Story by Bre Cruickshank
Illustration by Anna Connolly
It may be hard to believe that there exists a land of plentiful palm trees, water so blue it rivals Bradley Cooper’s eyes, and seemingly unlimited rum, but alas, it does. It is St. Croix, of the U.S. Virgin Islands, where I was fortunate enough to spend my leisurely Christmas break with my family. It was my third trip to my favorite Caribbean Island and it was definitely the most memorable. Granted, I haven’t traveled to any other Caribbean islands, but I’m quite certain St. Croix has the most to offer, since it is the headquarters of Cruzan Rum and peacocks roam freely around the yards of not-so-delighted islanders. In fact, there are plenty of exciting animal run-ins to have on the island. From the stray cows crossing the street to the millions of mongoose who were imported to the island to get rid of the rats, St. Croix has it all.
I stayed with my aunt and uncle who live on the island for half of the year in Cotton Valley, on the east end. Surprisingly, there used to be a lot of cotton farms in the area. St. Croix is the most beautiful place I have ever visited. The sky was so clear during my stay; I got confused sometimes since I am from Oregon and the sky I am most familiar with is a dusty gray with rain drops dripping from it. The flowers were bright and vibrant and palm trees, heavy with ripe coconuts, were scattered everywhere I looked. The water seemed to sparkle; every fifteen minutes I had to stop and remind myself that I was not in a Disney movie. That is how absolutely gorgeous St. Croix is.
The second day of vacation was my mom’s birthday. She was born half fish, so to celebrate our arrival in the Caribbean my sister and I joined her for a swim in the sea. After hyperventilating about all the possible ways we could get eaten by sharks or stung by eels, we flung ourselves into the ocean and were instantly shocked by how welcoming the water was. If you have ever felt the complete numbness that results from a dip at the Oregon Coast, you would understand how intoxicating this was. Of course, such ecstasy can only be short lived. My sister ended up with a gash on her knee from hitting a rock and after much speculation about my increasingly pink and inflamed foot (not to be mistaken with my normal feet, which are simply inflamed in size), we determined that I was stung by a jelly fish. Upon this discovery, the pain in my foot got about five times worse, then seized completely when I realized how incredibly cool it was that I would live through being stung by a venomous Caribbean jelly fish. I chose to neglect the fact that the worst harm they can inflict is a mild stinging for a couple of hours (to be cured with vinegar and Benadryl).
Other exciting aspects of my Cruzan vacation included swinging a machete around, eating snails, and discovering a treasure chest full of gold. As for the machete, a local gardener that works for my aunt and uncle was retrieving dozens of coconuts from the trees around the yard one day to cut them open for the meat and water inside. After being dazzled by his immaculate coconut-cutting skills, I decided to give it a try myself. Anyone that knows me knows that I have really large and imposing muscles for a girl, so I figured this would be no problem considering my frame. However, it turned out to be pretty difficult. I had to hack away for about fifteen minutes to finally break the coconut open. But it was so worth it. Spooning out fresh coconut meat in the morning was one of the best memories I have from any vacation.
At this point in the trip, my skin color has changed from sickly “wish-I-had-the-vampire-excuse” pale to remotely human, I had enjoyed night after night of expensive wines with my relatives and friends (the drinking age is eighteen in St. Croix, I should mention. Or should I…), and had impressed myself by trying weird, foreign seafood. This trip was amazing! One day, just when I thought things couldn’t get any better, they did! Through some contacts on the island, we discovered that the big, beautiful house next to ours had been rented out for the holidays by none other than the vice president, Joe Biden and his family! Unfortunately, the closest I got to meeting Joe and his family was my daring swims to shore where I was stalked by suspicious secret service agents who had formerly been hiding in the shrubbery by the house. One of my friends on the island was lucky enough to be in the same vicinity as Mr. Biden though, at New Year’s mass, where the priest proceeded to call him “John” in front of the congregation. This does not surprise me in the least.
All in all, the vacation was a success. We enjoyed hikes along the beach where we found little shacks built out of drift would to accommodate me and my sister in the future, long dinners spent with friends and family and most importantly vino (as well as other incomprehensible wines that looked and tasted more expensive than my usual Barefoot), and the reassurance that in spite of my barbaric Scottish ancestry, I was actually capable of getting some color, no matter how minimal.