Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Happy SXM Day!

No, not S and M. SXM. It stands for St. Maarten. And today was his day.

So first, some history. Because nobody I asked knew what St. Maarten's Day was celebrating (independence? just a holiday because our island is great? the day Columbus discovered the island? - that last one turns out to be true, but not why the holiday exists) and I thought it was interesting when I looked it up. St. Maarten was an actual person - Martin of Tours (Tours is a city in France, and therefore probably not pronounced how I'm saying it). Anyway, Columbus saw this island on November 11, 1493 (although he never actually landed on it - he really just saw it and claimed it for Spain) and since it was St. Martin's Day (yeah, the holiday already existed in 1493), he named the island St. Martin. And it stuck, even though the Spanish didn't colonize it until after the Dutch and French did. The Dutch spell Martin differently, hence, Sint Maarten.

Anyways, the government forced all retail businesses to close, which they didn't tell us until yesterday at 4:48pm. I was planning on working all day because we had five ships in town. It was supposed to be a very busy day and it was the main reason I flew down this week as opposed to later in the month. But this was what our store looked like today:

The cops drove down Front Street every 5 to 10 minutes to make sure every store stayed closed. They even shut down a lady selling handmade crafts from a table in an alley! I was very frustrated that we couldn't open, but there was definitely nothing I could do about it. So I went on an adventure.

I caught a local bus to Maho. Buses here are just 14 passenger vans that you can flag down anywhere along the road.

They have a sign in the front window telling you which direction they're heading. Maho is the area right next to the airport, and it costs $2 from Philipsburg (much better than the $20 taxi I took from the airport yesterday).

Maho Beach was the only thing I wanted to accomplish while visiting St. Maarten because it is one of the most unique beaches in the world. It deserved its own post, so you can click here to read all about my Maho Beach experience. Here's a pic, so you can get the idea:

After Maho, I walked about a mile to the airport because when we passed it earlier, there was a party going on for SXM Day. It was still going strong when I got there at 4:30pm. Face painting, food, characters, music, lots of fun.

I caught a bus from the airport back to Philipsburg, but I jumped off early and walked out to Fort Amsterdam to watch sunset. The fort is mostly ruins and foundations with a few cannons. But it's on top of a hill overlooking Great Bay and Philipsburg and the ships.

I ended up watching sunset from Little Bay beach, which it looked like is a private beach owned by the Divi Hotel, but they let me in because I'm American and I walk confidently through security checkpoints with a friendly, "Hello." Sunset was gorgeous, to say the least.

I hung out at the Divi Hotel for a little longer than I should have (checking out their infinity pool and fountains and stuff, and then refilling my water bottle and using their bathroom), so I walked back to Philipsburg in the dark. After the big hill on the peninsula, I walked along the beach to the boardwalk. It's dark and somewhat sketchy at times, but I mostly felt safe.

I stopped for dinner at a random restaurant on the boardwalk. It was packed and I was the only white person there, so I figured it was a good spot for local cuisine. After discussing favorites with the server, I chose the curry goat platter.

It was yummy.

I was a little bummed that they don't have a parade or fireworks or something spectacular in honor of such an important holiday that shuts businesses down. But I guess family barbecues and music is good enough.

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