Carnival on St Thomas.

We are ready to move on from Charlotte Amalie to points further east in the Virgin Islands.  We got the repairs done we came for, and had a great time at the local Carnival celebration. It was much more fun than I expected!  The people are a delight, and we felt privileged to participate in an event that was obviously NOT oriented towards tourists, but to what the locals wanted.

It was a special event, because it was the 100th anniversary of “transfer”, when the USA bought the islands from Denmark.  In fact, today (Sunday) it feels oddly quiet.  No bands, no cruise ships.  Everybody on shore is recovering from four days of heavy partying, so it is really peaceful here in the harbor.

I have seen no hint here of the resentment to US administration of the islands that is an undercurrent of politics on the main island of Puerto Rico.  Just as an example, if the Virgin Islands have their own flag, I wouldn’t know. I haven’t ever noticed it.  In Puerto Rico it is unusual to see the Stars and Stripes unless it is right besides the Puerto Rican flag, which you see everywhere.
A least from what we have seen, this seems like a community that is very comfortable with its place in the world.  People are friendly, and helpful.  West Indian culture in general is more “restrained” in interpersonal dealings. Someone looking for a big dose of smiles and guffaws isn’t going to find it here.  If you dial back your expectations more to the “stiff upper lip” of London than “in your face” of New York, you’ll get along with the locals just fine.  Don’t expect a gratuitous smile, but see the friendliness and interest.
A larger fraction of the local population are gainfully employed than on the US mainland, however like many service, and especially tourism, based economies, it is fragile.  Per capita debt is high. Until recently, St Croix was the home to the largest oil refinery in the world to the tune of 12 BILLION dollars annually in exports. After that closed a few years ago, the largest manufacturing industry left is rum, which employs only about 600 people.  And, they are the only US territory that I know of that drives on the wrong side of the road. (Look RIGHT before crossing the street!)  How did THAT happen?
I did take advantage of the local duty free port status to upgrade my 10 year old camera at a reasonable discount compared to US mainland retailers.  So hopefully you’ll all see an uptick in the quality of my my photography. Speaking of which, here is a slideshow put together form the pictures I took at Carnival.  Enjoy!  We’ll have our carnival video up in a day or two.
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