The View
from Here:

    Ellen Lampert-Greaux lives in Petite Saline and is the editor-in-chief of Harbour Magazine for Saint Barth and Saint Martin. When she's not organizing the St. Barth Film Festival, or writing for various magazines including Live Design, MACO, and All At Sea, she turns her all-seeing eye upon local happenings.


Now what?

The small plane swoops in for a landing on the short runway on a perfect little Caribbean island. You step out onto the tarmac and savor the warm air and soft tropical breezes. You admire the green hillsides where houses with red or green roofs are tucked into the landscape. Hey, you think, wouldn’t it be great to build a house here? So you set out to visit the real estate agencies and are blown away by the prices but there is a small piece of land, not too far from a beach, that seems affordable, complete with a small house that can be expanded. So you go take a look. It’s fabulous. You buy it. You bring in your architect who has never built a house in the Caribbean before. He sweeps open the walls on the existing house, cuts down a series of protected tropical trees as they are in the way of his expansion plans, and adds a master bedroom suite with a large bathtub with Jacuzzi, rainforest shower head, and steam room. The swimming pool is heated. The living room is air-conditioned. You can’t get enough electricity from the local company so you install a giant generator. And move in for your one-month a year on the island during your August vacation. You hear rumors of a hurricane alert. The neighbors start rounding up loose items in their yards. Boats are being towed along the roads. How bad can it be, you wonder. Until the winds start to blow, the power goes out. Wait a minute, why didn’t the generator kick in? The next day you still have no power and can’t open any of the electric shutters so the house is in the dark. Can’t flush the toilets, as the electric pumps aren’t working. Can’t even get water from the pool as the electric cover was closed for the storm. So you walk over to the neighbors, who live in a charming little island cottage. They have opened their wooden shutters with their hands, and are calmly pulling a bucket of water from their small exterior cistern, to wash the walkway after sweeping up the branches that blew into their yard. Fish is on their BBQ and lunch will be ready in little while. They invite you to join them, which is a blessing, as you can’t even boil water on your fancy electric stovetop. No problem you think, as you savor the local catch of the day, the generator will be working in no time. But not so fast! It’s been damaged by sand and salt water and the only repairman for this expensive Italian contraption lives on the next island over, and he can’t make it to your house for at least a week. No one else has the special tools required to get it up and running, so your house remains in the dark until the local power goes back on later that night. Who needs all this, you start to wonder, and think maybe you can put this house on the market and buy one of these little island-style houses that seem to survive, and like their native residents, know a thing or two about how to live on an island.

More to come,

    Ellen Lampert-Greaux

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