dear readers, prepare for a tale of two broke girls (real ones) in the midst of sickness, mosquitos, drunken strangers, and hurricane force winds.
once upon a time, when amber and i first came to visit st thomas back in august, we found ourselves in a bit of a jam. that little jam created a series of events that got amber and i the jobs and friends we have today.
when we first visited the island, we only intended to stay for a week. that's what we budgeted for, at least. then, this jerk named Isaac came in the form of a category 1 hurricane. that ruined our flying plans and stranded us on st thomas for an extra week. i had the idea to use couchsurfing.org to help afford the prolonged stay, but amber caught some sort of island virus and badly needed a bed.
so we stayed in a hotel room on sapphire beach for an extra couple days until we just couldn't afford it anymore. amber started to feel a bit better so i suggested a cheaper situation. i found an ad on craigslist that a man posted requested help remodeling his "nice big house" in exchange for a free place to crash... you guys probably just read that and immediately thought "no stefanie, danger!" but i promise you that sort of situation is normal for the island. hitchhiking, couchsurfing, saying hi to every passing stranger--totally normal island behavior. MY instinct was that this man was some old hippy who just wanted to help young travelers while also receiving a bit of help along the way.
amber agreed so i gave the man a call. his voice was sweet on the phone. he gave me the impression that his house was fully furnished and complete, just in need of some light labor, such as painting and sweeping. when we got there, we found something entirely different...
glen's house was actually more like a shell of a house... a treehouse, if you will. we found it tucked far up hawkhill. there were no windows--only broken screens that let in rain and mosquitos. there was no furniture--only couch cushions and deflated air-mattresses. and the floor even had holes that showed the greenery of the hill below. the only functional appliances in the kitchen were the refrigerator, the stove, and a microwave on the floor. the kitchen sink was actually a moldy bin in the laundry room. and the shower in the bathroom had only a screen above it, which iguanas liked to run across at inopportune times.
but that wasn't enough to drive me and amber away. sure, we had our hopes up for a comfortable house, but we saw this turn of events as a nice challenge. plus we were broke, so we had no choice.
that night, we learned that glen's ad attracted more travelers/newcomers than we expected. there were six other people staying in the house. we were very happy for the company. the only people we had made friends with until then were other tourists, so it was nice to talk to other like-minded people who were new to the island.
we immediately gravitated toward this couple that had been staying at glen's for a couple weeks. they moved to st thomas from texas, as a transitional period before inevitably backpacking through central america. they seemed to be true survivalists, with everything one would need to live off the land and make it through a rainforest. (that tent in the last picture is theirs). but luke and kim would stay in st thomas for the tourist season, to save money before their big backpacking adventure.
that night at glens, they were both very welcoming and eager to share their knowledge on adjusting to island life. they showed us all of their travel equipment over a few vanilla rum and cokes.
later that night, amber and i had one of the most miserable sleeping experiences of our lives (and we've had some bad ones in our travels). she and i had to share an air mattress in the badly screened living room while four other boys snored all around us. one of those boys was a severe alcoholic. not your average alcoholic that gets a little too rowdy at the bar. this was the kind of alcoholic that made you annoyed and ashamed and scared for your life, all at the same time. the kind of alcoholic that would get the shakes if he didn't have two bottles of rum a day.
so while amber and i lay awake on the same quickly deflating air mattress, this stranger in the corner drunkenly mumbled profanities to himself and threw things around his little corner of the room. every once in a while he would disturb the boys snoring and one of them would yell at him to shut up. the drunk guy didn't, however, disturb the evil swarm of mosquitos that we had to swat away about as often as we had to wipe the sweat from our foreheads.
we didn't sleep much.
so the next day we told glen we couldn't stay any longer. he sort of begged us to stay, so we used amber's sickness as an excuse. by the time we woke up and were ready to leave, luke and kim had already left for work. so in place of a goodbye, i left them a note thanking them for their advice and a little bottle of rum as a thanks for sharing theirs the night before. i gave them my number and told them to keep in touch, since they were the only sane component of that experience.
then, over the next couple days, we learned that hurricane isaac was heading toward st thomas. knowing that luke and kim wouldn't be very safe in glen's treehouse, we invited them to our hotel room for a good ol florida style hurricane party. after a night of playing drinking games and swimming in hurricane force winds, we all became very good friends.
when amber and i left the island to prepare for our move down, luke and kim offered for us to stay with them when we returned, until we got onto our feet. and that's exactly what we did the last week of october. once we found our own place and started job hunting, luke insisted that we apply for a job within his company, leading snorkel tours. amber and i both got the job and have continued to consider luke and kim two of our dearest friends on the island.
all thanks to one terrible chance encounter :)
instances like these remind me to look for the good in bad situations. there's always an upside.