Though it was a week ago I wanted to write briefly about my visit to Tampa. It is an odd trip. The main goal is to visit my dad and his wife Claudia. That's not what makes it odd. What does is that I never lived in Tampa, so i don't know anyone else. I went for 10 days because that was all the vacation time I had from the Peace Corps and it wouldn't have been any shorter because it is so expensive to fly from St. Lucia.
But it is a solitary 10 days. I am out most days and the only way to describe what I do is to say that I am soaking up life in the U.S. That is to say reveling in the freedom that comes with a rental car, enjoying the wide variety of ethic food options, and sitting in coffee shops reading or listening to an audiobook. But all those things I do alone.
When I used to come to Tampa from my life in Missouri, the solitary nature of the trip was nice because back in Missouri I had friends to hang out with. Here, during the week I see people that I have a good relationship with, people who enjoy my company, but would never, for instance, call me up to do anything. This is kind of how I thought it would be so it's neither here nor there, but it does mean I don't need more solitary time in Tampa.
Back to food for a minute. People think that because this is "the islands" the food is light and fresh and healthy. It isn't. Much of the food is fried, which is partially responsible for the high rates of diabetes and hypertension. The food is also exactly the same across the island. If one orders a fish meal one gets, no matter where one is, one or two fish steaks (often tuna, but not sushi grade or anything; no place serves fish filets), rice and lentils or other beans, and ground provisions (see a much earlier blog post where I explain ground provisions). Rice and beans is not light and ground provisions are the heaviest foods imaginable.
St. Lucia doesn't have any kind of "foodie" culture. Most of the restaurants serve Lucian food. Few people eat out but when they do they eat Lucian food. That is, they eat exactly what they eat at home. In the tourist area of the island there is more choice but it's also more expensive. And not that good. There is one Mexican restaurant in the touristy part of the island up north, but it's Lucian Mexican (Luc-Mex).
Both times I have returned from Tampa I have been in a bit of a funk. It takes a few days or a week to return, re-enter, and readapt. Which I have now done.