A TASTE OF HOME

Graham and Matt with the Minnesota relatives Holland America Cruise Ship

Today we met up with Aunt Barb, Aunt Ginger and Uncle Jack in Phillipsburg, St. Martin. The planets were not in favor of this pow-wow as first their cruise ship encountered an unexpected stop due to a medical emergency. I didn’t get the memo that they wouldn’t make it to the café in the morning so we went at 9 and when they didn’t show up by 11, we stalked every cruise ship tender that came in. Then Matt and Graham started flagging down buses. We called Katie on skype from a cyber café and decided on Plan B – meet them at 2:30 at the café after their tour. Unfortunately there was a school bus accident on their way to meet us in the afternoon. We finally hooked up a little after 3 for 45 minutes and then they had to hurry back to the boat. It was the best 45 minutes of my life! Aunt Barb and I squealed through the family gossip the whole time, Graham chatted with Uncle Jack the whole time telling him what it was like to live aboard – Uncle Jack said, “Just think, one day you can tell your grandkids all these stories and about all the profanity you learned along the way ;-) ” Ginger and Matt were regular chatty cathys about who knows what. The entire fabulous visit was bookended of course by the siblings throwing gifts and money our way. Their generosity knows no bounds. The first thing Gege said to Graham was, “Thank you for all those notes you wrote to my mom. Here’s $20, I didn’t know what to get you for your birthday.” So sweet, (he was 13 on Valentine’s Day). Aunt Barb gave him a care package of every possible favorite type of American candy (which he is plowing through at an alarming rate!) and a 2013 Almanac – he is all about the facts. It is the perfect gift for him, truly. They had to leave on the fly so I ushered Matt in to the pay the bill so I could hail them a taxi back to their ship. Aunt Barb insisted on giving me money. We made a righteous scene. She won, of course. She gave me $40 for had three iced teas. They are all too too much. It was the best taste of home. We were having such fun yapping that we forgot to even take a picture together so after they left we took a picture of ourselves with the cruise ship in the background.

UPDATE ON ST MARTIN (NOTE THE CHANGE IN SPELLING AS NOW WE ARE ON THE FRENCH SIDE)

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BIRTHDAY AT CAFE DE PARIS

MISCHEVIOUS GRAHAM AND DANIELLE

BIRTHDAY AT CAFE DE PARIS

BIRTHDAY BOY

We have been in St. Martin for about a month, still travelling with our friends, the Porters whom we have been loosely with since Maine in August. They head toward Antigua this weekend so we will catch up with them there in a few weeks time. Graham is progressing in school at an accelerated rate and will be done way ahead of schedule. As such, his father drills him on probabilities and the like while they have lunch or walk and his mean old nasty old teacher is going to make him take a sample SAT when he finishes with school to assess his capabilities. To be fair, though, she has agreed to take the test herself.

We have become quite accustomed to life here in the Caribbean. In St. Martin, Mike from Shrimp’s Laundry etc. does a morning VHF radio chat to announce the weather, give people a chance to announce their arrivals and departures, swap items, make announcements about kids activities (treasure hunt on Saturday!) and other stuff. He also does our laundry about once a week. We are anchored in the Simpson Bay Lagoon near another Baba, and our friends on Evenstar, and Cyberman ,conveniently, because my computer died completely and at least we had him around to tell us the truth. We will not be replacing it and that feels very freeing. All I need is access to email and google so Matt and I are sharing a computer. Life is simple. I spend my days painting and teaching and reading like crazy. We officially have a teenager now as Graham turned 13 on Valentine’s Day. We went out to dinner at Café de Paris with the Porters and had real French food and everyone’s meal was perfect. The Porters have addicted us to a TV series called “Eureka” which they have on DVD. As our separation is imminent we have been having many Eurekathons over on Evenstar. It’s good fun.

That Yoda Guy! BY: BJ Porter on Evenstar

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A really neat museum of Star Wars and other movie memorabilia put together by a former creature effects and costumes wizard was one of the more surprising finds in the town of Phillipsburg!

Phillipsburg, on the Dutch Side of St. Maarten, has a very similar feel to a lot of Caribbean towns where the primary business is catering to Cruise ships. You’ve got the sidewalk hawkers for everything from taxis and T-shirts to beach chair rentals and happy hours. It’s not a bad place and I didn’t dislike it, but it is busy and crowded and you’d do well to wear a T-Shirt saying “No Thank you I don’t need a Taxi/New Hat/Massage/Beach Chair/Jewelry” so you may walk down the board walk unmolested for a stretch.

But a favorite part of the town of Phillipsburg was “That Yoda Guy”. Nick Maley became known as “That Yoda Guy” on the set of Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back because if his instrumental role in the creation of the puppetry and animation to create the character of Yoda back in the days before digital animation and CGI . Though he was also involved in the other movies in the original Star Wars trilogy as a creature effects animator as well. He’s also got a list of other movie credits as long as your arm including Highlander, Superman, Krull, and many others.

Mr. Maley retired from the movie industry some time back and moved onto a sailboat with his wife, where they cruised for a time. Eventually they settled in the Caribbean, and this small but interesting museum was opened. What is novel about it is that although it contains many things from Mr. Maley’s private collection, Mr. Maley himself brings a lot of inside scoop on how the Star Wars movies came together. He was there, and knows a lot of the details – be it technical or anecdotal, that provides some fascinating insight into how these iconic movies came together the way they did.

Throughout the museum are original art works and memorabilia, some for display and some for sale.

Passing by on the sidewalk on Front Street, I heard the Star Wars theme paying quietly – looking around I saw the signs. Having no idea what to expect, we mounted up the stairs expecting something…tacky maybe? Instead spent a very pleasant hour or so talking and exploring and learning some very, very cool stuff about some of our favorite movies.

Well worth a visit!

Carnivale in Marigot By: BJPorter on Evenstar

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We attended a Mardi Gras type parade on the French side on Shrove  (Fat) Tuesday.  The costumes were pretty impressive. All ages and genders were bedecked in spectacular arrays of flowers, feathers and glitter. There were troupes of young children, teenagers and adults. One thing that impressed me was that these were all regular, real people, and everyone was out there strutting their stuff and you could tell they all felt proud and beautiful. It’s hard to picture an event like this back in the states where we have such harsh standards of beauty and judge those outside those brackets so unkindly. Some of the most charismatic people in the parade were the winners of the “Miss Plus Size” beauty pageant – this wasn’t a joke or a gag like it might be in the states, these were beautiful, vibrant women; accepted for who they are and proud of it. And you could see the happiness and humor as they saw friends and family along the way and broke ranks for hugs, pictures and fun.

FLOTSAM

flot·sam noun \ˈflät-səm\

Definition of FLOTSAM

maritime term for floating wreckage of a ship or its cargo; broadly : floating debris

Flotsam. What a great word. A few years back there was a children’s book published under that name. The book contains no words, merely pictures of flotsam and jetsam washed up on shore. I didn’t even know the word before I saw it in the library those years back. And now, we see it every day. Not the word but the debris. We see it on the shore, in the street, on the dinghy docks, on our anchor. Bits of flotsam and jetsam with stories all their own from days gone by.

SPEAKING FRENCH AND EATING CHEESE/JE PARLE FRANCAIS ET JE MANGE LE FROMAGE

Matty enjoying the cheap French wine

Thank you to Mrs. Thalacker, Mrs. Van Wersch, Dr. Conwell, and my grandmother for teaching me French. It has come in handy on the French side of St. Martin where everyone kisses once on each cheek and speaks French and only some speak English. Je parle francais plus que je remember! I speak with Mrs. Van Wersch’s singsongy accent. Lundi! Mardi! Mercredi! Vendredi! …. All the conversations in my head are in French too. I am even speaking French on the Dutch side for no good reason at all other than it is fun.
Nous adore le pain and le fromage (je pense que…). We love all the bread and cheese. We go to this wonderful patisserie each day that bakes baguettes fresh into the evening.

Bon vivant avec pain, vin, et fromage.

The cheese is cheap and smelly and gooey and delightful. When we were leaving St. John, USVI, we did some grocery shopping in a sort of island Whole Foods and Graham picked out some $13 brie without us noticing the price (I am accustomed to buying it at Trader Joe’s for $3.50.) It was delicious and gooey and worth every penny. When we arrived in St. Maarten (Dutch side) I bought 2 ½ times as much brie for the same price to prove a point. As Matt and I enjoyed sundown in the cockpit later that night he confessed that while he loves a bargain as much as the next person, Graham’s brie was of a much higher quality. Then he told me the sweetest story that I keep thinking of as we go around enjoying notre pain et le fromage (our bread and cheese!).
When Matt was first out of college from the University of Iowa, he moved to Washington, DC temporarily and lived with his parents. He commuted with his father downtown and on the way home they would stop at a cheese shop in Old Town, Alexandria. Matt’s dad taught him the difference in quality between melty old cheese and hard old cheese. Matt remembers the shopkeeper commenting on when a cheese was too firm, how it wasn’t quite ripe. Graham and I love hearing stories about Grandpa. Here’s to family cheese traditions new and old!

THE INAUGURAL POEM

One sun rose on us today, kindled over our shores,
peeking over the Smokies, greeting the faces
of the Great Lakes, spreading a simple truth
across the Great Plains, then charging across the Rockies.
One light, waking up rooftops, under each one, a story
told by our silent gestures moving behind windows.
My face, your face, millions of faces in morning’s mirrors,
each one yawning to life, crescendoing into our day:
pencil-yellow school buses, the rhythm of traffic lights,
fruit stands: apples, limes, and oranges arrayed like rainbows
begging our praise. Silver trucks heavy with oil or paper—
bricks or milk, teeming over highways alongside us,
on our way to clean tables, read ledgers, or save lives—
to teach geometry, or ring-up groceries as my mother did
for twenty years, so I could write this poem.
All of us as vital as the one light we move through,
the same light on blackboards with lessons for the day:
equations to solve, history to question, or atoms imagined,
the “I have a dream” we keep dreaming,
or the impossible vocabulary of sorrow that won’t explain
the empty desks of twenty children marked absent
today, and forever. Many prayers, but one light
breathing color into stained glass windows,
life into the faces of bronze statues, warmth
onto the steps of our museums and park benches
as mothers watch children slide into the day.
One ground. Our ground, rooting us to every stalk
of corn, every head of wheat sown by sweat
and hands, hands gleaning coal or planting windmills
in deserts and hilltops that keep us warm, hands
digging trenches, routing pipes and cables, hands
as worn as my father’s cutting sugarcane
so my brother and I could have books and shoes.
The dust of farms and deserts, cities and plains
mingled by one wind—our breath. Breathe. Hear it
through the day’s gorgeous din of honking cabs,
buses launching down avenues, the symphony
of footsteps, guitars, and screeching subways,
the unexpected song bird on your clothes line.
Hear: squeaky playground swings, trains whistling,
or whispers across café tables, Hear: the doors we open
for each other all day, saying: hello, shalom,
buon giorno, howdy, namaste, or buenos días
in the language my mother taught me—in every language
spoken into one wind carrying our lives
without prejudice, as these words break from my lips.
One sky: since the Appalachians and Sierras claimed
their majesty, and the Mississippi and Colorado worked
their way to the sea. Thank the work of our hands:
weaving steel into bridges, finishing one more report
for the boss on time, stitching another wound
or uniform, the first brush stroke on a portrait,
or the last floor on the Freedom Tower
jutting into a sky that yields to our resilience.
One sky, toward which we sometimes lift our eyes
tired from work: some days guessing at the weather
of our lives, some days giving thanks for a love
that loves you back, sometimes praising a mother
who knew how to give, or forgiving a father
who couldn’t give what you wanted.
We head home: through the gloss of rain or weight
of snow, or the plum blush of dusk, but always—home,
always under one sky, our sky. And always one moon
like a silent drum tapping on every rooftop
and every window, of one country—all of us—
facing the stars
hope—a new constellation
waiting for us to map it,
waiting for us to name it—together.

EC VS USD

Graham on a cannon at Ft. St. Louis overlooking Marigot Bay.

Today we are officially in St. Maarten. As Matt and I were out walking today, we encountered a lovely French bakery and also went into a grocery store. In both we were surprised to know that all prices were in both US dollars and European currency. Later, back at the boat, we were commenting on it again and realized that this was the first time Matt and I had been anywhere that used the Euro since the advent of the Euro. Graham piped up that he bought a very pricey muffin in Charles de Gaulle Airport with euros on his way to Egypt. Well, excuuuuse us.

PASSAGE TO ST MAARTEN

We left for our overnight trip in the early afternoon and we had a few hours before we got out into the open ocean. I took my beanbag (not the 70s Brady Bunch kind, but an E-SEA Rider teardrop shaped for back support, water proof delight) up to the bow and just listened to music, singing at the top of my lungs. It occurred to me that when I am at home, I listen to music, and sometimes this high volume, but only when I am driving alone or cleaning. So what I am saying is that I am never just appreciating the music or doing nothing else. When I was on the bow I was just listening and watching the beautiful scenery all around me and feeling the cool wind on my face and the water splash over the bow onto my feet when we get a ferry wake. Life is good.