Friday, April 27, 2012


First of all, let me apologize for my absence the last couple of days. Work has been inordinately busy -- largely due to a new sale we started that seems to be garnering a lot of attention -- and I haven't had time to eat lunch, much less blog.

In Tortola-related news, there's a sign on the side of Leroy's Barber Shop, across from the Road Town ferry terminal, I've always found a bit intriguing

I'm not entirely sure who is so possessive of the name "Virgin Islands", or why, especially as Virgin Islands was originally used to refer to all the islands that are now part of the USVI and BVI. I suppose it stems from the fact that the official name of the BVI is actually, simply, The Virgin Islands. I'm not sure why this should prohibit other locales from using the name though. It'd be like saying Guinea-Bissau should change to just Guinea because Equatorial Guinea used the name Guinea first.

I hope and believe this is only the invective of one, over-excited individual, rather than the stance of the entire BVI citizenry.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Tortola, Ho! Part 8: Work Permit

It's been a while since I've written anything in the Tortola, Ho! series, but I realized the other day that, aside from the Medical Certificate, I never really discussed what's involved in getting a work permit to come to the BVI. The process can vary a little, depending on where you're coming from, but is a pretty simple deal overall.

The first step in getting a work permit is getting a job. Before you even begin to make an application, you have to have a deal with your employer, as it is actually the employer who is applying for the work permit on your behalf.

Ideally, your employer has already been running an ad for your position in the BVI Beacon, and at this point you can go ahead and get started on your work permit paperwork. Many employers, though, will wait until they find the right candidate before they run the required advertisements. If this is the case, the employer will need to run ads for two consecutive weeks in the Beacon. After these have run, you can get started filling out your paperwork.

The full application can be found here. It's a pretty simple fill-in-the-blank form. It's mostly asking for your personal details (name, address, date of birth, etc.) and details of the employment. Part of the key to filling this out is to be as detailed as possible about your job qualifications, to make it clear to the Department of Labor that only YOU can fill the position. You should also attach a resume, any awards and college transcripts, etc. to the application. Most employers here in the BVI are familiar with the process, and will help you fill out the forms appropriately.

The forms are then submitted for processing. It used to take about 4-6 weeks to process a new work permit application, but the recent change in government has seen new work permits taking about 3 months to process, so be aware.

Depending on where you're coming from, you may also have to apply for a Visa with the Department of Immigration in order to enter the country. Most Europeans and North Americans do not need to apply, but a full list of countries requiring an immigration Visa can be found on the Governor's website. If you are a national of a country for which a visa is required, the full visa application is also available online. You'll want to submit this at the same time you submit your work permit. Again, your employer can help you with any questions you have.

Once your work permit has been approved, congratulations! Get your medical certificate and police records in order, and come to the BVI!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Early Bloomer

Here's something you don't see very often, if at all, in mid-April in the States

This rose-bush by our porch has been going crazy for the last week or so, covered in lovely, fragrant blooms. What a wonderful surprise.

Thursday, April 19, 2012


Despite my constant reference to all the unusual road hazards here, like roadcows, goats, etc., one thing I haven't quite gotten used to about driving in Tortola is how the construction machinery gets parked haphazardly, seemingly wherever happens to be convenient. You'll come around a corner and nearly run into a front-loader, or an excavator.

We've got two of these guys parked on either side of the road to our house right now, creating a narrow, excavator-lined alley through which one car can pass.

I'm keeping my fingers crossed we don't encounter the excavator-moving-crew when trying to leave for work some morning in the near future. Talk about a bizarre excuse: "I was late to work because they were loading an excavator on my road and I couldn't get around it. For an hour." It's happened before.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012


An article on the BVI News about the illegality of strip clubs in the BVI came to my attention recently.

The article points out that although strip clubs are illegal, there are quite a few of them open, and the police seem to be doing little to shut them down.

Ironically, the article is accompanied by an ad at the top of the page for Club Crystal, Tortola's premier strip club.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012


While the bougainvillea and rhododendrons bloom year-round, my favorite harbinger of spring in the BVI are these trees with pink blossoms.

They're positively everywhere on island, and this time of year, they're all in bloom -- and I have no idea what they are. An old man on the street told me while I was taking photos that they're cedars, but I think it's pretty clear that they aren't.

The hillside of Martins is just covered with them. Driving down a street lined with them is like the ending of a Disney movie, as the slightest breeze brings the bell-shaped flowers pirouetting down, calyx first.

To me, the individual blossoms don't seem particularly lovely up-close, but when the trees have huge clusters, as in the first picture, it's almost like the bush is filled with cotton candy.

Anyone have any idea at identification?

Friday, April 13, 2012

Left at the Purple Dumpster

I have written in the past about the difficulty of giving driving directions on an island where there are no street addresses, few street signs, and a general lack of understanding of cardinal directions.

I was born and raised in Denver, a more-or-less cardinally-oriented, grid-based city, rife with street signs and addresses. In such a navigation-friendly environment, I disdained giving directions based on landmarks, preferring instead the precise nature of, "proceed three blocks to Grape Street and turn North (right). The house will be on your right, at 412 Grape Street." What a beautiful sentence. In the perfectly-gridded world of downtown Denver, three blocks is a definite measurement. Grape Street, being named with a green and white sign at every intersection, is unmistakable. 412 means the house is on the East side of the street, between 4th and 5th avenues. Lo! Beauty!

All that changed when I moved to the BVI, where roads were built more as an afterthought to urban planning (ha!) than the basis of it. Roads here follow old donkey trails, and although some of them are named, very few residents have knowledge of these names. Again, there are no street addresses, so you can't look for "14 Nibbs Street", but at least many of the commercial buildings have names, and those names are lettered on their facades. And despite my original insistence on sticking to street names and cardinal directions, the reality of giving driving directions to tourists on a daily basis has forced me to crumble to the necessity of using landmarks.

I was recently giving some hotel guests some driving directions to get to Brewer's Bay. I'd taken them up the five switchbacks of Windy Hill, gotten them past the big green Heineken sign at Rudy's Bar, but was stuck on how to describe the final turn onto Brewer's Bay Road East. It's a tricky 270 degree left that's easy to miss, and relatively non-noteworthy. Searching my visual memory for a clue, I finally struck on it: Turn left at the giant purple dumpster!

I cringed at my reliance on a landmark that could since have been moved, but when I saw the guests the next day, they'd had a lovely day at Brewer's Bay. They knew they were headed in the right direction, they said, as soon as they saw the purple dumpster.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Make It Work

Talk about a "wish I had my camera" moment. Out on the property today, I noticed a delivery man carrying some goods into the kitchen -- a fairly common sight. Except that there was no delivery truck around. Where had this gentleman come from with his brimming boxes of food? A quick peek down the driveway answered my question.

At the end of the driveway, on the main road, sat a flat-bed tow truck and a distinctly grumpy-looking tow truck driver. On the bed of the tow? The delivery truck.

I guess the delivery man figured, even though his truck broke down, he still had to make his deliveries.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012


Our hotel guests love the tropical fruit trees that grow all over the property. The giant breadfruit tree is particularly popular, but we have soursop, sugar apple, marmy apple, almond, and all kinds of banana plants, too. The guests think the fruit trees give the property a great ambience -- make you feel like you're really in the Caribbean. Our gardeners and our chefs, though, like the trees for another reason.

They provide fresh fruit for use in the kitchen. Our kitchen uses tons of bananas -- both green bananas (as a starch substitute/ in place of potatoes) and ripe bananas. Cutting the bananas from our trees when they're green provide the option of using them green or waiting for them to ripen while they hang in the pantry. When you order any banana-related food here, you can be sure it's fresh and local.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Easter Weekend

Every so often, I get bouts of island fever, days or weeks where I just itch to get off Tortola. It seems to be worse in the spring. I know I have a short attention span, and that I need a large variety of activities to be satisfied, but the closure of nearly everything over this past Easter weekend brought about the worst round of island fever I've experienced since moving to the BVI.

Depending on your perspective, the BVI is either filled with activities or is a veritable wasteland. As long as the sun is shining and you're happy in the ocean, there's scuba diving, boating, snorkelling, paddle-boarding, surfing, sand-castle-building, etc. etc. There is no shortage of things to be done at the beach or on the water. But as I mentioned above, I am not content to do the same thing over and over -- or for extended periods -- so after two hours at the beach on Easter morning, I had exhausted my personal "doing things at the beach" threshold, leaving the second half of Easter Sunday and all of Easter Monday to be filled.

Once you've finished with the beach/water angle, there's not much to be done. There are a couple of gyms on island if you'd like to get some exercise, and a few hotels will let you use their tennis courts for a small fee. There are plenty of places to eat and drink, some small museums and a movie theater, and that about completes your options. HB and I haven't been out to the movies since Valentine's Day 2010, as we prefer the general spaciousness and non-teenagery-ness of our living room. The museums aren't open on official holidays, and for that matter, many of the bars and restaurants aren't either.

I spent most of Monday longing for a zoo to visit, a mall to window-shop at, or a long, smooth road to drive down. In the end, I settled for a long walk in the neighborhood with HB, which helped to fill the void and made me stop feeling sorry for myself. Still, I'm more than ready for my trip to Denver in May.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Does Not Apply

Since moving to the BVI, I've noticed that my admittedly questionable and scanty news outlets, like and Yahoo!News, seem to be less applicable to my daily life than they were when I lived in the US. Perhaps the best recent example is an article which appeared on the Yahoo! home page, called "5 fresh foods you shouldn't keep in your refrigerator".

The article advocates that tomatoes, basil, potatoes, onions and avocados should all be stored on the counter or in the pantry. It gives fairly good, plant-biology based arguments for why this is. But as I started thinking about applying the article in my daily life, I realized how impractical it would be.

In the BVI, storing tomatoes on my counter would lead, in the best instance, to immediate fruit fly invasion, and in the worst, to finding cockroaches or rats calling my kitchen "home". The line that really caused me to crack up, though was: "keeping [potatoes] in a paper bag in a coolish spot (like a pantry) is best."

Perhaps the author lives somewhere like Wisconsin, or has a pantry in her basement, but let me assure you, there is nothing "coolish" about my pantry. About the coolest my pantry gets is 72 degrees, and most days it's close to 80. According to the Vegetable Research and Information Center at the University of California, at no time in a potato's life is 75-80 degrees a good storage temperature, especially as "disease organisms logarithmically increase their population grown" at those temperatures.

About half of the way through the article, after picturing the co-inhabitants the tomatoes would bring, and puzzling over my pantry being a coolish spot, I mentally ticked the "does not apply to the BVI" box and moved on.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Tortolan Deer

There are rumors going around that we now have deer on Tortola. I have heard a few folks say that they've spotted deer in and around the Sage Mountain area, and a few boaters have said they've seen the deer that live on St. John swimming the mile-wide channel that separates that island from Tortola.

For my part, I'm dubious. 

It is not uncommon while driving up Windy Hill to have a faun-colored creature, about the same size as the St. John deer, dash in front of you, and cause you to think, "oh look, a deer!" only to be revealed on closer inspection to be an creature of an entirely different Order:

I think the rumored spottings of deer on Tortola are in fact spottings of Tortolan Deer -- also known as goats.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Anegada Miscellany

Just a few final pictures from our trip to Anegada last week.

First, the lovely views as we came in to dock near the Anegada Reef Hotel

Cedars scattered along the beach reminded me of Longboat Key in Florida, and also provided the only significant interruption to the otherwise flat horizon line.

We get waders like great egrets and blue herons on Tortola often enough, but shorebirds like these plover (maybe killdeer?) are fairly uncommon on Tortola.

Search This Blog