Reflecting on 6 years in paradise

Nov. 18th marks six years since I arrived in the BVI.

I was bleary, sleep deprived (I had spent the previous day flying across the US, then the night dozing on top of my luggage inside the San Juan airport) and was far more focused on getting through the immigration and customs line than on considering what a monumental turning point in life I was experiencing.

Still, it was a day of flashbulb memories. I can still clearly see many things from that first day in Tortola. There was my editor, Freeman, carrying my old-fashioned trunk1 in one hand by the rainbow strap I’d  wrapped around it to his somewhat frightening island jeep, Sugar2. Driving up and down the hilly coastal road from the airport into town for the first time. The mid-day traffic in Road Town, even on the “side road” past the movie theater. My relief at meeting Vou and realizing I wasn’t the only lady reporter on staff. There was lunch at The Pub, the paper staff’s favorite lunch spot right on the water, where I had the least satisfying grilled cheese sandwich of my life<sup>3</sup>. There was my delightful apartment with the view of the race track and the sounds of neighboring goats.

The years since have, in some ways, been a whirlwind. I turned 30 here, moved apartments, invested in my first real camera, lost my Dad to cancer, traveled solo to a couple of other Caribbean countries (plus to visit family stateside), moved desks and job titles, had flings and boyfriends and got married, and collected a small but really special circle of close friends.

Over the years, I was asked a lot by my family and friends back in the US when I was coming home. I’m sure that most of them just missed me, but a few ruffled my feathers by hinting that I was on some kind of Rumspringa/gap year/temporary ‘adventure.’ It’s true that my plan when I landed was to stay for two or three years and then move on. But really, it didn’t take long for me to realize I love living here: It’s a beautiful place, the people are friendly and I feel safe.

I remember a few years ago that I applied for a couple of jobs back in the states, and how relieved I was when I  didn’t hear back. I didn’t actually want those jobs. I guess that was when I really began thinking of the Virgin Islands as home.


Nbd, just a rainbow I saw one morning from my front porch, which is also a dock.

1. That trunk was a gift from my grandmother years and years ago. I think she’d approve of my continued use of it as both a storage item and nightstand.

2. Sugar got scarier over the years. I would later become the third Beaconite to own her and last person to drive her.

3. The Pub is one of my favorite BVI restaurants to this day and I know many of the staff by name. I don’t think that grilled cheese sandwich is on the menu anymore.


A stroll through the gardens

Every time I visit the J. R. O’Neal Botanic Gardens in Road Town and I wind up seeing something lovely. On one recent trip I had both my camera and a bit of time. Here’s some of what I saw.


The fountain always wants to be photographed.


Oh hey dragonfly!


Turtle family kicking it in the pond.


As you can see, it’s worth a visit!

I’m still here

So it’s been a minute, but I am still here in paradise. Tons of big changes since TWO YEARS ago when I last posted, like a brand new job at Island Publishing Services. The gig includes doing a bunch of fun things, including writing for the Limin’ Times.

Here’s one of the first things I wrote when I started. It appeared in the weekly Island Life column in the July 28th edition.


Ready for de road

Join the Festival Fun

(or how to have the best possible August Monday in the British Virgin Islands)

You might think that the best way to enjoy August Monday is to find a shady spot to sit while watching the parade, but that’s not true. The real secret is to find a spot in a parade troupe. This year will be my third time in the August Monday Parade (and my second with the Tortola Dance Project — hey ladies!), which tells you that the experience is worth repeating. Here are my top six reasons why:

  1. The view: Being “on de road” offers the best people watching. You get to see the other parade participants while you wait around for things to get moving, and then you get to see everybody who’s watching along the route once the parade gets under way.
  2. Camaraderie: The best way to join the parade is with a lively friend, but even if you don’t know the folks in your troupe, you’re sure to bond quickly and make a few in short order. I’m still friendly with some of the people I met in my first parade back in 2011.
  3. Photos: My fellow social media junkies will have already noticed this one. After festival time the fabulous new profile pictures pop up and Facebook fills up with photo albums from the parade. Since all the territory’s best photographers work the event, you’re bound to wind up with several flattering shots of you and your friends.
  4. Vibes: Over the years I’ve noticed that whether the troupe is filled with disciplined performers, casual “freestylers,” or the members of a community service organization, band or sports group, the folks that care enough to form a troupe and show up on parade day are a positive bunch. Even if a day on my feet in the sun wears me out a bit, the positive vibes leave me feeling uplifted for days afterward.
  5. Music: Every year artists from around the region put out new music especially for the various Caribbean fetes. On parade day, between the DJs and the bands that play in the parade, you get to hear mixes, covers and originals curated by music industry professionals. If you love to dance like I do, it’s a great education on the season’s best tunes.
  6. Wardrobe: Being in a troupe is the perfect excuse to get out your beads, bedazzle your jeans, customize your t-shirt, and generally bling up. It’s probably too late at this point to get a feathered headdress for this year’s festivities, but hey, there’s always next year!

The nieces

So my friends have these two nieces.

The nieces posed at dinner

They were the first thing I took a picture of when I pulled out my camera, and right away they wanted to play with it.

I went over the ground rules and handed over my sturdy point-and-shoot. It was fun to see what they shot when I finally got around to pulling the photos off the camera.

Of course they had to capture their Auntie Nikki

and one of their brother with Uncle Cavis

I love how this shows mom & baby's matching big brown eyes.

Interestingly, it seems the girls have already learned some of the most important lessons of photography.

1. Take advantage of hams

2. Don't be afraid to get close to your subject

3. Shooting at an angle can make things more interesting

4. Play with light

Day on the water

The mast

I had an awesome day on the water yesterday. It started with my first time since arriving in the Virgin Islands (aka the sailing capital of the world) on a sailboat. Luckily, I didn’t have to do any actual work. The sheer number of ropes was baffling.
The plan was to snorkel at a rock formation called The Indians, but all the mooring bouys were occupied, so instead we went to Norman Island. I wish I had an underwater camera: the sea fans were this really vibrant purple, and there were quite a few bright yellow corals and some happy small and medium-sized fish hanging out around there too.

The cove where we snorkeled at Norman Island

From there we took the dinghy to the Willy T, a floating pirate-themed bar that I had heard a lot about but not had the chance to visit yet.
At first, I was a little put off by all the drunken American teenagers, but after a pain killer (they were invented at the Willy T) I felt a lot better. The Willy T has two levels, and the thing to do is jump off the second level into the water… maybe next time.
Then I hopped a speed boat to Norman Island itself, which from what I gather is not really inhabited. It does have a nice little beach restaurant and bar called Pirates.
There were a bunch of boats moored near there and plenty of folks enjoying the beach. Once it started to get dark, there was also live music. Unfortunately, it’s what I’d consider Caribbean easy listening: Nice enough, but nothing I’d dance to.
Finally, it was time to get back to Tortola. This was when I got really glad to have switched boats. We made it from Pirate’s Bight back to Wickham’s Cay in 13 minutes.
I don’t know why, but I was expecting speedboating to be sorta lame. I was wrong.
At one point, the moon came out from behind the clouds — it was almost full — and we were zooming across the water and I seriously felt like I was in an episode of Miami Vice.

I loved it.