#QuarantineJournal From Plant-Based Chef In St. Barts

“I feel extremely grateful to be quarantined in St. Barts out of anywhere in the world; here you can still find a place to hike near your home where you can feel like you’re truly free and get lost in nature.”

Kristine Kelly, known as @kristinesbeautylab on Instagram, and her husband own a restaurant in St. Barts. She is also a plant-based private chef. According to Kristine, St. Barths took extreme cautions as soon as the Caribbean island caught wind of the coronavirus. Here is her #QuarantineJournal where she shares personal experiences in dealing with the outbreak, her positive thoughts and hopes for what is to come from the pandemic. 

St. Barts
PHOTO Kristine Kelly

St. Barts is one of the top travel destinations to be romanced, experience true wellness or indulge in your wild side during “season.” Our paradise may be one of the few places in the world that was left almost untouched by the outbreak of COVID-19, we’ve only had a total of 6 confirmed cases so far. The current population of St. Barts is estimated to be approximately 9,871 based on the latest United Nations estimates. However, I will never forget the moment I first discovered the news that our island would be under lockdown on March 15, 2020. My husband and I just returned to St. Barts from a snorkeling trip to Pinel and Tintamarre island (two very small islands close to St. Barts) and we received this news that St. Barts would follow the French protocol and close down everything, leaving only pharmacies, markets and banks open. I was supposed to fly out the very next morning to San Diego to cook for a wellness retreat and I felt like my entire world just crashed down in front of me. I decided to take a long hike with my golden retriever along the coast of Le Toiny, taking time to de-stress in nature and reflect on what just happened.

St. Barts
PHOTO Kristine Kelly

When you cut through all the fear, anxiety and uncertainty we begin to feel and appreciate the abundance that we’ve had all along and having faith that this will all pass. Don’t let the stress of the unknown paralyze your soul – revisit your roots if they are not coming from a genuine place in your heart. As an American I am conditioned with this “go, go go” mentality but during this period of confinement, I feel more productive taking it slow. It feels good to slow down, take some time to go inward, write, spend time surrounded by the natural beauty of this island, soak up this precious time with my husband and son, and even recreate a relationship of what may seem invisible at first – with myself.

St. Barts
PHOTO Kristine Kelly

It’s bizarre driving into Gustavia now, we need to make sure to have our paperwork (“Justifcatif de Déplacement Professional”) that is required by the French government by all French territories at all times for anytime that we leave our home in order to work on preparing food to go – as my husband and I own restaurant Quarter Kitchen + Cocktail Lab, it feels like a ghost town since day 1 of quarantine. At times it doesn’t even seem real, it feels like they closed off Gustavia to shoot a film, but I don’t see any actors or cameras – this is a new reality for St. Barths.

I feel extremely grateful to be quarantined in St. Barts out of anywhere in the world; here you can still find a place to hike near your home where you can feel like you’re truly free and get lost in nature. Even though I have lived in St. Barts for over 6 years, I am discovering new treasures – new parts of the island that I haven’t explored before and it feels like a new adventure. Our health and wellbeing are inextricably connected to nature – it helps to engage our imagination and recognize the opportunity to confront, accept, embrace and even find grace in the essential truth that despite the chaos, that control is and always has been an illusion. We never truly know what the future holds. So why not focus on this moment and the choices it presents. What does nature look like in your daily life?

On April 15, 2020 we received exciting news that the beaches of St. Barts would reopen on April 16, 2020, allowing us to spend up to one hour at the beach for individual exercise activities to include swimming – as long as we keep our social distance. Just like our daily walks, the beach needs to be within 1 km. of our home and we need to carry our required document “Justificatif De Déplacement Dérogatoire” to exercise, otherwise we can get a hefty fine. With the beaches reopening, it felt like joy returned back to the island; the ocean is our home and it’s where we can really be free. I immediately hiked over to Saline Beach and before taking a plunge into the ocean, I took a long moment to enjoy a deep breath of the sea. Why? During this quarantine there were times when I had to remind myself that it’s safe to breathe. After spending time afraid to breathe when I was in line at the markets, only taking in shallow breaths through my mask (between 1-2 hours just to wait in line to step foot inside the markets), it felt incredible just to take a long breathe and really embrace the facets of the beach’s scents as the sea breeze welcomed me back home with gentle kisses. I threw my hands up into the air and expressed gratitude, feeling the sand between my toes as I was barefoot since the moment I left the main road. I slowly approached the shore and little by little, took long graceful, dancer-like steps into the ocean, taking it all in as if it was my first time at the beach and finally submerging my entire body in the salt water. I didn’t want to leave. It was beautiful to see so many families out and enjoying a first swim, I don’t know if I’ve ever seen so many smiles at one time! Some of you might be a parent like myself, working hard to find a balance between juggling work from home, raising your child or children, homeschooling them, preparing all daily meals, oh and then there’s self-care time -maybe it’s catching a quick workout on instagram live or zoom, making time for meditation when your toddler is napping or simply enjoying a hot Epsom salt bath once you tuck your baby or child into bed. It’s a new full time job that we’ve taken on and we are all warriors, all of us.

St. Barts
PHOTO Kristine Kelly

Starting May 11, schools are supposed to re-open here which is a huge relief. However, it’s possible that even three year olds will be required to wear masks to go to school. We are in discussion of having some volunteers make the masks by hand, perhaps out of recycled fabric, so that all the children have similar looking masks. It’s also possible that we will be utilizing infrared temperature sensors to check the school staff, parents and children’s temperature as they enter. We are still waiting on specific information in regards to this. In terms of restaurants and bars reopening, we are waiting until things start to re-open on May 11 to see. There is discussion that it could be as early as the middle of June or as late as the middle of July for this to occur. As for travel, we are standing by like the rest of the world.

St. Barts
PHOTO Kristine Kelly

It’s my hope that we can collectively emerge from this global wake up call, armed with greater clarity to imagine a more grounded and purposeful life experience and what that looks like when you are stripped down to the bare necessities. We don’t know what the future holds, and that can be scary (even if you’re the type like myself who tries to focus on living in the moment, it’s still scary at times).

We are in this together, not one person is left unaffected – it’s an incredible power to unite us by a singular cause. On the positive side, I’m starting to see humanity rising and with incredible creativity as we are already witnessing so many inspirational videos, articles and images on social media. It’s my hope that you can freely surround yourself with beauty, focusing on what brings you the greatest joy and love. We can grow together.

Anastasia Vazquez

Contributor

Anastasia loves exploring the world, animals, reading books, writing, fashion, and laying on a beach on a hot summer day. She has explored most of the United States, some European and many Caribbean countries. She loves being in new places, trying authentic food, talking to locals, and living in the moment.

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