Long-stays in a foreign country take some getting used to.
With short jaunts of a week or two, life is very focused. There are sights to see, local foods to try and beaches to visit. The drive to maximize experiences is strong, not much time for kicking back and reflecting.
This time, I have returned to Antigua and Barbuda for four months. Official snowbird status.
It’s my third trip in three years to this wonderful island in the eastern Caribbean. I am learning not to jump up in the morning with a full agenda of activities.
We are so fortunate to be able to winter here in a deliciously temperate climate, hot sun tempered by breezes from the trade winds. No need for fans or air conditioners in our little apartment by the sea.
I have noticed an increase in tourism this year, more people on beaches and visitors crowding the colourful, ramshackle capital of St. John’s. Some islands, such as Aruba, have superior infrastructure with better roads, etc., but you can’t beat Antigua for its big welcome and all-round charm.
A few mornings ago, I was waiting for the bus and chatting to a local resident who shared with me her philosophy of life. LaDonna works as a gardener at a nearby resort. She rises in the morning and meditates on her blessings, the joy she feels in her surroundings and goes off to a job she loves. As with most Antiguans, the sea is integral to her well being and she swims daily. A pretty good way to live, I thought.
It is not uncommon for people here, in everyday conversations, to voice thanks for their lives and to raise up others who may not feel as joyous.
I got myself into a pickle last week when I tried to enter the Transport Board’s offices dressed in shorts and a t-shirt. Although my partner was wearing the same type of clothes, as a woman my outfit was deemed “inappropriate.” He was allowed inside the building, I was forced to wait outside. Oh well, different country, different rules. As I sat on the steps in disgrace (not without seeing some humour in being chided in my 60s for baring too much skin), a man approached me to ask if everything was ok.
I told him what had happened and he nodded. Apparently, this situation is not uncommon. Government offices in Antigua are notoriously sticky about attire being business-like. “Some days, you laugh. Some days, you cry. You can’t be happy unless you have been sad,” he said.
It was a small set back. I was able to sign the necessary documents to get my driver’s licence from my perch on the steps.