Wednesday, August 31, 2011

First Day Off

I spent the first hour or so this morning, my first day in a four-week chunk of time off, making what will hopefully and thankfully be the last of my bill-paying rounds.

Upon returning home around 9:30, I grabbed a book and my ipod and sank into this chair

where I remained for the following hour and a half, contemplating this view

and watching these dogs

wear themselves out chasing anoles up and down the deck.

Now that my two obligations for the day (paying bills; posting here) are complete, if you will excuse me I am headed back to my chair for another hour and a half of limin'.

Preparing for Vacation

HB and I are getting ready to leave for Colorado on Friday. We'll be gone for two weeks.

In addition to normal preparations, I am also trying out some apps for my iPod so that I can keep this blog updated on a more regular basis while we're on vacation.

This is a test post using blogpress. I should have another post up later today.


Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Tea Anyone?

An excess of rain on Friday night brought a few new plants to our yard.

Are these the type of mushrooms that go into the special tea brewed for full moon parties?

I have no idea, but there's more than one mycologist who reads this blog that might hazard a guess.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Surf Forecast

HB and I were so eager to snorkel yesterday, after several weeks of being away from the beach. We loaded up all our stuff and headed to Brewer's around 11:30, hoping to beat the crowds and get a few great hours in at the beach. When we arrived, though, we found that the waves were hitting the beach pretty hard, stirring up lots of silt and drastically reducing the visibility. We still snorkeled for about forty-five minutes, but it wasn't the quality snorkeling we're used to.

If we'd been thinking, we would've checked the surf forecast before we left the house, and maybe decided on a different beach, or not bothered with the snorkeling equipment.

A useful tool for anyone heading to the beach, the surf forecast provides details not only of surfing conditions, but also of tides and wave heights. Whether you want to play in the waves crashing on shore, or float easily in lake-style placid waters, the surf forecast is a great way to help ensure a good day at the beach.

Especially in the BVI, where conditions can differ widely from beach to beach, and where so many beaches are within easy reach, it's always a good move to check the surf forecast and find the beach offering the conditions most conducive to your desired activities before heading out. For snorkelers, ideal conditions include a low surf rating, small wave heights, small wave energies, and tide that is near low, but on its way back in (less silt being dragged out over the reef). Surfers, on the other hand, would look for opposite conditions, and pay more attention to the wave period, which can definitely affect surfing quality.

We like to use, which provides details for thousands of beaches and surf breaks around the world.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Crabitty Crab

 Creature Feature Sunday is back!

While walking the dogs Friday morning, I came across this hermit crab hanging out in the garden. Roscoe smelled the crab, but lost interest when he couldn't figure out why that shell smelled so good. After I took the dogs inside and got the camera, I came back out to find the crab scampering along the garden path.

So maybe scampering isn't the right word.

At any rate, with his shell about 1.5 inches in diameter at the wide end, while this is one of the smaller examples of hermit crabs I've seen in the BVI, it is still  the only one I have pictures of.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

View from Bed

Watching House Hunters and House Hunters International as often as I do, one of the things that often made me shake my head in ridicule was when people would talk about what a great view they would potentially have from their bed. I didn't get it. Did these people not realize that, lying down in bed, they'd be both at the wrong angle and too low to see anything other than the bottom two feet of their walls?

Well, yesterday morning I had to eat my words, as I woke up around 5:30, looked out the French doors at the foot of the bed, and saw the most beautiful streaks of color in the sky -- one of the best sunrises I've seen in the BVI. I woke HB up and we lay there and admired the view from our bed.

I was too captivated by the sunrise to go grab the camera, but last night I was with it enough to take a few snaps of the sunset. While the above angle is definitely not the view from our bed (in fact, you kind of have to lean over the railing on the deck to get this view at all), I thought it captured the same idea as the lovely sunrise we woke up to yesterday morning.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Amalgam of Animals

To my chagrin, I have missed two Sundays of creature features. This is in part because of circumstances (Irene) and in part because all the creatures on my list that I want to feature have disappeared with the hot weather. As a result, even though I have made efforts to photograph them, I have been unable to find them in their usual haunts.

One of these creatures is what HB and I call the "dinosaur lizard". Distinct from the anoles, like the one inhabiting my office, the dinosaur lizards are brownish grey in skin tone, and can be quite large. I've seen some that are two-three feet.

This is a small example of the lizards I am referring to. This one is about a foot long, and far less colorful than its larger kin, that often have rainbow-colored scales along their sides and near the sensory organs on their heads. When it's finally time to feature dinosaur lizards, you'll see what I'm talking about.

So while I wait for the various creatures on my list to return, I share with you a few small critters I found on the property this morning.

I see these leafbugs fairly often. They make me think of the rhinoceros beetle, although for no good reason.

These tiny snails abound, especially after rains. That's my pinkie in the bottom of the picture for a little bit of size perspective.

Hopefully as the weather cools off in late September, I'll be able to get some photos of the creatures on my list. In the meantime, my Sunday creature features will likely continue to be amalgams of a variety of animals.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

New Apartment!

In case it hasn't been obvious from all my blathering over the last week or so, HB and I moved into a new apartment on the weekend, and I am super excited about it!

There are many things about the new place that make me happy.

First, it is cheaper, costing about 85% of what the previous apartment did.
Second, all our utilities except electricity are included in the monthly rent, which also helps lower our monthly costs.
Third, a big one for HB, one of the included utilities is satellite TV.
Fourth, it is smaller. Our old apartment was a two-bedroom, one bathroom in about 1500 square feet. Our new apartment is a one and a half bedroom  (more on this later), one and a half bathroom in about 550 square feet.
Fifth, it has appliances we did not have before: dishwasher, washer/dryer, grill, and A/C.
Sixth, it is quieter. There are only two other couples in our building, we are off the main road, and I didn't hear any roosters this morning for the first time in a year.

Now, some photos.

View from our deck out towards Little Jost van Dyke

The beautiful deck nearly doubles our total living space. Looking forward to grilling up some burgers out here tonight.

Small but well-stocked galley kitchen. The landlady told me I could use her spare food processor when she found out I like to cook. It's going to take a little while to get used to the tiny fridge, though. I've never been able to see the top of the fridge before.

Living room. Cheek by jowl with the kitchen. Here is our half-bedroom -- a lofted bed platform and closet. We hope to get some curtains hung to make this more private for guests.

For the first time in our lives together, we do not have an immense master bedroom. The column is the biggest space issue, but the floor-to-ceiling windows make it feel bigger than it is.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Hurricane Recovery

It is the nature of my blog that sometimes I forget to post, or am otherwise prevented from posting, as was the case today. I had planned on taking some photos of the hurricane Irene aftermath at work, and posting to the blog from there. Unfortunately, the aftermath proved to be a bit more intense than I had expected, and this circumvented my plans.

The generator at work failed to come on, and so we were without electricity for the first two hours of the day. While the maintenance man worked on repairing the generator, I worked on cleaning the standing water out of one of the rooms that had flooded. By 10:00, everything was in good order except we didn't have any internet, and when I left at 4:00, there was still no internet.

I have chatted with other blog owners who suggest that these problems in being unable to post, or sometimes just being forgetful, can be prevented by writing my posts days in advance and scheduling them. While I do use this function when I know I'll be away, like when I went to LA and Denver last October, for the most part, scheduling kind of takes the fun out of it for me. I like to share what's on my mind about the BVI now; not what I was thinking about three days ago.

Of course, not all my posts are completely spontaneous. I keep a list of things I would like to share, and look for opportunities to photograph those things. But once I have those pictures on the SD Card, it's like a hot potato. I have to get them up here right away to let you know! The downside, of course, to my unwillingness to schedule, though, is that occasionally, I miss a post, or post very late (like today). I hope that doesn't make you less willing to read.

Sunday, August 21, 2011


Well we finished moving this morning, racing against time to get all our things and the dogs and ourselves moved before Tropical Storm Irene attacked the island. We pulled up with our last load just as the first wave of rain hit hard, soaking us and the dogs as we ran for shelter inside. Everything's unpacked though and we're settling into our new space, happy to be in digs with a backup generator for our second tropical storm during our time in the bvi. HB is outside now securing all the patio furniture against the 60 mph gusts. I'll have pictures and better descriptions up tomorrow.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Moving Day

After one year and three days for me (and seven days longer for HB) we are moving. When I told my boss at work I was moving in August, she nearly had a heart attack, thinking I meant I was leaving island.

No, not moving away from the BVI; just to a new apartment.

Our move was prompted primarily by economic considerations, as the new place will be saving us hundreds of dollars per month, largely because so many utilities are included in the rent. I'm excited to have a dishwasher, and washer and dryer. The new place has A/C, too, so now maybe my mom will visit.

The thing I will miss most about our current place? That's easy:

Although the new place looks out over Jost van Dyke, as views in the BVI go, they don't get much better than the one we've got right now.

I'll miss this guy a little, too, creepy as he is.

Well, time to get going on the packing. Next time you hear from me, it will be from a new location.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Futilities Fight Back

Three days to go until we move into our new apartment, and the futilities are taking one last stand at making our lives miserable. While the new place has an automatic back-up generator, and water delivery to refill the cisterns when they run dry, we are still battling the inconsistencies of the city water system until Sunday.

So this morning, we have very weak running water at both sinks, but no water to the toilet or shower. I took what is hopefully my last shower out of a gallon jug last night, and we're having fun filling the toilet tank by hand this morning.

I had almost thought we'd get away with moving with no other futilities battles. Alas, my hopes are dashed.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011


One year. At the end of the day, I will have lived in the BVI for one year. Except for the few weeks I was away in October, waiting for my work permit.

My attitude towards the BVI shifts on a daily, if not hourly basis. At the moment, I'm extremely happy to be here, enjoying the flamboyant trees and the summer clouds and squalls, anticipating moving to a new apartment.

There have been times in the past year I've been ready to leave -- to get off this rock and head back to the familiar comforts, friends, and family in Colorado. Unsurprisingly, thoughts of escape are usually accompanied by severe homesickness. Thankfully, these moments are usually passing, although April and May were pretty rough.

I've finally stopped missing fast food. Mostly. Taco Bell doesn't count as fast food, right?

One year. Oh yeah, I'm ready for another.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

New Officemate

My current officemate is resigning effective October, moving back to the States.

I think they might be trying this new guy on for size.

He kind of strikes me as a bit of an office supply junkie, though. He really loves that staple remover.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Social Studies

I am lucky HB works in a job where he interacts with belongers and down-islanders on a more regular basis than I. It is through his connections at work that I get a lot of my knowledge of BVI culture and custom. Most recently, one of the children of HB's co-workers was showing HB his Social Studies book, and was kind enough to let HB bring it home to show me.

Published in 2003, the text is written by the BVI Ministry of Education, and is intended for use at the third & fourth grade level. Reading the book, there were several sections that stood out to me, and provided a snapshot of island life, culture and attitude around the year 2000.

Near the beginning, there are three stories from island children, sharing how they experience the BVI. While all three were charming, Mary's story, being the most detailed, was my favorite.

This brief passage on using herbal ingredients to provide remedies for various ailments intrigued me. HB has told me that anytime he has an illness or injury, his co-workers recommend plants to help cure him. Basic botany and herbal remedies, absent in a US curriculum, are second-nature to a BVIslander, having learned about it in school.

As I perused, I was surprised a few times by the general knowledge implied by the Activities sections. The photo above shows the entire text regarding earthquakes. The activities section asks "What are four things you should not do during or immediately after an earthquake?". This information cannot be found in the text, so presumably this is something the children are expected to already know, or that is to be discussed in class by the teacher.

The passage on recent immigrants seemed oddly selective in its specificity. Why are Arabs called out in a separate paragraph in the text? Why are Chinese and Portuguese separated out in the population table, but not Canadians or Japanese?

Finally, perhaps the most amusing line of the book, from the introduction to Chapter 3 on natural resources. "An inexhaustible resource is one that does not decrease or become used up as people use it. Rock is an inexhaustible resource."

Reading this sentence aloud to HB, I visualized Bill & Ted banging their heads and playing some mean air guitar.

It is only later we learn, disappointingly, that the authors are referring to stones and minerals, not rock-'n'-roll music. How much more exciting would the latter be?

Sunday Whoops

The day sure got away from me yesterday, and it wasn't until I was falling asleep on the couch last night around 9:00 that I realized I had forgotten to post. A late night on Saturday at the Full Moon Party (yes, HB and I finally attended) combined with my weekend-long battle with the laundry, and the cleaning needed before we move next Sunday made the day disappear.

So if you missed your Sunday BVI creature feature, I apologize. I'll be back later today with another, longer post.

Saturday, August 13, 2011


I have never been in a place like this for old-fashioned, and sometimes simply unique, first names. I am entranced at the creative streak parents have shown in dubbing their children. I'm sure some of the variety is created by the relatively high number of immigrants here in the BVI. I have taken to writing down first names I find interesting or unusual, and now present my compilation to you here.


I'd be hard-pressed to pick a favorite, although McWellington would definitely be up there. I appreciate how Walwyn, who is currently campaigning for political office, is using the obvious pun in his name. His slogan: "With Walwyn, we all win". With the exceptions of Elmore and Darwin, I don't believe I'd ever heard any of these names before. I appreciate the name diversity the BVI has introduced me to. 

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Summer in the BVI

I have come to realize that summer is my favorite season in the BVI. Here's why:

1. It's (not that) hot. I mean, it's warm here year round, don't get me wrong. The high temp is rarely below 80F, and it's a cold night when the low is below 70F. In the summer, highs hover around 90F, and the humidity keeps it from cooling off much at night, but at least it's only 90F. No 100F+ temps for me. And the truly hot months are only two: August and September. Even July had quite a few cool days.

2. It's quiet. Who wants to visit the Caribbean in the summer? The right time to come here is when it's at least 30F degrees warmer here than it is where you're at, and as I just explained, that is never the case in the summer. Unless you're from Tierra del Fuego, I guess. I like the island when it's tourist-free. It feels private; like my own slice of paradise. I congratulate myself on having found such a beautiful, undiscovered haven. At least for the summer months.

3. School's out. Cuts the traffic in half, which means rush hour here is more like rush hour in the States, not two hours' worth of gridlock.

4. It's placid. The ocean, that is. I like to play in the waves sometimes, and enjoy the northern swells that hit in the winter. But in the summer, wave heights rarely make it over one foot near most of the beaches, making swimming in the ocean as peaceful as swimming in a lake, but with more buoyancy. The lack of waves also makes snorkeling easier.

5. Hurricanes. Most people would think this is a negative; a reason to hate summer in the BVIs. But consider. I just discussed how quiet and placid everything is. There's nothing going on. Hurricanes at least give you something to do indoors, out of the heat, on a daily basis. If you're not checking the weather report once or twice a day during August and September, you're probably not living in the BVIs.

Plus, provided you have adequate shelter and storm-proofing, if a storm does pass close by, it can provide days of entertainment: stocking up; closing the shutters; playing cards and reading once the power goes out; cleaning up afterwards ... the list goes on.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Daily Drive Part 2

Continuing from yesterday, photos taken every kilometer of my drive in to work in the morning.

Kilometer 9. After Nanny Cay, there's less development and more open road with lots of ocean views.

Kilometer 10. Still plenty of ocean views; and views of St. John.

Kilometer 11. Pockwood Pond. Home to the new DMV, on the left, and the municipal waste incinerator, dead ahead.

Kilometer 12. Leaving Pockwood Pond, we're back to open coastal road, hugging sheer red cliffs.

 Kilometer 13. Still plenty of winding coastal highway to traverse.

Kilometer 14. Passing through Fort Recovery, I start to get alert again, as soon I'll have to make a turn.

Kilometer 15. The brief traverse of Zion Hill Road, one of my favorite parts of the drive.

Kilometer 16. Intersection with the north coast road is marked by Sebastian's Hotel. Less than a kilometer from here to work.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Daily Drive Part 1

My father asked me a while ago for pictures of my daily commute. He suggested I take them every 100 meters or so. This morning, I decided to indulge him, but chose the more practical option of  to taking photos every 1000 meters instead.

So without further ado, the first half of my morning drive by kilometer:

Leaving the house. We actually go the other way down Ridge Road, but the angle of the sun made this the better shot.

Kilometer 1. The lush green forest of Great Mountain Road

Kilometer 2. Huntum's Ghut. Always a bit of an obstacle course, weaving between parked vehicles, pedestrians and wildlife.

Kilometer 3. At the traffic light. Souvenir shops and Festival flags.

Kilometer 4. Road Reef Marina, on the way out of Road Town.

Kilometer 5. Not pictured. Couldn't stop given the traffic.

Kilometer 6. Definitely out of town now. Great views over the Channel.

Kilometer 7. Sea Cow's Bay. Land of speed bumps and brightly-colored buildings. I've never actually seen this snack hut (the Rainbow Shack) open for business.

Kilometer 8. Nanny Cay. Ex-pat stronghold, and roughly the halfway point on my drive.

Second half tomorrow.

Sunday, August 7, 2011


When it rains, the outdoors at work becomes overrun with snails.

I know, because I can hear them crunch underfoot as I walk around the property.

Also, they seem to like the twig broom that rests outside the laundry. During a steady rain, there are literally hundreds of pea-sized snails crawling all over and around the broom.

After a recent rain, I was able to get some pictures of this much larger (quarter-sized) snail, hanging out on the outside of the office.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Moko Jumbie

No celebration in the Virgin Islands (British or US) is complete without moko jumbies, and they were out in force at the Festival parade.

At a basic level, moko jumbies are dancing stilt-walkers, and have been traditional at Trinidad's Carnival since the early 1900s. More recently, the USVI adopted the moko jumbie as the official symbol of the territory. But the history and mythology of the moko jumbie are more extensive than that.

In Caribbean culture, a jumbie is any ghost or spirit. Jumbies are often thought to possess animals, and seem to be easy to confuse. Jumbies also love a good dance, and in Montserrat, there is a dance specifically to conjure up as many jumbies as possible.

Meanwhile, in West African tradition, Moko was a god who, by dint of being very tall, was able to watch over the people and foresee danger and evil. Some Trinidadians believe that Moko arrived there by walking across the Atlantic from the coast of West Africa.

And so we have Moko Jumbies. The spirits of the god Moko, walking tall, protecting the people, and dancing.

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