1993 Tortola alumni, Brad Emanuel, took a family vacation to the U.S. Virgin Islands several years ago. During the trip, Brad ferried over to Tortola for a day to revisit his work projects, other places, and people he remembered. Afterwards, he emailed us about his literal trip down memory lane.

I told my family I had to go to Tortola since it was only an hour ferry ride. My parents decided to join me for the adventure. We got to Tortola and hopped in a cab, and I tried to ignore the shocking feeling (of being back) so that I could focus on finding that little yellow house our group built. We drove all over in search of the house, but, unfortunately, I didn’t find it. I know I was probably within 50 yards of it, but I never had a sure feeling that I saw it.

We drove to the Red Cross Center, which was closed due to Boxer Day and then past the school I taught in. We went on to Brewer’s Bay and stopped by the community center to take a look and snap some pictures….as we were driving to the beach the cab driver came to a sudden stop because there were some cattle crossing the road. I looked out the window and over the herd to the tail end of it, and there was Michael!. [Michael Leonard is long-time VISIONS friend, organic farmer, and unofficial historian of Tortola.]. I jumped out…ran up to Michael and told him that I was with VISIONS in ‘93 on Tortola, and he was excited. I had brought a little Chicago snow globe from home for the family of the house, but because I never found the house, I gave the globe to Michael – he was thrilled. We took a few pictures, said goodbye, and he went on his way to chase down his cattle. Nothing changes.

At the beach I took a running start into the bay and dovein…like I used to…it was truly amazing. Funny that I was there 10 years ago as a teenager not knowing much about life and who I was, and after an incredible 10 years I was back…interesting how life sometimes makes complete circles. After an epiphany in Brewer’s Bay….I found Lou! [VISIONS cook in 1992, 1993]. She was excited to see another VISIONS alum come back to visit!!

After an amazing day, we took the ferry back to St. Thomas. I am so HAPPY… It’s too bad I couldn’t find the house, but knowing that I helped build it and went back to look for it is enough gratification.

VISIONS is remarkable! I am not sure I had the insight or the foresight to realize this in ’93, but after a day back in Tortola, it is clear to me now. I look forward to being a part of the alumni association. Again, thanks for the opportunity 10 years ago, and thanks for helping me get back to visit!

VISIONS in The New York Times