Hello everyone and happy Tuesday! So as I mentioned a few weeks back, I am going to take a step back from the “news” from time to time as I await the arrival for our little island baby. Today, I’d like to introduce you to three amazing women who are going to provide new voices and stories to News of St. John every then and again for the next month or so. I am extremely excited to have them on board!! So without further ado, please meet my new writers…
To tell you a bit about myself, I moved to St. John in 2005, almost immediately after I graduated from college. It was during my college years that I was introduced to West Indian culture; the first (and ultimately best) friends I made at college were from Trinidad and Barbados, and after my first trip to Barbados in 2002, where I jumped up in Kadooment—their carnival parade—I was hooked. Several trips to Barbados and Trinidad later, I knew that I was meant to live in this region, and I was fortunate enough to make St. John my home.
Over the past 13 years, I’ve built a writing career that started at the St. John Tradewinds, back when it was still a printed newspaper. Since then, I’ve written features on Caribbean travel, architecture, weddings, artists, culture, and a slew of other subjects for publications like the former Caribbean Travel + Life, Maco Caribbean Living, Destination U.S. Virgin Islands, and many others. I recently came full circle and re-joined the news world by becoming a contributor to the Virgin Islands Daily News. (If you want to spend a full day reading about St. John and the greater Caribbean, check out some of my stories at www.andreamilam.com).
I am thrilled to have the opportunity to use the News of St. John platform to bring to you stories on this island’s culture, because it is a subject that is near and dear to my heart. Keep an eye out for my posts, where I’ll introduce you to an amazing steel band, an adorable group of young dancers, an incredibly talented St. Johnian artist, and more.
Chelsea Baranowski was born in Puerto Rico and raised on St. John. She attended lower school and high school on St. John and St. Thomas, graduated from Antilles School, and headed to UNC Wilmington for college, finishing with a degrees in International Studies and Communication Studies. A traveling bug struck with a semester in Australia and New Zealand and after college Chelsea moved to rural China to teach English. While there, she blogged about her adventures and picked up Mandarin along with a love for Chinese people, food, and culture.
Upon returning to St. John, she and teenage sweetheart, Richard Baranowski, revived their relationship, and in 2012, hopped on a plane for a year in Australia and more Asian travels to Thailand, China, Singapore, and the Philippines. They returned 14 months later, took over the popular Lime Inn Restaurant from Chelsea’s parents Rich and Chris Meyer, built a shipping container home in Fish Bay, had their first son, Atherton Danger, and got married. The next year would bring their second son, Mako James.
Chelsea has always loved writing and is intrigued by and constantly amazed by her home, St. John, and its people.
(Chelsea has been writing profiles for News of St. John for the past few months. I am super excited to let you all know that she will continue to introduce you all to members of our community.)
Leah Randall Hanson
My name is Leah and I fell in love with the beauty of St. John back in 2004 on a trip to the islands. I was still in college and my father was working on selling off everything to move my stepmom and little brother down here to buy a scubadiving charter business. He moved down and bought a dive boat called the Laura Leigh, and I have many memories diving off that boat. I had dreams of graduating Texas A&M and moving straight down to the islands. Instead I went the professional route and ended up teaching high school math. I continued to visit my dad and wanted to move here so badly. On my visits we would dive, and I would fall in love with the beautiful underwater world. Finally, I moved. In 2013, I resigned from teaching, sold off all my things, packed the rest and bought my one way ticket. Of course it helped a lot that I met a boy that struck my interest. Being that my dad and I were divers, I have fallen so in love with all things underwater, I find it so amazing and spectacular… Simply magical.
Over the past 5 years since I have been here permanently, so much has happened. The boy that struck my interest is named Colin and he loves the underwater world as much as I do. We’ve been thick as thieves pretty much since I moved here. He has lived here since 1998. He captained the beautiful Breath – built by hand on St. John by Peter Muilenberg – for 10 years and then captained for Flyaway Charters. But most importantly, he and I got together and we are now married. We left St. John right before Maria hit and made it to Texas where I am from. We got married on September 23rd, right after Irma. We needed some positivity. We were supposed to be married 4/21/18 at Annaberg, but we threw together a beautiful wedding in three days in my parents’ backyard.
We also own Flyaway Charters. The owner of Flyaway Charters was ready to retire, so we signed our contract to own it the May before Irma. We are now the proud owners of Flyaway Charters! And our charter boat did survive with some repair, and thankfully we are able to charter!
We lived on an all wooden beautiful gaff rigged ketch named Buxom prior to the storms, but she was totally destroyed. Our lives are now on the sea floor. But, while we only had two suitcases, our dog and maybe a bag or two and my backpack left, we are confidently moving forward! We love St. John and its people. We are so thrilled, we have been given S/V Breath, the boat Colin captained for 10 years, so now we have a home. She is in desperate need of repair and lots of love, and we have lots of love to give! We have already done so much- we repaired 32 square foot hole in three days!! She will sail again, and we are incorporating parts of Buxom into Breath.
I am humbled and thrilled to be able to write for News of St. John while baby News of St. John makes its debut! It is such an amazing opportunity I am humbled to be able to accept! I love St. John so much, it is my home, both on the island and the underwater world. Looking forward to talking with you St. John lovers again! Until then, happy days!