Monday, October 31, 2011


Every now and again, a co-worker of mine or of HB's will give us an interesting piece of fruit, something we have inevitably been unfamiliar with up to that point. The marmy apple one of the gardeners at work gave me is probably the most appetizing of the new fruits we've tried, although the genips this past summer were pretty good, too.

A few days ago, HB received this:

Called a noni, this russet-potato-sized fruit is, as HB's coworkers promptly informed him, not good for anything. Apparently, the flesh is far too bitter to be worth trying to eat. One person told him he could put the fruit in a jar and let it ferment. After fermenting for several weeks, the juices would apparently make an excellent health-tonic, due to the large quantities of micronutrients found in the noni.

Having done battle with so much mold and other spores since living here, I was reluctant to let the noni ferment in the house, so HB and I left it sitting on the counter for a few days until we could come up with a better use for it. Unfortunately, I did not read that wikipedia link earlier, and woke up this morning with a full understanding of why the noni is sometimes called the "vomit fruit".

Into the trash and out of the house it went. Hopefully the next intriguing fruit will be less odoriferous.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Creepy Creature Feature

Just in time for Halloween, today's creepy creature feature is a story that would never happen in the States.

Yesterday morning at work, I was trying to send a fax. I placed the pages in the document feeder, dialed the number, and pressed "Start".

The first page went through with seemingly no problem, but the second page jammed -- an unusual occurrence for our fax machine. Thinking little of it, I grabbed the page and pulled it out of the feeder, clearing the jam. As I turned it over to put it back in the tray, I noticed a long red streak on the page, punctuated at the end by a tiny lizard arm.

Apparently, a small anole had thought the document feeder on the fax machine was a great place to sleep, and was taken unawares when I started faxing yesterday. I had to pull the bodily remnants out of the feeder, but the tail of the anole was caught in something, and I was unable to get the tail out of the feeder, even though I spent an unsuccessful hour yesterday trying to disassemble the fax machine and get the tail out.

The tail is no longer providing enough resistance to jam the document feeder, but every third page or so, we get little pieces of anole skin on the paper as it passes through the fax machine.

If that wasn't enough of a gross out for you, I also found this giant centipede on the property yesterday:

Saturday, October 29, 2011

6:15 am

I started a new schedule at work at the beginning of the month. Instead of 9-5, I'm working 8-4, and it's been amazing what a difference an hour makes in my day. Perhaps my favorite change is the different side of the BVIs I get to see when I'm forced to get up at 6:15 instead of 7:15. As the days are getting shorter, and my waking time comes closer and closer to sunrise, I am more and more astounded.

This morning, I walked out on our deck and watched this squall move in.

While I walked the dogs, the squall passed from east to west, "across our bow", as it were, only ever bringing a few small drops to shore. Well to the west, the rain wall and the sun met to form a rainbow.

The longer I watched, the brighter the rainbow became, until it was so bright, it was reflected in the ocean below, giving the strange impression of a rainbow turned on its side.

The whole show was over by about 6:45, and were it not for my recent schedule change, I would have missed it all.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


It is election time in the BVI. With November 7th, election Monday, moving ever closer, the most noticeable aspect of the upcoming elections are the candidate signs sprouting up everywhere.

For a non-belonger like me, the campaign signs are the only part of election season particularly relevant to me. My work permit status, unsurprisingly, does not carry with it the right to vote. I have recently heard a little bit of rhetoric from candidates on the radio, suggesting that all non-belongers should be expelled from the BVI, in order to allow belongers to take their jobs. The economics of this proposition make it extremely unlikely, however, as the government garners far too much revenue from non-belonger work permit fees.

In a territory with a population estimated around 27,000, there are approximately 11,000 registered voters, divided into nine districts. Each district elects one member of the legislative council, which also has four at-large seats, voted on by all voters.

Stakes are high in this year's election. The UK has recently indicated that if the BVI government can't get it together, the UK may require all budgets be submitted to the UK government for review before being passed by the BVI government. Very few BVI-islanders want this kind of intervention, and so the incumbent VIP (Virgin Islands Party) is placed in the awkward position of justifying their continuing in power, having led the BVI to this potential consequence.

The opposition NDP (National Democratic Party) seems to be reveling in pointing out the incompetence of the VIP in budgetary matters, but unlike the VIP, has not yet released their "manifesto", being the written version of the party's platform.

Long-time BVI residents say they are impressed by the unusually high numbers of independent or third-party candidates that seem to be doing quite well pre-election. Many, though, are disillusioned by the entire election process, claiming that the only noticeable difference between governments is in who is awarded the government contracts. The general belief is that contract corruption runs high.

VI News online has a page dedicated to ongoing coverage of the BVI elections, for those interested in learning more.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Recreational Driving

I am really loving living in the BVI right now. A day of swimming and tasty sandwiches on Sunday only reinforced that.

Nonetheless, there are a few things about the US that I miss. Right at the top of the list, competing with fast food for thne top spot, is recreational drivig -- driving for fun.

Driving in the BVI is pretty much never fun. I've written several times before about some of the obstacles inherent in using the roads on Tortola. Livestock, hairpin turns, steep grades, bad traffic, all combine to make driving a stressful daily necessity. I miss hopping in the car and finding a smooth, curvy, empty road. I miss miles and miles of straight interstate at 80 mph. I miss not having to worry about how long the guy stopped in front of my is going to stay there, chatting with his buddy, while traffic builds up around him.

In Tortola's defense, I do experience brief moments of joy while driving here. There's an especially fun bit of hill on the Ridge Road near SkyWorld that is supremely roller-coaster-esque. On a good day, when I'm not stuck behind a diesel truck or a tourist in a rental car, carving up the coastal highway can be entertaining -- at least for the four miles or so where there aren't any speedbumps.

But I find that I am never relaxed behind the wheel here, and that I never want to just get in the car and go for a drive. There's nowhere to cruise, nowhere to speed, nowhere to evade the stress of the daily commute, nowhere to engage in recreational driving.

Just one of the little sacrifices for living on an island in the tropics.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Fence Creatures

A slightly different take on today's creature feature.

As it was in Florida, it is pretty common in the BVI to see sculpted pelicans standing guard as finials for fence posts.

This house along the road to Josiah's Bay takes things a bit farther, though, alternating pelicans with a bird that, perhaps, better represents the BVI.

The diversity of chickens on Tortola is also well-represented in the fence of this household.

Apologies for the late post -- I'm getting accustomed to a new schedule at work, and more than likely, the blog schedule will change over coming weeks as I settle in.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Black and White Mural

I think I like this mural on the road leading west out of Cane Garden Bay even more than I like the Zion Hill mural.

The black and white line-drawing style of it always makes me think it's been done with charcoal, or with pen and ink, rather than with paint, as it must have been done.

 There's such an unfinished, sketched-out look to it, like the stencil for a tattoo. I especially like the smudginess in the representation of the sea.

The left side has hints of color, as though perhaps this truly was a sketch, and some comic book colorist never got around to finishing the job.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011


Driving down into Road Town around 4:30 yesterday, I could see the entire fleet of sailboats participating in the Bitter End Yacht Club Pro Am Regatta, as they rounded the head at Baugher's Bay to come into Road Harbour.

Unfortunately, traffic on Joe's Hill Road didn't allow me to stop and photograph the racers from that perspective, but I was able to get a few snaps from the waterfront near the cruise ship dock

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Happy Early Halloween

The BVI has a ... different ... way of celebrating Halloween, as reported in this story on

The headline, "Peebles Hospital Denies Rumors of Missing Body" pretty much says it all, but I especially liked the official quote from the hospital:

“Peebles Hospital confirms than an investigation is ongoing. However, the BVIHSA officials deny that a body has been stolen or is missing from the facility.”

If no body is stolen or missing, what exactly is there to investigate?

With thanks to HB, who reads the news far more frequently than I.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Point of View

Here are a few of the simpler reasons I enjoy coming to work everyday.

I get to enjoy all the tropical flowers on the grounds. There's lots of hibiscus, but I was surprised by this wild orchid the other day.

I get to play "guess the fruit" with the groundskeeping staff, who delight in my ignorance. (This papaya is one of the easier examples)

I'm constantly reminded that I'm living in paradise.

And on special days, I get to enjoy the wonderful views from some of our rooms.

Saturday, October 15, 2011


HB goes to Virgin Gorda about once a week for work, and so at the end of our anniversary day on Virgin Gorda last weekend, he took me to one of the many restaurants he frequents.

Mermaid's Dockside Bar is one of the more popular local watering holes on Virgin Gorda, and there was a lively game of dominoes taking place when we arrived.

The draw for me was the location. The restaurant is situated on a pier, completely surrounded by water. No other restaurant I've encountered in the BVI can quite match this literal, "on the water" feel.

We had a few beers and watched the impending sunset until our food arrived. We had to wait for the pizza oven to heat up to the appropriate 900 degrees, but with views like these, we weren't in any rush.

Of all the pizza I've had in the BVIs, the pizza HB had at Mermaid's was probably the closest thing I've had to Stateside pizza. Even as good as it was, it did not compare to the tastiness of my entree: whole, steamed red snapper with fried plantains and mac 'n' cheese. Too intent on devouring it to take a picture, let me reassure you that its eye was all the clue I needed that it hadn't been out of the water for very long.

For a combination of ambience and fresh, local fish, I have yet to find Mermaid's equal in the BVI.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Color Palette

Blue, green and white, the classic color palette of the tropics.

It looks especially good surrounding this enormous villa on Buck Island

 I like to change it up from time to time with a little red, like the faded red roofs of Road Town

Somehow, the tropical color palette makes limin' come easier.

(with thanks to Michael in the Florida Keys)

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Steep Grade

At the bottom of Joe's Hill Road:

Consider yourself duly warned.

And no, that steep grade sign does not exaggerate.

Monday, October 10, 2011

North Sound

I cannot go to Virgin Gorda, it seems, without taking the beautiful drive over Gorda Peak to North Sound. I am entranced by North Sound.

I don't know what makes it so different from the low-lying Spanish Town. Perhaps the sense that this community is just barely clinging to the steep hillside?

 More likely the fact that it's surrounded by the most beautiful waters in the BVI. I can never seem to capture its magical qualities in photographs -- probably because the chief draw of North Sound is the water, and I've only ever visited it on land.

At any rate, as the rain came in over Dog Bay on Saturday afternoon, it lent an even more ineffable feeling to the North Sound community.

Sunday, October 9, 2011


Although I thought what I saw in savannah bay yesterday were cuttlefish, I have been reminded that cuttlefish do not inhabit new world waters. Instead, I sighted a small school of Caribbean reef squid. Still pretty exciting!

VG Creatures

Through some miracle of scheduling, HB and I both had yesterday off, and, coincidentally, it was our anniversary, so we decided to head to Virgin Gorda for an afternoon of snorkeling, eating and drinking.

While snorkeling at Savannah Bay, we saw all of the usual fishy suspects for the BVI, like parrot fish, gobis, angel fish, etc. etc. Much more exciting, however, were the 10 or so foot-long cuttlefish we saw playing on the edge of the reef! We watched them vibrate their fins, and change colors rapidly to camouflage themselves against the reef. Unfortunately, we don't have an underwater camera, so I don't have any pictures of our thrilling find to share.

I do, though, have a few other VG creatures for your Sunday-morning enjoyment.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Fairy Lights

When HB went out to walk the dogs last night, he noticed a strange line of lights on the northeastern horizon. Puzzled about what they might be, he asked me to come look at them. My first thought was a cruise ship, but there aren't very many cruise ships near the BVI this time of year. Then I thought it might be one of the outer islands off the east end of Tortola, most likely Guana Island.

A look at the map, though, confirmed that we wouldn't be able to see Guana Island from our house, our view being blocked by a mountain ridge in that direction. In fact, the only thing out there that we could potentially see was Anegada, some 40 miles away.

The possibility that we could see Anegada from our deck sparked our interest, and HB got out the binoculars, but with the darkness, it was hard to determine whether the line of lights was on an island, or maybe just an oil tanker or something similar out at sea.

Anegada is a coral atoll, with a maximum elevation of just 28 feet. With no major topographical features, it's nearly impossible to distinguish without binoculars, but when we tried the binoculars this morning, we were astonished to find we could see a low rise of land, and even see a few beaches.

Our ability to see Anegada from our deck has reawakened my interest in the island, the only one of the four major British Virgin Islands we have not yet visited. Ferries to Anegada run once a day on Monday, Wednesday and Fridays only, and its distance from Tortola exclude the possibility of visiting on a daysail, making it a bit difficult to schedule. Hopefully as we move out of the rainy season, though, HB and I can find a sunny weekday to make our first trip to Anegada.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Dr. Laura

It's been two and a half weeks since we picked Roscoe & Flash up from the Humane Society. At the time, Roscoe was covered in ticks, and, we were informed, had worms -- here, give him this medicine the next couple of days and he'll be fine.

And for about a week, he was.

Last Sunday, he didn't eat. Or Monday, or Tuesday or ... well, on Thursday we got him to eat some dog food with some wet dog food on top, but we came home to find he's vomited it all up, all over the house. And the same on Friday. And on Saturday. So Saturday night I made him some white rice, and on Sunday we gave it to  him with some canned chicken. He ate it all, and managed to hold it down, and he's been doing good with the eating and not puking since then.

But all the not eating and the puking and -- well, there were some problems at the other end, too -- worried me, and rather than let another week go by, HB and I decided it was time for Roscoe to visit Dr. Laura.

Dr. Laura is one of two vets in the BVI, the other being employed by the veterinary division of the BVI government. Dr. Laura, though, is the only one that really maintains what might be called a private veterinary practice, and even that is awfully limited. See, her main clinic is in St. John, but on Tuesdays and Thursdays, she comes to Tortola to help care for the pets of the BVI. Tuesdays are for exams; Thursdays are for surgeries. So if your dog has a problem on Wednesday, you better hope it's not serious.

At any rate, Dr. Laura took a look at Roscoe. Ran some tests. Dr. Laura figured he probably was having a relapse of worms, which he was, but she's pretty thorough, and also found that Roscoe has canine tick fever. Thankfully, he's still in the early stages of tick fever, and can be treated with pills for a month.

I don't think Flash and Roscoe will be going back to the Humane Society.

But if you're in the BVI, and need a vet, go see Dr. Laura. She's in the bright pink building, just down the road from the West End ferry terminal.

Monday, October 3, 2011

CGB Postcard

Sunset Saturday night in Cane Garden Bay was fantastic, even if my photography was not. Sunsets like this help me understand why CGB is such a popular spot for tourists to say.

The weather is beautiful. Wish you were here.

Sunday, October 2, 2011


I suppose after months of the weekly creature feature, it is finally time to talk about chickens.

I've been putting off the chicken conversation for a while because, quite frankly, I don't like how they wander freely all over the island. Tourists seem to love them, as I suppose they lend a rather more Caribbean character to Tortola. My general fear of birds, along with my belief that birds are very dirty, probably contributes to my dislike of the local chickens.

My dislike is increased by the chickens' choice of dumpsters as favored hangouts. While they understandably enjoy snacking on whatever sweet morsels may be found in the trash, I always have a small heart attack when I throw some trash into the dumpster, and a startled chicken comes rocketing out, screeching, wings a-flapping.

At least the food trucks selling fried chicken help keep the chicken population in check.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Station Afternoon

Hanging out waiting to pick HB up from work, I became fascinated by the buildings around me, particularly this yellow one.

The bottom floor is Xquizit Salon. On the top floor is an unadvertised gym, where I've been able to watch aerobics classes through the louvered windows. Where the BVI Football Association Headquarters factor in, I have no idea.

The back side of the building that houses the Hungry Lion, which is a popular restaurant for locals, as well as an inn. Moments before I snapped this photo, there were children playing and laughing on the balcony, but apparently I failed to capture them.

The hillsides are so green right now, about a third of the way into the rainy season; a sharp contrast to how they were looking in late February.

I liked the unplanned effect of the windshield tinting on this photo.

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