Friday, May 8, 2015

Top 10 Things I'll Miss about SXM...and a few things I won't!

I can't believe I'm home and totally finished in St. Maarten!
The next time I go back to the island it will be to visit friends/vacation.  The time went by so fast and I already miss that little island.  Being home is taking a bit of adjusting however I'm slowly but surely settling in.  I've given myself a few days to unpack and get organized before getting back into the swing of studying.  That down time is now up =(
I figured before I'd completely drop off the face of the earth for the next couple months, I'd highlight a few things I'll definitely miss about my home away from home.  

10. Going to another country on a regular basis without needing a passport
There are great restaurants, bakeries, shopping, beaches, & more just across the border between Sint Maarten and Saint Martin. Brush up on your French because English is NOT the primary language! There are many people who don't speak English at all. Grocery stores/pharmacies/directions are often all in French so a little French would get you far.

9. Variety of Food
You can opt for local style cuisine like rice & peas, fish, curry chicken, oxtails and soup; fresh seafood; or you can have fancy French food with names that you can't pronounce.  There are many good restaurants here in SXM  A few of my favs: Alexander's Kitchen (both locations), Bamboo, Cafe Atlantico, Crave, Greenhouse (both locations), Lee's Roadside Grill, Mati Beach, Toucan's at Divi Little Bay and even A's After Party Fish Shack no bigger than the size of a newsstand) across from the movies.

8. Road Rules (especially the unwritten ones)
Traffic circles and speed bumps abound.  I've only seen 2 traffic lights here on the island.  One on both French and Dutch sides of the island.  Drivers will pass on the opposite side of the road with a median between you and you can make a free parking space wherever you need one.  Just beware, the afternoon traffic jams are mostly unbearable; and heaven help you if one of the bridges opened up while you're waiting...Be prepared to sit parked for a little while while the boats are coming thru the bay.  Reynauldo (my car) allowed me to zip around the island and find some cool local spots and other popular places outside of the AUC bubble. I highly recommend getting transportation of some sort.  School is stressful and sometimes you just need to get away from it for a little while. Going to the beach or for a drive was my way of escaping and clearing my mind a bit.  

                                               This is how people park!

                                       Gonna miss my Reynauldo.....

7. Seeing someone you know almost everywhere you go!
It's nice to know that if you need help at any time, you're bound to recognize someone almost everywhere you travel around the island, especially on the Dutch side. 

6. Fresh Pastries
I love that on any given morning you can pop into almost any little shop/supermarket and get fresh baked croissants, pastries, and bread on both the Dutch & French side. I've definitely had my fair share of chocolate croissants!  

                                                  Sarafina's Bakery                                                        

5. Boatloads of Beaches
A beach is never more than 5 mins away!  With 37 total beaches on the island you/re sure to find one that suits you.  Go check out Pinel Island, Sunset Beach, Dawn Beach, beaches in Grand Case, Great Bay, Little Bay, Friars Bay and Anse Marcel. And if you want to venture out a little farther, ferry over to Anguilla from Marigot (45minutes), St. Barths from Oyster Bay (30minutes), or charter your own private boat for the day/weekend which can also make stops at other islands and protected Beaches like  Tintamarre, Columbier, Shell Beach or Green Cay Bay.
The Private Charter was SOOOO MUCH FUN!!! The folks at PYC do an awesome job (

4. Beautiful views and great weather EVERY DAY
Palm trees, turquoise blue water & boats are everywhere.  You don't have to fly or drive anywhere for a great view.  If you want to be a tourist for the day, check out the planes taking off and landing at Sunset Beach Bar; head to Philipsburg and walk the Boardwalk, Front Street, or Back Street; check out the docked cruise ships; try the underwater Sea Trek Adventure, Jet Ski, or visit Pic Paradis...there's so much to do here.

During rainy season it's more hot, humid & of course rains a bit more...sometimes 2-3 times/day but overall nothing that ruins the day.  While I was there, only Hurricane Gonzalo kept everyone indoors for a few days otherwise it's smooth sailing everyday!

3. Friendly attitude of people you meet
As it is in many Caribbean islands in general, people are all about respect and having a good time. Whenever you enter a place or pass by people they greet you Good Morning/Afternoon/Night. They don't reserve their greetings only for people they know. Try it while you're here. A "Good Afternoon" will get you helped much faster than a sour face will.  Also remember, nothing usually happens very fast, so leave the hurried pace at home because you will be frustrated if you don't adjust your thinking right away. Slow down a bit and enjoy the moment. 

2. The reaction I get when I tell ppl I live in St. Maarten
If I'm home in the US visiting and someone finds out I live in St. Maarten they get this look of wonder & amazement & a tinge of jealousy...especially if it's during the winter months. The nice part is being able to play host when people come down to visit on vacation or even just a stop on a cruise. I've had a number of friends & family visit which has been very nice when you're so far away from your home and family.
Here were some of my visitors ;)

1. Great Friends
What I'll miss most!!!! I've crossed paths with some pretty awesome folks here and made friendships that will last a lifetime. From my very first friend I met on the island at the car rental spot, my roommate, my core group of sister friends plus a handful of guys that look out for us like brothers, lab partners, ICM group members, classmates, colleagues from other classes and a few super cool locals too!!!  I can't complain one bit...I've been blessed beyond measure! I've added more members to my family and the sense of community we've built has been a great support system.  Our networks have all increased exponentially as well because we're all from so many different places.  We've celebrated holidays, birthdays, post blocks, end of semesters, and sent off friends who left the island before us.  It's been a wild ride so far and nothing short of amazing.  We're all going separate ways for now but I'm sure many of us will cross paths during clinical rotations and professionally in the future.  So glad to have met you all!

Overall most things were pretty good and I don't have many complaints about the island...but as with anything, there are a few things I won't miss like...
5. Mosquitos 
I wouldn't get a bite for months and then in a few days time you can play connect the dots with the insane number of bites I had. Thank God I was one of the lucky ones that didn't get Dengue or Chickungunya from these blood suckers!!

4.  Being so far from home
I've definitely missed my family and friends from home.  Now that everyone is going separate ways, I'll miss these people just like I missed the ones from the States.  As I move around and add new friends to the fold, I guess this feeling won't go away. At least a relatively reasonable plane ride could allow us to reconnect in the future. 

3. Not having a cell phone signal
Depending only on wifi to remain connected is painful at times.  Luckily many restaurants have wifi so you can check in and contact people.  But if you're on the road, be sure you have minutes on your island phone or you will be up the creek.

2. The seemingly endless classes and study schedule
There have been plenty of days that I've asked myself why anyone in their right mind would sign up for this punishment.  However, after a few grey hairs, added pounds, and countless hours of sleep I'll never be able to make-up...I know it's all worth it!  I would do it all over again knowing that I could get thru it.  Now, I just have to focus on preparing as best I can for STEP 1. 

1. GEBE!!! OMG--the BEST RACKET RUNNING IN SXM! That company is the bain of my existence. The problem...Intermittent utilities and arbitrary billing amounts.  When's the last time you've been mid shower and the water just stops flowing??? It doesn't happen often but when our water was out, I copped a major attitude. We've been lucky and never lost power but that's not  the norm.  If you have the time, I'd suggest reading your own meters every month bc someone is dropping the ball and/or padding the bills.  We were charged almost $60 for 3 days of electricity and water...Good Riddance GEBE!!!!

I'm already missing you SXM but I'll be back!
Until next time...

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