Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Hurricane Irene

Last Sunday was the closest experience that I have had to a hurricane since we’ve been here.  Earlier in the week I had heard that there was a storm expected to hit on Sunday.  However, I was unphased by this news, knowing that most of the time these storms don’t develop into anything to be too concerned about.  Regardless, since my boyfriend had been traveling all week, I was relieved that he would be back in town before the storm was expected to hit. 
Sunday was the annual chili cook-off, which is a big local event here on St. Thomas, and while I wasn’t planning on participating, I was looking forward to checking out my competition for next year’s cook-off.  However, on Sunday morning the sky looked ominous, and people started to become more and more concerned with what was starting to develop into an increasingly threatening storm than anticipated.  Our landlord called to give us instructions on what to do to prepare our house, and my boss had called to see if I could swing by the office to prepare the building for the storm.   
With this in mind, we decided that our time would be better spent running errands to buy canned goods and extra gasoline at the store in case we lost power during the storm.  We also moved all of the outdoor furniture inside, off the deck since the wind gusts were expected to be about 50 - 70 mph.  Of course, we had experienced worse wind in Chicago, but you learn quickly that storms down here can be extremely unpredictable.  Rather than take our chances on having a lawn chair blow through one of our glass sliding doors, we decided to move everything inside. 
By the time we got home from our errands the cable was out, but the power was still on.   I spent the rest of the afternoon roasting a chicken, scrubbing the shower, monitoring the storm on-line and finishing the book I was reading – Bossypants by Tina Fey (a true, honest, funny and fair feminist to the core – I love her!).  At around 2:30 the wind picked up considerably and the choppy waves in the ocean came crashing down on the rocky coastline.  By 5:00 I had nothing left to do, but the wind was gusting pretty fast and the rain came pouring down against our windows.  I realized how boring life can be when you’re cooped up inside all day and thought about all those years in Chicago where month after month it was too miserable outside to do anything but stay in and watch TV.  It made me appreciate being here in nice weather, where most of the time we can be outside and live life to the fullest.
However, with the storm gaining momentum, no cable TV and the eminant threat of losing power, I was desperate to find something to do.  I found an old Backgammon game and dusted it off.  We tried to teach ourselves how to play the game, but after spending an hour looking up rules that we found conflicting, we became completely confused and gave up on Backgammon.   We then decided to try to watch a movie on our iPad, which we plugged into the stereo for better sound quality since the rain and wind were so loud that we couldn’t hear the movie from just the iPad speaker.  The iPad was plugged in on a short chord so we both had to be close to the TV/stereo.  We sat crammed in together on a lounge chair, holding the iPad in our lap and trying to enjoy a glass of wine.  Not only did this become increasingly uncomfortable, but it was really weird to have the sound coming from behind the iPad.  About 10 minutes into the movie, we gave up on it too.  We spent the rest of the night playing Gin Rummy.  Naturally, I let my boyfriend think he was going to win the game by allowing him to beat me in the first two hands, I then slaughtered him in the 3rd round, and we called it a night.
On Monday morning I woke up like it was any other morning and got ready for work.  The storm had settled down considerably.  However, I got an early message from my boss, saying that I should stay off the roads until 10:00 and then come into the office.  I was surprised.  The storm didn’t seem that bad to me…some rain and some wind – no big deal.  I hung around until it was time to leave, then drove off to work.  Aside from some loose branches and rocks, the roads were fine and I made it to work in no time.       
In the end, Irene was a good warm up to whatever the rest of the hurricane season will bring…a test run, if you will.  She was serious enough that we had to prepare for the worst, but not a strong enough storm to be a real threat to us, or the island.  I know we were lucky because she continues to build in strength as she heads right for the Bahamas and has her sight set on the United States.

Monday, August 15, 2011

There's a Mouse in Our House!

Our dog, Thor, had a big week last week.  Sunday night he woke us up barking at 3:00 a.m. for no apparent reason.  Monday night he actually heard a frog in another part of our house and woke us up again.  However, his biggest night by far and away was on Tuesday night when he actually found a mouse under our couch.

It all started when we were just about ready to shut off the TV and turn in for the night.  Thor suddenly became extremely excited and began to frantically pace up and down the couch.  He then started to  paw at the couch and sniff at it obsessively.  Our other dog, Oakley, seemed a little confused over the matter, but he took Thor’s lead as Thor went at the couch with utter conviction.
I immediately dismissed the situation by thinking it was just another lizard, and headed for the bathroom to brush my teeth.  As a side, I think it’s important to take note of the fact that I was unphased by the assumed lizard inside our house.  What has become of me?!  However, since Thor’s extreme reaction didn’t seem to match the typical lizard response, my boyfriend decided he should take a closer look.  He grabbed a flashlight, kneeled down on the floor and looked under the couch.  After a few minutes of searching for what seemed like nothing, he came over to report the bad news to me.  It wasn’t a lizard.  It was a mouse. 
Of course, I couldn’t resist seeing this for myself.  I got down on the floor, flashed the light under the couch and saw two little round eyes glistening right back at me.  Immediately, my imagination ran away from me, and I pictured this thing running at me at full-force as my head lay close to the ground.  With this in mind, I stood up right away and tried to figure out what you do when you have a mouse hiding under your couch.
Neither one of us had much experience with mice, so it took us some time to think this one through.  At first, like two idiots, we thought we’d try to poke him out from under the couch with a yard stick, then when we got him to run out, I’d throw the kitchen trashcan on top of him.  There was no plan after that.  It was just, catch him with the trashcan.  When that inevitably didn’t work, we came up with another plan.  First, we threw some mice poisoning and traps under the couch.  Then, we decided to use every single thick book our landlord owns and place them all around the bottom of the couch.  After that, we stuffed any openings and holes with old towels.  Once we were satisfied with our trap, we went to bed.
In the morning, my suspicions about this mouse’s ability to get out of our trap appeared to be true.  There was no sign of him.  He had clearly tried to eat his way through a few of the books as well as some of the poisoning, but I concluded that he had gotten away within a hair of his own life.  He was probably laying half dead somewhere with a belly ache from the poison.  The dogs still seemed a bit excited by his lingering scent, but since there was no sign of him I left for work without further thought over the matter.
Later in the day I received a strange text message from my boyfriend, showing not one, but two of our wacky landlord’s swords from his random sword collection, stuck in our couch.  The message said, “Those swords really come in handy when you need to kill a mouse in the couch.”  After I professed to him that he was my hero, he made sure to proudly reinforce the fact that it had taken both of the swords to do away with this feisty rodent. 
I got all the details of the matter when I got home, which I will spare you, but suffice it to say that when/if the next mouse decides to breach the gates of hell by coming into our home, my boyfriend – a regular William Wallace - will be ready.    

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Honeymoon Beach at Water Island

Last weekend was the first weekend that my boyfriend and I had to ourselves in 2 weeks, so we were looking forward to some alone time and marveled at all the prospects the weekend had to offer.  At the top of my list was a trip to Water Island to spend some time at Honeymoon Beach.  Water Island has about 100 full-time residents, so it’s a quiet, quaint place to visit, and I had heard that the beach there was very nice.  I was anxious to check it out. 
However, in all of my excitement over our free weekend, the first thing I did on Friday night was over-indulge in Dark and Stormy’s at our favorite watering hole, Sibs.  For those of you that don’t know, a Dark and Stormy is Myer’s Dark Rum mixed with ginger beer (not ginger ale).  It’s a local favorite, and I love them.   However, if there’s one thing I’ve learned about drinking down here, it’s that when it comes to Caribbean rum drinks, I can’t hold my liquor.  They pour them strong and they refill them quickly.  The next thing I know, I’m feeling like a freshman in college - going from non-stop chitter-chatter with friends to feeling nauseous in the bathroom.  The good news was that we had to call it an early night.  The bad news was that I was feeling rough on Saturday morning and questioned whether I had it in me to pack up the car and head over to another island’s beach verses a 5 minute ride down to our usual beach.  These are my troubles these days…ridiculous, I know.
Regardless, we decided to stick with our plan and headed off to meet some friends at the water taxi that took us over to the island.  When we got off the boat, I immediately felt a change in atmosphere.  This island was so charming that I almost felt like I had entered the scene of a murder mystery novel.  It was quiet, picturesque, calm and still.  Mary Higgins-Clark aside, I liked the island, and I was happy that we had decided to come.
The first thing we saw was all the mailboxes for the residents of the island, located right at the end of the dock.  Most people ride around Water Island in golf carts rather than cars, so needless to say there’s no postal delivery to your home.  Instead, there’s a central area for the postal service to drop off the mail right by the dock.  Except, this wasn’t your typical, generic, postal service drop-off area, this was a tastefully designed shelter with benches and plants and a book exchange – open to the public.  I was impressed with how inviting this was and took a minute to gaze at the book selection before we headed to the beach. 
Our short walk from the dock to the beach consisted of a quick jaunt uphill, passing several beautiful homes along the way.  It was a nice walk, and I didn’t mind having to go up-hill before descending down to the beach.  Once we arrived at the bottom of the hill, we found a quite beach with a handful of benches painted all different shades of Caribbean colors, palm leaf covered huts that provided shade from the sun and white, powdery sand.  The sun sparkled on the water in front of us.  It was paradise.  We found a good spot under a hut and set up camp for the day.
Not shortly after settling in, I walked down the beach to put in my order at Heidi’s Honeymoon Grill for what most people believed to be the best burger in the Caribbean.  In my hung-over haste, I told Heidi how much I was looking forward to her burger and asked her what her secret was.  I quickly discovered that she wasn’t messing around.  Her burgers included a ¾ lb. patty of Angus beef, cooked at a low heat for a good amount of time and lightly seasoned with garlic and salt.  Sounded good to me, and about 30 minutes later I had downed the entire thing.  I then proceeded to spend the rest of the day lying down on the beach...digesting.
However, after a bit I found some strength for a swim, some Frisbee and a [virgin] banana daiquiri.  It was by all accounts a very good day.