Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Hello, Hurricane Earl - Our First Hurricane

If you look at the picture above, you can see the projected path of Hurricane Earl. From my understanding, it will be parallel to our island tomorrow afternoon. We've moved from a Hurricane Condition 5 (which basically means all clear) to a 4. As far as I know (would be nice if they handed out a list of what we're supposed to do at each level, ha), this means we have to bring everything in that could turn into a missle. So, we put away all the outdoor toys and things this afternoon.

I believe that a Condition 3 will mean evacuations of at least visitors, but am not sure at what point we would have to leave. I do know the boys and I will have to be some of the first residents out because of their age, but Oliver would have to stay, possibly through the entire thing.  I think I'm going to redo our 72-hour kits into evacuation kits. It's not quite the same kinds of things that we would need if we had to leave home.

So far, the only thing we've seen of Earl is some crazy wind. We went to a birthday party this evening at the park and all the plates, some full of food, were blowing the second people stopped holding them down. To get the candles to light, they had to make a wind break of a table cloth and about a dozen kids. I'm curious what tomorrow will bring, although I don't expect it to be too ridiculous. Maybe we'll go watch the waves or something if the rain isn't too bad.

If you're wondering, I don't freak out about hurricanes all that much. I do hope we don't live through one that decimates our house and all we own, but because I grew up in New England about an hour from the coast, I've lived through a couple growing up. They don't hit there too often, but we did lose our power after Hurricane Gloria in the '80s. It wasn't restored for a week, and we used kerosene lanterns in the evenings. We had a lot of loose limbs out back, and I actually got hit in the head with one. Luckily, it wasn't large and I was fine.

The biggest thing I remember from those years, actually, is how much they freaked out my mother. Every time one was projected to come north, she would scurry around collecting candles and emergency supplies to stow in the cellar. I don't recall ever actually retreating there, but maybe we did during Gloria (I was only about seven or eight when it happened). As for my siblings and I, a hurricane was cause for great excitement, and I am still feelign some of that tonight. I do understand how terrible they can be now, but I still feel such an adrenaline rush from it all.

I do hope we don't have to live through an evacuation and the ordeal that would be since I have to take the boys alone, but I am feeling more intrigued than anything about the danger we are in living here. While I don't want to lose our things and have to start over, stuff is stuff. I have a plan for the things we care the most about, like pictures and home video, plus the things like our passports and birth certificates that are kind of necessary for living life. We'd have a good cry over everything else, but it would be okay in the end.

So, bring it Earl! We are going to be fine.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

And There Was Rejoicing

This afternoon, a great hew and cry went up in our house: "The Internet is back!!" I don't think Oscar was as excited, but the rest of us were quite pumped up. It's been out for the last three days, and we weren't sure we'd see it at all this weekend. I actually wrote my last post sitting outside the retail store down the street from us. I wish I could use Blogger in offline mode then upload my posts because it's not so easy to write a decent post when you are limited to a random time in the coming days. I think we might end up getting a netbook because our laptop is too large to lug around everywhere. It was supposed to be a desktop replacement, but it hasn't really worked out like that because of the situation here.

All of this drama has taught me a few things, though. The biggest one is probably patience. From talking with the wifi guy here, it seems the problem is mostly because too many people in our area of base are using repeaters or routers. Some of them don't know how to set them up and have used the SSID of our internet signal as the name of their repeater. That means it's hard to know if we're connecting to the right thing. Also, with so many things vying for the internet, it bogs it down because there aren't enough channels to keep funneling it accurately. (And if you want more detailed info, well, I can't give much more because I barely understand this myself, haha.)

So, basically, this is a problem that may never be fixed. They are doing what they can, but they can't control what other people do. That wasn't good news, but I took a deep breath and decided to just make the best of it. It's tough because we rely on the internet for so much, more so than we had to do in the States, but as with all things here, you learn to go with the flow.

The second, and probably more important, lesson that I've learned is I have a bit of a problem with time wasting on the Internet. Now that we've faced more than one days-long outage, I'm discovering just how much more I get done without it. After hanging pictures and curtains, I've spent a lot of time in our yard, as it's a long neglected weed pit for the most part. I dug out a section next to our main entrance, built a stone wall, and transplanted a few plants into it. I finished it yesterday by covering it with red birch mulch, something we can get pretty cheaply here:

The two plants in the front are our jalapeno plants. The leaves are curled up for some reason, but they are still producing well. The container I had them in was breaking apart due to the harshness of the weather we have here, so they needed a new place to grow. I'm so glad there is actually dirt outside our new trailer! The green and purple plant in the middle is one that grows all over the place here. I even found one growing in our window sill when we moved here. They are extremely hardy and need almost no soil to get going, so very easy to transplant. I love how pretty they are, and plan on putting some more in on the other side of the trailer.

I think they want us to grow stuff or something because you can get mulch, compost (but only cow manure compost which is why I use my own, too), potting soil, and sometime peat moss for a much cheaper price than I recall buying it in the States. It's weird, too, because most stuff here is a lot more expensive.

Like our $7 a gallon milk, which, incidentally, the store is out of at the moment. There's a chance we won't have more until the end of next week, depending on what is going on with the supply barge, so I'm glad I have both powdered and canned milk to last us until then. Although we won't drink it fresh, that will work fine for just about anything else we need to do with it.

Whether it's milk, the Internet, or something else, living here has been an eye-opening education in what it means to do without. I get impatient with it sometimes, but I'm so grateful for it. I don't approach life quite the same as I used to, and that's a good thing. I think it's going to be weird to go back to life in the U.S. I do look forward to being able to count on things again, but I am really going to miss the constant challenge of figuring out how to do the basics.  It turns out, I'm a lot more innovative than I ever thought I could be!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

I Detest Wifi

I want to post about Wyatt and how his first week at school went. I keep composing posts and then I go to the computer and find we have no internet access. I don't have a clue what is going on with our wifi, but, wow, I hate it. Right now, it says we are connected, but have no internet access. If we go outside and walk up the street toward the tower, the internet suddenly starts working. I don't get this at all - typically, when the wifi is bad, it won't see the network at all. It doesn't tell you you have a great connection but can't get online.

The worst part is there is really nothing I can do about it. It's free (and also the only option - I couldn't pay for it if I tried), but that's the only good news. I'd rather pay for it so I can complain with some weight behind it. All we can really do is put in a work order online, which Oliver has done twice. Nothing has changed, and if anything, it's getting worse.

I wouldn't be so upset about it if there was a computer lab or something, or, you know, it wasn't so hot all the time that you sweat just sitting still. Or if our laptop had more than a half hour battery. And it's about to die, so that's it from me right now - sigh.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Good Son, by Michael Gruber

A couple months ago I was asked to do a review on the novel, "The Good Son" written by Michael Gruber. It's taken me a ridiculous amount of time to finish this book, but I have finally done just that. Moving and a trip to visit family got in the middle of that, but the biggest reason is because this book required some heavy thinking. I'd get through a page or two, then have to stop and consider it, or I'd be interrupted and end up rereading what I had just read. Not an easy book to read when you have two kids running around. I did, however, enjoy it quite a bit.

It's the story of an abdution in Pakistan of a group of peace conference attendees. One of them is Sonia Bailey Laghari, an American married to a Pakistani, with a gift for languages and the training of a psychologist in the Jungian philosophy. She's also a rather famous writer who traveled through many of the Islamic world's holiest sites dressed as a boy, writing a book about it that inscensed many Muslims, including her own family.

After it appears no one is going to go to their rescue, Sonia's son, Theo, is a special forces soldier who hatches his own scheme to have her rescued. The plot thickens further, and the ending was not one I expected at all.

I should make note that this is a novel that while not being particularly graphic, is heavy on violence. We are talking about terrorists, after all. However, what drew me in was how deeply the author got into the the current conflict we find ourselves in. After reading so much about the language, culture, and tribal loyalties, I walked away feeling as if I udnerstood something about this war that had completley eluded me before. What a complicated mess it truly is! And yet, Mr. Gruber manages to put a veyr human face on these people who kill and rampage. AS Sonia interprets the dreams of her captors, they become much more three dimensional.

While I realize this book is only fiction and should be viewed as such, I think it was an easier way to gain some understanding of those on the other side without plumbing through a myriad of non-fiction books. Although, I can guarenteee I wil be looking for a few good non-fiction books dealing with Islam and the Muslim world after reading "The Good Son".

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Update on the Car

We've had some progress on the car situation. A friend came over and jumped it. While he was here, he took a look at it and told Oliver the alternator still looks good (he knows a tad more about cars than we do). This was after Oliver pulled the battery out and found it had a lot of gunk built up on the terminals. He cleaned it off, then after it was going again, we let it run for awhile. It ran ok for a few drives, then died while Oliver was at work.

To make a long story short, we did learn we can buy car batteries in the store here. There was exactly one choice and it wasn't a perfect fit, but Oliver managed to get it in and working with a little creativity. It appears we'll have to replace the part that secures to the battery soon, but so far so good.

I'm really not surprised the battery is dead because about two years ago I took the car in for a major workup. The only thing outside of the usual fluids and such that they brought to my attention was the car battery. At the time, I wasn't sure if we were going to sell the car or not as our orders had yet to be decided, so I asked if it was nearing the end of life, or would last another year or so. He said as long as we weren't having problems, it should be ok. We weren't, so I went on my merry way.

I did worry about it some before we moved here, but the last time we took it in, the battery didn't come up as a concern so I stopped thinking about it. Clearly, we should have gone ahead and just replaced it, but you live, you learn. Hopefully, we can go back to using it without worry soon. We don't dare drive off base with it right now. If your car dies off-base, you are in trouble. There's no such thing as a tow truck company here.We also don't have a cell phone that works here, nor do most people.

For a picture to go with this post, I did some digging around in the photos I've taken over our time here. I have quite a few that are interesting, but haven't made it to the blog for one reason or another. (Mostly, because I take them, put them on the computer, then promptly forget them.) I found this one that seemed to relate a little and figured I'd share:

Gas Station on Andros

This is where we buy our gas. We have a little black key that fits into the pump and unlocks it. Our key is linked to an account, and every month we get a gas bill. It's kind of primitive, but reminds me of a backwoods gas station I used on a trip through Oregon during my college years. There were two pumps and they looked a lot like this one. At the time, I thought it was hilarious, but I am looking at it with new eyes, haha.

Friday, August 6, 2010

MMB Post

Here's my latest post on MMB.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Car Trouble

Oliver got up this morning to a dead battery. At least, that is what we hope it is. Although, no matter what it is, we aren't sure how to remedy it. We're going to try to find someone with an actual car versus golf cart and get a jump, but if we keep having the problem, we'll have to replace the battery. You know, on an island that doesn't sell car batteries, with a plane that doesn't allow it onboard, and nowhere online that will ship one here. Ugh. Obviously, there must be a solution as people do have cars here, both on base and off so we will hopefully be able to figure this out soon enough.

I am less than thrilled, however. Having something go wrong with the car has been the thing I've dreaded most. Neither Oliver or I are handy with cars. I kind of freak out when it doesn't do what I want, while he calmly studies it and sometimes can figure it out. Definitely leaving this one to him. Good thing we moved right behind the store and a block from the school. We barely need it - except it's a 20 minute walk to work for Oliver. He can get by fine, especially when the free taxi service is running, but he got called in to work tonight and he's going to have a crappy walk home at 0200.

Ah, the challenges of island life!

School is Coming...Freak Out Time!!

I woke up this morning and realized Wyatt is starting kindergarten in two weeks!!! Yikes, how did this sneak up on me? I feel a little overwhelmed trying to make sure he's ready. This is complicated by the fact that I've never had to get a kid ready for school and I'm not really sure I know what all the steps are.

We have the list of stuff to buy, and got most of it in the States during our vacation (I think our relatives thought it a little weird we spent so much of our time shopping, but there was no way I was going to waste an opportunity to visit a decent store). We made sure to buy him some new sneakers as he outgrew his old ones months ago and there was really no reason to replace them. We don't wear shoes much here. He isn't allowed to wear sandals to school, though, so we had to remedy his lack of sneakers. Although, I forgot about socks...yikes, I hope he still has some left.

There are still a few things left, like the paint smock I so boldly decided to make by cutting down one of Oliver's no longer needed uniforms. I also need to call and get an appointment with the doc here to have Wyatt do his school physical (which wasn't mentioned at all when we registered him, but sent out in a mass email a few days ago).

Luckily, that won't be any trouble. Routine medical care here is very easy to get, which is nice. You don't have to make an appointment for acute care, although you are dealing with weird hours. The doc is always on call, though, so for a real emergency, you can call dispatch and they will get you hooked up. My kids are pretty healthy so we haven't had to use it much, but I do so appreciate the few times I've taken them in there for weird skin issues (tropical life and new bugs made for some nasty rashes the first few months we got here). I waked in, was seen within five or so minutes, and left within 15, medication in hand. This is definitely going to be something I miss when we move.

Anyway, back to school. I'm supposed to label everything I got for him. That's all the guidance I got. I can remember a friend back in WA telling me she had been told to do every marker, etc. Wow. Is that what you really have to do? If so, I'm not looking forward to the labeling session. I'll definitely be enlisting Oliver's help with that one. Hopefully, we have some masking tape around here because I have no idea how to do this otherwise. I'm beginning to understand why someone would own a label maker...

Basically, I'm a wreck right now, more so than when we were trying to make the decision of whether or not to send him. I'm really stressed out about the first few weeks. We've already decided to burn some of his allowed tardies and not send him back to school after lunch if he's having a really hard time adjusting. I am hoping,though, that he is ok and has enough fun that it won't take much coaxing to get him to go back.

Sigh. So begins the school years. Ah, how I have been dreading these years! And yet, there is a part of me that is excited for him, too, even if it does mean breaking up the cozy little nest we've had at home for the last five years. I know he's ready for this, and even though I suspect he's going to fight us some on it, I believe it's ultimately going to be very good for him. I just hope we all survive it when it's not going so well...