On a safari
For many Virgin Islands residents who aren’t taxi drivers or schoolchildren, safari buses — those massive trucks painted with various themes — can be problematical. They are of course useful for transporting large numbers of tourists easily around the islands and helping spread their cash around to different businesses. But many residents have never been on one and have no particular desire to, and often have to dodge them on hills and try to veer around them as they hog more than their half of the road. Over the weekend, however, a Beaconite hopped aboard one of these buses with around 40 other VI residents dressed like “tacky tourists,” for the annual Promoting Animal Welfare charity bar crawl. “Is this everyone’s first time in the BVI?” asked the driver (who probably knew better) prompting laughter to erupt. They zoomed through Road Town, getting a bird’s-eye view of both hurricane damage and the rebuilding process, sights they see every day and usually walk right by. Then it was up Joes Hill to get a stirring 360-degree view from Sky World Food Theatre, down through Cane Garden Bay to Stoutt’s Lookout, and back. Along the way, she was told that anyone, not just tourists, can pay a fee to climb aboard on days when the buses are operating. She recommends the trip for anyone who wants to feel like they are on vacation without leaving their “backyard.”
Moving to a community in recovery from a devastating hurricane is an interesting experience. You keep hearing about how things used to be, how that restaurant used to be there, how rent was cheaper, how that office was in a different building. And a basic element of introductory getting-to-know-you conversation is talking about how your life was completely uprooted by Irma. “Oh, you lost your business that you spent 20 years building? I lost my home and all of my possessions.” Entering the Virgin Islands as an outsider, a Beaconite could only observe the lingering aftereffects of an apocalyptic tragedy, but much of the worst of the destruction is barely visible now. That’s why it’s been so harrowing interviewing residents about their experience in the storm and how it affects them today. She didn’t truly realise until hearing the in-depth stories of VI residents how traumatic the storms were and how much grief and fear most residents went through. Two years is not much to heal from a trauma like that. She is very appreciative of the residents who opened their hearts and shared their stories.
A Beaconite is finally getting her footing in the Virgin Islands after moving here nearly six months ago. Half a year has already flown by and she’s happy to say it’s been filled with many — albeit sometimes fuzzy — great memories. By the time this prints, the reporter will have a vehicle to explore Tortola and she plans to use it wisely. That includes long nights of stargazing and impromptu sunset watching. It includes carrying food over to a friend or meeting new people in new places. She knows Tortola is a small island that can feel too small sometimes. But she’s lucky that other islands are just a ferry ride away. She’s recently discovered just how much she loves The Baths on Virgin Gorda, and she is eagerly awaiting a visit to Anegada. Hanging out at Jost Van Dyke is also a great way to spend a day or weekend. And not to mention all the opportunities she hopes to have to travel and report. A quarter of her two-year contract is just around the corner, and she’s in disbelief.
While sitting in on a meeting about strategies for the territory’s “blue economy” (a term used for marine conservation and economic opportunity), a Beaconite became fearful that the pristine beauty of the VI could be improperly exploited for monetary gain. Many are money-hungry, but fail to realise that real hunger is only satisfied by food provided from nature. After listening to questions regarding how soon scientific data could be used for economic gain, she hopes that the blue economy will only be developed with sustainability in mind.