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Thursday, October 31, 2013

Can't Talk, Roach in My Shoe -- Happy Halloween!




It's Halloween so a fitting theme for the day should be things that scare me senseless.  Here's the secret.  I don't like bugs.  Ladybugs, aphids, those are ok.  But anything big enough to be able to see at a glance that it  has 6 jointed legs and is capable of running fast enough to touch me before i can get away is likely to cause an uncontrollable spastic response.  This includes jumping bugs.  I don't really mind spiders...8 legs are ok for some reason, but not 6.  I don't mind mice, I am not a "girly girl" who scares easily.  Except for when it comes to bugs.

Canada and its deeply frozen earth tends to keep the bugs to a more acceptable size and number than in the lands of eternal warmth.  Bermuda has some critters...BIG critters.  Wolf spiders for example, which can jump.  My boss/friend Helen is afraid of spiders at the best of times, but when she saw one of these run across the floor while watching a horror movie one night, she became the new star of the evenings terror.  Little guy scurried through the living room, into the bedroom and was hanging out in her rafters.



I could have probably braved the wolf spider.  But the one thing no one likes (except my Helen who would must have been a Buddha i another life) is cockroaches.  Even a lot of the locals have never been able to get used to them.  Many people have heard that cockroaches are a product of a dirty area or something of that nature, but the truth is they simply thrive and reproduce in the tropics, and quite naturally they find their way indoors.  And outdoors.  I have seen one sunning itself on the street against unaware tourists.  I have seen them scurry along to beach to join our barbecues after the sun goes down.  And I have horror stories to entertain you with that would take longer than I care to type.


Let's start with my move to the island.  I first lived in Southampton in an older home.  While sitting on the patio with my roomies, after the sun set, they would come scurrying towards the light from the outdoors.  I would leap out of the chair, possible throwing a beverage and flipping a chair while screaming, and retreat indoors for the night.  They were HUGE.  And that whole thing about them staying in the dark is wrong, they quite often come to the light with devious intent.  I used skype to family about these terrifying creatures, and my nephew quite enjoyed dreaming up nightmarish scenarios about whether or not they could get into the house, the bed, and what if you were sleeping with your mouth open.  They wanted a picture to see what they were really like, and to be fair, it took a few years before I could get over the physiological revulsion and response to flee to get a picture of a dead one.  CAUTION -- sometimes you think they are dead, but they are just lying on their backs and they are fully alert.  Do not approach without someone who does not mind squishing them first (not me, I would have to throw out the shoe).  Plus...they are big enough that the push back, or so I am told.  Here's a picture to give you nightmares for a while.


So how do they get inside?  Leave a window open and they will scurry in.  Take a vacation and babies will pop out of the shower and sink drains and go find a place to settle in.  My first apartment had a slight gap under the french door.  When my friend Monique came to visit, she had been told horror stories about the roaches by all of my friends at dinner.  Once at home I assured her that the chances were she would never see one.  And then I screamed because one ran over my foot.  Monique leapt into action with a paper towel to give chase....but retreated when it ran back at her.  I reached for the bug spray and with a squirt it ran under the front door.  I knew I had to finish it off...so I gathered all of my courage, opened the door to the night and peered around it with my spray, ready to aim and fire....and let out another huge scream as a large black figure stared back at me.  A giant toad had come to eat the giant roach.  I cried, partially from terror, relief, and laughter.  The toad got away.  Hope the roach only gave him indigestion.

When I moved to my brand new, never lived in before apartment that was shiny and sealed I made a pact to never open any windows or doors unnecessarily, and believed that my fortress would forever be safe.  Nope.  One morning laying in bed upstairs I heard one...yes, you read that right, I HEARD its footsteps on my brand new, impeccably shiny hard tile.  I hoped I was wrong, but ran downstairs just in case...yup, right in the middle of my kitchen floor.  How did it get in?  I eventually learned that there were crawling in through the air conditioning.

A girl's best friend here in Bermuda is a bug spray called Baygone...so lethal that you can't buy it in North America.  A half a can of that will kill a Bermuda cockroach in 5 or 6 minutes.  And likely will cause you COPD.  There is no good strategy.  I have been told that squishing them releases all of their viable eggs and can cause more of a problem.  The sprays are toxic to pets and people.  For a while I tried a broom -- locate, isolate, open door, and sweep, flick, cast away.  Although they are ridiculously fast, and as  you chase them are making a mental list of everything to sterilize and or throw away as they scurry over it (like the couch), you can sometimes win with the broom while staying far enough away.  This of course becomes a problem when they decide to fly at you.  Folklore says the females can fly, but only in July and August.  So imagine my response when I went after one with a broom this May and saw it stop running and open wings.  I still keep the Baygone.  Here's another thing to think about.  So know we know we have giant, icky, flying bugs that like the light.  Imagine what can happen on a scooter at night.  I am sure they are responsible for a few fatalities.

I have seen cockroaches in Central America -- Belize and Nicaragua.  Some are just as big, but generally they just sit there and let you pass.  A lot of us agree that Bermudian cockroaches are unusually aggressive.  They quite often run at you...they scurry further, faster, and show no fear of humans.  I won't be surprised if one slaps the broom out of my had before I leave.

When I adopted the panthers from the SPCA, little Aiden and Harry, I learned that Bermudian cats were much more used to roaches.  My Canadian cats Lexi and JJ would freeze in terror right along side me.  The panthers light up like it's Christmas.  I learned that if they stare at a spot on the wall it is some type of insect or arachnid...when they go still I very quickly assess whether their gaze is fixated above my head (need for immediate panic) or if I am a safe distance away from their focus.  When they stare at the A/C unit, I give it a dose of Baygone.  If they do manage to get in, I know Harry has the situation covered.  I know this because one night I heard him playing downstairs, and then heard both panthers bounding up the stairs, and looked to see Harry coming straight for the beg with a still squirming roach in his mouth.  Because they are rescue cats and easily frightened, I willed myself to remain calm and not scream...and then totally lost it and woke up half the neighbourhood with my bloodcurdling scream.  Harry hid under the nightstand for the next 3 days....leaving me to figure out what to do with the headless but still squirming body dropped on the floor.  I couldn't pass it to get to the broom.  So I found a hat I didn't really need, and a hand weight, and so it met its end...as did those objects.

Since that, we have either been in the clear, or else Harry is getting better at hiding the evidence.  Or so I thought.  The other day a friend from Canada was texting as I was trying to get ready for dinner out.  Since it's fall I reached for my cozy brown ankle boots.  The only response he got was "Can't talk, just found a roach in my shoe."  Told you they push back.  Happy Halloween all!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

A Blu Birthday

This past Sunday found us celebrating the special birthday for a special lady, Miss Eileen.  The birthday girl chose brunch at Blu as the event for the day.  Sunday brunch in Bermuda is a very popular buffet style meal.  Don't let the word buffet confuse you, it's a 5 star one meal hosted by the some of the island's premier hotels and chefs.  You can find Sunday brunch at the two Fairmonts, The Waterlot, The Reefs, and Four Ways Inn to name a few.  In fact, I got the reservation mixed up and turned up at the wrong place entirely.  So after a nice Sunday scooter ride along the coastline to Southampton, I had to quickly backtrack down to Warwick to arrive at Blu to join the gang for brunch.

One of those annoying food pictures
Blu does their brunch a little differently than some of the other hotels.  Rather than being a full buffet, they have appetizer and desert table served buffet style, and a menu for the main.  The brunch menu listed at least 20 options for a main course, including lobster for an additional surcharge.  I chose the walnut crusted salmon (normally at Blu I go with the coffee crusted steak) with sweet roasted peppers and french beans.  It was delicious, and the portion was huge.  In fact, I took most of it home.  Not because I gorged on the appetizer table (ok, maybe a little), but it was a bit early and the lobster bisque, a single wonton, a single oyster, and some curry potato salad just filled me up.  I barely had it in me to try the desert table.  I did take a creme brulee, mostly out of sport, and a tiny teaspoon of the chocolatiest chocolate mousse i think i have ever tasted.  The food was excellent!  I prefer their brunch to the dinner now in fact.


A not so great photo of our beautiful table with a view
The best thing about Blu is actually the view -- it is positively breathtaking.  Actually, one of our guests Lizzie said no matter how often she sees it, it just takes her breath away.  Another guest George quickly answered obviously not entirely (George constantly teases Lizzie about being a chatterbox).  When you enter the restaurant you are greeted by a beautiful view of what we call Paradise Lakes, but in fact you can see everything from the Hamilton Harbour to Dockyard.  The Blu view is a beautiful array of blue, little islands, sailboats, and harbours.


And although the patio was closed (it's fall you know), they let us set up some chairs and take a bottle of Proscecco out and enjoy the patio to ourselves on a beautiful Sunday afternoon.  Blu is definitely worth the trip.  The pictures say it better than I can with words today, so will leave you with those and keep it short today.

Looking over the patio of Blu

The Birthday Brunch Crew

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

It's Fall in Bermuda

Fall is in the air in Bermuda.  Maybe it's just the Canadian in me that makes me ultra sensitive to the changes, but I am using this morning off to reflect on the past summer and the summers past in Bermuda.  The sky is grey outside, the coffee is going down smoothly, Lexi is asleep on my memory foam pillow, the panthers have curled up on couches and kitty trees, and the music playlist is soft and slow, a playlist I made in memory of my niece Jaycena.  Taylor Swift is singing about fall in her song Tim McGraw as I go to percolate another cup of coffee.  She is heavy on my mind today.  Maybe it's the restless sleep I had with dreams of other people when I would have rather been dreaming of her.  Maybe it's the inquiry of why I sign off facebook status updates with iluj -- many people ask, I don't mind.  Or maybe the melancholy of fall just reminds me of that wound in the heart that never heals.  Most of Our Lady Peace's song Thief has played while I stare out the window.  It really is grey, but the rain has stopped.  There are so many good memories, and i have to remember I will never lose her completely.

Lady Antebellum has a perky beat that will get me back on track.  I first noticed that it was fall about 10 days ago.  The little signs started adding up.  The first sign was realizing that it was getting dark far too soon.  The sunsets began coming at 6:45pm, and disappearing a minute a day, making it harder to photograph them if i was working a late shift.  Next while driving to the beach to photograph some pink sand last week I noticed one lone tree in Astwood park that had yellow and red leaves.  That's when it hit me...it's fall.  I don't think there are very many deciduous trees on the island, but that one was there standing out like a beacon.



We are now onto Seether singing The Gift.  It's hard to type while I'm singing in my head.  It was only a few days after seeing that tree that I was driving home around 8 in the evening and felt the unmistakable chill of the air that grips us cyclists in the winter.  That's another sign that summer is over...expats going home to their snug little stone homes at an early evening.  Now onto Jamestown story singing In Loving Memory.  Definitely not getting a lot of typing done -- perhaps another sign of fall is a faltering focus.  But back to the chilly winter air.  If you look at the temperatures in Bermuda in the winter, they will deceptively remain between 15 and 25 degrees Celsius.  That really doesn't sound so bad.  However, being surrounded by water, and damp air with a high humidity, it actually feels much colder.  Bermuda does not report a wind chill, even when we have winter storms with gale force winds of that cold air hitting you on an open scooter in the driving rain.  It feels well below zero at that time, although nobody from North America ever believes this.  Then there is also that fact that when you arrive cold and wet to your limestone home you have to resort to fuzzy socks and an electric blanket as there is no central heating in Bermudian homes.  It may be getting a little chilly for a dress on the bike in the evenings, but we are still aways from the long weeks off fuzzy socks and blankets, fortunately.  That usually starts sometime between Boxing Day and New Year's, and hangs in steady until March.

Avril Lavigne has now given away to more Taylor Swift...Fifteen.  Two of Jaycena's favorite artists.  Wonder who she would be listening to today.  I can probably guess.

The second last sign of fall was going back on day shift and needing to be at work at 0800.  When the alarm went off the sun had not yet risen, which caught me by surprise after several weeks on later shifts.  Not quite the blackness that preceded dawn in the winter mornings in Northern Alberta...but a definite soft gray instead of a bright sunny day.  Even the panthers weren't interested in waking up and causing chaos on that morning.

As Memories by Within Temptation plays,  we get to the final sign of fall.  I was at a friend's going away barbecue on the weekend.  Not only did I keep looking at the time on my phone in the blackness at 8:30, but I zipped up my jacket before sunset.  This did prompt a few taunts from the other guests about me not being very brave about the cold for a Canadian.  That's when I realized we Canadians have a little bit better barometer and sense the coming cold a bit better than most.  Because here we are just a few days later, under a grey sky, and I just spotted another tree with red leaves out my window while Taylor Swift sings September.

The good news is that fall here occurs late here while winter is already looming at home.  It is much kinder and gentler guest here.  It also represents a time where events settle down a little bit on the island.  I might spend a bit more time at the gym, some much needed time at home, and even a much needed morning alone with old songs and bittersweet memories to ground me after a long and busy summer, to help me rest and reflect, and to gather strength for the winds of change that are picking up in my life again.

And so I close while Seether sings Broken, and see FM Static's Tonight is up next, followed by Natasha Bedingfield's Wild Horses.  A perfect fit.  iluj.  and you too JJ cat.

Jaycena, Forever in our hearts.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Live Like A Local

As my last 8 months on the island wind down, a few people have said they would like to know where to stay on the island.  Bermuda has several very nice hotels, some of which are a fair price in the winter months, but in the summer months when tourism is at its peak, the hotel rates can be ludicrous.  A quick search on expedia for next July lists Surf Side Beach Club as the best rate at $245 a night and Rosewood at Tucker's Point at a staggering $883 a night.  Elbow Beach ranks second highest at $725 a night, with most of the other hotels coming in between $300 and $500 a night. The hotel tax is 9.5%, which means a room at the Rosewood is actually $967 a night.  Bermuda also does not operate on the "all-inclusive" model -- meals at the hotel are extra.  So quite quickly Bermuda can become unaffordable to the less than truly wealthy, unless you know how to travel wisely.

My recommendation to everyone is to rent private units, much like the apartments guest workers live in, from vrbo.com.  This stands for Vacation Rental By Owner, and there are units for rent literally around the world.  In Bermuda, there are a several incredible good deals to be found for $125-$200 a night.  I recommend anyone travelling to Bermuda look at these properties.  This view is from a little gem that Margaret chose for her visit (photo grabbed from your facebook page Margaret), and I have seen it advertised for as low as $100 a night.  Tidy, comfortable, modern studio with an incredible view and access to the water and kayaks on demand.
Margaret Kaneda gets this photo credit at her Fairylands Rental
With your own kitchen, you can greatly reduce your food costs by eating in.  Grocery store prices are no cheaper than anything else in Bermuda, and the price of snack foods can be truly shocking (I have been craving old Dutch Ketchup potato chips for about 2 years now but refuse to buy them at $6 a bag..it's not the teeny tiny vending machine size, it's bigger, but still).  Most supermarkets have a good selection of fresh fish and meats which are not as ridiculously expensive as the snack foods.  In fact, fresh is usually a better price than frozen.  Barbara was delighted with her kitchen and backyard barbecue -- and the rental unit as a whole.
This Warwick unit was a large 2 story property with ocean view of both the south and north shore

Before picking a unit however, you need to consider the location, and make sure that it fits with the type of vacation that you want to have.  Bermuda, in all its almost 21 square miles of glory, has 1 city, and 1 town (and two areas it claims as villages but i question the accuracy of that label).  There is the City of Hamilton, and the Town of St. George's.  When travelling on the island, you will not hit a patch of open road between the two -- the whole island is basically a series of roads and houses interspersed with the odd park or agricultural patch.  Bermuda actually ranks 9th in the world's most densely populated countries, so while you don't see wide open spaces unless you are gazing out to sea, you will also rarely see a crowd. It all adds to the quaintness and charm of the island.

Bermuda, like the UK, is divided into parishes. There are 9 in all.  There is a very good bus system to get you to where you want to on the island, as well as ferry service which is faster but runs less frequently than the buses.  Many of the units are a bit of a trek off of the road and bus route...it may only be a couple of hundred metres, but it will likely be uphill on the way back.  If you have mobility issues you will want to make sure you are right on the bus route, or rely on taxis.
Bermuda Parishes

If you want to be in a secluded small town environment to just relax and get away from it all, St George's may be the perfect place for you.  Home to several historical homes, churches, and UNESCO World Heritage sites, it's quiet style and beauty may be exactly the place to get some much needed rest and relaxation.  If you want to be where the action is and experience Bermuda shopping, dining and nightlife, then you want to be close to the City of Hamilton, notably in the Pembrooke parish not the Hamilton parish...and you want to be there for Friday night!  There is much history to be found at the royal naval dockyards in Sandy's parish, while Southampton parish features some of the islands most popular beaches and snorkeling spots as well as our Gibbs Hill Lighthouse.  World class golf courses can be found in Warwick, Southampton, and Sandy's to name a few.  If you want to be close to the town but still walk to the beach, Warwick and Paget parishes are a nice compromise.  Hamilton Parish and Smith's boast calm waters on the north shore and popular attractions like the Aquarium and the Crystal Caves.  The main scuba dive shops are located in Sandy's, Southampton, and Hamilton parish.

One final consideration is the time of year you want to visit.  Bermuda has agreeable temperatures all year round, however between the New Year and end of March you may find it more slacks and T-shirt weather, with a fleece for the evenings and possibly a light jacket in the day.  Most locals do not go in the water until Bermuda Day in May when the ocean is like a nice warm bath, but most tourists will take the plunge without complaint as early as March.  A few brave souls enter in Jan - Feb, but I prefer to wait for the warmer waters as well.  In July and August, the temperatures and humidity can feel very hot for walking and exploring the island -- the temperature stays around 30C but the humidity is usually in the 80's and 90's making it feel much warmer.  If you want to golf and explore the island's land attractions, the winter months can be a pleasant and discounted time to visit.  If you like to bake July and August are the perfect time.  If you are living in -30C in January and want to bask on the beach under a blazing hot sun...you would be disappointed and need to come a few months later.  If you are content with a 40-50 degree improvement in your daily forecast, the fall and winter can also make for a pleasant trip.  Margaret tried to get me in the water in November last year, she thought it was lovely.  I have been here long enough to call her a crazy Canadian.

Hurricane season is June 1 - November 30, which is the best time to be on the island...as long as we don't get a hurricane.  The good news is that we are only affected by tropical systems a few days out of each season so the odds are that your trip will not be affected.  Unless you have my luck, my first vacation here I was delayed due to Hurricane Bill (interestingly the earliest hurricane on record to affect Bermuda, go figure it would be on my arrival date).  We may get a tropical storm or 3 or 4 in a season, but rarely do we get more than one brush with a hurricane.  Typically everyone retreats in doors and for the day or so that it takes to pass, and life then goes on as normal.  The limestone houses are much sturdier than wooden homes, so the Bermudians are more prepared but less fearful of hurricanes than our American neighbours.  It is part of life here, as is storm preparedness.

If anyone is looking to book accommodations, feel free to contact me and I can give you the pros and cons of the location of the unit you are looking at, and where it is in relation to what you want to do.  Come live la vida loca (live the crazy life) like a local.  It is absolutely your best value.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Predominantly Pink

Black is one of my favorite colors.  I adore red.  Teal greens and complimentary purples are the color palette of my wardrobe.  If there is a color that I abhor in my wardrobe, it is pink.  I just don't do pink.

It is therefore ironic that my Bermuda is predominantly pink.  Pink is an icon here in Bermuda, it is the nation's signature color.  The men wear pink.  A good percentage of the houses are pink.  The buses are pink.  The sand is pink.  The sunsets are pink. There are a few Pepto-Bismol pink taxis. The tourism board's marketing logo is "Think Pink."  Bermudians are encouraged to be "Pink Ambassador's." And now it's October and there is an extra splash of pink in support of Breast Cancer Awareness. 


I am smothered in a pink wonderland.  While this is the perfect pink paradise for my pastel loving friends like Barbara, I sometimes feel like little Ralphie in the "pink nightmare" when I look around.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bZTZ_lxvBes

Pink sand is a bit of a luxury to most people.  Bermuda is not the only place with pink sand beaches, but it certainly has some of the best pink sand beaches.  Trip Advisor's 2013 Traveller's Choice named Bermuda's famous Horseshoe Bay as the Number 8 beach in the world.  Horseshoe Bay was famous long before this, and with the Fairmont Southampton Princess only a few hundred metres away, it is usually the island's busiest beach.  Bermuda has the distinction of of having more coastline and beaches than it has mainland -- the country is less than 21 square miles but the coastline traces 54 miles.  This means we have a lot of beaches...the north shore tends to be calmer and rockier, while the south shore faces the brunt of currents and winds and is therefore more powerful and has larger beaches with powdery sand, ranging from white to pink.  Even on the busiest holidays of the year, while tourism is at its peak, you can find your own deserted beach if you know where to go.


Warwick Long Bay Beach


So why is the sand pink?  Let's take a closer look at it and see what it the grains of sand look like.  I hope you will appreciate that I looked like a crazy person on my elbows and knees with my camera and face pressed to the sand to get this next shot.

Bermuda pink sand
The sand is very soft underfoot.  It may look rocky but this in fact the granules are very smooth and it is comfortable to walk on and play in the sand.  It also manages to be quite sticky, and you end up with pink sand dunes in your shower in the summer.  The pink grains are actually little pieces of the coral reef.  The Parrot fish nibbles on the delightful pink coral, poops it out, and it washes up on the shore.  Nature is not always delicate in her methods, but the results are generally quite glorious.  There are a couple of local businesswomen who are making a killing on selling their pink sand jewellery.  Alexandra Mosher is the first pink sand jewellery I remember seeing, and her pieces are very popular.  I know my friend Tanya has taken home several pieces on her two visits to the island.

So how about the pink and pastel houses?  I am not sure where this tradition started, but it seems to be prevalent in the British colonies.  The houses are made of limestone, which was an abundant building material on the island.  In addition to being readily available, limestone is sturdy when the the hurricane winds blow through, and the stone is cool and helps for a more comfortable environment in the hot summer months.  It does keep some moisture in, which can make it a little chilly in the winters (central heating is virtually unheard of) and can encourage mould.  A friend of mine actually had mushrooms sprout out of the bathroom wall of her rental unit.  The damp is a problem for leather, and even cotton clothes -- one must keep the house aired out, use a dehumidifier, and not let clothes stand for too long in the dark end of the closet or you will see a dusting of mould on your clothes.  And tile is much preferred over carpet for this same reason.

My pastel view from home

No matter what color the walls, the houses all have a white roof.  Bermuda has no freshwater, and so rainwater is the source of drinking water, dishwater, bathwater, etc.  When it rains, the rain collects in the stepped grooves on the roof and runs down into a tank below the house (no basements in Bermuda either).  Legally, 80% of the roof must be guttered and a storage cistern that can hold 10 gallon of water for each square foot of roof.  The roof is treated with a lime, sand and water wash to help keep the roof and your water clean.  Your taps draw directly from you own tank.  If you use all of your water, your tap runs dry.  You can buy a truckload of water for several hundred dollars, althouh that is a finite resource as well.  So people conservse water quite well here.  Appliances are usually the most energy efficient and taps are not left running, lawns depend on the rain.  Incidentally power is extremely expensive as the source is crude oil shipped in from Great Britain, and ir is conserved almost as diligently as water.  When i first moved to the island my new boss told me that my hair and nails would grow faster as a result of the untreated and pure rainwater...I am not sure if it'sreally the clean air and rainwater, but he is absolutely correct, my hair is waist length now which i could never manage back home. 

Bermuda is definately "Pretty in pink" and quite often we are treated to a pink sunset on our pink paradise.


Pink House, Pink Sky


I cannot leave of this post without talking about the popularity of pink menswear on the island.  Back in North America we think of Bermuda shorts as brightly colored men's swimming trunks.  Bermuda shorts are anything but.  Authentic Bermuda shorts are acceptable business attire in Bermuda.  They go about 1 inch above the knee and include the high socks -- tube socks are not ever acceptable with Bermuda shorts -- and usually a nice shirt and jacket.  In Bermuda, the business men may be more colorful than the businesswomen!  So now you have a bit more of a visual idea of this colorful island, you should find it easier to Think Pink when you think of Bermuda.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Bermuda SPCA

My favorite place to volunteer on the island is the Bermuda SPCA.  Whenever I can spare an hour or two, there are always some cats and kittens that are appreciative of a loving hand and a cuddle. 

I have long avoided going anywhere near an animal shelter for fear it would irreparably break my heart.  The shelter here has proved that in Bermuda my fears were unsubstantiated, and instead of heartbreak I have had one heartwarming experience after another.  I volunteer as cat socializer, which basically means pet, cuddle, play with, and hold to help give them comfort and keep them prepared for the day when their future forever parents come to meet them.  The first thing I was surprised at was that in addition to the cages, there was a large indoor and outdoor area for the adult cats who were of good temperament and could successfully co-habitate with other cats.  15-20 could nap, play, and live in this area while waiting for adoptive homes.  The new intakes and kittens were more often in the cages in the adoption center...often they didn't have to be there long as kittens are adopted quicker than adults, and once the larger cats were settled they were moved to the big cat room.  There was also a playroom where each caged cat would be given time to run, climb, play every day.  This makes it a lot easier as a volunteer, and as a potential adopter to come to the shelter and know you won't be seeing sad animals with a short opportunity for adoption before euthanasia.  I read that shelters in bi cities like LA only have a 5 day window from intake to euthanasia.  Fortunately Bermuda tries to give them as long as it takes.  Several have been at the shelter longer than a year before the right person came for them.


Eli ad Gordie in the big cat room
 

Today I snuck in for an hour in the afternoon since I don't have to be at work until 4.  I was very happy to see that long term resident Billie found a home this week, as did Mela who had been there for over 6 months as well.  Several kittens, a couple of bunnies, and Coco the dog also went home in the 8 days since my last visit.  There were still 4 rabbits, a guinea pig, 5 adult cats, and at least of dozen kittens, and I try to take a picture of each one and give each one a little snuggle.  The exuberant purr of kittens is right up there with tree frogs on things that soothe the soul.  So today's blog is going to be a couple of cute cat pictures, and a reminder to people that animal shelters are a fabulous place to find a new addition to your family.  Whether you need one or not, or in my case need 3 or 4 or not, there are many animals that need shelter, and sometimes you don't know what you are missing until you see that little fuzzy ball of unconditional love waiting at the door reaching out its paw to you when you come home.  Many animal shelters or rescue organizations are looking for foster parents -- basically when the animals need special care, are too nervous or afraid to be in the shelter, or when the shelters are full, they reach out to people who will agree to home the animals on a temporary basis rather than euthanize them.  It allows them a little more time to learn love and trust, or a chance to be shown at the shelter when it isn't so crowded.  But, what you might find is that despite deciding to be a temporary respite, you actually can't bear to let them go -- which is how i ended up with panthers.  They now have a home and I am guaranteed smiles and a laugh every single day.  I did have the ability to return them to the shelter.  I just chose to keep them.

Toyota is a shy 11 week old


The SPCA in Bermuda is a wonderful group, hosting children's summer camps, an annual expo, special interests groups, and tries its hardest to find a home for every animal, and does so as a charity, relying on donations and community support.  It stands up against animal cruelty, and has twice that I know of been in court on behalf of abused animals where the owners refused to surrender them despite signs of lengthy abuse and malnourishment.

Donate to shelters when you can.  Adopt from shelters when you can.  Volunteer in any way you are able.  You may be surprised at what you find when you make your way through the door.

Riley is a blurry snugglebunny who doesn't stay still and can't figure out why he is still there.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Dainty Divas

Today was a day off work, managed to have a busy and productive day but still be home early enough to grab the camera and get a few pictures as the sunset added a little fire to this pretty little island.  Speaking of which, setting fire to things may be a theme of the evening.  Firstly, I find myself in the kitchen, which is always a fire risk.  Secondly, my goal was to make dinner around the gift of one teeny tiny little red pepper that travelled all the way from Teneriffe to my kitchen.  It is a haberno pepper, which is good, i like hot, and thought it would be best sauteed with some onions and made into a healthy turkey chili as seasoning.  I am one of those people who needs to test a hypothesis before i believe in a fact.  And so, despite being told this little Teneriffe pepper was hot, i felt the need to put the tiniest diced piece into my mouth.  6 ice cubes later my mouth was still on fire.  My nose is on fire.  My hands actually feel like they are burning still.  I don't expect the taste buds will grow back in time to taste the chili tomorrow.


another beautiful sunset on this beautiful isle
 


So there is little left to do, but blog with my burning hands, and listen to some of my favorite sounds to finish off my day off.  I have referenced it before, but my favorite songs are those that cause a stirring in the soul.  Beyonce, Mariah, and Celine can take a backseat...my favorite divas are the tiny singing tree frogs in Bermuda.  There is nothing more peaceful than sitting at dusk on a patio and listening to chirps of these little frogs.  I was enchanted by them when i first visited the island, and longed to hear them again once I was back in Canada.  When i finally moved to Bermuda, shattered from the loss of my niece Jaycena, it was the tree frogs in the quiet night that lulled my soul into a soothing peace that afforded sleep for a few hours.  Night after night, the tree frogs are there, weaving their songs into my memories of Bermuda, late conversations with friends, and quiet nights of reflection.  Alone, one whistling frog may sound a single note...together, they make a symphony.  To better understand how they sound, I am grabbing some a youtube video to help you out.  This shows how loud they actually are!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rk83g9y4-80

When most people think of tree frogs, they picture the adorable bright green and red eyed frog more commonly found in Costa Rica.  The Bermuda tree frog is very tiny and less flamboyant, and while their sound is ubiquitous in Bermuda, you are quite lucky to see one.  That is partially because they are so small, and partially because they are only out singing in the night -- quite hard to find a tiny brown frog in the dark.    So how small are they?  I was lucky enough to have my camera on me the other night when I scooted home and saw one on my door (which explains why the panthers have been frantically running head first into the door lately). 
See it?

Isn't it sweet?
 


You can see how easy it is to miss them at this size.  Most people find it hard to believe that something so little can make so much noise.  Wait til one hops into your air conditioning unit and starts using that as an amplifier at 3am....  Even so, it is hard to get mad at they dainty divas.

It should be said that the whistling frog is not actually native to Bermuda...it is actually thought to have hitchhiked its way here from the lesser Antilles and settled into the high humidity environment here that it so enjoys.  The whistling frog only sings when it is warm -- if the night is absent of tree frogs, you can be sure that the temperature has dropped to below 20 C and the little fellas have retreated from the trees and into the ground for some warmth.  Sad are the winter months, for when Bermuda is too cold for tree frogs it is also too cold for me.  I then require leggings under dresses, socks at home, and jackets...yuk!  Fortunately winter arrives after Christmas here so have a couple of good months left.

I am now off to have a bevvy and listen to my frogs while I can.  Good night world.

Friday, October 18, 2013

SCOO-TERROR-IFIC!!

One of my new found freedoms of life in Bermuda has been the release from the boredom, stress, frustration, and wasted time of car traffic.  I used to love driving -- growing up in Saskatchewan driving was initially the new freedom which allowed one to expand not just horizons, but hobbies and friendships.  Once in Edmonton, driving afforded convenience and flexibility...but more and more it meant time stuck in traffic, knuckle-whitening death grips on the wheel on icy roads in the winter and knucklehead drivers to avoid in the summer....makes me tense up just thinking about it.    Driving remained a tool to keep expanding those horizons, hobbies, and friendships, but during the winter months it could add 2 hours to the work day, plus the initial trek out to the car in darkness and temperatures of -20C to -30C to start the car, scrape the windshield, and remove the snowfall coating the entire car.  In retrospect...what a horrible way to start a day.  But a fact of life...in Canada.

In Bermuda I maintained a brief fantasy that I would get a driver's license here and buy a car.  Foreign driver's licenses are not valid here, you must complete both a written and driving test to get a license here, for car or bike.  International driver's licenses are not recognized.  There is also a little glitch called an Assessment number.  To control the amount of traffic on the road, each private residence is afforded only one assessment number.  Most rental units on the island are private units within a larger home -- so a single property with a single assessment number may have 2 to 5 tenants, and most often there is only a permit for one car.  Landlords can apply for additional permits and with the right paperwork often a second permit is obtained, but rarely would there be assessment numbers for more than that.  And so, many renters cannot have a car, helping keep the already congested routes from getting more clogged up.  I realized early on that it was hard to find a unit that was affordable and nearly impossible to find one that was affordable AND allows cats -- but to also include an assessment number just seemed against all odds.  And so I abandoned the idea of a car and began thinking about getting a scooter.

When I told my mom that I was thinking about getting a scooter, she wondered if I was getting one like Grandma's.  I may have had a chuckle, but she was on the right track.  Bermuda has car and bike licenses...but most of us ex-pats refuse to use the term bike as the maximum engine size allowed on the island is 150cc.  So we call them scooters, we routinely scoot about the island, and we find it scooterrific!  Much faster than the buses, cheaper and easier than waiting for taxis, and the expat feels the elation of such liberation when they get their first bike.

Fortunately the cost of relocating, paying high rent and damage deposit, and setting up house again  left me too broke to buy a scooter when I first arrived.  This gave me time to familiarize myself with the rules of the road, and the eccentricities of Bermuda specific to the road.  The obvious major challenge for us North Americans is that one is required to drive on the left side of the road.  There are also several traffic circles -- more commonly called round-abouts here, and many one way streets.  As my friend Karen (now working in Jeddah) recently reminisced -- it is quite easy to find oneself driving blindly down a one way on the wrong side of the street until you get the hang of it.  That aside, having not had many traffic circles to navigate in Canada in the first place, there is nothing quite so unnerving as heading into one in the opposite direction of all of your previous instincts and training.

One fateful day, the girl who had been hired by the landlady as a caregiver for her mother knocked on my door and told me her boyfriend had won a scooter at work for being employee of the year, but was leaving the island and so would be selling it only 6 months after it left the Scooter Dealership.  I decided to go out and have a look, and fell in love right away.  She was big and stable, had a flat platform for my feet and a bag of groceries, and the largest under seat storage i have ever seen.  She was shiny and red, which is both mine and Lexi's favorite color, and so I agreed to buy her...even though I didn't even have a license.  I called her Little Red.

Lexi ready to take Little Red for a ride

"OMG your bike matches your shoes" the tourist said to me.  "Of course" I replied.


In order to get a license, I first had to go and rent a scooter as you cannot get insurance if you don't have a license, nor can you write your license with a scooter you don't have insurance on.  Of course.  So I purchased the booklet on rules of the road and settled in for some interesting reading.  Top cruising speed on the open road on the island in 35 km/hr.  Helmets are mandatory.  Rules for sharing the road with horse drawn buggies is referenced and appears on the exam. The there was a section i had to read over and over because it was something about a solid white line means no parking (but it read as though it were in the center of the road which caused me great confusion).  Once you pass the written, you can book the driving exam, which consists of slowly weaving through pylons (harder than it looks), using hand signals to turn, stopping on a line, and driving both ways on a circle outline.  It is important to note that whatever class of bike you write the exam with is largest class your license allows you to drive.  Little Red was 50cc, so was my rental.  But this meant I would not be able to borrow any of my friend's scooters with more horsepower unless I rewrote the exam with a zippier scooter.  My logic was who needs more than 50cc when the speed limit is 35?  Well, after the licensing is done, one begins the unofficial internship of scooting on the road.  This is where my logic proved to be flawed.  Bermuda is a very hilly island, and when there is a hill, it tends to be of a steep grade.  Adding to the incline is the fact that Little Red was a very heavy bike, and quite often had a passenger on the back.  This made forward speed going uphill pretty much negligible, and Karen will also remember me the honk of angry cars behind us on some of those steep hills as we used the our new found but somewhat limited mobility.  There was however, great joy on the other side of the hill when the mass of Little Red on those steep downhills would propel us beyond the posted speed limit...one time we hit 50.  Other eccentricities of the road include the use of the horn.  The horn in Bermuda is not used as a warning system, or a sign of impatience.  The horn is used as a voice.  Honk honk, hey buddy how you doing.  Honk honk, hey baby nice legs.  Honk honk, I think I know the car behind you.  Honk honk, back at you buddy.  A happy, distracting symphony once you get used to it and stop reaching for the brakes to avert impending crisis every time you hear a horn (which is every few feet usually).  The rule of a helmet is an absolute must, but the manner in which is is applied seems to have some flexibility.  Once in a while you see a guy go by with dreds that would likely reach ankles, and it is piled on top of the head, with a helmet strapped onto the hair pile -- picture Marge Simpson with a helmet on top of her hair.  Seen it.  One of the more shocking things is to see parents taking their children, including tiny toddlers, to daycare on their way to work.  If the children are too small to hold on behind the parent, these smallest riders stand on the front behind the handlebars.  The most important traffic eccentricity is driving in the third land.  Roads in Bermuda only have one lane in each direction.  The third lane is the space between the lanes of ongoing traffic.  I swore I would never be a third lane driver, and diligently stuck to the rules for quite some time.  Then came the day that I was passed by a man riding his scooter side-saddle with only one hand as he had the other hand wrapped around the 8 foot Christmas tree he was carrying while simultaneously smoking a cigarette.  I thought if he could do that, surely I could sneak through traffic in the third lane once in a while.  It can be a little hair raising, or Scoo-terror-ific if you will, especially when your mirrors get clipped by an oncoming taxi.  But it was easier to navigate the third lane with Little Red as we were the slowest moving vehicle on the road, so we were generally overtaking traffic that was stopped or almost stopped, and only worrying about the oncoming traffic.
POLICE PHOTOS 2013 (19)
driving in the third lane
 
Driving a scooter does not mean fashion should suffer.  Heels, even stilettos, work just fine on a scooter with a little practice, and if a dude can carry a Christmas tree on his scooter, I can use a hand to hold fabric of whatever dress I happen to be wearing.  It's a little easier to maintain dignity on the front of the bike.  Passengers on the back often deploy the strategic handbag placement maneuver to avoid a wardrobe malfunction.

Little Red, as it turns out, was a bit of a lemon.  Out of love I spent far too much in the mechanic shops before I finally decided to fix her one last time and sell her.  The replacement was a 115cc black and purple Yamaha which I also love.  For $100 more I could have gotten a 125cc...but it didn't come in black and purple...easy decision.  It did require doing the riding exam for a new license.  But in addition to being a great looking bike, the engine has a signature roar that Dev describes as positively beastly...and I do enjoy giving it a solid rev in a crowd.  It also goes a LOT faster.  For the first time, friends were telling me to slow down rather than give me a 10 minute head start to get to our destination.  I used to just keep Little Red at max throttle and never worry about how fast (or slow) we were going, but that habit got me to some pretty cruisey speeds on the Yamaha.



While we love our scooters, we really don't encourage our guests to ride them.  If you want to rent a scooter in Bermuda, it is highly encouraged as it is a lucrative business.  There are many many scooter shops that are located at Dockyard, the hotels, and all over the island and most will come pick you up to get you started.  As a tourist, you do not need a license.  They cycle shop has insurance that will cover accident and injury...as long as you aren't impaired of course.  However, if you have not ridden a bike before, this is not the best place to learn.  The roads are very narrow and very windy, and you will be distracted by the random honks, beautiful scenery, vehicles driving in the center of oncoming traffic or impatiently passing you on the left or right, wherever there is room (passing on the left is a little rude but it happens), and of course, you are on the left side of the road.  In the tourist shops you can buy T-shirts and fridge magnets proudly claiming that "I survived the Bermuda moped."  They are likely a good seller because there is a certain truth to the claim.  In data released this year for the period of 2001-Feb 2013, there were 140 traffic fatalities in Bermuda.  116 of them were on scooters.  14 of those were on rental scooters, presumably mostly tourists.  The vast majority are young male driver's, which kinda fits statistics most places.
infographic bermuda road deaths 2000 to Feb 2013 2


One of the orthopedic doctors at the hospital was quoted as saying in the media that for every fatality there are 200 accidents that require medical attention.  Many people get nicks, bumps, and bruises.  To be fair, vacation cocktails probably contribute a little bit to these statistics just as much as the roads and other drivers.  I recall sitting at the Swizzle Inn and hearing a little screech followed by the skid of a female tourist off her rental scooter...which careened unmanned into all of the bikes parked on the hill outside of the Swizzle Inn...knocking them all over.  She was fortunately unhurt.  However the impact was enough to even take down Little Red...and Dev's shiny brand new bike which he spent a frustrating 12 months trying to get fixed here.  Success was never his.

Driving a scooter can be a fabulous experience.  I love mine and it is one of the things I will truly miss about Bermuda for the rest of my life.  Most of my guests say their favorite part of the trip was cruising around to all the best spots on the back of my scooter.  But if you are not comfortable and confident on a bike, stick to the other methods of transport which are very reliable and efficient.  My friend Margaret completely ignored this advice and stealthily snuck off to a cycle rental shop, and had the most fabulous time touring the island on her scooter...but to be fair i met Margaret skydiving so I know she can handle most things.  It isn't my intention to scare anyone -- but to prompt consideration of your skills so that you have a safe and happy vacation.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Bermuda Underwater Exploration Institute

Just when you think it's a Tuesday and you are finally going to get some rest and do the housework, something to do will pop up somewhere on the island.  Seeing South Pacific at City Hall was an idea, but it was sold out.  However before I could even made it past morning coffee I discovered that there was a lecture in town last night at BUEI -- the Bermuda Underwater Exploration Institute. 


BUEI is a gem on this rock.  The building itself if designed as an education center, and while the target audience in most of the displays a younger audience, as is the case with most museums, it is still well worth the entrance fee for any visitors to Bermuda.  Younger guests will enjoy the "submarine dive" from the top floor to the bottom floor, and those of us who are a little older than that can appreciate that it's a nice change from the typical elevator ride.  It offers a little bit of Disneyland in Bermuda.  There is also the virtual shark cage, and many informative displays that show how Bermuda came to be, and what the island looks like below the surface.  It explains a few lesser talked about mysteries, such as why Bermuda has pink sand (will save that explanation for a later blog), and displays some timeless treasures like articles recovered from shipwrecks that are hundreds of years old. There is a life's worth of work and passion for on display in the Jack Lightbourne room.  Jack is a Bermudian who began collecting shells while diving in the 1940's and has donated his collection of over 1200 shells to the Institute.  It is a tough skinned soul that can walk through that room and not find one shell that delights in either beauty or oddity.  Going back to the shipwreck collection, one will also stumble across some movie posters from the 1977 movie, The Deep, featuring a young Nick Nolte and Jacqueline Bissett.  According to island legend and much to the audience's delight (and bolstering the personal finances of the director), the young English actress was unaware of the effect of being filmed diving in nothing but a white T-shirt, and so began a fantasy of pre-pubescent males everywhere.  As well as pubescent and post pubescent males.  Wikipedia cites Italy as being ahead of the game and capitalizing on this effect as early as the 40's with the first wet T-shsirt contest, but in the early 70's it was not mainstream in the US, hence even Wikipedia credits Miss Bisset with the pop culture mania that followed.  Not surprisingly, one can still find a few old dogs on the island who absolutely swear they were romantically involved with Miss Bisset.  I have been told that parts of the movie were centered around Marley Beach, and some of the original furniture used by the cast and crew is still kicking around.  Marley Beach does have a few select and exquisite cottages for rent should anyone want to explore Bermuda with their own private beach.  Many a picture on my facebook page is taken from the owner's patio, thanks Steve for sharing the view.  Going back to BUEI, one of the reasons The Deep is on display is certainly due to Bermuda being the location of the movie, but as well Nick Nolte's character is said to be based on Bermuda's own Teddy Tucker, a legend in his own rite who discovered over 100 shipwrecks in Bermuda's waters and amassed a fortune in treasure.  One of the most remarkable pieces he collected is known as Tucker's Cross.  The Tucker's Cross was discovered in 1955, collected from the remains of the San Pedro which wrecked in the offshore reefs in 1594.  Made of 22 karat gold and 7 emeralds the "size of a musket ball" totalling 42 karats of emeralds, the cross was fascinatingly intricate in its design to come apart like a puzzle and hold something inside.  It was assessed at over $100,000 in the 1950's by the Smithsonian Institute and deemed to be the most valuable single treasure taken from the seas at that time.  Teddy Tucker sold the treasure to the Bermuda government in 1959 so that it would remain forever on the island.  However, it was discovered to have been stolen and replaced with a replica at inspection before Queen Elizabeth II's visit in 1975.  I wonder when it will be rediscovered again....and where. 


Tucker Cross with Back
photo copied from Teddy Tucker's websitte


Clearly, I have learned a fair bit for my $12 admission fees to BUIE over the years, and Tuesday was set to be another learning experience.  BUEI hosts a lot of interesting events, from film series, local science productions, and seems to catch a lot of travelling authors, scientists, photographers, and the like and line them up for lectures.  The lectures tend to be almost impromptu and underadvertised yet totally sold out, so it was much to my delight today to find that a BBC camerman from The Frozen Planet would be speaking there.  The fee was $25, and while no one was available to come along, I was happy enough to go alone.  Of course it's Bermuda and one doesn't usually make it through the supermarket or hallway at work or anywhere without 2 or 3 random catch up conversations.  The lecture was no  exception and soon I ran into a lovely lady named Heather who I met last year at a fashion show -- she was also going on her own, was decked out in a fabulous dress that met my fashionista approval, and she introduced me to Simon from Florida who sells all the orthopedic hips to our hospital, and so on and so on. Theexception, ran re is always someone to talk to in Bermuda. Leaving the wine bar and going back to our guest speaker, Doug Anderson, we were treated to a recap of his experiences working in the Antarctic with

BBC to capture behavioral patterns of killer whales.  I got a little less than delighted when the whales started eating the seals, and even he admitted it was pretty hard to have to bear witness to.  It was pretty neat though to learn of how they set out to see if a behavior of cooperative hunting of seals, witnessed only 6 times in recorded history, was common, or even true.  Astoundingly they captured the event above water, on underwater camera, and with an aerial view from the lookout over 18 times.  They determined that male killer whales live with their mother's their whole lives, which prompted the lady beside me to le an over and say "are these whales Bermudian?". To the chuckles of the females in the audience, they were also forced to admit that it didn't appear that men did much of anything really and the females were the core of the social structure, in clear command, and the brains of the operation. The boys are muscle for interspecies challenges or moving heavier ice floes. Through an accident in the temporary tags they placed on the whales staying attached for longer than anticipated, they also discovered that they swim from Antarctica to about San Paulo Brazil and then swim right back about 3 days later, reconfirming that we have absolutely no idea why anything does what it does in the ocean. Interestingly, it also turns out that the whales only like to eat a particular species of seal. And that at least one humpback whale take great interest in the killer whales pack hunting...not to get a share of the action, but to mess with the killer whales and save the seal. They captured a photo of the humpback whale catching the dislodged seal on its belly and keeping it safe from the pack of killer whales. Was it an act or empathy? Or just a strong desire to ruin the day of some killer whales? I like to think empathy. That made my day. So, the next time you watch Frozen Planet, watch for this footage.


 






Coming up from shell room to main floor



 


Inside of BUEI

 
Coming next from this team is a documentary called "The Hunt."  Doug is currently here working in the Sargasso Sea.  The Sargasso Sea, just off of Bermuda, is the world's only sea that is not bordered by land.  The borders of the sea are in fact the different ocean currents that wall this area off...so it it a sea bordered by oceans really.  I wanted to post a link showing a map and had to laugh when this message came up.  "Due to the Federal government shutdown, NOAA.gov and most associated web sites are unavailable."  They were smart enough to disable the ability to copy and paste their message from the website so that I could properly mock it (you will have to use your imagination a little bit).  But really?  Isn't it a bit much to disable static text on the government webites?  Serves me right for looking for education on a US Government website.  So, back to Wikipedia, which never closes its doors.
Sargasso.png
 
The Sargassum, another term for the Sargasso Sea, was first discovered back in 1492 by Columbus who was not really all that interested in the mat of floating seaweed.  In fact, it rather freaked them out.  But nowadays it is famous for it's crystal clear blue waters, the biological diversity within its unique and walled off ocean boundaries, and of course, for being another ocean garbage dump...the currents deposit much of their plastic debris here, in this critical ecosystem that is underexplored.  Apparently Doug's mission has to do with a specific type of frog, but he says it is absolutely fascinating to see the interspecies relationships between all of the tiny lifeforms in the Sargassum, from seahorses to fish to frogs.  During the question period someone asked him how he ended up with this amazing career.  He is a polite and young(ish Scottish lad) who says he just stopped one day and wondered what the coolest job he could think of might be.  Wildlife diving photographer was his immediate answer, so he got in his car and drove straight to England to work his way into the BBC. In a few years found himself diving with Killer Whales in Antarctica.  Makes you wonder what is possible for us all if we stop to dream and take a few risks along the way.




 


Thanksgiving Weekend Recap

And so ends a Thanksgiving weekend...in Canada.  It was back to work as usual here in Bermuda this Monday morning, but still managed to have a bit of a break and much to be thankful for.

Saturday brought a bit of a grey and rainy day, but I dragged myself out to support my favorite charity on the island, the Bermuda SPCA.  It was their annual expo, a family event involving kids games, a pet parade, the local cat fancier's show, and some livestock from the local farms to show the kids (You should have seen the reactions from toddlers when the donkeys let out a loud bray...saw a number of little ones fall over from shock as they learned that not all that is fuzzy meows or barks.  I stuck around that area for a few minutes of smug ex-farm kid amusement.)  It was a good excuse to take a food donation in, buy some raffle tickets to support the shelter, and say hi to some of the volunteers I haven't seen for a while.  I have to confess I just haven't been able to make my way back after my JJ cat passed away, but Lisa from the shelter met me with a big hug and a lot of concern and told me to just come by for coffee -- I promised that I would try to get back soon. I did see lots of cute puppies dressed for the parade and managed to get a couple of cute pictures of the contestants.
 

This little guy didn't look like he wanted his friends to see him in this outfit


While this little girl was proud of her pastels

The Expo was set in the Botanical gardens, and while I normally explore the end closest to the hospital, I saw a couple more nooks and crannies that I wanted to explore.  For one, I discovered that we have an aviary, which is under reconstruction and had some sad looking parrots that caused me great concern.  What anyone should do if they see an animal that looks like it is in poor condition, is document and report.  Just for information, the SPCA website has a link to report animal cruelty, when in doubt, contact them to check it out.



I got a call back from the SPCA today and the good news is that there had been prior complaints that the small aviary is not longer being kept up and staffed to properly care for the birds, and so the responsibility was handed over to one of the SPCA officers who takes fresh fruit and vegetables twice a day and is working to rebuild their home.  The feather loss was apparently a stress reaction to losing her nesting box, and possibly from not receiving the much needed fruit and veggie diet prior to the SPCA offering to help.  It is still sad to see them in a small enclosure and not getting a lot of interaction -- I suspect most people are unaware that they are tucked away in there, so I am going to go and visit on a couple of lunch breaks in the near future and will keep you posted on improvements.  I will sleep better knowing that she is going to be properly cared for from now on and expecting to see home improvements start soon.

The drizzling skies kept me from doing as much exploring as I wanted to do, and most photos were marred by a rogue raindrop that settled on my lens, but I found two really cool things.  Firstly a fountain in a quiet garden near Camden house behind a covered balcony where 3 artists were lurking with their paints, and secondly something that I would expect to see in Canada, and cannot for the life of me imagine how it found a place in Bermuda.  

Creepy fountain with green water and slime

How....and why....did this get here?
Once the rain started falling, I decided to leave further adventures for another day and retreated to the safe dry spot on my couch with my kittens.  Had I been more well versed in the necessary energy required for preparing to co-host a dinner event, I might have at least started peeling the potatoes on the couch, but alas, I did not, which made for a very busy Sunday.

Sunday morning was mostly uneventful, and rather than remember to start peeling those potatoes, all of my focus was directed on one task.  Securing the main course, the chickens (the rationale for chicken vs turkey was outlined in the last post).  Rotisserie chicken may be bought but not pre ordered at the grocery store, but through a little reconnaissance and i was assured that by arriving at 1pm when the store opened there would be chicken.  Still I could only manage a furtive sleep filled with nightmares about not getting there in time to get chickens  So, again, the primary focus of the whole morning was to worry about nothing but the 1pm chicken acquisition.  My co host, Siobhan (aka Shibby, owner and primary inhabitant of the studio apartment known as McShibby's) worked the night shift and should have been sleeping, but she too was experiencing chicken anxiety. This prompted a primary scooter run over with the pumpkin cupcakes, whipped topping, stuffing, extra kitchen stuff -- minus those pesky potatoes which I forgot to even bring let alone peel -- and zipped down the road to the store arriving at 1:05.  Despite the 1pm store opening, when I arrived there were people pouring out of the store, some carrying a chicken under each arm.  My heart rate immediately doubled as I raced into the store and down the aisle to the meat counter where I could only spy a measly 6 of the 35 promised chickens remaining.  I started scooping up chickens under the glare of the disapproving meat counter man, and tried to hide a couple while I furtively made my way to the checkout counter carrying away the dinner hopes of several other customers in my arms.  I took the chickens to McShibby's, still a hyper mess due to the near dinner party disaster that could have been if i were 30 seconds later...which is when Shibby reminded me about the potatoes and need to prep all the vegetables.  After we let her get a grand total of an hour's sleep (while I went home and attacked the potatoes), it was go time!  Shibby baked her signature chocolate cake, a pumpking pie, roasted veggies, stirfry veggies, we did end up with a fair size feast in the end.  As things go in Bermuda, almost everyone was late, but eventually the whole crew rolled in, filled their tummies, and sang their hearts out.  A successful day indeed.




Dressed in Canada Red, Shibby and Jenny ready for Canadian Thanksgiving

Friends new and old

Photo mobbing it...until karaoke started...who knew we were all divas!
Thanks to Allison to coming over early to help prep, Simon for showing up with a pork tenderloin and accepting the responsibility of chicken carver, Albert for loaning the karaoke machine, and everyone else for coming and contributing (last but not least, Erika with her Mac 'n Cheese baked with extra love).

I am thankful to have so many amazing people in my life, near and far, new and old.  This crew is another of Bermuda's unique blessings.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Happy Canadian Thanksgiving!

There is no Thanksgiving Holiday in Bermuda.  This makes sense, with the lack of pilgrims, wild turkeys, a general harvest season, and all of that.  However, what Bermuda does have a fair abundance of, is Canadians.  The last Census here was taken in 2010.  It says that at that time there were about 2, 235 Canadians sprinkled across these 20.74 square miles (which is the amount of land mass the Bermudian government claims, they must have counted one more rock sticking out of the ocean than wikipedia who has us set at 20.6).  That put Canadian expats at 4% of the population of Bermuda at that time.  People always say there are a lot of Canadians here, but 4% is really not that many, so I expect we just have a larger than life presence.  There are actually more Americans, more UK citizens, and more Caribbean citizens than Canadians.  I was going to look at those percentages on the Government of Bermuda web page, but when i pulled out the calculator, the number of each population subgroup does not add up to the population total in the same chart, apparently 2551 people are unaccounted for and lost in the Bermuda triangle.  Perhaps the census workers did not check the pubs.  Anyway, the point is, there are a bunch of Canadians on the island who will be celebrating Thanksgiving in Bermuda today, and I shall be one of them.

Today will be the second-annual Irish-hosted Canadian Thanksgiving at McShibby's...and my last Thanksiving on the island.  McShibby's is the affectionate nickname we have given to Siobhan's house.  Siobhan is a nurse from Ireland, suitably so, as she has the most deeply rooted instinct to feed and nurture people that i have ever seen.  Her nickname is Shibby, and legend has it that no one has ever made it out of her place without being fed.  Never.  I know I haven't.  Last year she decided that she should cook a meal for Canadian Thanksgiving because I am Canadian and must be fed on that day.  So, the word spread and we ended up with a little group feast.  This year we started planning for the 8 or so that made it least year, did a small poll to see who was working, and in similar fashion we are up to somewhere between 15-20.  Small panic here. This will be a nice, non-traditional thanksgiving.  To start with, and my family will appreciate this, there will be no turkey (I got "turkey poisoning" from the hospital cafeteria in Edmonton one year and was too sick to drive home for Christmas at all that year.  It took about a decade before turkey passed through my lips again, and even now it gets a dubious lookover and only the tiniest space on my plate).  As well as my dislike for turkey, there are other more obvious obstacles -- for one my lack of cooking experience (really, do you want to poison all of your friends at once or just find a small test group first.  Not the event to experiment with).  Secondly, cooking it at McShibby's isn't a option as the poor girl worked until 7am and needs a few hours to sleep without me starting fires in her kitchen.  I briefly considered trying to cook it here, but, the idea of me driving to the event with a giant roasted turkey tied to the back of my scooter seemed like a really bad idea even in my normally overly optimistic brain.  And so it will be that we will be serving roasted chickens.  The stores here sell rotisserie chickens, but unfortunately you cannot pre-order them.  So I have had a furtive sleep due to nightmares about standing in line for chickens and coming out empty handed.  Once the chickens are secured, there are a few more things to pick up...like replacement cheese since I stole that from my Thanksgiving dinner supplies last night...cheese is never safe in my house.

I promise to post some photos later, but for now better get cracking.  Happy Thanksgiving to all my friends and family back home!