Tuesday, August 26, 2008

You want what?

With the exception of supermarket shopping, any other shopping is rather like entering a film set here. You are sucked into whatever conversation is going on at the time between however many people and like waiting for your cue, you have to guage exactly the right moment to mention what you want otherwise your line is lost forever. When you do get it right, this may or may not be acknowledged depending on the continued level of interest that the shop assistant has in the other customers' conversations. This, combined with a relay system for payment - you choose, you wait for a hand written receipt, you leave your goods on the counter, you walk to the cash desk with both copies of the receipt, someone queue barges, you pay, you get them stamped, you return to your original counter, you show your stamped receipt, you pick up your goods, return to the first counter for the obligatory black plastic
bag, another quick conversation, you leave. There's just no nipping in and out here.

Buying material is definitely not quick, so much so, during the process Andy often nips out to buy us a drink.

Can I have some of this for school uniform please?
How much?
I don't know - maybe 2 skirts and 5 shorts?
You don't need that many.
Well, please can I have them just in case?
Ok, you can have 2 skirts and 3 shorts.
My son is quite a boy, I would really like 5 shorts.
Umm, do you really want 4 yards then?
Yes, please.
Are you sure, it's $25 a yard.
Yes, please.
Well, why not get enough for 3 skirts and 3 shorts then?
No, I really would like 3 skirts and 5 shorts.
Ok. Tell her that's not for wedding dresses.
Tell who?
Her, there - she can't wear that. She needs to spend time and choose properly.
Err, umm, ok.
Ridiculous, that's not suitable for a wedding. Oh well, her choice.
Umm, ok, please can I take my school uniform material now?
A wedding, what will she look like? Silver sparkles, huh.
Umm, well, thanks a lot, see you later.

My heart sank yesterday, when we went through the whole process again with Chloe, choosing the material for her bedroom curtains. No, that's not curtain material it began. After half an hour, we left with non curtain material and a shaking head - 'well, if that's what she wants'. Chloe took the flak well and stuck firmly to her guns - good on her - I stood right behind her.....

Monday, August 25, 2008


Well it's been a long last week trying to rearrange furniture (well I keep changing my mind and Andy just isn't the Changing Rooms type and having done his flatscreen and chair 'I'm All Right Jack' setup and the football on, he lost all interest in my nesting attempts) and we are still waiting for the electrician too. He went to Antigua to play footie apparently so in the meantime we have just one light. Sort of used to it now and it's all romantic with the candles at night.... Chloe in the meantime has generously taken the other two in whilst their 'finally got their own' lovely bedrooms remain a no go sleeping zone as they're too dark at night. I sort of expected this to happen for a while but it may be a long while at this rate. However, our bedroom is all done and it's great - we can wake up and see the sea - fab. Well except for this last week when it's rained a lot. Well it's rained everyday (ahh, that's why they call it rainy season) so washing has been interesting. I've just worked out why everyone else has their washing lines permanently under cover - smart.

The car gave us a heart stopping moment when it conked out coming up the mountain on a very sharp bend. We had to free wheel back down the hill to get to the garage. The pressure was on as I had to keep shouting out how close we were to the edge. The radiator had gone - who knows where. By the way, by reading the small print on the back it's actually called a Nissan Mistral. More like a Nissan Puff. We have slightly altered our criteria for a second car....

Still waiting for our security quote to be finalised - the company has a monopoly and a lack of parts so this may take a while too and having been fairly relaxed on it, since our direct neighbour told us he was ramsacked on 3 weeks ago on a Saturday lunchtime, we would like to get it finalised.

Nothing broke in our move, until Friday. We have this solid glass Omani coffee table which has travelled from Oman to Dubai to Bahrain to Belgium to Dominica, in one piece. Our Housekeeper decided to use it as an ironing board on Friday with the very powerful steam iron. It has a spectacular crack from one corner to the other. Oh well, they sell glass here.

Here's to this week's adventures!


So here I am at 6am and I'm up because a) I have no curtains and b) I start work today and I'm nervous. It's all sight unseen again I suppose so I shouldn't worry - hey I can buy a plot of land and build a house without being here so I'm sure I can adapt to what's required of me at work and just as importantly, bring to work what I believe in. Anyway, this is my first and last post relating to my work as it's a no go blog area. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Where is it?

So, yes we are still unpacking. I think I can see light at the end of the tunnel though. Have got to the 'it's going' stage now so the builders are very happy going home with various loot each day - chocolate fondue set, radiator, sushi set and the very useful make your own pasta set has been lovingly presented to some builder's wife and I'm sure she's absolutely delighted. Think I have persuaded Andy to give up his running machine too - it's so large and so heavy and we have absolutely no-where to put it. Just told him he can jog up and down the plot - the olympics have got him all motivated fortunately....

The downside is the kids have learnt the existence of KFC here as we didn't have a cooker for 4 days so had to give them at least one hot meal after having disposed of my microwave in Belgium after an 'eco dangerous waves' moment. Forgot their usefulness on scrambled eggs in moments of crisis mind. Anyway, this was their first KFC ever and they're not forgetting it's nearby.

The car is back to the garage this morning - it's got a leak somewhere or other and all the windows stay down permanently. Last night there was a big storm so we're in for soggy bottoms today. Could be worse, at least the sunroof was closed, nearly.

Welcome Home Flowers - Thank You!

Unpacking, unpacking and yet more unpacking

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Green Flash

You know Del boy's car in 'Only Fools & Horses'........... Well, Andy's all proud of the sunroof - I just knew it was a bad idea to open it and expect it to close again - it's not like we don't get enough sun walking round Roseau for 4+ hours most days. So, now we have burnt heads - luckily I have more hair. Heaven help us when it rains - maybe we could stick Scarlett's little Dora brolley thru' the gap. Compared to this, my window only closing half way and getting the key jammed in the boot door seem quite tame. It goes up hills. It goes up hills. It goes up hills. And, did I mention the tyres are all brand new...

Our container might be delivered tomorrow. Long story. Belgium didn't send the correct paperwork - probably recycled it too quickly. However, if I gave a blank cheque to the shipping agent, they said they would return it on receipt of this form and I could clear our container. All sounds fairly promising or alternatively someone will be sailing off into the sunset tomorrow spending the rest of our builder's money. So tomorrow night, we may be sleeping in our own house.

In the meantime, here's tonight's sunset. When I was little and living here, everyone seemed to mention the green flash in hushed tones. Now I'm making my children watch every sunset to spot the elusive flash too. Wonder if my parents made it up to keep me quiet for 20 minutes. Perish the thought. Come to think of it, I bet Celia's got the perfect photo of the green flash....

Wednesday, August 13, 2008


So, we bought a car today. A Mitsubishi Somethingorother. Anyway, it goes up hills so that's all that counts really. Bought 4 new tyres as well. So thanks a lot to Road Runner for a great hire car and now we're motoring solo.

Tomorrow we get our security quote finalised on the house. Alas, 'My Men in Black' fantasy remains a fantasy. Guess they'd never have got up the hill quick enough anyway. Umm, maybe they could helicopter up and drop into the pool though. Wouldn't want them tipping up my lilo and spilling my rum punch mind...

No, still no container cleared and no, haven't a clue why not.

Time for a G&T and a chill.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Crab Backs

This is for you Chris!

Delicious - probably my favourite dish and we've found a supplier - 25 for EC$15 - just got to learn how to cook them now. Alternatively ask Mabel. She made fantastic banana bread today for us.

Don't think we're going to starve here.

Anyway, these were from Roger's at Soufriere. Here's the view from his place.


Men in Black

Today was busy. Got the children assessed at school (Chloe got 86% in maths - I don't know if she or I were more surprised) and all is fine except the literacy as they were taught in Dutch previously....from tomorrow the assessor said they could go to her house for a few mornings to catch up with her children. Chloe was delighted and Ollie looked horrified.

Customs called and said they need another piece of paper from Belgium. So another day until we can clear our container. No worries.

We then investigated installing an alarm in the absence of completing our fence. One option is to get a system directly linked to the security firm. They then rock up having screamed up the mountain in their 4x4's. I've seen these guys - like something out of 'Men in Black' - tall, dark & handsome with bullet proof vests and guns on their hips. Fairly keen on that option myself. We then enquired on cameras and the man said we can have them anywhere and everywhere. Andy then said 'so they can see whatever we're doing' in a worried tone. The sun had obviously got to him today.

Last but not least a quick site visit to the house and shack. A hive of activity all round. They can see our car coming up the mountain so always have at least 5 mins to get into place I'm sure - rather like a filmset.

Anyway, here's the shack, the view from it and Scarlett's got it sussed - she's an afternoon siesta kinda girl.

Monday, August 11, 2008

La Maison Restaurant, Roseau

We bumped into the Chef at La Maison today, Eric Subin and his partner Gina. I love this restaurant - we last visited in February 2007 and Andy has promised me a birthday meal there shortly. My birthday was in July so hopefully we'll make a booking before July 09. They were friendly & enthusiastic so best of luck to them here too with the restaurant and building their own place in Belles.

I spent 10 minutes outside the restaurant memorising his menu last week - can still taste the spinach & brie starter. Andy enjoys sitting on the outside balcony there and particularly likes the painting of the very natural blonde on the right hand wall. Think he likes the food too....

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Goodbye Cadbury's, Hello Alwin!

Alwin's Promise chocolate bar

Dominica's first chocolate bar was launched over the weekend. Alwin's Promise - better known as an eco-friendly guest house in the Layou valley - are the people behind the bar.

(This story is courtesy of www.news-dominica.com)

What I learnt last week

* The best fruit smoothies are made by a man with a 'table' and liquidiser down a side street in Roseau. No, I don't know where he plugs it in....
* Customs officers are just customs officers the world over
* Everyone enjoys giving you advice
* Everyone's advice is different
* Sunset Bay serves fab cocktails just watch out for the 2 foot long iguanas
* It's impossible to get a definitive answer from the bank
* The Duty Free shops are great (like a child in a toy shop) but you have to be leaving again to purchase - can't wait until our first guest's arrive so I can direct their trolley dash....
* Starfish are fairly easy to spot and easy to pick up - explaining to the children the fish bit takes a tad longer
* A 40ft truck taking a corner too tight will end up on its side
* Ice/cooler boxes are sold everywhere - ice packs are sold nowhere
* At the end of any one day you will have collected numerous black plastic bags whilst valiantly trying to use your own
* I don't need to breathe in when driving down absolutely every narrow street
* Try and remember which supermarket stocks what
* Tins of Schweppes tonic water are sold in the airconditioned imported fruit (amazing, being the land of fresh fruit but true - rather like the KFC opening here I guess when local chicken & chips are available everywhere) shop
* Smile or laugh or perfect doing both at the same time - won't take long

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Shopping Bingo

Today we had our first experience of going to 3 supermarkets to complete our shopping list - guess you could call it 'supermarket bingo'. I didn't actually mind that we had to go to 3 supermarkets but it was cruise day today so Carnival Destiny (puffing out huge black clouds of smoke ensuring a giant carbon footprint no less - who'd have thought a year ago I'd notice un-eco friendly black smoke hey) took over Roseau. This means that our nice parking spot by the bay is closed off and you can't walk 5 feet without being accosted for a tourist trip somewhere. I just kept my head down but Andy kept saying very firmly 'no, we live here thanks'. Yes we do live here - wow! Anyway, it wasn't the 4 hours this process took that got me, it was the enormous willpower I had to have in each shop to stop myself buying: the 'nice' leg of New Zealand lamb at EC$62, apples at EC$3 a piece (would have to eat the core) and the Dairy Milk just kept winking at me everywhere - it's so close to the check out, I could almost smell it. I furtively glanced at Andy at each attempt but just couldn't sneak it in. Roll on Easter, must be allowed some then musn't I....

ps I just stroke the 1999 Dom Perignon everytime I walk past it.

Be the first

So, here I am commenting on my queueing dilemma here but when we're given the chance to be first/the only one, then we don't feel 100% confident with that either. The last few days we have been to several places where no-one appears immediately visible. As Brits I think we do have a bit of a sheep mentality though - let's meekly follow where we see others as we don't want to stand out. Well there's no chance of merging into the background here - C,S & O really don't fall into the 'seen but not heard' category for a start....Here, it seems that one minute a place can appear closed and boarded up but within half an hour it's rocking. The Purple Turtle for instance was like that - the others went off to the sea and I stood patiently in the bar that was v.definitely closed thinking somebody will come along soon. Sure enough, Roy (easy name to remember) did and said give him 5 minutes to set up. By the time we left there was even a coach (ok mini bus) party there in full swing. Yesterday, we stopped for a sundowner at an hotel in Castle Comfort - you could hear a pin drop in the bar but I made Andy sit down and wait patiently, chill and enjoy the view. When we left Scarlett had got a nice little audience going with her taming a lizard party trick. Yes, she picks them up by the tail and they then seem to bond fairly well and I just cringe hoping she's not going to come anywhere near me whilst encouragingly saying, 'see, there's nothing to be afraid of' to the other two....

Sunday, August 3, 2008

First swim

I'm fairly organised with the children (ie. lugging around a large bag containing several just in case items) but I think relaxed environment mode is taking over - yesterday we drove up to Portsmouth and took nothing except our swimmers and suntan lotion. We stopped at the Purple Turtle Beachclub. The beachclub bit meant I could hire a sunlounger under a palm tree, fab. The beach is lovely, the sea calm and the children loved it. They spent a fair bit of time making sand/recycling (the Belgium influence) art with bottle tops, flowers, seashells etc - they then insisted we phototgraph them separately next to their individual creations. (Who needs a DS Lite I ask myself). We stayed 5 hours and then made our way back via Connie's bar at Mero. One rum punch and a rum & coke later we were on our way back home. I'd floated in the sea, closed my eyes and for the first time in ages, thought of absolutely nothing. Bliss.

Friday, August 1, 2008

P O Box Number XXXX

Today was great. We have found a lovely lady to help us with the kids, Cornelia, so she had C&O and we kept Scarlett. We had loads to do (railings, landscaping, bank and PO) and got it all done pretty much. Cornelia took C&O into Roseau for the morning and Chloe had nail art on her nails (err, obviously) and toes. It looks fab. She's delighted and I'm just hoping I can get mine done too soon. Not sure, it's high up on the 'must do before we move in' list though. Today we were told our container would be here on 10th August so still living out of suitcases. The washing mountain is mile high. Must buy more deodorant. Unfortunately the shower is either boiling or nothing so I place the kids in there and just flick water over them. They are just happy that hair washing isn't even mentioned. Tomorrow we are going to go swimming, definitely.

I had an eureka moment today when I realised that the amount we spent on lunch yesterday would equate to a day's salary for me shortly. Therefore, today we went to Pearls and had roti's and lime juice. Must get the hang of queue barging though. I seemed to be permanently at the back even when I thought I really must be at the front. Must be more assertive or put my hand up and shout, possibly.

Yesterday I went to the Post Office to get a box. This is how it went:-

Can I have a box outside?
Well, can I get a box?
How do I get a PO Box number?
Fill out the form.
Can I do it now?
No, come back tomorrow with it.
Can I get a box then?
If you have filled the form out.
Ok, thanks, see you tomorrow.

So, I return today with form filled and, coincidentally Andy was with me. He took over - he's feeling all confident at the moment and has even started to pepper his conversations with 'yeah mon' or 'ok mon'. Anyway, he started with, hello, my wife would like a PO Box number and apparently there aren't any available. She's soon to start work here as a teacher blah blah blah. PO lady responds, ok, no problem, my child has just started there, welcome to Dominica, I will find a box outside for you no problem, may take a day or two, come back on Tuesday. At this point, I felt fairly confident and said, I'd return on Wednesday, she was delighted at the extra 24 hours search time and said that she'd definitely have a box by then.

Moral of the day. Speak up,look assertive and eat local.