#dSavannahDefects – U is for…

My theme this year for the #AtoZchallenge is #dSavannahDefects, aka “What’s it’s like dealing with #InvisibleIllnesses”. Or, in short, {some of} what’s wrong with me.


U… United States Virgin Islands

Today, we are defecting to the United States Virgin Islands. (And sorry. I don’t have a fun giveaway to go with this one.)

Some of you may know that I lived on St. Thomas, the most populated of the U.S. Virgin Islands, as a child, from when I was 9.5 til I was 12*. Most of the thoughts here are from my memories of the place, and I’ve filled in a bit from google as needed.

map_topographical_StThomas

The island is very small – only 13 miles long and 3 miles wide, a rumpled bit of land. You can pretty much see the ocean from everywhere, and the ocean continues to inform my dreams and pump my blood. I still vividly see what the ocean looked like as I lay on my top bunk and gazed down into a hidden beach, what I now know is called Fortuna Bay.

For the first 2.5 years, our family lived on the west side of the island. Even islanders didn’t go there – I remember people laughing when we told them where we lived and saying we lived on Puerto Rico. (Which we actually did, the year I was 13.)

Our house was the final one at the bottom of a winding, dirt road, tho we had a concrete pad for parking. On the right side, the hill went up and up, and it went down and down to the ocean on the left side. Just trees and animals – lizards, iguanas, cats, mongoose, birds…

We had a car – a red Chevy Nova – and would drive into the main town – Charlotte Amalie – to check our mail at the post office and buy groceries. One day, my mother accidentally rear-ended a car in front of her. The only damage sustained was the woman in the hit vehicle had spilled her drink all over herself. I remember us laughing about it. The Nova’s front bumper stuck up like a fat lip after that.

I had a small “garden” that I cultivated and played in; it was situated to the left of the concrete pad. Unfortunately, it was lost to a hurricane. Fortunately, my father had moved our vehicle prior to the storm, and a huge rock had fallen down the mountain and hit exactly where the car had been sitting!

Part of my stamp collection. Yes, the book really is that thick... I've stuffed it full! Book is © 1980. If you have any stamps laying around that you don't want, send 'em to me!

Part of my stamp collection. Yes, the book really is that thick… I’ve stuffed it full! Book is © 1980. If you have any stamps laying around that you don’t want, send ‘em to me!

After the rains stopped, I remember going out and playing in the puddles and the streams. They rushed down the driveway, creating ruts and exposing rocks.

Although the hurricane (whose name I’m not sure of) caused some damage, the water from the rain was very welcomed – we didn’t have water service; we collected rainwater in a cistern and used that for our drinking and bathing and cooking water. Later, the cistern dried up, and we had to pay for a truck to deliver water to us. I have no idea how much it cost, but I’m sure it was rather stressful.

Since we lived on a less-populated portion of the island, I was free to roam all over. I climbed trees, picked and ate mangoes and tamarinds and cherries, grew my “garden”, went to the nearby library, and of course, read. I also attempted to learn how to ride a bike, but it didn’t quite stick.

In 1981, Princess Diana got married. Even though we didn’t have a TV, we still managed to see the wedding – it was a big deal!

The last year, we lived on the east side of the island. That side was more built-up. I remember when the main store had a fire, and everything that survived was marked down. That’s where I got my first diary, a small red book with a key (I still have the book, but have lost the key), and my stamp collecting book (which I also still have; photo above).

I got my first pair of glasses when we lived on St. Thomas. I remember the awe of seeing individual leaves on trees as we drove away from picking them up. (And no, I won’t share a photo of them; they are hideously huge.)

At the time, St. Thomas was predominantly populated by blacks – about 99%. As a white child, I was definitely in the minority. Although English is the official language, residents of St. Thomas have their own patois, a combination of English, Creole, and Spanish, with a smattering of Dutch thrown in, as well as language influenced by what the African slaves spoke. My father was quite proud that I spoke it fluently. Of course, I can’t remember it now, but occasionally I’ll be reminded of a phrase that is uniquely from that area.

The history of the islands is pretty interesting – until 1917, they were under Danish rule, but the British occupied the islands in the early 1800s, and before that, the islands were owned by the French. And the name “Virgin Islands” came from Christopher Columbus, who named them that, supposedly for their beauty. Blackbeard the Pirate supposedly spent some time there.

The United States purchased St. Thomas, St. John, and St. Croix in 1917 for their military value. Interestingly enough, I don’t believe there was ever a US military installation there, and the Charlotte Amalie harbor wasn’t big enough for ships. But U.S. Navy ships would anchor out in the bay, and the sailors would come into town on U-boats. Once, we were even able to ride a U-boat out to a ship to tour it. There’s a picture somewhere of me on a ladder, looking into a navy fighter plane.

I have wanted to go back to visit St. Thomas since I left, but I’ve never quite managed it. Someday…

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

*My parents were missionaries.

More ramblings / other posts you might want to read...

dSavannah

About dSavannah

~ #disabled #spoonie fighting numerous, chronic, painful #InvisibleIllnesses ~ also #wife #feminist #ally #advocate #papyrophiliac #DogCatTurtleWrangler
This entry was posted in #AtoZchallenge2016, #dSavannahDefects, childhood, family, memory. Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to #dSavannahDefects – U is for…

  1. Elaine LeDoux says:

    How fascinating! I never knew! The fabric of your life is quite colorful…some bright, some dark.

  2. What beautiful memories! Now I want to visit there, too!

    @mirymom1 from
    Balancing Act

  3. Joy says:

    What an awesome childhood you must have had!

    Joy @ The Joyous Living

  4. Betsy says:

    Thanks for the info and childhood stories.

Whatcha think? Tell me, tell me!