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In 1991 Billy and Akaisha Kaderli retired at the age of 38. Now, into their 3rd decade of this financially independent lifestyle, they invite you to take advantage of their wisdom and experience.

Our Adventures in Paradise

Nevis, West Indies

It began in January, 1991

Billy and Akaisha Kaderli

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In 1991 when we first left the working world, our plan was to go to the tiny island of Nevis, West Indies, a 36 sq. mile rock in the Caribbean ocean. On various barefoot cruises in the past, we had visited Nevis and thought it would be a good place to slow down from our over-scheduled lives.

Life moves slow in da islands and Billy likes to say that we wanted to hit a wall. Just. Stop. And enjoy life.

We have resurrected these photos below from old 35 mm. slides that we had packed and left in storage in a family attic. When our family members downsized their home, we had these slides digitized, and now we are able to share this part of our Early Retirement Story with you.

Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis

Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis

St. Kitts and Nevis are a part of the Leeward Islands of the Caribbean West Indies.

During our working life, we sailed through this island chain half-a-dozen times on large schooners on what were called "Barefoot Cruises." In this manner, we had seen Nevis many times.

It just so happened that at the exact time we were leaving our previous lives behind, we were approached by the head Chef of the Four Seasons Hotel, Billy's cooking mentor, to help them open up their newest Hotel and Resort on Nevis Island. Not a permanent job, with no cash payment, but a good transition to our retirement.

Sweet.

The two island nation of St. Kitts and Nevis in the Caribbean

A closer look at the two island nation of St. Kitts and Nevis

 

 

 

Billy had gone ahead to Nevis to arrange our housing situation with the Four Seasons and some sort of "job description" for us. Meanwhile, I had stayed back in California, selling what was left of our furniture, putting the rest into temporary storage and preparing our house for a renter until we sold it.

But a funny thing happened on my way to the island. It was January, 1991, and The Gulf War had just begun.

I found myself sitting on the floor in front of the TV watching the news. Talking heads discussed with other talking heads how frightening things were and what a mess our country was in.

There was commotion in my own private world too – my parents, my sisters, my friends were all saying I should wait.

Just wait it out until the war was over.

And when would THAT be? I wondered to myself…

The Fork in the road was in front of me and I had to make a decision. Should I stay or should I go?

At this point, neither the path of going nor staying was guaranteed and both scenarios looked rocky.

So I threw myself into my future.

Old photo of Charlestown, the capital of Nevis

Old photo of Charlestown, the capital of Nevis

Charlestown is the capital of the island of Nevis. In this old photo, you can clearly see the packed dirt-and-sand road, which has since been paved.

Charlestown was the birthplace and childhood home of Alexander Hamilton. He was one of the Founding Fathers of the United States and was its first Secretary of the Treasury.

Charlestown has a port area with a dock where the ferries from St. Kitts load and unload passengers, and this is where we landed all those years ago.

Main Street in Charlestown, Nevis

Main Street in Charlestown, looking the other way

At the time we lived on Nevis, there was one road that circled the island. Combis, the local transportation, drove this road in both directions. If you wanted to go anywhere, just jump on a combi, and eventually you would get to your destination, no matter which way the combis drove.

An interesting point to the construction of these buildings; living on the base of a volcano, over time, many of these buildings were damaged by earthquakes. Due to a design flaw, the upper story would collapse into the lower story. This led to the common practice of building a wooden upper floor above a volcanic stone ground floor.

You can see that clearly in this photo above.

A closer look at a typical building in Charlestown, Nevis

A closer look at a typical building in Charlestown, Nevis

Nevis was very basic in 1991 - much more so than its sister island of St. Kitts. I used to go shopping for food in buildings such as this one, and made the most curious discoveries.

For instance, I remember purchasing something orange, in a block form that I was told was cheddar cheese. This "cheese" was never refrigerated but rather, left out in an enclosed glass case for everyone to see. Even though the temperatures were often in the mid 90s, that cheese never got soft or melted.

I used to make my own pizza dough, and would grate that same cheddar cheese to top my pizza. Yup, you guessed it. That cheese never melted, even after being in the oven at 375 degrees for 20 minutes!

(What WAS that stuff?)

The stores' organization was curious also. I'd find fresh chicken eggs (not refrigerated, of course) right next to the battery section, which was right next to the laundry soap, which was right next to the fresh fruits, which were right next to the cigarette lighters.

Meats were in Cryovac bags in the freezer, but since they were initially deposited on the dock - in the heat, for who knows how long - they were incredibly unappetizing to look at. Pig's feet still had pig fur on them... I don't think I purchased a single piece of meat while we lived on Nevis.

There was no meat, no cheese, only chicken and rice. Rice and chicken,... and fish!

Seriously, I was so hungry living on this island, that at night, I used to dream of grocery stores back home!

Home on Nevis, West Indies

Our shared home on Nevis

My flight landed on the island of St. Kitts and I had taken a water taxi 30 minutes to arrive at the wobbly dock in Charleston, Nevis. Billy made sure we arrived at our new place of residence – a 4 bedroom, 2 bath house that belonged to the Mayor’s brother. Painted white on the outside, the front terrace was a blistering orange - Caribbean colors for sure.

When I walked up the steps and turned around, I had a view of 3 islands. Wow!

Here you see the lush front yard.

Front porch on Nevis, West Indies

Our front porch on the island of Nevis

I remember this porch well. Gentle sea breezes would blow through here, rocking the hammock we'd lie in while reading a book.

The contrast of ORANGE! with the white railing and blue, blue skies and water... was mesmerizing.

I'm so glad I have this photo to remind me of that time.

Akaisha on Nevis

Akaisha, fresh from California

Well, here I am, straight from California with my fluorescent lime green shorts and lime green shoe laces. Wow. Vintage clothing, today...

I'm now "in" my future, but I had no idea what that meant! Still... I was game.

lobsters from the sea on Nevis Island

Akaisha pointing to lobsters we bought straight off the boat

 

 

 

The big event of most every day, was going to one of the beaches on Nevis. In this case we walked from our house on Buck's Hill down to Sands  Beach at the tip of the island.

Coming in from sea was a small boat full of lobsters, freshly caught.

Billy, being a Chef, couldn't pass up the opportunity to purchase these delectables straight from the ocean, so we did.

Now what?

We had to carry them home, and they were squiggling with claws, tails and antennae going every which way. We had no cooler, not even a beach bag, so wrapped in our beach towels they went, snappin' and a-movin'.

Well, I'll let you in on a little secret here... I am an animal lover, and I know this sounds just awful to say... but... to me, many sea creatures just aren't beautiful. They have the weirdest body constructions with eyes on tentacles, and as many legs as spiders, and they just don't look cuddly.

To have those lobsters wrapped up in MY beach towel, just grossed me out.

This is as close as I could manage getting myself to them. At a distance, pointing.

But after Billy prepared them, they were delicious!

Sea view from home, Nevis, West Indies

Our front yard looking out to sea

This was our view from the front stairs.

 I was thrilled to be living in the tropics such as this, and often I would go out and cut flowers, tropical leaves and anything I could find to make a table bouquet.

Bright red or yellow hibiscus, zebra striped leaves, poinsettias and exotic red-and-yellow foliage would all make their way to my vase.

Note: Being in the tropics, insects are part of life.

Our rented home backed up to the cane fields, and often the cane spiders would find their way inside. These spiders were monster-size, rust colored and hairy.

Place your hand in a fist. Now, gradually spread your fingers out like a claw. THIS was the size of those cane spiders!!! They had the unique talent of being able to JUMP several feet at a time.

As if they weren't terrifying enough, they could jump and land across the room whenever they wanted!

Here's another story - I remember the first time we had happy hour at our place. Out came our best offerings, several plates of this and that, fresh fruits, and Rothschild's Coconut Cane Sugar Rum over ice.

After cleaning up the kitchen just a bit, we sat down to enjoy our snacks and the late afternoon breeze. Picking up a cracker to put it in my mouth, I noticed something moving.

COVERED! -- just covered with translucent ants. CLEAR ants? Thousands of them. OMG.

We threw out all the happy hour munchies. Only the rum survived!

Such is life in da islands mon!

A typical Nevisian home, Nevis, West Indies

A typical Nevisian home

Directly across the pathway from our house was this typical Nevisian home, surrounded by a white picket fence.

Painted red, the corrugated metal roof stood out brightly in the sun.

The plants with the dots of red in the center of the photo are poinsettias, about 10+ feet tall! I remember being stunned the first time I saw this common Christmas plant outside, taller than I was!

local Nevisian children saying hello to me

Local children saying hello to me, with St. James Anglican Church in the background

These are local children in their school uniforms all saying hello to me. I would often see them on this road, where we would catch the combi to get into town or to a beach on the other side of the island.

The Gulf War had just started, and the little girl on the left is giving me a salute, and the children in the center are showing the #1 sign, as in the US is #1. I would hear them shout to me "White Lady!! White Lady!!" to slow my walking down and they would gather 'round me.

I was a curiosity.

At the time there were about 9000 inhabitants on the island, 200 of them white, two of them us.

This was so many years ago, that these children are probably all adults with children of their own now.

St. James Anglican Church and cemetery, Nevis, West Indies

St. James Anglican Church and cemetery

We were neighbors. Our street was just passed this church on the left with a view.

St. James would hold their services on the weekends, and from our living room, we would hear the singing and guitar playing wafting on the breeze through the palm trees.

The songs of Whitney Houston were very popular on the island. Often we would hear the song I Wanna Wake Up with Whitney Houston as we lounged in the hammock on the front porch. It would be strange to say that this came from the church, but it was loud, and very close!

Another dear, young girl in her school uniform

This young child is walking home from school with her books in her backpack. Munching on a piece of fresh coconut, she turns and gives me a smile.

English is the official language here, and the literacy rate, 98 percent, is one of the highest in the Western Hemisphere.

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Local man walking the street in Nevis, West Indies

Local man walking this same street

As I say, we pretty much walked this street daily, stopping to chat with the locals and enjoying the weather.

In the background, you can see two of the three islands in the ocean that was our front door view.

Billy at a local Nevisian store

Billy at the local store

Just down the street from us, on the road we have been showing you in the photos above, was a small store. They sold beer and rum, and people were allowed to have a drink poured for them and they would enjoy it right there in the store.

This would be highly unusual, as you know, in the States. Just go to the 7-11, buy a beer and drink it at a table there. Then pay for it at the cash register!

Billy is enjoying an afternoon beer over ice (the way the locals drink it).

Billy's Dean Witter travel bag is in the background. A case of Guinness Stout can be seen under the sky blue table.

A typical Nevisian home

Another typical Nevisian home

Here is another one-room Nevisian home not far from where we lived.

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This roof is not painted and neither are the wooden shakes that cover the house. There are no screens on the windows, but rather, curtains are hung to keep out the mosquitoes. A storage shed is behind the home, in the back, on the left.

Notice that the house is above ground, on concrete blocks, to allow the rain water passage to the sea.

Sugar Plantation turned into a hotel, Nevis, West Indies

A sugar plantation turned into a hotel, bed and breakfast

The island of Nevis was the headquarters for the slave trade for the Leeward Islands of the Caribbean between 1675 and 1730. Six to seven thousand West African slaves passed through Nevis en route to other islands each year. The Royal African Company has a census from 1678 that showed 22% of the population brought here were Irish - both enslaved and freemen.

Converted sugar plantation building on Nevis island, West Indies

Another converted sugar plantation building - now a hotel

Sugar production was a big business at this time, but today, not much hard evidence remains about plantation life. With hurricanes, raids by invading French armies and various earthquakes, the original wooden houses have been destroyed. Heavy storms have washed other items like pottery down the steep slopes of the volcanic Nevis island to the beaches or out to sea.

The African slave trade was terminated within the British Empire in 1807, then outlawed in 1834.

We often visited the bars and restaurants that were converted sugar plantation houses. Princess Diana was known to stay on Nevis in these hotels to take a break from Royal life.

The light-lined paved road from the Four Seasons Hotel to the main road, Nevis, West Indies

The light-lined paved road from the Four Seasons Hotel to the main road

One of our "jobs" at the Four Seasons Hotel, was to critique food and service in exchange for dining.

The Nevisians had never seen a resort such as Four Seasons before, and there was a lot of training to do in basic areas of culture and custom.

As with our own restaurant in Santa Cruz, California, we needed to be sure that service personnel were bathed, fingernails were clean, and service was correct and almost invisible.

The Four Seasons Resort, Nevis Island, West Indies

Four Seasons Resort today, Nevis Island

Oualie's Beach is to the left of the Four Seasons, and the beach we often-timed visited, is to the right.

 

 

 

 

Three unique custom differences come to mind after all these years.

The first, was that no Nevisian with common sense would walk to work in the rain. "Who do dat, Mon?" So if a shift began at 4pm and it was raining, the logical Nevisian would wait until the rain stopped, THEN go to work. Meanwhile, perhaps the previous wait staff left or worked overtime. Both those choices left the managers in a tizzy, not knowing if there would be workers for the dinner shift showing up.

The second cultural difference was that Nevisians did not have hot and cold running water in their homes. Water came from the city for a couple of hours a day and needed to be collected in a cistern if they had one. The running water in their homes was always cold.

So when the Chef would say "Wash this pan in hot water" or "Get me a pan of hot water" - the Nevisians would stare at him blankly. It took a very long while before the hired help could understand that one side of the faucets gave hot water on demand, and the other side gave cold. They often got the spigots mixed up.

Then there was the walk-in freezer in which the locals believed the devil lived. No one wanted to walk into that freezing cold box, No way, Mon! Dis ain't na-tur-AL, Mon.

This literally drove the head Chef nuts.

Also, because most of the Nevisians had no showers in their home, the Four Seasons provided them with a changing room, hot showers and private stalls to change into their work clothes upon arrival at the hotel for their shift.

Restaurant and Bar on Oualie Beach

Restaurant and Bar on Oualie Beach

Not far from the Four Seasons was Oualie Beach Restaurant. We spent some time here, enjoying the view, having a meal or an afternoon cocktail.

Billy became certified as a scuba diver on Nevis, and he would meet up with his instructor, Ellis, here at Oualie's.

View of the beach from Oualie Beach Restaurant

View of the beach from Oualie Beach Restaurant

Beautiful, isn't it?

Just so - Caribbean-y.

Sand, sea, open air eating, palm trees, nice sea breeze...

Ellis would take off from this beach and return here with his clients. Billy, who helped him manage the many people who wanted to learn to dive, accompanied him here.

Sand path to the beach, Nevis, West Indies

Sand path to the beach, Nevis Island

Down from Oualie Beach and on the other side of the Four Seasons was this part of Pinneys Beach that we would often go to. We would take the combi to the top of this sand path, get out, and then walk down to the beach.

The volcano on Nevis is omnipresent. You can see it from just about anywhere. Nevis Peak is a potentially active volcano. This conical-shaped volcano was built up by many layers of hardened lava, tephra, pumice and ash.

It rises to 3, 232 feet, and is the highest point on the island. From our backyard on Buck's Hill, it was a huge presence.

"Our Beach"

 

 

 

From this viewpoint here, we are looking in the direction of the Four Seasons near where the sailboat is in the left of this photo.

Our beach chairs are behind us on a flat spread of sand.

To get to the beach, it was an all day affair.

First we had to walk down our Buck's Hill street, catch the combi and get out at the top of the road at the turnoff (previous photo). Then we'd walk down to Pinneys, set up our beach chairs and palapa and start out with a fresh tropical juice.

Lunch was next on the agenda, and Billy likes to say island life is so slow, that if you want a hamburger today, you had better ordered it yesterday.

We would often order lobster salad sandwiches because they were cheaper than tuna fish sandwiches or a hamburger. Tuna was imported, and ground beef had to be shipped in from elsewhere also. But... lobster was local, and therefore, less expensive.

Oh. I had to force myself to eat this delicate, sweet lobster salad...

A little more resting and swimming, then out to the sand path to walk up and catch the combi back home.

Arriving  home around 4pm, then it was time for a shower to get the salt off... and then sunset and dinner.

Sigh... What a relaxing way to spend the day.

The Sailing Vessel, Mandalay

The 236 ft. Sailing Vessel, S/V Mandalay

This is the sailing vessel we took on half-a-dozen Windjammer Cruises through the Caribbean.

Built in 1923, E. F. Hutton gave it as a gift to his wife. Then it was used as a training ship for merchant marines in World War II, and later became renowned as one of the world’s most productive oceanographic research vessels.

The Sailing Vessel Mandalay eventually became a cruising yacht, accommodating 58 Passengers and about 24 Crew.

This is how we knew her.

After our 6 months' time on Nevis, we knew that the Mandalay anchored offshore the first Wednesday of every month and we met the ship's Captain on the dock early in the day. Captain Paul was one of Billy's clients from Dean Witter, and we asked if we could hop aboard his ship to sail to Grenada, on our way south to Venezuela.

Happily, he said yes and let us stay in his Captain's quarters. We spent the next 10 days entertaining passengers on the Mandalay as an exchange for the "free" ride to the bottom of that Caribbean Island chain.

Then off to another adventure we were! Venezuela!

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About the Authors

 
Billy and Akaisha Kaderli are recognized retirement experts and internationally published authors on topics of finance, medical tourism and world travel. With the wealth of information they share on their award winning website RetireEarlyLifestyle.com, they have been helping people achieve their own retirement dreams since 1991. They wrote the popular books, The Adventurer’s Guide to Early Retirement and Your Retirement Dream IS Possible available on their website bookstore or on Amazon.com.

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