People who live in small places: Guernsey

I haven’t had a People Who Live in Small Places post for a while, although those I have done still get a lot of views. I have been focused on other things (specifically my series on depression) but couldn’t resist when Liz – who runs the Island Girl Writing website offering writing and editing services got in touch. Liz lives on an island just off the shore of my home country and one with a fascinating history. So please welcome Liz from Guernsey.

Hagen and Liz at Vazon Beach

Liz and husband Hagen

 

Hi Liz and thank you for being part of this series. First of all please tell me a bit about living in your small place.
I live on the island of Guernsey, a British crown dependency that lies approximately 25 miles from the French Normandy coast. In fact, on a clear day, you can see the French coastline with amazing clarity. Guernsey, along with Jersey and some lesser islands, make up the Channel Islands. Although Guernsey is a crown possession, the island has its own government, stamps and currency.

It also has a heavy French influence, owing to its historical association with (and proximity to) France. Official signs appear in both French and English, and many street names are French, too. It is definitely helpful if you speak French or can at least pronounce French words. I can do neither and this has resulted in some entertaining situations when I try to say my address to people.

There is also a local patois, called Guernésiais, that originates from an old Norman language. This patois is spoken primarily by the older generations here. Unfortunately, like most old languages, it is slowly dying out. Given my utter lack of success with French, I don’t have any immediate plans to be the lone individual to carry on the patois tradition.

View of Petit Bois Bay

View of Petit Bois Bay

Guernsey has several “claims to fame.”

• Victor Hugo took refuge in Guernsey when he was exiled from France. He wrote several of his best works here, and there is now a museum in the house he called home during his time on the island. The writer in me loves the local tie with literary greatness.
• Guernsey, along with the other Channel Islands, was the only British territory occupied by Germany during World War II. You can still find extensive evidence of this occupation around the entire island, in the form of abandoned bunkers, tunnels and the German Underground Military Hospital.
• Many corporations and wealthy individuals flock to Guernsey to take advantage of the generous tax breaks the island offers. Although Guernsey was traditionally an agricultural-based community, today the island is considered a tax haven and financial services represents one of the largest employment sectors on the island.
• During the reign of Queen Mary in the mid 1500s, three local women – one of whom was pregnant – were burned at the stake after being accused and convicted of heresy. These unfortunate women, whose guilt was rather questionable, represent the Channel Islands only known deaths directly attributed to the violent and gruesome reign of Bloody Mary.

And what are the good, and not so good, things about living there.
To understand both the good and bad about living on Guernsey, you have to start by understanding how small the island is. At just 30 square miles, with a maximum speed limit of 35 MPH islandwide (yes, you read that right) and a population exceeding 60,000, things can get quite crowded – and occasionally frustrating – here. Yes, we often have traffic jams on this quaint rock.

But let’s start with the good!

Guernsey is one of the safest places I’ve ever lived, and is the ideal place to raise children. (After all, it’s not like they’re going to sneak off to the big city…or pretty much anywhere else…without you knowing about it!) Not once since moving here have I been concerned about walking anywhere late at night or forgetting to lock the doors of the house.

The people are also, generally, quite helpful and polite, especially when they hear my American accent. They seem genuinely curious to know how an American ended up on their tiny rock, and they ask. All the time.

Guernsey also has stunningly beautiful scenery. From the rugged, towering cliffs on the island’s southern coastline to the soft, sandy beaches along the west coast, there is no shortage of scenic landscapes to enjoy. You can hike the cliff paths, take a dip in the invigorating water of a number of secluded, sandy coves or simply head to the beach and set up shop for the day.

The water here is deceptively Caribbean looking. Amazing shades of turquoise, cobalt and every shade in between sparkle and shimmer in every direction. Unfortunately, this beautiful water is also really cold! While I see other brave souls swimming here year-round, I’ve never made it past wading in up to my ankles – and that was in July. Still, relaxing at the beach on a sunny, midsummer day is a really lovely way to spend time.

Guernsey Cliffs With German Bunker

Guernsey Cliffs with German Bunker

But everything is not perfect here.

The biggest issue is the cost of living. I’ve lived on other islands, and understand that most things need to be shipped in (and that costs money), which increases the price of goods to levels not seen on the mainland. However, living on Guernsey goes beyond anything I’ve experienced before.

The primary driver is the cost of housing. Guernsey operates a two-tier housing system – differentiated as local or open market. While anyone can buy or live in open market housing here (and the price reflects this freedom…rents and sale prices for open market housing is significantly higher than local market houses), only “qualified residents” can live in or buy local market housing. The stinger is that even local market housing is shockingly expensive. I find housing prices overall to be on par with central London or Manhattan.

Besides the very high cost-of-living, it can also get very boring here. Especially in winter, when the skies are perpetually grey and it rains a lot. The inside joke here is that, on the weekends (especially Sundays…when most things are closed), the biggest decision you have to make is which direction to drive around the island, clockwise or anti-clockwise. We tend to alternate each week to keep things fresh. I wish I were kidding.

What do you find to do to occupy yourself in your spare time?
Besides the aforementioned tradition of circumnavigating the island each Sunday, we try and take advantage of good weather when we have it and explore the outdoors. We hike along the cliff paths, put on wetsuits and go standup paddle boarding, or just go for long walks and explore the quiet, quaint lanes. There is a lot of very pretty architecture to look at here, especially the old granite and stone cottages and manor houses.

St Peter Port

St Peter Port

How easy is it to “get away” and where do you escape to? Do you feel the need to escape?
It is both easy and difficult to get away. There are six direct flights daily to London Gatwick, as well as daily ferry service to both southern England and St. Malo, France. So getting off the island is not the problem, weather permitting. Fog or heavy seas tend to disrupt travel quite often.

Unfortunately, time and money are factors in how often we can actually get away. We don’t get off the island as often as we’d like. Ideally, one weekend off the island each month would be perfect to stave off island fever. A quick trip to London is pretty common here, as is taking your car on the ferry to France and then exploring the continent.

We managed a long weekend in Paris in the fall, a trip to the southwest coast of England, and a few trips to London since moving here. In a pinch, we sometimes hop on the local inter-island ferry for a 20-minute boat ride to Herm Island, a tiny, sparsely populated neighboring island with beautiful beaches, walking paths and a fun pub. When you are on Herm, it seems like a million miles away from Guernsey, yet you can be home by dinner time, refreshed and rejuvenated.

Guernsey and Herm Aerial

Guernsey and Herm ariel view

What is the local community like? Have you felt welcomed?
I feel that, overall, people have been welcoming to me. Perhaps this is because I’m somewhat of a novelty, as one of the few Americans living here relative to overall population. It also helps that my husband was born and raised here, so he knows a lot of people and I sort of integrated naturally. I’m not sure if I would have experienced the same thing had I arrived here without him.

I do find people here to be more reserved than people in other places I’ve lived. While I know a lot of people, I still haven’t found those one or two really good friends that I usually find quickly when I move someplace new.

What advice would you give to someone thinking about moving to your island or somewhere similar?
First and foremost, make sure you have enough financial resources to live at your desired standard of living here. Things are expensive, more expensive than you may imagine. Feeling trapped here or being limited in what you can do because of a lack of resources is a fast way for the island to quickly lose its luster.

Also, be sure you can live with the limited options for entertainment found here. You won’t get first-run movies in the theater here. There are not too many plays or concerts where you’ll see international performers. The few museums here are more concerned with local history than acquiring or displaying exhibits of famous works. If you prefer warm, sunny weather for your outdoor pursuits, you will be hard-pressed to get that most of the year.

If, however, you are looking for a slower, quieter, simpler lifestyle and you don’t mind occasionally feeling a bit isolated, then Guernsey might be the perfect place.

Kitesurfing in Guernsey

Kitesurfing in Guernsey

Can you tell me a bit about yourself and why/how you came to be living in your small space.
Originally from a small town in the Midwestern United States, I became an expat in 2011 when I moved to the Southern Caribbean island of Bonaire. One day shortly after moving to the island, I met a guy on the beach who told me he was from the island of Guernsey.

Before he could explain where his home country was, I confidently stated that it was the place where Guernsey cows come from and that there was probably another island nearby called Jersey, where Jersey cows come from. My years growing up in farming country finally paid off! Apparently, he found my bovine knowledge impressive and asked me on a date. The rest is history, I suppose. We got married in 2013 with dreams of growing and old watching Caribbean sunsets together.

Unfortunately, family circumstances demanded we return unexpectedly to Guernsey. So in 2014 we packed up our breezy, sun-filled Caribbean house, shipped a container north and settled into a new life in the Channel Islands. Despite being perpetually cold and pale, we are enjoying our time on this little rock.
About the Author: Liz Wegerer is a writer, wanderer and self-professed citizen of the world. After growing up and pursuing a traditional life in the U.S., she gave it all up to travel and experience life outside her comfort zone. After four years kite surfing and scuba diving in the Southern Caribbean, she headed north to a tiny rock off the coast of France to test the waters there – she discovered they are…cold. Not content to stay in one place too long, her backpack and passport are always ready for the next challenge. After all, as long as she has her trusty Macbook, she can write from anywhere.

You can follow her adventures at www.lizwegerer.com.

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More quirky things I love about South Africa…

A few weeks ago I wrote a post about some of the “quirkier” aspects of South African life that I have grown to love. Or at least if not love then tolerate! As I said then, it is only when you are new to a country that you notice these things – so I thought I would get them down on paper the screen before the weird things became normal to me.

Anyway, having written one such post, I couldn’t help noticing more and more head-scratching things as I went about my daily life. That, combined with some of the suggestions I received in the comments section of my last post, has led me to decide I need to do a Quirky post part two. So here it is!

MORE QUIRKY THINGS I LOVE ABOUT SOUTH AFRICA

1. They wrap their trees in pink. Why? I have no idea! Obviously not ALL their trees, but at intervals around Pretoria you will find these pink wrapped trees, for no apparent reason. At first I thought it was an advert for a close-by boutique. But then I kept seeing more and more of them. I don’t recall seeing any in Cape Town or Johannesburg so perhaps it’s a Pretoria phenonemon. If anyone knows why they do this please let me know!

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2. (As suggested by a reader) They employ people to stand at roadworks and wave red flags to slow people down. ALL DAY LONG. Boy do I feel sorry for these people. They must have the strongest arms in the world by the end of their shifts. But how boring must their job be! What goes through their heads? Do they count blue cars, white cars, cars with roof racks? Are they silently writing novels in their minds? I try and make myself feel better when I see these poor souls by thinking they are probably happy to have a job at all, and one they can do relatively easily. But all I feel is sympathy. Let’s just hope they are allowed to be rotated with some of the other roadwork people, like the ones that get to move the signs….

3. And in a similar vein – car guards! Men in high-viz jackets who hang around your cars and then hope you will pay them a few measly rand for “guarding” your car and then “helping” you to back out of a space (I am actually far more worried I am going to hit the car guards than hit another car when this happens). They also stand in the middle of the roads and desperately try and wave you down and get you to park in one of “their” spaces by the side of the road, even if you have no intention of parking any where at all at that particular point in time. Sometimes I feel like pulling in, parking, sitting in my car for a minute, giving them some change and then leaving just to make them happy.

4. Monkey-gland sauce. What is it? I have no idea and I have no intention of ever trying it! I am fairly sure it has never actually been near a monkey but there again….

5. And while we are on the subject of food, their obsession with bacon and banana on pizza. Actually it makes a lot of sense, after all, the sweet-salty combo can work very well: ham and pineapple, gammon and honey-glaze etc. But this one is totally new to us and somehow banana on a pizza? Hmmm, I am not sure – although my daughter tried it and seemed to like it…

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6. Impala poop spitting. Okay, I actually had to Google this one – it was suggested by fellow-blogger Joburg Expat who wrote her own blog post about it when she was living here. I still can’t quite believe it’s actually a thing but yes apparently do put pellets of dried impala poo (or Kudo poo, hopefully not human poo!) in their mouths and then spit it. Ok, that’s quirky!

7. Shoeless children. This isn’t confined just to South Africa but must be a southern hemisphere thing as I have also seen this in Australia and New Zealand. Children walking around bare foot all over the place – shops, malls, outside on the pavement, restaurants…and I’m not talking about children who look like they can’t afford shoes – these are well-dressed children who look like they come from affluent backgrounds. I was once on an expat forum (made up mostly of expats in Europe) where most people were horrifed by this idea that children would walk around in a city barefoot – wouldn’t it be dirty? Germs! Bloody feet! Filth!!! But actually I quite like it, it is one of the things that epitomises the laidbackness of this part of the world. My oldest daughter is also getting quite into it and tries to sneak out of the house barefoot as often as possible – although I do draw the line at sending them to school shoeless!

8. Feta cheese. Another obsession which I don’t really understand. Now I quite like feta, especially in salads (actually what else do you do with it?). But I can’t understand why roughly half of their cheese sections in the supermarkets is made up of cartons, packs and containers of the stuff. Slimline feta, black pepper feta, herby feta, goats feta, good-old-plain-and-simple feta….If you like feta, this is certainly the place to come!

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Yup, that’s ALL feta

9. Four-way stops. Driving here is relatively easy, but it’s still different. And one of the most different things is the four-way stops. Basically this is what we would call a crossroads but where none of the roads are main roads, all the roads are equal. And no roundabout. So no way of knowing who has a right of way. Which means you all stop and then someone eventually goes forward. If you reach the stop line before anyone else then  it’s usually obvious that you go first. But it doesn’t always work this way. Sometimes I find someone else is there first and yet they wait for me to arrive and wave me through. Are they just being polite? Is there a rule  I still don’t understand? Can they just see I am a crazed non-South African (I drive with Diplomatic plates) and therefore know the likelihood is I will get it wrong if they leave it to me? Who knows!

10. The weather. Mostly the weather here seems to be A1. Hot, sunny but dry – not humid like I was used to in the Caribbean. But then they have these strange thunderstorms – massively loud thunder, lots of lightning and then…. no rain! Or if it does rain it lasts about three minutes. And although the storms are huge they don’t really last very long either – usually around 30-45 minutes. All very polite really. We also recently had an enormous hailstorm – it managed to miss us in Pretoria but the huge hailstones caused huge damage in other parts of the region. And when I say huge I mean it – think golf-ball size. This is why we always keep our cars undercover.

11. Flour. Alright another strange thing to get worked up about but in every other country I have ever lived in there has been plain four and there has been self-raising flour (bar Pakistan where there was no self-raising anything). Here there is self-raising flour and then there is something called “cake flour”. What is this? Is it plain flour? Well it will have to be as I need it to bake with. So far my baking efforts have worked out okay, but I’m still not convinced. Once again, answers to this one in the comments section please!

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12. And finally, another reader suggestion: hadedas. I had never heard of these birds before coming to South Africa. Now you can’t get through a day without hearing them. Basically they are like little miniature pterodactyl’s – squawking birds with long beaks that seem to argue at the top of their lungs outside our bedrooms every morning. They really are the loudest birds I have ever heard – the even put seagulls to shame. But they are also part of the “South African” experience and I have heard many homesick South Africans lamenting them as they talk about what they miss from home. Yeah, okay, they are quite unique in their own way. I just wish they would turn the volume down a bit!

So that’s it for now, 12 more quirky things about South Africa to add to my original list. But what have I missed? Go on, add your comments below 🙂

PS An update on chorizo from my last quirky post: I think someone from Woolworths was reading as suddenly proper, Spanish chorizo has appeared in their shops here. Huzzah!

Travelathome

Some of the Quirky things I “love” about South Africa

Every country has its quirks, but if you live there all the time you probably don’t realise what they are. All those slightly odd, definitely not run-of-the mill things just seem, well, normal to you.  It’s only when you are new somewhere that you realise what the quirks of that country are – and I think you need to write them down quickly before they also become normal to you. So here is my list of some of the weird and wonderful, slightly odd, very strange and downright head-scratching things I have so far discovered in South Africa:

  1. The eggs are tiny

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We have to buy JUMBO sized eggs to get the equivalent of a LARGE back home. What is this all about? Are the chickens here extra small? Do they have extra-tiny chicken bottoms (or wherever eggs come out of)? It’s a mystery to me.

2. Traffic lights are called ROBOTS

This is particularly confusing to me because in Jamaica Robots were the term used to describe the taxi-minibusses, the ones that would stop and pick up passengers waiting by the side of the road. Which brings me to number three odditiy which is….

3. The mad driving of the minibus taxis

I’ve been around some, I have lived, worked and travelled in quite a few countries and I have seen some driving. By that I mean I have seen plenty of dangerous, outrageous, too-fast, too-slow and macho driving. But here in South Africa what the mini-bus taxi drivers bring to the table is total randomness. You just never know what they are going to do – pull over to the right, to the left, stop in the middle of the road, overtake everyone waiting in a queue to turn and just turn in front of you all, cross a road when the lights (sorry, robots) are still in red….the other day, I stopped as one of these crazy drivers did a u-turn on a roundabout. I kid you not. I have decided the best way to deal with it is to realise they might literally do anything and treat them accordingly. I basically just stay as far away from them as possible most of the time…..Incidentally there are a LOT of traffic accidents in this country. I have no idea what percentage of them are caused by minibusses….

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Minibus taxis in Johannesburg

4. Shame and Just Now

Eveything here is a “shame”. I don’t think “shame” actually means “shame”. I think it is just a general word that gets used a lot, like “okay” or “really” or even “hmmmmm”. Similarily, Just Now doesn’t actually mean Just Now (eg right away) – I think it actually means “eventually” or “later” or at some point, but I am still not entirely sure. I have no idea when something will happen if someone says “now now”.

5. The whole paying by credit card thing and signing

When I pay by credit card sometimes I am asked to sign a piece of paper…..and sometimes I am not. And it seems totally random as to whether I will be asked to do so or not. I have been trying to work it out – is it just particular shops? Is it over a certain amount? Under a certain amount? Just for food? But so far I have drawn a blank. It just seems to be….random.

6. Languages

There appear to be dozens of languages here, all used simultaneously and all understood by everyone. Including the one that starts with a click (which really is a clever trick). My domestic helper seems to understand about 10 languages – and speak at least five of those pretty fluently. It is a total mystery to me as to how they know who speaks what and which language to address each other in. Being white, I get addressed in either English or Afrikaans and it is another mystery to me as to why sometimes I get one and sometimes the other. According to my English South African cousin, it is to do with how glam I look that day. The more make-up I am wearing, the more likely it is to be in Afrikaans. Which would explain why it is usually English…..

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It’ll be an Afrikaans day today then…..

7. Chorizo

Now I can’t really complain about the availability of food in the shops here – compared to most other places I have lived it’s pretty good. Of course it’s different from home but not necessily worse. Some of the things you can buy here are amazing. Although of course there are quite a few things I miss so we are still going through that stage of trying to work out what to replace with what. But one thing that is puzzling me is the lack of chorizo. Well, you can buy it but it isn’t chorizo – it’s something closer to what we would call Polish Kielbasa, which is very nice but it isn’t chorizo. It’s an oddity because otherwise the availabilty of cold meats is pretty good here, and it’s a pain because a little bit of chorizo – with its beautiful strong flavours – can go a long way in a recipe. We use it in cooking quite a lot. I think I am going to have to get someone to smuggle some in for us.

8. Tipping

We all know about tipping in the States. Basically if you don’t tip you are instantly viewed as some sort of mix of Cruella de Ville, Freddy Kreuger and the Wicked Witch of the West. In other words, tip – or be damned. At home in the UK it’s a little murkier – we do tend to tip in restaurants, but not if the service is bad. Sometimes we tip elsewhere: hairdressers, taxi drivers. Here though it’s even more confusing. On the whole it is not a tipping – or “baksheesh” – culture, which is refreshing. You tip if you think someone deserves or particularly needs it but I get confused looks when I give money to the people packing my bags in the supermarket or delivering my furniture. However the one exception is waiters and waitresses. Apparently many of them don’t get paid a wage. At all. So they live off tips – completely. Not like in the States where they are just underpaid and therefore rely on tips to make a better salary. Here, I am told, in many restaurants tips are ALL they get. Not good – so tipping and tipping well is very important (and the service is generally excellent).

9. The whole “housewives” thing

I previously wrote a post about how, living here, I often feel like I have been transported back 65 years to the 1950’s. My husband gets dressed for work and sets off every morning, the children go to school. I stay behind and tidy up the breakfast things. It can suck but sadly it is one of the realities of expat life for many non-working partners (male or female) so suck it does but you still have to suck it up. However, it doesn’t help when you go out shopping and see things like this on the shelves:

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Housewives cheese powder? Enough said!

Now I know traditionally there are ten points in a post like this but I am still pondering on number 10. I haven’t been here that long and have yet to get out of the area around Pretoria so there could be lots more quirkiness in other parts of the country. So for now I’m leaving it at nine. However, if you live or have lived or travelled in South Africa I would love to hear from you. What would you add to my list?

Photo credits: Joburg minibus:  Undone; Made up woman Dave Goehring

ExpatLifeLinky

Delicious recipes from around the world: Ansa’s curry from Pakistan

When we were living in Pakistan (for the short time we were there before being evacuated after the Marriott bombing of 2008), we had a wonderful domestic helper called Ansa. She was brilliant with the children (specifically the baby, who she would get to sleep by rubbing her tummy), she cleaned the house beautifully and best of all she was a fantastic cook. Her mother also worked on the British Embassy compound and there was a bit of rivalry between them as to who could make the best curry – but given that people used to “borrow” Ansa to come and make them a curry, I think she was a nose ahead of her mum.

Most of Ansa’s recipes weren’t complicated – although I am sure had we lived there longer, we would have been treated to some more elaborate dishes. But their secret, I think, were fresh spices. We brought some of those fresh spices back to the UK with us when we had to return but of course they don’t last forever,

When we left Islamabad, Ansa presented me with a brown envelope. Inside were four lined pages, with all our favourite recipes of hers lovingly written out in broken English. It was the best gift we could have asked for and we have been cooking them ever since. And as those of you who follow this blog know, I recently made a visit to one of the parts of Johannesburg where you will find shops stuffed with spices – a great excuse, thought I, to cook up one of Ansa’s curries. So I did. And it was delicious.

curry coollage

Ansa’s Chicken Karhi

Ingredients

Chicken brust          1

Chopped tomatoes  2

Green chilli              2

Ginger and garlic paste  2 tablespoon

Onion chopped         1

Yugurt                       Half a cup

Karhi powder             I tablespoon

Red chilli                   1 teaspoon

Tumeric powder         half a teaspoon

Corinder powder        1 teaspoon

Oil                              4 tablespoon

Patatoes                    2 chopped if you want

Method

Heat the oil and add the onion when its brown add the chicken keep stirring when chicken water is dry and add ginger and garlic paste and tomates when all the thing get mixed add the spices in it. Fry it for ten minutes. Then add the yogurt and green chilli and patatoes. Dry the yogurt water when the oil come out add the half cup of water for garvi (gravy) cook. it for five minutes then its ready for eat.

The finished product - with yoghurt added

The finished product – with yoghurt added

To check out another delicious recipe from around the world please read my banana bread from Jamaica post. And do let me know if you have a recipe you would like to share with my readers.

People Who Live in Small Places #7: The *tiny* island of Virgin Gorda in the British Virgin Islands

I first came across Chrissann via her brilliant website, Women Who Live on Rocks. Maybe it’s something you can only really appreciate if you have been a woman who has lived on a rock (as I used to on St Lucia), but it was so reassuring to find out I wasn’t the only one living this crazy island life. Chrissann, who lives on a teeny tiny speck in the Caribbean surrounded by so few people I am guessing they all know each other pretty well by now, was happy to volunteer details of her life on such a small island. Small it may be, but they say the best things come in small packages and I am sure a few of you reading this will be dreaming of moving there right away. However, as all readers of this site know, living on a very small island – however beautiful it is – is not always a holiday! So, over to Chrissann to tell us about her island.

VG wall handstand

Thank you for agreeing to be interviewed for this series, Chrissann. First of all, could you tell me a bit about your ‘small place’

I live on the island of Virgin Gorda in the British Virgin Islands. It is 8 square miles with a population of around 3,000.

What are the good, and not so good, things about living there?

For me, they are one and the same: it’s a very small island. On one hand, I love the small size because it’s quiet, people are generally kind to one another (my theory: in large part because everyone knows each other, or at least with one or two degrees of separation), there’s never any traffic or congestion, and you never feel smothered by the sheer degree of people you’re typically surrounded by 24/7 in cities. However, with the small size comes its downsides – lack of variety (most of the restaurants all serve a similar menu; few boutiques to shop in, mostly just tourist shops with souvenirs) and lack of “real world” activity options (no coffee shops or movie theaters or fitness studios, etc.)

VG beach

What to you find to do to occupy yourself in your spare time?

I am fortunate to have a great group of friends on island who are a blast to spend time with – whether it’s hiking, paddle boarding, yoga nights, taking turns hosting dine-arounds, boating trips, etc. I also really enjoy my alone time to read, float in the pool, or do little artsy projects. My current obsession is my mermaid tail – it is pure magic to swim in it.

mermaid life

How easy is it to “get away” and where do you escape to? Do you feel the need to escape?

It’s relatively easy (though a bit pricey) to get in and out of this area. Island hopping nearby is always fun for weekend trips, with Puerto Rico being a particular fav due to it feeling more like a big city (Shopping! Great restaurants! Dancing!). For longer trips, I like to cure the “rock fever” and head to places with a greater variety of options not available on my island. I tend to seek out all the things I miss sometimes like going to the movies, the theatre, comedy clubs, etc. I just got back from a girl’s trip to NYC and it was so much fun to be able to walk everywhere and have so many activities to choose from at all hours of the day and night.

What is the local community like? Have you felt welcomed?

Overall, people are pretty friendly here. My boyfriend had lived here for years before we met and I joined him, so it was easier to make connections that he had already established. This country is pretty protective of its citizens, so working or doing anything entrepreneurial is challenging to say the least, which can be frustrating at times. But yes, I have felt welcomed mostly and I love this little community in many ways.

Paddleboarding

What advice would you give to someone thinking about moving to your island, or somewhere similar?

Just come into it knowing that it’s not for everyone. Keep an open mind and be kind to yourself if you struggle – you won’t be a failure if you decide island life is not for you, it’s certainly not for everyone. I think the people who tend to have the most trouble adjusting here are the ones who constantly compare it to what their life was like elsewhere. If you accept this place as a unique adventure and embrace all the positives it has to offer, you’ll have a lot more fun for however long you end up staying.

VG

Finally, can you tell me a bit about yourself and why/how you came to be living in your small place?

I am originally from the SF Bay Area in California. I used to work in sales for Marriott hotels and had the opportunity to move to St. Thomas in the US Virgin Islands in 2006. I worked there for a few years then, through some mutual friends, met and fell in love with my current boyfriend, David. I moved up to the British Virgin Islands to be with him, as he operates a resort here. Check out Saba Rock – a really one-of-a-kind slice of paradise!

Chrissann Nickel headshot

I am the Creator and Editor in Chief of the humorous island life website, Women Who Live on Rocks. I am also a freelance writer and yoga instructor. My personal website is chrissannnickel.com.

Thank you so much Chrissann for agreeing to be interviewed for this series. I think this may beat all the others in terms of population, if not size. Please check out the other posts in this series – including Mayotte, Gibraltar, a small village in France, the Seychelles, a small European town in the Netherlands, and the small Scottish island of Unst. And don’t forget to let me know if you live somewhere small and would like to feature in this series!

Show your world: The Beautiful Florida Keys

We’ve just returned from two weeks in Florida and I’m still suffering the affect of jet-lag (so apologies for any mistakes in this post – my brain and my fingers aren’t joining too well at the moment). It was a wonderful, fun-filled week in the theme parks followed by a slowed-down relaxing few days by the water on Key Islamorada. Just the perfect anecdote to all that roller-coastering and non-stop walking in the blistering heat. I can’t recommend Islamorada highly enough, it really was a beautiful, calming and suprisingly un-commercialised place.

La Jolla beach motel, Key Islamorada

La Jolla beach motel, Key Islamorada

We stayed in a small, up-dated 1950’s motel called La Jolla right on the water front and from the moment we got there we were entranced by the wildlife in and around the sea surrounding the site. Nurse sharks, sting ray, flocks of parrot fish, jacks, groupers, snapper and many, many more types of fish swam around in front of the dock where we would sit swinging our feet out over the crystal clear water. Pelicans. seagulls and other birds came by for a visit, while in the trees above huge iguanas slept peacefully in the warm sun.

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But best of all, in the early misty light of the day, coffee in hand, we watched first manatees and later dolphins swim gracefully past our front door. The motel had kayaks free for guest use so once we knew roughly what time these beautiful creatures were due to visit we lay in wait, then grabbed a paddle at the first tell-tale sight of either the  bubbles emerging from the lolloping manatees or the distinctive blowing sound and v-shaped ripples of the dolphins. To kayak alongside these animals as they swam playfully past, below and away from us was a magical privilige.

Kayaking, La Jolla resort. Key Islamorada. Florida

Kayaking, La Jolla resort. Key Islamorada. Florida

Another highight of our stay were the evening sunsets – truely magnificent, whether at the end of a clear, blue day or on a moodier evening, when the dark clouds backdropped against the blood-red sky. The morning light, too, was breathtaking and even on one of those cloudy days the slate grey of the sky reflected in the water gave an eerie, other-worldy quality to the scene.

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As well as swimming, snorkelling, kayaking, sun-bathing, relaxing, beer-drinking and sunset-watching, we did manage a few trips during our stay in the keys – including right down to Mile 0 at Key West and on our last day, a memorable trip to the Everglades. But I think I’ll save those for another post!

This post is part the Show Your World series on Tiny Expat’s blog.

show your world

My Travel Monkey