Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Dispatches from the US Virgin Islands

We just got back from a whole week in the US Virgin Islands. Believe it or not, it was business first for me – I have a lot of client work there, and so the weekdays were full for me with interviews and field work – but Amy and the kids got to play, and I got to join them in the evenings and the weekend. Since I wasn’t in leisure mode for most of the trip, I’ll skip my usual one-per-day dispatches and just share random snippets that I hope we’ll fondly remember.

• Our accommodations were small (the larger, two-bedroom place on the premises of the villa where I always stay when I am there was unavailable) but it did have a kitchen and a deck. The kitchen proved useful for keeping costs down: we brought a bunch of non-perishable items and then hit the grocery store the first night we were there, so were able to minimize food expenses. The deck proved useful for keeping the kids happy: in the morning when they awoke early, they could draw and watch TV in the beautiful morning light while I banged out some work on my laptop.

• Apologies to those who have gutted out snowy, sub-freezing days in the Northeast, but I have to report that the temps were quite pleasant: highs in the 80’s, lows in the 70’s. It had been so long since we’d known such weather that Amy had trouble packing: she wasn’t sure what one wore in such heat, and had to fish out the summer clothes boxes for herself and the kids. What was particularly nice was sitting out on the deck in the early morning or late evening in shorts and a T-shirt, luxuriating in a cool tropical breeze.

• Our view, from the side of a mountain, looked right into a harbor where lots of really big cruise ships would dock. It was fun to see these big behemoths unload their passengers for a day of fun, and then float away in the evening in the shimmering water.

• The villa has a little pool that the kids got very acquainted with. Because we brought their vests, they were able to splash around without either of us being in the pool with them. So the pool became another thing that freed us up to be able to talk or read. In fact, one weekday I had a break midday so came back to the villa, took the kids to the pool, and worked on my laptop near them while Amy took a much-needed nap.

• That day I came back in the middle of the day, I was lugging a big smoked herring and onion sandwich that I had bought in St. Croix before boarding the sea plane back to St. Thomas. Before I could enjoy it myself, Amy had taken a bite and Aaron and Jada had taken about ten bites each. Yes, it was as delicious and disgusting as it sounds.

• Downtown is just down the hill – I told Amy to “just follow gravity” when she asked me how to get there – and Amy and the kids enjoyed going there to look at fancy things like jewelry and watches. Unfortunately for me, Jada’s eyes lit up at all the sparkly stuff.

• Evenings were fun for Amy and me, to be able to just catch up and enjoy each other’s company in the warm evening darkness. The kids went to bed at their usual early hour, and rarely fought sleep, since they were so tired from long days in the sun, so it afforded Amy and me rare slivers of time to finish dinner, watch a DVD together, or just chat.

• My business partner and his wife could not have been more hospitable. Their family owns the villa where we stayed, and they lived on site as well, so one night they had us all over for burgers, and the kids reveled in playing with their two dogs. The next night, they enthusiastically babysit our kids so we could go out to dinner at a fancy restaurant overlooking a yacht club. Amy and I aren’t big fans of gourmet food, but we did luxuriate in alone time and in scenic views.

• After the last work meeting on the last work day of the trip, I took the kids to Magens Bay while Amy rested. Though it was overcast and the water was cold, I could not help but have a big smile on my face: kids happily playing together in the sand, me alternating between lounging in a beach chair and floating on my back in the water, letting the stress of the work week melt away.

• Saturday was even funner. My business partner just bought a boat, and he took us four, plus a friend of his and his daughter, out for a day trip to and around beautiful St. John. We anchored at a couple of places to splash around in the gorgeous water (all sorts of the prettiest blues you’ll see), enjoyed breathtaking views (Amy let out a yelp when Jon Bon Jovi’s house was pointed out), and generally had a grand old time speeding along the waves (Jada and Aaron even did a little steering). What a relaxing day it was for all of us.

• One last island treat was waiting for us at the airport. After we checked in our luggage, I left Amy with the kids and our carry-ons, dashed down the street from the airport, and grabbed two beef pattes and two chicken pattes. These greasy treats were only three bucks each (or, together, the same price as a tired garden salad inside the airport, and infinitely more delicious), and I would’ve gotten more but wasn’t sure if Amy and the kids would like them. Several bites later, they were all clamoring for more and I had only eaten half of one. Next time we’ll have to make note to get more.

Oh by the way, the work side of my trip was successful. We are working on four separate gigs and pitching on two more, so after a lull last year, I’m back to having a fair amount of work there, and it seems every other conversation brings up another possible opportunity. I’m not sure how many trips that will mean for me, but should another require multiple days like this past one, I’ll be hard-pressed to not want to absorb the additional cost of airfare to bring the whole brood out with me again.

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