Saturday, April 28, 2007

a night of chaos

Harbour Nights are a weekly affair of family fun during the summer here in Bermuda. Hamilton's Front Street closes down from about 7:00 to 11:00 pm every Wednesday as local talent, arts & crafts, & singers & Gombey Dancers make their weekly appearance for all to enjoy. It's a miniature street festival, if you will.

This past Wednesday was the first of many Harbour Nights for 2007. But this first ended in chaos & panic as a couple of horses broke free from their owner & took off with the carriage making a straight beeline for the crowd that littered Front Street. About 19 people, tourists & locals including children were injured.

Now the government is looking to ban horse carriage tours that operate in town. Many have voiced their opinions that these horses, while may be well tended to by their owners, are working in the summer heat, traffic, noise & pollution. That's enough of a toll to ev
entually spook a horse & set it off at anytime. No one knows what set these particular horses off, but this is not the time to shrug off an incident like this even though it's a first time occurrence. Unfortunate for the horse carriage tour operators & owners, but an incident like this cannot be casually dismissed.

Here's a shot of a couple of beauties we were passing by on South Shore Road on Easter Sunday. Pretty aren't they? Even I was wary as I went up to pet & feed them, for their height & sheer towering presence made me feel like a dwarf. Curious fellows they were, that's for sure. Left me wishing I knew how to ride a horse!

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

fire house

My mom calls houses in Canada matchstick houses. It could be a mansion but it would still be a matchstick house. Frames that are built out of wood because it's the cheapest & most economical method as Canada's forests are brimming with lumber to serve just this purpose. Mom says she can't believe we paid so much for a house that's built out of wood. We came from a land where houses were built out of cement, just like in Bermuda. Looking at a Canadian home with it's brick facade you wouldn't know that what lies beneath is drywall, fiberglass insulation & wood frames. Canadian buildings, schools & offices, however, are different. They're built like any other, out of cement, with steel frames. I'm sure this situation is the same across Europe, northern parts of America or anywhere with sub zero temperatures.

So, ever seen a house on fire? No, TV does not count. About four years ago, on the coldest day that winter had yet to see, our Toronto neighbours' house caught on fire. Now these are town homes. Very tricky situation. It took firefighters a while to hook up the hose to the hydrant & start dousing the flames & that was because the temperature was about -20 deg C. The water that trickled off the house, froze on the ground before it got a chance to get to drain off. A couple of public buses were brought in for those evacuees to get in & stay warm. Firefighters were racing against time to save the one raging house but more importantly to douse out the flames before it spread to the attached town homes on either side. On this cold night, I was mesmerized standing out there in my pajamas. It was freezing & I couldn't move. It was amazing how quickly that fire took hold, spread & blazed, devouring that one house. Those flames were raring to go. In the end all that remained was the brick facade & the frame attached to either side of the town house. Everything inside was destroyed.

I just read a blog comment that made me realize that except for in town, there are no fire hydrants in Bermuda. Which means during the unfortunate incident of a fire at your home, the fire department relies on your neighbours' tank water to douse out the flames. Should this worry you? The time it takes the firefighters to hook up their hoses to the neighbours tank to the time the flames are given a good watering. Probably not, as Bermuda houses are built out of cement. Although, it would be good to have content insurance if one's renting. One had also better be in good standing with their neighbours if one expects them to say yes to the use of their tank water in fiery situations such as these. But then again, they're not really going to say no, are they?

Monday, April 23, 2007

food for thought

If you're a gourmet cook & are looking forward to continuing along that same thread here in Bermuda, you will be disappointed some upon a trip to the grocery store. There are some things that are just not available here & if by some remote chance they are, they will cost you an arm & a leg in the process. One example: Spices! If this is an integral part of your cuisine then you may want to stock up before you hit the island & take note, this is something that you are allowed to bring onto the island. Or if you're visiting family or friends on the island surprise them with a self made spice basket. They will thank you for it! But it would be worthwhile to find out their favourite few before you go spicing up your shopping trip.

If you lack the culinary skills or the patience, then panic not for there's plenty of restaurants to cater to your international taste buds. Over the past few years, the restaurant scene has had plenty of additions from Thai & Japanese to Arabic & Indian cuisine. But what if you're looking for something authentically Bermudian? One has to know that Bermuda's cuisine is a blend of English, Carribean & African dishes that have been borrowed & modified over the years. While I won't go so far as to say it's hard to find something authentically Bermudian, there are some dishes that are unique to this island.

We start off with the Bermuda Fish Chowder, found at most restaurants, is one dish not to be passed. Cassava Pie is a sweet melt in your mouth explosion! This island also boasts a multitude of fresh Rockfish, Wahoo & its own lobster (during lobster season), so be sure to try at least one of these delicious varieties.
Locals are huge on shark & love making hash out of it. Of course, no island would be complete without its share of rum & Bermuda does have its very own, Gosling's Rum, available island wide at any liquor store or for half the price at the duty free at the Bermuda airport. But wait, I'm not done. One place to visit is the Swizzle Inn where they are famous for their Rum Swizzles, also known as Bermuda's national drink. Well, what else can you expect from an island? They've got to have at least one national drink. Go easy on the Rum Swizzles though, this is one strong drink that'll knock your socks off, if you're not careful with your consumption!
An afterthought:
I wonder if Canada has a national drink - if it did it'd probably be a Molson.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

earth day!

Today is Earth Day. If you stumbled upon Google today you would have seen this.
posted in the form of an iceberg that is partially under water - melting. A smart way to signify & bring to our attention the current state of the earth & her environment - Global Warming. Good one guys!

If you did managed to catch Oprah on Friday, the topic of her show was Going Green.
Ordinarily, I am not a huge Oprah fan but somehow the TV was tunned to her show. I don't know how that happened but I was glad. There's lots of ways you can make difference. Please visit the link & click on the many other links to find out how you can go green. It's time to get on that green wagon!

A lot of kids growing up today suffer from
allergies, asthma or some sort of respiratory illness. Growing up, I had never heard of asthma or allergens, until my move to Canada whereupon I realised what a common place these aliments are among children & teenagers. Many children here in Bermuda suffer from the same ailments like the rest of North America. But what is it about the environment today that encourages the presence of these ailments among the very young?

One would be quick to blame the air, the smog or the ever increasing pollutants in today's environment but perhaps the answer lies close to home. A couple of years ago, I watched a documentary about boy who suddenly developed a severe case of allergies. The doctors could not figure out the root cause & after months of tests there was still no answer to be found. His mother then decided to take matters into her own hands. She began to keep a journal of everything that she did all day. A few weeks into her documenting, she noticed a pattern. Her son's allergies were full blown at beginning of the week, about the same time she cleaned house. And then the realization that it was the cleaners, just regular household cleaners that she was using to get her place squeaky clean. Well, she went into overdrive: she rid her house of all the cleaners she could possibly find & began to research into all natural cleaners, launching herself into a multi million dollar business. But I digress. The end result was that once upon making the switch to all natural cleaners, her son's allergies disappeared.

Practically the same situation with the couple that appeared on Oprah's Friday show. Their son was diagnosed with respiratory problems with the beginning signs of asthma that landed him in the hospital. A bit of research later they came across Shaklee, a line of all natural cleaning products. They switched & liked the products so much that they bought the company. Seriously? I digress again, the point is that their son recovered after the switch.

All natural cleaning products are just the way to go it seems. Whether it's Shaklee or Seventh Generation, these all natural products are better for the environment, all the while creating a cleaner environment for you.
All those dyes & perfumes in regular petroleum based cleaners are just creating a toxic environment at home, especially since with the aircon or central heating we tend to air our homes less & less. The result: we exist in our own self made oven.

So what should clean really smell like? Nothing. Clean apparently, has no smell. That's the way it should be, the good old natural way. So, why is it we have the sudden urge to light a scented candle when we smell nothing upon entering a room? What is this urge we have to making our interiors smell like lemons or some other scent?

Thursday, April 19, 2007

a change in plans

Well, it was only a matter of time. Rosie's summer gay cruise, All Aboard will not be coming to Bermuda. Her cruise company stated that if there was just one protest, the cruise would be cancelled & America would be told why. While I missed prior articles, I did manage to catch this one.

So will this end up hurting Bermuda & her tourism industry? Not so much. Here's what Rosie had to say on her R Family Vacations website. Interesting! This definitely gives us an insight on Bermuda's views & acceptance of the GLBT community. The Premier sure did save Bermuda from any backlash by welcoming Rosie & co.

However, I am disappointed for the children. A chance to see beautiful Bermuda! Unfortunately a chance lost. All because of the few protests by a few minority religious groups, Bermuda will now miss out on the tourist spending boost it could have received. And it would have been a significant boost.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

how many people does it take to change to a CFL bulb?

We're all witnessing the havoc Mother Nature is unleashing the world over, thanks to global warming. It's a warning that cannot be ignored. There's one thing WE all can do to lower greenhouse gases. I've written about it before & all it entails is taking a trip to your local hardware store. If you haven't yet changed that incandescent bulb & made the switch to the a CFL spiral bulb, now is the time. It's time to get involved & do you part to reduce greenhouse gases. Don't be discouraged by CFL's. They're great! We've been using them for years & would never go back to incandescents. Here are some reasons why making the switch will make a difference & leave you feeling happy:

CFL's are a huge money saver compared to the standard incandescents. They last longer too!

If every household were to change to just one CFL bulb, we could lower the equivalent emissions that are produced by millions of cars. That's a lot of reduction!

CFL's are now also made to produce soft ambient lighting, just like an incandescent bulb. Just look at the different varieties before picking one.

If you think a CFL is not as bright as an incandescent, get one that generates the incandescent equivalent of 60 watts. It's bright enough! Trust me. Any brighter and you'd be wearing your sunglasses at home.

When switched on, a CFL takes about a minute to warm up to reach it's brightest potential, so please have a little patience.

Don't dispose off your CFL's in the trash due to the presence of mercury in these bulbs which makes it work! Please take them to your hardware store to be recycled.

To my Bermudian residents: if you haven't indulged yourself in a CFL yet, please do get some on your next trip to the US or Canada, or just look for the gentleman selling them at the corner of Reid & Burnaby.

To my Indian residents: Check out this dude featured on the Project Porchlight site! Since you guys already use fluorescent lighting this post may not really apply. But I did get to see family in Dubai making the switch, which is pretty darn neat.

Please check out these links & get informed & involved. Time's running out!
CFL on Wikipedia
Canada's Project Porchlight
America's One Billion Bulbs

Thank You !

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Horseshoe bay

As the weather warms up every corner of Bermuda, summer is inaugurated by the plane & boatloads of tourists, first timers & repeat visitors, vying & raring to go for a taste of an island vacation. Almost all will visit Bermuda's most popular & celebrated beach, Horseshoe Bay. It's also reputed to be one of Bermuda's most beautiful as well. Shaped like its namesake, Horseshoe Bay is also very well equipped sporting a snack bar, rental & changing facilities. It's for this reason that Horseshoe is incredibly littered with tourists on any given summer day, with a flurry of activity that makes this beach come alive like no other.

Horseshoe Bay also has a couple of signs up to warn visitors of what to do in a couple of common occurrences (rip tides & jellyfish stings). This is the only beach with the signs up & necessary as it's the most popular beach. However, it's a couple of good tips to keep in mind & memorize when visiting any beach anywhere in the world.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

i never vote for anybody, i always vote against!

Hubby was reading an article last week which suggested that ex pats should stay out of Bermuda's politics. Now some may take offense to this saying that ex pats deserve the freedom of speech that is afforded to everyone else on the island. While it's all well & good that one would want to be educated, informed & perhaps a bit involved in & about local politics, I agree with the article.

I think it's the same situation anywhere you go. I highly doubt that ex pats in America are all worked up about the Bush Administration & the war or that ex pats in Canada are apt to be concerned about the constant state of elections that the Liberals & Conservatives find themselves battling in. These issues are of no concern to ex pats. Why would they be, especially since ex pats have no voting rights in the country where they reside. There's a reason we're called Guest Workers.

Thursday, April 12, 2007


How many fish have a tune or a song that it's associated with? Ok, maybe Jaws is one but I can think of just one other. The Barracuda! You know the song right? You must. Everyone's heard it. Unless you're of the later generation & are not given to listening to the oldies.

While I haven't seen one live & I'm not sure I want to, the Barracuda is sometimes seen around Bermuda's rocks & but definitely the further out you go. They are known for their fierce looks complete with sharp canine fang like teeth. Just look at it, fierce is right. This was taken at the Aquarium. The song does not do much for the Barracuda's image either as it evokes a sense of mystery, danger & caution. Barracuda's are meat eaters & are highly inquisitive about what swimming in & around their waters. Startle one & it will probably attack you thinking you're prey. But we've been told that Barracuda attacks are no more common that shark attacks. Barracudas are hunted though, not for their meat for for sport.

During one of our snorkel sessions last summer, SharkBoy was all excitement as he spotted a Barracuda just beyond the rocks at John Smith's. He ventured out further after giving us the news to check out this game fish. It wasn't long before he returned saying the barracuda began to circle him & so he decided it was time to leave. But that's not the first time Barracuda's have been spotted in that vicinity. So perhaps a little caution should be exercised when snorkelling
in deeper waters at John Smith's. While Barracudas generally won't attack unless they're provoked, who's to say? Better safe than sorry, right?

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

what's a jackfruit? you're about to find out...

In the last couple of years, Bermuda has evolved into a melting pot of guest workers. The island has seen an increase in ex pats from India, Sri Lanka, the Philippines & Africa, making Bermuda quite diverse. And everyone’s getting along fabulously, I might add. Some of the Filipino & Indian guest workers are employed in the hospitality industry while others are employed in various Accounting firms. Filipino Chefs are also employed at Marketplace (the local grocery store in town) & their presence is reflective of what’s on the shelves. I’d imagine they have a certain say in what they think the grocery store should indulge in when it comes to international foods & so exotic items from the Philippines & Thailand & the far East have become more prevalent.

Yesterday was a day of sorts, but the good kind. I stepped into the grocery store in town to get a few things & what I found just about pleased me to no end. Among the cans of Lychee, were also tins of Jackfruit. I was much too excited because I used to eat this when I was a kid, in India when they were in season. It’s been years since I’ve eaten some Jackfruit, so I didn’t hesitate to pick up a can. During our Dec ’05 India trip, I did not get to indulge in this fruit at our family's ancestral plantation for while it was on the tree, it was nowhere near grown to it's full size. But I did manage to take a picture to remind me of the younger days! Fast forward to now.

Looking at the can of Jackfruit (this one a product of Thailand), I was skeptical as it was tinned because the Chinese Jackfruit available in Toronto wasn’t as sweet & didn’t quite taste like the Indian Jackfruit. And that wasn’t even in a can. Well, the memories came flooding back as soon as I opened this can. The air was perfumed with the sweet smell of Jackfruit & as I turned around to show Hubby, he reached for the camera. Apparently the expression on my face was priceless. He said I looked like I was about to cry. Ok, maybe that’s true. But it tasted so good, even though the syrup it was in had a certain amount of sugar added. It still tasted just like I remember. Hubby also got his first taste. Yay! Jackfruit is now available in Bermuda. If you’ve never tasted this fruit, I definitely recommend trying it. For you island residents, it’s stacked on the shelf by the dairy products at the Marketplace in town. If you try it, come on back & let me know what you think.

Getting back to the increased diversity on the island, as I stepped out of the grocery store yesterday, a friendly Bermudian nods at me as I pass by & says ‘Namaste’ (Hello in Hindi). He even proceeded to join his hands Indian style as he said it. I laughed & stopped to chat with him, for I thought it very endearing. His willingness to learn & integrate different cultures is all too reflective of the changes taking place on this small island.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

the bermuda lily

The Easter Lily, aptly named is used today as a symbol of Christ's resurrection. The lily also symbolizes purity. Churches all over the world are decked with these lilies on Easter Sunday, also serving as a remembrance of loved ones that have passed on. It was, however, not always known as the Easter lily but rather by another name - the Bermuda Lily.

Some interesting facts about the Bermuda/Easter Lily:
- To prolong the life of your lily, remove the yellow anthers in the middle of the bloom.
- If the yellow staining pollen gets on fabrics or clothing, do not rub it off but rather use sticky tape.
- Keep your cats away from the Bermuda/Easter Lily plant as its leaves are considered poisonous & can cause kidney failure in felines.

The lily originated from the southern islands of Japan & was then introduced to Bermuda via England in 1853. Back then Bermuda was much an agricultural land & production of the Easter lilies took off by leaps & bounds. So much so, that the lily was christened the Bermuda Lily. But when a virus killed off most of the crop, production moved to Japan. The Bermuda Lily was also introduced to America (southern coast of Oregon) during WWI by an American soldier, to be grown as a hobby. Japan still continued to dominate the lily market but with the breakout of WWII & the attack on Japan, lily exports to America ceased. By then the lily growing hobby in America grew to a commercial business. Now the area along the California-Oregon border is responsible for 95% of the world's Easter Lily production.

While the lily is no longer known as the Bermuda Lily, it's still grown here, although on not so large a scale. During spring, one can see fields of Easter Lily shrubs & by close to Easter these shrubs have given way to fields of perfumed white lilies. Locals can be spotted selling lilies by the buckets for those who prefer a bunch or a single stalk.

If however, you're buying a potted Easter Lily plant, don't trash it when the lilies have bloomed & the plant has died down. Plant the pot in your garden where the bulbs will lie dormant until next spring. If you're dubious about whether they will spring & bloom the following year, consider this. The Easter lilies I bought years ago in Toronto still rise up every spring after lying dormant in the frozen ground over winter where Toronto temperatures can dip to -20 C. Amazing isn't it?

Friday, April 06, 2007

hot cross buns & cod fish cakes

Growing up, Good Friday has always been a day of fasting & observance with the 3:00 pm Good Friday Service that culminates in the giving out of hot cross buns. The nursery rhyme I learned as a child, always comes to mind on this day.
Hot cross buns, Hot cross buns
One a penny, two a penny, Hot cross buns
If you have no daughters, give them to your sons

One a penny, two a penny, Hot cross buns

Here in Bermuda things are done a bit different. The Good Friday Service takes place at 7:30 pm to allow for Bermuda's traditional kite flying during the day. Originally, the kites would not be flown until after 3:00 pm but now the day begins with families & their kites at parks & beaches, weather permitting of course.

Why kite flying & why on Good Friday? It all started when a local Sunday school teacher had trouble getting his students to understand & visualize Christ's Ascension into heaven & so launched a kite shaped in the likeness of Christ to better demonstrate what he was trying to get across. While Ascension is known to take place 40 days after Easter, the kites are now flown on Good Friday. The traditional Bermuda kite's frame still emulates the shape of the cross reflecting what Good Friday is all about. Some kites have long tails, available in various different colours & sizes.

Another Good Friday tradition, along with hot cross buns is cod fish cakes. Families here are busy prepping the night before indulging in creating batches of cod fish cakes. That was MsStopYourNoise's answer when I asked her yesterday what her plans were. Today she brought over some of her homemade fishcakes & hot cross buns. They were delish. Thanks MsStopYourNoise for sharing your country's traditions with us!

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

mum's the word

Bermuda is so small an island that inevitably people find out about other people's business. Makes sense for an island that houses 60,000+ people; someone's bound to know someone who knows someone. The ex pat community is even smaller. With the island being so competitive a place especially among the ex pat community, you best keep things quiet until you're satisfied with your final results & are ready to share. Try as you might to keep things under wraps, there's always a mole.

For example:
Being offered a new job does not guarantee that you have it until your work permit gets approved. And that could mean waiting for weeks, months in some cases. It can be a very stressful & frustrating time. There's nothing worse than the waiting game. And it's no source of comfort that the reason for the endless wait is that Bermuda's immigration always seems to be overloaded with work permit applications & so, are constantly reported to be backlogged.

Or another example:
Do not even think about discussing things when you're out & about.
You'd best find a quiet place to dialog the events of your work day for you never know who's passing by. You can forget about mentioning names. It's funny how many times people avoid trying to mention names when relegating stories, but inexplicably the name is dropped. An innocent mistake that's caused no harm if the name means nothing to you...

Or another:
You've recently met someone you don't like. Pissed you off have they? Too bad! Suck it up & don't even think about sharing & naming names. You never know who knows who on this island. Sometimes even newcomers have friends in high places.

In your big hometown city back home you could tell Tom, Dick & Harry & none would be the wiser. In Bermuda, 'Ex pat discretion is advised', as Tom, Dick & Harry may know each other very well indeed!

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

wind in the willows

Hubby's nephew & niece (The Poser & Smoochie) in Georgia are experiencing their first spring since their move from NY. They are not liking it, complaining that their allergies are worse in GA than in NY. I really do feel for them. I don't know what it's like to grow up with allergies. Hubby says it's a royal pain or at least it was when he was growing up.

For you allergy sufferers that are going to be vacationing or moving here to Bermuda soon, fear not. Bermuda is virtually ragweed free & pollen from other weeds are blown out to the sea. One of the benefits of being a small island. That pollen has nowhere to go but yonder, littering the waters, where it's probably nibbled up by some small fry.
However, you're not out of the woods yet. Extra care must be taken as Bermuda's damp climate does give rise to mold & mildew indoors, if your place is not properly & adequately ventilated. But this is something that can be easily practiced. Besides, who doesn't love a good island breeze?

Monday, April 02, 2007

back on the island

Oh, how I missed the water....