My Caribbean upbringing is one of the things in life that I am so grateful for. Growing up on St. Maarten was a blessing. My childhood is something that I truly appreciate and I know that every little thing about it has made me into the person that I am today. I really cherish my childhood and today I am opening up to share what growing up in the Caribbean was for me.
Growing up in the Caribbean meant living in a small country
St. Maarten/St. Martin is only 34 square miles, in comparasion Harford County is 512 square miles...so the island I grew up with is 15 times smaller than the county I moved to! Living on a small country had its benefits, I was always close to my family and every one knew each other. Your family was the way people could know who you were, someone would ask "Who yuh fuh?" and I would reply something like "I'm Mercedes' daughter Tara's daughter, Ello is my great grandma" and they would know.
Everyone knows each other in someway.
Some downfalls of living on small island is the fact that it can only hold so much. Like any other country St. Maarten developed over time, but as more buildings are built and population grows the size of the island remains the same.
Growing up in the Caribbean meant a simple life.
We lived on a small apartment on the French side. It was truly humble beginnings but I loved that apartment with all my heart (it was recently destroyed by Hurricane Irma). We had three bedrooms, one bathroom, and an outdoor concrete space where my imagination ran wild. I spent my days playing with my brothers or playing with my dolls.
On laundry days I would go outside with my mom where we would wash the clothes and then hang them up to dry on our clothesline. I remember how I would try to be like my mommy by clipping the clothes pins to my clothes.
On Saturday mornings, I would walk up to the small store across the street to give the cashier 2 euros for the two baguettes. We would eat breakfast together with the windows open and the island breeze coming in.
We had a small house computer and our television had the few needed channels- in fact we actually went two years without satellite television and life went on as normal lol. Internet was not high-speed but this all meant that we spent less time with our faces in a screen and more time with each other.
Growing up in the Caribbean meant family was everything.
The phrase "it takes a village to raise a child" was true in my childhood. I was always close by to my family and spent lots of time with them. My aunt would take care of us on some weekends, we loved her house because she had a basketball court nearby where we could run and play with cousins.
I also spent a lot of time at my great-grandma Ello's house which was the meet up spot for the family. I loved the time I was able to spend with her because she loved all her great-grands so much, she made the best johnny cakes which she showed me how to make in the picture above.
At my great-grandma's house I would play with my cousins in her yard, look at her beautiful garden, and listen to her stories. There was not a single week that went by in which we didn't stop by, whenever we went on a trip she was the first person we visited when we got back and the first stop when went back home on vacations. I still miss her to this day.
RIP Grandma Ello.
Growing up in the Caribbean meant having lots of culture.
Growing up on St. Martin/St. Maarten exposed me to many cultures. Not only our West-Indian culture but also the French and Dutch cultures as well as the cultures of the many different types of people who lived on the island whether they were from other islands in the Caribbean or from completely different parts of the world.
Caribbean culture. Where do I begin! For one we love a good party so much so that we carnival every year. On my island we get two carnivals, the French side carnival and the Dutch side carnival. What I loved most about carnival is that it was a time for the whole island to get together. I loved watching the parade and making my little carnival masks in school.
Caribbean culture means learning how to whine as soon as you learn to walk! Dancing is so important and comes natural to us. I can't tell you the amount of parties my family would have, we look for any excuse to get together to dance and eat! Music is something that really brings us all together...Dancehall, Soca, Reggae, Zouk, I love it all!
I think a great thing about the Caribbean is that while there are many different islands there is an underlying culture that we all share. When I talk to other West-Indians it seems that we all had the same childhood!
Growing up in the Caribbean meant great food.
Whether it was home cooked meals, a local restaurant, or a fancy French eatery I was always eating good and learned to appreciate good food from a young age.
Growing up in St. Martin allowed me to have the best and freshest seafood. By the age of seven I would devour a whole lobster myself. I loved fish, I claim to have eaten Mahi-Mahi at every restaurant that offers it on the island!
Food is another BIG part of our culture. St. Maarten's national dish is chicken leg and johnny cake...oh I would love to have some now! I love some good oxtail. The ribs from the Lo-Lo's. Anything from Mark's Place. The conch from Yvette's. I love a whole fish with rice and peas and plantain on the side.
I could never deny some delicious fruit, we would be driving home and see someone selling them on the side of the street and would have to pull over and get some. I remember the many days of sitting outside eating a juicy mango or watching my older cousins climb the tree for some yummy Gineps!
Growing up in the Caribbean meant being a beach lover.
Although St. Maarten is only 34 square miles, we have 37 stunning beaches. Growing up on the island meant spending many days enjoying our gorgeous beaches. I think the beaches really help to create the calm, no worries, vibe on the island because our beaches are so relaxing and beautiful they just make you happy.
The beach was not only a relaxing spot but it was also a natural remedy. Whenever we had a cold we would down to the beach and take ducks in the ocean and let the salty sea water do it's work.
Growing up in the Caribbean meant being apart of the family business
My family owned a car-rental near the airport and when I wasn't in school or with other family I was right here in this office. After school we would stay in the office until my parents were done with work, we would be "in the back" meaning in the back of the office where the tourist weren’t and again this was a place where our imagination went wild. We would play games after doing our homework and then once the sales were done for the day we went outside and played in between the cars of the lot.
Other times I would stay in the front and greet the customers, many which knew me since I was a baby. As you see in the picture above I would also sneak some time on the computer. A lot of my time was spent here in this office from when I was a baby until we moved away when I was 13.
The truth is that without the family business I wouldn't have been able to go to the school I did or we wouldn't have been able to afford the move to America so my time in the office helped me to learn to be thankful and grateful for the work my family did.
Growing up in St. Martin meant everything!
My island holds a very special part in my heart forever and always. I have so much pride and love for my island St. Martin. Growing up there is something that I would never change because it made me who I am today. I learned how to appreciate the little things in life, I learned that family is everything, I learned to appreciate nature's beauty, I learned respect from my elders, I learned the importance of hard-work, and I learned how fortunate I was to literally grow up in Paradise.
I'll always be an island girl...
See you on my next blog,