Sahlman Blog Series: Post 2 – The Camera is Not Big Enough, Part 1

This is the second post in a series by author Susi Sahlman. This post was originally published on Susi’s blog, Sahlman Art Blog. You can check our her beautiful St. Martin themed original artwork here

December 8, 2017 – We approached Orient Beach. The colorful buildings in the distance, Club Orient to the right of them. Wait, since when can Club O be seen from here? Of course! Irma. Without the underbrush or trees even from a distance the devastation is evident. The makeshift sign on the corner directs visitors to the Club’s location.

Such a beautiful, but super windy day. The road switches to dirt and gravel. Ahead in the curve on the left are piles and piles of debris which have been gathered, making the road passable. Continuing on, we encounter the former entrance to the Club. Shells of buildings stand like a grave yard. The eeriness and quiet are overwhelming. There is no wall.

Photo via Susi Sahlman

We proceed to the back parking lot at the beach. There is a newly made entrance to Club O and the light Perch stands in defiance to all Irma has done. Even as we go to park behind all of our favorite shacks, yellow tape blocks and guides us toward a place to stand. The former bus and taxi parking and turnabout are not only impassable, they are nonexistent.

Luis airs his wares under a homemade pergola. The colorful sarongs blow in the breeze as flags claiming a deserted island. Desolation contrasts the sensual turquoise water with the kite boarders sailing away. The innocence of the day, the remains of our favorite beach, the silence, the lack of life are all part of the scene.

Photo via Susi Sahlman

Luiz is happy to see us and quickly makes a sale. How to take it all in? I needed to linger, look around and take lots of pictures. It was appropriate that the ocean was so rough. Seaweed lay strewn in front of the serpentine rock wall that was supposed to be added protection to the ticky-tacky boxes costing four million dollars, lasting only one true tourist season.

Luiz pointed back toward the former Club O entrance. “See the green paint, there, that’s my roof”. Next to him on the beach, there were two more roofs. The contents blown out from underneath, leaving nothing to hold them up. Beyond this, nothing, nothing but cement slabs. By Aloha and Le String even parts of the cement suspend above trenched out spaces carved out by the ocean. Luiz pointed up at the only light post still standing. Half way up a circular disk protrudes marking the water level, he claims.

We walk the beach as far as Palm Beach. It felt like visiting a third world country that had been through a war. Only a shell was left, minus a second floor. We climbed the stairs to spy a magnificent view of St. Barths. This and La Playa’s bar area are the only remnants of what was once vibrant, thriving businesses.

The beach, now greatly altered with a new boulder nestled near the nob hill outcropping. The water was up well into the areas where lounge chairs had previously been. It had puddled in places, having first come up and over a slight ridge of sand.

We will have to revisit Orient Village, for there is so much to be explored. As for the rest of the days visit, stay tuned for part 2.

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Susi Sahlman

An artist and blogger, Susi has a passion for the island of Saint Martin. She's been visiting the island with her husband Bill for 21 years. You can follow her blog at sahlmanartblog.wordpress.com and see her artwork at zoozees.wixsite.com/sahlman-art.

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