Joanne's new life in the Bahamas – Journal of a Canadian family after moving to the Bahamas from Vancouver

Joanne’s husband was transferred to the Four Seasons Hotel, in Great Exuma, Bahamas, as Director of Engineering. The following is her journal. They previously lived in Vancouver, Britsh Columbia.

Arrival
A month ago we landed in Great Exuma, Bahamas. We had a great flight on an old plane seating about 15 people with one seat on each side.

We were all excited and still in a bit of shock from the transition of leaving Vancouver Canada to the Bahamas for my husband, Johns transfer to the Four Seasons Hotel as Director of Engineering.Our children Anna 13 and Lee 10 were excited but really sad to leave their friends. So was I as well as giving up my job as pre-school Instructor, something I loved . But living on a tropical Island was something John has allways wanted to do and the timeing seemed right. The kids were at an age where they were old enough to appreciate and remember the whole cultural experience and not too old to refuse to move. I too am at an age where life feels too short and grabbing an opportunity to face fears of such a big change was a challenge I wanted to face.

I knew it would be hot but the fresh air the breezes and AIR CONDITIONING make it bearable.

Everything is slower paced here. to get a phone installed it took a week. There is only 1 hydro truck and appointments are taken casually, so we hung around the house a few days when we would have preferred to be at the beach. At first we thought we could buy a car from the island , something for sale on the side of the road. It turns out they would have cost too much in repairs so did what just about everyone else does and called a well known car dealer in Nassau recommended by a friend of Johns. We called up and told him what we were looking for then about 2 weeks later it made the shipment to Exuma. Most cost about 5,500. us and it seems like a good deal. and is in good shape. The cars are shipped in from Japan and are all Japanese. We just got our car insurance yesterday and its about 250.00 a year but I dont think it covers much. As long as it runs for the time we are here Im ok with that.
But the drivers can be a little crazy. It is left side driving which some follow but others drive all over so you have to be careful especially at night when they are drinking. Some streets have street lights but it can been dark and when the locals are looking for crabs at night with their buckets you have to be careful not to hit them. The crabs are all over the streets at night in various sizes.

We live across from a bushy area lined by volcanic rocks . Close enough for the crabs to climb around our house at night but they are only 2"-3" . However our house big and spacious as it is is poorly constructed in some rooms and the smaller crabs have occasionally crept through our pine wooded ceiling . It can be a little eerie hearing the scratching sound of their claws. One night I spent the night lying in bed with a flashlight keeping an eye out for crab legs poking through then I would bang the wood and they would go away for a while. Luckily they are scared of us and dont show themselves during the day but I have offered a reward to the kids of 1.00 for every crab caught and thrown outside and 25 cents for spotting one if they are too scared to pick them up in a plastic bag.

Our two cats , 3 years old have also managed to get used to the changes but I felt so guilty for the 3 plane rides they had to take to get here. Only the smallest airline would accept them travelling in the summer ,because most refuse to put them through the stress of the heat. We brought flea medicine for them because I read about the fleas before leaving but so far we havent started treatment yet as they dont seem to be scratching too much. They appreciate the airconditioning also and are great at keeping the bug population down. We did have to make sure they had their rabies shots no earlier than a month before leaving and 1 health certificate no longer than 10 days before departure.

We also got hep a and b shots. Not a must bust recommended by our doctor.

My daughter and I are having stomach problems in the morning but Im not sure if its nerves, or the heat

The kids all wear uniforms here and while they dont like it they are adjusting. Their is one highschool which is now overcrowded because of all the children transferred here because of local hotels and smaller inns. But it is a good school from what I hear and the new principal seems dedicated and very proud of the Bahamian Educational system. My daughter will be writing a placement test this week, mostly for math and english to see what level of the 3 in grade nine she will be in.

Their are about 12 elementary schools , some one room buildings, others have a few small buildings and maybe a portable or two. They use fans in the classrooms and it seems to do the job.
Lunch time venders come around selling chicken, ribs, pop and junk food to most schools. Usually about 2.00 will cover it. But my kids dont seem to have much of an appetite and fill up on fluids and juicy fruits and vegetables. The school system seems similar but Ive heard mixed info. on wether or not they are the same level as Canada. I think a tutor when we get home will help if we need.it to get them up to Canadian levels.

We are supposed to be here for two years and I think we owe it to John and ourselves to give it a good try . But as of now Anna wants to leave after 1. I think after 1 year goes by quickly and knowing we only will have 1 to go will help. >From what I hear most people are transferred after two anyway.

Somedays are great and I love the island the friendly so helpful locals, the scenery the peace and quiet. Other days, I dont know if I’ll make it past the first year. This is partly because I feel bad that my kids are homesick and I know this will get better. They are just now, realizing how real this is.and I think it would be unfair to expect them to understand the huge move and transistion ahead of time. I think it can only be realized as you live it and experience it. But I know it will be an experience we will never forget and it will influence our lives forever in a positive way.
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Homesick
After I dropped the kids off at their bus stops I went for a jog on the beach. The main road, the Queens highway doesn’t always have much of a side area safe enough and some of the backroads are rough and rocky.

When I reached the beach 3 ghost crabs , at least I think they were because they were really pale yellowy/white were climbing around the rocks. I just went up as far as I could and when I came back to my own area it felt so familiar and I could picture Anna and Lee swimming and playing around in the waves. Maybe its starting to feel like home or at least like we belong.

Anna and Lee are adjusting to the schools but find the Monday morning assemblies in the heat a little hard and they actually felt sick. They don’t have a gym or room big enough for all the students to do it inside.

When I leave the house to meet them at their bustops I face the ocean and just stare and do feel lucky that we are here and can enjoy this everyday. I think John is so busy at work its hard for him to appreciate it all and he looks forward to the weekends when we can explore new beaches.

Runaway beach was one we explored last Sunday and were the only ones their most of the time. Their were several hammocks, picnic tables, and lounge chairs available and a cafe . They turned the music on when we arrived and cleaned off the tables. We ended up having lunch and I tried conch fritters for the first time. Really good and spicy. The water was calm there and John and Lee went snorkeling and saw a lobster trying to hide behind a rock in a reef. Last March they had their first annual Conch Cracking Festival , so maybe they’ll have it again and we can check it out.

I really miss not being able to work and I miss the adult contact so I will have to make the effort to find some volunteer work. Or else try to get to know the other spouses who are scattered around the island.

We found a good pizza place, Foxy’spizza nearby and the kids were glad as well. Its our only fast food outlet now, but who knows what else will be here in the future.

All of a sudden the construction has resumed on houses and buildings. I guess summer vacation is over for everyone. Even the weather is slightly cooler and breezier

I found a couple of 2" scorpions in the house this morning, actually our cats found one in a floor board and I found one in the corner of Lees room on the ceiling. I think these are harmless if I found the right one on the computer and my cats don’t eat them just kill them and they are slow enough to catch. But I don’t know if their tales would sting if attacked by the cats, but I haven’t heard any cries from them.

I wonder how our house is doing in B.C. We are getting the money deposited from our Rental Agent and we got our first statement so everything seems ok so far. But I miss our house, the garden and my neighborhood maybe because we just bought it a year ago. But I want this experience to work and try to sound positive even if I’m homesick . I want to set a good example for the kids and admire the courage they are showing so far. At least the move isn’t permanent and we get to go back to our home.
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Hurricane Rita
Well we are back to peace and quiet and sunshine after our first tropical storm. We had a lot of wind about 70mph and rain that shook our windows doors and nerves. Our house had a few leaks here and there but nothing that a few towels couldnt soak up. It was scary though, being across from the beach and up on a hill we saw it coming before it hit us and I was never sure how long it would last or how bad it would get. So we ended up losing power for 2 days and a couple of phone lines are still waiting to be repaired in front of our house.

The kids were great and for them it was like a snowday and they enjoyed the time off school. We checked in on our cats because we thought it would be less stressful for all of us to leave them here. One night we found a baby crab in their water dish. There was also a stick bug that hung onto our living room screen for several hours, but I forgot to check on him afterwards.

The Four Seasons let us stay at the hotel which was a nice break and we enjoyed a bit of luxury for awhile. The staff there are so friendly and so kind, and seem honestly happy doing their jobs.

But it was nice to get back to our home our patch of paradise and I missed it so I guess home really is where the heart is.

I can see the clouds moving across the ocean in front of us and the water getting darker in the horizon as the rain falls, but it will pass in minutes.

Today I went for a walk to Farmers Hill a nearby community with a few shops and a ton of school children of all ages who live in the colourful houses around the neighborhood. The 8-8 store is convenient because the other grocery stores in Georgetown close at 7 pm. It was a 15 minute walk from our house and not too hot but I was glad I brought a water bottle. There is also a barber shop a gas station which is occasionally open, two `churches which always seem busy in the evenings, and an automotive shop.

The churches here seem so beautiful and nicely painted , and religion plays a large part in everyday life I think and religious studies are mandatory at all school levels. Even the stores and business offices have religious posters displayed. Some shops like one gas station nearby is called the Blessed Full which isn’t unusual to see here. I recently found another little grocery store/drugstore which has a small pharmacy in the back and they carry a lot more of the American/Canadian supplies.

We saw a great baseball game played by the Exuma Men’s team and another local team for the Championship playoffs this past weekend. The announcer was great and funny and the crowd was just like home. John knows players on both teams who work at the hotel so we felt like we had someone to cheer for. They had just gotten a new score board donated by one of the banks from the Island. The women were playing next but it was getting late as the first game started at 8pm so we’ll have to see them play when the season starts again in the spring.

I’m hoping Anna will join her school baseball team since she loves the game so much and we brought several ball gloves.

Lee is meeting more kids at school and enjoying all the flips and cartwheels the athletic kids do during recess and lunch. He has been practicing at home too. The kids seems to get nervous still in the mornings before school but are getting better. I think Lee worries about the "cracking" that goes on in his elementary school, which is like our old strap. Its done with a stick and I think is based on the old strict system schools used to have. The schools are strict but Lee is a good kid and most kids I’m sure don’t have to worry about it, but I feel bad that he does.

We still haven’t made it to Stocking Island or Tropic of Cancer Beach yet , two fun popular family places, so maybe this weekend.
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Settling into a Routine
Life is settling into a routine of school for the kids, work for John and a quiet life for me.

I went jogging yesterday on the back roads and past a lot of construction of houses and a few small apartments. The apartments are similar to small motels with enough room for a few small families or singles.

Today I went for a walk on the beach and the volcanic rocks. The waves are getting bigger now that its fall and I’ve heard it does get windier and wavier this time of year. Its nice because the breeze keeps the mosquitoes away and we all get a break from the heat.

I haven’t seen many fishing boats though and I wonder if they go somewhere else this time of year or don’t go as often. Maybe they’ll be busier when the tourists start coming back in November.

I tried tennis at the Four Seasons on Sunday. They have 6 courts which are usually busy with lessons from the Tennis Pro but it is pretty quiet this time of year. Their was a nice supply of water in a cooler and Evian facial spritzer which was really refreshing and lots of towels. The Tennis Shop was really nice with a good selection of clothes and equipment. It was our families first time so it was good to have 4 people playing so one of us could take breaks once in awhile. We all loved it and want to go back again soon.

It was almost too quiet for me this week and I am looking forward to a break away to Nassau in November, and Florida in January Just to remind me of traffic and noise and why I appreciate being in a slower paced environment for a couple of years.

When I look at pictures now of the Bahamas on various travel websites, I feel so lucky to be here. The water really is the unreal blue/green colour and the houses really are just as colourful and the people really are friendly and so kind and helpful And when I was sitting on the beach this morning just watching the huge waves roll in it was so peaceful and relaxing and I wasn’t worried about a thing. Its such a good place to let your mind empty out and slow down your breathing and get that sort of sleepy feeling.

I cant wait to share it with my family or friends when they come.
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Dream House
We went to Little Exuma on Sunday. I had read before we moved here that a lot of farming is done there and fruits and vegetables grown for the local grocery stores.

It took us about 1/2 an hour to drive there on the one and only road, Queens Highway . Its just a short distance past Georgetown and a short drive over a bridge, cement for most of the way then wooden planks the last little bit. Then the scenery seems to change right away.

It looks so much greener, and maybe because the road seems narrower, seems to have more trees.

We were trying the find the Tropic of Cancer Beach , which is supposed to be 3 miles long. We found something which might have been it with a small outdoor bar/restaurant and by then, much needed washrooms. The beach was beautiful ,with the green/blue water and deserted so we had it to ourselves. It was in Williamstown, I think the main and only town on the smaller island of Exuma and had a small school painted the usual , yellow and teal, colours.

There were marshes and little lakes and a few very rough side roads with a house here and there. We saw a few goats around but not too many people or cars on the road. It seemed very peaceful and quiet.

And then all of a sudden while heading back, just before the bridge to Great Exuma, we saw the most beautiful view I’ve seen yet. On top of a hill where this cute little blue house with a pretty colourful garden sat, we had to stop and just stare at it. We could see the greenest water behind palm trees and a few little islands . It was amazing and almost too good to be true.

We took some pictures but it didn’t capture it very well, so we’ll definitely have to go back.

Life goes on as normal with the kids. Lee had his 11th birthday yesterday and we had pizza cake and gave him his favorite movie. Remember the Titans.

Anna is going to a birthday party at a restaurant and they are allowed to use the pool there as well. I am glad she will be hanging out with girls her age, because she misses her friends.

Time to do some painting
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Critters
Well just when I think I’ve seen it all something happens or crawls into my life to surprise me.

For such a big house you’d think the laundry room would be inside but its outside in a room with a separate door on our back porch. So I go out there pretty much every day and sweep the porch and got a big hairy surprise a few days ago.

On the concrete steps leading to the backyard their was a dead or almost dead , big hairy tarantula. Even the ants were staying away from him.

So I swept him into a tupperware container and brought him to my neighbors, an older retired couple from the States somewhere. They’ve lived in the house next door for over 20 years. He said he sees about 1 or 2 a year They like to build huge webs in coconut trees and raingutters.

I must be getting used to all the weird and not always cute insects we see here. Yesterday while getting in the car to take the kids to their busstops, I noticed a stick bug on the car window. Now, how many kids in Canada have to wipe off stick bugs from their cars in the morning?

This morning I had to kill a scorpion near our shoes . They will sting like a wasp with their curled up tails if they feel they have to defend themselves.

I hear they are especially present indoors after storms or large amounts of rainfall.

We are expecting to be sideswiped by Hurricane Wilma on the weekend. Nothing big for us but Florida is supposed to be hit hard . Already we have clouds , wind and a bit of rain. So we’ll stock up on water and food we can eat without power in case we lose it for a while.

I went to the fitness centre down the street yesterday. A nice quiet little place . I enjoyed using the treadmill and not having to worry about the rocks on the dirt roads or the cars on Queens Highway the only main road. It’s only 5.00 a day and worth the chance just to get out and do something different to break up the solitude of paradise.

Sometimes I will get asked if I like it here and I am always having trouble answering it . Its not as easy as it sounds because it depends on the amount of weird bugs I run into, how happy the kids are that day and how homesick I am .
But I think it is growing on me slowly. When I sit on my balcony , the warm breezes bring back memories of so many places, things, people and childhood events. It sound corny, but the quietness seems to open up my mind , relaxing it and thinking only of good things.

So somedays, I love it here and I really do appreciate the opportunity to explore a totally different way of living , but I don’t always like it. And there are some days when I miss my house, my friends and job.
I am so happy that I can have painting time again and have a few I will frame when I get home. and I wonder what it will be like trying to paint when we get back home without my beautiful view and inspiration.

Anna has a dance to look forward to for Halloween next week and Lee’s school is having a "Fun Day". I know they have made some new friends that hopefully will become good friends they will keep in touch with when we leave . John makes the most of his free time on the beaches with us as well as doing a bit of golfing with the other Hotel staff. Anna experienced here first haircut at the Four Seasons Salon and loved the pampering and great new hairdo. Lee also got a chance to do some golfing with John and he actually liked it , so John was happy.

Life goes on as normal and hopefully I wont run into any supersized bugs for awhile. Bye for now Joanne

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Weekend Getaway to Nassau
We went to Nassau for the weekend and it was so nice to get away and enjoy city life for awhile.

Its a short 1/2 hour flight from Georgetown, Exuma on a 15 seater plane and the view of the water and little islands along the way was really beautiful.

We stayed at the Hilton Colonial and it was luxurious, with really nice rooms and great food . Great service in the restaurants and tons of taxis waiting . Probably cheaper than renting a car and with the narrow busy streets and probably easier to let a local do the driving.

Friday afternoon we walked around Nassau and saw tons of Jewelry stores with sales and they were packed with tourists Lots of little gift shops and a chance to buy things that Exuma wouldn’t have. So I bought a few Christmas things for a party we’re having in December.

Nassaus traditional colonial buildings and houses have a New Orleans feel and look about them . They also remind me of Montreal with the balconies, iron railings and flowering trees framing them. It adds to the beauty, interest and a relaxed feeling of the environment.

Anna loved window shopping and said she is definitely a city girl at heart, so she was in heaven. Lee was happy that we found a subway to have lunch at and it was pretty nice after not being in one for several months. We saw several groups of teenagers in different coloured uniforms, bright blue skirts and matching socks, grey and red plaid., red and white checked all with the matching socks and white blouses and the boys with the usual grey pants.

We had a late night swim after dinner The pool is big and almost warm but lots of fun and tons of chairs Not very busy , even during the day so the kids could play around on the floats without bugging anyone.

Saturday we actually took a taxi to a mall to look for game cube games for Lee. He was disappointed at the lack of selection so we’ll have to save it for a trip to Florida. But the mall was like any other although not very busy . The best part of the mall for me was the 15 minute taxi ride there through the suburbs. We got to see the local people, houses and little shops along the way. Which reminded me of smaller Ontario towns but the houses were in much poorer condition. Life is tough here for lots of people , and it really makes me appreciate what we have and what we can live without.

I felt like we were seeing the real Nassau though.

There were several cruise ships coming and going during the weekend, bringing in lots of tourists dollars as well

Then the moment we were waiting for The Dolphin Encounter. We had prebooked tickets a few weeks ahead of time and we were lucky at that to get in. We took a taxi to Paradise Island where we caught a ferry to the Blue Lagoon, Dolphin Encounter. The ride was in a double decker ferry and we saw some amazing mansions along the way which had everyone oohing and awing. All waterfront and some near a golf course. We also saw lots of boats, yachts and our big blue and yellow mail boat.

The Dolphin Encounter was a chance of a lifetime but expensive. The kids loved being kissed, dancing with them by holding their fins patting them, feeding them and for the finale being pushed by their feet across the water really fast by the dolphins nose. Kids were pushed by one dolphin , older kids like Anna and adults got two, one dolphin per foot. We got a video and some framed photos of the experience and some souvenirs at the gift shop. The dolphins are actually in the salt water which is penned off so the environment is kept as natural as possible and before going in the water their is a 1/2 hour orientation as well as talk on keeping the dolphins safe and healthy. We were in groups of 10 with 3 trainers. The Dolphins names,are MacGyver, Jake and the Fatman and the whole experience in the water was about 40 minutes. The dolphins are so cute so smart and so patient .

When we got back we found a Quiznos to eat dinner which was also a plus for us and walked around the Atlantis shopping area.on Paradise Island. It was very similar to the shopping area on the P.E, I. side of the bridge in Canada.

Atlantis is a huge Disney like resort with all kinds of water slides and activities providing enough entertainment for a week without leaving. But its very expensive which is why we didn’t stay their. I’m sure its fun, but its not the real Nassau.

Lee commented after experiencing several friendly taxi rides, how nice the people are in the Bahamas. He was very impressed and it makes it all even more worth the experience.

Our next trip will be to Florida , hopefully, around the end of January to see a Panthers/Leafs game and stay for 5 days to do some shopping.

I have to admit it was so nice coming back to our quiet little island without the traffic jams, and the car and people noise. But I will probably be ready for our next trip at the end of January to Florida to see the Panthers/Leafs game and do some shopping. Maybe I’m a country girl at heart.
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Stocking Island
Last weekend we went to Stocking Island. Kind of a neat place to visit so close to Christmas. Its one mile across the harbour from George Town and it’s 3.5 miles long and 1/2 a mile wide. The little boat which fit about 12 leaves every hour on the hour from 12 noon until 6pm.

There are 2 blue holes (cold water) and a mystery cave beneath the shallow waters , although we didnt look for either this time.

It apparently gets really busy during the winter but I didnt feel crowded at all. Theres a great little restaurant/bar Chat and Chill with great food and service . John tried a grouper fish sandwhich which he said was really good.

There were a few volleyball nets and balls available from the restaurant staff. Lots of benches and picnic tables in the shade where they also have a church service Sunday mornings.

There was even a massage table which someone was enjoying. I didnt try the conch salad, because the raw fish makes me a little nervous, but the stand on the beach had regular customers, so it must’ve been good.

We really enjoyed getting away from our own island to this fun and relaxing island so close and easy to get to. It was interesting walking around and looking at all the sailboats anchored nearby or anchored to the beach. Even one from B.C. There were several American Pilots there as well as they have a base on Exuma to keep an eye on the Drug Trade. There were also lots of Four Seasons staff which was nice for our family to mingle with them in a casual atmosphere away from the Hotel.

Anna and Lee loved it too, especially because they had a chance to play volley ball and run me ragged. Anna red a lot of her Harry Potter book in the shade and Lee had lots of room to practise his cartwheels and flips which hes getting really good at.

Christmas holidays start soon and the kids will be off from Dec. 14 until Jan. 3rd. They have both been writing exams so will look forward to the break. Both have been getting terrific marks too.

The Four Seasons is working on a project to do a mural on a container being used as a computer room at Lees School ,Rokers Point Elementary. So Ive been asked to help design, draw and paint the outside and inside with the hotel staff and another hotel spouse down the road. We are both grateful for something to do and appreciate being able to do something so rewarding that will benefit the school and community. I think they plan on doing other projects over the next year so hopefully I’ll be able to join in the action then as well. This is exactly what I was hoping to be able to do so I feel like I can help give back to the community and help them out It will make our adventure here even more worthwhile and I know the students will love the Disney Characters we plan on painting outside the container. They also plan on doing some landscaping around the playground and container . Im proud of the hotel for doing this because a large business can have a large effect on a small island, and make changes that have good and bad outcomes. While they provide jobs which are needed, the highschool is getting new students they hadnt planned on having when the school was built.

I really feel grateful that Exuma has been so welcome and friendly to us and Anna and Lee have made new friends they will never forget and I hope will keep in touch with no matter where we live.

Bye for now Joanne

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A Few Days before Christmas
cant believe it’s a week until Christmas. There are a few lights, Christmas bows and Christmas trees up around the neighborhood but not too much. I am homesick for the Christmas music bright lights and colder weather we would normally have.

But we did find a Norfolk Pine at the local garden nursery and have it decorated and we’ll look for a good spot to plant it outside afterwards.

I heard Nassau has a lot of decorations though.
I think Junkanoo , on Boxing Day is the big thing here, and I think many people are practicing their music, including the steel drums for the parade here and in Nassau.

We had a Christmas party for the Engineering Department at our house on the weekend. Guests arrived 2 hours late as is the style from what I’ve experienced so far. I was glad we had the chance to get to know some of the hotel staff better but wish they had brought their children as well. It would have been nice for our children to get to know some more kids.

We painted a mural this week at the Rokers Point Elementary school with Disney Characters. It was the idea of the hotel to give back to the community and it turned out really well. A neighbor who’s husband also works at the hotel helped me draw the characters which took a couple of mornings. The local children and teachers who were finishing up at the school before Christmas holidays enjoyed watching us work and seemed pretty happy. Then on Saturday other hotel staff helped us paint the characters and paint the inside It is actually a shipping container which will be used for computer classes in January. I think landscaping will also be added soon.

I was so happy when the Principal asked me to teach art classes starting in January on Fridays at the school. I wanted to do this sort of volunteer work when I knew we were coming to the Bahamas so, I am really grateful it is working out. My son who is in grade 6 at the school is also happy to have something fun and less structured to do to end the school week.

We have booked our January holiday to Florida for the end of January so I have another getaway from the island to look forward to. We’ll be away for 5 days , long enough to watch a Panthers hockey game(against T.O), stock up on things they don’t have here , maybe go to a movie and just enjoy city life for a while.

We haven’t had much wind or rain this month so maybe Hurricane season really is over. Everything is a little more quiet, a little cooler in the evenings and time seems to be going by just a little faster without the heat.

We had a hotwater tank leak last week, but amazingly enough it was fixed in two days. I thought for sure with things not readily available and the slower process of work being completed it would take a week. But my landlady in London approved the new tank and gave the ok to a local plumber and electrician to buy and install one . They have them fortunately at the local hardware/lumber store.

I am looking forward to going to Wahoo’s for my daughters birthday dinner this Friday. It just opened at the Marina by FourSeasons and is supposed to be really good with a mix of local food and Canadian food.

Have a Merry Christmas
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Snorkeling I tried snorkeling for the first time this weekend.

My son and husband helped me out with my flippers and mask and showed me the world they had been so excited about

I know they have seen large fish and barracudas, but for me , for the first time anyway I wanted to stay close to shore.

A small shark about 3-4 feet had been spotted at the Fourseasons a few days before and it could easily show up in our waters.

But even in water 4′ deep about 15′ from shore the reefs were amazing. It was a whole other world of corals, brain corals and the cactus looking type and all kinds of plant life I will eventually learn the name of. There were small purple and yellow fish , tetra fish, fish swimming in schools and larger white fish Lee said he saw a fish about 1′ long . My favorite was the rock fish hiding at the bottom of a reef its colours matching, like camouflage brown and white spotted. It was about 7" long.

Once I relaxed I found it a lot of fun. The day before the boys had seen a small and large barracuda, and they got some good pictures with Lees new underwater camera. Lee said he knew it was a barracuda because of the large smile it had wrapped around its large mouth.

I might have panicked if I had seen one so will stick close to shore for now . The water is a bit cooler this time of year but when the sun is shining it really warms up the water and makes the scenery around the reefs so much easier to see and appreciate.

I can see how easy it would be to get caught up in the beauty and go out a little too far and maybe see more than you bargained for So I often poked my head out of the water just to make sure I wasn’t going to far and was close enough to make a quick swim to safety.

Christmas holidays are over tomorrow and the kids go back to school.

I think they missed the socializing with school friends but enjoyed a break from exams , the heat and the the school routine.

Bye for now and Happy New Year Joanne

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First Ever Massage
I had my first Bahamian birthday two weeks ago and my first ever massage.

My husband surprised me by booking a Balinese massage for me at the FourSeasons.

It was a 50 minute treat that left me so relaxed I forgot where I was afterwards and had trouble finding my way back to the changeroom. When you are lying face down you face a bowl of sand on the floor with a starfish, the air is filled with the scent of spicy lotion, and asian music. I never considered myself a spa person, but I am looking forward to going back.

Its been strangely windy the past few days and over cast, although today slowly seems to be calming down and the sun is blaring again. But with the wind and occasional rain there was a long power outage Saturday night at about 8:30pm. At 9:00 the power struggled to come back on for 3 hours. We had turned all of our lights out right away and just used candles. But our neighbors had some electrical problems and had their tv’s. stereos, and lightbulbs burned out with the power surges. They are at the end of the power lines so that might be why we were spared as well. But an expensive storm for them.

I have been here about 6 1/2 months and I am still amazed at the beauty, the weather and peacefulness of the island. Its winter back home but I am being spoiled with flipflops, walks in the sunshine and relaxing on the beach. Although I have to admit the water is a bit cooler now, so we don’t go swimming as much.

The FourSeasons has generously donated some funds towards the art classes I will be teaching with a friend at my sons Elementary School. I am hoping the children enjoy it as much as we do We may even get organized enough to have a show at the hotel at the end of the school year.

We are all looking forward to our trip to Florida and shopping this weekend. My kids especially have favorite restaurants in mind and sports stores and clothing stores.

My daughters highschool is having a fair open to the public on February 3rd. Its a fundraiser to buy a new photcopying machine. So hopefully, they will get a good turnout. A lot of children cant afford the school books so the teachers end up photocopying work sheets for them.

I am regretting now, not bringing our printer. I think with school work and other personal projects, it would have come in handy. I may look into getting one in Florida.

Well, time to get the kids at their bus stops. Bye for now Joanne

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Florida Vacation
We are back on our quiet Island after 5 funfilled, money spending days in Plantation Florida.

It was a bit overwhelming at first, with the crowds the cars and people everywhere, but we soon got back into the swing of things.

The kids of course had a list of toys they wanted, yugio cards, bratz, skim board, makeup, books. For John it was clothes, an inflatable raft for the water, and for me , a few clothes, music ,craft supplies , and pharmacy supplies. We all came home set with things to last until we travel again , which wont be until summer.

The Plantation neighborhood is quite spread out but quite beautiful in areas with tropical gardens, and of course a lot of boats in some neighborhoods. We had trouble finding our way around in the suburbs and found out later that the street signs haven’t been replaced after the last hurricane, Wilma in late October. There are still several trees, roof shingles, and parts of houses and buildings that are damaged and some businesses obviously wiped out. In fact where we stayed at the Plantation Suites, there were several electrical crews, who were in Florida to work on Hurricane repairs.

The Plantation Suites was a really nice quiet place to stay , very basic and central to all the malls, so perfect for us. We had a two bedroom suite with a kitchen and living room so there was lots of space for relaxing in-between shopping and breakfast was included every day. There were also several seniors staying there and not too many children, other than babies.

We had a great lunch at the Cheesecake factory. Really affordable with large quantities and great food with a really big variety on the menu , great for any meal and the best we had in Florida. Of course their are 20 different cheese cakes to try if you have room, which only our daughter did. Cheesecake is her favorite desert.

The kids also had to go to Dairy Queen, Pizza Hut ,Subway,and Burger King, to catch up on all the fast food they’ve missed. It was fun, but I’m good for another six months

My husband and I also got haircuts, which isn’t always easy to get on the island.

We also went to a Toronto Maples Leafs Game and they broke their losing streak so it was so neat to see them and so much fun to cheer on a Canadian Team. There were so many Toronto and Canadian Fans and I think the Florida Panther Fans were a little surprised as I saw a few of them turn around when the crowd cheered on Toronto. The kids loved it too . We also grabbed dinner there and the food was actually pretty good .and luckily the stadium was 10 minutes from our hotel.

I am glad that there isn’t much to spend money on here, other than expensive groceries. and its good to be home again with the ocean view , and thoughts of family coming to visit soon.
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This and That
The weather is warming up again. I have heard that March and April are supposed to be the nicest months for good weather. Although I personally enjoy the cooler breaks we have had in the mornings and evenings.

I had a wonderful time at Rokers Point Primary School last Friday. It was the 1st day of the Art Classes a friend of mine is doing with me once a week for the children. We did a lot of gluing and drawing with grades 1 – 3 and they had a lot of fun.

When we first arrived at the school a group of children ran up to us asking if we were coming to their classrooms today and they were all so excited. The teachers seemed pleased to get a break and the kids were great and very helpful. The classrooms are nicely decorated and I was happy that a nice cool breeze was coming through their many windows.

This week we do grades 4 – 6 and we’ll be doing a lot of painting.

I’ve learned the schools received a letter from the school board saying teachers are not allowed to spank children any more, just the principals and head mistresses. My children were thrilled to learn this although they wouldn’t have had to worry about getting it anyway. I am glad that the teachers will have to try other ways of discipline.

We spent a lot of time at a couple of beaches this weekend. Saturday we went to Runaway Beach and it was very quiet and peaceful. My son tried out his new skim board and waxing it made a world of difference. He managed to stay on and had some great rides along the shore.

Sunday we went to Cocoplum Beach a few minutes down the road from Runaway Beach. It was a little busier but still relaxing and peaceful. The food is great there and its open every day but Tuesday. The owners of these places naturally prefer that you don’t bring your own food and drinks. But they supply you with good , friendly service, lounge chairs, clean bathrooms and a clean beach. They are both great for snorkeling and long walks in the sand.

I feel like I belong here a little more each day , and I find that I am enjoying it a little more as well. Its a clean, healthy environment and while its a challenge in some areas, its worth it.

I still find it challenging not being able to work but the art classes at the school help give me a purpose and something to look forward to. It does feel good to be able to give something to the children and use my work experience. I am very lucky. The children rewarded us as well by singing a really cute song for us while we were cleaning up. I really enjoy the rhythmic clapping they use while singing as well.

Their seems to be so much construction going on and it makes me wonder what Exuma looked like 2 years ago and what it will look like 5 years from now. I suppose the houses and small apartment buildings are needed as more jobs are provided on the island, but progress has its price.

Every day I wake up feeling so grateful, so lucky to be where we are to see the colours of the water , to feel the warm sunshine and sit outside listening to the birds and hear the water crashing on the rocks. And I know that all the sailors I see in their sailboats passing through our view, must feel the same way.

I know my husband loves working here and the kids are bored sometimes and miss their old city life, but they don’t talk about being homesick anymore, so they are adjusting to their new routine as well. School keeps them busy with homework and the occasional fun day and dance.and we have to make sure we do fun family things on weekends and go out for dinners to break up the routine. I know they will come back to Canada with a good perspective on life though, with an open mind and definitely appreciate all those materialistic things they thought they couldn’t live without.
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Family Visit
We had our first Canadian vistors last week.

My sister and her husband visited from New Brunswick and stayed for a week. It was so exciting watching their little plane land at our little airport in Georgetown. They were just about the last to get off, building up the excitement.

It was so wonderful sharing our home our new life with them and the days just flew by.

My sister and I did some of the tourist shopping at the straw market and local stores . She bought a few things at the straw market for herself and her family and I met a really nice woman there who actually recognized me as the woman who waits with her son for the school bus each morning as she passes on her way to work.

My sisters husband enjoyed 4 games of golf with my husband . I think it was hard for my husband John to get back into the swing of things at work after all that fun and he would probably appreciate more visitors to get him out on the green more often.

We enjoyed some visits to the Four Seasons Restaurants , "Tingums", the outdoor cafe, and "Seabreeze" the indoor casual restaurant. Great food , great service, and great fun. The crab cakes are awsome with a really good dip to go with it and the salads at the Seabreeze buffet were creatively yummy and enough to turn me into a vegetarian.

My sister Kathy and her husband Wylie enjoyed morning and afternnoon walks on the beach near our house and I came with them a few times. It looks very quiet and empty now, and I will imagine their footprints when I walk there again.

Kathy did a lot of driving and was great adjusting to the left side of the road and has inspired me to do more of it myself, so I will slowly get into it.

My son had an academics award ceremony that Kathy attended with me at his school and we both took tons of pictures of all the kids getting trophies and certificates. Lee, my son got one of each. Even Anna, his sister was proud of him and congratulated him. Of course Anna and Lee loved the chance to spend more time with their Aunt and Uncle and loved the extra dinnertime talks and stories, especially the stories of their cousins and their adventures.

Its always hard to say goodbye and we were all grateful they made it out and spent so long with us. I think Kathy definitely would love to come back with more of our brothers and sisters and stay longer , maybe even do some day trips to the family islands or fly into Nassau for the day .

The house is so quiet without them. It was so great sharing our Bahamas life with the family that was so encouraging to move out here in the first place. So now when I say I am sitting at the computer looking at the sailboats gliding past in our ocean view, they will know exactly , what my view is.
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Bed and Breakfast ~ A visit from Joanne’s sister
My husband and I made our first trip to the Caribbean this spring. We had reserved at the previously untested Rienstra Bed and Breakfast which just opened this year. The owners Joanne and John are a young couple with 2 children who have recently moved to Exuma. As well as this facility, John spends a bit of time at a competitor’s, the Four Seasons Resort and Spa at Emerald Bay, helping them out.

When we arrived at the George Town airport after a short flight from Florida (1 ½ hours approx) we disembarked from the 30 seater plane to see a handsome well tanned couple waving from behind the fence. Our hosts! After a quick pass through customs (any alcohol or tobacco?) we passed through the door to our awaiting transportation. A roomy 5 seater (that actually can carry 6 in a pinch!) Our charming hosts drove the scenic route along the queen’s highway, pointing out interest spots and even stopping at a local favourite, the “Blessed Full”, the local gas station and convenience store. John eased the car gently over the somewhat rough yard, ensuring comfort for his guests. A quick refill and we were off to the villa they occupy. Their charming children Lee and Anna were ready to greet us with hugs and smiles!

What a beautiful villa it is. Large, bright and comfortable. We were assigned a wonderful corner room upstairs with a balcony. Large Queen bed with super comfy mattress, spacious double closet and dresser, all made special by the ocean breeze always passing through. (Unless you prefer air-conditioning).The roomy home is air-conditioned, has 4 large baths and bedrooms and an extra room that could easily convert to a 5th bedroom. A big well equipped kitchen, formal dining and living room combined, with all the comforts of home including cable TV for those who just must see Canadian Idol! Upstairs on the “landing” is a bright sitting area complete with online computer available to guests at no charge. The sitting area opens with double French doors to a spacious deck furnished with lounge chairs. This is where the spectacular location is so evident. The home is situated on a quiet lane (sandy, unpaved…the perfect quiet retreat) which runs along the Atlantic Ocean. If you think you know the Atlantic, this is not like anything you have ever seen. The colours are incredible from the pale white sand to all of the shades of turquoise you can ever imagine. Where the water meets the sand the colour is the palest aqua, and it varies with depth and coral reefs until it reaches the eastern horizon. There it becomes a deep royal blue. Offshore is a secluded, vacant island, which sail boats pass on both sides and in either direction, usually a few a day. Along the shore waves crash, throwing a frothy white spray into the air where they collide with rocks. In front of the villa a steep bank drops off in wild scrub and brush. A short walk a long the sandy road leads to what we called “the hidden path” , a winding shady path down the bank, through tropical vegetation, over natural stone and ending at the sandy beach where you emerge into brilliant sunshine and palm trees (including one with a very stubborn coconut no one could dislodge). The beach is made of the softest white sand, very clean (just a little of the usual plastic bits found on every shore of the world). From the beach the view in both directions is spectacular. Each distant, final point is a jutting peninsula a mile or so away. A very few villas are in view along the shore. Along the beach the rocky low cliffs jut out in places where the waves allow a brief moment to jog past without getting wet, if you time it right! If you don’t make it, no matter, the water is warm and you dry very fast! The beach is totally private, although for how long? One large villa was being built about ½ a mile from the Rienstra’s. Along their road there were 3 other homes, one vacant. The neighbours are very quiet and seldom seen or heard except for the friendly “Buddy”, a Labrador mix dog.

The Four Seasons Resort will bring visitors and change to the island over the next few years that is hard to predict. But for now the area is rural, rustic and serene.

The resort owners are very congenial and do everything possible to please and entertain their guests. The pantry and fridge are well stocked with fresh foods every Thursday when the stores are full after “the boat comes in”. Wines are plentiful, miraculously appearing regularly each day before dinner.

The resort car is made available, and Joanne, one of the partners, gladly accompanies guests as tour director. She will drive, but happily lets guests try the “other side of the road driving”!! Many interesting local attractions were able to be seen this way, including the local schools, with beautiful children in their charming uniforms. In fact one school put on a special assembly which one of us was thrilled to attend. Wonderful music and beautiful, polite children were enjoyed at the colourful school. In addition the Superintendent of the schools made a special effort to be there.

Another highlight was the “Straw Market” in George Town, minutes away. Friendly local women weave baskets and sell them, along with other goods ranging from the usual T shirts to jewellery and even fresh produce. Our hostess was well known and recognized by those who had seen her waiting for her children’s school bus. At the market most vendors are related and sell goods made by other family members, including the well known Post Mistress, “Princess”. Some of the work is quite beautiful, and there is something for every taste and suitcase size! Our hostess plans to take a weaving course from her friend at the market. Who knows, maybe she will be soon selling her wares too, along with the beautiful water-colours she does of the local scenery, which presently adorn the walls of her home.

In the small capital town, George Town, set in a beautiful harbour, tourist boats, sail boats, freight boats and the regular mail boat can all be seen. In addition there are a few other small businesses, including a small hotel/resort, “Peace and Plenty” well named for the tranquil beach front locale. The Peace and Plenty Boutique sells local baskets, special local batik fabric by the yard as well as Art, pottery , glass, jewellery, maps, books and necessities such as sun screen ( better stock up when you see things you need or want as the tranquil island does not offer many shopping opportunities!)

Other tours included visits to “Coco Plum Beach” which is singularly beautiful, and offers beachfront dining from an unassuming shack that is superb! We enjoyed Thai Shrimp served with a cool cucumber salsa, and bread pudding with local fruits that was heavenly in a mango and sweet milk sauce.

In addition, for those who crave a more North American experience, the nearby (10 minute drive) Four Seasons Resort has all of the extras including a John Ball Shop which offers extravagant jewellery from Tiffany’s, and many other high end merchants as well as very upscale perfumes. The other gift shop is more down to earth, although still pricy. The luxurious spa is a treat not to be missed. The Four Season’s restaurants are also fabulous, although meals at the Rienstra Resort easily match the standard. We did enjoy a fabulous buffet that exceeded the buffets we had experienced world wide at hotels of all sorts. The quality and variety of foods was exceptional. Of course everywhere at the Four Seasons service was superior, and very friendly. A real plus was the excellent condition of the facility which suggests that the Engineering staff must be superb! The landscaping was beautiful, and there were many points of interest. I was particularly struck by the walkways everywhere made from slices of local coral limestone, which were incredibly beautiful, and loaded with fossilized corals! Several pools, outdoors dining are all on the manicured grounds. The resort is oceanfront and has a wonderful beach we only saw at a distance, preferring the private solitude of the beach at the Rienstra’s.

John, one of the Rienstra partners, obliges as a golf partner as often as work allows. The local course (Four Seasons) is a Greg Norman design, Challenging yet beautiful. One “perk” on the course is the number of balls found, left by novice golfers, who are known to only use the best! Excellent rental clubs are available. Northerners need sunscreen if out for a full round, especially through the noon hour sun, even 15 SPF left one of us slightly burned. (In spite of cautions expressed by the other of us) The scenery all along the golf course is “fabulous, just fabulous” to quote our own golfer. He golfed 4 days out of the 6 we were there. (And wore SPF 30 after the first day out)

It was very hard to leave and I am plotting when and how to return. The hosts and family are so welcoming and go out of their way to ensure a wonderful visit. The facilities are very comfortable and every need is taken care of. Lots of privacy if wanted, laundry facilities on site, wonderful meals, incredible scenery, warm water, gracious hosts. The resort combines the best of a rustic beautiful landscape, warm friendly locals and a very considerate couple who are the hosts, along with their entertaining, talented and lovely children. I am very grateful to have had the chance to visit, and hope to do so again.

We followed our visit with a stay at a Florida Resort and Spa which also had a golf course reported by some to be first rate. Nothing compared to our stay in Exuma and we constantly found ourselves saying…it’s better in the Bahamas! And of course we miss our wonderful hosts and their talented children.
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Time out for the Family
It has been a quiet , peaceful winter for our family in Great Exuma.

Our cooler weather has gone and we are getting into the hot summer weather and along with it the mosquitoes are back. I enjoyed having our windows open in the winter , hearing the ocean gently crashing against the rocks and the cool, breeze from the water. But these little mosquitoes seem to fit through our screens so its back to the air conditioning.

Our family is making the most of the golf course at the Four Seasons Resort, mostly my husband who has joined a group of regulars on the weekends.

But we have also tried as a family and I’ve discovered, we all really enjoy it . My children especially enjoy the snack carts and the occasional driving of the golf carts.

The views from some of the holes are beautiful and so different than other parts of the island. Especially the 12th and 13th holes , the water seems bluer the waves crashing bright white against the rocks is enough to forget why you’re out there in the first place.

By the 15th hole you come to some marshy areas where the bird watching becomes interesting. Ducks, marsh birds of various sizes take your mind off the interesting odor of the water. Sunday a large amount of them were lined up along the shore watching us making me feel a little guilty for invading their territory with little white balls, which in our families case, go flying in all directions. Some of the balls sit on top of the muddy water like bubbles .

The Family Regatta is now over Its a 2 week period of music, food, sailing enthusiasts and crafts people who gather in Georgetown and Exuma . They come from all the family islands in the Bahamas.and this year was the 53rd year it has taken place.

One morning , a few days after it was all over I was sitting on my balcony upstairs enjoying the quiet and sunshine. I counted at least 45 sailboats at one time passing by in the ocean, and they kept coming for about an hour. Having one final parade of sails and I felt lucky to have seen so many all at once.

Its exam time for the highschools and elementary schools now. Bahamian college exams and highschool placement exams. Then they will have a final set of exams in June.

My children now feel their first year hear is going by fast, maybe because they can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Its been a long journey and they have experienced a variety of differences in the education system here. But they also feel they can handle another year and I think realize now that they have overcome their anxiety about trying something so different and challenging. I am so proud of them .

We are all excited about going home to Vancouver and Richmond, B.C. this summer . I cant wait to see friends , family and our neighborhood. I know our time at home will go by too fast, but it will be wonderful and we’ll enjoy every second of it.
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Countdown to B.C.

Well my first June in the Bahamas is very similar to my first September.

Windy , rainy, and cloudy half of the time and very humid.
I guess you could call it a warm up for Hurricane season.

Two more weeks left of school then the countdown begins to our 2 weeks holidays in B.C. I cant wait. We are all excited, but my daughter feels she will miss Exuma and our two cats while we’re gone. Her mind has opened up to the possibilities that travel can bring. New friends, a different and in this case quiet lifestyle. My son Lee feels he can last another year here but wants to go right back to our old home to start highschool with his friends.

My husband and I are really enjoying the relaxed atmosphere with out the trappings of commercialism . I think because we are together so much we have all become closer .

A few weeks ago we finally found the Tropic of Cancer Beach.
Its on Little Exuma marked only by a little hut with benches and the Tropic of Cancer name carved into the ramp down to the beach. Its so relaxing, and so long. Even though there were a few other families and couples walking and enjoying the water , the beach is very wide and long enough to still feel you are alone. There are several coves to explore several little Islands surrounding the view out to the oceans horizon. Also some gorgeous cottages are available to rent right on the grassy edge of the beach.

It was the first time we had done any real swimming since the water has started to warm up and it felt so good, so refreshing. There aren’t any reefs to snorkel in so its a nice place to bring a floaty to relax on.

We also discovered what we thought was an old Plantation in Williams Town, although nothing is marked so its hard to be sure. But going by the map of Little Exuma, its at the end of the Island and is one of five plantations in Exuma.

We also discovered an old cannon and tower on top of a large hill overlooking the salt ponds. After climbing up a small sandy hill we discoverd it was a great lookout spot for pictures.

Over the last two weeks , there have been two mornings where I have watched 2 sharks swim around the reefs very close to shore Its a little scary because its the beach closest to our house and we have been swimming where they were feeding. They are a yellowish brown colour, and are between 6′-10′ I think. They might be nurse sharks.

Well the wind and rain is really picking up now and I have to wonder if we are having our first Tropical Depression of the year. Which means our power may be going soon.
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1st Year Anniversary
We’ve been here a full year now and I cant believe its 3 weeks until school starts again.

The first half of our summer went by fast with our vacation back to Vancouver, B.C. But things have slowed down

Its warm but not unbearable like the first year. Its been a little breezier which is helping to keep the storms and bad weather away, so far.

August 7th was Emancipation day in the Bahamas and their was a big celebration going on in Rolle Town all weekend. Their were boat races from Rolle Town to Stocking Island and back with a few sailboats. I think the trip was 2 hours total. There was a lot of good food and drinks, music and on the last night there was going to be a greasy pole contest. Its for adults only who are brave enough to climb up a greased pole and stay at the top long enough to grab the 500.00 at the top. Ive heard the guys will rub sand all over them to help them stay on.

Rolle Town is one of 5 old plantations In the 18th Century, the British Crown granted an Englishman named Denys Rolle 7,000 acres on Great Exuma. Rolle brought slaves and cottonseeds to the island and built up the 5 plantations.and had 325 slaves by the time of emancipation. in 1834. As was the custom, the slaves adopted their masters surname.

Yesterday, the kids and I went to Stocking Island with some new friends to the Island. It was very calm and hot , a perfect day for sitting around the beach and in the water. While exploring the lagoon on the island, we saw a lot of sea cucumbers, baby conchs, a stingray and two star fish, a small brown one and larger, orange one. We also saw a large brown and white eagle- like bird, but I havent been able to find out the name yet.

When my husband , son and I went down to our beach this morning their were a couple of Bahamians, lounging in a boat up on the shore, at the end of our path. A great way to spend a hot Saturday.

My son will be in highschool with his sister this year as they start in grade 7. He will also be starting highschool with all the grade 8’s when we return to Canada. so hopefully his time here will give him some extra confidence. They are starting the portfolio system in Canada now from grades 10-12, so my daughter will have to work a little harder to catch up and even start saving work here while in grade 10.

But we still consider our time here well spent as far as a cultural education goes and a chance to learn more about a part of the world, that is so different and so unique.
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Year 2 Begins
Another school year has started for our family in Exuma and true to the slow pace of life they started slowly.

The children had half days and came home burned out and sunburnt after spending the morning hanging around outside. Unfortunately the principal arrived near the end of the week and class schedules were put on hold.

We are all hoping this week is more productive and the teachers needed to cover all of the classes are hired soon.

For me , its a chance to get back into some painting which is hard to do during summer vacation. I’m trying to paint more of the boats , settlements and other points of interest because after awhile even the most beautiful beaches and the most beautiful colours of water in the world become boring to paint. But they are never boring to look at from any point of view.

I went golfing with my husband on the weekend and saw a lot of native birds.
I saw my first Bahamian parrot., or at least it had the curved beak of a parrot. A bird slightly smaller than a crow with a long tail and distinctive call , which is what caught my attention to begin with.

Than we saw a beautiful white crane on hole 16. Unfortunately I had to take my shot and it flew back a hole.

The birds here have beautiful shades of brown mixed with splashes of white and black and peach or yellow.and really long beaks maybe for all the seafood or tougher , bigger insects. I’ve seen small groups of birds hiding in longer grass waiting for bugs to come alive in the mornings or lower flying butterflies. The birds will hop up and down flapping their wings slightly catching their breakfast.

Lots of ducks and cranes standing about two feet tall can be found standing in the middle of the back roads , looking for crabs. I think they must be having a good season as there are now about a hundred little crab legs all over the grass and a few crab shells at the side of our house.

It is still really hot in the high 80’s but the weather has been very steady and perfect and any storms have missed us and we are nearly in the peak of hurricane season. We have had a few lightning and thunder storms. Water spouts which are like water tornadoes are common in this area and I saw my first one while golfing. It came out about a mile from shore and got a little bigger and closer before dying away but seconds later another appeared. I think the first one never completely left and the second one came out from the bottom of the first. Their was a boater in the area who finally left quite quickly after spotting it, but not after watching it for awhile.

I’ve heard if you have time, you should get in the water and not stay in the boat so you don’t get hit by flying debris. The spouts can suck frogs, fish and other water creatures out and send them raining down on the land and nearest island.

Living on this beautiful island for over a year hasn’t made me take the beauty and peace and quiet for granted, but it isn’t as new and exciting anymore. Slowly I am beginning to wonder about life after paradise and I only hope when I look out my window a year from now away from the Bahamas, I can close my eyes and pretend I am still here and its still warm and sunny outside.
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Drive to Berraterre
This weekend my husband and I took a 20 minute drive to Berraterre(pronounced bera-tery)

Its very similar to the Little Exuma end of Great Exuma with its hilly narrow road and amazing views from the tops of the hills but its at the opposite end near Stuart Manor and Rolleville

Berraterre has an Inn and a Bonefish Lodge and a couple of restaurants, bars and stores. We passed one road with two small wooden buildings about 10’x10′ side by side. One was called the Food Store the one next to it the Liquor Store.

We also passed the Circle T Bar in a similar small building as well as some pretty and colourful houses in bright blue , pink or green colours.

Whenever we stopped to take a picture the silence seemed almost surreal, you could hear a pin drop. Their were a couple of little bridges with one or two abandoned boats . We saw a baby barracuda and some other small fish and I’m sure many others were swimming among the Mangrove Marshes.

We saw a group of goats , a couple of slim Exumian style cats and very few cars, so they were safe near the road.

At the Barraterre Dock there were several houses and a few families sitting out on their porches and around the dock enjoying a peaceful Sunday afternoon. What a great place to go fishing and to get away from it all. There are several little Cays suitable for little boats to explore .

The last time my husband was there he took our son and watched the local fishermen cutting up some freshly caught conch. And when you look at the small round islands close to shore you can see conch shells lining the edges of the shrubs and trees of the islands.

I think Little Exuma and Berraterre are my favourite parts of Exuma. They are so peaceful, very isolated and the people we stopped to say hello to were very friendly as most people are on the island. But there’s something that feels like home here. Maybe its the clusters of colourful homes and beautiful flowers or the groups of people socializing but it had a very safe and cozy feeling to it and I got the feeling that the lucky people that live here have life in perspective . I don’t think life is always easy and a lot of the population have more than one job to make ends meet in Exuma, but from what I’m learning about Exumians they really do appreciate the quiet beauty of the Island .

I cant wait to get started on more paintings of all the pictures I took.
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Christmas is Coming
It is Fall now in Exuma and the mosquitoes are pretty much non existent and no seeums. Maybe the cooler, breezier weather has scared them all away. It also means we can also start keeping our windows open more often at night, enjoying the sounds of the ocean waves nearby.

Tomorrow we are off to Florida and at first I thought it would be great to get away but it just doesnt seem as exciting anymore. It is always nice to have a break, but theres nothing I really need other than art supplies. I have everything I need right here, family, peace and quiet, beautiful , healthy scenery, and friends . I am learning to live without all the little things . Our kids , being kids and not having the years of lifes experience behind them will enjoy all the restaurants, movies, malls and new "things" they will play with at home. And we will buy some Christmas presents and a few things but nothing we couldnt live without

The kids are doing well in highschool and I think are glad to have each other to catch the bus with and although they dont hang out at school they still see each other from a distance going to the different buildings that their classes are held in. The school had started out with out a principal and is once again in search of a new one as the one they had just left. The teachers are finding it challenging too Im sure,dealing with the extra work. I think Anna and Lee are still tops in their class as are the friends they hang out with. They are becoming closer with their friends and will be picking up a few small things for their friends in Florida, as gifts.

There have been the usuall staff transfers at the hotel and while one Engineer left to work in the Four Seasons in Vancouver , another is coming from the T.O. Four Seasons after Christmas. Its sad , us usall to say goodbye to friends, but its nice to have email to keep in touch with everyone. Plus the Hotel world is very small and you never know when you’ll end up at the same place with an old co-worker.

I am really enjoying my painting and have a good collection going. Its been realy challenging , but a really good chance to expand my skills and tap into some passion I thought I had lost for awhile. I hope I can carry it through to wherever we live after the Bahamas.

I’l be doing my voluntary Art classes with my sons old elementary school again after Christmas. So many children I met last year have asked if Im coming back, so Im really excited to be seeing them again and talking with them. They always have lots of questions about my family and Canada and I know they will be asking where my old partner is, Dinara, so I will have to show them on the map , where Istanbul is. But when I run into the kids while shopping or at beaches , I hear them whisper to their parents that Im their art teacher.

My sister from Toronto was here for a visit for almost two weeks. It was great to see her loving the tranquility, the beaches and talking with the woman at the straw market. It was so nice to be able to share our life here with her and I could tell she was feeling very relaxed by the time she left. I cant wait to have more family visit in the new year.
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Junkanoo, the National Festival of the Bahamas
Another Christmas has come and gone and this year we celebrated by going to our first Junkanoo, the National Festival of the Bahamas.

Its originally referred to as John Canoe an African Trader on the West African Coast who lived during the era of slavery. Under British law, the slaves in British colonies were given 3 days of holidays after Christmas.

We went early Boxing day morning to Georgetown at about 4 am although our friends who are younger and without children were there at 2 am. The drive in was very quiet and at first I thought we were crazy and had made a mistake. But a few minutes out of town we saw the cars parked on the side of the road and heard the music.

I was so excited by the beat of the music leading us into the rush which refers to the dancing music part of the competition.

The music is still centered around the traditional cow bells, goatskin drums, whistles and horns( they used to use conch shells)

The costumes were so colourful, and the decorations of crepe paper, shiny sequins, bright paint and feathers are stuck onto cardboard shapes. These shapes which are worn as head pieces, skirts, masks and floats can be as tall as 15′ and danced for the entire parade.

The participants come from all walks of life and are all ages, as are the people watching. This year their were 5 organized groups competing for cash prizes and they were all amazing. Several months a year are spent preparing for junkanoo on Boxing Day. Musical Youth won this year and it is considered a big honour to claim first prize.

Nassau, the main city also has a larger televised junkanoo on New Years Day.

The dancing to the drum beat the flips of the younger athletic dancers were really fun to watch. I was really impressed with the details of the costumes and really liked the large shark masks the younger kids had and how synchronized the elementary age school children were in their group dancing.

We saw a lot of friends from the hotel and I think their were about 60 guests from the Four Seasons there . Among the several hundred other families watching I saw a few familiar faces including a friend of my daughters.

Unfortunately the kids were too tired to come but we took a lot of pictures for them to see the next day. I know they would have loved it though and wish they came. Their are a few smaller Junkanoos throughout the year on the island for various holidays so maybe there will be one at a decent time for them.
Parking wasn’t a big problem and there was lots of room to walk around or sit on several of the small stone walls around the towns shops while waiting for each group to organize and start their dancing and music.

Its a definite must see event on the island and worth every yawn we had the next day. We got home in time for my husband to go to work the next morning at 7 am.

So the quiet winter routine begins. The kids are back in school. I start doing my art classes with one of the near by elementary schools as I did last year at this time. New staff are coming into the hotel from a few different Fourseasons. The ocean is dotted with more sail boats and fishing boats.

But best of all , my sister is visiting in two weeks with her husband. It is a return visit from them and they are staying longer this time. There will be new places to show them and more time for long walks on the beach and to feel the sun on their shoulders before they head back to Canada..
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Last updated: January 4, 2007

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