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Wednesday night, 19:00, after 3 weeks hardcore herping in Mexico and the USA I finally set foot in my own house again.
Flying from that side of the world to home always brings a nasty jet lag, but this time my boss had the perfect solution for that.
Around 21:00 one of my colleagues called me and said: prepare to move to Sint Maarten tomorrow, because we will help the people on the island after hurricane irma destroyed the island.
We don't know how long we will stay there so make sure to tell that to your family.
The next morning around 05:30 I left home.
That day we first flew to Curaçao and the day after that we arrived on Sint Maarten. The welcome we got from local people who all gathered next to the airport was amazing, they were all cheering and waving at us.
With busses we were brought to a school, on the way there we saw what irma had done to the island, there were few houses left that still had a roof on it, cars, trucks and busses upside down and I could not find one tree that was still standing.
We stayed in the school for over a week and slept in a class room when ever we had a chance for that, most of the time we were on the streets for safety, after a horrible disaster like irma there is no electricity, there were no shops or companies that still had windows, so the biggest problem now was that some people started looting and even armed robbery was happening.
No surprise that we had days of 16-20 hours, but it was good work and the local people were almost always happy to see us, near the end the days became a bit less busy, more like 12-14 hours of work a day.
Next to the school we stayed at 3 other places as well, during tropical storm Maria we stayed in the university for a couple of days, this was next to one of the shelters that were provided for people without a good home during 'Maria'. In prison we slept during our shifts, so every other night.
And the biggest part of the month we stayed at a big fancy hotel complex that was not really operational, almost all the rooms had a lot of water inside, we had no water or electricity, but we had a place to stay so it was perfect for us.
We had a lot of different tasks, patrolling, vehicle checkpoints to enforce the curfew, guard the border between the French and the Dutch side, bringing water and food to certain places and we had to guard the prison, irma had blown out some of the outer walls, so inmates could walk out a lot easier if they wanted. The regular staff was by far not with enough people to secure the prison by themselves so we were there to help.
Guarding the holes in the wall, doing rounds inside the prison cell blocks and sometimes searching cells for interesting tools, phones and self-made weapons. It was all part of the job.
During our stay on this beautiful island with the most friendly people ever there was no time for herping, but it happened some time that I met some animals here and there.
We stayed for almost one month and it is very good to see how the island was getting better every day, when we left we had to say goodbye to many people that we got to know during our work on the island, soon Sint Maarten will be the Happy island again.
Our way home was through Curaçao again, here we slept one night before we went home, this was also the place where we enjoyed our first beers in this trip.
This trip was not for herping, I did not even try to photograph most of the animals we encountered, but thats what happens when you are there for work.
It was really good to be there and to be able to help people in many different ways, we met a lot of great people and some of them even took the effort to come to the place we stayed to say goodbye on the last day, I hope to see you all later one day, thank you for the good times.
Work rarely goes well together with herping and this was just an other example of it, but there are not many herpers who can say they found some cool species inside Sint Maarten's prison.