Monday, January 31, 2011

Monday Morning Flowers

Inspired (and humbled) by the Flowers photo assignment going on over at Pioneer Woman Photography, I spent some time on Friday afternoon re-learning how to use my camera on full manual, and taking pictures of the flowers at Nanny Cay, while HB got his hairs cut. Hopefully, you haven't clicked on that link already, because my photos are pretty unimpressive compared to what Pioneer Woman has up.

Still, I reckon everyone can use a few flowers to brighten up their Monday mornings.

HB was especially fond of the look of this flower, or, as he put it: "What a lovely arrangement of Q-tips!"

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Almond Tree Salon

The morning at work has slipped away from me and I find it is already well past time I should have a post up here. I mentioned yesterday that I got my hair cut. HB also got his hair cut, and I thought it might be a helpful thing for others in the BVI if I posted a little about where we go for this necessary service.

While there is a wide variety of salons and barber shops on Tortola, most of them handle black clients only, leaving only a handful of places that both are willing to, and have the know-how to cut the hair of white clients. After studying the phone book back in October, HB and I decided to try the Almond Tree Salon & Spa in Nanny Cay. The fact that we've both been back since is good evidence that Jonelle, the owner and only stylist, does an excellent job. Anyone looking for an example of her work could have seen it on me during my episodes of Jeopardy, as she cut my hair just four days before those episodes were taped.

At $40 for a woman's haircut and style, Almond Tree is in line with the salons I used in Florida and Denver, although definitely a bit costlier than Fantastic Sams. Still, the quality of the cut makes it a decent price for me. I would say that the $28 that Almond Tree charges for a men's cut may be rather steep, but the nearness of the location to our home, and the convenience of visiting the same salon, makes it worthwhile for us. Men looking for less expensive haircuts might try the salons in West End or Cane Garden Bay.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Nanny Cay

I went to Nanny Cay this morning to get a haircut. Having dropped HB off at work in a timely fashion, I ended up arriving in Nanny Cay about half an hour early. I found a comfortable bench, and started reading, but then it occurred to me that though I've mentioned Nanny Cay many times here, I've never really discussed what it is.

Nanny Cay is the largest marina on Tortola. A veritable forest of masts greets you as you turn in from the main road, the evidence of hundreds of boats in dry dock, not to mention all those actually in the water.

As is the case with marinas the world over, Nanny Cay offers a variety of shops and services to assist the weary yachties passing a night in harbor. In addition to souvenir shops and a couple of restaurants, Nanny Cay has a fueling station, and supermarket to provision your boat.

It also has a sizable hotel, in case you've spent one too many nights cramped up in the cuddy cabin of your sailboat or powerboat.

Perhaps you're sick of your current vessel, or you're ready to get out on the water after years on land? Nanny Cay also has boat sales and boat rental offices. For many, though, the opportunity to go ashore and get cleaned up -- maybe have your first haircut in months -- is the big draw. After all, that's why I was at Nanny Cay this lovely Friday morning.

Finally, if anyone would enlighten me on the meaning of the following?

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Virgin Gorda Goats

I look forward to August, when, in order to pass the slow days of work away, I may have time to take some strolls around the hotel property with my camera, and photograph all the creatures I find. I especially regret that I do not have any pictures of the lizards that live near the office, as they are prehistoric, and lovely, and omnipresent. I see them several times every day. Until such time as I have pictures of the animals that reside on the hotel grounds, I give you some Virgin Gorda goats, instead. Hopefully, all these gratuitous goat pictures will not cause HB to become more determined in his goal of obtaining a pet goat.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Upper Main

I took another stroll down Main Street one morning last week, this time focusing on what I'll call "Upper" Main Street, centering around the intersection with Fleming. I love walking Main any time of day, but I especially like the light in the mornings on the south side of the island.

When I got out of my car, I immediately saw this gentleman: one of the two donkeys I regularly see on the island, with his human

I love the name of this place. I'm not sure if it's simply selling organic produce, or something more illicit, but as they tell us, "Natural Is Better"

On the other side of Fleming from the Herbal Haven is Charles Garden Services, which comprises a decently sized nursery, along with gardening tools and the eponymous services. With the Herbal Haven on one side, and Charles Garden Services on the other, I think of the intersection of Fleming and Main as the source of vegetation in the BVI.

The colors of shutters and buildings on Main Street is always justification enough for a stroll.

Not only do I covet this vehicle (a Mark III GTI in good condition) but I thought the red and green a nice juxtaposition.

Upper Main Street is more residential than the lower part. Tourists often don't make it so far from the cruise ship dock, and so the real estate isn't as desirable for jewelry and knick-knack stores.

In evidence of the lower demand, there were quite a few residences that seemed abandoned in the midst of being built.

Or perhaps these staircases were all that was left after a major flood, hurricane, or earthquake -- all risks we take by living in the BVI.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011


The day is latening and I still don't really have an idea for a post here. I have some more pictures of Main Street that I took last week and meant to have prepared for today, but completely forgot to do it last night, so they'll have to wait until tomorrow.

I suppose I've been mildly distracted by the effusive outpouring I have received from friends, and friends of friends, and family of friends of friends, regarding my appearances on Jeopardy! last night and Friday. So I guess I'll use today's space to thank everyone for watching, and all the encouragement and good wishes. I really appreciate all the kind comments, and enthusiasm. Thank you thank you thank you!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Zion Hill Mural

Wherever there is a vast expanse of concrete along the roadside, most often in the form of a retaining wall, it is likely to have a mural painted on it. Perhaps the largest and most elaborate of these roadside murals is the one along the north side of Zion Hill.

Spanning about 50 yards, with a height of 20 feet, the Zion Hill mural depicts daily life in the BVIs.

Scenes include Fishermen mending their nets,

Cows and donkeys greeting sailboats at a pier,

And depictions of typical Islander households. If you're wondering what all the little black dots are in the photos above, those are drainage pipes, allowing heavy rainfall to pass through the wall, instead of destroying it.

The Zion Hill mural also honors the governors of the BVI, with memorial paintings. H. Lavity Stout served for nearly 40 years, and is also honored in the name of the only college in the BVI, H. Lavity Stout Community College.

In the very center of the mural is this figure -- an oversized woman, bigger than the hills and nearby cottages, carrying a basket of bread on her head (or at least, that's what the word on the basket says). What this has to do with the daily life of the BVI, or who this woman is supposed to be, I have no idea, but it certainly makes for a central focus in this otherwise lovely mural.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Caribbean Johnny Cash

We went to Bananakeet Cafe again last night, for dinner this time instead of drinks. Shockingly (or not) I yet again forgot to take my camera, so still have no pictures of the sunset to share. I do, however, have some information to impart regarding the quality of the live music offered on Friday nights.

Picture an older gentleman, not very large in stature, definitely from the Caribbean somewhere. From his look, and his flowered shirt, you expect a few island melodies, maybe some light reggae or a Jimmy Buffett tune or two. Instead, he begins his warm-up with a modified version of Norwegian Wood, before going on to pick a few other songs on his guitar. These warm-up pickings sound oddly familiar, and if you listen closely, you will likely recognize some other pop songs from the 60s and 70s, but they've been so altered and embellished as to render them almost unidentifiable.

Finally settling into his performance, the musician begins his set with somewhat obscure, 70s and 80s era country songs, Willie Nelson and Ray Charles' "Seven Spanish Angels" being one of the few HB or I recognized. The sound of the voice, matched with the look of the singer, creates a little bit of cognitive dissonance, as it seems impossible that such a rich, Johnny-Cash-sounding voice, could come out of that very Caribbean body.

As the night wears on, he moves into more familiar country fare, including "Ring of Fire" and "The Gambler", which he played as HB and I were leaving, having finished our dinner. As I commented to HB on the way out, the version of "The Gambler" performed at the Bananakeet Cafe gives Kenny Rogers' a run for its money.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Tour Buses

One of the most popular activities for cruise ship passengers is a tour of Tortola on one of the many open-air tour buses. The tours usually encompass about a two-hour drive, including a stop at a beach, or beach bar, and lots of brief stops along the way for pictures. 

For the purpose of attracting the most passengers, many of the tour bus owners have had extreme paint schemes applied to their buses. The most common theme, by far, is Pirates of the Caribbean

Sometimes it's a little hard to recognize the characters, although I suppose that's a reasonable likeness of Orlando Bloom on the right up there.

HB will be disappointed that I did not include any pictures of his favorite bus, which has a Pirates of the Caribbean being attacked by werewolves theme.

Another popular way to differentiate your tour bus from the others, is by making the back window into a creative cutout:

(I'm no more certain than you are what the painting is about)

The owner of this bus has cute back windows AND has used the back of the bus to create a family memorial. 

Some of the buses are simpler than others:

Maybe a few flowers are all it takes to convince you to ride with this driver.

Or maybe you just want to remember where you're supposed to go after the tour is over (back on the cruise ship!)

Then there are the buses that are eclectically unfathomable. 

First we have a lovely scene from Finding Nemo (the paintwork on this bus was amazing, by the way), but then, on the back, we have this:

What a girl whose hair has turned into a waterfall, and who has a skull exploding out of her bosom, has to do with either a) the British Virgin Islands or b) Finding Nemo is anyone's guess.

On the same bus, Gangsta Bugs Bunny wants to remind you:

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Six Extra Weeks of Spring

According to locals, winter is officially over in the BVIs. HB and I are as astounded as you are. We had about three brief weeks of slightly cool temperatures (68 at night; 75 during the day) and now we're back to the standard routine of 82/78 that we saw in October, November, and the first part of December.

Part of me is a little sad that those cool temperatures that enticed me to wear lightweight sweaters and jeans (in 70-degree weather) when going out to dinner won't be seen again for another 11 months. On the other hand, the ocean has been almost too cold to swim in lately, so the return of warm days means the waters will be warming up again soon.

For now, on my day off, I'm going to join Roscoe and Flash, who have been sunning themselves on the porch for hours, and enjoy the warmth.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Bananakeet Happy Hour

With our inability to see the sunset from our house, HB and I have been on the lookout for a good place to watch it. We both enjoy the lovely sunrises in the morning, but at heart, I think, we're both sunset people. I'd heard since we arrived on island that the Bananakeet Cafe had great views for sunset, and so on Friday evening, we went to their happy hour (4:00-6:00 pm daily) to check it out.

We were not disappointed. Perched on a cliff overhanging Carrot Bay, Bananakeet Cafe is outdoor dining in a casual setting around the pool for the adjacent Bananakeet hotel. The views are to the West, over Carrot Bay, with St. John in the distance, and several small islets dotting the waters in the foreground.

As the sun sets behind St. John, the haze around the islands starts to accumulate, and soon you fancy yourself in a scene from South Pacific. I was only mildly disappointed that the islands obscured the actual moment when the sun touches the water, inhibiting the possibility of seeing the green flash. Nonetheless, you certainly can't forget you're in the tropics while watching the sun set from Bananakeet Cafe.

I'm sorry I forgot the camera again, but we'll be going back soon. Leaving for our dinner reservations elsewhere, we saw and smelled the food coming out of the kitchen there, and will definitely have to return to sample it, and enjoy the sunset once more. 

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Tight Squeeze

I am matched in my fascination with the local livestock by Roscoe, who is simply beside himself every time a chicken or cow appears in the parking lot behind our building. He runs back and forth along the back porch, trying to decide where the best view is, before doing this:

We're waiting for the day that we come home and find him lying on the ground, desperate look in his eye, unable to get his head out from between the columns.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Morning Light

One of the things I miss most about where we lived in Florida is watching the sunset over the canal every evening. The riotous colors and swooping of bats always provided a relaxing pause in my day.

We traded it, though, for some subtler, though no less stunning, sunrises.

I've been afraid to take pictures of the sunrise, worried that my camera work wouldn't do it justice. Luckily, HB couldn't resist yesterday morning and did an excellent job with the pictures.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Tour Guide

Yesterday, for the first time in over a month, HB and I had a day off together. We had planned on exploring new parts of the island, but when the water went out again, we decided to just head to our usual beach at Brewer's Bay and check out the snorkeling there. As you may remember from a previous post, we had tried snorkeling at Brewer's Bay before, with little success.

Yesterday, though, we swam further out from shore, and got out of the murky, sandy water caused by the waves on the beach, to discover an exciting, underwater world, filled with angel fish, goatfish, and a few parrot fish. The variety of coral and activity of the fish kept HB and I fascinated for well over an hour, but my favorite part of the swim was my tour guide.

About twenty minutes into snorkeling, a small fish, about the size and color of  a goldfish but with light yellow spots, swam inches in front of my mask. I cupped my hands in front of me, and he nestled into my palms, then darted off to my left. I followed him, and soon saw an enormous brain coral in front of me. About five minutes later, finding myself over empty sand, having lost the reef, the little fish appeared again, swimming inches from my mask for a few moments before darting off to my right. Following him again led me back over the reef, and I playfully imagined him my little underwater tour guide, showing me the best sights, and leading me back to the path when I strayed too far.

Amazingly, this little fish stayed with me for over 40 minutes of swimming and snorkeling. Every five minutes or so he would check in on me, darting just in front of my mask, swim in my palms if I offered my cupped hands, and then take off in one or another direction. I think he must have found a cozy niche in the ties on my swimsuit, or something, because I cannot conceive another reason why or how he would stay with me over the hundreds of yards I must have swam. Even as I headed in to shore, he was with me, and I caught my last glimpse of him as I finally took off my fins over shallow, sandy seabed.

Friday, January 14, 2011


I feel about as smart as the donkey I posted about yesterday. I just realized that I completely forgot to post today. I thought it was Sunday, as HB is off work today, and we've been enjoying our first day off together in over a month. Sorry I forgot to write here. I'll have a thorough update tomorrow.

Thursday, January 13, 2011


In addition to all the feral dogs, chickens, goats, sheep and roadcows on the island, there are also a few donkeys. Unlike the roadcows, which are allowed to wander at will across whatever land they might like, it is rare to see a donkey without a human counterpart.

HB and I usually see one of two donkeys. The first is the tourist donkey. It wears a wreath of flowers around its neck and hangs out by the cruise ship dock with a sign offering pictures with the donkey for $5 or some other amount. The second is the bucket donkey. He has two buckets attached to a harness that go across his back, like saddlebags. We often see him in Sea Cow's Bay, or being ridden by his owner.

The other day, on my way to work, was the first time I had seen a human-less donkey since arriving on the island. Only feet from the road, he was being awfully cute, kind of snuffling in the sand around his hooves. It wasn't until the clicking of my camera startled him and he ran off into the brush that I noticed the long chain he was pulling behind him, and the anchor in the ground near the road.

I just can't get enough of all the not-so-wild-life on Tortola.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Tortola, Ho! Part 4b: Pet Import Requirements

Picking up from where I left off last Monday, the BVI requires the following information to appear on the Health Certificate in order to import dogs to the territory (note these are not in the same order as on the permit application):

1. Microchip
2. The following vaccinations: Parvo, Lepto, Lyme, Hepatitis/Adenovirus, Distemper, Parainfluenza, and Parasites
3. Dogs must be examined and found to be in a healthy condition
4. Dogs aren't coming from a location under rabies quarantine
5. Dogs have lived in export country for at least six months
6. Rabies titre and shots.

Items numbered one through five are generally pretty easy to deal with. Most dogs in the US already have a microchip, and have received the vaccinations in the course of their standard annual trips to the vet. In some locations, vaccinations against parasites, and the ones for Lepto and Lyme are not part of the standard course of treatment, though, so you want to double-check with your vet that your dog has received these. If your dog hasn't, it's not big deal, as your vet can administer them at the time of filling out the health certificate.

The difficult item is number 6, because there is lots of timing involved. First, there are the rules for the shots. You must be able to show that the dog has received two rabies shots throughout the course of its life. Doesn't sound too hard so far. However, the first shot you're using for these purposes must have been administered at least three months after the dog's birth, and the second shot must have been administered no more than one year before the date the dog enters the BVI. The two shots must have been administered at least six months apart.

The timing of the rabies shots is of concern to two sets of folks: 1) those with a dog under 9 months (can't have two shots six months apart and after 3 months of age) and 2) those whose dog had their last rabies shot more than one year ago. People who fall into the 2nd category are increasingly common in the US as most vets now administer a 3-year rabies booster shots after the first two shots in a dog's lifetime.

So, you think, I'll just get a new shot now, while I'm having the vet fill out the health certificate. But here's the problem: you also have to have a rabies titre. A titre is a testing of the dog's blood to determine that the rabies antibody is in strong enough concentration. The blood for the titre cannot be drawn until 30 days after the most recent rabies shot. As a result, if your dog's most recent rabies shot is more than a year old, you have to get a new rabies shot, then wait thirty days, and then have your vet draw the blood for the titre.

A further complication: most countries (including the BVI) will only accept titre results from one lab in the entire USA, the veterinary lab at Kansas State University. Being the only lab in the country that titres are submitted to, the KSU lab is often quite busy, and may take a long time to process your titre results, as long as two months in the summer (high travel season).

Combining the information here with the information in the post from last Monday, if you're planning on visiting or moving to the BVI and you want to bring your dogs along, here's what your to-do list looks like. First, determine when your dog's last rabies shot was. If it was more than about 10 months ago, get to the vet at least three months before your desired travel date. On your first visit, have your vet administer a new rabies shot, along with updating or assuring all the vaccinations mentioned above. 30 days later, return to your vet to have him draw the blood for the rabies titre, and Fedex it to KSU labs, with return Fedex prepaid. Wait 3-8 weeks for KSU to return your titre results.

10 days prior to your flight, go back to your vet and have him prepare a Health Certificate on the appropriate USDA form. Fedex it to your local APHIS field office, with return Fedex prepaid, and keep your fingers crossed that it's returned in a timely manner. The minute you get the Health Certificate back from the USDA,  keep the "owner copy" and then Fedex the rest of the Certificate, along with all back-up documents, a permit application, and a check for $10 per dog, to the BVI Veterinary Department. Keep your fingers crossed that it's returned in a timely manner. Assuming you get a permit back from the BVI in this window, board your flight.

In the alternative, you can have your vet prepare one health certificate to send to the BVI with the permit well in advance of your flight, and then another at the 10-day mark. Both your vet and the USDA will charge you twice to prepare two separate certificates, though.

Good luck with your pet importation!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Major Medical Breakthrough

There is big news in the BVI Medical Community this month. The most renowned doctor on the island, Dr. Heskith Vanterpool, founder of the Eureka Medical Clinic and the Bougainvillea Medical Clinic (and also my doctor), performed a breakthrough treatment never before done in the British Virgin Islands. It's been all over the newspaper, and the local access station. You can see the TV headline for yourself:

That's right. The big advance in medical technology this month is the first BVI pacemaker implantation. The first pacemaker implantation in the world, for those who are unfamiliar, occurred in 1958. By the mid-1970s, implanted pacemakers had become common throughout Europe and the US. Now, over 50 years after the first pacemaker was implanted, the British Virgin Islands have finally caught on and are beginning to do this procedure as well. Up to this point, any patient needing such complex treatment would either have had to go to Puerto Rico, or suffered along without it.

I'm glad I can easily go to the US for medical treatment when needed.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Trumpet of the Flower

 My neighbor has a few bushes of these large trumpet-like flowers. I didn't do a good job of including perspective in these photos, but the blossoms are about 6 inches long, and four inches wide.


They are a very pale pinkish color, with yellow ribs, and seem to be a popular subject for local artists, as I see watercolors and oils of them everywhere. They're quite stunning, and I've never seen anything like them before.  If anyone can provide an identification of what they are, I would appreciate it. Not knowing their name won't prevent me from driving by my neighbor's house to admire them every evening, though.

Friday, January 7, 2011


Just a quick reminder that two weeks from tonight, you can watch me on Jeopardy!

To find out when and on what channel Jeopardy! airs in your area, click here:


Not commonly celebrated in the United States, January 6th marks the holiday of Epiphany, often referred to as Day of the Magi or Three Kings' Day throughout the rest of the world. January 6th is the 12th day of Christmas (Boxing Day, or the 26th of December, being the 1st day of Christmas), and marks the day that the Three Magi/Kings/Wise Men arrived in Bethlehem to present their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh to the baby Jesus. 

Just like in the US, Epiphany is not celebrated in the BVIs either. Here, it was just a standard work day. No parades or special religious services, just another January day. 

But HB and I had a little celebration of our own. You see, a gift finally arrived that had been a long time coming. It may be as valuable to some as gold, frankincense, or myrrh, but to me, it is indeed a prize. Mailed on September 1, the blanket that my mother sent finally arrived yesterday. 

More properly, it arrived in the BVI on the 26th of September, to the East End Post Office. Since I'd already checked the East End Post Office for it twice before that date, I had no idea it was sitting there. But yesterday, someone from the Post Office called my work to let me know I had a package that had "been [there] for quite a long time", and when I went to collect it, it proved to be the blanket both my mother and I had long ago given up as missing. 

I hope you all had such a fruitful Epiphany.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Lower Main Street

I took a walk down Main Street the other day, one of my favorite parts of Road Town. No longer the vibrant center of commerce it once was, I imagine it represents what most of Road Town looked like thirty or forty years ago, before the advent of offshore banking and cruise ships. Here are some photos from the lower part of Main Street.

Sunny Caribbee Spice Shop is kind of a cornerstone of Main Street, located as it is at the only real bend in the road. Their fresh and dried herb and spice selection is extensive.

GoodFellas ... Shoe Store? Many of the shops on Main are painted vibrant colors, but so too are many of the living spaces above the stores.

What exactly are the daily tasks of the Commissioner of Oaths?

Such pretty gingerbread trim.

Some important Club or Association was at the top of these steps.

Maybe a Broncos fan lives here?

This is the Pre-Colombian branch of the BVI Folk Museum

This vine put me in mind of Sweet Pea -- probably a sub-tropical relative.

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