Deception is not the best medicine

Not having internet for two months has much delayed my posts. I drafted this post the week we returned to the island, so here it finally is.

Arriving back to the island did not exactly go how I envisioned. Honestly, I’m not quite sure what I expected… We were constant receiving contradicting messages – the school claiming that everything was “back to normal and safe” while locals and those visiting told a completely different story. I was braced for bad, destroyed foliage and mosquitoes galore – but I wasn’t braced for our arrival.

As we’re floating through the sky I can see her in the distance. I can see the clear blue waters and from hundreds of feet above, she looks untouched by devastation. However, as the plane descends closer and closer, I can see it. The devastation. The houses with roofs like sardine cans, piles of tangled steel and cars, the hotels once beautiful, posh vacation spots – completely see through. Don’t get me wrong, I did not expect those things to fixed. I knew it would take months to clean up and years to rebuild these beautiful hotels to become the island paradise it once was.

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As we land at the airport, we’re preparing to exit the tin can on the runway. I’m bracing myself. The last time I was on a plane, walking on that runway, with my baby strapped to me, I was evacuating with the military honing gorgeous American flags on their shirts. My saviors. Taking me off the devastated, destroyed island, giving me hope. This time was different. I was arriving and having to face the devastation, whether I was ready or not. As I emerge from the plane, I’m holding Lola exceptionally tight, praying and thankful that she doesn’t have the same memory I’m struggling to rationalize in my head.  As I get off the plane, directly onto the runway I barely escaped just four months earlier, tears welled in my eyes as I walked that same runway, with my same baby, in the same shirt – but this time was better. I had the hubs with me. I had a sinking feeling in my stomach as I crossed the black asphalt looking at the makeshift airport under a white pop up tent that this was a bad idea to return so soon. In the distance, the homes on the small hills just behind the tent of an airport were still ripped to shreds, frozen in time, still untouched.

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The airport still had debris and sand stuck to all windows. The cars we saw as we were evacuated are still strewn throughout the airport parking lot. Gathering under a tent to obtain luggage is like an auction at a town fair. The spirits are low and fierce. The same gentleman that helped us with our ridiculous amount of luggage when we first arrived to the island in September was the same man that helped us in our return. He lost everything. I quietly, solemnly quizzed him about the airport and when things would move inside and out from a makeshift tent. He explained that the first goal was some type of air conditioning outside under the tent and that nothing has been done on the inside – that it would still be many months.

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As we ride in the taxi, our driver tells us how happy he is that we’re back, the students that is. He goes on about how much the island needs our money to get back to normal. It sends a pang of frustration and tension through my entire body. How dare he, they, use us as their stimulus package?! We’re here for school, to obtain an education, and we signed on to do that at a school on an island that was safe and not to take advantage of us during this process. Much research was done into our move to St. Maarten – safety of the island, prices, support, etc. None of which included being a stimulus package to a devastated location and sparing our education experience and safety. The hubs can sense this anger festering from the taxi drivers oblivious comment and takes my hand calming me. As we drive to our little area of the island my emotions continue to get the best of me with every building and home that I see still destroyed, still with no signs of cleanup or repair. I knew the island would still be in bad shape {it would be foolish and absurd to think otherwise in such a short time period} but I was never in my wildest prepared for this.

This pure deception of an up an running, livable community has taught me another valuable lesson in all of this. Once again, we have learned never to trust The Machine. Stores and restaurants we were assured  were already open, are not. The grocery store we can walk to is not opening for another two months, at least. We have been lied to once again about the progress and readiness of the school and the livable area. While yes, the school may be able to have a few classes, it is still not where it should be. Prices are horribly gouged, vehicles are being sold without telling the students, and the food in the nearby grocery store pulls out frozen cheese and stamps it with the same date in front of me, placing it into the fridge. I pick it up to examine and it’s completely molded. Vomit.

Half of the apartments have internet and the other half are begging for service, crowding common areas throughout the day for a shred of internet and connection to the outside world. All I can do is pray that this is a fleeting moment in time and we can move forward.

To be continued…

 

-XO, the WCW

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