Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Merry Christmas

It has not felt much like Christmas this year. We arrived the week after Thanksgiving and with getting use to the new home and island we have not planned or celebrated the Holidays. Plus it has been in the upper 80s and we go swimming a lot.

In lieu of sending Christmas cards this year I am posting this picture. It is our Christmas card. This is us on our beach on Christmas day at a shipwreck area we call the fence. Merry Christmas.

On Sunday we went to an open house, or an appreciation party, at the cruise center. Goodmark Jewelers opened all of its stores and was holding sales for the local population to buy presents. They were offering free food, so we thought we would go quickly and just eat.

For the last several years I have wanted to get Deneen a black pearl necklace but never have. Indigo Pearls was having a 50% off sale. I found a set that I really liked. Deneen found a set she really liked. There is some benefit, I guess, to living on an island with duty free shopping. We bought both.

After this we went over to the Dufry shop and bought Deneen a pair of sunglasses and a Nike sport watch.

It was about 7:30, so we went over to the Goodmark store to see if the 5:30 raffle was over, or to see if it was running on Grand Turk time. In fact, the guy was yelling that you had two minutes left to get your raffle ticket in the box. We all put our names in the box. They were raffling 10 items, all from various stores. Martin won the second to last gift, a diamond watch. It was a women's watch, so Martin gave it to Deneen for Christmas.

Christmas day. Deneen had a good Christmas.

Martin and I opened and worked at the museum from 8:30 until 3:00 on Christmas day. We had two cruise ships in, and Christmas day was inagural behind-the-scenes excursion the museum is doing for Holland America in partnership with a local excursion operation. This past weekend we had installed flat screen video monitors, a small temporary exhibit, cleaned all of the exhibits, and tried to revamp the shop. In two days, Melanie Clifton-Harvey, the visiting curator, and Martin were able to accomplish more than I have managed to get done inside the museum in three months. Christmas was the first day that the museum has met revenue goals. We were 400% above our average.

In the afternoon we went to the beach. Way down the beach I saw a couple catching conch and breaking the shells right on the beach. I walked down to ask them to teach me how to clean conch. Teh guy took a conch out of the shell, cleaned a lot of gooey crap off of it and said, "have you ever eaten fresh conch." He then washed the flesh off in the ocean and offered a bite of the freshest conch I think you can eat. I offered some to Deneen, Lucas, and Martin but had no takers. I took two live conch back to the house and made a fresh conch, tomato and cucumber salad for Christmas. You can't have a more island Christmas than that.

Christmas evening we made dinner consisting of turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, and conch salad. When Melanie came in from New York last week she brought a bag of fresh cranberries and two boxes of cherry jello. So we even had Deneen's favorite cranberry jello salad. We shared our dinner with Mel and two other young men who are working on island and have no family here. Then, on the museum's LCD player out on the screen porch, we watched Pirates of the Caribbean 3, which Martin had downloaded on Itunes.

We are far from home and family, but this is one of the best Christmas days that I have had.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Christmas Puppies

There are only a few indigenous wild animals in the Turks and Caicos Islands and most now are endangered or extinct. The Rock Iguana used to inhabit 90% of the islands, now its range of habitat is 5%. The Red Footed Bo0bie was eaten to extinction hundreds of years ago. In the 16th century, the Spanish introduced cattle to the islands as a food source for ship wreck survivors. In the 17th century the Bermudians left horses and donkeys to reproduce for draft animals. Because the original genetic pool was so small, today there is actually a separate breed of donkey known as the Turks Island Donkey.

These are now the wild animals that roam freely throughout the island. There is also just one breed of dog on the island of Grand Turk, the potcake. These dogs live wild throughout the island. Most are very ugly. Some are cute. They are like squirrels. They just run around and no one really notices. I notice tourists having compassion over them. But after about two weeks you just see them as squirrels. If you put a collar on one you can claim it, and then feed it. Animal control traps them and removes animals without collars from the population.

In November, before we came, a dog had seven puppies in the bush (the overgrown undeveloped part of the island) behind our house. These puppies have been running around our compound looking for food and sleeping under cars. We have two trucks parked in our yard (remember, this is a separate blog) so we have had the puppies sleeping at our house for the last two weeks.

There are five left. One has a hurt leg, one is a runt, one is black, and one is creamy. The fifth must be the alpha. It is mean and never comes up to the house.

I have been trying to keep the boys from messing with them. Our neighbors have called animal control several times. The one with the hurt leg is not fending for itself and has gotten very skinny. I told the boys not to become attached because the puppies are not going to last long. Last week Davis gave the one with the hurt leg some leftover pancakes. So we named it Pancake. Then we named the others Cupcake, Poundcake, and Patty. Well, that got the better of us.

We have started operation head-of-the-pack. Every night for the last three nights we have fed the puppies and tried to get them to come up on the porch. Three of them, Pancake, Poundcake, and Patty, are very receptive. Two nights ago they ate food from our hands. Last night only Patty and Cupcake showed up, but Patty ate from Deneen's hand and let Davis touch her.

We have decided that if we can get the three cute ones to cooperate, we will collar them and keep them. I went to get dogfood, but it was $40 a bag. Deneen said we should get the dog food and give it to Davis for Christmas. But last night when Pancake did not show up, we thought that we should wait to see if the puppies will be around long enough to domesticate.

Davis called work today to say that Pancake had returned. I think I am going to go get dogfood and give Davis dog collars for Christmas.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

A Governor's Christmas party on this Lonely Planet

On Saturday we were invited to the Governor's Christmas party at Waterloo, the Governor's residence. Saturday was a big day. It was the last day that the Dr. Ostapkowicz, the visiting scholar, was at the museum. I had to give a VIP behind the scenes tour of the new Pirate cannon collection, a whole separate blog, to Holland America. Also, Melonie Clifton-Harvey, the visiting curator, came in on Spirit Airlines. We received an invitation to come to the party weeks ago, but I also needed to make arrangements for the museums guests to attend.

In the midst of this busy day, I ran into a travel writer from the Lonely Planet who had come to the museum. Lonely Planet began as a guide for backpackers looking for affordable travel with great experiences. In the mid 1990s, it was also a show on the Travel Channel. The host, Ian Wright, used to travel to extreme locations and have extreme experiences. I used to watch this show and dream of the day I could travel to such exotic places. My desire for more adventurous travel was in part influenced by the Lonely Planet television show.

What I remember about the Lonely Planet series was that Ian would just always show up somewhere and really cool things would happen. The lesson? It takes great effort to learn how to travel, but once you do you can make your own journey.

I had made tentative arrangements to have a guy who has been on island for just a few weeks join us as a guest of the museum. But I began to think that the party would mean more to the Lonely Planet guy. I thought, of all the people to spontaneously invite to the Governor's Christmas party, the Lonely Planet guy should be the first. This would have made great TV.

Out of curiosity, I had asked where he was staying when we had met, so I was able to quickly track down his room. I was going to leave a note, but I actually found him. I invited him, which at the time seemed perfectly normal to me since for weeks people have been talking about the Governor's party. But it probably was a little strange to have some guy you just met show up at your hotel room to invite you to a party - didn't really think of this until after I left. We did wind up picking him up a taking him.

The Governor's party was almost exactly opposite from the Premier's party, except that the drinks and food were free. This party started at 7:30. The Governor is British, and therefore punctual. We arrived at 7:40. Everyone was there. We could barely find a place to park.

The Governor has three children, age 9, 13, and 16. The Governor's wife introduced them to our boys. That was the last we saw of them. I should mention that the Governor's oldest child is also his daughter.

I knew many of the people at the party. Most of the expats on the island were in attendance, plus many prominent locals. I tried to introduce our guests to people they would be comfortable talking with. Then I tried to introduce Deneen to people I had met before. A lot of chit chat later, the Governor invited everyone onto the terrace where we sang Christmas carols accompanied by Yellowman, a local island band. This was truly choral singing with a Caribbean twist. Later, the Governor asked us if we had recognized the songs. The first verses were generally familiar, but then the second, third, fourth, and sometimes fifth verses were some totally new bizarre English version of our perfectly fine carols. The night ended with people dancing to the band. Deneen would not dance with me, but she did say she enjoyed this party much more that the night before.

I tracked down the boys who were inside the house messing around. We arrived home about 11:30. Our guests chose to stay and each found their own way home. I guess they enjoyed the party as well.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Party, Party, Party

So much has gone on here lately that I will try and write a few short topical blogs instead of a long narrative. This weekend and week we have attended or will attend a party on Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Wednesday.

On Friday night, Deneen and I went to the Premiere's Christmas party at Margaritaville in the cruise center. All drinks and food were free. The party was to start at 7:00 so we arrived at 8:00. Turks Islanders are notoriously late for things. There is a saying which goes something like, "Will dinner be at 7:00 Turks Island time?" Which translates, "Will dinner be at 7:00, or sometime between 8:00 and 8:30."

Anyway, a cruise ship had been re routed to Grand Turk because of weather on Friday. This ship did not leave port until 7:00, so the Premiere's party was postponed until 8:00. We were like the second people there. It was pathetic. By 9:00 the bars had opened. I introduced Deneen to several expats who were beginning to show up to the party. The crowd was still small. We would have left, but it is hard to turn down free food here. One of our new friends jumped in quick to say hello to people who were there. He said food probably would not be served until 10:00 or 10:30. He was right. Local people started showing up around 10:00. The buffets opened at 10:30. We ate and then left at around 11:00. People were steaming in for the free drinks. My staff said the party did not start until about 12:00. At 2:00 they closed the bar. At 2:30 people started demanding more alcohol. A fight broke out. A few people were arrested. I guess we left too soon.

Strength for Today, Hope for Tomorrow

This has been an up and down week in many ways. I have said this before, but there is always something going on, some kind of adventure. I have not had a day here on Grand Turk where something either awful or amazing has happened.

Last weekend we needed strength and hope for tomorrow. I told you that the main breaker in the house melted. We were able to get this replaced on a Sunday. This week we got the bill, $309.oo.

This weekend we lost all the water pressure in the house. Also, the muffler fell off the loaner van we are driving (more on this whole adventure maybe later). Well, after paying for the electrical problem, the last thing I wanted to do was take these other two small but critical issues to a repairman. After two days too busy, I was able to trace the water problem to a clogged filter. Problem solved. After spending three days looking for muffler adapters of the right size, I was able to cut a small muffler pipe into sections and pound them into the muffler in order to reattached it to the tailpipe. More than one person told me that car repair here is: find something close and make fit. Saturday both issues were resolved.

My prayer here has been that we would not attend a church until we were invited. Deneen has been very interested in finding a church so that we, and especially the boys, can begin to meet people in the community. Last Sunday was the second Sunday we have been on island as a family.

The boys have met one friend. Denzel lives in our complex, right across the street. His mother passed away suddenly last January, and he is now living with his aunt. He is 15, and the only other young person of a similar age to Martin and Lucas. The schools are on break now, and every day I have come home from work he has been in the house playing video games.

Last Sunday Denzel invited Martin and Lucas to come to his church, Salem Baptist. Does this count as a family invitation? I was not sure. But when I got to work on Monday, I found that I had received an email on Sunday from a friend of the museum regretting that he had not yet invited us to church. He invited us to Salem Baptist.

I have been unsure if attending a church would be comfortable. The local people here, for the most part, are very religious. They are also friendly. But the community has not seemed open in some ways. And, we are different just by the nature of where we have come from.

On Sunday we attended Salem Baptist church. The service was very traditional, with many hymns. We arrived after the service had started. Before the congregational reading of scripture, someone stepped out of their pew and handed us their bible. Before the first hymn, two others stepped out and gave us hymnals. The hymnal was the very familiar Baptist Hymnal. As most of you will know, my father was a Baptist minister. The first hymn was Great is Thy Faithfulness.

Culturally, the people here are very musical. During the service, several people stood up to give testimony. Three of them ended by starting a spontaneous hymn. The congregation started singing. Then the organist would start to play right on key. I could not tell who had perfect pitch, the congregation or the organist. I could not see the organist and he left before the service ended. But after church, Denzel told us that it was his uncle, our neighbor Rupert.

During the service the pastor took time to have visitors introduce themselves. Now, if you know this age old trick - we were the only visitors. I don't want to spell this out, but it was very obvious that we were visitors. I introduced the family. The pastor welcomed us and told the congregation briefly who we were and where we had come from. Last week one of the national newspapers ran a front page story about our arrival with a picture and our background. Many people have stopped to mention something about it. I could not figure it out how people knew us for the longest time. I have not seen the paper.

We went to Mitch night at the Osprey House for the BBQ on Sunday evening. One of the locals running the restaurant mentioned that she had sat behind us in church that morning. So let me ask you, is the faithfulness great? In many, many respects we are not that different from the people here. ...Blessings all mine and ten thousand besides.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Dinner with Olga

Remember that is has been windy here. I just looked at Well as it turns out, tropical storm Olga has been slowly passing to the south of us. For the last three days we have had the top of this storm come across the island.

Last night the museum had a dinner party for the visiting scholar who is here this week, Dr. Joanna Ostapkowicz, from the World Museum in Liverpool. She is the leading scholar of Taino wooden art in the world. We have been doing materials testing on the duho for the last two days.

We had dinner for a party of nine at Chinese Joan's. Dr. Ostapkowicz, her boyfriend an archaeologist who came to dive, Don, from Ship's of Discovery, Dominic, from the Waitt Institute, our Chairman of the Board of Trustees, and Thomas and Deborah. We had barely started to order when it began to storm. For most restaurants here, dinner is al fresco, you eat outside. At Chinese Joan's, there are tables under a series of four tents. The rain blew in sideways, the wind was strong. We decided to tough it out. It was a warm rain.

Just as the appetizers arrived, the electricity went out over the whole island. We sat under the tents in the driving rain lit by Coleman lamps. We went ahead and ordered, one of everything on the menu. Within thirty minutes or so the lights came on. At Chinese Joan's, everything is made to order. She made each dish and brought them out one at a time (wearing a plastic poncho, remember it is pouring rain). Spicy Chili Chicken, Mushroom Pork, Stir Fry Shrimp, Celery Beef, Peking Duck, and several others I can't remember.

Thomas was on the end getting the worst of the rain. I found out today that he did not get to eat because his plate kept filling up with water. He and Deborah stopped and got chicken at the Poop Deck on the way home.

We were relatively fine until the top of the tent saturated and water began to drip through. We ate until sometime around 10:00 when the watch changed and Don and Dominic had to leave for the Plan B. Deneen and I had gone to the dinner, leaving the boys at home. It was one of the funnest nights I have had on the island.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Plan B

The last two days have been very windy. Friday night the Plan B crew came ashore and we went to meet them at the SandBar. The Plan B is a research vessel from the Waitt Institute. It is in the TCI doing an underwater magnetic survey of the Endymion site, an English warship that sank in the early 19th century. This is the maiden voyage of the ship and the they are using this as a shake down, or trial, survey. The museum was very lucky to have been in the right place at the right time to make arrangements to work this out. There is no alcohol allowed on board, so the crew came in for some R and R. At 5:30 when I went down, everyone was having a good time. By the time I had come home to get the family and we all went down to the SandBar for dinner, everyone had had a lot more R.

We have been on island for ten days. December is an incredibly busy month for the museum. Next week a visiting scholar is coming to look at the duho in our collection. The day after she leaves, a curatorial intern is coming to evaluate our conservation and storage program. She will be here for three weeks. We have had a lot to prepare for. On Friday I had to record a radio program. The three minute spot took two and a half hours. In the end, I did not get it in on time for the Saturday program.

On Saturday, we removed the duho from its protective case at the museum and cleaned the lab. I also opened one of our display cases where we had on object fall during Museum Day. The cases in the museum have not been cleaned in at least seven years. So I took the opportunity to remove each object, dusted, and vacuumed the case out.

I could work all the time and not do everything I need to at the museum. I am trying very carefully to balance work and not work, which is partly why we came to a dessert island. In the afternoon we went to White Sands Beach to snorkel with Deborah and Thomas. Supposedly, this is one of the best spots on the island. In this location there is a large coral head. Swimming around it, you can see all manner of sea creatures and sea life. You name it, you can see it. Remember its been very windy.

I began to think that I would blog about what it must be like to swim in an aquarium. It was unbelievably beautiful. I was swimming with Davis. About half way around the coral head the currents swept Davis and I onto and over the coral. It was very disorienting and we quickly went from swimming in 10 feet of water to a few inches of water. There were large fan coral and fire coral everywhere. I started thinking that I would blog about how Davis and I were hospitalized after being drug over the coral. We managed to get across in the waves. However, I did strike my arm on a piece of fire coral. When you begin to snorkel, you are taught not to touch anything, especially the coral. The oils in your skin can kill a hundred years of coral growth in a few hours. On the other hand. People say the fire coral will burn like a sting from a two pound bee. The oils from the coral leave large welts and burn marks. And you know what. They were right.

Once we got across the coral, I sent Davis to shore. Deneen had come out of the water almost as soon as we had gotten in. The waves were so big that I could not see where Lucas was. I swam back out and found Lucas swimming around the back side of the coral.

A note about snorkeling. When I am in the water with my head down I have never had a concern about anything. The bottom of the ocean is a very peaceful place. Floating in the waves is very relaxing. Occasionally when I stick my head above water, I get very freaked out about how far away from shore I am, how big the waves are, or especially that I have lost track of someone swimming with me.

Deneen was really freaked out about the conditions and still today is trying to get me to agree that it was dangerous and a bad decision to go snorkeling yesterday. We were just having this discussion. Lucas on the other hand, said that this was the best day of his life. He saw a lobster, two trumpet fish, what may have been a small sand shark, a blue fish about three feet long, then ten more huge fish three feet long. He keeps talking on and on about how cool it was. Deneen keeps talking on and on about how dangerous it was. Maybe it was somewhere in between. But not very dangerous, just freaky to us novices.

In the evening, after snorkeling, Martin and I went to the first practice of our new band. Our first date is New Years Eve. This went well. Martin said that it was cooler than he thought it would be. Today he started to work on learning Jamie's bass parts.

At the end of this wonderful day, we invited Deborah and Thomas over for dinner and video games. In the middle of an intense Xbox football game on the LCD projector, half of the electricity in our house went out. Our use of electricity - three TVs, three video games, three air conditioners - has evidently taxed our service and we melted one of the legs of our main breaker.

Today is Sunday. We got up and could not cook, and it was very hot. This was a little hard to deal with so we went to the cruise center to swim and eat at Margaritaville. On the way there, Martin said, “This is the first day that it has felt like we really live here.” A breakthrough.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Cool Beans

We went to get Ice cream last night at Cool Beans. Deneen was bored and wanted to get out of the house. She thinks that I made it sound worse than it is here. Its not that things are not available. Its that I am not willing to pay for them. Cool Beans is a cool little place that sells six kinds of ice cream. The flavors change each day. When a flavor is gone, its gone. It is very good. Probably even better in that it is a special treat. Not something that is readily available. It has only been open since late September.

On the cruise ship all of the food was free. We started eating at 7:30. I would get a plate full of fruit. You could also get a plate full of bacon. Lunch was served buffet style, or you could order Chinese food, or get a hamburger from the grill, or get a sandwich from the deli, or all of the above. We ate hamburgers from the grill a lot, they were very good. We ate dinner at the early seating, 5:45. You needed to dress nicely at dinner and they were long. We went to our assigned table three nights. It was crazy. Lobster and steak for everybody. One of each desert. Davis tried many different foods. When he did not like the seafood medley we ordered another steak. He did eat mussels and lots of shrimp. Our waiter brought him two and three shrimp cocktails every night. The pizza shop was open twenty four hours a day. We would get pizza in the evening. At 11:15 we all met at a specific table on the aft deck and ate French fries from the grill, pizza, and ice cream. The average cruise passenger gains seven pounds. I only gained six. So it was good that we got off early.

In our house on Grand Turk the cupboards are pretty bare. There is a lot of tea in the house from the last occupant, though. We drank a lot of tea before. But we really drink a lot of tea here. Tea is the new snack food.

I am sitting in the living room. I will ask the family what they think about the food in the house. Lucas says "Its gooood." Deneen says, "you get what you pay for," but I have no idea what that even means. Martin says, "I love my family." Davis says, "I love chics that are hot." This is what I live with. Ridiculousness.

Every day a cruise ship docks in Grand Turk. I am sure that the 3000 passengers throw away as much food as the population of Grand Turks eats in a day. We ate so much ice cream that it didn't even taste good. The ice cream at Cool Beans was a small portion, but it honestly was some of the best ice cream that I have ever eaten. We decided we would get ice cream once a week.It was 85 degrees today. We went snorkeling this evening and ate on the screen porch. It is 9:30 and we are getting ready for bed. Deneen says that I have spent more time with the family this week than I have in the last three years.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Feels A Lot Like Vacation

We have just made it through our first weekend. To be honest, it has felt a lot like a really great vacation. We have unpacked, been snorkeling, spent a lot of money on dinner, stayed up really late playing video games, and have watched movies every night. Water condenses all over the refrigerator, the tub leaks into the kitchen, and there are house geckos in every room, but that's alright because we are just here enjoying the break for a while.

Yesterday was museum day at the museum. I did not know what to expect. Throughout the day we had events such as face painting, friendship pins, snakes from the National Trust, dancing and stories from the Department of Cultural, two pinatas, and Mitch wrote a song for the museum that everyone sang. Probably 50-60 local children attended at different times. Several volunteers came to run programs. The day was from 10:00-4:00 with no breaks for lunch.

Jump in with both feet we did. Deneen ran the friendship pin table helping kids place beads onto pins, something no one had seen before. Martin did face painting. Though, he mostly painted dragon tattoos and kids names that he could not spell. It was a long, fun day that was very similar to a Hillcrest parking lot party, in all its facets. We went to a small get together afterward. People asked if the day was uncomfortable at all. But in fact, we have been perfectly prepared for life here.

Today, we spent the day cleaning, doing laundry, and getting the new screen porch furniture put together. This area will be a nice cool area to eat and relax. I had been using it for storage. We bought outdoor furniture on clearance at Target before we left and this turned out to be a great decision because it is very functional on the screen porch. We worked most of the afternoon so that we could eat dinner on the new table, but then realized that there are no lights on the porch.

We drink almost five times as much water as I did when I lived here by myself. We have gone through five gallons in the last two days. This probably is not unusual, but I only have noted it because we go buy our water by the gallon, and have to wait in line to fill up the container. I think I will have to fill our five gallon container every other day.

Tomorrow I start back to work and we begin to check out the school situation for Martin and Lucas. Another adventure begins.

Friday, November 30, 2007

How Things Can Change in a Week

Just a quick blog. Last Thursday was Thanksgiving. We spent the day with family in the Smoky Mountains. This Thursday we landed on Grand Turk. The trip was long to get here. We spent the day unpacking and getting use to our new home. We went snorkeling this morning. The water temperature has dropped since I left in late October. It is still nicer than Ohio, but at 82 it was on the chilly side here today. The press release went out a couple days ago about our relocation to Grand Turk as the new director of the National Museum. It was the lead story on the radio all day yesterday. Tomorrow is museum day. This is the biggest planned activity the museum does all year. Jumping in. Hope the water is fine.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

The Hitches Have Left the Building

Yesterday we sailed from Miami and have officially left the US. Well I guess not officially, we will still keep our Ohio address.

We spent this past week in the Smoky Mountains in Tennessee with the Lee families. Spending our final days here with family and friends was very good but I am also anxious to get back to Grand Turk. I have been getting a furry of emails. Last week contractors working on a new condo development uncovered a cannon under about six feet of sand. The museum was called to identify the armament. Our cannon expert was flying into Grand Turk this week anyway, so I think this will all work out. I am looking forward to seeing this when I get back on island.

Thanksgiving was a joyous occasion, though the day was spent trying to finish up last minute work before we left on Friday. On Friday, the museum had an application due for the British Oversees Territories Environmental Program grant. I finished this on Thanksgiving and sent it to Deborah. I talked to her on Friday morning. With the grant, the permissions for survey work we are putting together, and the cannon identification, she sounded a bit overwhelmed. I think her exact words were, “You said this job would be easy while you were gone, you better make sure that the Triumph lands at Grand Turk.”

The Triumph? On Friday we left Gatlinburg and drove to Miami. We boarded the Carnival Triumph and are taking a cruise ship down to Grand Turk. It is the last stop on the cruise.

I had trepidation about how much stuff we packed. Those of you who saw the van will know what I mean. All last week we cleaned out our house. We packed a rental van last Saturday. I looked in and thought we had just more than a manageable amount of luggage. On Sunday we had a mad rush to finish packing what we wanted and storing what we did not. All five of us threw last minute “wants” into smaller bags. In the end, we had one super huge, too heavy to carry bag of “stuff,” ten suitcases of clothes (two a piece was going to be the limit), two bags of home school curriculum, two boxes of my books, sixteen carry on bags, and two skateboards. Thats right. You heard correctly. We checked 31 pieces of luggage. The best thing about the whole trip was the looks and questions about why you would let your kids bring skateboards on a cruise ship.

I was extreamly stressed about how we were going to get all the luggage on the ship. In the end it was no big deal. I gave a porter a $20, he loaded all our bags on a large cart and took them away. From the time we got on board until 10:00PM on Saturday porters brought bags to our room continuously. When I went up to the pursers office to enquirer about a lost soccer ball (thats right) there were ten unclaimed bags with the room tags ripped off; three of them were ours.

I have a lot to tell – I wish I had more room – I do try to keep to a word count.

I will give you a little foreshadowing:

We are an excessive people, the cruise ship is the epitome off this excess.

I thought the hard transition about this move would be living apart for three months. As it turns out, living apart is easy – the transition back to living together not so easy.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Good Luck on Your Journey

I left Columbus today. This week has been spent trying to clean out twenty years of stuff from our house. It has been a very stressful week. Three months ago we talked about how we were going to just throw away all of our stuff and start over. This turns out to be harder than you think. I have too many really good books and too many GI Joes in my collection. This last statement led to many "my stuff" vs. "your stuff" conversations. The problem is that we have lived in the same house from the time we were married until today. Under the piles and stacks of expendable consumables is the 8x10 engagement picture, the airline tickets from the first trip we took together, and the pajamas and blanket that Davis came home from the hospital in. In the end, we saved too much, we through away too much, we gave away too much, and we packed too much to take with us. And, we left too much still in the house for the rest of the family to deal with.

Today after church, a new friend said, "Good luck on your trip." He said it again after lunch. I said, "You know we are not going on a trip. This is it. We are leaving for good." He said, "Its just for three or so years." I said, "Yes, but you should say good luck on your journey."

That's when it hit me. This is it. Today the journey begins. I have been planning the journey for some months now, and I have been preparing for the journey for weeks. But today, the journey begins.

This was "Thanksgiving Sunday" at church today. I attempted to express my thanks, but I knew my emotions would not allow me to say what I wanted to say. For the last 38 years in Columbus I have been surrounded by a church family, an extended family, and an immediate family who have been unbelievably nurturing, comforting, and supportive. This collection of people has supported my journey intellectually, educationally, theologically, and often financially. I owe everything I am to the people that took their time to invest in me. How could I ever put the gratitude I owe for this into words? I am truly, truly thankful for the dedication of the people that have been a part of this huge family. But, more than that, I am thankful that you have made it alright for me to leave. I don't know where it will take us, but today the journey begins.

Friday, November 2, 2007

8 Foot Porch Guy

Last weekend I attended the Society of City and Regional Planning History conference in Portland, Maine. This is why I was not in the TCI during the passing of Noel. Thursday night I ate dinner with 2o or so distinguished scholars at a small Indian restaurant. I have been trying to build relationships within the history of housing academics for almost ten years, which has proved difficult as I am not really a full-time academic. This was the the first year that I received a pre-conference invitation to have dinner. Though, I must admit I am not considered a distinguished scholar either. Though, I am running into more and more people in this small group of academics who think they have heard of my work.

On Friday, I presented a paper entitled "The Near Urban Front Porch as an Integrated System of Access and Community: Lessons We Should Learn From." Basically, this was a paper arguing that in the 1920s builders figured out that the ideal dimension for a front porch was 8 feet wide. Today, many builders constructing "traditional" houses build 4 or 5 foot porches. This is just the "idea" of a porch and does not function as a usable exterior space that mediates the public street and private home. I argue that builders, planners, and zoning officials should be building 8 foot porches. This is what worked in the 1920s and this is what would work today.

The papers before and after my paper were both on the same planner, a guy named Halprin, though neither paper title really reflected this. Everyone in the room was a Halprin scholar. During the question period at the end of the session, I was not asked me a single question. It is just my luck to be absolutely captivated by aspects of historic housing in the 1920s that not another person really cares about.

During the reception that evening, I was drowning my sorrows in several bowls of Lobster bisque. I was talking to my new found compatriots (other scholars who don't get any respect). Someone asked how my paper went, because they did not get to see it (code for "it did not sound very interesting"). I said it went great, pretty good delivery, good images, people laughed where they should have, but in the end no one really cared. Just at that point, someone walked up and said, "you presented on porches today. I wanted to ask you a question but I could not stay to the end of the session." Everyone at my table rolled their eyes, because frankly it looked like an extremely well choreographed set up.

During our conversation about my paper, this scholar said, "I have only seen one other paper dealing with porches at a conference. This was four years ago in St. Louis." "Really," said I, "was it my paper, 'The Successful Street as an Integrator of the Pedestrian and Automobile.' " And in fact it was. Here was the only person who has heard both of my papers on the front porch. We went out dinner, and I bought them a lobster.

On my way home from Maine, I went in to use the restroom at the airport. I walked up to the urinal and the guy standing next to me turned and said, "Hey, the 8 foot porch guy." So now I guess I got that going for me.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Noel, Noel, Noel, Noel

Hey, it is hard keeping up with a blog every couple of days. I have good intentions, but time gets the better of me.

I have received a lot of questions about the tropical storm Noel, which came across the TCI this week. I am actually in the states for a couple of weeks to get business in order and bring my family down. So in fact, the storm has not affected me at all. In this blog I will quickly report on storms.

If you look at the history of hurricanes, the TCI gets hit by a major storm every twenty years or so. Some decades, like the 1890s and 1900s, the islands were hit every two years. But in a larger pattern it is very unusual. Why, you might ask?

This year is a good example. In August, hurricane Dean came through the Caribbean Sea, south of Hispaniola and Cuba. The top of the storm just touched the TCI. On ugust 21, the category 5 eye slammed into the Yucatan peninsula. In September, Felix came through the Caribbean Sea along the very same line. On September 4, the category 3 storm hit Nicaragua.

In late September, tropical depression Ingrid was predicted to grow into a category 3 storm and the center track of the storm was to come right across the TCI. This storm moved north into the Atlantic and dispersed.

These storms are very typical. The currents, heat, and wind cause the majority of tropical storms to stay south of the TCI, or to veer far north. Noel did not follow this typical pattern. This storm developed in the Caribbean Sea and on October 29 it came directly north across Haiti and into the Bahamas. The storm came across the TCI on the 29 and 30. The storm was growing, but coming across the mountains of Hispaniola (island of Haiti and the Dominican Republic) the storm lost all of its power. There was more wind than usual and two days of rain in the TCI. People I heard from were very happy to have their cisterns filled. After leaving the Bahamas, Noel gained strength in the open ocean and grew into a hurricane.

I have had many nights when I have awoke in the middle of the night to the sound of huge rain storms. In the morning the sea is always very rough. When I look at, there are always huge storms far north in the Atlantic that we are getting the tail of. Most houses on Grand Turk depend on a rain catchment system to supply water throughout the house, so the storms and the rain are never seen as a bad thing. Water is life.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Seven Weeks

This is the last day of my first seven weeks. Tomorrow I fly to Provo, stay at the Royal West Indies, and fly on to Portland, Maine, on Thursday for the Society of City and Regional Planning History conference. From there I am back in Ohio for a week, then off to San Juan, Pueto Rico, for the Association of Preservation Technology conference. I will be back in Ohio for a week after that, then I pack up the family and we move to Beverly.

Has this been a crazy ride? Seven weeks. I have a house. I have a museum. I have a fundraising goal of $750,000 to get the museum up to current standards. In the last seven weeks we are about $28,000 closer to our goal. This seams like an amazing amount of money in one way, but it is only a fraction in other ways. If you are reading this blog, I hope you have sent in your $100 director's inaugural fund membership. But I have to tell you, I am amazed and touched at how many people care about me and what I am doing. I know how tight money is for many of my friends, thank you for what you have done.

I think I told you a while ago that we had an air conditioner go down the first week I was here. You are self sufficient or you live with nothing here. A repairman came out. He looked at the unit and said "I told you last month that you needed to buy a new air conditioner, I can't get the parts for this." He turned around and left.

The unit is a ten year old 24,000 BTU Carrier split system. We operate three of them. I could not even find the model number on the internet using Google. I did, however, find a website that sold components for old air conditioners and they had the relay and 24 volt transformer that I had removed from the unit. Dave Horn brought them to me yesterday when he got off the cruise ship.

It is not what you expect to be doing when you agree to direct a national museum, and it certainly never came up it any of my interviews, but today I replaced the relay and 24 volt transformer on a Carrier 42MUB fan coil unit. As of 4:00pm we are cooling with maximum efficiency. If you know Jim Dawson, have him read this. I picked up a lot from him, but I wish I would have spent more time understanding exactly how technical systems operated. If you have any aspirations of directing your own museum, don't overlook what other people do. You actually have to know every one's job. In my case I actually have to also do the job.

In seven weeks I have met a whole new community. I have figured out where to get water, where to get fish, where to get fruit and vegetables. I have not had any butter, sugar, and very limited amount of soda pop. No donuts, only three cups of coffee a day, and this I take black. I have been in the water to swim at least every other day. I have painted an entire house interior. I have built a bathroom vanity. I have built and installed under cabinet sliding drawers in the kitchen. I have unpacked and furnished an entire house. I have installed two video units in the museum. I have enacted drastic cost saving measures in day to day operations. I have taken on a side job of the construction management of a million dollar house with a five million dollar view. I have given away three houses worth of furniture. I have dug a french drain and filled it with rocks. I have written a ten page paper on the social history of the front porch. I have consulted on the restoration of a 1790s Bermudian style timber frame house. I have organized a new band. And I have really missed Deneen.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Dave Horn and the Shark

Dave Horn and Ailene came in today on the Holland America cruise ship. I picked them up at 8:00am, Grand Turk time, which happens to also be Neal time so it works perfectly. I was thinking that I would not be able to fill all the time they were here. But in fact, we barely had any time at all.

I drove them around the island showing them a couple sites I like, then we went over to our house and went snorkeling off our beach. We went in the water about 10:30. I thought we had been in the water for about 30 minutes, but I was getting exhausted from swimming so I began to think that we had been in for longer than I thought. I was right.

It was a great day off the beach. I saw a trumpet fish and a four foot long cow fish. The water was very clear today. Anyway, when got out of the water and went back to house it was after 12:00 noon. They had to be back at the ship by 1:00. We went to the museum to look around for 30 minutes, then I g0t them back to the cruise terminal. The day was too short. But it was very good to spend the morning with friends. I think they had a good time. I hope that our excursion on Grand Turk will be as good as any of the others that they experience on the cruise.

I am sure you are asking, "what about the shark?" Well that is a different story.

I told you we have turned the corner here. Today was the first day I could really cook in the house. This afternoon I went to the fish market (a plywood table on the beach where a couple of local fishermen clean their catch) to try and get a grouper. The grouper was very expensive, but there were two sharks sitting on the beach. I asked about shark steaks. I got a whole shark cut into about 15 steaks for ten bucks.

Tonight I had Deborah and Thomas over for grilled shark. I grilled the steaks with a jalapeno chutney, and we ate them with a papaya and peach salsa over rice. I have experienced many things in my life, but two-hour old fresh shark steaks are now at the top of my list of unbelievable.

We just got done with dinner, it is about 11:30Pm. This has been one of the best days I have been here. I now have a new plan for when we have visitors: go to the fish market and get the strangest thing they have caught that day. By strangest I also mean the cheapest. It is still me that you are visiting after all.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Membership Has Its Priviledges

I am the youngest of four very obdurate siblings. My brother and sisters held me down and tickled me (my kryptonite) until I was in my 30s. I never got any respect. These blogs are written partially as recompense for my indefatigability.

Anyway, I wish someone would have told me how cool it is to be the director of a well-respected and influential national museum. I should have started my career as a director ten years ago. I would have been so much happier. For those of you who know what this means: the outside is in fact everything you think it might be.

On Thursday, I was invited to spend the weekend in Provo at the Royal West Indies resort. What a nice break from my typically strenuous week of snorkeling; great company, fantastic meals, even better pool and beach. I think I spent about five hours on Saturday actually in the pool. My room looked out over the pool. I sat on the balcony working on a presentation about the history of the front porch and looking over architectural plans.

We were in Provo to look at the museum property and we met with local architects. Things need to begin to move forward; in time, but forward non-the-less. It was a very productive trip. I have not experienced Provo as a tourist before, and this honed many of my thoughts about the new museum building there.

On Sunday, I returned to Grand Turk. Before leaving we stopped at the IGA and picked up meat for the freezer. I was not going to stock any food before my family came down, but it began to make sense to have food on hand for when they arrive. Now I do.

The house is as finished as it is going to be before Deneen and the boys get here. On Monday, Dave Horn arrives in Grand Turk on a cruise ship. I am spending the day showing him what I have come to regard as my home. I also need to get an air conditioner, cell phones, and finish a couple projects at the museum.

Tomorrow is the first day of the season. We will have a cruise ship in port every day until April.

Everything changes tomorrow.

Oh, the first paragraph is written so that Bryan has to look up several words and will feel that I am smarter than he is. Pickadilly.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Teachers Conference or Snorkeling?

I spent the day today at a teachers training workshop sponsored by the National Trust. I think it is more tiring sitting all day through a conference than it is physically working. My back is very sore.

The teacher training workshop was all about integrating birds and reptiles into classroom curriculum. This was especially the case concerning the indigenous Rock Iguana which is critically endangered and exists nowhere else on the planet. We spent nearly three hours working on Iguana curriculum.

There is a protected are, Little Water Cay, which is home to 6000 Rock Iguana. The National Trust monitors the site. It is a major tourist attraction. The Iguana used to inhabit every island, today they only have habitat on 5% of the land. Ferrel cats, introduced as house pets, are now the major predator. They eat the Iguana. Pine Cay had a population of 15,000 Rock Iguana around 1960. Within three years of development and the introduction of cats onto the island there were none left.

I was at the workshop for networking, this was very successful.

I wanted to talk about snorkeling today, but instead I am going to leave and go snorkeling. It is all I can think about today.

See Ya.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Court House Burned Down

Again, I can't believe it has been a week already. I would say that is because nothing exciting has happened. But then the movie crew left over the weekend, the Sandbar closed for renovations, a museum trustee from Norway has been here all weekend, It was tourism awareness week, there were model sloop races in the Salina on Sunday, I ordered tiles for the house, and today the courthouse burned down.

Evidently the courthouse caught fire around 5:30 this morning and burned all day. There were hundreds of people out to watch. I shot digital film and Deborah retrieved the museum camera and took video. We had one of the few video cameras at the scene and our video coverage left the island around 3:00 to go over to Provo to be aired on the local news.

Actually, the more I think about it, this has been a huge week. I received a travel grant for the Association of Preservation Technology conference in San Juan. Yesterday and today I have been trying to get travel in order. Over the weekend we are going over to Provo to stay at the Royal West Indies resort and look at the museum property there. I finally met Ellesio, an Italian conga player looking for a band. We are going to start playing together in December for Christmas parties. I went to see him play on Sunday and I am having dinner at his house tomorrow.

On Sunday night I had dinner with the trustee who is here this week. After a lengthy and stimulating debate about signature architecture, I talked about my friend Mark Morris, the architecture critic now at Cornell University in New York. My trustee had me call Mark on Monday and make arrangements for him to come down and investigate possible museum design strategies in January.

Sorry, this has been a crazy week. I could have written a blog everyday, but I have been exhausted. Today, I went snorkeling with our distant neighbor, German Niki, who wanted to show me the good spots to snorkel off of our beach. I am sorry for everything I have written about snorkeling, because I was in the kiddy pool. You have no idea...Maybe I will try and write a while blog about this tomorrow.

I am exhausted right now, but I am on my way out to see of I can catch Mitch's band at the Osprey.

Talk Soon.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Just Checking In

I wish there was something more exciting to write about. One thing, I guess, is that I am writing this from my house. I got the internet working in the house today... and when I say today I mean about two minutes ago. It has always been here. The phone has been paid during the whole time the house was vacant. So really all I would have to have done was hook it up. Today, I figured this out, or actually Deborah, the Director of Programing at the museum, told me. I brought a modem home from the museum and here I am. As a note, I told you the phones here were expensive. The phone charge is $59 a month for the line and 45 cents a minute for calls.

We are down to the business of museum business this week. I am working on two grants, we have our second children's programing meeting on Thursday, and I have been making Excel spreadsheets for shop inventory. We had an order of 120 maps from the Ritz Carlton but only had 39 maps in stock. This week the map maker, a guy from the UK who has been living on a boat for 16 years doing soundings and navigation charts of all the Bahamas, stopped by the museum and we were able to get 200 more maps. Seems little, but this was huge this week.

I have been working in the wood shop this week as well. I went to price sink vanities. There are two that you can buy and they start at $745. And this is not a very nice vanity. I took apart one of the oak dining benches that was already in the house and cut the oak into workable stock. I have been making an open Mission-style sink cabinet that has turned out very nice. I am having trouble finding tile for the counter, though. I did not know what to expect about what is readily available here. I brought a tile cutter down in my suit case. There are nine tile cutters on the shelf at the Do It Center, but no tile. I should have brought tile! Then the kitchen and bath would be finished already. As it is, I have two weeks left to get everything ready before I leave for Ohio to get the rest of the family. I have a lot of work to do.


Friday, October 5, 2007

Just Another Week

It is hard to believe that it has been five days since I wrote a blog entry. I was thinking today that this is because nothing special has happened. It has really just been a normal week. Well, I guess I will describe what normal has become.

It has been storming in the Caribbean this week. If you have looked at a weather map at all, you will have noticed a huge storm system just north of Hispaniola (Haiti and the Dominican Republic to you non-Caribbeaners). At night you can see the lightening, and today I could see it raining in the distance. I think our horizon is about 22 miles here. This has not affected us, except it has been overcast and cooler.

I finally got my snorkel equipment out of the box so I have been leaving work at 4:00 and going snorkeling off of our beach everyday. The storms have made the sea rough and I have seen waves for the first time since coming. I lay in the water and float on the waves. It is pretty cool. Today, I ventured about 100 yards off of our beach. It is still pretty scary to be in the water that far off of land. I am not used to it, but I am getting there.

A couple times this week I have gotten hungry for real food and have ventured down to the Sandbar to get dinner. At the beginning of the week I sat at the bar with Bart Johnson. He was here filming the movie that was being shot in Grand Turk last week. You may know him better as Coach Jack Bolton in the Disney movie High School Musical. To me, he is just my friend Bart.

My wife, Deneen,wanted me to get my picture taken with him and post it online. But when we were on the road in the 1980s Bryan and I always had a policy of "no pictures." Actors and actresses "are no different than you and me," Bryan used to say. "We all have our jobs to do." Anyway, I did not see him again to get a picture.

Bart was very cool. Way cooler than on High School Musical. I told him he looked much younger in person. I also told him I thought he looked much cooler. He told me something like I was the only 40 year old person he had ever met that had seen High School Musical. Shoot, we had a High School Musical II party at our house the night of the Disney premier.

It reminded me of the time that Bryan and I met Mike Tyson on Rodeo Drive. This should make Bryan laugh. Or when Jim Hughes and I ran into Joe Piscopo. He was way cooler in person that the characters he played. That should make Jim laugh. You can check out Bart's web site at

It is way cooler to me that he dives and is a competitive free-style skier. Not to mention that he operates a bed and breakfast in a restored mill in Utah (Owning a historic mill is way cooler than being in movies in my book).

I also met a guy named Eric this week. He has been here diving. He is a software engineer from New York. I stopped by the Sandbar tonight for dinner to see him again and to see how his week has gone. An avid traveler, he has shed some insight on why people come to Grand Turk for vacation.

I also finally met Tawnya. She and her sister run the Sandbar and the Manta House Inn. They are Canadian. She has been traveling for the last two months and has just returned to Grand Turk.

This is a Friday. Tonight there are two different outdoor revivals going on. They are jamming. I can hear the music even now as I type. The island is alive and kickin this weekend. And this is a slow week. It is still hurricane season. The regulars are traveling out of the country, and the tourists have not started to arrive yet. Many of the restaurants are closed, there are no BBQs, and Mitch has not even been playing.

I guess that is why there has been nothing to write home about.

Anyway, life is hard here. Keep me in your prayers.


Sunday, September 30, 2007

Culture Shook

Culture shock does not really describe what occurs when moving to a new country. That makes it sound like something you are not ready for, or something you can’t handle. Maybe a better term would be culture explosion or culture gestation. It is so different that it seems like you are looking at a play - seeing something from the outside looking in. Even simple things here are difficult, but not impossible. I find that living here is not stressful, as I am sure it would seem, but it is like a puzzle or a game. Once you figure out the right move you continue forward.

There is a tremendous sense of satisfaction in accomplishing the small stuff. I absolutely love not being in the excess of American culture. I am still trying to get the house in order. This has made life hard, because I am not seeing all the great things around me, like going to the beach. Yesterday was a holiday, National Youth Day I think. I could not figure out why no one came to work at the museum. I was getting mad and went and opened the building. But then I remembered…

I finished painting the two bedrooms. I have the children’s bedroom all set up. I installed two of the televisions. Today, I am going to build the entertainment closet. I still have a ton of stuff to put away. Right now the kitchen is full of musical equipment and I can not get to any of the counters, just the refrigerator where I keep water now.

Two things I have been thinking about this week: One is, it is hard being alone here. I have lots of people around me, but at night it is not the same. I have heard from many people that to survive here you must have a partner, someone to share all the strangeness with. Most people who come down to work bring a partner of some sort. The young guys who come down to work in the dive industry do not stay long. They think it is going to be like living in paradise, but paradise is no fun by yourself.

Second: I went home over the weekend. Now, I hope no one will take this wrong, but I could not wait to get back. It has not been that long, but I feel very at home and comfortable here. And I have lots to do. I feel that I am a part of a larger experience, something bigger than myself. People are excited about the possibilities and the things I talk about and plan for. I have not had a single meeting where someone has said “we can’t do that” or “we have never done that before.” We have three weeks left to plan for 2008. This will be a busy time. We have to have budgets and projects and grants all lined up or completed. I then will begin to raise funds for our ambitious endeavors. The future is bright. Wear SPF 30.


Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Paradise Virus

I flew back to the US this weekend for a fundraising event and to get take care of a couple of other things. The visit was too short, but I was also glad to get back here. It is funny how quickly something becomes familiar.

I have said repeatedly that it is never dull here. I had a full day of flights, but when I returned there was a film crew using the museum for a shoot. There is a small movie company that owns one of the hotels on the island. A couple times a year they bring a crew down and film really bad B movies that play on Lifetime channel on cable.

This particular movie is a murder mystery. They were shooting scenes in the museum as if it were a bookstore. Deborah was here very late to close the museum. I stayed until 10:00. Thomas came over with their guests and some Mookie Pookie Pizza. This is the only pizza place on the island. It was not bad at all.

While cleaning out the house here, I came across a whole box of VHS tapes. I went through each one the first week. One of them was a tape of Paradise Virus, a film shot on Grand Turk in 2001. It was really, really bad. No I mean it, it was really bad. I didn't even watch the ending. I have kept the tape and I will keep a VHS player. Every time someone comes down to visit I will make them watch it.

I forgot to mention...while I was gone Cool Beans opened. This is a new coffee and ice cream shop. How quickly things change. Niki, one a Deborah's friends, came over to the museum and brought us ice cream. The ice cream was actually great. She said that it was not fair she had to wait two years to get ice cream and I only had to wait two weeks.

While I was gone the water crises was also solved. I have just this minute returned from waiting in line to fill up my five gallon water container. I also dropped by the store to get a cucumber, tomato, and some English Liecester Cheddar cheese. Tonight I am trying to get two bedrooms painted and then I can begin to unpack boxes.
Anyway, I am back. Thanks everyone who put stuff together for me to bring back. It was a great help. This will be a very busy week, both at the house and at the museum. We also had another air conditioner go down while I was gone.


Thursday, September 20, 2007

Sounds Worse Than It Is

Water is life. I have heard that twice this week. The island ran out of drinking water this week. I guess it was a problem for a while, the reverse osmosis system was working intermittently, but evidently stopped altogether. Water came in from somewhere because there were pick up trucks with plastic barrels lined up down Pond Street waiting to be filled from what looked like a fire hose.

I ran out of drinking water two days ago. That is to say, I have a 5 gallon water cooler and I drank the last of it. No problem really, I had gone down to the store on Monday and bought a gallon of drinking water just in case.

Deneeen hates when I say this, is really hot here. Everyone says "its unseasonably hot." Really its just hot. Yesterday I spent the day working at the house. I drank the entire gallon of water. I was sweating so much that I did not pee once the whole day. I was absolutely soaking wet, every stitch of clothes.

Why such a day? I was finally able to unload our container. It was dropped at the house on Monday and a customs officer came out and cleared our household goods on Tuesday. Joseph, our maintenance staff of one, and I unloaded tools out of the container and removed the existing furniture from the house. I could not unload our furniture until I got rid of all the stuff in the house - which was a lot of stuff. We live across from a house owned by the Catholic church. I spoke to Father Basil about my furniture problems. Furniture here is very hard to come by. It is very expensive and not very nice. If you come here with nothing-you have nothing. Father Basil said that he would take care of it.

On Tuesday night I had three Haitian families come to the house and pick up the old furniture. There was actually a fairly nice king Certa Perfect Sleeper with a bed frame. The math teacher at the local high school came to pick this up. After all of this, Father Basil invited me over for dinner. I had heard earlier that he makes a very spicy curry, I actually had told him this. Father Basil is from Singapore. He is here on his mission assignment. This is a mission area for the Catholic church and they assign priests through here every couple of years. The other priest in the house does not eat spicy food, so Father Basil does not get to make traditional Singapore dishes very often. For the record, he makes a very spicy curry. I think this was the best meal that I have had here yet.

Yesterday, I started painting the interior of the house at 6:30am. At 1:00 I picked up Joseph and we unloaded the rest of the container. The house is completely full of boxes. I can not even move down the hall. I need to finish painting tonight so that I can begin to unpack.

In the middle of all of this, I had an unplanned meeting with the director of what is the environmental agency here. I presented a plan that the museum has been working on and we were awarded a $15,000 project to design and build kiosks to interpret the Salinas along Pond Street.

Nothing quite as exciting today. We had another air conditioner fail in the museum. I am finalizing plans to come home over the weekend. I fly out tomorrow and we are having a fundraising event in Columbus on Sunday. This has been an unbelievable two weeks.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Swimming in a Fish Tank

I went snorkeling today for the first time. I just went off of our beach. Our beach is about two to four feet deep and goes out for several hundred yards. It is covered with sea grass, but every so often this gives way to small pockets of sand and coral. Small tropical fish live at the edges of these pockets. The pockets look just like fish tanks. I swam into one where there was a school of medium sized silver fish with yellow fins; into another and I was surrounded by thousands of minnows. It was very, very cool.

I spent the morning here at the museum working on the HVAC system, we have an air conditioning unit down. This afternoon I have been fixing electrical problems at the house. The salt air is very corrosive, and things have to be fixed or replaced continuously. I got the dining room lights working, replaced the exterior carport light, and I am almost done chasing down some outlets in the living room. The lights in the house have been a goal all week, I am excited to have them completed.

I bought gas for the truck today - $5.35 a gallon.


Thursday, September 13, 2007

Just another day - except for the cannons

It is pretty lonely here at night. I find that I am working all the time, which makes sense given that I have no family or stuff here yet. I was here until 7:30 last night and in at 7:22 this morning. Though in between, I went over to the BBQ and Mitch night at the Osprey House Hotel. Mitch owns a local dive outfit and he has a small band. He plays every Friday at the Salt Raker and every Wednesday and Sunday at the Osprey House. He plays an acoustic twelve string Taylor and has a guy who plays congas, a guy who plays small percussion, and a guy who "rakes and scrapes" the hand saw. Last night a visitor from the states sat in on tenor sax.

I have a whole lot of reading to get through, all of the legal formations and management plans that have been put into place within the museum. I read about three hours each night before I go to bed. Two nights ago I went through our hurricane recovery plan. We reviewed this yesterday. Today, I see that we may get a hurricane at the end of next week. Today, we are going to go get sand bags from the Red Cross just in case - it came up yesterday that the ones we had have rotted.

I met with the Governor today. This was to be a brief meeting but it lasted a while. It was very good. We then left to investigate two grave yards. It was so hot during the heat of the day today that I felt like passing out. When we got back I literally looked like someone had thrown a bucket of water on me. I then had to give two VIP tours of the museum and went to meet the cruise port manager. This afternoon we removed a fourteenth century cannon off of the museum floor for conservation.

Not that big of a day, but it sounds cool to say Governor and fourteenth century cannon.


Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Saving Puppies

Last night I bought groceries, well sort of. I bought something to eat. Besides the two limes in the house I now have a tomato, a cucumber, and some really hot peppers. I also bought some English white cheddar. Oh, and I paid $3.50 for a loaf of bread. I went home and made cucumber and tomato sandwiches for dinner and felt very English. Today was another matter.

Every five days there has been something quite different. Today, the museum got a call to see if we had a puppy net. The regular puppy saver had flown to Provo today so I offered my services. I was able to locate the puppy net and made arrangements to save puppies at 5:00pm, after the heat of the day...

5:56pm update:

I just met Helene. She is French Canadian and runs a makeshift animal shelter on the island. She is about 65, the size of Lucas, and was a concert pianist. The museum works with Helene to provide an animal hospital twice a year. Veterinarians come from Canada and use our conservation laboratory to spade and neuter all of the animals they can.

There is a limited culture of animal kindness here. People do not treat their dogs especially well. Someone dropped four puppies off in front of the TCI Bank (this means on the front road down by the ocean). Helene came to rescue them. They were hiding way down in some sticker bushes. She had gotten two, but then called the museum to see if we had a puppy net, which we did (actually used for underwater archaeology). Thomas, the regular puppy saver who by now had returned, trapped one down in the rocks with the puppy net. I thought kindness would work better, but I was bitten three times on my hand and finger. Kind of bad on one finger (but it was just a puppy). I overcame the pain and got the lost dog in the bushes. All is well. Now I must go home and make more cucumber and tomato sandwiches.

Oh, I also had meetings on the importance of confronting treasure seekers (pirates) on the open ocean and lessons on how not to back down from their physical threats, but this is to be expected.


Monday, September 10, 2007

Rain and Nights

Last night it rained and the wind blew very hard. The metal roof makes this seem like a freight train coming through the house (or actually something else that I am not going to mention). I could not sleep and was up from 3:00am until 5:30am.

Today was a very big day. The nine museum trustees flew in from around the islands for the first trustee meeting in over a year. I am working here with some outstanding people, and I am excited about the possibilities.

It is hot and lonely here without Deneen and the boys. I have a sun burn. Our stuff came in today on the container ship but it is going to take a week of coordination to get it out of customs. I have to record, or hire someone to record, every single item that we packed. These are to be itemised on a customs form. Each item coded with a standard custom code number. This would have been easier had I known this when we packed.

I don't have a phone or TV, or even any food in the house. Today, the boat with fresh produce arrived and I was told that everyone will go to the market and buy what they need today and tomorrow. I don't have anything to cook with and I don't know what I would buy anyway.

I met the Russian guy who installs satellite systems today. He is going to hook our house up, but I have to pay several months up front so I have to wait until I get paid here. I have very little money left right now.

However, yesterday I swam on our beach and took a walk. Everyone I have ever known will want to visit us here. It is one of the most beautiful and magical places I have ever been. I will need to buy snorkel sets for every one plus additional sets for visitors. It is so outstanding to be in the water that it is almost unimaginable. Last night I had pizza with our neighbors. It was a great dinner and a great time.

You need sandals and extra sandals here. As well as plenty of sheer, loose fitting clothes of thin material that can be washed and dried easily. Not too many jeans. I have piles of clothes that I sweated out. Life is tough in the house right now, but everyday at work I meet someone interesting. It is like living in novel. I opened up the museum on Sunday and had 15 people come in from the Crown Princess. Today, I have heard twice from people who said something like, "I heard you opened the museum up on a Sunday. Couldn't believe it. Very good."

Did I say that I miss my family.

Such is the end of my fourth day on Grand Turk.


Sunday, September 9, 2007

Starting from Scratch

I met two guys from the Crown Princess cruise ship today from New York. They live up above Tarrytown. After talking about how and why I got to the TCI they told me I should write a blog. I told them about my friend John Leistler, who moved from Tarrytown to Amman Jordan at the beginning of August. John told me he had started a blog about his adventure. I started reading his blog today. After seeing how nice it was, I decided to start my own. This will not be as eloquent, nor as lengthy, as his. I am hoping to write a paragraph or two every few days. We will see. If you know John, go read his blog, it is amazing. He is at

Here's my blog entry:

In the movie Angel Eyes, a Luis Mandoki film starring Jennifer Lopez and James Caviezel, there is scene that is one of my favorites. The main character is living in a dirty apartment with no furniture, just a mattress on the floor. He has a line: "Do you know when some says lets starts from scratch? Well this is what it looks like. This is scratch."

That is what it has felt like living in the TCI for the last three days. It feels like scratch. I have nothing in the house but water. There is old furniture, but I am afraid to sit on it. There are about five DVD and VHS players. every night I struggle to get one to work. Last night I finally found one that would play. I set it up in the one room with an air conditioner. I only have three DVDs, the two Pirates of the Caribbean and National Treasure. Go figure. I work all day trying to get up to speed and I clean the house in the evening. My furniture should be arriving in port on Monday. This will also be the first Trustee meeting for the museum.

I have been trying to figure out where to purchase things and how to live here. Today I bought 4 limes. This was huge because now I can have something more than water. I can put lime in my water. I cut one open. It had begun to rot. I used it anyway.

In the midst of this. In the last three days I have stumbled upon the fish market. Every day at three local fishermen bring in a small catch, clean it and sell it at a small table just down the street on the beach. My first day here I had a fresh Conch right out of the ocean. These guys smashed the shell, cut it into strips, put hot sauce on it, and passed it around. It was an amazing experience. Yesterday, I went down to investigate the ruins of a resort closed in the 1980s. I walked down to the beach area and spent an hour on the softest sand I have ever felt in my life. These two events were so brief, but they make up for any other discomforts. Next week should be better.

I miss my family.