Reconnecting With My Childhood and Island Hopping
My most stimulating experiences have been influenced by my engagement with literature and travel. I used literature as a way to navigate through a world that I was becoming more and more interested in exploring. As a young boy on the island I would read to recreate my reality and surroundings to fit my growing curiosity in people and places. I would climb the avocado tree that stretched over my home go up with a book to a comfortable spot and envisioned myself flying while reading. As I eventually literally flew away from the house of eight siblings, a devoted mother and stepfather, I found myself traveling to places where I could embrace my growing sense individuality. It would take some time to figure out who that individual was and fully develop into someone who not only enjoyed literature and travel, but also who could share parts of his life with people.
I only visit home, once a year out of the obligatory visit to see my mother and family. This typically happens during Christmas or summer break and in the case of emergencies. This summer I had the chance to not only go home to my homeland of St. Croix, but I also had the chance to see the other two islands that make up the US Virgin Islands (St. Thomas and St. John). I was eager to visit all three islands this trip. With everything going on in America after returning from Haiti, I just needed to be among my history, culture, and family. It’s not easy being from a place that has the distinction of being uniquely Caribbean and American at the same time. There’s always a constant tug of war battle between being both and then some more. But I’ve learned to appreciate always being on the in between, between roles, cultures, and nationalities. Very few people understand the difference between race and ethnicity and one thing I appreciated while being abroad in Europe was meeting other black people from around the world that understood the intersections of race, culture, and sexuality. I know a lot of American history and literature and British history and literature. I studied African American history and literature as a focus for my Master’s of Arts because the literature always spoke to my own identity crises. Regardless of all this knowledge, I still want to be able to speak about the historicism of each of the islands that make up the U.S. Virgin Islands and not just the one I was born on. Sadly to say, but the one course in high school on USVI history can’t compete with the amount of information I have had to retain from undergraduate and graduate studies or from my professional career. So from time to time, if you are a person from another land residing in another country, please do some independent learning on the history and politics of your homeland. Every place changes over time and in many ways that can’t always be generalized even if we are talking about lands close in proximity.
So even though each island is only separated by a few miles of water in distance it is still my duty to get back to the lands that make up my culture. You can reach each island in less than 30-40 minute by flight or 30-40 minutes by boat if you’re traveling between St. Thomas and St. John, which are much closer to each other than St. Croix. I flew into St. Croix on a Saturday greeted my mother, siblings, and nieces and nephews, and left for St. Thomas on Sunday evening and spent the night having dinner and drinks in French Town with my partner and cousin. Even at night, the St. Thomas harbor is a sight to see. The next morning was Monday and my partner and I made our way to Red Hook to catch the ferry to St. John, Cruz Bay. The ferry is very inexpensive and only cost $14.00 USD. As soon as you get off the ferry in St. John you have the smallest island of the USVI boasting one of the most unique national parks America has to date. You can quickly pay for a guided tour as the information booth is nearby or if you are like me, always somewhat interested in exercise then a hike to the beach is a must. The Lind Point hiking trail is close by the ferry stop and has two degrees of difficulty and are only one of many trails on the island. The trail is roughly a little over a mile and leads to some of the best beaches the island has to offer and the fact that it’s a free excursion makes it even better if your island hopping on a budget.
The boat ride back to St. Thomas is quick and St. Thomas being the more developed of the three islands leaves you with a slew of restaurants and shopping to choose from. So for dinner a taxi driver suggested Victor’s New Hideout to get away from the overly commercial places. I am not going home to the Caribbean for a burger and fries. lol. The view from Victor’s New Hideout, in addition to the food is its best selling point and I love a great view while eating anything. Tuesday morning I went for a run along the harbor with cars passing by blowing out at me as a sort of encouragement, which felt good. After showering and packing and checking out of the Yacht Haven Grande Condos, I had breakfast at a spot called Delly Deck and had a little time for sight seeing before heading back to the airport. Since St. Thomas has the hills and mountains you want to get to the top and look out and see the views as much as possible. If you have time, many of the cruise ship passengers go to the Skyrise to Paradise Point for drinks or lunch and the view is really awesome.
The flight back to St. Croix is short and I’m always delighted to experience the other islands, but will always have a desperate love for St. Croix. St. Croix is flat and there’s no other way to put it, but its great for lazy tourist drivers who just want to drive themselves around without feeling like they can’t navigate the roads. The remainder of my time was spent going to local festivals such as Mango Mania, going to the beach and spending time with family. There was a tradition growing up to go to the big dock in Frederickstead on the West End of the island and jump into the water. “I haven’t done this since I was a teenager,” I told my partner, who by now you guessed is my unofficial camera man and among the few folks I travel with. It was then, at the moment of impact I realized that I had reconnected with my childhood because I had the same exact feeling of anticipation and slight fear I used to have as a child. Once I was in the water I was at ease and it felt natural and soothing. We ended the day by having drinks and a quick bite to eat at Rainbow Beach and drove back home for more family time.
By the time I left home that following Saturday, I was at ease again and could return to America and not be so angry and saddened by the news of the going crisis, which now involved cops being killed in retaliation of police shootings of black men. I know that I am lucky to have supportive parents and friends on the island and I am grateful that the stereotypes that fall upon most black countries when it comes to homophobia do not affect me personally. My partner and I spent some time walking the plantations in St. Croix and St. Thomas and I was reminded of the slaves that had endured so much and was better prepared to deal with the reality that life with all its uncertainty doesn’t change your ability to live freely. In reconnecting with my childhood I realized a Nomade En Noir (Nomad in Black) may move from place to place and travel frequently but they don’t run from their beginnings; they use it to add to their strength and they pay homage to all that ushered in their success. I understand that it is easier said than done as many are unable to return to their homes for various reasons, but if you can, then, from time to time reconnect with your childhood.