On a forgotten flight out of Curacao while living on the island in the early 1980s, I found myself sitting next to a highly caffeinated Dutch woman.
Before we reached cruising altitude, she shared with me her retirement plans. To move to Curacao with its never-ending sunny days. Since the island was still a part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, it was easy peasy. Like moving to Alaska from Florida.
Everyone had told her living in the Caribbean would be heaven on a rocky island after a lifetime of gray and dismal skies over the Netherlands. And it had been, for about a week. Then reality set in with another power outage. Beyond the lack of fresh vegetables and other foodstuffs, was the lack of things to do and intelligent people to do anything with.
She had my sympathy given we'd lived for over two years on the coral rock. So how long did you live there I inquired, imagining years or at least months.
"Three weeks!" exclaimed my Dutch seat mate.
Since it's decidedly rude to laugh at a stranger, I kept my mouth shut and my face as expressionless as possible. If only she knew my American friend Maggie who'd lived in Curacao for almost two decades.
After an escape from Curacao, Maggie and The Husband returned to their 1700 square foot home to find it a certifiable EPA disaster area. No simple roach motel was the house, but more of a cockroach New York City with a diversity of other bugs plus an estimated million hungry mosquitoes.
How a desert island with so little rain could grow so many mosquitoes was a curious oddity, but then everything about living in the Caribbean was odd back then. After all, how could all that ocean water surrounding the island be home to virtually no edible fish?
So Maggie called Septic Man who told her to dump some kerosine into the septic tank to kill the gazillion insects. This advice nearly killed Maggie too, as her lungs choked on the fumes oozing throughout the house. Early the morning after, The Husband arose early to bag 93 cockroach corpses even while other cockroaches lay dying in their stinking excrement.
The Septic Man returned to announce that their tank was almost full. After a truck pumped things out, Septic Man took one look into the empty tank to announce. The septic tank was at the end of its lifespan, it would have to be replaced--but not until after rainy season. In the meanwhile, Maggie and The Husband continued to bag dead cockroaches.
I have to say that in my almost 4 years lived on that piece of rock, I never realized there was a rainy season. Rainy few days when the water would turn streets without run-off catch basins into rivers, yes--but season?
Next excitement was when Maggie's bank was robbed. During the heist, one robber suddenly demanded the car keys from a bank customer. Apparently, the robbers didn't have a getaway car. The gang that couldn't think straight?
The following day an officer of the bank went on the island's television and radio stations to decry how rude the robbers had been to not only steal the bank's money, but a customer's vehicle too!
Looking into the camera he added, the robbers needn't have bothered the customers and the employees of the bank for an auto. Well, actually they needed to bother someone. How else to make a getaway?
Women hate the annual pap smear. Laid on a cold, hard table, you are told to put your feet in metal stirrups, slide your tush to the doctor's end of the table and then widen your legs. Wider.
But needs must, abroad some learn to create laughter out of medical musts. That was how Maggie had a Pap Party. Going with a friend of her's to Arby's, they picked up enough coffee and cookies for a party. Then the invitees' gathered for their sequential pap appointments, taking turns as one after another laid on the examination table and the female doctor did the pap.
As the other jabbering and chattering women took turns serving one another to coffee and cookies, Maggie cheekily asked the doctor. "Would you like to have your cookie now?" Without waiting for an answer, the indomitable Mags popped a half of a chocolate chip cook doctor's mouth.
After all, hadn't the female doctor said the year before how tedious she found these exams. Leave it to Maggie to jazz up even a mundane medical exam.