Why does anyone go to live in the Caribbean?

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It is the weather right?  Not this guy. I grew up in South Florida and have spent most of my life in tropical climes.  I was there to learn more about the food of the Caribbean.
What lures so many is the stunning beauty of the Caribbean Sea.  For centuries these islands have been attracting sailors from all over the globe.  The bygone era’s of pirates and even modern day swashbucklers make use of these waters and the islands that lie in and around these oceans as a refuge from persecution and shelter.
It was a tricky play for me to convince my family to agree to leave the conveniences of the modern world.  Eventually Miami’s gleaming towers of glass and steel were soon replaced by never ending horizons of blue.  The aquatic surrounding our new residence on the Island of Tortola made for glorious panoramas.  Daily scenes of mountainous isles jutting out of an azure sea so vivid you would might think this scene from my porch is an oversize post card.  We have lived our entire lives in the metropolitan landscapes of Miami and Fort Lauderdale and this new Virgin Island seascape was to me implausible. 
In my most recent daydreams of our Tortolan bliss, the seascape of blue was replaced by landscapes of green, yellow, orange and the crimson red of mango, papayas, pineapple and bananas. They line every road, trail and path multiplying copiously on every corner of our island. These small outcroppings were only dwarfed by my encounters with numerous wild groves.  As I pursued my uncovering more on foot, the high altitudes can really affect you. Did I remember to tell you that these islands are mountainous?
Imagine a Caribbean island filled with tropical foods.  A chef’s dream right?  I thought so at first, but found out what a chore it was to harvest these wild groves after climbing a combination of summits.  The altitude unsettled my self confidence.  Being someone that lived his entire life at sea level, this altitude made me confront and rethink my physical stamina.  Just about to give up this week’s attempt at finding another unusual food for dinner, I stumble across a man and his donkey. 
It seems that just a decade before the new millennium, this island had no automobiles and modern roads and donkeys were the best means of transportation.  The sun weathered old man with limited dentistry encounters, (wearing what might be graciously said as) sporting a tattered assembly of cloths and no shoes – told me that he climbs these hills daily to harvest provisions and later ensues that others have been doing this for years.  They gather on Saturday and Sunday at an aged (to put it in a good way) open-air market to sell these wild foods and I should go.  
It is not the amount of people that have crossed your path
But, how the path was accomplished.
Being at the market only a few minutes, I can see that this is the meeting place for “Belongers” to flock.  Not so much to sell their harvest but to be apart of a community.  Belonger’s are people that have lived on the island for a very longtime if not their entire lives.  This island’s populace is all about community. It seems as though everyone knows each other here.  It is unusual for you to walk any street and not be said hello. It is exceedingly strange to me, coming from Miami where nobody knows each other and most people are from someplace else.  The feeling of community is strongest on the island at the marketplace.  All the gathers sell their provisions but it really isn’t as important to make a sale as it is to be with friends.  Our time on this world can be assessed by how many people have crossed your path and affected your life.  In the Caribbean it is different.  It is not the amount of people that have crossed your path but, how the path was accomplished. 
Most Caribbean peoples share the same common history.  Discovering a social backdrop like the marketplace is just the tip of a very large iceberg. This entire social unification of islands and its cultures are different but the same in so many ways.  As a rule Islanders, are overflowing with the same atypical allegiance to its own peoples and their own individualistic cultures.  Each Caribbean island has a potpourri of divergent residents and not everyone originally comes from the same island which they now live.  Jamaicans and the people from “Down Island” (those people coming from the lower islands of the Lesser Antilles) make up Tortola’s diverse, yet the same populace.  It is awe-inspiring to be apart of a community where everyone has commonalities and feels as though they belong to something greater. 
The peoples of these islands not only have a different spirit of life that isn’t seen in America, it is poles apart.
Tortola is the “melting pot” of the Caribbean just as the United States.  Being a financial center, second busiest in the Caribbean, people from every where come here to work.  Commonalities bring people here but it is their uncommon allegiance to their home island that keeps them independently uplifted.  People from “down island” always chatter on about the natural beauty of their home island.  Dominique for example, is always said to be the most beautiful place in the world, with their rainforest and crystal clear rivers leading out to the Oceans where fishing is exceptionally popular.  While other down-islanders brag about their homeland, the Trini’s are always yakking on about Carnival. If anyone knows anything about Carnival in Trinadad, they don’t try to compare their island’s festival to a Trinadad’s.  The people of Jamaica are always talking about how beautifully rich their homeland is in natural attractions and culture. You can’t go anywhere in the Caribbean without running into a “Jerk-Shak”.  Jamaican jerk-shaks are so popular, you would think every Island has the same food.
Food is the separating and a bonding aspect to many cultures.
Being wrong once again Dad didn’t figure in the lack of everyday urban conveniences as a major dilemma for my girls.  They were to use to the modern amenities of Miami.  After one year of being un-accommodate of everyday requirements on this remote island, we returned to the good old US of A and a hip-hip- hooray’s ensued daily by my girls.
excerpt taken from my first cookbook 
In the Land of Misfits, Pirates and Cooks
copyright 2009, 2011
 
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