Thursday, May 31, 2007

a state funeral & a day off

This week saw the passing away of a prominent female political leader, Dame Louis Brown-Evans, who would have celebrated her 80th birthday today. To honour her & her life's work, Bermuda has decreeded a state funeral for Tuesday the fifth, and along with it a public holiday. A funeral route has yet to be planned. Many businesses are upset with the short notice of Tuesday being declared a public holiday, as they scramble to rearrange their schedules. Businesses in the tourist industry, are further upset that Tuesday will have them shelling out time & a half pay or double pay for their employees, if they are to remain open for the tourists (which is more than likely).

Reminds me of the passing away of any one of the Sheiks in Dubai or neighbouring emirates in the UAE, which would yeild a mourning period of anywhere from three to seven days, depending on the prominence of the Sheik. Businesses had to be shut down yes, but so did all the fun. Now the UAE is the most liberal Muslim country there is, but when they say a period of mourning, they mean it! The local channels would cease their regular programming & all that would be broadcasted were prayers & the Quran teachings. For those that couldn't afford the then very expensive satellite programming, video stores along with family get-togethers were the only option of entertainment for the next few days. Families would meet up, planning out the next seven days & taking turns hosting, but keeping it toned down on the outside for the most part. Once indoors, it was a different story. I'd imagine a lot has changed in terms of the mourning period. Still seems like a lot of restrictions I know, but all taken with a grain of salt.

So, what's it going to be like in Bermuda on Tuesday? I'm sure many will turn out to pay their respects to the deceased. Some may spend the day with their families, while others may hit the beach, weather permitting. It's a day off & no matter what you do it will definitely
be overshadowed by the fact that this day off has been brought about by someone's passing away. And that's always a sad thing.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

island breeze

The cool island breeze whips through the curtains hanging in the window to traverse further into the room to meet the breeze blowing in by the open sliding doors adjacent to the window. I love that cross breeze ventilation, don't you? That's the beauty of an island breeze - keeps the humidity down. Of course, it helps when your place is higher up on a hill. Much to many of our guests' surprise, Air Cons are not required.

Although, we do suffer as the seasons change & what is ordinarily bliss during the summer turns into a miss in the winter, when our place is cooler & more damp than the norm. Heaters are definitely required.

But winter is a long way off & the appropriate attire has been tucked away to make room for summer's necessities. Besides the summer shorts, out come the beachwear, snorkel masks & beach mats. Now all we need is a summer song & maybe a hammock for the patio!

Monday, May 28, 2007

bermuda's gombeys

The Gombeys make their appearance on Bermuda Day & during the summer Harbour Nights, every Wednesday. Hugely popular among tourists & locals alike, they are Bermuda's very own cultural icons. The word Gombey is an African word meaning 'rhythm' & their dances, created by the slaves during the 17th century are borrowed from African, American Indian & Caribbean cultures with influences from the British Military & English Mummers.

Gombeys came about during the days of slavery. Many slaves were not allowed to partake in their traditional African dances & those that were, were brutally punished by their owners. That's when they incorporated the use of masks to hide their identities as partook in the Gombey festivitie
s. With the masks, the owners could not identify which slaves were theirs, giving the Gombeys the liberty to dance to their heart's content. The hats are topped off with peacock feathers & are also colourful & elaborate much like the rest of the Gombey costume, which is heavily influenced by Native American tradition. Their capes are elaborate featuring mirrored glass placed to a certain pattern, much like the traditional clothing culture of Northern India. Today some have their costumes personalized to their liking, with one young dancer even featuring SpongeBobSquarePants on his hat & cape.

The main characters in the group of dancers are the Captain, the Chief, the Trapper & the Wild Indian, all playing their part to demonstrate oppression, combat & celebration with each dance having its own song. Some carry tomahawks & shields.

Gombeys are not exclusive to Bermuda. The West Indies is the inspiration for the Gombey dance as many of Bermuda's original Gombey dancers originated from St. Kitts. I love watching the little two to six year olds that take part in the Gombey dance, while the youngest ones unsure & perhaps a bit uncoordinated from the rest of the team, are definitely entertaining & lively to look at. Attached is a collage of Gombey shots taken at last October's Gombey Festival. In addition, for your viewing pleasure, VIDEOS of the Gombey's various dances are featured from Bermuda Day 2005, Harbour Nights - Summer 2006 & the Bda Gombey Festival - Oct 2006. Enjoy!

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

you can call me onion !

Bermuda at one point used to known as the 'Onion Patch'. This was many many years ago. In 1660, Bermuda got her first onion seeds from England & with its ideal soil & climate conditions, production of the sweet tasting onions began. They were also exported primarily & heavily to the US. The onions were so popular that Bermudians also began to be known as 'Onions'.

The trade did not last for long, however. Texas managed to re-create these ideal growing conditions & with its large mass of land was able to surpass Bermuda's onion production, eventually putting the onion export market out of business.

But the name has stuck around. So, when you come across a plethora of souvenirs featuring onions & are wondering why onions, now you know.

spf yourself !

Now that beach weather has finally hit Bermuda, albiet a bit late, sunblock will soon be a mandatory accessory before we leave home to hit the beach. Bermuda's sun is very very intense & whether you plan on getting tanned or not, a beach umbrella is a must. Since we're at the beach almost every weekend during the summer, we're exposed to the sun a lot more than normal. But I hate wearing sunblock. I grew up under the blazing sun & never wore sunscreen until I came to Canada where upon, Hubby insisted I wear it. It's all too important, he'd say. But I'm fine, I'd tell him. I grew up under the desert sun & have never used it. Doesn't matter, he says. Now's the time to slap some on. And everytime I do slap it on, I cringe as it enters my pores, wondering what exactly is sunblock made of. It can't be good.

The sun is not so intense in Dubai or in Bombay. Sure one's a desert & the other is a sub tropical locale, with summer temperatures always passing the 35 deg C mark but yet no sunscreen. As a brown person, I have more melanin in my skin than the average white person. But even I've noticed the difference in the sun's intensity in Canada & Bermuda. With both these countries being at a higher latitude than Dubai or Bombay, the summer sun feels more intense here when the earth's axis tilts more to the north. Intensity is key. I can feel my skin 'roast' at a mere 25 deg C & so even I grudingly slather on the SPF to protect myself.

Since I'm at it, I figure I may as well go for sunblock, with the highest SPF I can find.
The higher the SPF, the more the protection I can get against those harmful UV rays (apparently Bermuda has a higher concentration of UV rays). It doesn't prevent me from getting darker, not that I care. I love it when I get darker & usually it's by several several shades. The tan evens out my skin tone & makes those dark circles under my eyes blend in with the rest of my face. My friend, Kate is adamant that there does exist certain types of sunblock that will do just that - prevent you from getting a tan. But why would you want that ask my non-brown friends. They're just happy to get a tan without getting burned. Getting burned? Now that's a whole other story. Fortunately, not something I've experienced so I don't give it another thought, until our friends talk about how they spent too much time in the sun over the weekend, ending up badly burned in pain, looking like a lobster. At the end of the day they look at us & ask, why aren't you burned? You don't get burned, do you? Sorry my friends. There's not much I can say except that I really really wish you didn't burn either.

Monday, May 21, 2007

at a snail's pace

A while back, the Bermuda Post had a new mission statement about processing & distributing mail in a more efficient & timely matter. I can't get an exact quote because their site is down at the moment.

Hubby's cousin in Georgia sent us school pictures of her kids, ThePoser & Smoochie (Thanks Lady!). She mailed them from GA on the 2nd, it was processed in Bermuda on the 14th yet we only received it in our mailbox today.

So, what may I ask, was it doing for an entire week on the island before it got to us? Distribution should only take TWO days after processing. It's not that big an island!

I guess all in all it's not that bad. At least it got here & at least it got here before the May 24 Bermuda Day holiday.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

happy hour

The common misconception is that the island life is an idyllic life. But for many expats it's all in a hard day's work. Depending on who & whom you work for, your days can be long & many a time working on the weekends tends to be somewhat of a weekly routine, all with unpaid overtime. So, when Friday comes around, regardless of whether you're going to be working on the weekend, it's time to let loose. And Friday's Happy Hour is just the place to do that. Never mind that you may show up for work on Saturday with a slight hangover. Besides if you're not getting paid to be there on the weekend, does the state of one's mind really matter? Hotels & restaurants convert their outdoor spaces into an oasis of drinks, finger food & music. It's the place to meet, greet & network (for your own personal interests, of course). It's definitely the place to be to catch up with friends or especially if you're single & looking to meet someone special. (I've been told that this is the place where singles go to scout each other out). And why not? An island romance is just the right touch that can balance those work/life scales. Really, can there be a better setting?

an informal party

The traditional office Christmas party is being rescheduled by many companies to a better suited time, the middle of the year. There are many reasons that companies are starting to adopt this change. Some speculate that an office party should not be linked to Christmas & so should not be called as such. But on this highly religious largely Christian island, I can't see that as being one of the reasons, especially when Grace is said before the buffet is opened for the evening (I was a bit surprised about this too). Others state the reason for the change is so that everyone is more likely & available to attend during the middle of the year as most leave the island during the Christmas season & are MIA.

Regardless of when it's held, I love the informal atmosphere of the formal office parties held here in Bermuda. Skits that mock the very essence of what the company is about or how efficient employees really are
during work hours is a fresh take especially when the head honchos are present. And let me tell you, names are definitely dropped during the skit, but it's all in good fun. Discarding any inhibitions of office etiquette all the while not going overboard is a perfect medium of how one really ought to enjoy their company's annual bash.

And while companies do expect a certain modicum of behaviour, we've heard some horror stories of employees gone wild, dancing on table tops, crashing down & not leaving a very good impression of themselves & their ablility (or should I say inability) to handle their liquor. It's a rude awakening the next morning & a tough lesson learned when heading in to work on Monday morning.

This is why I can't ever have more than a couple of drinks. I really don't have a high threshold for alcohol & I wouldn't want to be known as that drunk person at the party. Besides, in my state of stupor, I could never trust myself to not do or say something ridiculous which would definitely come back to bite me, sometime or another.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

moms have magic

Before I moved out of my parent's place, my mom & I would have our daily ritual of cooking dinner together. We'd often get home from work at the same time & so would begin our evening cooking & chatting about daily events, people we know, things of the past. Sometimes, we'd laugh so hard about something so silly, my brother Newt would mysteriously appear to find out what was so funny. He'd suddenly want to be in on our conversation.

Not much has changed since I've moved out. Sure we don't cook together anymore, but we still talk everyday, about everything & everyone. And since mom is quite internet savy it makes it easier to communicate. My Dad is sometimes amazed at the rate of speed that information gets to me before he's had a chance to tell me about it. So much so that he doesn't bother anymore. He starts off with: Well, I guess you already know or Well I'm sure mom's already told you. Sometimes, I have to pretend (at Mom's request) that I know nothing just to make Dad & Newt happy. But that doesn't even work anymore. Somehow they've caught on. Well they don't really read my blog so I can pretty much say what I want about them here & they'd be none the wiser.

I love that my mom & me are close. She had the same relationship with her no-nonsense mother & I grew up watching the same dynamic between my dad's sister & his mom. I would wish that when I grew up my mom & I would be able to have the same dynamic. And it's fun I tell you. Bitch sessions with your mom are the best. It just makes life more fun! Thanks mom for all the GOOD times! Hope you had a wonderful Mother's Day.

Here's a little something I came across earlier in the week that I thought too cute not to share:

Responses from school children in the US.

Why did God make mothers?
1. She's the only one who knows where the scotch tape is.
2. Mostly to clean the house.
3. To help us out of there when we were getting born.

How did God make mothers?
1. He used dirt, just like for the rest of us.
2. Magic plus super powers and a lot of stirring.
3. God made my Mom just the same like he made me. He just used bigger parts.

What ingredients are mothers made of?
1. God makes mothers out of clouds and angel hair and everything nice in the world and one dab of mean.
2. They had to get their start from men's bones. Then they mostly use string, I think.

Why did God give you Your mother and not some other mom?
1. We're related.
2. God knew she likes me a lot more than other people's moms like me.

What kind of little girl was your mom?
1. My Mom has always been my Mom and none of that other stuff.
2. I don't know because I wasn't there, but my guess would be pretty bossy.
3. They say she used to be nice.

What did Mom need to know about dad before she married him?
1. His last name.
2. She had to know his background. Like is he a crook? Does he get drunk on beer?
3. Does he make at least $800 a year? Did he say NO to drugs and YES to chores?

Why did your Mom marry your dad?
1. My dad makes the best spaghetti in the world. And my Mom eats a lot.
2. She got too old to do anything else with him.
3. My grandma says that Mom didn't have her thinking cap on.

Who's the boss at your house?
1. Mom doesn't want to be boss, but she has to because dad's such a goof ball.
2. Mom. You can tell by room inspection. She sees the stuff under the bed.
3. I guess Mom is, but only because she has a lot more to do than dad.

What's the difference between Moms & Dads?
1. Moms work at work and work at home & dads just go to work at work.
2. Moms know how to talk to teachers without scaring them.
3. Dads are taller & stronger, but Moms have all the real power 'cause that's who you got to ask if you want to sleep over at your friend's.
4. Moms have magic, they make you feel better without medicine.

What does your Mom do in her spare time?
1. Mothers don't do spare time.
2. To hear her tell it, she pays bills all day long.

What would it take to make your Mom perfect?
1. On the inside she's already perfect. Outside, I think some kind of plastic surgery.
2. Diet. You know, her hair. I'd diet, maybe blue.

If you could change one thing about your Mom, what would it be?
1. She has this weird thing about me keeping my room clean. I'd get rid of that.
2. I'd make my Mom smarter. Then she would know it was my sister who did it and not me.
3. I would like for her to get rid of those invisible eyes on the back of her head.


Friday, May 11, 2007

this blog is officially a year old!

It's my mom's birthday today. Happy Birthday Mom! I wish I were there to celebrate it with you!

It's also this blog's one year mark! I can't believe how much about Bermuda I have penned & wonder if I will ever run out of things to say. I also can't believe how quickly the year has gone by. But then again, time & tide waits for no man & the years are passing us by ever so quickly. In fact, this has been the topic of conversation with most of my childhood & high school friends whom I have recently been reconnecting with over Orkut & FaceBook over the past few months. Friends I haven't spoken to for at least 10 years. All have been remarking on how here we are 10 years later, 10 years older, still not knowing how time has flown by.

So, how do we make the best of things in the here & now? Live life to the fullest? Well, that's a start.
We get so busy & sometimes making plans months in advance to fit our schedule, not knowing if we're going to be here next week. No one really thinks about it. And that's a scary thought. I'm not trying to be morbid but there's a reason for today's reality check.

The ill fated Kenya Air crash last Saturday left me shaking my head.
No survivors. Thousands of miles away, on another continent, far removed from anyplace or anyone I know. Rescue efforts were on a couple of days later, which was being transmitted on BBC. So, I watched for about a minute & then changed the channel thinking (and I don't know why): No one I know would be on that plane. Or so I thought. This tragedy was about to hit close to home.

One of my childhood friend's husband was on that plane. A couple of days before the crash we were catching up & eventually began chatting about our husbands. When asked about hers, she said he was due to come home from his work that takes him around the world. Shock & disbelief reeled among the large group of us friends & family. Many of us, including me, had never met her husband, but heartfelt sympathies began to pour out to her from all corners. While she, along with her family deals with their loss, we are left with the stark reminder that life is much too short & unpredictable.

My friend, may you be comforted & strengthened by your memories of your husband & may he rest in peace.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

where in the world is bermuda?

Bermuda is so small an island, that many know not where it lies. Of course, the common misconception is that lies among the Caribbean Islands. Not so! Bermuda is so much more north of that collection of islands. It's the northern most island in the world that can support a tropical coral reef system. All possible because of the Gulf Stream - a current of warm water that flows from the south, that cordons off Bermuda from the US. The Gulf stream does more than support & sustain Bermuda's tropical life. Its existence protects Bermuda from most of the hurricanes that are en route to the US, thereby enabling most hurricanes to bypass this tiny tiny rock. Hurrah for the Gulf Stream!

So, for so many of you who ask me the location of Bermuda, here's your answer.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

all roads lead to three

Can you really get lost in Bermuda? It's only 22 square miles & all roads lead to one of three. There's the North, Middle & South Road and no matter where you are you can pretty much bank on finding your way back to one these three, depending on where on the island you are. The names of all three road are self explanatory.

North and South Roads will yield you fantastic views of the water.
Most of the north side of the island is rocky with perhaps a couple of exceptions. But the view is beautiful nonetheless. Beaches are existent on the south side of the island and this is the route you want to take if you've got visitors and want to show off Bermuda's beauty or if you yourself just want a welcoming sight for sore eyes. These views will render you speechless, either that or you'll be ooing and aahing through the ride. Don't forget to make those pit stops! South Road is also at a much higher altitude than the beaches are which makes the views even more spectacular. Pictures taken at this angle on a sunny day makes for lovely unbeatable photographic memories. But no photograph, regardless of the kind of camera used, does the water and its colours any justice. It's just something you have to see for yourself.

And finally, as promised, a slideshow of Bermuda's Beautiful Blues.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

the unfinished church

We were always taught to respect churches. After all it's a place of worship, the house of God. So, it was definitely interesting & oddly disconcerting when I first came across the concept of a converted church in Canada. Family in the Middle East & India reading this are probably shocked. A converted church?

Perhaps, this concept was new to me because growing up all I was surrounded by were Catholic churches & never heard of one needing to be converted into anything. It was always filled to the brim over the years - sections had to added to accommodate the change. So, I should explain that most of these Canadian conversions were of churches belonging to other denominations. When the congregation begins to dwindle due to relocation or other factors, it is decided that the church can perhaps be put to better use, instead of running on empty. Decided by whom? I'm not sure. Maybe the government?

So, what can you possibly convert a church into? Well, homes or lofts for one. Sold to developers, this makes for quite the hot property in Toronto. I've seen some of these converted churches & they naturally posses strong bones with such an old world charm, the wooden beams that seem to prop & support the high ceilings, the brick finish on the interior walls - just my style. Yet, somehow I just can't see myself living in such a space. I feel I'd be bordering on something along the lines of blasphemy with every conjured image of a congregation in worship, of a baptismal or marriage celebration, of a funeral service. This is what would hold me back & Hubby too, shares my sentiments.

Going from converted churches in Canada to an unfinished church in Bermuda. This Unfinished Church in St. George began its construction Gothic style in 1874 but was never to be completed. While it was meant to replace another older church, (St. Peter's Church) just down the street, financial difficulties delayed completion. Furthermore, the Anglican congregation then split, with the other half deciding to instead renovate St. Peter's instead. They say bad things happen in threes? Well, just as funds were finally accumulated many years later, the final blow was dealt. The church was severely damaged during a 1926 hurricane on the eve of its completion. The Unfinished Church is, however, beautiful & peaceful as it stands in its uncompleted form. It is a national historic monument in Bermuda & a part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site. It's also a part of the do it yourself walking tour of the town of St. George's, which encompasses many other historic delights.