Whaddyadoallday? Real Life on a Desert Island Rotating Header Image

what do you do all day

Relativity

First, I know. It has been ages since I have posted on this site. Life interfered. Irma destroyed the island. I could give you lots of excuses, but they would be just that: excuses not reasons. In reality, I just lost touch. But today brought it all back again.

Especially because this is winter. And we endeavor to try to remember that the world is not Anguilla. That we have friends up north who are out in the cold and dark scraping ice from their windshields and stomping snow and slush from their shoes watching their breath turn to mist in front of their sad, red, frozen faces.

Meanwhile, here in tropical paradise, Michael wanted to introduce me to his newest discovery – the best meat patties on island. We planned on going in to the Valley on errands early anyway. So we headed in for 8AM stopping first for sustenance. No sooner had we stepped foot out of the car but the woman at the little restaurant came out to meet us on the street.

“I suppose you are here for patties,” she said.

“Indeed, we are,” we replied.

“Sorry, but they aren’t ready yet. We got a late start this morning,” she announced.

Our disappointment must have shown because then she went on to offer an explanation.

“It was just sooooooo cold this morning. We couldn’t drag ourselves out of bed.”

Now, this might make sense if it weren’t for the fact that the low temperature last night in Anguilla was 73.1 degrees.

Ok, then, at least it was funny and good for a laugh.

In fact, I did laugh. And I tried to convince Michael to overcome his disappointment and frustration and to admit that he thought it was funny, too.

But, in his defense, he had a good point.

It would  be funny if this was a quaint and isolated incident on this charming, little island.

Unfortunately, our lives are chockablock full, every day, of similar little disappointments and frustrations.

And the laughing gets harder and harder.

And that is probably the real reason I haven’t written in a while.

Perhaps, I will see if I can rediscover the humor.

 

Gas Could Break the $5.00 Mark!

Ok, before you get all panicked and jump in your car to run down to your nearest gas station to fill up your SUV, keep reading.

I don’t mean that the price of gas might go ABOVE $5.00.

I mean that the price of gas in Anguilla might actually drop BELOW $5.00.

I was out running errands this morning and here’s what I found:

cheap cheap cheap

 

Ok, so this could be a bit confusing. I see that now.  This is a gas pump on a British island that for all I know dispenses Imperial gallons based on a display panel written in Spanish that could conceivably be showing the precio / galon in Eastern Caribbean dollars. You will have to trust me, then, that the price is actually in U.S. dollars.

So yes, even in this day and age, with oil prices being what they are, I am still paying $5.164 (coz $5.16 would be too little) US for a gallon of gas. However, we were paying $6.98 something for FOREVER. And then last fall it fell down to maybe $5.64 something. And here we are now perched expectantly on the cusp of paying less than $5.00 / galon.

Heck I drove the entire length of island just to celebrate. That’s about 12 miles, but on principle I drove it really slowly!

 

 

To Life

In my last post I alluded to some 18 yards of upholstery fabric. That has now taken on a new life. And I’ll get you a photo but first let me run a different tangent.

Many, many, many, many, many years ago (OK, 30) I met Michael when I was a brand new, baby vet, just graduated and looking for my first job. He said that he couldn’t hire me but that I could live with him if I wanted; and the rest, as they say, is history. I didn’t want to seem like a total pushover, though. So after we packed up my things and drove all the way across country to California I did hold out for a total of 10 days sleeping on a college friend’s couch before moving into Michael’s apartment. So I wasn’t actually living with him when I went off to my first day as a bona fide medical professional. That morning, when I walked out to my car I found a note on the windshield. It said, “Happy First Day Saving Lives”. (Awwww.)

Now, I am going to share a closely guarded professional secret with you. Promise you won’t tell. When I was a student in veterinary school, someone told us that medicine is a pretty good odds racket. Animals tend to get better…..and get this….in spite of us. The statistic that was quoted was somewhere in the range of 80-85% of our patients get better even if we do the wrong thing. That’s just the way Mother Nature works. On the other hand, sadly somewhere around 5% will not – even if I am the brilliant veterinary equivalent of Linus Pauling or Michael DeBakey.

That means that I truly make a difference in only about 10-15% of the cases I see. All cynicism aside, the take home message here was not to comfort us in the knowledge that we could just rest on our laurels and count on the odds to get us through but rather that because we could not know which of the cases were which that we had to give every single one of them our very best in order to guarantee that we were taking every opportunity and making every effort to impact the ones that we could. And I have never forgotten that advice not even after these long 30 intervening years. Do I always do everything absolutely right? Not likely. But I sure as hell do try.

And it hasn’t surprised me at all that people out here on this little rock will go to the lengths that they will in order to provide health and well-being for their pets. It surprised me more when the one person told me that I needed to remember where I was practicing. I corrected him immediately. My job, the only way I know how to do it, is to tell my clients what I understand and believe to be the very best course of action to take for their pets’ problems. IF that is not an option, THEN my job is to work with them to find an option that is suitable and to support them in their decisions. But my job is not to offer less from the start.

Might this particular dog or that particular cat get better with a different approach? You betcha. In fact it probably will. I already told you that. But if it doesn’t, if it’s one of the ones that doesn’t, and I haven’t offered my best, then I’m the one that has to live with that. That’s why I end up researching everything from new anti-seborrheal products to cancer treatments, having CTScans run, and battling to bring horribly uncontrolled, hyperthyroid cats back from the edge of the abyss. And that’s why a couple of weeks ago I found myself on a client’s back porch resuscitating an incredibly weak, one pound kitten. The poor little thing desperately wanted to eat but could hardly lift her head. She passed out and her heart stopped beating at least three times. Was she in the 80% or the 15%? I’ll never know. But I do know she wasn’t in the 5% because I vaccinated her on Saturday.

Thanks to her family for literally nursing her back to life. Her name is Ashes but as is the way here in Anguilla, I gave her a nickname. To me she will always be the Phoenix. And I am glad that I could be there with/for her. Because of all of the things “thatIdoallday”, it really is nice to be able to practice medicine again.

So as promised here are the new slipcovers. (all the green and the bar stools are the new bits.) Aren’t they pretty?

slipcovers

But here’s little Ashes, the Phoenix. She’s pretty darn cute, too.

Phoenix

Happy Gazillionth Day Saving Lives.

 

Balance

I’ve been, as always, very busy doing who knows what: taking care of the ocean front while Michael is off on a multi-city speaking tour, making a go of island veterinary medicine, preparing to cut up 18 yards of upholstery fabric to re-slipcover an aging couch. The usual stuff. But for the last couple of days I’ve been feeling out of sorts. That anxious, unsettled feeling of not having everything quite under control. Of being just a bit off balance.

Then this morning, in a rare cosmic convergence (like say a super moon, solar eclipse and the vernal equinox all happening on the same day), I was compelled to quickly fire off this blog. I was flipping through the internet like we used to flip through the television channels, when I realized that today is the equinox. I say realized because without the change of seasons here the date of the equinox routinely goes unnoticed. But there it was in the headlines.

And that made me remember the old days of celebrating the equinox – not by dancing naked around a henge somewhere but at least by balancing eggs. On occasion I would even take a dozen eggs to the office and we’d all balance an egg just because we could, because you can at the equinox. You can balance an egg. I’m sure you can look it up (there is that internet thing)…something about magnetic poles, the balance of the earth on its axis or voodoo magic. No matter. Today you can balance an egg.

Apparently, the writers for Netflix’s popular series, House of Cards, may not know that. Just last week I was binge watching the latest season and in one episode the subject actually came up. Claire Underwood, as First Lady, is tasked with picking out the special eggs for the annual Easter egg roll on the white house lawn. Frank, the President, ends up with one of the eggs and ponders the laws of physics that make it impossible to balance an egg. HA! I thought. Says you! There it was, presumably Spring, and the leader of the free world couldn’t even balance an egg. Poser.

So, in honor of the equinox, here’s a photo of three little eggs out for a morning ‘stand’. (They are sweating not because they were overexerting their little selves to stay upright but just because it was cold in the fridge but warm on the veranda and well…I hadn’t had my breakfast yet…..:-) )

Happy Spring. Here’s to a little more balance in life.

Equinox Eggs 2

Whales!!!

The best laid plans, seriously.

Michael left today for a two week lecturing circuit. I got some minor chores out of the way and had just settled down to do some writing: for this blog in fact and a couple of other articles. Rather than setting up at my desk with a view of the hibiscus plant and the hummingbird feeder, I elected to sit in the living room facing the Caribbean Sea. We’re just coming into whale season, after all. So you just never know.  In fact, I had just mentioned to Michael that I wanted to remember to bake some breakfast treats (muffins, coffee cake, that sort of thing) to freeze just in case our friends to the east happen to call us out at 6A for another spotting this year. I don’t want anyone having to leave their post in search of croissants lest they miss any major whale antics. (see Thar she blows! http://whaddyadoallday.com/?p=562 for that story.)

Anyway, Michael called from the airport in St. Maarten just to say goodbye. So I wasn’t staring at my computer screen. I was actually looking at the sea talking to him and said, “Crap, I think that’s a whale. Gotta go. I’ll call you back.” (I might have said, “I love you, bye” but I can’t say for sure.)

But I was right. There was a whale. Pretty far off towards St. Martin, but that’s still less than 5 miles maximum distance. So I got the binoculars and settled in to watch. A splash. A roll. not much. And then he breeched at least 28 times (once I started counting). I did call Michael back. And emailed frequently because it was by far the best whale sighting I have had here in Anguilla. Tail slapping galore. Breeching. Spouting. I kept thinking there had to be more than one whale out there, but I could never definitively confirm that. Never saw a tail here and a spout too far away to be attached to the tail. Never saw double of anything.

With one camera at the shop and one with a dead battery, I tried to take pictures with my phone; but that was not really working. So mostly I just watched. For 45 minutes based on the time stamps on my emails. Heck, even the osprey made an appearance flying directly through my line of binocular sight as if to say, “Hey, I’m here, too. What about me?”

Eventually, a couple of power boats must have gotten the word that there was a whale out there because they both showed up in the area. Miraculously, the whale disappeared. Pretty sly for a creature without natural predators. So I figured he’d taken a nice deep breath and was long gone. After a while the boats gave up and left. And I packed up to move back inside to get back to work.  But I took one last look over my shoulder. That’s when I realized that the whale was not, in fact, small just because it was 4 miles away, it was small because it was a baby. That became rather obvious when it’s mother shot out of the water! She was enormous! And beautiful! And far more acrobatic than her little student! She came almost completely out of the water when she breeched. She spun around in the air. She displaced mountains of water.

It was awesome and awe-inspiring….Just the two of them side by side practicing breeches and tail slaps and fluke presentations. I sure hope this was just a taste of what will turn out to be a stellar whale watching season because there are certainly worse reasons to throw your to do list right out the window!

 

 

 

 

 

Poetic License

I was thinking about e.e.cummings the other day.

For those who know me, that probably seems peculiar. I am not by nature a poetic person. I am a scientist. Sure, on my path to medical school I managed to get through my more liberal-artsy academic requirements; but good grades aside my heart was never really into those more ethereal pursuits – not philosophy, or poetry or even literature. Don’t get me wrong. I love to read but as an escape not as a theoretical dissection of an artist’s work. I would like to be saved from pondering, ‘what do you think the writer meant when he wrote blah, blah, blah, blah, blah?” Of what does the light house signify in this poem?” Simile, metaphor, symbolism, ugh. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar!

Anyway, back to real life. Michael and I were coming home on a back street when we passed a hand-painted sign tacked to a tree. My mind has some innate tendency to notice errors and inconsistencies, but this went beyond that. I had no idea what the sign was trying to say, and I pondered this out loud. Michael, with his more artistic leanings, interpreted it for me prompting me to request that he turn around immediately so I could snap a picture.

Me cha nic png small

So sure, now that I know what it says, I can see Mechanic. But why the vertical placement of the individual syllables? Is there a reason it reads Me Cha Nic instead of Me Chan Ic? Was the author trying to convey something essential to his vision by breaking between the ‘a’ and the ‘n’? Or does he pronounce the word differently that I? Or was it simply a question of space? Couldn’t he have turned the plank horizontally and written straight across? Was his choice to go vertically practical because the tree trunk is vertical or a more carefully crafted artistic expression? 

I think you see where I am going with this. But why e.e.cummings? Well, because even though 11th or 12th grade is too many decades ago to even bear to mention, I distinctly remember that paper I wrote on e.e.cummings. In fact, I especially remember analyzing his poem, bee in the only rose as a wonderful example of how he arranged his words (and sometimes broke them apart) not just for their poetic meaning but also for their physical and visual effect. So I am going to choose to go with artistic in answer to the question of whether the auto repair guy created his sign the way he did out of simple necessity or simple artistic genius.

After all, isn’t one of the common definitions of art that it is anything that produces an emotional response? Clearly this little sign on a little road on a little island did that for me. So in honor of nice memories of my high school English teachers, Mrs. Coyne and Mrs. Dyas, and of course Mr. Cummings, I give you, for your consideration, a bee tucked into a rose:

un(bee)mo

vi
n(in)g
are(th
e)you(o
nly)

asl(rose)eep

 – e.e. cummings

The Mantra of Maintenance

Lately I have been focused on creating plant life (in the form of my precious dragonfruit) on one hand and the process of our annual, early hurricane season, massive plant pruning process on the other hand. Our property looks less and less junglebook unruly and more and more controlled as dumpster after dumpster hauls away the detritus or our labors. But that’s not all we’ve been doing. We also tackled one ongoing problem that we’ve been avoiding.

It was one of those trivial yet thorn-in-your-side, just can’t stand it anymore kind of issues when the electric ignitor for your gas range just won’t stop clicking once the burner is lit. I know that this is not a problem that is unique to my Caribbean environment. I know this because a quick google search of the problem yields beaucoup results. I am not alone. I am only isolated. The most popular solution is to replace the spark module. We have done this twice before.  And the problem recurs or persists. Who can really tell since it’s sporadic in the beginning anyway?

Nevertheless, the recommendation from the powers that be was once again to replace the $200 module. I was going to do it myself. The helpful guy at the appliance repair place in California had even bestowed upon me (free of charge) one of the special, little metal thingamabobs that helps you unscrew the brass rings that hold down the burners so you can life the top of the range off and get to the module. I was all set except for the small fact that I couldn’t unscrew the damn rings. I was strong enough to bend the metal thingamabob trying, but I couldn’t budge the stupid rings. So I called the repair guy who last put them on assuming this was one of those circumstances like when the guys at the garage put your tire lug nuts on with their fancy hydraulic machine and then you can’t get them off when you have a flat tire. (At least that’s my excuse for never changing my own flat tire.) Anyway, I figured he put the rings on. He would be able to take them off.

I was wrong. I was frustrated. I left the room so I didn’t see what actually transpired, but I gathered that he had managed to unscrew the vertical cylinders (WITH the brass rings attached and the burners still in place) from the elbow pieces down below so he could lift the range top just enough to replace the module and then put everything back together. Great, right? Wrong. The clicking was just the same.  Michael was immediately on to his go-to Plan B: throw the damn thing away and buy another one.  Except that we’re talking about a range that costs about $1500 in the States before shipping and 40% duty. So I wasn’t really onboard with that plan. So, I suggested that maybe it was the wires. Or the middle back burner since that always seemed to be the culprit. And since I could simply unplug the offending electric ignitor and just pretend to be a pioneer woman and light my burners with an old-fashioned match in the interim ….what if we at least tried just ordering new wires and maybe one burner to replace the middle back one that seemed to be the stubborn one?

Good plan except that we would have to get the rings off of the burners in order to accomplish this. So, we unscrewed all of the vertical cylinders and unplugged the burners from their wires and took the top off in situ. Then we carried it out into the garage, set it ever so safely on a cushion of old sheets and towels, and proceeded to beat the shit out of it. No, seriously. We beat the shit out of it. Not where the bruises would show, mind you (hence the cushion), but I sat on the floor clutching the underside cylinder with vice grips and pipe wrenches while Michael stood above (all 250+ pounds of him) armed with a 12” flat screw driver and a hammer and beat on the rings with all of his might. We’d rest. We’d spray the joint with wd-40. We’d position ourselves again, and we’d beat on it some more. Really, what did we have to lose? Once one of the rings actually gave way and unscrewed we were invigorated and just that much more determined to conquer the remaining five. Sweat poured. Curses poured. But damn if they didn’t all give up the fight eventually. We were victorious. So we cleaned that baby up like it had never been cleaned before in its life, lovingly put it temporarily back together,  ordered a set of new wires and only three new brass rings (the other three miraculously survived reasonably unscathed and we decided to even skip getting a new burner), and we waited – handy box of matches nearby.

Once the new parts arrived, we easily took the range apart again, replaced the wires (having labeled the old wires from the spark module to each burner), put it all back together again, and turned on a burner only to be rewarded with incessant clicking. I nearly cried. But anyone who knows me can attest to the fact that I am stubborn to a fault and cynical ‘to infinity and beyond’. So undeterred and never one to totally trust even those whom I hire as experts, I pulled out the wiring diagram that I had found for the old spark module. Not exactly the same model we now had but close enough for jazz. And I replaced the wires in the way I interpreted the diagram (two were switched). And it worked. My scientific nature would require that I put the wires back the original way again just to be sure that was the problem and not just that we pushed them on more firmly when we moved them, but I didn’t actually have it in me to fool with success. So it is what it is which is working.

But that’s why, I wasn’t surprised to find what I found when the garage door opener broke. It was halfway open when the arm came off of the door. The bolts had disappeared, literally. I mean it’s not that they were rusting and broke into pieces and fell to the ground. Simply, suddenly, one minute, there was no trace of them. So Michael bought new bolts and was in the process of reattaching the arm while I was thumbing through the instruction manual figuring that we should probably do maintenance cleaning and lubricating while he was up on the ladder when I saw it. The arm was attached upside down – quite clearly upside down. It had been for 12 years. Don’t get me wrong, unlike the range ignitor, it’s been working (for the most part) all of that time in spite of never having been installed properly in the first place. I guess sometimes you just get lucky.

The Birds and the Bees

I’m running a little dating service now.

But before I get into that, I’ll apologize for having been absent so long. For the first month I had the excuse of having been on vacation in Italy, and it’s pretty hard to blog about life on a desert island when you are hanging out in Umbria. That doesn’t, however, excuse me from not posting over the last few weeks. All I can say in my defense is that it’s actually difficult to get back into a routine even when that routine is having pretty much no routine whatsoever.

Meanwhile, while I was off island enjoying my holiday the seasons changed. Yes, we have seasons, subtle though they may be. We left a cooler climate and returned to the beginning of summer heat here in the islands. Some of the plants are sad about this. Some of the plants are happy. For instance the coconuts seem to be scarcer much to the chagrin of everyone besides me. (I’m not big on coconut water no matter how much the medical talking heads sing its praises.) I have no idea what my housekeeper does with the ones she takes, but I know that my gardener likes his coconut water with vodka!

Surprisingly, there must not be as many coconut palms on island as you would think because even the guy who delivers my water stops by occasionally to see if he can harvest any of mine. Just last week he came looking and cut down the few that I had. Then even more surprising, he asked me if I like mangoes and proceeded to drive back twice over the next few days bringing me 8-10 local mangoes each time. How sweet (literally and figuratively). Anybody want some homemade mango chutney?

The flourishing plant that has had my full attention these last few weeks, though, is my Pitaya cactus otherwise known as a dragonfruit. We ate them in southeast Asia and then stumbled upon a plant at the garden store here. It’s growing really well (it shoots out like an invasive vine) but we have yet to get any fruit. This is not from lack of trying, but it’s a complicated situation. The huge (and I mean huge – like a foot long and almost as wide in diameter) flowers are beautiful (see photo below), however, they only open at night and only for one night. They do not self-pollinate, and we do not have an abundance of nocturnal bees or fruit bats around here to do the job. That means that on the occasion that a flower opens (4 or 5 total to date), I have to go out a few times between 10P and 8A that night to artificially inseminate the stupid blooms.

So far, in spite of the apparent simplicity of the process (how sophisticated are bees or bats for crying out loud?) and in spite of my advanced veterinary medical training and proven success accomplishing this task in dogs, I have been a woeful failure working in the plant kingdom. I was reading up (AGAIN) on the process the other day and found some references to the possibility that my dragonfruit may not choose to reproduce its own genetic self. I may need to find pollen from an unrelated cactus in order to achieve fruiting. It occurred to me yesterday that one of the store owners down the road has dragonfruit cactus of his own. So I drove down to verify that fact (yes, he does) and to see if he has any that are flowering now also (yes, he does) and if he would be so kind as to bring me some pollen this morning (yes, he would) and then I could give him pollen from my plant once mine open if he wants it (yes, he does).

Currently I have five flowers on my plant. Four of them look like they will open tonight. One really stupid one opened prematurely last night. I pollinated it with its own pollen for want of something else to use. Then at 9A I drove to the store and waited outside in the parking lot. My friend pulled up. We discreetly swapped our brown paper bags of ‘the goods’ and I sped off – rushing home to dust the flower that is already closing down. Tonight I will use the rest of my new genetic strain of pollen to fertilize the other four flowers. (Tomorrow I will take him more of my pollen for his remaining buds).

Hopefully, my little match.com for dragonfruit will have found a compatible couple and the ‘fruits’ of my labours will be evident in a few weeks. Fingers crossed. I will keep you ‘posted’.

 

 

The Good Ol’ Days

A lot has changed in Anguilla since I moved here and even more since I first came here on vacation. As is usually the case with growth and advancement, some things are good and some things are not. Or I guess I should say that some things seem to be good and some things seem not; and the perception of any individual change as being either positive or negative is certainly subject to personal interpretation.

Take the paving of roads, for instance. When we first came to the island paved roads were few and far between – literally. You had to drive really far on bumpy, rutted, dusty roads to reach the few paved thoroughfares. Plus, no matter the nature of the road, goats ruled. Those adorable yet flighty kids were everywhere. Over the years, however, the infrastructure of the island has been ‘improved’ resulting in the paving of the majority of roads. (though not our road, of course.) And grocery stores have come a long way in providing more selection and quality and the convenience of buying plenty of frozen or fresh, packaged meats. (No, all those goats were not pets.) As a result, you can now turn plenty of corners on this island’s paved roads without (nearly) hitting a goat. Those of us who live here and have to drive around every day appreciate the paved roads and the option to leave our front gate open occasionally without finding goats grazing on our lovely, landscape plants. Tourists, on the other hand, have been known to bemoan the fact that these changes resulted in the island losing some of its charm. Luckily, though, one can always retire to any one of the island’s 30+ gorgeous beaches, sip a rum punch or two, and put unhappy thoughts of mundane paved roads out of their minds.

I do think everyone would agree, however, that losing commercial air access to this island from the U.S. was a bad thing. OK, see there, probably that’s not even true since the ferry operators that shuttle folks back and forth from the airport in St. Maarten likely see this as a good thing; but going from three American Airlines flights each day to zero was a tough blow to the island. Finally, a regional airline has partnered with American on a flight to San Juan connecting on in the big jets. So after many years of almost NEVER visiting the airport in Anguilla, I found myself there twice in the last week as Michael flew out on Saturday and my friend, Dianne, flew out yesterday.

During the early morning drive in to see Dianne off, I passed a herd of goats that they’ve recently brought to the airport to ‘mow’ down the grass, and I had to smile at the thought that they now have to round up goats and transport them someplace for this purpose. Then when the restaurant at the airport wasn’t open yet and we had to go in search of a cup of coffee in the Valley in Anguilla at 7:30AM, the memories really started coming as we ended up at an old, established, local place right across from the post office called Nico’s. I see Nico’s every time I pass through the Valley, but I haven’t been in there in years – not since the days of first visiting an architect’s office next door and later visiting an attorney’s office upstairs in order to sue the architect. Nico’s is where we’d stop for a drink before or after appointments. It’s where we parked my stepdaughter one day while we went to a meeting and where she was subsequently hit on by a little bit of local color called Raggamuffin Jimmy. It’s also where all of the politicians hung out back then and apparently where they still come together today at a long stretch of tables pushed together  on the side drinking coffee and tea out of self-service urns and, from the looks of it, eating a hearty breakfast of bull foot soup.

As we drank our coffee, Dianne (who’s been on this rock for almost 30 years) and I found ourselves sharing stories. Stories of the old grocery store nearby where you could hardly get past the flies to nab a mostly rotten piece of fruit or some local salt fish and how exciting it was when fresh milk or diet Coke showed up on island. She remembered one time when she and her sister-in-law went unsuccessfully in search of more ice for their drinks (probably NOT diet cokes) until someone at some tiny grocery store suggested that they get some from the lady down the road. Off they went to the indicated building that was not another store but just somebody’s little house. They tentatively knocked on the little front door and told the little woman who answered that they were hoping to buy some ice. Sure enough, she ushered them out back, opened an old, rusted freezer, moved a pile of fish aside, and started hacking off a nice, big chunk. Now, years later, Dianne doesn’t remember if the ice imparted a particularly fishy flavor to their cocktails, but she still does fondly remember the experience. It’s like the days when the gas station often didn’t have any change, so they’d offer to pay you back in Chicklets.

Yup, Chicklets for change. Those were the days.

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.