Saturday, 30 July 2011

Peaceful times

Later on Friday, sitting listening to Bohemian Rhapsody drinking peppermint tea, relaxing after a busy week. It's been one of those that has flown. I think I've been home in daylight once this week and that was to get ready to go to swimming. It's been a good week though. I can sit here feeling quite satisfied with how things have gone and are going at work. I did bring a pile home but now I have my new lap top, that's not a bother.

I came home from happy hour and a nice meal just as the fat, hot rain fell from a sky that had been lit up with lightening for the past few hours. That nice, earthy smell that drifts up off the hot road as the rain hit had me opening my windows as I drove along. The plan for the weekend is to rest a bit, take some down time. I'm off for coffee and a bit of shop exploring with two friends tomorrow, getting my hair done later in the afternoon then going out for dinner and dancing. Not a bad plan. There are about 10 of us going so it should be fun. It's my birthday next week, shhh don't tell anyone, so felt I needed to do a little something to celebrate. Others were only too willing to join me.

Sunday may have time on the water and maybe a swim and laze at the beach. Apparently the poinsettia trees are in full bloom and need to be photographed. I over heard this in the lift today as the island's Premier was talking to someone else. Yep, I get to ride in the lift with the movers and shakers here, the Governor is very nice. I rode with him the other day, chatting as I do, thinking that this nice bloke looks familiar. All very friendly.

Most of all I just hang out quietly, that suits me just fine for now while work takes up so much of my time. I'm never bored, I work with great people who want the best for this lovely place, I'm learning stuff about myself, others and the way things work around here. It seems similar to the family structures in the small corner of New Zealand where I lived through the 1980s. People are connected to others, everyone knows each other and this can be very helpful at times, not so at others.

I'm so enjoying the peacefulness of this place, enjoying sleeping in with nothing to disturb me except the sun shining in my windows heating up the day. I was wondering as I sit here tonight about this blog. My stats tell me I have readers, quite a few surprisingly. I would love to hear from you. Please leave comments, I love feedback. When I first started reading blogs I did so silently as I didn't think I had anything to offer. Now I know we all have something to offer, no matter how small we think it is, it means something to someone.

Monday, 25 July 2011

Sunday on the waves

I like days when I learn stuff, today I've learnt plenty. I've learnt to wear a longer T shirt out sailing so I don't get a very sun burnt bit on my lower back; why the main sail needs trimming and which way to go so the boat doesn't tip over; which waggly bits to watch for when trimming the gib and main sail; that my gloves don't quite cut it for mainsail trimming; raw blisters are ouchy in salt water; that a gin and tonic is very good for a sailing thirst; that I really do have to jump off the boat when Jo yells for me to tie it up on the jetty, read stop it from going back out to sea; and most importantly that the stronger the winds and wilder the waves, the more I love sailing.

It was a blast today. The wind was strong enough to make it exciting, the waves were kicking up and we hit some and surfed others. The sea splashing onto my face to wet the wind. My love of being out on the water must come from my sea faring ancestry, the sealers and whalers who plied the southern oceans in the way back years. My family were in Aotearoa New Zealand when the official settlers arrived. It's quite a history really and one that's linked to Canterbury, in particular on the Bank Peninsula, in I way I didn't know until recently.

Topping off today, Jo and I had a dip at Smith's Cove. A lovely place to enjoy people watching as there are always plenty of local people at this interesting small cove with a coral sand beach. Somehow, I don't have a decent photo so have linked to someone who has. Amazing she managed to get the cove without people.

Christchurch snow, thanks Muzz
So it's been a great Sunday for me, a sleep in, sailing, swimming, chilling and watching the snow fall in Christchurch. Yes, the snow is chucking down and Muzz turned the computer to the window so I could watch for a while. It was 30 here, minus something there but it looked amazingly beautiful. I feel for those in the red zone, still living with no water or ablutions after all this time, snow must add a misery that is difficult to comprehend. I also feel for those who have to make sure the salvageable buildings don't fill with snow causing even more damage, I know Tim was out on that mission today. I certainly don't miss the cold winters that are a Christchurch specialty, I suspect this island life suits me just fine. Especially as I'm still learning stuff. 

Friday, 22 July 2011

Mila's place

Travis feeding the new addition, very cute!
Mila at the well
Simon at work with his audience
Flash wheels

While my good friends Debbie and Simon are their family were in the UAE they employed Mila to help them with the youngest and around the house. Sh quickly became part of the family as they laughed and cried, celebrated  and commiserated all that life brings. Mila's last few weeks were cut short due to a family crisis so goodbyes were    not as good as they might have been. Nothing the indomitable Debs and Simon couldn't handle, with the help of Travis their youngest. On their way home to New Zealand in their summer school holidays they stopped by Mila's place. I'll let Debs pick up the story from here. 

18 July 2011

What a great day!  This is soooo much fun and sooo rewarding!  We got picked up by our driver Roosevelt (Mila's cousin) and off we went. Simon and Trav went off to measure up the house with a builder dude and Mila and I went to put her money in the bank for the rice field and went to buy her her first couch!  For $300NZ dollars we managed to get her a whole lounge suite which was exciting... and they delivered it a few hours later!  After talking to Roosevelt (his Mum owns rice fields) we have realised that rice fields are a bit more expensive than Mila's sister first thought so Mila is putting it in her savings and going to build on that.

Anyway, next stop were the hardware stores, paint shops, tank shop and toilet shop.  We got the materials for the water tank, the leaky roof, the new front door and the new toilet(which by the way will be a room now connected to her house with a proper porcelain toilet and solar shower)!!! Totally exciting. We have discovered that we can do all of this for $1500NZ dollars... including the labour costs (7 men over 4 days is the estimate)!! Can you believe it!??  Your money is being well spent let me tell you!  

The lads enjoying a swim
We will talk to Roosevelt more about rice fields in the morning and let you know how close we are to that. Anyway will try and send the video of the house pre our work and then Mila has promised she will send us the afters....we gave her Abbey's old computer today so now I will teach her how to use it tomorrow.  (She says "thanks so much Abbey"). For now I will attach the photos.  Simon told me I sent the last lot 3 times so I will try it once with the apple computer, let me know if it doesn't work.
See ya,

20 July 2011

Hi everyone, we were too tired to do the update yesterday so now that we are refreshed we will fill you all in…What a great day! 6 workers turned up at Mila’s this morning to begin building the toilet, fixing the roof and installing the water tank.  Simon had his own project, which was putting the new front door on the house. Building a toilet means building a kind of septic tank which the men had to dig into hard clay for…… it took all day.  Travis decided to explore it a bit deeper and fell in it!! Luckily he didn’t really hurt himself!

Mila and I went 200 metres down the road to her cousins pig farm and we bought two small pigs and deposited them in the pen.  Mila’s brother, Junior, already has a black one so their mission is to build
The new door, almost there
a pigpen for Mila’s next. Mila, Travis and I also took a visit to the cemetery to say hello to her parents, its just sooooo sad. Dad died 20th May 2010 and Mum 29th May 2011!!  All the changes that we are making to the house are the dreams that her two parents have had for years, wish they were here to
see it!  Mila is still very very sad and I guess she will be for a long time.

Anyway, Simon sweated his butt off making the door with a crowd of about 15 women as spectators!  He handled it well!  We bought the entire village ice-cream, a little ice-cream trike pulled up and once word spreads there were about 40 people eating ice-cream!  Classic, it cost all of $8! Marilyn arrived from Abu Dhabi in the afternoon so it was great to see her in her village before we left.  She is just soo happy that all of the work is being done and that Mila’s house will be more habitable.

Mila and three of the kids stayed in the hotel with us on the last night.  What a great event that was. The children ran into the bathroom and started stripping off, they thought the shower was just fantastic!  Jennylyn thought it was raining in the house!  She also thought the beds were fantastic for jumping up and down on! We all showered and went out for dinner then the 4 of them went to their room to get full use of the facilities! Simon, Travis and I crashed!

Travis had the most awesome time in the village.  Lizards, frogs, pigs, chickens, ducks, dogs, cats, and about 20 children to play with! In one of the photos you will see he got treated like royalty with Junior setting him up on a hammock with a fan blowing on him! There has been a slight change of plan with the rest of the money bythe way….  I am sure you will all be ecstatic to know that you are going to put Mila through University!  

After a lot of thinking and talking with her sister Marilyn, Mila has decided she would like to follow her dream and go and study with her friends at the local university.  She is tossing up between teaching and ICT.  She is very excited as it has always been her dream but unfortunately her parents were unable to afford it.  She will spend the next week buying a uniform and finding out about the courses that they offer.  It costs about $350 (12000pesos) a year here to go to University, which I know doesn’t seem much to us, but is a fortune to them!  Her parents were earning about $5 a day and raising 4 kids!!  She has enough for the 4 years study and then plenty left to save for that elusive rice field. We will of course keep topping her up!

We treated everyone to breakfast this morning and the entire clan dropped us off at the airport!  It was sad saying goodbye, Mila was a bit of a mess but she is very excited about beginning a different journey! Thank you all so much again, her family is just soooo thankful and as they said “words are not enough.” We are now off to feel guilty in the luxury of Boracay!  We are looking forward to a rest.
See you soon!!

So there it is, a lovely story of friendship and support. I will blog any new photos, the after shots, as soon as I get them and keep you posted on the progress. If anyone feels moved to help a little, comment here and I'll pass on Deb and Simon's contact details. It takes so little to achieve a lot in improving the life of our fellow man.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

My business

I don't really talk too much about my work here but this was posted by Di on Facebook and it resonated with me. I am in the business of education reform, often amongst the few voices in the initial change process. The problem is that people revert to their default setting when challenged with something that seems a bridge too far. The key for sustained change, change that embeds itself and becomes the norm, is to involve everyone at the level at which they can contribute.

The example used by Sir Ken about standardised testing is an example of a default setting. When educators worry about impact they want to baseline children then institute a standardised test to measure their progress. While summative assessment like this is valid and when used in context and alongside formative, continuous assessment it can inform teaching choices for educators. The key problem with this is that many countries borrow testing from elsewhere and it does not take into account the unique socio cultural context in which the children operate. I've seen this happen in several places now. This default setting often comes from childhood messages and experiences.

People reason that they were successful when they were tested to have become credentialed so they believe that if it was good enough for them it must be good enough for the children in their care. We've heard this message all through our childhoods in some form or another from our parents, teachers, grown ups from all sorts of places and of course the media, therefore this is imprinted on us. It is actually our default setting too. The problem is, as Sir Ken points out so clearly, the world has changed, societies have changed. I suspect I would struggle to record many of those changes alone, in a group of peers I'm sure we would manage many more.

As parents we worry about our children's education and want a measure of how they are doing. We encourage them to keep on the education path, go from secondary school to university, get a degree so they can get a job. And this works for many but for many it doesn't and they become burnt out in the process, sometimes turning to other more dangerous recreations. Often our kids can see themselves as failures early on, it becomes their truth about themselves that is difficult to change.

But who gets to say what failure is, whose definition is true. Often common sense and logic are strong in our children and they can see how to create something for others, they may not be good at sitting at a desk in a controlled situation listening to, writing and reading words. Some children excel at sports, they need to move their bodies to learn. Some excel at art or music, some at the sciences, some in literacy learning, we all have our unique talents. Some of us are just plain different. A skillful teacher will manage to notice this, recognise how individual children interact with their world and respond by tailoring a programme for that child or a group of children that support them in their learning.

Working in groups or teams helps children to develop altruism, a trait that is so missing in our world today. Team; together we achieve more; there is no 'I' in team; time, energy and money; together everyone achieves miracles, people have been thinking about teams for a while. Sports teams show us how important it is to work together, without the defense, the attack and scoring wouldn't happen. Without the attack the defense has no job to do. How many job advertisements say:

"Must be able to work collaboratively in a team environment" or "engagement with stakeholders and collaboration with colleagues is a key competency".

The world of work values common sense, and that's not that common; the ability to build and maintain working relationships; the ability to communicate with people of different ages, ethnicities and backgrounds; the ability to work collaboratively with others; the ability to get on in the workplace. We need to teach our children these skills alongside the academic skills they need to credential. The children who learn those skills will be the employable ones.

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Taking a stroll

I had a bit of a find today, in the Humane Society second hand book shop of all places. I went looking to replenish my book supplies when I found a DVD called Nature's Best, a compilation of New Zealand's best music from eras I could remember. I've enjoyed listening and especially enjoyed the old videos clips of places I know well and people who were iconic in their day in small town New Zealand.

Gems such as this one were amongst the Crowded House selection.

It was a stroll down memory lane, everyone looking younger than they do now if they are still alive. And then there's this one, a classic.

The Humane Society here has dogs and cats up for adoption, I thought I spied a Labrador puppy but he doesn't seem to be on the list for adoption. Cats are fine, I'm a dog person with a soft spot for golden labs. I my just volunteer to do some dog walking, the next best thing to having one and that's not on the agenda.

On the tube

In light of all the sledging that's been going on with NZ vs Aussie in sport, I felt obliged to share this advertisement from the London Tube. It could be a touch of guilt for their rugby team wearing a fully black strip as their away jersey. That's caused a few ruffled kiwi feathers. Of course I have two Aussie dwelling sons and one grand daughter with dual heritage, the sophisticated ones. Thanks for sharing Jane.

It's the weekend!

On this sunny Saturday I sit here reflecting on the week, full and satisfied after a breakfast of plantain, tomatoes, mushrooms and eggs. Reflecting on breakfast, pretty much my favorite meal of the day. I'd seen plantain in the shops here, a banana like fruit, and not known what to do with it. Some commented they liked it green, some liked it ripe, all said it was something to be cooked. I left it with the other fruit and vege until I got fed at Young Island Resort. Yum, I'd discovered another breakfast food.

Plantain cooked by proper cooks tastes a bit like those lovely pink yams we get in New Zealand, the ones I used to call little boys toes when I had little boys to delight. The reality was that I really didn't like to share them. I've never found them anywhere else in the world and although people have told me I was eating yams, they were more like sweet potatoes but not as good as kumara. No lovely mushy, sweet bits in the middle. I have been known to cook a pan of yams and just have those for dinner.

Riper plantain fried lightly is delicious alongside the usual cooked breakfast food, a nice mix of sweet and savory to be savored in an outdoor dining space with the sound of waves breaking on the shore. Not quite at my place but I did manage the outside dining, in the sun, despite it being a sticky 28C here at 8am. Now I'm almost ready for a busy Saturday, as soon as I move myself from where I am. With everything shut here on a Sunday, the day of rest, worship and family time, I have to get things done today.

Shopping for food is top on the list although I don't seem to eat in much. I've got dinner guests on Sunday night, two who have been here a shorter time than I have. Last night I ate at the local Italian. Casanova's is consistently good and their risottos rival Tim and Sarah's. The night before it was Sunset House and a much needed G&T with my snapper. Work consumes an amazing amount of my time, the set up phase needing much multitasking and critical thinking. Eating happens after that, after late meetings and motivating conversations.

Now I must fly and shower to ward off the stickiness for a short while and get myself to the supermarket for some more plantain, I'm sure it will be nice in Sunday nights curry. I also have to write a to do list as I tend to get side tracked easily. Today I plan to go to the local dog rescue place, the Humane Society, that has a second hand book store and swap the many I've read for some new ones. I hope there's a Jo Nesbo there to get lost in and I hope that I don't take away a dog as well. They like volunteers to walk the dogs, I suspect I'll volunteer today. Photos just may follow!

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Saint Vincent photos

It was a murky day when Sarah, Cindy and I ventured up to Fort Charlotte. There were heavy rain squalls as well as some gusts of wind that blew Cindy's umbrella inside out. We decided that walking to the fort may have been a mission so hired a taxi. We were right, it was a long steep climb punctuated by Cindy yelling, "stop here, I've just got to get that picture".  Yes, someone worse than me. Luckily she did or I would have missed the rainbow over Kingstown.

We wandered around the fort guided by a nice young man who gave us the history with a passion that showed his sense of belonging to this place. He was an unofficial guide, we paid him of course. He told us the story of the fort high above the town protecting the headlands. The only people to be killed at the fort were an officer who was killed by the husband of the woman he was having an affair with and the soldier who killed him. It now houses the woman's prison, all 15 or so of them.

The entrance to the fort is imposing, although the photo above doesn't really do it justice. We wandered the battlements, astounded at the vista, from the ocean and surrounding islands to the tropical jungle covered mountains. We had climbed quite high. The history of the area is told in a series of paintings housed on site and I learnt about the peoples of the Eastern Caribbean, who settled first, who came later and the wars of colonisation. A similar story to many countries. It explained the people I had observed while wandering, very different but all locals.

The trip down was exciting and Sarah and I convinced the driver to stop so we could get some photos of the cemetery towards the bottom of the hill. It was interesting, old and new graves clustered together looking as though the new ones had been squeezed into vacant spaces. The row of white crosses looked interesting but I didn't make it over that far to find out their significance. It started to rain and we left, lifting the tapu as we went through the gate.

Simple fix, yeah right

There have been a few developments since Saturday in the TV saga. It always seems to happen, you ask a bloke to take a look and he manages to fix the problem. Quite quickly, fancy that. Brad and Kim brought Jon to visit so Brad got to fix the telly while he was here. Jon enjoyed watching the Wiggles on my mac, why do kids love them so much, while the adults swapped holiday stories. Both of us had been home for a short stay.

I persevered with the telly for a while after they left, hoping to get a programme in before bed. Alas like all external aerials, it needed me to hold it for any sort of picture. My patience with things like that is not exactly legendary so I found a DVD to watch, the Top Gear Vietnam special. My frustrations were soon forgotten as I laughed at the antics of three English blokes negotiating Vietnam on a different form of transport than usual. They really are funny in an inane, things that boys do, way. And because laughter is good for the wrinkles, they managed to get me laughing.

So I now have a plastic box with electric string and some metal extrusions out the top or out the side or upside down as an ornament in my big ugly white cabinet. Sigh, at least I will get more done without TV, after all I've lived without it for a number of years now. And there's the rest of my Top Gear CD. I did get a small fix at Kim and Brads as Jon and I spent an evening together playing. America's Got Talent, mmmm maybe I'm better off without TV.

I do have a new work lap top, straight from the box and still very shiny. Getting some work done tonight was a pleasure as I didn't have to stay late at the office. I came home while it was still light, enjoyed my clean house for a minute then went for a swim. Very nice to walk a few meters and be able to do a few lengths of the complex's pool and relax. It's okay here really.

Sunday, 10 July 2011

A lazy Saturday

I took my time rolling out of bed this morning, laying and listening to that restful rain on the roof. Reflecting on the past few weeks and the whirlwind of travel, family, friends and new learning. It's nice to be able to stay put for a while. The week has been one of catching up. Still haven't caught up on the house work, never mind I should have someone to help me with that next week.

I dawdled through breakfast, sighing at the Crusaders loss to the Reds in the super 15 rugby competition, thinking I must get the TV working so I can keep up with the local and international news. Leaving the house I was surprised to see a friend on the door step. My friend was also surprised to see me and as we locked eyes for a nano second, me thinking where's my camera, no one will believe this and him thinking, friend or foe, we were both very still.

I've not seen many snakes up close and personal and didn't have enough knowledge to be afraid. He was a bit over 3 feet long, thin and a dark brownish colour. He looked a bit like this so I suspect he was a harmless racer, well harmless to me. He did flatten his head, I thought I'd imagined that! Bemused, I went on my mission to buy an indoor antenna for my TV and he raced off though the garden.

I kept a careful look out for my friend on the way home. I've come home to a few tropical bugs in my house including a rather large, scary looking spider I had to spray earlier in the week. I wonder if he could come in and eat the bugs, not sure that's such a wise idea. I was surprised to see a light green frog on my door screen the other morning, on the inside. I caught and released him outside.

There's a new development just down from me that has an open home today so Jo, Charlene and I have planned a visit. It's very plush from the outside so I'm looking forward to seeing the actual condos. So here I sit with a freshly brewed coffee and the local newspaper. The tele antenna didn't work, maybe I need someone with a bit more patience for things electronic to tune it in. Maybe I'll just enjoy the paper.

Thursday, 7 July 2011


I'll just have a little bit, eat around half and leave the rest for later....yeah right. I've never been able to do that. They sell the local mangoes at the supermarket so I picked up a couple when I did my much needed shop. There was nothing to eat at my place that was fresh, lots of canned goods in preparation for a hurricane but nothing that was green, fruity or wholesome. Because I shopped I had fresh fish and plantain for dinner with a rocket salad. Healthier than what I have been snacking on lately.

After dinner I needed to sample one of the mangoes, just in case it was off. With these ones it's not a matter of keeping the juice off my clothes, it's keeping it to a minimum and wetting the T-shirt so it doesn't stain too much. I ate it over the sink, juice running down my arms, dripping with juice. All gone, opps. I just may have to access more mangoes on the weekend, it's about time I revisited the farmers market.

I've really enjoyed being back at work, that's odd I know but I love my job and the people I work with. It's challenging and I'm constantly having to think outside the square to work out the next steps. I like that, exercising my brain. I also like talk, that will not surprise those who know me, and I get plenty of talk time with my team and others. Good productive talk. Tomorrow all my team are together for a planning day or two. There's a bit to plan and organise in the term break so the next school year goes smoothly. That will keep me busy for a while.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Driving home

I was driving home from the quiz at the Lone Star tonight and this song came on the radio. I YouTubed it and enjoyed it again. Adele's voice is one I like, the emotion that comes through in this clip. Enjoy.

PS We did okay in the first round, it went down hill from there. 

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Home again

It was fantastic to land on Grand Cayman on Saturday afternoon. It would have been more fantastic to have landed on Friday night as planned. But no, enter American Airlines again. Mechanical trouble led to us being stranded at Antigua. There was also a massive rain storm, complete with thunder and lightening that made us a little relieved we were waiting. For once I had company during my wait, Cindy and Sarah from Bermuda were in the same predicament.

We hung out, eating whatever food we could find, surfing the net and chatting. It was quite restful in an odd, I'm stranded therefore I'll miss my plane, no use worrying about, it kind of way. I had sort of resigned myself to staying over in Miami by the time we landed but I thought I'd make a last ditch attempt to make my plane. The home land security lines were horrible. I asked, got sent to a long line, waited awhile then asked another person. She was helpful, got me through quickly and off I raced with my bag to Cayman Airways.

The odd thing is that flying through the USA you have to get your bag and recheck it at the first point of entry. I have no idea why this is, and I'm not sure it's worth questioning, but it makes moving around a whole lot more difficult than it needs to be. I arrived at the counter as the plane was taking off, the staff there very apologetic. Plan B, rebook, get a hotel voucher and find somewhere for the night and more importantly something to eat.

The American Airlines queue was about four hours long and it was already almost 10pm. I noticed a number, called the airline and booked for the next day. The day had been a long one, from 9am until 10pm for two flights of one and three hours repectively, crazy really. Cindy and Sarah were staying at the Hilton so I caught a bus there, booked a room and we had a lovely meal. Clam chowder and crab cakes with a GnT and excellent company, who could beat that at 10.30pm!

In a quiet moment I worked out that since I left Dubai on 14 April, I have had 19 flights. Fifteen international, two across the USA and two within the Caymans. I've used six different airlines two of whom I'm reluctant to fly with again. That's a heap of flying and even more time spent waiting to fly so I suspect I'm staying put for a while.

I'm back home enjoying relaxing at my place and reflecting on a whirlwind trip to Aussie and New Zealand and all the associated travel dramas. I've learnt some lessons so next time will be better. Jo picked me up at the airport then took me out on the water the next day, very relaxing and enjoyable although the wind was a little quite for speed. Today I spent the day in the office, while others were on holiday, catching up on the loose ends so tomorrow won't be so frantic.

The photos are team Bermuda and I lunching and the lily pond at St Mary's Catholic Church in Kingstown, St Vincent.