Whaddyadoallday? Real Life on a Desert Island Rotating Header Image

July, 2012:

“Faster, Higher, Stronger”

The 2012 Summer Olympics are underway; and just like millions of people all over the world, we are following the games. There’s a special interest on this tiny little island because there is an Anguillian competing in the games this year. Way back in 1984, an Anguillian, Keith Connor, won a bronze medal in the triple jump for Great Britain. Now nearly three decades later, Shara Proctor is the first Anguillian-born, female athlete to compete in the games. She will be going for the gold in the long jump.

Not for Anguilla, though. Anguilla doesn’t have its own Olympic Committee.  When she competes and if she stands on that medal podium, Ms. Proctor will be representing Great Britain. That’s probably not all that surprising. After all, Anguilla is part of the Commonwealth. What is surprising is that it’s not actually a given that a citizen of a British Territory can compete for Great Britain. Apparently, Ms. Proctor had to formally become a British citizen in order qualify for Great Britain’s team. One way or another, though, it’s pretty impressive to think that an island of less than 14,000 people boasts even one Olympian when you consider that there are less than 600 of them representing over 310 million citizens of the United States. 

Hopefully, we will be able to watch her compete, but right now it’s anyone’s guess. Between NBC, MSNBC, and CNBC, it’s a bit daunting trying to predict what will be broadcast on television and when. Plus, once again I find myself rather frustrated with my inability to utilize the infinite cloud of modern technology. I know that NBC is live streaming a lot of the competitions on the internet.  Unfortunately, as I’ve mentioned before, the system knows that my ip address is outside of the United States. So it ever so politely tells me that I cannot view the live streams. I had a great idea, however.  Shara Proctor is Anguillian and now legally British. Anguilla is British. England is hosting the Olympics. BBC is English. So the transitive property in mathematics dictates that I, in Anguilla, ought to be able to see the Olympics somehow on BBC.

Wrong. Apparently just like the Olympic Committee doesn’t see an Anguillian as being inherently English, the internet access police don’t see an ip address in Anguilla as being located in England. So BBC blocks me from viewing their live streams, too. In addition, the BBC television station I get here is BBC International which is not televising the games. That means that as far as I can tell, I will only see the women’s long jump competition if NBC chooses to show it to me. Luckily this event doesn’t take place for another week so I have some time to try to master the intricacies of the system. In the end, though, I’ll have to tune in at the proper time to see what’s on and just hope that when someone tells Ms. Proctor to jump, I won’t have to ask you how far (she went).

I Must Be Fading

I know that since I live on a tropical island, you probably think that I am talking about losing my tan. Not so. I’m actually talking about fading away completely. If you’ve seen the musical Chicago, you’re probably familiar with Roxie Hart’s husband, Amos, singing the song, Mr. Cellophane. He laments that “you can look right through me, walk right by me, and never know I’m there.” That’s what I’m talking about. 

But first let me go back to when I was still opaque and three dimensional. When we first moved here we were shocked by how many people, people we had never ever met, knew who WE were. We had only been living on island for about a month when we signed in for the ferry to St. Martin only to have the stranger at the desk say, “Oh, you’re the vets building out in Lockrum, aren’t you?”  Another day, I was walking from the ferry (someone who shall remain nameless wasn’t there to pick me up), and a stranger kindly offered me a lift. When I started to tell him where I lived, he said, “Oh, don’t worry. I know where you live. Your husband’s the tall, white guy with the long hair, right?” 

Then there was the time we were running a string of errands that included a stop at the paint store on our way to the Immigration Office. When we arrived at the government office, the woman there greeted me with, “Oh, you’re Georgia Paul? You need to call the paint store. They have a question about your order.” Once we even had old neighbors from California arrive on island completely unexpected and unannounced. They had come over from a stop in St. Martin at the spur of the moment with no idea how to find us. For some crazy reason, they chose to go looking for us at the Tourist Board where a very helpful (and clearly resourceful) person made just two phone calls to track us down and then directed our friends straight to the doorstep of the apartment we were renting! 

It was a little bit unsettling at first, living under a magnifying lens like that considering that in the States I lived a pretty anonymous existence. I worked almost 40 miles from our house so coworkers and clients were far away. Sure, I knew the neighbors who lived immediately around us – a few houses on either side or perhaps even to the far end of the court – but I could bop over to the grocery store, wander downtown to window shop, or go to a restaurant for dinner and never run into anybody I knew….or anybody who knew me. Here on this little island of less than 14,000 people, there is no hiding. We can’t do anything or go anywhere without somebody knowing it. 

So I’m more than a little bit mystified as to why now, 11 plus years later, people suddenly don’t recognize us anymore. This trend seems to be most apparent at that very same ferry building where, back in the day, people knew who I was before I’d even unpacked my good sheets and towels. Since then I’ve made the trip to St. Martin probably 250 times. With all of his business travel, Michael has exceeded that amount by far. Why is it, then, that now the folks checking in the passengers always ask me for my address in the States in spite of the fact that every single time I answer, a bit too pointedly I’m sure, that “I live here in Lockrum”? Then the woman who collects the departure tax inevitably tries to collect the $20 tourist departure tax amount instead of the $5 resident’s rate – often even demanding to see my resident’s stamp as proof that I really do live on island. 

I don’t know. Maybe it’s a good thing that I don’t stand out anymore. Maybe I have become an accepted and natural part of the landscape. In that case, though, I would think that I would have become more recognizable but instead, quite inexplicably, it appears that I am becoming invisible. Dr. Cellophane.

Is there a doctor in the house?

I have been a bit busy since I last posted. First, I had a birthday that was spread out over a week of dinners and lunches with well-wishers that also required a ramped up exercise routine and a bit of extra primping time in order to not look as old as my actual birthday would indicate. 

Then a friend had a sick dog that needed some diagnostic tests and a couple of days of hospitalization. I went with her to drop him off the first day, and I returned with her when he was discharged. This did not simply involve sitting in a clinic waiting to be seen. Rather it required four boat rides, cabs, rental cars, a lovely lunch and some excellent French pastries since she elected to take the poor guy (all 80-plus pounds of him) over to St. Maarten for his care. He is doing fine now, but it is unfortunate that the level of veterinary care on this island is such that folks feel compelled to transport their pets across the water for treatment. 

Unfortunate, but not really surprising. We do the same thing, ourselves. While human medical care on this island has improved immensely in the decade or so that we have been here, there is a point at which anybody with the option goes elsewhere for advanced care. When you consider the commercials that you see on television encouraging folks in the States to travel thousands of miles across the country to be treated at a particular cancer center or other specialty facility, it is understandable that these 35 square miles in the middle of the ocean can’t offer everything. 

That’s one of the reasons why Michael and I moved here when we did. We never intended to die here, and we’d still rather not. My birthday, hauling sick dogs and Michael’s upcoming big birthday, has us thinking about these things again. We always knew that the time might come when we HAD to return to the States for medical care. We just didn’t realize that even if we are as healthy as can be, we may have to move back to the States for medi-care!

So for the past couple of weeks Michael has been researching his health care options in anticipation of turning 65 next year. What a minefield! He has been calling everyone but the President trying to understand this highly complex situation, and every time he gets a different answer to his questions. He even had one person tell him that regardless of the fact that he has worked and paid into the system for the past 50 years, because he lives out of the country he cannot collect EITHER Medicare or his Social Security. Well, need I say that this assertion resulted in a very unhealthy rise in a certain somebody’s blood pressure? 

Luckily, that appears to be false information, but we are not out of the woods yet. Medicare does take effect when he turns 65. But it only provides care in the United States. OK, that’s fair; and as I said, whenever possible we go to the States to see our doctors anyway. What about when we are here or traveling in Africa, though? What if something happens? (Clearly, senior citizens travel. Just look at the cruise ships and the AARP hotel discount rates.) There have to be provisions for that. That’s got to be where the supplemental plans come in, right? After all, there’s the plan that covers prescriptions. There’s the plan that covers the deductibles from the other plans. And yes there’s the plan that nearly pays for your coffee while you sit in the waiting room and most importantly covers you while you travel. 

Perfect. Finally, that’s what he needs: basic Medicare plus a rash of supplemental plans A though Q. Only one catch. You can only buy the supplemental plans if……..wait for it…………you have a residence in the United States. If we have to buy a house just to get medical insurance that’s really going to jack up our effective premium rate. That’s gonna hurt. I think I may need a doctor.

How do you like them apples?

It’s not often that I find myself sitting in the lap of luxury while my friends or family back in the States go without creature comforts. It’s most typically the other way around. However, the storms that ran through the States at the end of last week have changed all of that. Sadly, parts of the country have suffered horrible devastation resulting in the tragic loss of lives and widespread power outages in the face of triple digit temperatures. 

My brother in Maryland has been affected. So here I am quite comfortable in Anguilla enjoying cooler temperatures than he is with the added benefit of electricity and fans. I’d feel really badly except that he could just get in his Prius and drive a little way to find comfort. He wouldn’t even have to get on a plane to do that. Nevertheless, he is sitting at home watching food spoil while I text him situational updates from his electric company’s website and tell him what his current and predicted high temperatures are. He, for his part, is making comparisons between his condition and the trials of Job from the bible. Of course, Job didn’t whine so much – suffering in silence was his thing. 

Meanwhile, in the spirit of full disclosure, we have been really lucky here on island. Yes, we have plenty of power outages, many of them planned maintenance outages; but even with two hurricanes and one nearby volcanic eruption, we have never been without power for longer than 24 hours. The thought of people living in civilization and going without for a week is startling. We even now have relatively reliable internet access with a whopping 3MB (yes, 3 whole MB) download speed. We are living the good life. 

What is annoying, however, is the fact that while I have virtual access to the world via my computer, the world often blocks me out. For instance, I was ordering a little gift for my granddaughter’s birthday online. I was offered free two-day shipping (which was good because I’m a little late in ordering) if I signed up for a 30-day free trial for a shopping service. So I did. My US billing address on my credit card is our son’s address. So the US credit card bills to a US address which is the same address where the gift is going, BUT the next day the shopping service told me that they had to cancel my membership because I executed the transaction from a foreign IP Address and they can’t have that. It’s not a big deal because I was going to cancel my membership within the 30 days anyway, but this isn’t the only time my location has caused me headaches.

 Hulu? Can’t get it. Full-on Netflix? No way. Free episodes of NCIS on the CBS website? Can’t access them because they know I am out of the country. OK, fine. Maybe they think I am in China or Iran or something. They have to draw the line somewhere, I suppose. However, explain this one to me: I can go to yahoo.com. (It’s not even yahoo.com.ai like typing in google.com takes me to google.com.ai for google, anguilla rather than ‘real’ google. This is yahoo.com.) I can click on a ‘news’ story in their scrolling display of video clips. They will let me watch the paid advertising clip and then, every now and again, after I have patiently waited through the commercial, they will tell me that the actual, of-interest video is not available to me in my location. The commercial message is. The video is not.  

 I guess my brother is really lucky that www.pepco.com lets me access their outage maps. Otherwise, he’d really be in the dark.