Wednesday, September 30, 2009

That time of year...

In the next week and some, there is a sort of mini exodus from the islands. People are heading to the states to see family and friends or off and away somewhere else, more businesses are closed until the weather cools off and the season begins. It is getting very, very quiet. For those of us not going away, it is sort of the reverse of Spring Cleaning, a time to refresh, renew, repaint and revive ourselves and our belongings. Except it is so hot, it takes three times as long. Which is okay, because we HAVE three times as long!

Today I will start a repaint on the cart. I can't do the front, that is Mark's job, and will wait until November so that the sun won't beat it up before the paint is dry. But I can do some, and I will. Some of the colors are bound to change and change is good. I hope.

As a pale light comes over Culebra, I'm checking out the colors in the yard in the yard for inspiration. Purple and green....hmmmm.

The one orchid blooming is in full glory.

Up on the hill, honeysuckle is growing rampantly

And finally! My sugar cane (3rd attempt) is coming up. Excitimento!

The heat has given the gardens some stress, but hopefully that will be past sooner than later and I can get back to eating tomatoes from the vine.

Good Wednesday to you! Good trip, CH!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Then and Now

While I was looking for an article via Google, I stumbled across a web site I made back in 1999 when I was living off St. Thomas in False Entrance, aboard the good ship Elinor Louise. This was titled Summer in Paradox...Deja Voo Doo. I thought I'd let my old self speak for today as we end September with great thanks for such quiet so far...(shhhhh).

Summer isn't called summer here. It's called Hurricane season, off season, the dead season, and not uncoincidentally, rock fever season. This is not like tick fever, but can feel almost as deadly.

Here we live from year to year under the stories of past hurricanes. For years, hurricanes didn't touch the islands, but that no longer matters. In fact, having weathered a hurricane is an unspoken sort of badge of really living here. Not many will come right out and say it, but there are enough who believe it. I am not among them. But when you look around St. Croix and St. Thomas, it isn't difficult to understand. Buildings still in ruins, old flapping Fema tarps the only roof some still have, leaking buildings crumbling slowly, until the next storm finishes them off for good.

If you sit in the marina bars long enough, you will hear stories of so and so, or a particular boat, as if they had just pulled in or just pulled off their exploit yesterday. But when you ask, "Who is that?" or "Where is that boat?" the bar goes quiet and someone shrugs and says, Hugo, or Marilyn, and that is how you know that this person, this boat, disappeared, or washed ashore, no longer living. Then the coversation picks up again, a little faster, a little funnier stories. Because, it could have been them. It could be you. It is another way of people leaving here.

So you listen. Where is the best hurricane hole for a boat? If you live on land, how secure is your place, and if not, and you can't afford to make it that way (and despite federal money, there is never enough, and many homes are not secure), where will you go when the radio and television tell you to go to a place of safety. You gauge the depth of your keel, you have paid to have a particular mooring spot, you deal with a marina, hoping it won't price gouge you to pull your boat out. You buy plywood for your windows, if you can, or make sure your shutters close tightly. And mentally calculate how long it takes to put away, stow away, throw out anything that can fly, pierce, crash into, or otherwise destroy or be destroyed that is part of your life outside, part of the island way of having lots of things outside. You listen to people who sail to Venezuela, or Grenada, or Trinidad every summer, where hurricanes don't bite with the same power or so they hope. You listen to plans to go to the mainland for the season. And you listen some more to those who will stay and hope all the predictions are wrong, that this won't be the worst season on record for named hurricanes. And you's so hot. They may be right, they may be wrong. We'll see.

You can't drive 200 miles here to get away from Nature's threats. There isn't anyplace close that will be safer. And if the worst happens, all efforts to bring back sanity must come over the water, the very water that has churned and turned island life upside down. People get strange about this time, especially if they have survived a bad storm. But as a good friend of mine says, all there is to do is get ready, have good food around and plenty to drink and a good scrabble board.

The off season part is that many fewer tourists are here in summer. There are a lot of reasons, the biggest being that it is summer in the states as well, right alongside the hurricane factor. Though I know of two couples in particular who were here on holiday during hurricanes and moved down a few months later., lock stock and barrel. Literally. But that is another story. Off season means the streets can be empty, the bars are full of locals, and if you can afford to leave for a holiday home, you go now. Because rock fever sets in hard in these months. The islands seems smaller, people are bitchier, the pace, already slow, crawls. Businesses get weird hours; when you go to dinner, the place is closed, the store that is the only store that might have what you want or need has gone to three days a week or the shelves are just not stocked as regularly, because the business owner can't afford it. You sigh, take a deep breath and start looking at catalogs, or call relatives and friends in the states for minor items. They comply and ask how you can stand it. You drone on again about it being the price to live in the Caribbean and wish you had a Home Depot. Just for an hour or so.

In the meantime, we watch the internet weather channels, make plans, hope for the best. And count the days. June has an official holiday here; a day of prayer where people go to church and pray for the islands to be spared. At the end of the season is Hurricane Thanksgiving Day, for if we have been spared, or if we haven't, but are still around to talk about it. It seems a long time in between those two days. Stay tuned.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Local Sunday

Yesterday was hot but there was some breeze, which made a lot of difference for me. After I closed the cart, I went to Dinghy Dock at Mike's invite for a glass of wine and to listen to as much football talk as I could stand. The only person not local at the bar was Zach the photographer, getting in his last Culebra meal before heading back to Florida.

This is not Zach, this is Lorraine - and Anita
(Lorraine DOES have clothes on, by the way)

The football fans had all sorts of team paraphernalia - shirts, hats, coozies, those mugs you put in the freezer, backpacks and I'm sure more I didn't see (and didn't want to see, really!). They had a magazine with yet more stuff you could order.

Mike, enjoying one of Norman's stuffed burgers,
along with other football fans of note, Sue and Dave and Taz and Ann

There was a computer with one game going while the television had another game, which would be switched as one fan or another requested a few minutes of *their* team. Luckily, Mike doesn't mind talking about other things un-sports related so I stayed awhile. But as the games got to their peaks, it was football time, signaling my get go moment.

On the way home, I stopped into Paradise Gifts to see Ann. She's gotten in these amazingly beautiful and unique necklaces from Bali. No photo can do them justice, but of course I have to try! Really unusual, great price. Check 'em out!

I was given a ride by this nice woman who had picked up some mango sorbet to bring to her son, who is on a gluten free diet(and by the way, if you like mangos, Haagen Dazs mango sorbet is amazing! Lawrence brought some over to the cart the other day and shared with me - a very kind gesture on a miserably hot day - and I was really impressed with how good it is - yep, we ate the whole carton of it). We talked about the new health food store (which I'll be checking out soon) and how good it will be to have that around, especially with Dian at the helm.

After sluicing the day's dirt and sweat off with a shower and drinking lots of water, I took a walk up one of the hills. It was nearing sunset time and had cooled off enough to make that a good idea. I finally found the goats that I hear all of the time and see on rare accasions, since I don't go out that way much. They are some of the prettiest goats I've ever seen anywhere, and I've seen a lot of goats, including the ones I used to raise.

When they saw me, they turned as one and headed to the edge of this little clifflette, jumping down and out of sight, one by one. By the time I came back, they had returned, so I don't think I struck terror in their hearts. They struck goat lust into mine.

I'm not sure whose property I was walking on, but I'm glad it's not closed off. Standing in the valley, surrounded by hills with nothing built on them and no power lines, there was absolute silence. No cars, no roosters, no television or radio noise, no humans. I stood there until the sun was getting low enough to nudge me along, as it would also be pitch dark there once darkness came.

How many places there are to be on this small island! And most all of them good.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Culebra style birthdays and Yom Kippur too

One of the times I love best on Culebra is when a friend has a birthday. The people you see five times a day going hither and yon with a hello and sometimes a quick kiss and hug are around to really talk with, catching up on what is going on beside getting the mail, buying the veggies, heading to work.

Last night was Teresa's party, held at Susie's. We got there to find the photographer Zach Stovall, from Caribbean Travel & Life magazine taking photos of a dish of Susie's. Hopefully it will make the cut and make the magazine; good on ya, Susie! The sun was setting, the moon was up. Chuck pointed out beautiful sky happenings. Teresa was serenaded with the birthday song on each person's arrival, which means we sang it a lot! And with increasingly off key, un-harmonious vigor!

Travel plans for world flung trips were shared, hurricane Hugo (20 years ago this month and ravaging for Culebra among many places) was re-visited, appetizers were eaten, crowned with a fabulous cake from Susie that was icing on the plate licking good.

Birthday beauty

Down the canal at sunset

Not quite Moon Over Miami but we'd rather be here

"I was looking back to see if you were looking back to see
If I was looking back to see if you were looking back at me"
(Jim Ed Brown lyrics)

Don't ask, don't tell

Like what?

Thanks, Susie! Does she get the boat too?

Cake cutting 101: Daunting but not impossible (bug spray not included)

Yes, slim trim beautiful girls love their cake and eat it too!

It doesn't get much better than a soaker hose birthday present!

Happy Birthday, dear Teresa, happy birthday to you!

Teresa happens to share her birthday with the start of Yom Kippur, a time of fasting and atonement (the only Jewish holiday where food isn't front and center). It seems a bit unfitting, as she happens to be one of those people who I can't imagine having any need to make atonement with a higher deity or human, either one. Unlike my own excitable self, who could use o Yom Kippur a few times a year. It's a good day to take stock of the state of one's being - who have I ticked off and should make it right with? Of course, being the unobservant sort that I am, there are a few who never get on the list of atoned, so I am doomed to carry them around in my unrepentant life backpack another year. It doesn't keep me up at night. Much. I can't really say Happy Yom Kippur, but how about, *happier when it's over* ? Ah well, a bit of a fast after that all that cake icing couldn't hurt.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Oh gosh, is it Saturday?

Yesterday was dominated by one thing and one thing was hot. Oh, and it was hot. Really hot. Sticky, I-can't-take-enough-showers, where is the shade/fan/water hot. I talked to a lot of people about a number of things but woven in and through the front, middle and back of any conversation was - "It's hot." So, when I tell you what I didn't cook for Free Range Friday, I hope you can be kind, and if you are fortunate, not QUITE understand how hot it was. And probably will be today.

My trip to the veggie guy was fruitful (no pun intended). He had a bunch of neat new things and every time I thought of turning on the stove or oven I thought I was getting a case of the vapors. So I took the crimini mushrooms, the little tomatoes, the cucumber, the radishes, a green and a red bell pepper, scallions and a lettuce I want to call frisa but truthfully, I don't know the name of, but I liked how it looked and tasted (feathery and slightly bitter, respectively). I sliced and arranged and made a dip from yogurt, curry and a dash of worcestershire sauce and garlic of course. And a dash of hot sauce. And...wa la. Easy peasy. As each dinner guest stumbled onto the porch, wiping away sweat though fresh from showers, marveling at the heat anew, the cool look of fresh veggies helped make it seem a little less than hellishly hot. Soon enough, the fan created breeze and an iced beverage worked us to a state of anticipation and then enjoyment of a pasta and red sauce entree (and nope, you don't get to see it - I'd put the camera away).

Beside being hot, the atmosphere was just strange yesterday. Feathery clouds that usually signal storms coming surrounded the island most of the morning. They were incredibly beautiful and this photo does not do them justice but it will have to suffice since I don't have one of those 360 photo booths to invite you to step into. Sorry!

Then the afternoon brought a haze so heavy we wondered if Montserrat had blown up. It hadn't. And the Sahara dust map showed nothing much either. Maybe the sky was sweating? Another life mystery for another day.

And last but not least, as Jesse and Lawrence chatted amiably (in the semi-shade of the umbrella at the cart - not quite enough for two tall guys with hats on) about batteries and their merits or lack of same, using words I've read but never heard pronounced, like niCd, Lawrence pointed out something I do understand, finding faces in inanimate objects. Like Jesse's electric vehicle.

Don't forget to smile!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Free Range Friday...hold on, it's a comin'

Today is going to be all over the place for me. Down from the hill, to town, back up the hill, back home, and over to a dinner party later. Since I don't know what I'm going to bring for my part of the dinner (or for tomorrow's birthday party), it will depend a lot on whimsy and the veggie guy to see what happens for Free Range Friday's entree.

In the meantime, the view from the hill this morning was another sort of dramatic. I'd thought to not bother with a photo but as I was letting the dogs out it was impossible not to grab the camera and snap away.

I'm so proud of myself for putting in a new kitchen sink faucet yesterday! Not because it is a world class surgery but because the stuff I broke (hose from faucet to water supply, PVC ring) getting the old bits out and the new bits in were actually HERE on island (no ferry trip needed!) and not expensive to fix - and getting it from Joe's, that's saying a lot. In fact, the hose cost exactly the same as the old, at least eight year old hose that was on it before...marked in Mary's handwriting, in the same place. She smiled. AND, crawling around under the sink, I didn't burst, bang, bruise or bother any body parts. Which pretty much is a first in my life. Really. No blood? I must have been in a dream state...

Engine update. The carburator is now back in my little engine, all cleaned out. It still doesn't run right, but maybe it will magically fix itself completely because it at least does run now, just not at full throttle. Which, with a 2.5 wasn't exactly roaring anyway. We'll see what happens. I learned a lot! Like...where the damn thing is for one thing. Jack was incredibly patient with me and we laughed a lot while I learned all sorts of things to do and not to do. Even though it's not totally fixed, I appreciate the work done, mucho mucho. Thanks, Jack!! Your cake is in the mail.

I'll get back on the Free Range part as soon as I know myself what the day brings culinary wise!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Thursday, must be housesitting day

Surprise surprise. I got the call yesterday that housesitting is again needed (well, dogs, cats and house sitting) for a couple of nights. So today I will head back up the hill. I left a few things there anyway; meaning, this works (since I surely am NOT walking up Vietnam hill unless I left something of much more serious import - like leftover sushi or something else I don't have).

A couple of things I got in my emails are worth putting out here today, at least I think so and while I may not yet have attained my dream job as Queen of the World (all they have to do is ask as I have been ready for years), I am Queen of this blog!

Researchers at Kingston University in the UK found that an unmade bed is less appealing to dust mites, since the linens retain less moisture.

So, there you have it. One more reason to not make the bed. It's for your health! This factoid is brought to you by Ideal Bite.

Somehow, the way that concrete is made around here, I don't think the following would have much of a chance of working, but I thought it was very cool. Not the surround or the way it's mounted or the faucet fact, nothing but the sink itself, but that I really like!

What do you do if some self-absorbed cretin comes tresspassing into a neighboring (privately owned) yard and with a chain saw and a municipality electrical truck (for the hoist) cuts down a magnificent tree so his new girlfriend can have a good view to the sea from their house across the street? Well, in Culebra, you can't do much that would accomplish anything. Everyone know, no one say, as it might be put in the Virgin Islands and here the same, except in Spanish I don't know. And even if everyone talked, in the end, the tree is gone.

All I could, and did do was glare at him while putting a magic circle of rocks around the valiant remains, which are sprouting anew. The glare said, touch it again and you are going to find your view considerably changed, bucko. He didn't seem terribly impressed, but he did drive away for the rest of the afternoon...and his girlfriend too.

While nothing of any note is out there on the horizon, the sky is overcast with whiteness today. There is still my favorite very green corner of the bay though. No matter what the weather, this spot seems so remote and pure and untouched. The only time it is ever disturbed is when fisherman pole in there to catch bait. I hope it stays like this forever.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Mid-week report

When did anything seriously major happen on a Wednesday? Well, it would depend, of course, on which Wednesday we're talking about. But if we're talking about today, here are some things that happened. You can find more here.

Caesar Augustus was born in Rome, 63 B.C.
(sorry, no baby pictures)

John Paul Jones defeated the ship "HMS Serapis," 1779

Lewis & Clark's expedition ended [where it began, St. Louis], 1806

William J. Duane, the secretary of the treasury, was removed from office by President Andrew Jackson because he refused to withdraw government deposits from the Bank of the U.S. and place them in state banks. President Jackson appointed Roger B. Taney as his replacement, 1833 [Wednesday politics as usual]

The transistor was invented, 1947 [typical Wednesday invention]

The planet Neptune was discovered by Johann Gottfried Galle, 1846

(yeah yeah, another Wednesday, another blue planet found)

Even with all of this, Wednesday always seems like a non-day to me. I don't know why, maybe it's the neither here nor there of it. The middleness, the on the fence, the 'oh I wish it was some other day, any other day' of it. I guess that could be an attraction to some, but not with my nature. Not that I mind doing much of nothing, I just don't want it forced on me, you know, sort of like being told to NOT think of an upcoming icky thing, or to not be impatient for something wonderful. Where am I going with this? Nowhere! It's Wednesday!

Some Culebra Wednesday's I have known (and some you have known too).

Benny's lobster trap

From out in the country

From one end to another

The day the truck fell over...and then the dozer fell over too

Sean down here and out sailing...a good Wednesday indeed

Beauty moon Wednesday

Note: After going over some of these, I realize I'm the biggest spoiled Wednesday brat I know. This is regular? I just shook my own it when that happens!

Have a major Wednesday of the best kind. Please!
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