Archive | December, 2010

Yearning for the Familiar

23 Dec

Exploring somewhere new is always exciting. Even back in the UK I always quite enjoy driving through new towns, looking at the rows of houses, and wondering who lives there. But it’s nice to then go back to familiar streets, familiar houses; to that place called home. So, on my first supermarket trip I was very happy to discover lots of familiar products in abundance, from Cadbury’s Fruit and Nut to Walkers Salt and Vinegar Crisps, which could provide little tastes of England when I was missing it most.

About a month into living in Bermuda, I started missing the familiarity of home – even just the silly little things, like knowing where to put fabric softener in the top-load washing machines (answer: you just chuck it in with the laundry!) or trying to find coriander (it’s called cilantro here). And as much as our temporary apartment was homely, it wasn’t “home” because it had nothing of ours in it.

Our new home

We went to view our first potential home with indifference – expecting that the first one we saw wouldn’t be right, because that’s just not how it works! Except it was right: a two bedroom condo which was spacious and light in a quiet area. I was over the moon that we could walk to the beach; Rich was over the moon that the fridge had an ice maker (!) We viewed a few other properties (including one with 3 dead cockroaches on the floor – erm, no thanks), just because we felt that’s what we should do, but nothing pipped the condo to the post.

When our shipment of 61 boxes arrived it was like Christmas – all of our belongings immediately transformed the condo into our condo. Even unpacking our Sainsbury’s Shop for Life carrier bags made me smile!

Now, the Christmas tree is up (from Homebase!) and we’re getting ready for our first Bermudian Christmas with my parents, in what most definitely feels like home.

Community Spirit

22 Dec

If there’s one thing Bermuda does well, it is promoting community spirit. It is common for people to say good morning to the whole bus as they board, and you are thought of as rude if you do not at least say hello to strangers as you pass them in the street. On the roads, people beep their car horns to say hello to others – a habit that’s hard to get used to, as you automatically presume you’ve wronged a driver when you hear the horn honking! It’s a world away from London commuters, where people stand in close proximity yet only share the air that they breathe. Of course, for a lot of Bermudians, most people aren’t strangers; the island is only 20 square miles with a population of about 60,000.

Almost immediately I was really keen to get involved with the local community and signed up to volunteer with a children’s home and a drugs education charity. My first “assignment” was helping out at a fundraising bake sale. Whilst I did feel a little bit like I was in an episode of Desperate Housewives, it actually was a lovely way to get to meet a range of different people. One visitor to our stall turned out to be Lucy from Essex, who had arrived on the island just two days before Rich and I had! Our Essex background, and love of chocolate chip cookies was all we needed to forge a friendship, and we catch up regularly to talk about all things British – from X Factor, to missing chip-shop chips!

Just last week Lucy and I went to see the Christmas pantomime in Hamilton, the capital of Bermuda. The show was put on by Bermuda’s amateur dramatics society but certainly wasn’t amateur; it had clearly been created with a huge amount of energy and love as the whole spectacle was lavished with detail –  from the sets to the score written for the show. The auditorium was packed and I suspect almost all of the audience knew someone on the stage. It felt like a big family putting on a show and was a real Christmas comfort – like hugging a mug of Bailey’s hot chocolate by your Christmas tree. It was a great cure to the pangs for home I’d felt recently…

 

If there’s one thing Bermuda does well, it is promoting community spirit. It is common for people to say good morning to the whole bus as they board, and you are thought of as rude if you do not at least say hello to strangers as you pass them in the street. On the roads, people beep their horns to say hello to others – a habit that’s hard to get used to, as you automatically presume you’ve wronged a driver when you hear the horn honking! It’s a world away from London commuters, where people stand in close proximity yet only share the air that they breathe. Of course, for a lot of Bermudians, most people aren’t strangers; the island is only 20 square miles with a population of about 60,000.

I was keen to get involved with the local community and signed up to volunteer with a children’s home for children in the care of social services and a drugs education charity. My first “assignment” was helping out at a fundraising bake sale. Whilst I did feel a little bit like I was in an episode of Desperate Housewives, it actually was a lovely way to get to meet a range of different people. One visitor to our stall turned out to be Lucy from Essex, who had arrived on the island just two days before Rich and I had! Our Essex background, and love of chocolate chip cookies was all we needed to forge a friendship, and we catch up regularly to talk about all things British – from X Factor, to missing chip-shop chips!

Just last week Lucy and I went to see the Christmas pantomime in Hamilton, the main town in Bermuda. The show was put on by Bermuda’s amateur dramatics society, but certainly wasn’t amateur; it had clearly been created with a huge amount of energy and love as the whole spectacle was lavished with detail, from the sets to the score written for the show. The auditorium was packed and I suspect almost all of the audience knew someone on the stage. It felt like a big family putting on a show and was a real Christmas comfort – like hugging a mug of Bailey’s hot chocolate by your Christmas tree. It was a great cure to the recent pangs for home I’d felt recently…

Settling into the Life of a Housewife

21 Dec

I’m someone who likes structure. I like making lists, devising plans, and having a timetable! And so the first couple of weeks as “housewife” became a routine of laundry, fitness, grocery shopping, cooking and lots of reading! Before arriving, I had been excited at the prospect of having time to do a bit of studying again – albeit informally – and I poured over books on English Language and American History outside in our garden. Sandra and Jimmy had two pets – Tonka, an old dribbly cat who loved affection, and Bailey, an old dribbly dog that loved affection. They would regularly pop down to visit for a tickle on the tummy.

Tonka: dribbly but adorable

The garden had a bird bath which regularly attracted kiskadees –  stripy headed birds with bright yellow breasts, and once I was lucky enough to spy a rare Redbird – a striking bright-red bird with a Mohican feather-do on top of his head. Lizards would often flash blue across the wall, and, during the rain, some very big fat toads would hop past your feet as you dashed inside for cover. It was a lovely place to read and take in the surroundings.

We had no internet in the apartment, and so the Phone Book became my main source of knowledge! The Phone Book here contains the usual Yellow Pages listings, but also has bus timetables, restaurant menus, Government information and maps of the island. I studied the maps regularly, learning street names, pinpointing landmarks, in a bid to become familiar with the island, and feel “fixed” to my new home. If I read about an area in the newspaper, I would immediately look it up on the map. For me, being settled in an area is being able to say “yes” when someone says, “you know the dry cleaners down Lovers’ Lane just off of South Shore road…?

Our garden in our temporary apartment

Until Rich’s full work permit arrived, I wasn’t even allowed to apply for jobs, but quickly itched for a project to get my teeth into. And so I strolled into town, booked a slot on a library computer and researched volunteering opportunities in Bermuda.

A Weekend of Firsts

19 Dec

Saying goodbye to family and friends was sad but surreal. It still hadn’t sunk in that we weren’t just going on holiday. It was only when we arrived at the airport that we had a little puncture of reality, as we said goodbye to our parents and tears started to sneak out!

We arrived at our temporary apartment in darkness, with the sound of squeaking tree frogs filling the air. Our hosts, Sandra and Jimmy, lived in the house above our apartment and had kindly stocked the fridge with essentials, and over the next few weeks would pop down with homemade Pumpkin Pie for Halloween and Rum Cake for our birthdays.

Our Temporary Home in Berry Hill Lane

Our first day in Bermuda was spent…playing Laser Tag. Now, I’m not usually one to opt for any activity that involves running, but as all of Rich’s colleagues were attending to get to know Rich, I felt I had to join them to be a good sport! On our way, Rich told me that the game would actually be outdoors, in a field around a disused building. I took one look at my bright yellow skirt with holes in the shapes of flowers at the hem and wondered if I could convincingly feign illness.

As we arrived, I had that same feeling I used to have just before PE lessons – the one where, paradoxically, you want to run, just not in the same direction as your classmates. But, despite snagging my skirt on a few branches and not being the best camouflaged, I actually had great fun and managed to kill someone (within the game of course, it wasn’t that Laser Tag had brought out a deep-rooted inner violent psychopath)

Rich’s colleagues quickly became friends in the course of the day, and we returned to our apartment on the back of our new friends’ scooters – another first for me. After surviving my scooter trip, I now felt ready to embrace island life!

Daring to Dream

17 Dec

Moving to Bermuda has seemed a little like a plot from a Hollywood movie – terribly exciting, surreal and like something that doesn’t really happen in “real life”.

After hubby and I returned from our Cypriot spring wedding/extended mini-moon (thanks to Volcano What’shischops) I started to yearn for a stint abroad. Meeting so many ex-pats living seemingly happy and relaxed lives in the sun made me wish aloud for an opportunity to take us somewhere foreign and exotic!

And, like a genie sprouting from a lamp, just a few weeks after I made my wish, hubby received an email asking whether he may be interested in working in Bermuda! The application process was tough and the company was highly selective – so whilst I knew I had a talented hubby, we didn’t dare to dream that this may actually happen. We continued quietly making plans for life as normal; saving for an autumn holiday in the Canaries, planning new decor for the hallway.

In July we flew out for Rich’s final interviews and met Bermuda for the first time – a beautiful island with brilliant blue waters, lush green foliage, brightly painted houses and very friendly people who were clearly proud of their home. Our taxi driver greeted us by saying “welcome to paradise”.  The dream was becoming a little more real, but still we didn’t dare catch it and colour it in in case it fluttered away again.

The day after Rich was offered his job we sat on the beach dumbstruck. We felt like we’d won the lottery.

So, we started the process of packing up our lives…