Third Home – The Bethany House

We found this place on St. Thomas the same way we found our four lifelong friends… through the Bible Book Nook which was owned by a Christian college that ran Bethany Publishing.  The college owned the house, and the students doing their internships got to live in the apartments on the first floor.  One was empty, and we had the marvelous good fortune to get to move in!

The house was up on a hillside above Lime Tree Beach, and from our balcony we could watch cruise ships coming and going.   (Little did we know we’d eventually fall in love with that mode of travel!  And I can’t resist adding this photo from a couple of months ago.) 

We lived in a studio apartment that was smaller than our current kitchen, but it was all the space in the world we needed.  Gary loved to play his trumpet in the afternoons when we’d come home from teaching school.  He mowed the lawn to help pay the rent.  The meal I remember cooking most in that place was sweet and sour chicken.  The yard was filled with pink bougainvillea, and I found it amazing that I was surrounded by the same beautiful blossoms that had filled the indoor garden of my childhood home.

It was our wonderful home for two years.  And those two years stand out with stark contrast to one another.

The first year memories are delightful.  We were teaching school and repairing furniture as before.  Our good friends managed the beautiful Botany Bay Estate, so we all had amazing times together in that private sanctuary.  Our landlord was a breath-hold diver, and he taught Gary all about spear-fishing and lobstering.  It became his absolute favorite sport of all time. More family came to visit. 

We were 25 years old, both teaching at the same middle school.  As a second year teacher, Gary fell into the position of being the chairman of his department and only taught 3 woodworking classes a day.  I was teaching math.  It was a wonderful year, and we had the tiger by the tail.

The second year memories take a turn in a different direction.  Hurricane Hugo hit the Virgin Islands with terrible fury early in the school year.   It was devastating.  The storm itself was the most frightening 24 hours we’d ever encountered.  In the middle of the night the plywood shutters we’d bolted all over the house were ripped off.  We could hear furniture thrashing about above us, and sure enough, the roof had been torn off the large house that was the second floor.  Well, I could write a lengthy report on the storm (and I did at the time), but it’s enough to stay that the destruction was horrific for us and for our friends and for our school.  We went weeks and weeks and weeks without electricity or running water.  Lawlessness ran rampant on the island for a time.   Teaching school was torture.  I know we had some good days that year… but it goes down in the history books as very, very difficult.  I’m proud that we stayed and honored our contracts.

When that grueling school year came to a close, we were ready to head home to Portales.  Truly, at that point, we thought we’d had our grand adventure, and it was time to come settle into our “real life”.  I have to laugh.   Real life is obviously whatever it is you happen to be doing on any given day!


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