Whaddyadoallday? Real Life on a Desert Island Rotating Header Image

November, 2012:


I am exhausted.

This time, however, I am not tired from working around the house. I am worn out from relaxing. We finally convinced our English friends to join us for Thanksgiving. They arrived a week ago, and we’ve been on holiday here at home ever since. Dining in. (Cuban food, crayfish, and a Thanksgiving dinner for eight that was truly fabulous– if we do say so ourselves.) Dining out. Long walks on the beach. Long talks on the beach.  Big breakfasts. Extended lunches. Pimm’s cocktails. The works. So that we are now completely stuffed and nicely browned just like well-done, Thanksgiving turkeys. 

It’s been a glorious week. 

Sure the cable went wonky. And the neighbors were running their noisy, generator when the power hadn’t gone out. And we even managed to get lost driving on back roads when we thought a person could never get lost on such a tiny island. But we’ve had a wonderful time and our friends have been quick to constantly remind us how fortunate we are to live here in this lovely home with this perfect weather and this gorgeous view. And we in turn are thankful that our living here has also provided us with a bounty of truly wonderful friends that we would have never ever met if we hadn’t been crazy enough to move here in the first place. 

We are really so lucky.

Post-Election Ponderings

Yes, I voted in the election last week. As an ex-pat, American living abroad, the President and Vice President of the United States are the only elected officials anywhere for whom I can cast a vote so I am not about to forfeit that privilege. Of course, while the election may be over, the political posturing and the debate over key political issues wages on. Hopefully the matter of medical care is finally settled, but decisions about tax reform and immigration policies still remain. On the latter topic, I don’t have any idea what it is like to be an immigrant in the United States, but I do know what it is like to be an alien in another country. 

Honestly, it wasn’t something that we thought about before we moved to the islands. And nobody actually volunteered any information when we were purchasing the land to build our home. But alien land holders do not automatically have any right to physically ‘be’ on island in their homes in Anguilla. Homeowners who don’t live here full-time have to fill out immigration cards every time they arrive in order to be granted the standard 30 days visitor’s stay. If they are staying longer, they have to get an extension. That requires filling out forms and handing over your passport while they process your request. When we first moved here we petitioned for a more generous six month stamp. So every six months we had to fill out the forms, stand in line, get an invoice, go to pay the fee, come back with the receipt, stand in line, turn in the receipt, and then return at some later date to stand in line to pick up our stamped passports. 

The time spent executing the process is bad enough, but the really unnerving part is relinquishing my passport. Until you have done that, you can’t imagine how suddenly vulnerable you feel. It’s like taking a security blanket away from a child. The minute I hand over my passport, I immediately start imagining a medical emergency or some other crisis that would necessitate my leaving island with a moment’s notice. Visions of horrible car accidents or other medical emergencies flood my mind. Without a passport my air evacuation insurance would be rendered totally worthless because without that little booklet I’m not getting off of this rock. 

To apply to become a Belonger (the nearest equivalent to an Anguillian citizen), we have to live here for 15 years. In the meantime we’d have to go through this “petitioning” process every six months. The thought of that was still disturbing. Then we found out that we could, at least, apply to become Permanent Residents. Perfect. We submitted all of the required documentation and were approved. We were Permanent Residents. We got special booklets and paid for special stamps in our U.S. passports….Permanent Residence stamps that expire after one year. We were confused. We were Permanent Residents for just one year? No, it was explained to us that the residency status itself is indeed permanent. The required stamp is, however, temporary. But so long as we pay for the stamp every year, they have to give it to us. No petitioning, just paying. 

That’s why last week, once again, we went to Immigration to get the invoice and then went to the cashier to pay the fee to get the receipt that we took back to Immigration to surrender our passports to get our ninth temporary Permanent Residence Stamps. Since then, I’ve been mostly staying at home avoiding car accidents, staying off of ladders and carefully chewing my food. This morning I go back to Immigration in the hopes of retrieving my passport. I plan to drive very carefully with my fingers crossed.

Sunrise, Sunset

Well, here we are again at the time of year when you folks in the States elect to turn your clocks back an hour. That means that now my prime time TV shows don’t come on until an hour later which mostly means I’ll hardly see anything in real time again until Spring; and a lot of what I do see will have to be provided for me on some hush-hush, ‘off of the grid’,  internet site. We will also have to remember that times for phone calls to the States have to be adjusted an hour, but otherwise not much changes….certainly not diurnal rhythms. 

On June 21st of this year the sun rose at 5:37AM and set here at 6:51PM for a total of a bit over 13 hours of daylight. On December 21st the sun will rise at 6:40AM and set at 5:42PM still giving me 11 hours of light. There’s no ‘dormant’ season here.  There’s just sun, sun, sun and more sun. And with the house sitting here right next to the sea, we also get reflected sun, sun, sun and more sun. That’s why years ago we installed solar screens on the ocean side of the house. We quite simply got tired of feeling like we needed to be wearing sunglasses in our living room – not to mention the fact that everything in the house, from pictures to fabrics, was fading. 

Now that we are trying to sell the house, however, buyers looking for a breezy, bright coastal home were apparently put off by the lack of glare indoors. So we went back and removed all of the solar screens, replaced them with regular screens, and bought a bunch of new sunglasses. I also had to repaint the whole house. Why? Because of the stupid, relentless sun and its insistence on fading everything (except for that which it tans). 

The regular screens just fit into the window openings, but the solar screens were mounted in tracks to cover all of the windows including the fixed panes of glass. That meant patching holes and painting the recesses where the screens were mounted. But painting the recesses in front of the windows meant painting the whole damn house.  I know that you may be thinking that I am overdramatizing. You may be thinking that certainly I could just touch up the areas that needed touching up. Well, you would be very, very wrong. 

For illustration purposes here is a picture of a bit of a southeast-facing wall between a white window and a column painted a color called Coconut Milk. The hollow square is a new coat of the original paint. No, that is not primer on the rest of the wall. That is old (actually, maybe 3-4 year old), sun-faded, Glidden Whispy Peach paint that we can now clearly see has been bleached of most of its yellow pigment leaving what, in contrast to the fresh Glidden Whispy Peach paint, ends up looking rather fleshtone.

I think that we can all agree that just touching up selected areas is NOT an option. If it were I would not have had to repaint the entire house …. approximately 1/4 of which looks like this, by the way.  

Luckily, of course, I am blessed with nice, long, nearly 12 hour days in which to spend my time painting. And I guess I now also enjoy the option of falling asleep exhausted in my bed an hour earlier than my east cost friends and family. So there is that.