Why Diving with Sharks and Bait Is not such a Great Idea

The awesomeness of travelling, of always pushing yourself a little out of your familiar place and of meeting new people is that you can learn so many things without even noticing it. Life in Sint Maarten has taught me already quite a lot. For example, I learned a great deal about sharks. Continue reading

Fifty Shades of Efficiency – at the Grocery Store

In the Caribbean I’ve learned that the concept of efficiency is a relative one. Or perhaps I should say that the relation between this concept and work of any kind is different from other countries I’ve been to. Here two examples of common situations at the grocery store.

A customer asks a clerk an information:

In the Netherlands:

A: Good morning, may I ask you a question?

B: Yes, of course. (while filling the shelf with some new products).

A: Where can I find olives?

B: My colleague there will show it to you (while getting the attention of a clerk who is currently not occupied with other things).

In Italy:

A: Good morning, do you know where I can find olive?

B: Yes, I walk with you (interrupting what she/he is doing).

In Sint Maarten:

A: Good morning, may I ask you a question?

B: What? (Continuing talking to C and D)

A: I’m looking for olives.

B: Ah, olives. They should be there (while pointing her finger in a very indefinite direction).

(Meanwhile, C walks away. B continue talking to D. A is still there looking perplexed).

A: Sorry, I did not understand where exactly I can find olives.

B: C went to ask someone. She/he’ll be back.

(B continues talking to D while A waits for C to come back with info about the position of the olives).


Two people doing shopping.

In the Netherlands:

A: We have to buy milk, bread and cheese.

B: Ok, I get milk and cheese. You get bread.

A: Fine. I meet you at the counter.

In Italy:

A: Bla bla bla.

B: Bla bla bla.

(While walking through all the aisles of the grocery shop getting what they need).

In Sint Maarten:

A: Bla bla bla.

B: Bla bla bla.

(A and B meet C).

C: Bla bla bla.

(A and B put bread and bananas at the counter and talk to D the lady at the counter).

(A and B walk back to the aisles of the grocery store to continue shopping).


Christmas in the Caribbean

Christmas is getting dangerously close, also here in the Caribbean. The warm weather doesn’t prepare you for a nostalgic and traditional gathering with your friends and family, especially when these friends and family are at thousands kilometres away. Nevertheless, I feel the urge of lighting red candles, faking snow and hanging balls in my living room.

This is very weird for me. I was never a big fan of Christmas. I don’t believe in God and I function better when it is warm outside, therefore I always looked forward to this holiday to end, together with winter. However, with time and countries passing by, I was forced to acknowledge a part of myself that I ignored for too long. A part of myself that this year, for the first time, started to forcefully prepare itself for Christmas although the other parts did not agree.

I’d like to think of my body as a democracy or, even better, an oligarchy where only the most enlighten parts of me would take full command of my decisions. Unfortunately, I’m afraid it did not go that way this time. There was no vote. The Christmas party inside me did not win fairly. There was a coupe that dressed up my living room with yellow lights, felt snowflakes, a reindeer candle and red, shiny balls. I know it because I look at it everyday asking myself: what have I done? This year in the Caribbean, far from my friends and family, Christmas won.


The featured photo is not mine. It was taken from the Internet.

 

Happy Routines and Comfort Zones

A few days ago I read a beautiful article in The Guardian by Kate Wills about ‘regulars‘, namely those people who love to come back to the same restaurant or cafe regularly, and I realised that in my last post about the restaurant Le Canal, I failed to fully explain to you and to myself why that place makes me so happy. Now I know, I am also a regular (although I would be more regular with some extra money).

It is clear in The Guardian‘s article: not all regulars are regularly enjoying carefully chosen public spaces for the same reason. A Syrian guy, Ahmad Al-Masri, for example, found a piece of Damascus, in a restaurant in London. To go there three times a week it is “like being back home” – he said. The smells, the dialect, the faces bring him back to a home where he is not likely to come back to. Or at least not any time soon.

On the contrary, Samantha Earl, a full time mother, goes for a daily therapeutic coffee to a cafe in Essex because she does not want to be one of those mums who stay at home all day. A cafe can be ‘the chosen place’ for more that one regular and for Samantha, this cafe makes her feel “part of [that] community” and in contact with the outside world.

Eva Braithwaite, a restaurant manager of 23 years old, has a glass of Merlot and a cheeseboard at least three times a week in a restaurant in Leeds because she believes that “there’s a big difference between loneliness and solitude” and in this place she had found that “it doesn’t feel inappropriate to be alone”.

But sometimes, to be among strangers might be frightening, especially when you have had history of not being accepted. Jay Warn, a 23 years old guy, and his boyfriend have found a place that makes them feel “welcome and safe” and they’ll go even if takes 25 minutes driving to get there.

As you can read, when it comes to regulars, food and drinks seems to be minimally involved in the choice of a place to go to. The atmosphere, the people who work there, the other customers are far more important. However, in of all the different reasons, everything boils down to the need that everyone seems to have, the need of a happy routine and of a comfort zone. Do you agree?

I am a regular because wherever I go, I consciously or unconsciously try to find a place where I feel like I belong. I know it might seem paradoxical, loving to change country every time and feeling the need of finding a routine and a place to be truly comfortable with who I am. But aren’t we all a bit self-contradictory? (Please don’t tell me I’m alone). Perhaps I simply love comfort zones as well as uncomfortable ones. Or maybe I feel the urge of chances because the risk that a comfort zone becoming a gilded cage is always around the corner. Or even, I believe in saving a few comfort zones in order not to loose myself. Ultimately, would it make any sense to push myself out of a comfort zone if I wouldn’t have one? Le Canal is my comfort zone and part of my happy routine…as long as it doesn’t hold me back.


The featured image is the famous painting Nighthawks (1942) by Edward Hopper. In my next post you’ll find my list of ‘regulars’ in paintings. I hope you can enjoy it.

 

The Most Friendly French Cafe in the World Is 6700 Km from Paris

Hard to find if you don’t know where to look. My husband was convinced that somewhere around that bridge in Sandy Ground there had to be more than just houses. The place would have been perfect for a cafe – he said. And he was right. That is how he found Le Canal, an unpretentious cafe-restaurant with two entrances: one from a side street and the other from the canal, for those guests who come by boat.

Pascal, one of the owners, gives us a warm welcome. He is a wiry, tanned man, probably in his forties, with round protruding ears and a frisky look. He calls us ‘mes amis‘ and it works: we feel immediately at ease. We sit at the last table, by the water, next to the sea-side entrance. From here we can enjoy the boats passing by, or waiting for the bridge to open, and fishermen angling in the evening.

Continue reading

Haunted Hotel: La Belle Creole

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I‘ve never been interested in horror stories or haunted places, but I do have a thing for stories in general and that is what brought me to La Belle Creole, an abandoned luxury hotel in Baie Nettle, Saint Martin.

As the story goes, La Belle Creole was a flamboyant project of a visionary mind: Claude Philippe, a manager of one of the most luxurious hotels of all times, the Waldorf Astoria in Manhattan. (To be clear, the place where the famous dancing scene with a blind Al Pacino in Sent of a Woman was shot). Meant to be nothing less than a mirror of French opulence in the Caribbean, the project was doomed by its very start in 1964. Work on La Belle Creole, in fact, stopped only three years later due to a curse by the long dead Arawak people, or, more likely but less charming, to lack of funds. By…

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