Archive | May, 2011

Happy Holidays

23 May

It’s holiday time in our household! We’re off to Florida for a few weeks and we are so excited. Florida was my favourite holiday as a child, and going back as an adult is just as magical. For me, Orlando will always be candy floss, and fireworks, and sunshine, and smiles. If Christmas Day were a holiday destination, it would be Florida.

In general, past holidays for Rich and I have usually meant a luxurious treat of sunshine and beach days. Now we live on an island of sunshine and beach days however, we feel differently! Whilst lounging by the pool will still be a treat, as we don’t have a pool of our own, I’m also looking forward to simple things such as travelling in a car! The scooter is great fun most of the time, but on days where you don’t want tangles in your hair and shouted conversations, a car is luxurious!

When we first arrived in Bermuda, people warned us about what is commonly known to expats and locals alike as “Rock Fever”. Being a small island, sometimes it does get a little claustrophobic and people have to get away and stretch their legs. I think I may be suffering a little…I’m so looking forward to being able to go to a choice of restaurants, shop in a range of different malls and go to the cinema one evening and have more than one film option! But the beauty of Bermuda is that it’s so close to the Caribbean, the east coast of the USA and Canada. Rock Fever is easily cured with Miami, Boston and New York being visit-able in a weekend. And I plan to take full advantage of this whilst we live here!

Happy holidays to anyone reading with upcoming vacations or stay-cations! 🙂

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The Birds and the Beasties

19 May

When we were considering our move to Bermuda, one of the first things I googled was “Bermuda wildlife”, largely to ensure there were no killer scorpions or mutant spiders with big teeth on the island (there aren’t). In fact, other than the occasional vacationing jellyfish and some poisonous millipedes at the east end of Bermuda, there are no harmful creatures here at all, other than a few ugly-looking critters (cockroaches) and cute but noisy beasts (tree frogs).

Birds

Along with the sparrows and the starlings, and the black and white Longtails, there are two more exotic birds here. Kiskadees, originating from nearbyish Trinidad and Tobago, have an awful squawk but beautiful feathers and are easily spotted by their yellow breasts. A much rarer bird is the Redbird, which I’ve only seen once, but, gosh, he was stunning! Bright scarlet with a Mohican style hairdo – he flapped down for a drink and then soared off again.

Chickens
We have a number of feral chickens, that strut along the pavement, and occasionally wait at the bus station for the number 7 (I think the big step onto the bus baffles them every time). This spring, we also saw a number of fluffy feral chicks tailing behind mummy!

Tree Frogs
These teeny tiny amphibians are the size of your thumbnail, but don’t be fooled by how cute they are – they make a flippin’ racket! Come dusk, they start to squeak their mating chorus. You’re probably thinking, honestly, how much noise can such a tiny little poppet make? Here’s how much:

Toads
Every now and then you’ll come across a big, fat toad hopping around the garden. Although one recently gave Rich the fright of his life when he hopped past his foot in the dark, we are definitely pro-toads as they eat the bugs! Which leads me nicely to…

Ants
Ants never fail to amaze me. Their tiny little noses sniff out sugar no matter where it’s kept. Recently we had some Easter Eggs, in their sealed boxes, in a zipped-up bag, on top of a suitcase in a closed cupboard. The ants found them! Thankfully one blast of insect spray gets rid of the blighters, but don’t ever squash one on the wall! Apparently that release some sort of pheromone which then attracts all of his buddies!

Cockroaches
If you read my Conquering the Cockroach post, you’ll know how I feel about these creatures. They might not sting or bite, but they can terrorise you with their disgustingly long, wandering antennae and freakishly speedy legs. Oh, and apparently they fly here too, and have been known to fly into people’s scooter helmets whilst they are driving. So, if you’re moving here, make sure you get a helmet with a visor, won’t you!

Thankfully the only other beasties Bermuda has are wood lice, earwigs and the much more pleasant honey-bees and butterflies.

Lizards

As the temperatures rise, so do the sightings of the lizards, often spotted scampering across a wall. There are a number of different breeds here from the small brownish ones, to the dip-dyed multi-coloured ones, like the one in the photo above (kindly provided by my father-in-law!).

Of course, being an island surrounded by coral reefs, we also have a huge number of incredibly beautiful tropical fish, sea turtles and other ocean creatures. But I’m going to save this for another blog post, when I’m able to share photographs with you, using our soon-to-be-purchased underwater camera!

The Digital Divide

13 May

Although we are miles and miles away from home, it rarely seems that way, thanks to email and Skype and Facebook and Twitter. In fact, I’m probably more in touch with my family and friends now than I was when I lived 100 miles away from them!

I know I would miss loved ones terribly if it wasn’t for the Internet. And it’s that thought which has been a great motivator for my weekly computer class. You may recall in an earlier post that, through my volunteering with the Senior Islanders’ Centre, I’ve begun voluntarily teaching a lady how to use the computer. She’d been to a class at a local college before, and hadn’t enjoyed it. In our first lesson she said that if it didn’t work out this time around, she was going to give up. With all of her children and grandchildren in Ireland, I couldn’t let that happen!

In our first lesson I spent a long time finding out what she wanted to learn, what she was most confused about, and what she’d like to use a computer for. Her biggest anxiety was how to switch a computer on and off. So that’s what we practised for the rest of the hour.

We’ve now had six classes, and she knows how to open Internet Explorer, Google something, move the web page up and down, close a window, type capital letters, use the tab key, and shut the computer down. In our first lesson she said that if her children ever got an email from her, they would think it was coming from Heaven. Now she has her own email account, and has written and replied to 5 messages. This isn’t a testament to my teaching skills – she is a star pupil. She has no computer at home to practise on, so each week she has to delve into her memories from our lesson the week before. She amazes me each time.

I’ve realised how younger generations take so much for granted in growing up or working with computers. Next time you Google something, imagine you have to follow step by step instructions of everything you are doing. All of a sudden, something that usually takes seconds, takes much longer. Sometimes in our lessons, we have to spend a few minutes just getting the mouse in the right place to turn it into the “pointed finger” icon.

There’s also a whole new discourse which means nothing outside of the world of technology. How do you explain in real world terms that the computer is “frozen”? Where else do you “sign out” other than online? It’s taught me that storytelling is relevant to teaching technology too. When we sign out in our lesson we are closing the front door of our house, because we don’t want people to have access to our emails, in the same way that we don’t want people to be poking around our house when we’re not there.

I am at my most patient in our hour together, but I enjoy every minute. It truly is a privilege to help make someone’s life a wee bit better.

A plea: If you know of any programmes specifically for seniors, teaching tools, or general tricks or tips to make using a computer easier please let me know your recommendations. Any help would be very much appreciated!

Missing Out

3 May

It started with the Olympics. There was a flurry of messages on Twitter from friends saying they had just submitted their application for tickets. Then there were the once-in-a-lifetime, two consecutive four-day bank holidays weekends where, thanks to some cunning Annual Leave Maths, people taking only 3 days’ leave, would gain 11 days’ holiday! Finally there was the Royal Wedding, which, whether you are a fan of the monarchy or not, was a momentous occasion for the UK. People were waving their flags, celebrating the nuptials at street parties and, even more unusually, feeling proud to be British – and showing it.

On the day of The Wedding, I set my alarm for 6.50am and crept into the living room to tune into BBC America. At first it was very exciting – not just for the beautiful ceremony, but for the scenery too – there’s Westminster! Oh and look the River Thames! And wait a minute, are they the dulcet tones of Huw Edwards commentating? Huw, how I have missed you reading the evening news!

Then the excitement subsided a little and pangs for home popped up in its place. I used to work near Westminster. I used to love looking across the Thames at dusk as I headed into Covent Garden to meet friends. And how I miss news that isn’t read as if every sentence finishes with an exclamation mark!

As the Wedding commentary was brought to a close, I thought about what people back home would be doing next – perhaps eating sandwiches and scones at a table decorated with Union Jacks; drinking a glass of bubbly and toasting our future King; talking about “Will and Kate” like they were well acquainted with them both. In contrast, my day was just like any other – there were no celebrations here, no bunting, no street parties, and no day off work, despite Bermuda being a British Overseas Territory.

I felt like I was missing out.

One of the tricky things about being an expat is accepting that the world continues while you are gone! It’s much like when you revisit your old university and find your favourite pub from your student days is now a fish and chip shop, and there’s a new lecture theatre on what is now known as the “old” football pitch. Although we know these changes are inevitable, often a part of us feels a bit betrayed that things haven’t stayed exactly as they were when we left. Because that way we can just slot right back into place again when we return.

We may not be home to see London transformed for the Olympics, but we can watch it on TV. And, whilst I was really disappointed not to have experienced a street party – it certainly would have been the first one in my lifetime – I’m hopeful that Britain will do it all over again for Harry’s nuptials, or the Coronation of a new King. And in the meantime, I’ll accept with a smile that you can’t always have your (Royal Wedding) cake and eat it!