Recently, in honor of my island bestie who just had a baby, I threw a baby shower. Not something I’ve done in, oh I don’t know, 25+ years. But I love any reason for a party, and a cute, cuddly baby is a really good reason.
Thankfully, island baby showers are not much like the baby-honoring festivities I attended in my younger years back in Wisconsin. First, the Dutch don’t really seem to have the same concept of throwing parties to honor the impending birth of one’s child, at least not the Dutch women I know and love here. Second, even if they do, the idea of playing silly games that involve clothes pins or cloth diapers never crosses anyone’s mind. Thank the effin’ lord for that.
But throwing parties is one of the things at which I excel, especially parties that involve a swanky oceanfront villa (borrowed) and the chance to enjoy unlimited mimosas and a Bloody Mary bar. And while not every day in a typical Island Girl’s life is filled with infinity pools, prosecco, and uninterrupted girlfriend time, this particular Sunday was. And for that, I will be forever grateful. We really must do that more often. No baby required!
Besides the fantastic memories made, part of what happened that day involved a pool conversation among some very long-term (by island standards anyway) Island Girls. The subject of discussion? Peculiar things Island Girls say that anyone who doesn’t live on a rock (or spend considerable time here) will not likely understand.
This is not something the newly arrived utter very often. After all, those first few halcyon months are dedicated to doing just that…beach days! But after a few years of island life, the idea of spending the day covered in sticky sand and then transporting half the beach back home with you in your vehicle loses its appeal. Don’t even get me started on the havoc that salt water and relentless sunshine wreaks on your hair, especially if it is colored. Eek!
Unless there is a special reason to head to the beach (e.g. a party, kitesurfing, etc.), many island girls will be perfectly content to stay home and cool off in the far more refreshing – and less messy – environs of their own swimming pool. Or that of a friend. While keeping their hair dry (especially if they just washed it the night before).
See the rationale of #1.
Now, I know to my readers located in more northerly climates, this may sound totally and utterly ridiculous. I would have thought so, too – when I only vacationed here. After all, trading sub-zero winter weather for the balmy breezes in the Caribbean makes any pool water temperature feel divine. I know this from experience.
But once you live here (and have acclimated), you quickly realize there are times of the year when the swimming pool in your backyard is just too damn chilly for an enjoyable dip. This directly correlates to Caribbean winter which is also the rainy season. And since nobody I know pays to install a pool heater (see #4 below), we usually end up using our pools as decorative lawn ornaments between December and March. Especially if you have a really big pool.
Yes, this happens, too. Around September, when Caribbean summer really kicks in and the winds die down, all that glaring sunshine does one thing really well – it heats up your pool water to temperatures that are anything but invigorating. Especially when you have a small pool.
While you’d like nothing more than to escape the 95F temperatures with a refreshing dip in that sparking abyss of expense in your backyard, actually doing so leaves you feeling mildly like a poached egg. Not so nice. This is when we must force ourselves to deal with sand and salt water and head to the beach instead, despite our general protestations outlined above.
One of the shocks for most visitors to the islands is discovering a lack of hot water in homes and some hotels. The rationale on this rock is that the water pipes are buried just a few inches underground and the sun will do a fine job of heating up the water during the day. Hot water heaters use electricity, which is expensive, so why not let nature do its thing and save?
Sure, unless you need to shower at 6:00 AM. Ain’t no solar powered heat at that hour, my friends. And what about those overcast days? Or the rainy ones? You know, when the sun never peeks out? My first rental house here didn’t have a hot water heater, which made showering in the evening – after a late night at the beach – hit or miss. If I could be the first to shower that day, I usually had enough warmish water for a quick Navy shower. But if someone else beat me to it? Gah…the memories. The painful, chilly memories.
Most seasoned Island Girls will tell you that finding a rental with a hot water heater is non-negotiable. Unless you’re a fan of ice cold wake-up showers.
No doubt, if you reside someplace with four seasons (one being bleak, overcast winter) you are shaking your head at this one. Or thinking we’re all a bunch of spoiled brats down here. Or both. But let me explain.
When almost every single day is sunny and hot, it can be as monotonous as anything else that never, ever changes. After 162 consecutive days of 90F and blazing sun (especially on Bonaire where we don’t get much rain anyway), some mornings you just want to wake up to the rumble of thunder and a sky blanketed with gray clouds. And you want it to stay that way. All day. Now, to be clear, you don’t want this to happen for a lot of days in a row. Usually one or two is quite enough. Just to break things up a bit.
If you still aren’t convinced, then you definitely need to spend six months or so here. You, too, will be praying for cloudy weather. And rain.
Not so much a statement, but rather a question that one Island Girl usually asks another when the person being asked is sporting a deep, glowing tan. While visitors assume that all us Island Girls are perpetually bronzed goddesses, nothing could be further from the truth. The reality is that most Island Girls have full-time jobs (often in offices), leaving precious little time to devote to achieving a skin tone that goes beyond – maybe – one shade darker than our natural hue.
Additionally, after a few years of life in the tropics, the smart Island Girls usually refrain from too much UV exposure to ensure we don’t end up looking like leather handbags 10 or 20 years down the road. That’s not to say we don’t enjoy a little suntanning now and then. We do. But it is unusual to see us looking vacation-tanned. So much so that when one of us is sporting that particular shade, the rest are asking if they just got back from holiday someplace else tropical. (We are also wondering why we hadn’t already heard about such travels via the Coconut Telegraph.)
Usually, we use levels of tan to separate the vacationers from the resident Island Girls. Super tanned? You’re likely a holidaymaker.
Now, I am sure there were other funny utterances made in the pool that day, but honestly, the endless flow of prosecco makes it all a little hazy. As the good Island Girl experiences tend to do. Suffice it to say, we laughed a lot at the utter absurdity of how these things sound to an outsider. We know it can seem like we are a bunch of whiny, entitled women living the dream.
But let me assure you…gallons of daily boob sweat, perpetually frizzy hair, and a general feeling of being beaten down by island idiosyncrasies we will never understand say otherwise. We are just a bunch of average women, grateful for the opportunity to live here but also trying to find the funny in it all, too. That’s the only way to get through the hard days. And, trust me, there are hard days.
I want to give a huge shout out to my Island Girls who joined in the fun at the party, and then helped recall some of the funnier statements made that afternoon. You know who you are.
Cheers to more years of Island Girl fun. And more blog material.
Got questions? Want to know more about island life? Thinking about making a big life change (whether that includes an island or not)? I’d love to hear from you. Check out this post or send your thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org and let’s connect.