I was sitting here, a blanket wrapped around my shoulders, the curtains drawn, while frozen rain pattered on the windows thinking to myself, ‘Why did I ever leave the tropics?’
When I lived in the tropics, I didn’t even own a sweater. Even the rainy season was hot. I never had to turn the heat on (we didn’t have heat anyway in the house) and once we lived in a house with a fireplace, and we never lit it; it held a huge potted fern.
Now I live in an old house with such drafts in front of the doors and windows that the curtains move as if in a breeze. Sleet is the most common form of precipitation. What can be better about France than the tropics?
1) I don’t have to shake my shoes out every morning. It used to be a habit. I don’t do it anymore. It was to dislodge the scorpions that liked to take up residence there. I shook my shoes for about ten years after leaving the islands. It’s a hard habit to – er, shake.
2) I can open the cereal and pour myself a bowl, then add milk and eat it without first examining it for sugar ants. Sugar ants are tiny, almost invisible ants that get into Everything. To check for sugar ants you:
pour the cereal in a bowl. Hold it very still while peering at it closely. If the cereal starts to move, you toss everything in the garbage.
3) I can go to the bathroom at night without turning the light on.
In St. Thomas, the bathroom was the nighttime gathering place for the tarantula. They would go to the bathroom to drink from the shower, and you did not want to surprise one – they move incredibly fast and in the opposite direction of where you think they’re pointing.
Usually they try for high ground when they’re terrified. Your legs look like tree trunks to them.
Terror spreads from the spider to you as it sprints up your leg. Some nights, no one gets any sleep.
4) When it rains here, it’s a pretty regular rain. In St. Thomas, we got hurricanes. Three times, when I lived there, the island was declared a national disaster area. Our road was washed out, the school was washed out, the house was full of mud, and that’s if the house managed to keep its roof.
5) I can get fresh vegetables and fruit. No, there are no fresh veggies on St. Thomas – or very few. Everything is shipped in. There are home-grown mangoes and g’nips, tamarands and some coconuts. Everything else comes from ‘the mainland’. Here in France, the market is full of fresh veggies and fruit. I love it.
6) Cuts don’t go sceptic in two seconds flat. (that sort of speaks for itself. In the tropics, cuts and scratches got infected. Period.)
7) I can control the ticks and fleas here. In St. Thomas, it’s very hard to keep your dogs and cats tick and flea free. I’m allergic to fleas. They give me huge red welts. Guess who had huge red welts all over her legs and arms for the senior prom?
8) You don’t feel caged in. I used to look out to sea. Endless ocean on all sides. (We lived on a mountaintop – the view was spectacular) and I’d think…’I’m trapped.’ Now I can get in my car and drive. I can take a train. I can walk. I can ‘get away from it all’.
9) There are no people who have come here to ‘get away from it all’. In St. Thomas, most of the people who arrived to live there wanted to ‘get away from it all’. They usually lasted about 6 months. Then they either packed up and left (usually owing 6 months rent) or they landed in the local loony bin and had a nice rest for a while, before leaving for good.
10) There are four seasons here, and I love summer and fall. In the tropics there is hurricane season and the rest of the time.
11) Huge, fifteen inch centipedes. Need I say more?
12) A huge, and I mean huge, difference in class and race – the rich and the poor in the extremes. It’s depressing any way you look at it, and from any angle. I rarely saw such poverty as in the tropics.
13) The crime rate is staggeringly high – drugs, murder and mayhem. True, the mafia did move in and clean things up a bit – but overall, the crime there is scary. Here, I don’t have dogs for protection.
And next Thursday – what I miss. (you can resume dreaming of clear, turquoise water and warm beaches now…)