Sunday, January 2, 2011

New site...

This blog has moved -- please visit the new site, to keep following our adventures!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Home for the holidays!

The Fam: Frannie, Mom (Katrina), me, Charlie, Margaret

As you can see, I have been delinquent on posting since Thanksgiving (when my fabulous family visited us in the Bahamas!), and we have been back in the U.S. for most of December... so, c squared will resume in full force in our new location (Dominica!) once we get settled there next week (yowzers!).

But for now, Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Bahamian Chateaux

You may think that you can only find a chateau en France, but boy are you wrong.  Just walk down our street and see a few of the special (bizarre) sights we have to behold.  One is bizarre in that it really is not a chateau at all... yet it boasts a self-proclaiming sign etched into its exterior wall.  The other, words cannot even adequately describe its bizarro-ness.  I asked a local what the story was with Cheateau #2 and he just laughed and replied, "Man, I don't know.  That guy's just obsessed with lions or something."  So, ladies and gentlemen, the moment you have all been waiting for: the Bahamian chateaus. 

I would like to enlist the help of many many friends who are fluent in French on this one: does this translate as "Nerve Castle"?  I mean, think it's a valid question...

Yeah... this place is for real.

So there you have it.  A few things you may want to consider if you are thinking about doing any home renovations...  I hear lions are all the rage.

P.S. -- Charlie and I tried to count all the lions on this property one day and there are hundreds.  I only wish I were kidding!

Morning Assembly

A few weeks ago I arrived at school to find the whole school gathered outside their classrooms for a morning assembly full of singing.  It was a pretty cool way to start the day.  You can hear a little bit of the singing in the video below.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

The past few weeks in photos

It is hard to believe that time our time here is winding down quickly.  We have one week to go until Charlie's final exam, and about 2.5 weeks until we head back to Virginia.  Here are some highlights from the past few weeks:

Cooking and eating lobsters...

Writing "news reports" at school... this one was my personal favorite....

Buying expensive milk... Yep, $7.19 is the cost of a regular old gallon of milk... We're not even talking good organic milk or anything like that, just plain old milk.  Yowzers.

Watching nightly TV on my "sofa bed"... this is what I do every night: I take all the cushions off the couch and build a bed in front of the TV.  Then I plug in headphones so that I don't disturb Charlie.  Every night.  You know where to find me.

And here is what Charlie does every night (and morning and afternoon): Study!!!!!!

We have also been enjoying the new palm trees that were just planted on our beach...

Sometimes we take some oh-so-fun jumping pics on the beach...

We like to walk on the beach and take pics of ourselves down by the jetty...

We are so lucky that there are always beautiful sunsets to enjoy.

I'm still hanging out with my crazy little dudes at school....

Sometimes we take our chairs out to the blacktop to enjoy a nice, long school assembly...

We have certainly been enjoying our matching black denim "Marlboro Man Wild West" jackets donated to us by a teacher at school who thought we might need some warmer clothes for the cooler weather we've been having... Yes, I did say matching: we have two of these gems.

And, in anticipation of Thanksgiving, I taught my kids at school how to draw turkeys...

A big hit, especially since they don't have art at school....

Ta ta for now!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Bikes, Ice Cream, and Peanut Peddlers

Have I mentioned that Charlie and I have bikes? Well, we do. And we love them. We are borrowing them from our friend J.C., our favorite Bahamian. Last Friday we went on a bike ride down to Port Lucaya and hit up the ice cream shop for some scoops. (Yes, Mom, we were thinking of you. Ice cream always makes us think of you. Remember the $12 container of Haagen Daas you devoured? We do.) Anyways, it was our first time getting ice cream down here and boy was it exciting. I wanted a milkshake (advertised on their board) but they didn’t have any milk. But they did have some pretty exciting flavors including Smurf. Do we have Smurf ice cream at home? If so, I must have overlooked it. Smurf is bright blue (obviously) and has marshmallows in it (like the color of the smurf’s hats). And it is blueberry flavored. I think it sounds gross. Yet I am fascinated by it. I asked the girl behind the counter lots of questions about Smurf ice cream, but denied a taste. Hmm… maybe this week. Anyways, where was I? Oh, yes – back to the bikes.

Charlie and I are planning on going out for a spin on our bikes in a little while. I am hoping we also get ice cream. Possibly Smurf. But also possibly not. Again, I digress. I apologize.

The other great thing about having a bike is that I can ride it to school. Before I was walking 30 minutes to and from school (and yes, it is uphill both ways… no, seriously, it is) and would occasionally get lucky and catch a bus (remember, they run at random here) or if I was really tuckered out I would hitch a ride with a stranger (although I usually try not to do this because it is slightly sketchy). Two weeks of all that walking and your shorts start to get a little roomy. Which gives your stomach room for ice cream. Anyways, now I bike to school which only takes 10 to 12 minutes, and I still get a good little workout with the hills. Biking here is a little crazy. There is really no shoulder and certainly no bike lanes, so I just ride on the side of the road saying prayers when I feel cars whizzing by me going quite fast. Don’t worry, I’m keeping it safe, but I do wish there was a bike lane. Crossing intersections here is tricky. It reminds me of my trip to London senior year of high school where we would all stop at street corners for 5 minutes looking in all directions because we could never remember which way to look. Cars also drive on the other side here, so it’s that same feeling. At the major intersection by school I never know quite which way to look, so I wait a long time and then mumble/sing “help meeeee” as I walk my bike across the intersection.

Oh – this is important -- I think that I have failed to mention the street corner activities here. There are always guys selling something. The regulars at the intersection by school sell peanuts (I have been trying to figure this out, and I think this is what they sell) in brown paper bags and newspapers. On the other side of the street, guys in neon yellow and orange crossing guard-esque vests sit on upside down crates and sell phone cards. Drivers stopped at the intersection honk their horns, and the guys will run out into the street with peanuts(?)/newspapers/phone cards and the transactions occur at the stoplights. I think that this is seriously how most Bahamians get their newspapers. Bizarre.

Lately, I have had some interactions with one of the peanut men. Really, he is like a teenage boy, maybe eighteen or nineteen or in his early twenties. And here is the story of how I met the peanut man (PM):

I am coming home from school and waiting at the stoplight muttering things to myself like “ I don’t know what’s going on” and “please don’t hit me, please don’t hit me” (my usual sing-song mumblings that come out of my mouth as I (prepare to) cross the street.) Then I look up because I hear noise coming from PM’s mouth and see him approaching me and looking at me. I say, “I’m sorry, what?” And from PM I hear, again, undecipherable noise… (Sometimes the Bahamian accent really throws you off when you aren’t expecting it and listening for it.) Again, “I’m sorry, what?” More noise. Then, again, louder and exasperated, I say, “I’m sorry, WHAT?” And then PM asks, “Can I exa-cise wit you?” Ha. What is it with Bahamian men wanting to join me in walks/bike rides. Enough already. So I say, “No thanks, I’m exercising alone today.” And then he says some nonsense about how I look good on my bike, blah blah blah. Then he spots my ring. “You’re married?” Yep, I’m married. Goodbye. And I ride away on my bike.

The next day on my way home from school, I am muttering to myself and trying to cross the intersection, when lo-and-behold, PM appears. “Man, you gorgeous. You got any sisters? I bet they beautiful just like you.” I tell PM that he is in luck and that I actually have not one but TWO sisters. Well, he thinks he has just died and gone to heaven. “Where yo sistahs live?” I tell him, Virginia. “Man, thas far. You think they wanna do long distance wit me?” Umm, probably not. Probably not close distance either, pal. “You gotta find out. Don’t break my heart.” So, sisters, if you are interested in dating a Bahamian guy who sells peanuts(?), newspapers and phone cards on the side of the road, just let me know. I can totally hook you up.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Where does the devil live?

At school on Mondays, we are lucky enough to have another volunteer in the classroom besides me. She is a lovely Bahamian woman named Mrs. Pelican. (That is seriously her name – isn’t that the best name ever? I love it!) Mrs. Pelican sings songs like “Jesus Loves Me” with the kids and tells them Bible stories. The Bible stories turn into comedic discussions because she asks lots of questions:

Pelican: We call God “God the Creator.” What did God the Creator make?
Student: The sun.
Pelican: Good job. What else did God the Creator make?
Student: Star and moon.
Pelican: Stars child, stars with an “s.” What else did God the Creator make?
Student: Water!
Pelican: Good, Water! Who lives in the water?
Student: The devil!
Pelican: The devil lives in the water? I never knew that. Who lives in the water?
Student: Sharks! Sharks and the devil.

Oh man. They crack me up.

Our Bible stories last week were about Jonah and the whale. The moral was that if you are bad, God will send a whale to eat you. Then Pelican picked up a book and smacked it onto the table: “If you are bad, this book will be your whale.” Good old fashioned corporal punishment. That is how they roll around here. Don’t worry, I abstain.

One of the thing that I really like about Mrs. Pelican is that she brings food from home to make the students sandwiches for snack during their “break” (snack time). Last week she made peanut butter sandwiches and this week she made tuna sandwiches. The students here eat every single bite – none of that “I don’t like the crust” business we have at home. She also brought bananas for Mrs. M. and me. When I thanked her and told her how nice she was to do all this for the students, she replied that she loves to do it, because she knows what it’s like to be a little kid and just want a sandwich and not have one. What a nice lady! Also, Bahamian women love to hug. Mrs. Pelican hugs me everyday before she leaves, and Mrs. M. hugs me when I arrive and when I leave, as do all the other classroom visitors. I love it.

One of my favorite things at school is working with Eddy, a student who recently came to the Bahamas from Haiti. When I started at the school two weeks ago, he was very quiet and reserved. I have been working with him one-on-one going over vocabulary, the alphabet, and numbers, and he is really starting to pick things up. Usually he has a hard time following things and interacting with others because of the language barrier, but today for the first time I saw him animatedly talking and to classmates in English and Creole and having fun and laughing. I’ve noticed that he also gets really excited when I arrive at school and immediately wants me to pull him aside to do some work with him. I am so excited about watching his progress.

Other highlights of the day: A man stopped by the classroom to see if I wanted to buy some lobsters (I passed – I’m not sure having them sit in the classroom and then toting them home in my backpack during my bike ride home at the end of the day was the best idea. We also recently got hooked up with 12 lobster tails for $5 from a man in a parking lot who claimed could get us “anything we needed.” We just got the lobsters. Which, in fact, I will be broiling for dinner tonight. YUM!) A woman who worked as a janitor at the school also came into the classroom with a box full of jewelry that she made – and I bought a very overpriced, colorful necklace. 

All in all, it was a good day.

Sassy Horse

One thing about living in the Bahamas is that you never know quite what to expect.  There are always funny encounters and strange sightings.  Last week on my walk home from school, out of nowhere I saw a horse pop its head over a fence from someone’s backyard, and the horse had cornrows!!!  I don't think I would want to mess with her...

Friday, October 15, 2010

Boats and Ice Cream

Snack time.  Superman ice cream was a big hit.

My second day volunteering was great, minus not being able to catch a bus and then walking and getting caught in a massive rainstorm. Luckily I had my rain coat, but I was still soaked. When I finally found a bus, the driver wouldn’t let me get on because I was too wet. Fabulous. I arrived at school 30 minutes late looking like a drowned rat, but no one seemed to mind.

I watched as Mrs. M reviewed sight words with the students. Somehow, we even got to have students demonstrate bowling in front of the class. We also had a girl/boy bubble wrap popping contest. Then I helped students finish their work writing sentences and letters. Once they finished their work, students were supposed to work in their workbooks – but sadly, only a few students actually had the workbooks they were supposed to use, and the teacher didn’t have access to a photo copier. Chaos.

One student asked me where I was from:

Me: “Virginia, in the United States.”

Student: “Oh yeah. I saw you on a boat.”

Really? I don't think so little friend.  Hilarious.

The kids are precious. They are so sweet and most of them really want to learn. They have excellent manners and wear the cutest uniforms.  They are always smiling.  Especially when they can buy ice cream cones for snack.  The little girl on the far left managed to get 2 ice cream cones.  You can imagine how the rest of the day went...

First Day of School

This week I began volunteering at one of the local elementary schools – here they call it “primary school.” The school is a 30 minute walk (or 5 minute bus ride, if you can catch one) down our street. The school has no art program, no art teacher, and no art supplies. I told them I would help with anything, so I am assisting Mrs. M, a wonderful first grade teacher, in her classroom. They don’t have kindergarten at this school, so their first grade is equivalent to our kindergarten, sort of. I say sort of because it is like our kindergartens, but without technology (including copy machines) or even school supplies. There are 23 students in the class, all Bahamian and Haitian. Lots of Haitians have come to the Bahamas in the past year, and I think this class is about half Haitian.

My first day the principal introduced me to the teacher and in the midst of my introduction Mrs. M had to deal with crazy 5 year olds in her classroom. Somehow my name was lost in introduction/translation/chaos and for the entire day she called me either Mrs. Sinclair or Mrs. St. Clare… I am not sure which; the Bahamian accents can make things a little confusing. I let it go all day until she was yelling “St. Clare!” at me across the classroom and I wasn’t responding. Finally I remembered that that was my new alter ego and showed a little recognition of my new name.

At the end of the day, I finally corrected her – I think it would’ve gotten a little crazy if I had let it go on any longer. Before the students chanted “Good afternoon Mrs. St. Clare,” I told Mrs. M that my last name was Wilkinson and she just apologized and then laughed and informed that “Wilkinson is a Bahamian surname” (last name). Apparently I have the same last name as a few students in the class. Problem solved. And yes, I am officially Bahamian.

-- St. Clare Wilkinson