Archive | July, 2011

10 Things I Love About Bermuda

25 Jul

Summer has arrived in Bermuda! After a rainy, quiet winter of uncertainty about my new home, the summer has shown me Bermuda at its best, and I’ve come to love it. Here are my top 10 reasons why:

1. Waking up to sunshine: Every morning we wake up in a bedroom bathed in sunlight. When I pull back the curtains to greet the new day, I see tall palm trees against a cloudless blue sky. No day can be that bad when it starts this way!

2. Every weekend is a holiday: Come Saturday, we’re free of our job and volunteering commitments, so we scoot to the beach, lay in the sunshine, hang out with friends, and feel like we’re on holiday – every weekend!

3. Pink sand: Our nearest beach has pink sand, created from the shells of red sea creatures which live on the coral reefs. Every time we head down to the ocean, the sight of the pink beach and the bright turquoise water takes my breath away.

4. Honking means “hello”: In the UK, a honk of a car horn generally means an aggressive obscenity. Here it means hello! And if there’s traffic because some bozo is holding everyone else up, everyone just waits patiently. There’s no road rage here, just chilled out commuters enjoying the views.

5. Tastes of England: From Cadbury’s chocolate to red post boxes, there are little tastes of home to pick me up whenever I’m feeling a bit homesick. I was ridiculously excited to find one supermarket selling Cadbury’s Cream Eggs at Easter! It’s funny how trivial things that you have in abundance at home become a huge source of happiness when you’re in a strange land.

6. Stunning scenery: The white beaches and bright blue ocean; the parks filled with oleander and hibiscus; the rows of pastel-painted houses topped with bright white roofs; and the palm trees silhouetted against the sunset… Bermuda has a unique beauty which I still haven’t got used to after almost a year of living here.

7. Tree frogs: They seem to be one of the noisiest creatures on the planet, but they are incredibly cute. The size of your thumbnail, these teeny-tiny frogs use their whole bodies to make a squeak as loud as your fire alarm. They prove that you can make yourself heard no matter what your size! Who knew amphibians could be so inspiring?

8. Positive spin on rain: Rain water is our tap water, so wet weather is always welcome in Bermuda because raindrops fill up our tanks. If we haven’t had rain for a few months, people are overjoyed when the sky clouds over and the rain pours down the limestone roofs, into our underground storage units, all ready for us to shower in or cook with the next day.

9. The USA is just a short plane ride away: We can be in Boston or New York or Miami in just two hours, on a flight as cheap as chips.

10. The ocean: Most weekends we are either in it or on it. From swimming and snorkelling to boating and kayaking, the ocean is like a giant playground! There is an incredible amount of sea turtles and tropical fish in vibrant colours to spy, and thanks to the warm waters around us, we were also able to go whale watching in spring – an amazing experience.

What would be in your top 10 “loves” for where you live?

Advertisements

Anyone for Tennis?

19 Jul

A few weeks ago, I started taking tennis lessons. For those who know me, you’ll understand that this is a bit like Mike Tyson announcing that he’s learning how to play the piccolo. PE was the one subject at school that I hated. Each week I’d pray that all of the teachers had got locked inside their office, that my kit had been stolen, or best of all, that I’d break my leg – resulting in weeks or even months of no PE!

But, here I was on the way to my first lesson, in my shorts that said Reebok, and my top which said FILA. I felt a little bit like I was going to a fancy dress party. (“Oh, you’ve come as a person that plays sport! How comical!”) I feared that my tennis teacher would take one look at my “costume” and realise that I was an imposter.

But he didn’t. He took me seriously. He asked me if I was hoping to get to a competitive level. I looked at him like he was loopy. He just looked back, waiting for my answer.

During my first lesson I apologised every time I missed the ball (often) or held my racquet the wrong way (constantly). I waited for him to wince, or hold his head in his hands, or look up to the sky and ask why God had punished him with such an inept student. But he didn’t do any of these things. He was patient, and kind, and encouraging, and funny. He acted as if there was some hope that, maybe one day in the future, I might be good enough to actually play!

Now I miss the ball slightly less and only hold my racquet the wrong way half of the time. My classes take place by the ocean, on courts bathed in sunshine, surrounded by palm trees. If I’d ever contemplated learning at home, (and, yes, pigs would have needed to have mutated into the flying kind first) I probably would have learned on a court in an echoey sports hall, surrounded by sickly-coloured walls and smells of feet. I don’t think I would have lasted long.

So why, after years of praying for broken limbs, am I now paying for PE? Because, as an expat, there’s no point trying to keep up the same social habits you had at home. Why come to a different country if you want everything to be the same? Here the lifestyle is outdoors, active, and sporty. You can either join in or miss out. So I’m pulling on my trainers and stepping out into the sunlight!

I’m taking classes at Elbow Beach. For more information and rates, please see: http://elbowtennisbda.com/

The Birth of a Butterfly

8 Jul

Hot climates can mean giant flying beetles, but they also often mean giant, beautiful butterflies too! Keen to attract some to our little garden, we tended to our new Milkweed plant – essentially a flowering weed on which Monarch butterflies like to lay their eggs. Its leaves were lush green with small pinky-red flowers, but we’d only once seen a butterfly flutter around. When we came back from Florida however, it was a different story! The plant was now crammed with fat, stripy Monarch caterpillars, happily crawling around, munching any bit of green they could find left on what was quickly becoming a set of twigs stuck in a plant pot.

We checked on our new brood daily. After a few days, the fattest caterpillars began to crawl away from the plant. We watched as one inched his way up to the big hibiscus pot, and stayed there, slowly curling into a J shape. He was getting ready to form his cocoon. Later when we returned, he had disappeared, and in his place was a beautiful jewel-green chrysalis, with a sparkling gold thread sewn through the top.

Just over a week later, the chrysalis was transparent – the squashed-up butterfly visible inside. Over the next two hours we stood patiently in the heat, watching as the butterfly gradually emerged from her cocoon, and slowly stretched her wings, until she was a huge butterfly! With her wings fully-formed, she slipped to the ground, and took a few stumbly flights around the patio, before finally taking off into the distance. It was an incredible thing to witness – from fat caterpillar to stunning butterfly, we’d seen the whole cycle!

Thanks to Rich, we managed to get some shots of her emerging, so I can share the whole cycle with you too!









Sightseeing and Snorkelling

4 Jul

We’ve been continuing to wear our tourist hats, thanks to a recent visit from my parents. It’s always lovely to show family and friends this new place called home, and Bermuda is particularly beautiful in the summer, when the oleanders are in bloom, the ocean is bright turquoise and it’s warm enough to scoot around in your shorts – even if it rains!

View from Gibbs Hill Lighthouse

Over the last few weeks we’ve visited Gibbs Hill Lighthouse in Southampton and breathed in the incredible views from the top; we’ve stood across the world’s smallest drawbridge in Somerset; and we’ve rambled through nature trails and remains of historic forts.

We finished off my parents’ trip with a snorkelling extravaganza weekend! On Saturday we pootled around Tobacco Bay in St George’s parish – a beautiful spot for snorkelling as the water is calm and enclosed by lots of rocks. There were a whole host of tropical fish swimming around us, nonplussed by the sight of a couple of large human creatures wearing ridiculous eye masks and making “meee!” sounds each time a new fish was spotted!

Captain Cumbers at the wheel!

On Sunday we hired a boat and cruised around for the afternoon, stopping where we fancied for a quick swim before zooming off again. Rich and my dad snorkelled around an 1800s shipwreck poking out of the water, and then later we all went for a swim and spied more vibrant fish and a couple of lobsters hanging out under a rock.

The Vixen Shipwreck, sunk in 1896

Previously I’d only snorkelled in the pools of Discovery Cove in Florida – where there are a number of fish and stingrays to swin with in an authentic-looking pool of rock and sea plants, but of course it’s artificial. Here were sea creatures in their natural habitat, darting through anemones, nibbling snacks off sea plants and whizzing through gaps in the rocks as if they were playing a giant game of Tag. I couldn’t believe this whole other world existed beneath my feet, a world I’d been missing each time I’d swum in an ocean without opening my eyes below the surface. It was a feeling akin to crunching snow beneath your feet for the first time, or riding a new roller-coaster – an exhilarating experience!

I could try and write about the beautiful scenes I saw at Tobacco Bay but I know I wouldn’t do it justice. Instead here’s a clip of just one of the videos Rich took with his new Go Pro Camera. Blue Planet, eat your heart out!

We hired our boat from Dreamcatchers, based at Barr’s Bay Park in Hamilton. The boat comes with an ice box, stereo, emergency equipment and noodles for floating around in the ocean!