Monday, July 21, 2014

Little Sammy

We found out today that Sammy, our old lady, has advanced oral cancer.  The vet hasn't given her much time.  I knew when we adopted her that she wouldn't be with us for a long time.  She was 16, and her kidneys were already in the beginning stages of kidney failure.  Still, I hoped.  It took her a very long time to warm up to us.  In March she started sleeping on our bed, and in the past few weeks she's started sleeping with us at night.

Sammy and Mittens never got along.  His playing felt like attacking to her, and in the past two weeks he's been vicious to her, trying to bite her and chasing her out of the bedroom.  I can only guess that he senses her declining health and is posturing for the top-cat position, but maybe I'm giving him too much credit.  Maybe he's just being hateful. They will be permanently separated now.

It's very sad to lose another cat.  Spooky has only been gone for two years.  But I know that this is the price we humans pay for sharing our lives with our four-legged friends.

Racing around

Even though I'm not as busy as last summer term, I'm having a difficult time carving out the time to post.  

On Saturday Mike ran a 10k on Belle Isle in downtown Detroit.  We had never been there, but it was beautiful! 

He finished at his fastest speed so far, and he was smiling as he crossed the finish line.  I'm not sure when his next race will be.  He's talking about doing a local 5k, but he hasn't decided.  

Right now we have no plans for next weekend, but who knows?

Monday, June 30, 2014

*poof* Free time is gone!

School has begun, and my free time will be dwindling to nothing soon.  I have to start working on my thesis, but it is difficult to commit to one idea.  I have several floating around in my head.  I know that I want to studying the Southern accent in Oklahoma, but specifically what I want to study is still unformulated.  I really want to nail it down this week.  Argh.  

Mike is doing a pretty good job preparing for the half marathon in September.  He's off on a short run tonight - only two miles - but he has a long one on Wednesday night - six miles.  Better him and me.  That's all I can say.

I bought a new lens to celebrate finishing Summer 1 with my sanity.  I will try to carve out time for fun. 

Friday, June 27, 2014

Thoughts on St. John

At last, we are home.  We had a good time on St. John, and the scenery is amazing there.  The locals repeatedly assured us that we would be back, but I think it's unlikely.  It's not because we didn't like it, but we rarely return to a place we've visited in the past.  There are a few exceptions - Boston, Yellowstone, and Glacier - but we like to explore new places and meet new people.  There are so many beautiful and fascinating places in the world.

I would like to throw out some tips for anyone wanting to travel to St. John though.  I wish we had known these things before going.

1) Rent a vehicle on St. John.
Unless you're content to sit on one beach for your entire trip or pay high taxi fares, you will want a car.  Snorkeling is great on the island, but you need a car to access different the beaches and sites.

If you visit, you will fly into St. Thomas so grab a cab to either Charlotte Amalie or Red Hook to the passenger ferry to Cruz Bay, St. John.  From Cruz Bay you can walk or take a taxi to a car rental on St. John.  This is considerably easier than renting a car on St. Thomas and taking the car ferry across.  That was very stressful for us.

2) Rent a jeep.
We rented a compact car.  On St. John you will be limited by the roads.  Many of the roads in the park are dirt, and they are impassible without a 4-wheel drive. 

3) Eat on the cheap in Coral Bay.
Coral Bay is definitely where more of the locals hang out.  Don't be offensive there because some of the locals are rough, but if you want to eat on the cheap, Coral Bay Caribbean Oasis is fantastic.  The owner is from North Carolina, and she mixes Caribbean and Southern cuisine.  It's amazing and only $9 a plate.  Before we knew about Coral Bay, we went to expensive Cruz Bay.  Don't waste your money.

Just some common sense advice:

1) Don't leave anything in your car.
Just like any other tourist trap (Hawaii, Florida, NYC), if you leave something in your car, it will be stolen.  Be smart.  Don't leave anything you care about seeing again in your car.  A beach towel?  Fine.  Your camera or passport?  Super-bad idea.

2) Be very polite and understanding of the culture.
Some of the locals don't like tourists.  They tolerate us because it's how they survive, but they don't like us.  Try to understand their point of view.  Also, they speak a different language (as a linguist, I say a different language but some people call it a different dialect of English).  They speak Virgin Islands Creole.  Don't imitate it.  It's offensive.  The language is different, and the culture is different.  They don't get in a hurry.  They drive on the left, like in the U.K., and they don't follow the same laws.  Oh, they have the same laws, but some of the locals are exempt from them.  Case in point, we were snorkeling in Maho Bay when a motor boat drove through the swimmers, and a man started screaming at a woman to get into the boat.  A by-stander tried to assist her and went to call the park service.  His words were, "I live here; I can do what I want."  We talked to some locals about it later, and they said it's true.  The tourists are held to a higher standard than the locals.

It's a very different world than the one we live in.  I wish I had known.  I would have been more cautious.  Nothing bad happened to us at all, but it would have been nice to know.

Poverty has racked so much of the Caribbean, and many places are dependent upon tourism for their survival.  While most people are gracious and kind, some people are bitter and angry.  This trip was eye-opening for me.  For me seeing $6M houses up the mountainside and barred windows in the valleys makes me sad and uncomfortable. 

I am glad, however, that Mike and I were able to experience something new and to see such a beautiful place.  We won't get the chance for another long(ish) adventure until December. Who knows where we'll end up next?

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Fifth full day on St. John (the last)

We woke up at 4:15 this morning and headed out to the southern tip of the island.  We took a light and hiked down to Salt Pond and then on to Drunk Bay to see the sunrise.

Drunk Bay is a different kind of beach.  It's rocky, and the waves are fierce.  But what really sets it apart is the flotsam art.

Because the waves are so rough, all sorts of things wash up on the shore.  Visitors use this stuff to create art on the beach.  We read in St. John off the beaten track (a fantastic book) that bales of cocaine and marijuana have washed up in the past.  

Salt Pond is a strange place.  It's on the dry side of the island, which means high evaporation rates.  Water feeds into the pond at high tide and during storms, but since the pond is below sea level, the water doesn't escape.  In the dry season it evaporates, leaving salt deposits.  This time of year, however, the pond is pretty full, and it stinks from the red algae.  

Unfortunately, I was sick in the afternoon and slept for a long time.  I rallied to see the final sunset of our trip.  We stopped at the Coral Bay Caribbean Oasis for an inexpensive but delicious dinner, and then returned to the Salt Pond Trail.  This time we branched off onto the Ram Head Trail.  I wasn't able to do the full two-mile hike (due to sickness and bad shoes), but we did make it to Blue Cobblestone Beach.

This is where we turned around.  If you see the point in the distance, that's the end of the trail.  Unfortunately, I only brought running shoes, and they are the ones I had on when I fell down the mountain in Hawaii and broke my tailbone.  I didn't trust them to hike down in the dark.  Bummer.

We turned back to Salt Pond Bay.

Mike made a friend on the beach and wanted him included.