our neighbors, taking the pups around the island, getting used to driving on the left again, and making everything from scratch because the food situation here is pretty grim*. We remain amused at how beautiful and kind of ridiculous it is to live here.

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Sunday morning hike.

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Sunday morning water break at the ruins on the Leinster Trail.

*These are our attempts at preserving some West Indian limes in salt. Why? Scurvy. I am needlessly obsessed with scurvy. Also, we got a very cool cookbook from Jennifer’s Aunt Lynn (thanks, Lynn!) and they use a lot of preserved lemons, which are not available here so we’re doing limes.