Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Leaving with a Sense of Clarity

Well, I am sitting in the airport in Bridgetown (which Bridget calls Bridgettown).  I have been thinking a lot about my visit and about my departure back to reality. I am not even going to comment on the snow.  That is a given.  As far as leaving, I have to say that I am neither happy nor sad.  I am just accepting this as reality.  I have a life in Canada to which I need to return.  I have missed many of you so much. Some of you I haven't heard from in a very long time and I find this so amazing!!

I have to admit though, I am very retrospective.  I am pondering.  Not the meaning of life or anything so profound, but just what did I gain from my time away. 

My initial concerns are now moot.  Derek and I teamed up to e-parent our "adult" children.  They actually did ok.  To be honest, they seemed to survived quite well with minimal intervention beyond phone calls, texting, skype ...  They are making their own way in Toronto.  They are happy.  They are healthy.  They looked out for each other, in a way that Kate said "is family".  

Are these the same smelly sticky kids I once knew?

Over the past 6 weeks, I have had what we all crave; the luxury of time.  I had solitude.  I had the chance live within another culture in a strange land.  I had time to truly reflect on family, on marriage, on balance and health, on ambition and spirituality, on friendship and social responsibility.  I also had fun. 

I think the greatest thing I take away from this experience is the search for a sense of clarity.   I have the feeling that clarity does exist, but it is transient.  It is something that escapes us, when the dishwasher needs to be unloaded. When it is snack day. When there is an unbelievable dead line. When you are going through the bumps and bruises of a relationship.  When there is sickness. When there is death. I guess to sum it up in a cliche way;  Life.   

To understand clarity, I think one must except that it is one of those things that gets lost.  What I have found, though, is that anything I have lost, has had a way of turning up at the point that I am actually looking for something else. So I guess this is my understanding of a sense of clarity and  I think this view has come from embracing an opportunity to spend 6 weeks in Barbados, "because I can". 



Monday, 25 February 2013

Bullet points of Barbados

Much of what we need to know, we learned in Kindergarten.

To top up these early ingrained lessons, the things I learned during the course of this trip include the fact:
  • That in Japan you need a license to drive a jet ski and real men don't where speedos there either.
  • That One needs to check the forecast of high and low tides before walking the beach in the same way we check the weather network before we drive
  • That when you take a picture of the sunset you might miss the sunset. 

  • That some parents still think that water wings are a substitute for parenting at the beach. 
  • That SPF 60 is just thicker than SPF 30
  • That Derek works all day in his bathing suit yet has forgotten the beauty of going to the beach. 
  • That Cindy, Who sells rum punch at the beach knows more about the island than anyone I have met.
  • That I can learn about blogs, decide to write one, figure out how to do this and start a blog without any help from any of my tech-savvy children.   
  • That tipping might best be proportional to how badly you wouldn't want to do the thing for which you are tipping
  • That Facebook has real value for old and young alike once someone shows you how to use it to its full potential
  • That parents of the many kids with asthma need some help down here. To be continued.
  • That the pleasure I have derived from 6 beautiful weeks on the beach can be surpassed by my friend being able to walk to Starbucks. 
  • That despite the miles we can keep in touch beautifully with family and close friends through phone calls, skype, emails, texting, Facebook and blogging but it is not a replacement for good old fashioned face to face gabbing. 
  • That the standard rum punch ratio ( 1 sour, 2 sweet , 3 strong and 4 weak) has too much sugar and needs nutmeg. 
  • That even cross culturally people still like to tell me their stories and I still feel privileged to listen.
  • That jet lag is tough on the young
  • That chair rental at the beach is someone's livelihood
  • That beach days with bare bummed children should be cherished. So should snow days with snow pants.
  • That women over 50 can wear a 2 piece bathing suit if stretch marks can be seen as a sign of life (Shirley Valentine).  Otherwise the best invention to date is the Tankini
  • That texting costs a huge amount of money no matter what package you get with Telus Mobility
  • That playing Scrabble may be more fun with a board, but you can't play against your sister in Canada when you are in Barbados.  
  • That love of dancing on a ship is neither race nor age dependent.
  • That Pet sitters are highly respected and greatly loved but are grossly under compensated
  • That I can zoom on my Iphone camera (thanks Terry)
  • That Bathing suits should Velcro to the skin. 
  • That 6 weeks in Barbados was a good idea. One of my best. No justification required.
But maybe you won't

My friend at Harrisons' Cave

A trip to Harrison's caves was on Bridget's bucket list. She has been to Harrison's caves before when we toured it on a trolley. This was the point that we became aware of Bridget's "love of caves". Who knew?

Today however is a special day at Harrison's caves because it is a walking tour. We arrived bearing actual shoes and socks and ran to meet the tour. I was willingly left behind.
While Yuka, Bridget and Derek wandered through dark places with stalagmites and stalactites, I chilled. I actually did. It started to rain and this was the first time on 6 weeks I was cool. I was not bothered. The staff at Harrison's caves were very anxious about the cold and the rain.

I was befriended by a young 14 year old boy named Raheem. I am yet to understand why he was milling around.  Apparently he had been dumped by his cousin.  He seemed happy to be hanging out and we started to chat and eat Pringles together. He showed me Angry Birds and he tried to explain how to play. He told me about his mother, his grandmother , many brothers and sisters and one on the way. He told me his Dad is Canadian and his Uncle is a billionaire. He told me about sky diving with his mother. 

I am not sure where the line fell but I chose to believe everything. 
My friend Raheem
We chatted and he asked me politely if I could explain " relationships" to him. He told me his "girl problems" and I listened. We agreed it was complicated. At the end of the day he took off running home in the cold rain. It was an unusual encounter but it showed me that even in this country people like to tell me "stuff". Not sure why but I have always found it flattering. I hope Raheem enjoyed that our paths crossed as much as I did. I hope he did not melt on the way home. 

Dancing the Day Away on a Pirate Ship

We dropped off our girls to go on a snorkeling boat trip on a pirate ship called the Jolly Roger. We have never been on this particular cruise because until recently it was at St. Vincent. Both of the Jolly Rogers in Barbados were bought to be used in Johnny Depps "Pirates of the Caribbean. ". One was sunk. One was found moored in St Vincent. A Bajan saw it and felt it should be back in Barbados so he bought it and brought it back home. 

It is now a party boat once again and that is where Bridget and Yuka are spending their day. I was very worried about this adventure without parental supervision. Bridget reminded me that they are 19 and live on their own. This was meant to give me comfort but after our brush with death on the buses I am overly protective, especially of Yuka, whose mother has entrusted me with her care. To cope with the anxiety, Derek and I went to a swanky hotel and picked up two "used" towels and laid by their pool all day. Somewhere between the beer and the sangria I completely forgot my worries. Actually I completely forgot about the girls all together. Derek got me home safely and our girls were fast asleep. A good time was had by all.

The girls had a ball.  They noted this to be the best thing so far. Lots of sun and swimming.  They swung from the rope swing, walked the plank and they swam with the turtles.  There was excellent food, a bit of rum punch and lots and lots of dancing on the deck of the ship. 

Derek and I had lots of sun and good food but unfortunately we skipped the dancing. One more sangria and the dancing would be have been a given.
The biggest thing I take home from this day is Bridget's observation on the Jolly Roger.  There were young and old, all nationalities and cultures. They just all hit the deck and danced away. It seems that dancing is one of the few universal languages and perhaps the most enjoyable of them all. 

Morning on the beach - pictures scream the loudest

Sometimes , back in the day, friends would come home from a vacation and get "their pictures developed". This cost money per picture regardless of how many turn out well.  And there were almost always some duds.  Some cameras had a flash. Some cameras did not and in that case you could only take pictures outside. Films (which also cost money) came in 12s or 24s. That meant you had just so many pictures to take and then "that was it".You took pictures sparingly and if you didn't like a certain picture you had to physically rip it up.  If you didn't like the person in the picture with you, you would tear it in half. This was very cleansing after a break up.

Even then, people came home with many many pictures. To see them you had to make a date to get together. This meeting usually started with "you have to see my pictures. ".

Then a huge stack of photos were produced and you had to systematically look at each and every one and then comment appropriately on each.
"My god you look better than your cousin".
 " Wow that is one big bridge". "
"so tell me something about each person in this group shot".

It was exhausting

So here I plan to show you a very few photos of my walk today. I expect it will be my last walk this trip. Most speak for themselves. Some I will just caption.

Yoga Instructor's day off

Not sure if he is coming or going.  He actually waved when I took the picture.

Time Keeping for the Beach Runner.  I wish I could say I was the beach runner.

Not all the water in Barbados is blue

Not all the beaches are beautiful

Pets are a Relatively New thing to Barbados

Snail talk

Gibb's Bay - the beach around the corner

Beach Runner/ Yoga Instructor Painter

Add caption

Construction on the Beach with the engineer on the phone

This is where I sit and blog on the beach.

The Kids' Table

Tonight we are having another famous dinner party. Now we have grown to a crowd of 7 as Judy has joined Bill here for 6 weeks. She will need a blog for her kindergartners  We had our standard dinner and I made the jerk chicken. (Derek Butch and Bill can debate which one is the jerk).  I added deviled eggs to the menu.  I think it was a welcome chance for Judy and me to escape to the kitchen.  It seemed like a stereotypical thing to do, but we were really just trying to miss the RJ Burnside work talk.

We enjoyed the company and Yuka was able to meet more Canadians.  I hope she does not return to Japan with the idea that Derek and Bill's shirts were in some way reflective of Canadian or even Bajan fashion sense.

We are almost reaching the limit of our table and we will need a Kids' table soon. No kid ever wanted to sit  there. I envy the people at the Kid's table. No expectations. At the kids' table you can talk about anything that comes to mind and make any noises you want. You don't need to be able to discuss anything of any sort of consequence. You don't need any table manners. You can make judgmental comments about anyone and everyone at the Kids' table. It must be very cleansing.

For the last 6 weeks I feel like I have been sitting at the kids' table. It's liberating, but sticky.
View photo.JPG in slide show
Our dinner party, loud shirts optional.

Sunday, 24 February 2013

Roger's Scuba - Revisited

We visited Roger's Scuba with the girls.  Bridget is an avid scuba diver, as she had been twice.  Yuka is new to this, but very keen.  Nicholas befriended them quickly and was somehow able to give a Japanese girl full confidence in her ability to learn a new skill in a foreign language.  The pictures below speak more than I could write.

Thank you to Nicholas and Seth, for your undivided attention.

The Benefits of Youth - Crane Beach

I am about to lose my top, but not my dignity
Well it can't get much better. There is blue water here that surpasses any on the island. Our girls have frolicked all day. We just ordered pizza on the beach.  I am not kidding.  The waves are high and the sand is white. It was a long drive but its worth it. We found the locals' entrance to the beach so we could bring our chairs.

Derek braving the Local's beach path.  Orange Beach bag in hand
The benefits of coming here with 2 young girls is that there is no problem finding someone with a bottle opener for our Banks. Banks beer does not have a twist off.  You need one some call a "church key".   Bridget had no problem getting the beers open. We probably should have some objection to this, but it is just true. Bridget and Yuüka have also charmed Ray Ray, the rum punch guy. He insisted on making this concoction for the girls.

I bought my one and only souvenir from a guy named Johnny Christmas.  How could I not buy something from him.  He altered a puka shell bracelet to fit my now chubby ankle.  It is very stylish but I am afraid the charm will be lost once I put my Sorels back on.


Thursday, 21 February 2013

New Fast Friends

Names have been changed to protect the hesitant.
Nicholai is a young guy who works as a gardener at one of the villas along my beach. When I walk I see him at the villa wall. I think he may be hiding. He tells me about beach access from the road as I have a fear of getting trapped by the tide. I want to bring him lunch. I guess I miss making lunches for my kids. I hope he eats his apple.

I met Abraham earlier this trip. I was writing on my iPhone on the beach. He said "stop messaging me. I am right here" He wants to rent me a jet ski. Didn't want to tell him I find jet skis boring after about 30 seconds. He has been to Montreal. Everyone seems to have been to Montreal. Must be the skiing. He said he was supposed to fly to Montreal today but there was a boat show there. I have no idea the connection but I nodded my head showing that I was totally with him on this. 

I also met Julian on the road at the beach. He is about 21 and wants me to go in his speed boat. "Only $200USD for 1 hour. "All the rum punch you can drink ". I told him I was on a fixed income. He said I could "have him" for free. I am not sure about mixing it up with a 21 year old black guy with a cool boat. Maybe in my past but I don't think that now I could find enough rum punch on this island. For either of us. 

The vegetable woman. I am yet to learn her name. I met her on a side street of Speightstown on my first day in town. She was shucking peas she grew and picked in the north part of the island. Her husband brings her to town every day but Sunday. She explained to me how to cook the peas, okra, and sweet potatoes she sold me. She reviewed all the spices and to add ketchup. Yes ketchup. Apart from the word "ketchup " I didn't understand a word she said. When I cooked my wares that night I think I boiled everything to death and it was like one glob of slippery goo. The next day at lunchtime Derek said " do we have any of that snot left over". 

 I met Alvin walking the beach when I first got here. He had an odd accent that I couldn't place. I asked if it was French and he said yes. He was from Montreal. However I could hear something else too. Turns out he is originally from Guyana The Guyanese are not too popular in Barbados. But then neither are French Canadians in Canada. He was walking all the way to Speightstown along the beach and slippery, slime covered rocks. Says it is safer than the road and he is probably right. I wanted to go with him one day but my mother said "no". She doesn't trust those Guyanese French Canadians. So I guess I don't either.

Ronny is the guy on the beach that carries an attaché case held together with twine. He makes all his own jewelry from precious stones and sells it to the lounging tourists. He told me he saved his money and lives in a 2 bedroom home. He offered for Terry to stay and live with him. He would "cook for her and clean for her and make lots and lots of love". She bought an anklet and I haven't seen her since. 

View photo.JPG in slide show
Terry and Ronny - the happy couple

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Blogging for Brenda

Well, I just have to write about the happiest point of my trip to Barbados.  It is going on right now back home in Orangeville and I feel like I am right there.

When I had the opportunity to go to Barbados, it was my dear friend, Brenda, whom I mentioned, had said "you are going to Barbados because you can".

Now this may not seem overly remarkable, until you find out that this is what Brenda was telling me as she was lying on her living room floor, literally flat on her back and had been for the past 6 months.
With a herniated disk, Brenda had become pretty much completely disabled while she worked away at finishing her Master's degree at University of Guelph from her floor.  I could try to recount all the astonishing things that Brenda and her family endured during this time, but it would be understated and she would kill me.

So tying this into my trip here, I have to reiterate that when I left in January, Brenda was literally lying on her floor as per usual, but she also had the flu. She couldn't even hope to join me down here, as time both of us would have cherished, because although she would have been very capable of lying on a beach, (she was getting very good at floor lying),  she had no hope of sitting on a plane. So back on January 18, I dropped off some drugs for her and she cheerfully wished me well on my vacation.  No resentment noted, no guilt, no second thoughts.  As a true friend, I said good bye from the bottom of the stairs, for fear of catching the flu.

Now the reason I am talking about my happiness this week (because it really is all about me), my dearest friend has undergone surgery last Friday.  The healthcare system, that we feel moves so slowly, really sped up  as soon as the surgeon became aware of the state of her spine and the true level of pain that would be associated with this degree of herniation.

Brenda is up.  She is in less pain. She can sit and she can walk.  She can walk so well that she crossed the podium and received her degree yesterday at Convocation.. I watched this ceremony tonight on my computer. I could have cried.  All right I did cry. This link has somehow allowed me to feel a little closer to home and to this remarkable event.

Now my greatest hope is that the next time I am blogging from Barbados, I am blogging from Barbados with Brenda.

Congrats my Friend.     View DSC_3097.JPG in slide show

Derek's Version of Ted's Tours

Part of a holiday in Barbados is getting to know more about the island.  It is very special in that the Atlantic and the Caribbean Sea meet at the north end of the island and the east side of the island is rocks and waves.  Great surfing in some spots and very little swimming.  

 I recommended to my mom and Arden that they go on Ted's Tours, as many of our visitors had enjoyed this particular excursion.  It is a renown bus tour of the island given by Ted Blades, a native barefooted Bajan who actually has quite strong ties to Canada. Ted is very knowledgeable, but he is most known for his lively, friendly demeanor.   Terry and I did Derek's Tour of the Hardware Store, where we purchased a toilet seat.  It was a day better spent on the bus with air conditioning and rum punch.

The following day, Sunday, Derek had some time to spend with our guests.  He offered the Derek Tour again. The Derek Tour this time was more of an overview of RJ Burnside's involvement in Barbados.  They toured the other home/office in Payne's Bay and they did the ever popular tour landfill site at Mangrove Pond.  It is a long standing project undertaken years before. This landfill site is the the main reason we have had the opportunity to be here these past few years. It has given me an appreciation for a dump in a way I never expected. All visitors with us must endure the trip to the landfill to better understand why we are here. It Is a popular landmark for many of Barbados tourists as well, I am sure. Right up there with the hardware store and the bus station. Terry missed Derek's tour of the landfill but I described it in detail.  She had opted for the hardware store tour.   She will have to see the dump next time. 

Landfill Site at Mangrove Pond Barbados, 2012

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Family Day in Barbados- Where is my roll up the rim to win??

Family day in Barbados. 

Terry left last night on a late flight that gets her home in in time for Family Day. She will probably sleep right through the festivities. It is my experience with this relatively new holiday, that many, particularly teenagers, tend to sleep through Family Day and then get up late and ask to borrow the car. Such a special time. Kevin was happy as he got to work at Future Shop on Family Day for time and a half. At least someone is benefiting by this brilliant holiday Monday in the middle of February in Canada. It is held in great esteem not as Family Day but more so as it is the beginning of "Roll Up the Rim to Win". Now in Canada this is a celebration paralleled by none. 

Bridget arrived today just in time to celebrate family day here with us. She is meeting her dear friend Yuka from Japan today in Barbados. Yuka has flown literally across the world to see us. We had the pleasure of hosting Yuka on a Japanese travel experience 2 years ago. Bridget has kept in close contact with Yuka as well as many of the 7 girls we hosted over a 3 year period. I was hesitant when keen Bridget suggested participating in this Red Leaf program when she was in grade 9. It has probably been one of the finest decisions we have made. We have met wonderful young ladies and if I had favourites Yuka would be right up there. 

At our home in 2011

So it seems we are actually celebrating an official family day this year. My mother, my Auntie Arden, Derek, Bridget and Yuka shared a pot of stew and many glasses of wine. Our dinner parties are growing in size. We didn't even try to explain to Yuka what family day is all about. I think maybe for the first time, I finally get it. 

It certainly was a nice Family Day, even if it was in February.  Roll up the Rim everyone!!

Post Family Day

Beaching it with the Bitches.

 Terry and I have toughed it out at various beaches this week.  

One day we spent at the Crane Beach. It was beautiful. We frolicked again, but on this day, it was much rougher.  We maintained our dignity even without our bathing suit tops. There are also cliffs for jumping.  Terry and Derek made their way to the top. Much to my surprise and shock, Derek jumped.  I was chastising him and cheering for him all at the same time.  He washed up on shore and then dragged his sister in law back off the rocks before she got any funny ideas.  

  We snorkeled at the Ramshackle.  It is a beach bar on a lovely snorkeling beach.  Terry figured out quickly that there was only sand to be seen on the day we were here. Not even a bloody turtle.  Snorkeling was short-lived. We decided to unpack the cooler, drink home-made rum punch and take pictures of ourselves in our brother-in-law's hats from his bar "The Pilot". Then we took the crazy bumpy yellow bus home in Warrior - 2 yoga position.

On our last beach day we did lots of floating and people watching. There were a few beach faux pas. Note photo below. 

The picture I missed was classic. It was a photo I tried to take of a young vain guy trying to, very obviously, take his own picture on the beach. It was a classic shot. I may never get another chance like this again. The only better picture was the photo Terry was taking of me when I was trying to take his picture of him taking his own picture. And so on and so on ...

But I mean really - who takes their own picture? 

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Frolicking Revisited

Today was a very rough day at Mullins Beach. After a lengthy, hot trip to Speightstown in the morning to get groceries and introduce Terry to island living, we took the yellow bus back.  We then decided after this ordeal, that we would have a completely lazy beach day.  We even left the beach chairs at home and rented chaise lounges and an umbrella.  The waves were very high, so we could frolick.  I haven't frolicked in years.  Some of you I probably frolicked with "back in the day".  On carefree high school days when we nothing of what was to come.  We had no idea that frolicking moments would be few and far between over the next 35 years. 

As often happens with frolicking in high waves, I went under and almost didn't come up.  Terry was ready to save me.  Apparently others on the beach were only laughing.  I went home after that to save my dignity and get the sand out of everywhere.  I expect I will be finding sand until I get back to Canada. 

I then prepared for the arrival of my mother, Pierrette, and my Aunt Arden (my Dad's sister).  Derek was coming back with them.  They all got to the airport at 615 and the bloody mary's started soon after. They are staying at a small inn around the corner.  It has air conditioning, a pool, breakfast at 930 and a bar.  They are set.

We had another dinner party.  This time there was a crowd.  Again, Derek and me, but now we had 5 in total.  It was a rocking good time.  Derek made his famous "Beer Butt Chicken, and Terry and I made salads.  It was a lovely evening.  Lots of wine and laughs.  We walked the chicks home and they got settled.  I don't expect they will make it for the 930 breakfast, but I may be surprised. 

Scuba Day

Yesterday was scuba day at Roger's Scuba. A young child named Nicholas picked us up for the 30 minute drive to Carlisle bay. He was the same age as our boys. This did not give us any comfort. We decided to trust him regardless as he was very familiar with the roads and the practice of honking to let other drivers go. It is the most considerate place to drive. Honking is never a nasty thing. He gave is a lovely tour and gave advice about what Bridget will like to do on the island when she is here next week. I spent the whole time looking for my seatbelt and stifling my instinct to tell him 2 hands on the wheel and to keep his eyes on the road. It was an exciting drive.

Nothing more flattering than a wet suit - so forgiving.

Turned out Nicholas was also our scuba teacher. He said he had been diving since yesterday. So cute. We decided to trust him regardless. He got us all set. Heavy tanks, good mask fit. Then came the mouthpiece. 2 women who will not even drink out of our daughters glass are now totally ok with a mouthpiece that has been used countless by locals and tourists alike. We didn't even bat an eye.
After a amazing explanation and practice session by Nicholas who showed himself to be very youthful but talented instructor we started our  dive. We held on to a rope to descend. Like kindergarten so we completely got it.
Terry mesmerized by Nicholas

The underwater world was so amazing. I have been twice to the same spot yet still it amazes me. Instead of observing the wrecks Nicholas actually guided us through them. We swam among schools of fish.

We were down there for 1 hour. We then grudgingly got back on the boat. No small feat. Scuba is weightless. Climbing into the boat is not.

When back on shore we brushed our teeth. We got dressed. We hugged Nicholas and headed back to Mullins. We completely trusted George who took us back as a more experienced driver but we missed Nicholas' exuberance. I expect I will see him again when Bridget is here. I will request that he take her diving and then the hot spots in Barbados. But we will drive.

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Eat Sit Talk - Terry is here.

My sister Terry arrived Sunday. I was so excited to see her. Maybe this is how my mother and father felt when we arrived in Florida to visit with our 3 young, sticky children. Maybe not. As I described before I am pretty sure one had a crusty nose, one stunk and one was trying out the new F word she learned from her dad.

 I am going to call this week Eat Sit Talk. Very therapeutic. I liked my days of silence. Like Julia Roberts in the Pray part of the movie. Yes. That's it. I was just like Julia Roberts in India except more tanned. Well I am welcoming Terry's company. I am my own best friend but even I can only stand myself for so long.

 We spent yesterday lounging. This qualifies as an activity. Not exactly an Olympic event but if it were ... We sat in the beach chairs that Derek bought us. We walked to the beach each of us with our beach chairs strapped on as back packs. We got a lot of looks and we decided to find this flattering. I promised Derek we would not wear RJ Burnside hats, so as not to be associated with his company.  So we word Pilot hats.  I will explain later. 

 We tried to walk the beach but the tide was too high to do it safely and we had promised our families we would be safe. Then we walked to Bombas, the restaurant down the road. I think the beach at of high tide might have been safer. Bombas was closed. Some guys called us from across the street to come to the rum shop to eat. I pulled Terry away because all I could think about was the movie "Taken". We decided to stay in and have a kick ass salad, chocolate and talk some more. Yes it will be an Eat Sit Talk week.

Terry with Julie

Bomba's Again - Closed Monday