Life in the Caribbean

One of the suggestions I received when I asked friends what I should blog about was to write about what life in the Caribbean is really like. Because sure, there are dazzling, white, sandy beaches; dreamy, turquoise oceans; and soul-lifting, brilliant sunshine. But there is also the everyday drudgery of grocery shopping, house cleaning and bill paying that most people don’t experience when they are on a fleeting holiday in paradise.

I’ve been thinking a lot about how to describe life here because to me, well, it’s just life! There are bills to pay, groceries to buy, meals to cook, the household to manage, children to keep alive…the list is endless and yet, we do live in one of the most beautiful places in the world and it’s important not to take that for granted.

So far I have come to realize that in order to fully savor the Caribbean lifestyle, especially as an expat, you need to embrace the following mindsets. I will elaborate on each one in following posts, but here they  are in summary:

Slow down – Everything happens in its own sweet time in the Caribbean. Nobody is in a rush. And if you are, you will just end up frustrated and sweaty and everyone will laugh at you.

Simplify – Sir Mick couldn’t have said it better himself. “You can’t always get what you want…but you get what you need”. Unless it’s hypoallergenic baby formula. But that’s another story!

Socialise – It’s the only way to create your own village. As one of my closest friends here (and actually she’s one of my closest friends anywhere) says, one year of friendship in Barbados is like ten years anywhere else. My Barbados friends are my Barbados family and I could not survive without them.

Soak – Immerse yourself in local life. When we first got here I joined the gym opposite Adam’s work and it became a real haven for me. Now, with children in tow, we are regulars at the Saturday morning farmers’ market and the cashiers at the supermarket know each of us by name, including Beanie. We’ve worked hard to create a network of local people who we can count on and who, we would like to think, can count on us.

Surrender – Give yourself up to the sheer beauty of the place and the perfection of a morning on the beach or an afternoon splashing in the pool in the sunshine. Take in a sunset. Whenever I see the sun setting over the west coast now I think of Squeak running into the house one evening, ecstatic beyond speech to call me onto the verandah where she showed me, arms widespread, a brilliant pinkening sky.

There are, of course, many more things to write about and I am sure that they will come to me as I blog along. But in the meanwhile, I am going to slow down and surrender to the breeze on my verandah while I finish my tea and the baby sleeps.

Manchester on my mind

I’ve had it in mind to kick off this new blog with something positive and upbeat. However, last night’s events in Manchester and the horrific aftermath playing out today have put paid to those plans. Instead, I cannot erase from my mind the prospect of searching for a child, a husband or a friend in amongst the carnage of a terrorized pop concert.

My thoughts keep returning to concerts and gigs Adam and I have been to in the past at the O2, Hyde Park, Wembley, the Millennium Stadium. We went through a phase when we lived in London of throwing caution and cash to the wind and seeing anyone we possibly could, from Red Hot Chili Peppers to Rod Stewart. Concerts always hold such hope and offer an escape from everyday, mundane, ordinary life. They see thousands of people from every walk of life thrust together for the sole purpose of partying, singing, dancing and having a good time all in the name of a favorite band or artist. Concerts are fun. A first concert is a rite of passage. I still remember mine. Mum bought tickets for my cousins and I to go with her to see Counting Crows in Durban, sometime towards the end of the 90s. It was a family affair and we rocked it! I imagine that one day Squeak and Beanie will also want to go to their first concert. Fast forward a few years and it could have been us caught up in the horror of last night.

I do not want to pretend to have an inkling of what the people directly or even indirectly involved are going through. I haven’t a clue. But I look at my two vibrant daughters who already come alive to music and dance “like nobody’s watching” and I know that they will want to go to pop concerts and gigs one day. Perhaps we will even go to some as a family (before it becomes embarrassing for the girls to be seen with their parents at a gig, of course!). And where does that leave us? When it is no longer safe to attend a pop concert? To live in a world where terror and evil and mayhem lurk in amongst reveling children, teens and families? How do we keep our most precious children safe?

Let me take a breath and reel myself in…

I suppose, all that we can really do is create our own safe space for our children. Guard and treasure our marriage so that it stands firm and provides an anchor for them in this tumultuous world. Build boundaries that are clear and provide a designated realm in which the children can operate, knowing that if they overstep their bounds they will be brought back in. And most importantly, open our arms and our hearts to our children, making sure that they know, without a shadow of a doubt, that they have a safe haven and are always, unconditionally, loved beyond measure.

 

By way of introduction

It’s been a long while since I have sat down to write anything beyond a shopping list and I have to admit it feels good. This is not the first blog that I have started but all my previous musings have been specific to a particular job (teaching) or location (Putney in London, then the Caribbean) so I thought I would start something that I can take with me wherever I go and where I can write about anything that happens to cross my mind at any given time.

I’ve named the blog “Moose Tracks” because my husband’s nickname for me, for a reason I truly cannot remember, is “Mama Moose”. If I could remember why I’d like to think it would make a good story!

Presently, my husband and I find ourselves in Barbados, West Indies, where we have been for almost four years now. Since we left London in August 2013, we have moved house three times, adopted a crazy dog and produced two gorgeous girls. We have traveled extensively and spent endless hours in the sea and under the sun. We consider ourselves enormously fortunate to live in the Caribbean and to have been afforded amazing opportunities that we have embraced wholeheartedly.

This is not going to be a parenting blog, but there will certainly be some posts related to child-rearing, with all its joys and challenges. I will also be writing about ex-pat life as well as simple everyday life here in Barbados, and may even attempt to get philosophical at some point! Because we love to travel, there may be the odd post on destinations we have visited or are yet to visit. I am open to suggestions and look forward to meeting any writing challenges anyone might like to set for me.

When writing about the family, I will refer to my husband by his name, Adam, but to protect their privacy I will name the girls “Squeak” (the toddler) and “Beanie” (the baby).

And so, with introductions and explanations covered, let the blogging begin!