The View
from Here:
  Ellen Lampert-Greaux lives in Petite Saline, and when she's not organizing the St. Barthelemy film festival, or supervising the local volleyball league, or writing for various magazines, she turns her sharp eye upon local happenings.
  January '02
   Off And Running
  Whew! The New Year is barely a week old and its already been quite something. I was sitting on the terrace of a friend's house looking out at the night sky on New Year's Eve, and realized something was wrong. St. Martin looked awfully dark.
   Turns out that no sooner did the last day of 2001 dawn, than the EDF, the French electric company, decided to go on strike in Guadeloupe and the French side of St. Martin, where lots of people ate their new year's supper by candlelight. Not to be left out of the action, the local EDF agents in Saint Barth also went on strike, with hand-drawn posters listing their grievances. Its not clear to me what they want, but what they definitely don't want is a proposed underwater cable that would send "juice" from St. Martin to Saint Barth, relieving the need to create our own power.This time we've been lucky. While St. Martin is still in the dark, our local guys are striking, but not turning off the current (if they had, chances are I wouldn't be writing this right now). But they have let it be known that if anything breaks down, we're smack out of luck. No repairs. So we're keeping our fingers crossed.
  So was Mayor Bruno Magras, who had invited the entire island, as well as various French officials, to the inauguration of the new City Hall in Gustavia, on January 3. It would have been pretty embarrassing, not to mention hot, had the power gone off. And no one would have been able to hear the two hours of speeches as everyone involved thanked everyone else involved for the success of the place, and a few former mayors were given medals of honor for their past successes. I was asked to come along and translate the Mayor's speech for Addie Ottley's morning show, broadcasting live from Saint Barth on WSTA, an English-language radio station in St. Thomas. Little did I know it would be two hours of "live" as I described the scene and translated all of the speeches as best as possible (I swear there are some French words that defy translation). But to everybody's relief the power stayed on, and with it the air-conditioning, as the ribbon was cut and champagne served in the beautiful new City Hall, right on the water next to the Wall House.
   It will be interesting to watch as the town of Gustavia shifts its focus from one side of the harbor to the other now that the City Hall has moved over there. It was also interesting to sing Auld Lang Syne to the French Franc and watch the transition to the Euro, especially at the time of the year when dollars are floating around pretty freely. I wrapped up all my old coins to turn in at the bank, so with a pocket full of pretty new money, I'm just waiting to see what the rest of the year will bring.

  More to come,

  Ellen Lampert-Greaux

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