The house next door was used as a holiday retreat by Justin Bieber. Like our one, it overlooked the Caribbean sea and the curving bay of Pidgeon Island. We had a housekeeper, and a gardener – called ‘Dragon’. At night the tree frogs sung me to sleep and every morning the mosquitoes ate my ankles and my neck until the sun really got warm. The house reeked of decadence and money. We’d been told it was recently on the market for six million dollars. Only a rich fool would pay that kind of cash to have a holiday home on a mosquito infested island where the murder rate is higher than south central Chicago.
The sea stretched out into the West and at night the sun set hugely over the blue/turquoise horizon. There was a romance to it all, for sure, but I couldn’t unsee the shanty towns, burned out cars, and the poverty of the beach hawkers and the average Joe local. Something about lording it up in paradise, under a palm tree, didn’t sit well with me. I was just another fat, white, wealthy guy with too much ready cash and too few morals. Ripe for fleecing at the beach, and a heavy draw for disdainful looks from anyone and everyone who called St Lucia home.
Every time I went in the warm sea I worried about sharks. There was a point on the island where they used to throw live goats off of some cliffs and watch the Tiger Sharks rip them to pieces down below. And if the sea life didn’t get to me first then there was always a drug gang or some street punk high on crack and in the middle of the worst financial period of his short life. Dangers are high in paradise.
We ate huge meals in expensive restaurants, avoided the gazes of the staff, got drunk on rum, and bathed in the night in the house pool while huge bats flew inches above our heads under the Milky Way sky. I miss the stars and the heat. But it felt shitty being pumped full of expensive rum in a private pool when two miles away someone was sleeping hungry in a tin shack. Things like poverty make the high life a little less ‘high’, even when you’re wafting past it in an air conditioned luxury car.
Maybe I’ll go back there; I doubt it. If I do, I’ll question the reasons more than I question most things. It’s sickening actually, when I know right now that people are starving to death in Sudan, that I even have the choice.
If you think this is a travel review then you are wrong. This is a damning indictment of all that is shitty about human beings – most of all, me.