Saturday, November 28, 2009

Growing Things

A few days ago, we woke up to this discovery:

After the farm trip fell through last week, I started thinking about gardening. I've always loved growing things, but it wasn't possible when we lived in Washington. We weren't really allowed to do much with our postage stamp-size lawn, so outdoor gardening was out. I thought about growing herbs or something inside, but our townhouse faced east and west. Even on the rare days there was sun to grow things, we didn't get much of it. I did try basil once, but it didn't make it. Growing things here, though, is quite possible.

So, I trekked over to the store to see what they might have. They had a couple seed packets handing on the wall, most likely leftovers from last spring. I ended up with radishes, spinach, chives, and jalapeno peppers. Probably not quite what I would have gone for if there were more choices, but it works. They always have a big pile of bags filled with potting soil outside, so I bought one of those and carried it all home.

Even though I can dig up our yard area for a garden, it really doesn't work out here. The ground here is full of coral. I am not positive, but I believe that's pretty much what Andros Island is made of. On the south side of our trailer, you can't even dig a spade into it because it's solid. Surprisingly, a lot of weeds still survive, though, so it isn't immediately apparent that that is the case.

Because of the coral, container gardening is what I'm going to do. We have some plastic containers that we were using in our home in Washington but that seem to have no use here, so I grabbed them and the boys and we planted our seeds. I need to find another container for the peppers, but we started some of everything else.

I'm not sure who was more excited about the growing things in our containers, Wyatt or I. It's a lot of fun to share my love of gardening with him. He will go outside to check on them, and both he and Oscar help me water them with their little watering cans (which, weirdly enough, have multiplied in the move; we used to only have one, but now we have two identical cans....I'm still puzzling over that one).

We will have to find out what will end up being successful, but it's a good feeling to take some control over what you eat, especially when it can be so difficult to find things available to buy.

Edited To Add: Since writing this post, I have discovered we can bring seeds in, just not live plants. I think I will be haunting the Seedsavers website quite a bit in the next few years. Hopefully, we can figure out what grows best here and how to accomplish that in containers without losing too much to the bugs. And here I was thinking I couldn't get organic or heirloom produce in the Bahamas. I'm always happy to be proven wrong when it comes to such things!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!!

We were invited to spent it with some people who live just up the street from us. Everyone who came brought something to contribute, so I made rolls this morning. I was excited that one of the three turkeys there had been deep fried because I've wanted to try that ever since I had heard people did that. It did taste pretty good, but not really much different than one that is done well in the oven.

We ate outside, the first Thanksgiving I've ever done that. They had these fantastic little net tents to put over the food which kept the flies off of everything. It was really nice, and I'm glad we decided to go. Plus, I didn't have to cook this year beyond the rolls. I do owe Oliver a pumpkin pie, though. I'll have to get on that tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Where's That Flashlight?

Oliver was flipping burgers for an MWR fundraiser at the softball game tonight, so the boys and I tagged along. Wyatt jumped into the wrestling match on the sand volleyball court with a bunch of the other boys that live here (nearly all the kids here are boys, interestingly enough). I was very impressed with how careful the older boys were with the little kids. I was not, however, so thrilled to see the sand matted into my son's hair when he came running back to me.

So, a bath was in order as soon as we returned to the trailer. I got them settled with a few toys, then ran down the hall to throw in a load of laundry. I had just started the washer when the power went out and the place was thrown into darkness. I could hear the boys screaming because the lights were out, and I called out to them in an effort to reassure them while I searched for a flashlight. I was able to get a hold of Wyatt's nightlight/flashlight combo that was plugged into the wall in his room right next to the bathroom where the boys were.

It didn't take me too long to do this in actuality, but it seemed like time slowed while I was looking for the light. Wyatt and Oscar were fine, but it took a lot of talking before they stopped freaking out. They wouldn't let me leave them alone unless I left the flashlight, so I ended up leading them through the house while we collected pjs and other necessary bedtime accouterments. I had promised them that we would all snuggle onto my bed if the lights were still out, but the power came back on while I was getting them dressed. They were all right about sleeping in their own beds after that.

I did learn a few things tonight. First, that we need to keep flashlights and extra batteries in every room of the house. Our place gets very, very dark when there is no power. I was literally feeling my way around while looking for the flashlight. Having one nearby would have been a great help.

Second, difficult events can often beget interesting teaching moments for both myself and the kids. When I was talking about how we can handle the rest of the evening without power, Wyatt assured me the TV would work if we shined the flashlight on it. He was a little upset when I explained that the same power that turns on the lights also makes the TV run. We then started naming everything that is run by electricity in the trailer.

It was enlightening to both of us just how much of our lives need electricity. It's probably a good idea to think carefully about what we would need short term if we were forced to deal with a prolonged electrical outage. I haven't spent much time on this before, but I know I should do so. It's not fun to have no plan when trouble comes.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Beach at Night

On a whim, we decided to hit up the beach tonight after dinner. Ever since daylight savings hit, sunset has been around 1730, so it was nearly dark when we left. I didn't bother with pictures because my camera can't handle that sort of photo, sadly, but it was beautiful. The tide was very low, so the sand was swept clean of most of the usual seaweed tracks. The wind was just high enough to keep the nasty biting flies away (definitely the one awful thing about the beach here), and, as usual, we were the only people in sight.

We had let the boys bring flashlights, so they ran around flashing them around at things. Wyatt was playing pirate for awhile, then that morphed into kitty digging in the sand. Needless to say, he was completely coated in sand by the time we were done there. He was having a lot of fun, though. Both Oliver and Oscar were ready to leave long before we were, so next time I think I'll just bring him and we can spend however much time we want out there.

I have a feeling our car is going to be perpetually coated in sand while we live here. Never that fastidious of a car cleaner, with the exception of making sure there is no "stuff" in it, I have pretty much given up the idea of a daily vacuum. It's just part of the landscape here. The only time you aren't walking in it is when you are up on the sidewalk or inside a building. It's the cost of living on a tropical island. I think I can live with that.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Bump in the Road

We were supposed to go out to the Mennonite farm today. Unfortunately, due to an incident last night, the person who was going to take us out there and show us around the island a bit was called into work today. If Oliver had been around, I might have just decided to try to find it myself, but I really did not feel confident doing that alone with our boys in tow. So, we stayed home, and I wasn't happy about that.

Every time you move, there is an adjustment period no matter how much you wanted to be where you moved or how much you enjoy living there. For me, I find the logistics of it, like getting food, settling into a new house, or learning a new routine much easier than the people side of things. It's always hard to leave friends behind, and it's equally hard to find people you click with in your new home. I've met a lot of very nice people here, but haven't really connected with anyone as of yet. I know it will happen in time, but until it does, it will sadden me in certain moments. Today was definitely one of those days.

I decided I didn't want to mope all day over our lost trip. I know we'll make it out there another day, and I needed to pull things together for both myself and Wyatt, who was also disappointed. So, I gave myself permission to not stress about the house and we went outside to play with the hose. Later, while Oscar was napping, I let Wyatt skip his learning time (I'm teaching him to read using a computer program that is also used in many schools, and we do a lesson a day before he's allowed to have computer or Wii time), let him play his games on the computer, and I spent some time alone reading and thinking.

Hopefully, tomorrow will be better, but I'm happy to report tonight ended nicely. Oscar has been having trouble falling asleep at night, so I laid down with him to help him calm down. I love doing that. He's such a sweet little boy. No matter how much he taxes my patience, whenever I look at him, I know how lucky I am to have a two year old in the house.

(Pic taken by Andrea)

No one loves you like a two year old does. He'll be running around the house doing his thing, and suddenly he will catch my eye across the room. He'll sail towards me, shouting, "Mommy! Mommy!" until he has flung himself into my arms. Then, he's off again in his own world, his mission of love completed. I cannot do without this little guy. I'm happy to know he feels the same about me.                      

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


I don't think I will ever get used to going outside to warm up. Every time I walk outdoors, I am surprised at the temperature difference. I realized today that Thanksgiving is next week. That only compounds the weirdness.

Winter is definitely perfect around here, though. It's not blazing hot, and just about everything feels comfortable, whether we are playing at the beach or watching a softball game. If the humidity weren't so high, I probably wouldn't use the air conditioner at all. However, mold can be a big problem around here, so I think we will keep it running.

Thursday the boys and I are going to tag along on a trip to the Mennonite farm up in the North of Andros. Apparently, it's possibly the only place to get fresh, locally grown fruits and vegetables on the island. I'm a tad tired of the imported stuff; it's never that great by the time it gets here, and then it sits until it rots (literally; I've seen black ears of corn piled in their bin before).

I'm also excited to see more of the island. This being the first time I've really had to navigate around a foreign country, I feel apprehensive about driving. The road signs are different, and the road system is not all nicely mapped laid out like it is in the States.

Also, they drive on the left side of the road. Although, I've only seen a handful of cars made like that, so this is a little amusing. We drive on the left on base, too, so I've had a chance to get used to it. It's hard, though, when you drive up to an unfamiliar intersection or are pulling out of a parking lot. I always have to think hard about which lane I need to be pulling into and where my car needs to be to not block other cars. Also, who has the right of way when a right hand turn is now like a left hand turn in the States. I have found myself more than once pulling into a road and automatically driving on the wrong side. Good thing traffic is nil around here. Hopefully, I don't have the same problem in reverse the next time we are in the States. That would probably not turn out as well.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Good Things Ahead

We have had a really great week. Oliver has had to work this weekend, which was a bummer, but it's the first time it's happened since we got here so I really can't complain. Mostly this post is going to be a random mix of stuff, so bear with me.

First, I have finally figured out where to send our Church records. Through a convoluted way, we received a phone call from the President of the Kingston Jamaica Mission. We'll be sending our tithing to the mission office and can do interviews and such there, too.

He did confirm that as far as he knows, we are the only LDS members on Andros Island. That is a very weird feeling, but I kind of already knew that. It's going to be an interesting challenge, but I believe we will be fine.

Ok, on to happening number two: Yesterday, they had a craft fair on base. I wasn't able to get there until the afternoon so I missed quite a few of the booths, but I was able to stop and talk to some people manning a booth with cake and jams on it. I felt like I was back in Washington at a farmer's market for a minute there, and it was a good feeling.

Apparently, they make the jams on base with mostly local fruits. The store here only carries jams and jellies containing high fructose corn syrup. Since we don't eat that, I was worried we were going to have to ship some in from Florida or order online, but now I don't have to. I quite happily bought a kind called Guinep to try. Here is a pic of it. You'll have to pardon the weird marks on the table. I swear, I actually wash it; the flash just bounced off the wet marks:

 The jelly is actually more of a pale orange, but the aforementioned flash messed it up and I'm not yet handy enough with Photoshop to fix it. Or edit out the bad table marks. In taste, it is very mild. We had it in sandwiches for lunch today, and Wyatt refused to try it because it's not his normal strawberry, but everyone else liked it. I will just have to wait until the strawberry is gone for Wyatt to become a convert. When he has no choice, he's pretty good about eating what there is.

Next time, I'm going to buy some passion fruit jelly. That really sounds good.

The third thing to share are a few beach pictures. I have many more, including some very windy shots from last weekend, but I have zero patience to weed through them right now. I have managed to bring my camera to the beach several times in the last week, but these pictures were taken on Veteran's Day. After the ceremony, Oliver had to go to work, so I packed up the boys and took them to play in the sand. I appreciate that we are so close to the beach that it is not intimidating to do that here. It takes more time to get us all ready than it does to drive there. We just played for about an hour until they were ready for lunch, then we went back home.

Finally, I leave you with this fabulous photo of our youngest. We very rarely buy chips, but when I left to go to the store yesterday, Oliver asked me to bring some home for him. When I got there, all they had were these jalapeno Doritos and some baked Lay's barbecue chips. They are playing war games this week, which is why Oliver is working this weekend, so the place is swarming (well, as swarming as it ever gets around here) with pilots and helo crews. The bonus for us is many a fantastic helicopter sighting, including watching them carry the torpedoes mid-air, but the downside is all the chips were bought up. So, jalapeno chips it was.

Oliver opened them right away, and we all tried them. They were pretty hot, and Wyatt was quickly disinterested. Oscar, though, he dove right in. We had to cut him off after awhile. Apparently, this little guy likes it spicy. He also asked for some hot sauce on his pasta tonight and actually ate it. He never ceases to surprise me. I'm really, really happy he joined our crazy clan.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Veteran's Day

We were able to go to the small ceremony they did here on AUTEC for Veteran's Day. They are flying the flag at half mast, and raised the Bahamian flag alongside it. I brought the boys because I thought it was important they learn to respect our flag and what our veterans, their dad included even if he hates being recognized that way, have done for our country. No matter how I may feel about our current wars, I don't doubt those that have served and are serving have overwhelmingly done so with honor.

Last night, while I was getting ready for bed, I turned on the AFN movie channel and caught the very beginning of Taking Chance. It was 2200 and I was tired, but I couldn't stop watching it. I ended up staying up to see the end, and I'm glad I did. If you ever want to gain a deep sense of respect for what our war dead go through from battlefield to grave site, you should watch that movie. It was gratifying to see the love and respect that was accorded this one soldier on his last journey home. Although I pray my own husband never comes home in such a way, I am grateful beyond words to know he would be treated with the same respect if it ever did happen.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Warning: Blog Under Construction

I've been meaning to do this for awhile, and it's probably going to be a bit before it's finished, but I'm working on a new background. So, if you come and it looks rather unreadable, it will get better, I promise.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Ah, the Car Saga

This morning, as I said in an earlier post, I took the boys outside to play in the mud. This morning was overcast and a bit cooler than usual. To give you perspective, however, we are still running the air conditioner. Wyatt, though, chose to go outside in this getup (yes, those are sweat pants):

Apparently, my four year old has already acclimated himself to life here. Hopefully, this means he will also find it easy to move back into a colder environment when we are done living down here. I can see all of us freezing in 60 degree weather.

It's what's behind him, however, that I wanted to really talk about. That's the front end of our car, which arrived on island last week. Originally, we had planned to leave it in West Palm Beach for awhile. We had been told we could get a free parking spot near the terminal there, so we weren't anticipating any issues.

However, upon arrival there, we found out differently. Oliver went into the office there to request our parking space. They told him there was a waiting list, so he would have to make different arrangements. They had no real options outside of this. The guy he talked to actually suggested we leave it with one of our friends in the area. You know, in case we actually had friends in WPB.

Needless to say, we freaked out about this. We had less than 24 hours before our flight left. After combing through our list of nonexistent friends in the area, we spent some time online trying to find a reasonably priced place to park the car. The last thing we wanted to do was just leave it at the airport in long-term parking, as we weren't sure of its safety and doing that would cost $13 a day. That was going to add up.

Unfortunately, that's exactly what ended up happening. There just wasn't enough time to come up with a better alternative. We got on our flight, and just crossed our fingers we would be able to get back over fairly quickly and take care of it.

What really frustrated me the most about all of this is that the place to drop the car off to have it shipped was up near Orlando. If we had been told there was a waiting list when we first asked about this, we could have just changed plans, dropped it off the day we left Disney World, and rented a car for the last couple of days in West Palm Beach. Instead, we were left trying to get a flight back off the island to then make a two hour drive back up to Port Canaveral.

To make a long story short, they got Oliver on a flight back to the U.S. a couple weeks after we arrived. We ended up paying about $150 in parking fees, but he was able to get it to Port Canaveral, then catch a flight back to Andros the next morning without further incident.

In the long run, I think it's worked out better for us. We were thinking about buying a second car and leaving it in Florida, but didn't because we couldn't find one at our price point with the madness of the Cash for Clunkers program. I've never in my life been so surprised at being turned away when we were prepared to pay cash for a car. It was aggravating, but now I'm so grateful it happened. We would still have a car sitting there costing us much money because it would have been stupid to have two cars here when we barely need the one.

Also, after looking at what it costs to have a car licensed and insured in Florida, it's going to be a lot cheaper to just rent a car every few months when we fly over there. After deciding to leave our car in WPB, we had planned on holding onto our Washington plates as long as we could, as it's a lot cheaper doing it that way versus turning into Florida residents. However, we are now doing it all through the Bahamian government as required, which is even cheaper.

Speaking of Bahamian insurance, we had to get insurance before we could get our car released. We were finally able to find someone to drive us off-base to take care of that two days ago. It was our first foray outside the gate since we moved here. We pulled up to the small grocery store....and got our insurance from the cashier. There is a desk in the corner of the store where she took care of that. Luckily, no one else came in and needed to buy anything while Oliver was signing the paperwork or she would have had to juggle both at the same time. The whole thing was pretty funny.

So, we now have our car. We still need to get our Bahamian plates, but hopefully we'll be able to take care of that this afternoon. We're not too worked up about it, though, because we mostly want it for off-base trips. AUTEC is only about a mile square, so it's easy to walk most places. Oliver works on the opposite end and doesn't plan on driving much as he can take the base taxi, which is free. I will probably only use it to buy groceries and going to the beach, which is a good trek with two kids. We won't be buying a lot of gas because of this, which is good.

Oliver took a pretty hefty pay cut to come here. COLA is offsetting some of it, but I'm relieved to discover that lower costs on pretty much everything but food will take care of most of the rest. Internet, cable, and phone (except long distance calls, which are expensive) are all included in our housing, so we don't pay extra for them, and a lot of the things there are to do here for entertainment don't cost anything, either. If we had taken shore duty in Virginia, which was our second choice, we would have had a much harder time.

As a side note, when I called USAA to cancel our car insurance, they told me we could sign up for a policy that will cost us $5 a year while we are overseas. It will cover any rentals we get, and will keep us from appearing to have had a huge gap in coverage, which would have resulted in higher rates. I think being able to use USAA has got to be one of the best benefits of being military. I've never had anything but positive experiences with them.

Bahamian Wildlife

Back in Washington, it was a common occurrence to see deer grazing on your front lawn in military housing. I had one friend tell me a story of how she woke up one morning and watched a doe give birth outside her window. Sadly, I never got to see anything quite that exciting, but the boys and I have witnessed many deer families wandering the neighborhood.

Here in the Bahamas, we get to see wildlife of another sort. This morning, while we were outside playing in the mud and puddles from yesterday's rainstorm (yep, we use the bathtub a lot here; I figure getting dirty and wet is a benefit of living in a place that is always warm), we were able to witness this little herd waltzing up our street:

I'm really not sure who was more excited, the boys or I.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Adrift, Yet Not

We knew that coming here would be a challenge. We also knew it would yield great rewards. We've definitely been finding this to be true on both counts.

The food situation was expected, and I had planned for it. It will be a relief to go back to real supermarkets, but I appreciate all I'm learning about using the sorts of food you are advised to have in your food storage. I am also happy to discover that when you have to do without, innovation kicks in and possibilities abound.

The one thing I'm having the hardest time with, though, is the inability to attend church. I miss having a ward to go to. Well, actually, I miss having the opportunity to meet with anyone outside our family that is LDS. I am realizing just how many times I took that for granted, how many times I just stayed home because it was easier. I wish I hadn't done that. It's a real blessing to be around people that share your religion, that both teach and strengthen you.

We've met some great people, but I can tell it will be a bit harder to find friends here. I can't just go to church and make the quick bonds that come with a shared experience and understanding. I know I'll find my place, but right now, it's tough to know where that will be. Drinking seems to be the big pastime here, which obviously puts a damper on things for us. We haven't made a big deal about it, but people already seem to know not to offer it. The last time we went to something, a couple people tried to find me the few non-alcoholic drinks buried in the cooler. I really appreciated that.

We're just doing our own thing right now. We get dressed for church in the morning, and have a small Primary for our boys. This past Sunday, Wyatt asked for a small chair, so we lined up our little camping chairs in the living room and had them sit there. They already seem to realize that even though we are at home, we are still going to church. It's hard to have to do it by ourselves, to feel the pressure of knowing that if we don't teach them, no one will.

It's also amazing, though, just how much more we are getting out of this. I'm seeing Oliver in a totally new light as he has met me halfway in making this happen. He's missed so much church in the past that I haven't really had the opportunity to see him serving or teaching in that way. He has only held one calling that actually required he do something in the last six years, and it was only for about six months. I love discovering that he has a faith and belief I didn't realize was as strong as it is.

I have felt in the past that I was going to church just because I was supposed to, not because I was going to learn anything. Most of my time was spent with our youngest, who hated nursery and wouldn't sit still for sacrament meeting. I rarely could sit through an entire Relief Society meeting without being needed, and didn't even bother to try to get to Sunday School. Now, while we are still struggling to teach Oscar to sit still and listen, it's amazing just how much more you can gain when you are preparing and teaching the lessons to your own children.

There are problems, however. I have no idea where we fit anymore. I thought every part of the world had at least a mission to watch over it, but no one we've talked to seems to know who is over us. Our records are still sitting in Washington because I don't know where to send them. Our tithing is also an issue because I don't know who to give it to. I actually mailed a check to Salt Lake last week because we had three months worth building up in our account and I don't want it there. It's not our money.

Hopefully, we'll be able to figure this all out before too much longer. At least before I need a new temple recommend. I don't even know where to begin to get another one of those...

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Halloween in the Bahamas

Wyatt, our bounty hunter. I realize this costume won't be winning any authenticity awards anytime soon, but I'm pretty proud of it. It's the first time I've ever really come up with an original costume. His helmet and jet pack were made of paper mache. I used packing paper and cardboard from moving boxes to make them. His vest is the one we bought to use in lieu of a car seat. We decided on camo pants to give it a bit of a military look. His snow boots would have worked better, but they are now under his bed in a small space behind the drawers. You have to pull the mattress and box spring off, then pull up the slats to get to them. Yeah, we weren't quite that ambitious yesterday.

And Oscar, who went as a soccer player. Sadly, we had to nix the turtle costume. He refused to wear anything that wasn't real clothes. He did, however, proudly announce at every house, "I a soccer player!" He's wearing his pumpkin bucket on his head because Wyatt discovered awhile ago that he could see out the eyes if he pulled it low enough. He taught Oscar that it was fun to wear them as "helmets". 
Ah, brothers. They keep us entertained!

Trick or treating this year was interesting. Oliver received an email a week or so ago with all the rules. There were hours set for it, and parts of housing were considered off-limits. If you lived in the family areas and wanted to participate, you just had to leave your porch light on. No one was supposed to knock on doors with the lights out.

I really liked this approach. Living on Bangor base in Washington, we were always inundated with kids from both the base and in town who would come on base for their trick or treating. The street was crowded with kids, and we typically had to hang a sign stating we had no candy or they would ring your bell until late. Here, all we had to do was turn out the light when the candy was gone.

They allowed the Bahamian employees to bring kids on base to participate. This was good because there are only about 40 kids that live here. It was interesting, though, to see how many of them didn't quite understand the concept. A lot of them weren't wearing costumes, and they rarely said "Trick or treat!" when they came to the door.

A lot of people really got into it here. They decked out their trailer and sat outside waiting for the kids to come by. One family had even built a small haunted house out of a screen house and blankets. Fake smoke was billowing out of it, and a guy in a mask was handing out candy in there. I never saw the inside, though, because Oscar took one look at it and screamed. I'm pretty sure Wyatt would have gone in there as we've taken him to a haunted house every year before now, but he wasn't going to do it alone. So, the masked man came out and handed them their candy.

One of the more amusing things about trick or treating here, though, were all the people who used their golf carts. They would drive down the street, let out the kids to hit up a few trailers, then drive on to the next set. Most people walked, us included, and we really didn't have to worry about cars. There are more golf carts on base than cars, and a lot of people who own cars have golf carts, too.

The boys filled their pumpkin buckets be the end of the third street, so Wyatt decided he was done. I was okay with this as I'd been carrying both Oscar and his full pumpkin the entire way. I didn't bring the stroller because I thought he would walk a good part of it. He was pretty freaked out by all the costumes and spooky decorations, though, so he wouldn't let me put him down. Oliver had stayed behind to give out candy in his pirate get-up (he had no shirt, so I'm not going to post it, but it was hilarious), so I wasn't able to get a break from carrying Oscar the entire 45 minutes we were out. My arms were shaking by the time we got back to the trailer.

All in all, it was a lot of fun. Definitely our most interesting Halloween to date, however. It was also the first Halloween that had me sweating by the end of the evening.