It’s been a month since I returned to Antigua. A month of taking life at a leisurely pace that includes daily walks, swimming, exploring, shopping and regular domestic tasks.

While visiting different beaches and walking around St. John’s, I frequently chat with other tourists and snowbirds. Most are from from North America, the United Kingdom and Germany. Some are day trippers from cruise ships, others vacationing here for a week or two and a few are long-stay visitors like me.

But for the most part my regular social contacts are Antiguan residents. I am blessed to be befriended by such lovely people.

Sanjay fishes daily from our shore on Marina Bay, selling his catch to local restaurants.

Our small beach draws fishermen, sea moss gatherers and bathers.  I look forward to seeing the regulars: Sanjay the spear fishermen, Paget who comes for the sea moss, valued for its medicinal qualities; families with small children playing in the water, and courting couples.

It is the sea that provides the setting for a great deal of social interaction here.

Last week, I saw two women sitting and chatting in the water on our beach. An hour later, they were still there. They looked very relaxed.

One afternoon on Hawksbill Beach, a teenager scooted quickly into the surf only to be followed by an older woman. What ensued appeared to be a serious ticking off by the woman. It was lengthy but the two left the water together and headed down a nearby lane. Mother and son, I mused.

For some, the water is the only place for some privacy. I have approached our beach only to turn around when I saw couples holding hands or kissing in the water. They don’t stay too long and who’s to discourage a bit of romance now and then.

There is even a Pensioners’ Beach. I intend to check it out.

A Rastafarian friend prays on the beach every day before he sets up his kiosk. He says the sea helps heal the body and soul. I believe him. Every part of me seems to work better here.

I’ve been lucky to make the acquaintance of a very special woman, Sharon, who has taken me under her wing.

I met Sharon when I was walking toward St. John’s and she kindly offered me a drive.

Tough and tender, Sharon has shepherded me all over St. John’s Parish,  taken me to grocery stores and picked me up at the beach. On her birthday, she cooked a feast and fed me in her Five Island Village bungalow. I see her about twice a week as she works for my landlord who lives on the premises.

This beautiful woman with a wry sense of humour was born in Guyana, one of a number of Guyanese natives we have met here. Sharon has no patience with slow cashiers and inept drivers. Pedestrians don’t get a pass either. “Get out the way, Rasta Man! Too much smoke before breakfast,” she admonished one slow-moving man. He just shrugged while she gritted her teeth.

Sanjay, my spear-fishing  friend, launches his boat nearly every day from the lagoon on the other side of my building. Earlier in the week, he came to my door with a large lobster which I bought for supper. He very kindly added squash from his own garden and voila! A superb meal and lots of leftovers.  Talk about local.

Sanjay has also agreed to take me out in his boat so I can snorkel on reefs further offshore. He says March will be the best month as February storms have left the oceanfront waters churned up and murky. Can’t wait!