It was finally time to go to Sint Maarten, baby!
Sister was turning 40 and, after finding the tiny half Dutch half French Caribbean island on a cruise, it had been one of her favorite places. Excited to finally be on the go again, I was also nervous about doing the all-inclusive resort thing given that it was pretty much the opposite of my style. Still, I was happy to do it for her and tried to focus on the potential of it being a way to take it easy and get some rest for once. Something that didn’t happen, of course, bit it was worth a try.
What had been more than a small challenge leading up to the trip on the $25k a year I was netting was the $1k room cost for the six nights we would be there along with the $1k in additional expenses. I had damn near killed myself during the two or three weeks before by working 80+ hours to cover it and even had that first grand-mal seizure of three years talked about in the last post. I had wondered if it was a fluke the first time but having one again put me in a position of trying to process the upsetting reality of having epilepsy and what that meant to my future.
Working so much in Nor Cal while also plugging away on getting my TEFL teaching certification had me all turned around with trying to keep track of anything else. That included thinking that I was on different flights from my family when in fact we were all on the same both to and from. Well, all minus our brother and niece/his daughter who didn’t come. Not flying solo as I had initially though was bitter-sweet as I could have used some alone time to decompress and process. At the same time, I was happy start to the adventure together.
Finally getting there after half a day’s travel, Sonesta Maho Beach Resort was just OK by my tastes. Lots of sparse white walls with big open spaces and there was only one elevator working among the construction still understandably going on in recovery from the hurricane. Luckily nothing too bad considering. Especially given that we got the rooms at half price because of it. Always the little things, what did bother me was that the booze in my room wasn’t stocked. Regardless of the discount, I didn’t pay that much to be shafted on “all inclusive” treats and it was my vacation too, dammit. Especially if I was going to be stuck in a place full of young middle-class mostly American families and the elderly. Not exactly a crowd I related to.
That afternoon being the first time hanging at the large peanut-shaped pool (which had one of the palapa-covered pool bars I loved so much), we grabbed a drink with Dad and I splashed around with Sienna as she climbed all over me. Loving seeing Dad actually have an adult beverage and Sienna letting go to play with me, it would end up being one of my favorite family moments of the trip. Later but not late enough for anything to be poppin, Big Red and I headed out to a hookah bar called Beirut sxm that was set up like an(atthe time) empty dark disco on the strip next to the resort. It was OK but I didn’t like that she let an arrogant bartender from our resort of whom she had befriend partake in the hookah she paid for. I didn’t like his cocky energy and wasn’t hiding it. A few drinks in, I eventually started calling him a fuckboy. Not my proudest moment.
Like other friends of mine, I loved how generous she was but throwing money around forever reminded me of the gluttony and shadiness of the subprime mortgage industry. I hated it.
After that, and as was to become the norm, she went back to the resort and I stayed to hang with the locals. Quite the introduction, that first night turned into my meeting a cute guy who had a puppy I wanted to pet when trying to blow off a different guy. The one with the pup just so happened to be the son of the chief of police and the only (rated PG 13) romantic interlude of the trip. Being what must have been in his mid twenties, way too young comparatively, he was a pup himself and I pretty much a cougar. On our impromptu date of the night, we walked the puppy around (he was also a dog trainer) as he told me about the area and then we dramatically argued with the resort staff saying that he was who I was there to visit and so should be allowed in. Asshole move on my part as they could get their pay docked if caught.
After waking my parents up to steal their booze in the middle of the night (whoopsie) for a last drink while hanging a wee bit longer, I sent him packing before things got too hot and heavy. Going to bed for the few short hours of sleep I’d get before Wendy woke me up bright and early, it was a somewhat alarming rise-and-shine as I was covered with all kinds of mystery bruises. I didn’t know it then but that was to become a serious autoimmune disorder that was going to get worse over the next few months. A lot worse.
Best part about the resort and it’s three restaurants: best jerk chicken ever! We ate it almost every day. It was also fun to spend time at the beach with Sienna who was was once again crawling all over me in the ocean, both of us cracking up as my sunglasses were lost to the ocean while she turned into a sea-monkey smothering me. Later we set off for the day with a laid back local taxi driver, Walter, of whom we had hired independently. One of the things I had been adamant to my sister that we do and we all ended up being super happy about.
One of the first stops was to feed wild iguanas lettuce. Something pretty cool and fun in it’s own right but especially watching Mom enjoy it and Sienna freak out. Driving along the coast as we headed to the French side of the island (we were staying on the Dutch side), it was a mental trip to see so many boats on their sides from the hurricane, many of them looking like multi-million dollar yachts that had never been used. I was snapped out of it when our guide informed us that it was Carnival. Forever in FOMO mode, I was all over checking out what was going on with the list he gave me as I giggled to myself with the thoughts I always had of how much our family reminded me of National Lampoon’s Family Vacation. The classic National Lampoon with Chevy Chase, not the newer one. Remember, I was 41.
Stopping to shop on our day’s sightseeing trip of the island, Wendy was ecstatic to find a wooden sword. She had gotten one taken away from on her first visit to the island when goofing off too much with it. Something she continued when accidentally hitting me in the head with the new one.
The French side was definitely, at least the part we saw, more run down and less touristy. Walter told us it was due to being less focused on tourism and it’s inhabitants living off the French version of welfare. The ability to earn on the island was almost at the same income level as what they got from that so it didn’t make sense to work. I got where the concept was coming from but my workaholic-ass couldn’t relate. It just seemed depressing.
Stopping to get French pastries for later, we made our way to a cute and quaint French restaurant Wendy had found with light pink walls, flowers, candles and a live lobster pool that we watched be filled with the crustaceans that had just been caught in the ocean that day. Opposite to what is often expected from the French culture, I was surprised and charmed by how friendly and charismatic the staff was. It was over all an enchanting culinary experience.
Sleep deprived and hungover being the theme of the trip, it was a lovely day but I was happy for the chance to end it with a wee bit of recovery and more quality time with Sienna back in our rooms while Wendy and Dad went to the casino across the street. Causing multiple people to wonder what the heck was on my legs over the next couple days, that included letting her use the henna from India on me that I had given her. Regretting not having spent the night in her and Wendy’s room as Sienna requested, night two was the second in a row of not sleeping much. That time, though, was due to insomnia, not partying. C’est la vie.
The next day, May 4th, was Big Red’s actual birthday. Heading to the pool and beach, she managed to find thw 40s club of the resort. In other words, we made friends with a couple and two ladies who were also there for 40th birthday celebrations. I, of course, eventually had a tray full of colorful drinks with little alcohol and a lot of sugar brought out to the waterfront for the grand finale of our hang. From there, sis and I headed back to our rooms to get dolled up for the dinner she had reserved at one of the resort’s nicer restaurants. A dinner of lovely family time that was temporarily interrupted with a hiccup when a man was being abusive to his wife at a table nearby. Both Wendy and I told staff and I shot him eye-daggers when he looked over but other than that it didn’t affect the dinner too much. Actually, I was proud of sis and I for being lionesses who weren’t about to let someone be abused without a little protection.
Among other things, Sint Marteen is known for Maho Beach. More specifically, a small strip of land where people can stand on the sand while being blasted by planes taking off from the island’s airport runway. While too tired to do it myself, we did manage to watch a little boy do it while dining at the neighboring Sunset Bar and Grill. An awesome restaurant next door that we all loved enough to visit twice. Foodie note if you ever make your way there: it had the best coconut shrimp I’ve even had.
That night was the major “fun” event for me. Carnival’s Wet Fete! I had found it on the list from our tour a couple days before and, while Big Red and I had been too tired to go to the party of Carnival the night before, I was determined to make it to this one. I mean come on. Water and soca music with almost all locals? So much so that we only saw two other white people and they weren’t even American. I couldn’t miss it! Good thing I didn’t given that it was the total highlight of doing something more my style.
Set up on a big asphalt area half an hour from the resort, of course I happened to be one of the first people sprayed with a big hose when picking up Wendy’s shoe to put back on her Prince Charming style.
Prior to coming in, she had talked Walter into coming in instead of waiting in the car, telling him she would pay him to hang and be our bodyguard. Something that was about to cause a big fight between the two of us back at Sunset Bar the next day with the after I had ended up being the one to pay him after she passed out. Back to Wet Fete, sis also made friends with a woman from the islands of whose drawn on eyebrows I couldn’t stop staring at.
Dancing away while Big Red continued to lead us to the bar to keep the drinks flowing (her generously paying once again), we were all free flowing and having a blast until sis had one too many and started getting a wee bit too feisty. Amusingly liking to tell dudes I was a player when she was loaded and that particular time acting like I was lame for not letting her drink anymore (too much booze made her feisty and made me cry), I decided it was time to leave somewhat early before we were both too much of a hot mess and would have regrets. My little sis had to enjoy her epic 40th, dammit!
After putting Wendy to bed, Walter continued on with me to go out on the strip by the resort after and we immediately ran into our 40s group friends at the fun outside bar next door called Tres Amigos. Cool but would have been better if Wendow was there. Unfortunately, it didn’t take long for him to try to kiss me (go home to your wife, dude) and I sent him packing. Then I sat on the strip chatting until shortly after sunrise with another guy who had come back on foot to say hello after driving by with a fancy car. Dr. Philing him (AKA: I think I’m a therapist after I’ve had a few), the guy seemed to think we were in a relationship until weeks after I was back in the states. There I went again. *Rolling eyes at myself.*
Sis showed up to my room still buzzed a couple hours after I had gone to sleep claiming that she was waking me up to make sure I was OK. I believed that she was really just excited to get the day started and still loopy from the night before. From there, she took me pointless wandering so much that we never got to eat before leaving for a snorkeling excursion. Not a good combo with a lack of sleep, booze the day before and a boat. She had been excited and inadvertently not letting me sleep the whole trip. Something that wouldn’t fare well by the end. Still, the snorkeling trip was fun and the guides were cute (well, one of them) and playful. We got to see the wrecked ships even closer, sad and surreal, and check out the tropical fish of that Caribbean island. Cool but somewhat sparse and not overly-impressive compared to other places I had been. I had spoiled myself!
Feeling shitty and way too tired by the time we got back, I went to lay down for little more than an hour before Mom called my room to say that the family was waiting in the lobby for me to go back to the restaurant by the airport. No one had given me any notice and it felt like I was an afterthought. Let’s just say it didn’t help my mood. Grouchy and especially not happy with Wendy, I finally lost it when she tried to say she paid Walter, not me, because of how much she spent. Then we went into full sister-syndroming when she said that I always freaked about money, which she hates. As a reminder, I was netting $25k a year and had just spent a couple grand (as well as a seizure) on the trip. Also that I hadn’t felt comfortable and didn’t want Walter (who was lucky his wife was still with him after impregnating another woman) to go. And then I had ended up being the one to pay him $100 as she hadn’t been in the state to do so by the time we got back. As was all too common, she took no responsibility for her own actions and I was hostile as hell about it. Yeah, we were both sister-syndroming each other like crazy. I was usually the crazy, wild and irresponsible one but she had her moments too and I had hit my limit. Even if it was her 40th. I did take responsibility for not handling it well though, at least to myself. I would spend a long time sadly regretting that one. Maybe forever.
The next day was our last. That trip being no exception, I had a habit of getting burnt out and bummed at the end of being somewhere. Travel, Burning Man, between my homes of Southern and Northern California, you name it. Riding the coat tails of the night before, breakfast and hanging by the pool the next morning with the rest of the family tolerating my shitty energy, we made our way home and me to finally get the rest I had thought I would get there. Yeah, I needed to work on my grand finale skills. Nobody’s perfect.
Happy 40th, sister. Even with the lows, it was one hell of a high. I love you.