Sunday, February 24, 2008

Free for all?

Bermuda makes about $12 million USD annually from public transportation (including ferry rides). A fair chunk of this change comes from the many tourists that visit the island. Bermuda has long since stopped car rental service here on the island, so it's either taxis or public transportation for the tourists. In an effort to curb traffic and to encourage residents to go the public transportation route, a proposal had been made last year to offer this service for free.

What was interesting however is the way that the proposal was re announced last week. It was stated that this free service of public transportation would be made available to all Bermudians (senior citizens already travel free of charge - take a page Toronto!). Bermuda is fast becoming an even more expensive island to live in and with many Bermudians having to work two to three jobs just to make ends meet,
I thought well, it would only make sense that this service be offered exclusively to Bermudians. The island has to take care of its own. Besides most expats can bloody well afford to pay the bus/ferry fare, given that a monthly unlimited pass costs about $54

But then someone made a stink about the way it was announced and the statements were revised to state that expats would also be included in the free public transport deal. Honestly, I don't think the proposal was meant to exclude expats. I think they were thinking more along the lines of visitors vs residents and it sounded easier being stated this way. This proposal was a pre-election promise and (read between the lines here) such promises have to be tailored to appeal to the eligible voters on the island, i.e. Bermudians. There's no such thing as being clear cut and concise in the political world anywhere, is there?

Friday, February 22, 2008

Barnes, Johnny Barnes

For many, Friday signals the weekend, a break from a work week that for some may be hellish. Let's face it, not everyone likes their job, some even loathe it. That Confucius saying: 'Do what you love and you will never work a day in your life'? Yeah, that may apply to only a minuscule of a population. However much you dread your job, can't stand to work with the people around you, cringe at the very thought of going in, fear not if you're in Bermuda because this island has a secret weapon. He's called Barnes, Johnny Barnes.

Mr. Barnes stands at the busiest round-a-bout in Bermuda (more specifically in Hamilton) every weekday morning from 5:00am to 10:00am and greets commuters with a never ending chorus of 'Good Morning' and 'God Bless You' and 'I Love You' which sounds like 'Ilovya, Ilovya, Ilovya' (because let's face it, he has to make sure he targets every person that's driving through. That's a lot of I Love Yous. Tagging him as you drive right past him is a must and will most assuredly get you the widest smile you didn't think possible. Mr. Barnes does not care if you're local or expat, black or white, woman or man. Rain or shine, Mr. Barnes is out there, appropriately attired for the weather and sticks around even when traffic increases and spews out exhaust fumes that are unbearable. He will tag you, smile and wave at you and holler I Love Yous because he knows that's the start of a good day and those smiles are so very contagious. He will stop to have his picture taken anywhere (like the one above featuring a resident and her visiting mother), hand you his very own postcard (which he sells for a dollar) and will also pray with you (amist the hustle and bustle of traffic) before he sends you off.

Johnny Barnes started
greeting commuters in 1983. He was about 60 at the time. A retired bus driver, born of migrant parents that originated from the West Indies island of St. Kitts, Mr. Barnes is also known as the 'Happy Man'. His message of love has inspired many and the fact that he's still going strong 20 years later, is a testament to how much love this man truly has for everyone. Mr. Barnes has been honoured with a 6 1/2 foot statue of himself in his most famous pose and has also been honoured by Queen Elizabeth II. He truly is the island's most famous resident and at 84 there is no stopping him.
You can read more about Johnny Barnes here or here.

Below is a short (4 second) video of Johnny Barnes. Apologies for the squished funny look and the not so great quality
(Mr. Barnes is not that short and it's a long story).

video

Thursday, February 21, 2008

A total eclipse of the...

When I was about three or so, I managed to burn my hand on a hot iron whilst my mother was ironing. I can't remember which hand it was, but I literally laid my palm flat against the hot iron as it stood upright on the board. I don't know why I did it. She did tell me moments before to be careful of the iron and that it was hot. Perhaps I wanted to find out what hot really meant. What do three year olds know anyway? Oh! you can imagine the tears, the howling and the screams that followed. My grandfather, who was living with us in Dubai at the time, gathered me up in his arms, as my mother applied the best salve she had. I continued screaming to no end. In an attempt to stop my howling, he took me up on the terrace of our villa and began to sing while pointing out the moon and stars (and boy could the man sing!). It was all so distracting, that I soon forgot all about my throbbing palm and stopped crying as the songs turned into stories about the stars in the sky. They say stars are brighter in a desert sky? It's true. I remember it all so clearly, even to this day. It's a lovely memory, and perhaps this is the reason why I have always been fascinated by the moon, the stars and astronomy. One of the neat things about Bermuda is that the stars shine brighter here and are more visible due to the absence of street lighting. This is a pleasure forgone when living in a big city. Visitors will actually notice without us even prompting or letting on. A full moon reflecting off the ocean is just as breathtaking. The pictures on the right taken during our first year is proof of just how beautiful the full moon can be. OK, so I love the moon, and that would make sense because I am such a night owl.

Last evening, I actually managed to check out The Royal Gazette online only to find that there would be a Total Lunar Eclipse taking place at around 9:00pm and apparently Bermuda would be the best place to be to view it. Amid my excitement, I called our landlady, MsStopYourN
oise, only to have her tell me that it would be taking place around 11:00pm and that I should know not to trust The Royal Gazette by now. I told her there was no way I was going to miss the eclipse, no matter what time it made its debut. I got camera ready and headed out around 11:00 pm. Many many shots later and after fiddling around with the camera options, here are my a few of MY favourite shots (which don't do the actual sighting any justice whatsoever) taken with MY Sony Cybershot Digital Cam (that's literally on its last leg). Last night left me wishing I had my telescope here in Bermuda, so I could have got a closer look of the moon as it went from bright white to a deep red during the eclipse (absolutely gorgeous). Had I known earlier there was going to be an eclipse, I would have told EVERYONE! The Royal Gazette was right about one thing though: Bermuda just may have been the best place to view the eclipse, not only because of its mild cool evening, but because it offered us a view of the eclipse in a cloudless sky.
We would have celebrated my Grandfather's 96th birthday this Saturday the 24th. And so, Grandpa, this one's for you...for distracting me with the moon.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Jinx

I think I might have jinxed it, because it's dull and dreary here today. Very dull and very dreary. And not to mention damp and rainy. The slew of cars making their way into town was a line so long. Of course, wet Bermuda roads will give anyone a reason to commute via car as opposed to a bike. With the series of dips in many of Bermuda's roads, it's not fun being on a bike and getting splashed and showered with an unholy amount of less than clean water as the big cars and buses zip past. Here is where a good quality rainsuit comes in handy, because here in Bermuda, when it rains it really pours (from all sides).

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Let's just ask the groundhog

Many ask whether it snows here in Bermuda and the answer to that is NO!
That's why we moved here. Joke! Our real motivation was the almost tax free income. So, no it does not snow. Maybe a chance of hail and that's as close to snow as it gets. That's how close Bermuda's residents would want it to get.

The other question I'm asked is: what's the weather like in February? Will it rain? Will I be able to go to the beach? May I just say, it's hit or miss. I can't predict what it's going to be like next week but it's been extraordinarily dry thus far for February. If you are visiting Bermuda this month and are hoping for this trend to continue, well, then it just may. But don't take my word for it. Take a groundhog's.

What's a groundhog got to do with the weather, you ask? Many in Bermuda have not even heard of the whole concept of Groundhog Day (which I honestly do not get the point of even now). Bermuda does not need a groundhog, anyway. We have just two seasons, Summer and Spring. But how two first world nations (that means you, Canada & America) can leave spring weather predictions to an animal, I'll never understand. I guess every country is quirky in its own way, but seriously. A groundhog prediction on how much longer winter is going to last, depending on whether or not it sees its own shadow, when it comes out of it burrow on the appointed day? Come on!

Friday, February 15, 2008

Ninja spider

This was taken at Admirality Cove, north of Hamilton. I don't know what kind of spider it's supposed to be, but it looks like the Ninja of all spiders. I think I'm going to call it NINJA SPIDER. It's like a cross between a tarantula, a crab and a spider (and I say that because you're actually looking at the underside of the spider). Getting a front shot was not an option, unless I could fly. Sometimes I wonder where these things come from. You'll not find a spider like this in Canada and it's thing I've had to get used to upon moving here. Oh, the bugs! And you know how I previously said I don't mind spiders sticking around, well, I'd not want this thing anywhere near me. It looks mighty mean (the closer and longer you look, the meaner it gets), like it could do some serious damage and because of that, naming it is as far as I'm going to go.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Travel nonsense

One would think that due to its close proximity to the Caribbean, there would be direct flights from Bermuda to these other sunny islands. Alas, no. Because that would actually make sense. Instead, flights with a stop over in Miami, is how one would be able to get to the Caribbean from Bermuda (or vice versa). There's also longer non-direct flights where one would actually have a stopover in NY or Philly or Washington before heading to the Caribbean. Looking at the map from yesterday's post, you can see that you're practically backtracking, literally flying up North just to get down further South. Because this actually makes sense. And finally there are non-direct flights from Bermuda to say Miami, with stop overs in NY or even Philly. But of course you'd not want to take a flight like this, unless you're forced to - like if you missed your initial direct flight and have to wait around and take whatever's available. It's been known to happen.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Where exactly are we?

Apropos to yesterday's post, here's some further clarification as to where exactly this island is located. There is much confusion. I'm always asked, Where is Bermuda and how far is it from home (Toronto). I took the liberty of digitally capturing this map (seen many times before but on not such large a scale). Keep in mind that in the map shown here, Bermuda is not to scale with the rest of North America, and that the Caribbean Islands (not shown here) are South of Miami. And so presenting....

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Just what do you mean by Bajan?

About a month ago, I received an anonymous comment on this post, asking me: "Isn't it Bajan, rather than Bermudian?" At first, I wasn't sure what they meant and I hesitated to publish the comment, lest 'Bajan' was a derogatory word of some sort, especially since it came from an anonymous commenter. Where I come from, Bajan or a variation of it, is the Indian (Hindi) word for a song of worship, a hymn if you will. So, you really never know, do you? Different words mean so many things in different languages. Like 'Puta' is a term of endearment for one's child in yet another Indian language (Konkani) and also means son in the Sri Lankan language, Sinhalese, but at the other end of the spectrum, 'Puta' is the vulgar word for a prostitute in Spanish (and we all know what that is). Go figure!

So, I looked up the term Bajan, because there was no way I was going to have any derogatory comments on this site. Turns out it isn't a derogatory term at all, but it actually means Barbadian Creole (an English based Creole language). And perhaps this is where the confusion lies. Bermuda is not part of the Caribbean, nor anywhere near it. It it were, then yes the term Bajan would most definitely apply in this case. Bermuda also does not like to be told that it's part of the Caribbean and will proudly point out that it's part of North America, and is an island in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean off of the American East Coast. And Bermuda is not part of America either. It is not the 51st state (wait I thought that was reserved for Canada) and it is not an American territory either. It is clearly a British overseas territory, with the Queen as the Head of State and it's own independent Parliament to match. In fact, Bermudians take pride that they're not part of the Caribbean and will so vehemently remind you of this fact. I get the feeling they like to be known as the lone ranger in the vast deep blue sea, in that context.

So, don't you dare get it wrong again. Pull out a map! Because is that really so hard? You may not find Bermuda because it is so tiny, it barely makes a blimp on the map. Regardless, it's no excuse, you hear. Totally unacceptable! It's like someone saying to an Indian: Hey, aren't you from Pakistan? (such a running joke for me growing up) Or someone mistaking a Canadian for an American (such a running joke for me now).

Joke! Joke! Joke! Come now, you know I love you, my American peeps.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Have you lost a floodlight?

I came across this in The Royal Gazette today:

Have you lost a floodlight?
Police are searching for the owners of a 1,500 watt floodlight which was seized during a raid in Smith's last month.
Officers have made inquiries with the Island's sports clubs but have so far been unable to find the rightful owner of the large silver light, which is attached to a box marked 'Hubbell'.
Anyone with information about the item should contact the St. George's criminal investigation unit at Southside Police Station on 278-5105 or 293-2222.

1,500 Watts? I mean really, aren't we under an environmental crisis of some kind? Something about employing energy efficient means to utilise current non renewable resources wisely? Something about burning less fuel? Something about Global Warming? And really, why would anyone want to steal a 1,500 watt floodlight, anyway? Why take on the blame for being so wasteful? There's a reason why it' hasn't been claimed yet. They know they are going to be marked as solely responsible for reaching the levels of CO2 for Bermuda. 1,500 watts! Honestly, some one's not got their head screwed on right!

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Your mom has an ipod ???

You've left Home to come here to work and reside on this island as an expat, but you've never really left home. Have you heard that before? No? Well, that's because I just made it up. When I say you've never really left home, I mean that you still carry it with you. Your hangouts, your routes, roads that you know like the back of your hand. If you're a woman, malls that you know like the back of your hand, and not to mention mall timings that have been ingrained in your memory. Frequent or once a year trips made back home will only reaffirm how much you have not forgotten your hometown and how these yearly trips home never really let you forget as you revisit your favourite haunts.

My mother is probably the most technologically involved female of her generation. I'm talking about an MS Office Advanced+ user, who knows the difference between Explorer and Firefox, who owns more iPods than most and is on her way to acquiring the new iPhone (apparently she can't wait and funnily enough her brother, UncleTigerBeer doesn't seem to get what the big deal is). Surprising, yes? Perhaps I take it for granted now, but where was this hip cool mom 20 years ago? Could you imagine the gadgets we'd have had as toys? Anyway, I realise not every mom of her generation is as tec
hnologically inclined as she is.

Case in point: a few years ago when I first mentioned in passing to my brother-in-law about my mom's iPod Mini, he looked at me with this shocked expression on his face and said (I kid you not) THREE times:
"Your mom has an iPod?
"
"Yes" (in a matter of fact tone)
"Your mom has an iPod?" (with slightly more emphasis)
"Yes" (a little more matter of fact)
"Your mom has an iPod?" (with maximum emphasis)
"Yessssssss"
"Why?" says he.
"To listen to music." says I. "You know music? The thing that everyone listens to."
"Yes. Yes." says he. And then, "Oh." Like she's one of those moms.

Yes I know, I do have the memory of an elephant! Now I'm not going to give out her exact age, because this blog will be shut down faster than any one can say, 'Your mom has an iPod?' But suffice to say she's of the baby boom era, the LATE LATE baby boom era. So here she is, v
ery computer savvy, knows all about MSN Messenger, Google Talk, Google Maps...the works. Oh and I can't forget YouTube. That one's her favourite. Not to mention iTunes (for how else would she be able to update her ipods). My dad's catching upto to her quite nicely, too! I mean this is what I came home to one evening after a night out during Christmas week in Toronto. Yes, they both actually have their own laptops (who needs a built in intercom when you need to get a message across while on different floors of the house - that's what cell phones and chat programs are there for!). But that's not what they're doing here. Here they are working.
So, for all their tech savvyness (we can blame my brother for this one), there are some things my mother will still message me (here in Bermuda) about my hometown that is Toronto, bearing in mind I haven't lived in Toronto for the past three years not counting the yearly one week visits.

Questions like:
"What time does the mall close on Saturday." (Yes, she means the mall by her Toronto home, my former place of residence, which also has its own website - the mall not the house).
"What bus route do I take if I want to get to Place X". OR
"What subway stop should I get off at, if I want to get to Place Y."

It's not that Mom's lazy because lazy is not a word in her dictionary, it's just that she claims she busy with other things. Sometimes I'll give her the answers right away if I know them or I'll look them up. But sometimes, just sometimes, I'll tease her saying: "You know Mom, I don't live in Toronto anymore. I've been in Bermuda for like three years now. You can't expect me to remember all this stuff anymore."

And her response is, "Well look it up. I'm too busy to do it. Besides, what else are you there for? You're my secretary."

As you can see, she's also a funny one. And since she'll read about this sometime today, first thing she'll say is:
Stupid Girl (with a slight Indian accent) Why are you writing about me???

And Hubby reading this will laugh at my Mom calling me Stupid Girl, since he's heard her call me that before and thinks it's hilarious that my Mom addresses me so. He's even dared to repeat it as he laughs. The nerve!

What the ****

No matter how macho an expat guy is, no matter how tall, or big or big boned, or fierce or aggressive, no matter how tough, no matter what - his reaction on spotting a Bermuda roach for the first time is always going to be this: WHAT THE F***!?!?!?!
Unless he's spent time on some other tropical locale or has grown up in a country hot enough to have roaches as endemic as the other bugs, this is going to be his first counter with a roach (a flying one if it's a female) - the size of one's index finger (upgrade that to the size of one's middle finger if one is at either ends of the island and by that I mean you Somerset & St. George's). First impressions are everything and these things sure do know how to get a reaction out of you.

Now men, don't be all macho and go at the roach with your size 12 shoe. That makes it worse if its a female roach you've just flattened. You can bet her eggs have flown all over the floor into who knows what crack or crevice. Be a real man. Get close up to it with that Baygon (illegal in North America but so legal in Bermuda) and spray the living daylights out of it. (Play that Macho Man song in your head if it helps). What's that you say? Too close for comfort? Yeah, I thought so...

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Instead of rain

It's February and ordinarily cold in many a place, not to mention snowing. But here in Bermuda we've been awarded a week of sunshine that's making it quite nice and hot (you won't be needing soup of any kind to warm the cockels of your heart this week). It's even hot enough to get a tan. And for that I'm thankful.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Reading between the lines

As a child, when I first heard of the term 'read between the lines', I stopped to think, Which lines? I'm looking at the lines and I don't see anything. It's a difficult concept to explain to a child, a concept that is only made clear once a certain level of maturity is reached, where irony reveals itself and where innocence is slowly lost. Basically, when you're older!

While there are so many things I'd like to convey about what life is like on this island for an expat, I have to adopt a more conservative attitude so as not to rock 'de' boat. I may never be able to voice them, because they always say 'Never Burn your Bridges'. Which reminds me: for many expats, their first experience with working with an offshore company may not necessarily be pleasant. Long working hours and unprofessional management are two of the biggest complaints. However upset you may be at your employer and no matter what you may want to say truthfully in your Exit Interview, one has to be diplomatic. This is a route that all are advised to take, because you never know...And so in being diplomatic and professional, you move on. It might not feel good not having to give your previous employer 'the finger', so to speak, but it does feel good knowing where you're going next, whether it be on island or off. If it's on island, you know that your time already spent here with your first employer has given you an insight as to which companies to avoid the next time around, which ones may make you work like a dog, evening & weekends and of course which of the many are Grade A choice. While it always helps to know someone here to garner some information about companies and their work ethic, not everyone is in the position of having this information at hand before they've stepped foot on the island. The reason why this is such a big deal? An expat is only allowed to have two employers in the first five years on the island, with a change to a third in the sixth year. With the current term limit for expats set at six years (unless you're a key employee), decisions with regards to the next job offer cannot be made lightly. And so the second and third time around is much easier and
it all boils down to exercising diplomacy (with your previous employer) and smarts (in choosing your future employer).

There are many Bermudian bloggers out here that have been blogging about the political ongoings of this their island but in recent months quite a few of them have given up and some have stopped altogether (perhaps some threats have been made). So, if a dangerous realm is what they've stepped in by voicing their opinions about their own land in what would seem to be an era of freedom of speech, I have to stop and think about how much hot water I may be in if I were to delve deeper into the throes of expat life, however accurate and objective it might be. Some are just not inclined to want to hear it.

With a housing crisis, rising cost of living, over population abound and not to mention a fair share of resentment directed towards expats, where while International Business is welcomed although not acknowledged as the main pillar of the economy (which it so truthfully is), where words like 'expats are treated like second class citizens' are thrown around, one has to read between the lines here. It's tricky bringing to light some of the issues without having to actually be blatant about it. One also has to bear in mind that much of the hoopla that has been taking place the past few months has been a result of the Elections that took place in December. In a bid to gain a majority vote, a lot of huffing and puffing was done by both parties, regardless at who's expense it was at. But now that the elections are over and done with, calm has been restored. Policies and measures that threatened to change lives (both expat and local) last year, no longer hang in the balance. They have disappeared, so to speak. The air has been cleared. But while all of this was going on, other offshore jurisdictions (like the Cayman Islands, Bahamas et al.) watched with bated breath, read the ongoings zealously, perhaps sometimes shaking their heads wondering what we expats in Bermuda thought and felt about all this. Well, unless you've read between the lines and have come to your own conclusion, you're not going to hear it from me.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

No speak English

When I first got here I'd take the bus into town if I had any errands to run. The route where I live is quite a busy one. On this one instance as I waited, I saw a man, a young man about my age, walking towards me. He looked a bit funny with his brown paper bag that concealed a bottle, of beer no doubt. He was either drunk or high or both. He definitely looked a little off with his hooded jacket and a sinister look to match. He kept walking back and forth, muttering to himself, at times making eye contact. It wasn't so much that I was scared, it's just that when dealing with someone unstable you never know what to expect next, no matter how much experience you may have had in the past.

Then along came an senior Bermudian man and stood next to me at the bus stop. Of course, he sensed my discomfort and looked at me and said. 'You know, these guys, if they ever try to talk to you, just look at them shake your head and say "No speak English". They tend to leave you alone after that.'
I stood there not knowing what to say in response, except Thank You, since I was a little preoccupied in trying to figure out what the heck he meant. And while I've seen both men on the island since then, I never fail to remember the older one's words.

Bermuda is an island where the single women get hit on all the time. The stories I've heard from my single gals, and some of them quite shocking. All
I know is Bermudian men don't mess with women that don't speak English. Apparently!