Wednesday, November 30, 2011


On our overnight trip to St. John, I was excited to see a type of livestock I've never encountered in the Virgin Islands before.

This mama pig and about five or six piglets were enjoying rooting around in the mud holes left by the morning rains. And once fed, it was time for a good wallow.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011


My parents just finished a 14-day trip to the Virgin Islands, including 9 days here with me in the BVI, and a day  together on St. John. I thoroughly enjoyed seeing them, but as they got on the boat to St. Thomas yesterday, and we bid each other farewell, I couldn't help looking forward to my evening alone.

I'm exhausted, you see, and I was gleeful at the prospect of an early bedtime. 

Since my parents arrived on the 18th of November, I have been swimming three? four? times, out to lunch and/or dinner at least seven times, and visited Virgin Gorda and St. John. The amount of activity I have crammed into the past 10 days is equivalent to what I do in two months' time on a normal schedule. The pace has been gruelling for me, but I couldn't bring myself to slacken it, as I wanted to show my parents all the BVI highlights. 

Now it is time to return to my normal pacing. To swimming once a week, or once every ten days or so. To dining at home and visiting other islands only on special occasions. It is time to return to the very slow pace of life in the BVI, and to work to find a balance between the over-full week when I have visitors, and the slightly-to-slow week when I don't. 

Saturday, November 26, 2011


One day, I hope to snorkel the reef in Dog Bay on Virgin Gorda.

I will either need to get fit enough to swim the mile out and back from the nearest beach, or get rich enough to get a boat. I think the former is more likely.

In the meantime, I will content myself with photographs.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

North Shore

My parents are visiting for Thanksgiving, yay! Since four adults won't fit in our usual car, we have a rental car -- a Suzuki Grand Vitara -- for the duration of their stay. On Monday, we decided to take advantage of the four-wheel-drive, and try to find a beach HB and I had never visited. 

Rogue's Bay, also known as Lava Flow has some pretty amazing cooled-lava formations. Unfortunately, it also has a very disused 4wd road leading to it, and my parents weren't up for the adventure.

Still, the views of the north coast from our final stopping point were worth it. Hopefully HB and I will make it down some other time ... maybe in time for Beach Week 2012!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


At night, especially in the summer months, the bush becomes a wall of sound. Insects and birds create a pleasant backdrop, but the real noise comes from the frogs. Virgin Islands Coquis provide much of the sound, but there's a wide variety of other frogs making their contributions as well. I managed to capture one on film the other night.

He was about 3" long. I think it might be the invasive Cuban Tree Frog , but my identification is likely incorrect. Anyone else want to hazard a guess?

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Alternate Routes Part 2

Picking up where we left off on Saturday, as I pass Sage Mountain, I come to

Kilometer 5 --  Ridge Road, heading down the north side of Sage Mountain. Views to the right over Cane Garden Bay are mostly blocked by lush foliage, especially now at the end of rainy season

Kilometer 6 -- I've photographed this ghut before, when it was filled with a waterfall of rain run-off. It runs under the Ridge Road, and helps keep heavy waterflow off the road.

Kilometer 7 -- Bananakeet Cafe and Heritage Inn sit at the first of five switchbacks that take you down Windy Hill and into Carrot Bay.

Kilometer 8 -- Entering Carrot Bay, I've always been a bit confused by this sign.

Kilometer 9 -- Towards the western end of Carrot Bay, there are a few small, neat guest cottages that look like an ideal place to spend a few lazy days.

Another kilometer or so to work and my peaceful drive is at an end.

Alternate Routes Part 1

A few months ago, at my father's request, I posted a series of pictures from every kilometer of my morning commute. A commenter pointed out that unlike his ride of Hwy 1 in the Keys, I am fortunate enough to have a choice in how I get to work. Since I recently moved and my route of choice has changed, I thought it was time for a kilometer-by-kilometer update.

The start point on this route is dropping HB off at his work in Road Town. Near his work is the Virgin Islands Supreme Court, which happens to be next door to the Elmore Leonard Stoutt High School. At 8:15am, plenty of students are on their way to school.

Kilometer 1 -- about halfway up the steep climb of kilometer-long Joe's Hill. This is one of the flatter spots.

Kilometer 2 -- at the top of Joe's Hill. I always take a gander into this yard, to see what animals are milling about. This morning's supply of one goat, one horse, and some chickens is relatively paltry.

Kilometer 3 -- Where the Ridge Road intersects with the Cane Garden Bay Road, I head left to stay on Ridge Road towards Carrot Bay. The food truck always gives me a chuckle.

Kilometer 4 -- The fairly upper-class neighborhood of Doty, near Sage Mountain. Very clean, well-kept houses with wonderful views of the Sir Francis Drake Channel.

My new preferred route is significantly shorter than my old one (about 10 km instead of 16) but still too long to include in one post. Part 2 on Tuesday!

Thursday, November 17, 2011


Grab life with both hands and squeeze every last drop out of it.

... a motivational poster from the BVI Bovine Buddies.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Island Radio

I spend a fair amount of time in the car each day -- about an hour's total driving, plus a few minutes each evening waiting for HB to get out of work. I have never been one to drive in silence, I've always been a big fan of music while driving

In the radio wasteland of southwest Florida, I got used to the idea that music for driving meant CDs or an ipod. My 2007 model Volkswagen accommodated both options quite well and, admittedly, I got a little spoiled. Now that I'm using a rather older Hyundai for my daily driver, neither CDs nor ipods are compatible with the sound system, and I have learned to live wth the radio stations available to me.

For an island of 20,000 people, Tortola lucks out when it comes to radio, as we are able to pick up some broadcasts from the far-more-populous St. Thomas and St. Croix. Nonetheless, after parsing out the religious radio stations, I've realized there are only five radio stations to pick between for my daily drive time. In case you too want some in-car entertainment, here they are:

104.9 The Mongoose -- classic rock broadcast from St. Croix. No reception on northwest coast, or eastern third of Tortola.

104.3 The Buzz -- alternative rock broadcast from St. Thomas. No reception in Road Town or points east.

106.9 ZCCR -- reggae/hip-hop mix broadcast from Tortola. The extensive blocks of local commercials often make me tune out.

101.3 ZVCR -- reggae/r&b mix leaning more towards the reggae broadcast from Tortola. Usually don't get reception on this outside of Road Town.

780 ZBVI -- news interspersed with top 40 and reggae broadcast from Tortola. I find myself listening to this more frequently, as it gets good reception all over Tortola, and keeps me up to date on island events.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Blind Dog

There is a dog who lives along the road to our house that has the most remarkable eyes. Very dark pupils with very light irises. The first time we saw him, we were fascinated, as he seemed to stare into our souls.

We see him about once a week, usually hanging out in the driveway to his house. We would slow down when we saw him, and a mutual staring session would begin. Or so we thought.

After the third or fourth time we saw this dog, I realized he wasn't actually looking at the car. Rather, he was looking kind of past the car. He had his head and eyes turned to where the noise was coming from the car. As we would pass, his head would follow not the object of the car, but the noise from the car, creating a strange sort of visual doppler effect.

In a flash of startling creativity, HB and I have taken to calling him "Blind Dog."

Friday, November 11, 2011


A fairly dry subject for today, as we jump into the exciting world of trade tariffs. It may seem like a small, inconsequential thing at first -- the taxes imposed by the BVI government on nearly all goods imported into the territory. Tariffs aren't something I researched, or really even thought of, before deciding to move here. More and more, though, I realize how much they impact me, and impact life here in general.

To my knowledge, the only goods that enter the BVI tariff-free are books, educational materials, and computers. Everything else is subject to a minimum duty of 10%. Duties range as high as 23-24% on some items like automobiles. If you are visiting the BVI, these tariffs strongly impact the costs of goods you buy while here. Not only are you paying the shipping premium of bringing that CD or bottle of water to the island, but you are also paying for 10-20% on the original purchase price of the CD or bottle of water plus the cost of shipping it.

As a visitor, perhaps this doesn't matter very much to you. You're only here for a short while anyway, and so what if things cost a little extra? You're in the Caribbean. If you're planning on moving here, however, tariffs can impact you in a big way. Everything costs more here because it's imported. I've already discussed the cost of groceries at length, but tariffs help put a price premium on everything.

I think the difficulty of coordinating shipping combined with the high tariffs also diminishes the supply of items in the BVI. Often it is difficult to find specific things, and it is always difficult to find a variety of things. If you are looking for a certain model cell phone in a particular color, you will probably need look elsewhere -- online, or in Puerto Rico -- to find it.

In the long term, I feel the tariffs help make the BVI a less consumerist culture. There are not infinite choices of infinite items, and many transplants quickly discover how few of those infinite items they needed anyway. If shopping is your favorite form of entertainment though, you may want to carefully consider a move to the BVI, and the impact of tariffs on your pocketbook.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Growing Season

I am still unaccustomed to the dual growing season that happens in the BVI, and, I assume, throughout much of the tropics. Springtime, March and April especially, is the main time to see flowers in the BVI, but there is a secondary bloom that occurs now, in November.

Not all flora participates in the November bloom. In fact, it seems rather limited to hibiscus, rhodedenron and bougainvillea. I suppose the breadfruit trees bloomed again, too, but their non-showy blossoms make them a bit more forgettable.

  And I'm not so sure I should refer to November as the "second bloom" for the bougainvillea.

Based on their enthusiasm this month, I rather think the bougainvillea regard this as their first bloom.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011


HB and I had a pleasant drive on Monday, out exploring Tortola. Our observations confirmed that all of Tortola is one big farm.

This fairly large herd of cows seemed unusual somehow as we drove by. It wasn't until I looked at the photo afterwards that I realized it's because they're confined -- penned in by barbed wire -- rather than strolling nonchalantly in the road as usual. I wonder if the confinement is one of the causes of the skinny appearance of this herd?

The cattle egret was living up to his name admirably.

Since the roadcows were not, in fact, roadcows, we had to content ourselves with this brindled roadgoat instead.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Northern Swells

Around this time of year, the northern swells come in and waves start getting big. Surfers get excited, as there start to be actual surfable waves, usually in the range of 4-6 feet. Even super-placid Brewer's Bay will have a few small curlers in it.

Over the last two days, though, the North Coast of Tortola has seen surf bigger than anything remembered in the past five years.

Cane Garden Bay, seen from above has been transformed from its usual tranquil blue to a churned-up stormy green by the incoming waves. HB and I went to Josiah's Bay to check out the surf where it was likely to be largest.

We were astounded by the massive waves we encountered, many at least 10 feet, if not more. The rock wall to the right in the photo above rises about 8 feet above the sand, and some of the waves towered over it.

The effect of the surf crashing into the wall was lovely.

Although I'm enjoying the difference in the motion of the ocean, I'm hoping the ground swell dies down fairly soon -- I miss swimming!

Friday, November 4, 2011


I've made vague reference on this blog in the past to the fact that I work in a hotel here in the BVI. It's true, I do. I try not to post anything particularly specific or sensitive about my work, as I do not want to jeopardize either my employment or my employer with what I post here. Nonetheless, there are days when I just want to use my blog to vent. Today is one of those days.

If you are a business traveler, and the most important aspect of your trip is that you have internet access at your hotel -- stay in a hotel that specifically targets business clientele. Don't tell your secretary that any hotel with internet access will do. A business hotel will have a help desk to get you connected to the internet because you are unable to do so yourself. They will have people trained in technological assistance. A hotel targeted to tourists likely will not.

If you are a business traveler, and the most important aspect of your trip is that you have internet access at your hotel -- own a computer that is fewer than 10 years old. Don't still be running Windows 95 as your OS. Even very technologically savvy people cannot navigate the maze of encryption options Windows 95 throws up. Windows Vista and Windows 7 just ask for the password, and figure out the encryption type on their own.

If you are a business traveler, and the most important aspect of your trip is that you have internet access at your hotel -- know how to change the language settings on your computer. Although I can connect pretty much anything, even a computer running Windows 95, to our wireless network, I can't do it in Swedish. I also can't change the language settings myself, because your computer is IN SWEDISH and I have no idea how to say "Control Panel" in Swedish.

If you are a business traveler, and the most important aspect of your trip is that you have internet access at your hotel -- the Caribbean is your enemy. When the technical help at the hotel fails you, there is no one else to ask. Sure, there are IT guys, but many of them don't make housecalls. And no one in the Caribbean moves at the vital speed you expect.

So, since there are no Swedish-speaking IT guys that will make it here to help you out before tomorrow, allow me to explain to you the concept of limin' ...

Thursday, November 3, 2011


Grey rainy days like today

are penance for all the days we get like this:

I hate it when a tropical wave comes in and it's rain and grey skies for three days straight. But if that's the price for the other 250 or so days of the year, I'll gladly pay the piper.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011


Here it is, not a Sunday, and I am going to write about animals. My reasons for this are twofold. First, I am simply too excited about the pictures HB took on Sunday to hang on to them for a long time. Second, I am changing my posting schedule for the blog to Tuesday through Saturday, and uncertain where the weekly Creature Feature is going to fall.

We learned this past Sunday, that our Q-tip plant is quite attractive to hummingbirds. When I spotted an Antillean Crested Hummingbird flitting about it early in the morning, I figured there'd be no way I'd manage to get pictures. But HB camped out for about an hour, and managed to get some great shots.

Later in the day, our crested friend was joined by a Green-Throated Carib Hummingbird, who obligingly posed on a branch for me, as did the Crested.

Now if only I could manage to get a few photos of the bananaquits that fly in and out of the mango trees, I would be quite content.

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