Gateway glitches

For the first time in two years, a Beaconite has family visiting her from overseas, and she has been using the BVI Gateway application and learning about the specific quarantine procedures, testing protocols, and so on. So far, the process has been incredibly stressful, and the system has been lagging. Like so many other travellers, she and her family members were filled with anxiety as they took every precaution to have their application approved. Repeated attempts to push the application through by communicating with the Steering Group via WhatsApp were futile. On New Year’s Eve, less than 48 hours before her relatives were due to board the plane, she posted on Facebook community boards begging for help. She doesn’t know what happened or who pulled what strings after that, but the applications were approved in two hours. The reporter is not sure why it would take such measures for the government to hold up its end of the bargain. She hopes the system is improved upon and that smart decisions can be made to help travellers instead of causing more worry and anxiety. Covid-19 kills, but so does stress.



Old Year’s Night

Foxy’s Old New Year’s Night celebration has been a staple in the Virgin Islands for decades, but this was a year unlike any other in recent memory. After debating whether to hold a celebration at all in the Covid-19 era, the Jost Van Dyke bar decided to scale back to a much more intimate gathering, and Foxy’s family and employees were not shy about expressing relief that they could relax this year instead of coping with the massive influx of guests. A Beaconite, who had previously stayed on JVD in October before borders opened, spent her second staycation at a villa there. High seas and winds made for a fun visit to the Bubbly Pool, and she and her friends could also now visit the newly reopened Soggy Dollar Bar, which celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2020. Nowhere was crowded, but the handful of tourist groups she encountered seemed delighted to be letting loose — and spreading their money around to as many businesses as possible on the island. It felt great to see them back.



Housing hiatus

A Beaconite found it somewhat shocking when government announced retroactively last week that the Housing Recovery Assistance Programme was no longer accepting applicants as of November because of financial issues. There is still a clear need for assistance in the community as evidenced in the Beacon’s Hurricane Irma anniversary edition in September, in which residents shared stories of living with leaking roofs, unreliable electricity and damaged cisterns. How is a community supposed to heal when faced with the constant reminder of dark days? Besides the physical hazards posed, the longstanding damage impedes the Virgin Islands’ emotional recovery. Non-profit organisations also reported in September that many post-Irma clients had regained enough financial stability to rely less on their services, only to again be knocked down by the hardships caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. How, well beyond three years after the storms, are families still left behind by this programme? It’s a question that deserves a clear-cut answer. The reporter recognises the hard work so many people have invested into rebuilding the VI. But to turn away those still in need seems callous. What happened to restructuring the programme to better serve residents who were previously denied? At this point, the best this reporter can do is keep asking the hard questions and hope things turn around in 2021.



Cheers to a new year

At the start of 2020, a Beaconite would never have thought that he would end the year anywhere besides his home in Southern California. Yet, as this most tumultuous year came to a close, he found himself ringing in 2021 in the Virgin Islands. While he was sad not to be able to go home and see his friends and family, who he now has not seen for more than a year, it’s hard to imagine a more enjoyable holiday season given the state of the world. The VI’s coronavirus outlook is right now drastically rosier than California’s, and as he celebrated his first Christmas with an enormous feast at his friends’ house and celebrated New Year’s Eve by dancing the night away, he didn’t exactly pine for his pandemic ravaged home state. Nonetheless, with the first coronavirus vaccines coming online (albeit at a snail’s pace), the Beaconite is hopeful that by the holidays next year, he’ll have more choice in where to celebrate.