Friday, December 26, 2008

Christmas Day/Boxing Day

Boxing Day is a British holiday that follows Christmas. There are a couple possible origins for the holiday. The one I like is that it is the day off work for English workers who had to work on Christmas catering to the parties of the upper classes. After the celebration of Christmas, the wealthy gave boxes of gifts and the day off to their workers.

In England it is still a day when you give gifts to people that assist you through out the year, like your mailman, or doorman, or bartender. I did not get anything.

We spent Christmas day just hanging around the house. Dinah and PJ came over for dinner. I was able to find a turkey, so we had this and three kinds of potatoes. MMMM.
I told someone last night that we did not do anything on Christams day. But on reflection we opened gifts, watched Batman Begins at 9:00am, cooked an entire Christmas dinner, Denzel came over, Dinah and PJ came to play a seven player game of Bang (an Italian card game that Dinah brought and that Davis wants to play all the time), ate dinner, played Bang again, the Harrison's of the North came over for deserts, and then we finished the day by watching Batman: The Dark Night. I guess the day was kind of full.

Boxing Day is a national holiday here, therefore it is a day off for museum staff. There was a cruise ship in so all of us came in to open the museum. The Harrisons came to use the internet, Denzel came with us, Kenlove came to be Kenlove. Another full house.

A gentleman and his daughter came by to ask about the old military bases here. He had worked at the missle tracking station in teh late 1960s and wanted to know if it still existed. I took him around and we looked at some of the standing buildings and some of the ruins.
In the evening, Allesio organized a Boxing Day jam session at the SandBar. We played, Mitch joined us, Kel came to play percussion, and a diver who teaches jazz at the New School in New York joined on the keyboard. Martin is getting good enough on the bass that he can just pick up and play. I wish he was here all the time. It was a party.

We played until the rain came at 11:00. The only other damper to the evening was that this was alos the goign away party for Edgar and Dikla. I probably have not written about them, but they ran the Bruno Art Gallery in the Cruise Center and we have been hanging out since the hurricane. They leave tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

It Was the Night Before Christmas

Christmas is interesting this year for sure. Deneen and the boys came down for Thanksgiving and Christmas but are going back to Columbus in January. We have been in a tiny one room apartment since Nov 20 and just got back into our house which is about 75% completed.

Lucas and I were able to do one dive on Sunday. Lucas was at 100' and our bottom time was 70 minutes. He rocks. Also, he has worked with the DECR twice on the Reef Ball project. He has spent two days scuba diving and collecting coral. And two mornings free diving on the Reef Balls. Oh, we laugh every time we talk about the Reef Balls. We laugh harder when Deneen talks about the Reef Balls. But, in all seriousness, Lucas is the youngest diver to work on coral reclamation here. The Reef Ball guy said that he is probably the youngest diver in the world to have helped with a Reef Ball project.

Martin came in on Friday. My plan was to dive and swim and make him miss all the cool things about Grand Turk. He got off the plane sick and then made Lucas and Davis sick. They all have a head cold and cough and Davis has a fever.

There are no decorations really set up on the island this year. Last year the electric company set huge candy cane lights on all the poles. There have been few parties as well. The Governor's Christmas party was last Wednesday. This was a good party. Deneen, Dinah, and I went. Merry making and hobnobbing occurred in abundance. Deneen and I danced if you can believe that. Not that you can believe that I was dancing. I dance here all the time, but Deneen danced! It was Awesome.

If you remember last year, this was the party we took the Lonely Planet writer, Scott Kennedy, to. His issue of the Lonely Planet Caribbean has been published. I looked when I was in the states in November. It is very well written and I like the small mention of the "energetic museum director."

I just imed Connor Sintz. He said he was tracking Santa, who was just getting to Australia. I am pretty sure he is passing Grand Turk by this year. No - I am pretty sure he really is passing us by.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

First Night back in the House

Last night was the first night back in the house at Corktree Beach. We spent all day cleaning floors and getting beds back together while the electricians wired a few old ceiling fans and lights. We have about 50% of the electric back working. But this includes the stove and refrigerator so that is major.

We are still moving between the apartment, the museum, and the house. Our stuff is spread all over. The closets are not finished so though we can stay at the house, we still are working on the whole clothes thing.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Second Thanksgiving

On Monday, we sat down to second Thanksgiving. We had planned to do this over the weekend, but it got really busy. The apartment we are in is too small. We are all on top of one another. We are sleeping on a pullout in the living room. It is hot and the mosquitoes on the south end of the island are bad.

After the nine weeks I have spent here I think an apartment with running water and electricity is like living in a palace. When you only remember what Grand Turk was like before Ike, the apartment is too small and too hot.

Over the weekend, Lucas and I had helped with the new reef ball project and we went to the BBQ at the Osprey. The next week will be devoted to getting the house back together.

Dinah's brother comes on December 17 and Martin comes on December 19. These are our drop dead dates for being back in the house. Everything is now focused on this.


We spent Thanksgiving eating with the Harrisons at their beach house. Thanksgiving is not a holiday here. And really the day does not stop like in the states. I spent all morning taking care of the fallout from international press coverage concerning the Trouvadore. I was to be home by 11:00 to put on a turkey, but I did not get home until 2:00.

We finally arrived at the Harrisons 30 minutes late or so. I was only able to prepare sweet potatoes and cranberry salad, but there was so much food this did not matter. They had cooked two turkey breasts in our oven while I was out of the house. We had a very nice afternoon and evening.

Electricity, Finally!

Electrical service was restored to the museum while we were gone. This is great. Though, I have to point out, we went nine weeks without power.

The fact that power has been restored really means that the work starts now. It has gotten incredibly busy again. This week we were able to get our phone hooked back up. Two days later we were able to get the internet restored. You would think that internet would mean more access and more blogs. But it really means that everything that did not get completed over the last nine weeks now has to be completed.

On Tuesday, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration held their press conference about the Trouvadore findings. This was the day we got our phone reconnected. The first call we received was from a reporter from the Miami Herald. We still are out of normal communications. I did not ever now about the press conference. I answered questions as I could, anyway. On Wednesday, the story hit the international press and run in newspapers all over the world.

Where Is Simon, Sandy?

We got back to Grand Turk on Thursday morning. On Saturday I flew over to Provo for an author signing for Where is Simon, Sandy?, a children's book written by Donna Seim. The book is based on a Grand Turk folk tale.

The signing, at Unicorn Book Store, went better than I had expected. People came in consistently throughout the morning. The author signed over a hundred books that were sold. This is a project that the museum has been working on for two years. We thought that the events surrounding the book would have to be postponed because of the hurricane. Though things came together just at the last minute. They went better than planned and the weekend turned out to be very successful.

These books are available through and through the publisher at

While in Provo, I bought lots of frozen meat, as well as a turkey and fruit and vegetables for Thanksgiving. I was 37 pounds over the weight limit in getting back home. This would have been a problem, but a first, the girl at the counter just letter it slide. The bag was too heavy though, and I had to take out the turkey and bring it over as a carry on.

Carnival Destiny

We arrived without issue in Miami and with no trouble, boarded the Carnival Destiny. As cruises go, I would be a little disappointed if we were not on board as a means of travel. But as travel goes, a cruise to Grand Turk is one fourth the cost of flights, if you shop and travel in the off season.

The trip to Nassau was cold. We did not wear shorts or swim suites at all. Nassau was great. We visited the oldest wooden house (incorrectly interpreted both by date of construction and by domestic use), the national art museum, and one of the old forts. We walked a lot, which always makes me happy but makes everyone else crabby.

The next day our ship was not able to stop at Half Moon Cay because of waves. The next day was also bad. Many people told me later that they did not think our ship would be able to stop. Had we not stopped it would have been an awful cruise and there would have been 3000 unhappy passengers on the two days back to Miami. We did stop.
It has been almost a month since I have written a blog. When I don't write it is usually a sign that things are not going particularly well. Suffice to say, this has been a tough few weeks. Don't get me wrong, my family arrived, we have a small apartment with running water (but no hot water) and electcicity, and it is the holidays. What could possibly be the problem? Oh did I mention that my family arrived, we have a small apartment with running water (but no hot water) and electcicity, and it is the holidays! This blog will include several that I would have written, starting where I left off.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Beckley, West Virginia

We have spent the night in Beckley, West Virginia. The drive down here was melancholy. Too reminiscent of the same drive we made just a few weeks ago. On Saturday, September 6 we spent the whole night in the hotel room here watching Ike on So much has changed since then.

Martin is staying in Columbus where he will continue with high school. We are a smaller family of four traveling back to the Turks Islands.

Today, instead of returning home like we did 8 weeks ago we will continue on down to Florida.

One really positive thing. I received a call yesterday that we finally got electricity hooked up at the museum. Now will begin the real work.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Eight Weeks

Today, I left Grand Turk on a flight home. I just looked at my immigration stamp and realized that it has been exactly eight weeks since I returned to Grand Turk after Ike. Yesterday, it seemed like a really long eight weeks. When looking at the immigration stamp it does not seem that long.

A lot has happened in eight weeks though. I came back to a house nearly destroyed, released all employees from the museum, the chairman of the board of trustees at the museum, Colin Brooker, passed away, I have attended countless meetings, been appointed to a committee working on the National Ten Year Development Plan, been appointed to a committee working on the Sustainable Tourism Plan, began working with a committee to develop an action plan for historic architecture on Grand Turk, been placed on the team working on the restoration plan for Government House on Salt Cay, had several dives with the DECR working on the BioROck project, settled two insurance claims, hired and worked with multiple contractors, our Holland America cruise excursion began (which has been sold out so far), brought in and trained Dinah Samuelson, who will be running the cruise excursion for six months, and last week we held a tour and reception for 37 people from the Historical Museum of Southern Florida. And this is not even what has been keeping me busy.

I still have no electricity or internet at the house or museum. But we have moved temporarily into an apartment while the house is being worked on. The last eighteen days have been incredibly busy. Cruise ships have started coming daily. We have also gotten the roof on the house, begun electricity, and hung all new ceilings.

It has not been all bad. On Sunday I dove to 115 feet. My deepest dive so far.

I will be home in a couple hours. I am looking forward to seeing my family. I am also slightly stressed about leaving. In a few days, however, I will be on the Carnival Destiny returning to Grand Turk with my family. I am looking forward to having a great holiday season. And right now, as I sit here in the airport, I think this might be the best holidays ever.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

A Roof Makes a House Better

I got a roof on our house today. It is not the finished roof, but it is now covered with plywood, glued and screwed, with a complete layer of peel-and-stick ice guard. We are, as the term implies, “dried in.”

Living with tarps for a roof does have its advantages. The quality of light in the house has been amazing. Its like having one giant sun roof. Yes, as the term implies, a “sun roof”.

I tried to tell Joseph that I want to take the roof back off because it is too dark in the house now, and there is no breeze. This led to a 15 minute discussion of the idea of “joking.”

How do you explain the word “joke.” It really is a concept, not a word. And it is a concept that does not necessarily translate culturally.

“Joseph, why did the chicken cross the road?”

“Chicken cross?” “What means 'chicken cross'?”

Ok, I have him turn around so I can tap him on the opposite shoulder. This only really works with more than two people. And it is complicated by the fact that in the high school here the joke would be that when you turned around I hit you on the head with a rock. Now, thats funny.

Ok, “funny” did it. Evidently most people understand the concept of “funny.”

“Yes, Joseph, I am funny. I am very funny all the time but you never laugh.” How many times in my life must I explain this to people.

“I am 'joking,' making a 'joke,'” I say. “When I say we should take the roof off, you are suppose to say no.”

“No, I think a roof makes a house better.”

I could not agree more.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Bikes and Tires

Things get better here everyday. Though it has been six weeks and I still don't have electricity at the museum and I don't have an insurance settlement at the house. I have been going to Provo every week for meetings. Last week I was there for four days. In Provo I have electricity, water, air conditioning, and I go out to eat a lot. But I don't have any of the comforts of feeling at home and no friends that you just hang out with. One of the good things about going to Provo, however, is that I am able to bring fresh meat back with me. This means that when I am on Grand Turk there is usually a BBQ party or something going on.

Last night I ate at Allsio's. He made island-style BBQ chicken. There was so much chicken I thought there would be several people at dinner. It was just Allesio, Jackie, and me, but we ate five pounds of chicken thighs. After dinner we went down to the SandBar, which is not open yet, and jammed with Mitch and several other guys playing.

Tonight, I am having a couple people over for an American BBQ with more chicken thighs. I was also invited to two other BBQs tonight.

Everyday there is still a story that is unbelievable. This blog allows me to reflect and see things outside of my life. I am no longer amazed by this. But I am beginning to think that we would all have outstanding stories if we would just look at the life that is around us.

Here is my story for today. It is a story that is either about preparedness or providence. That determination can be up to the reader.

Elaine has gone off island for two weeks. Her sister, Louise has come from Canada to look after the dog shelter and other animals that Elaine cares for. I spoke to Louise the other day, though she is French Canadian and speaks little English. I did understand that she thought Grand Turk was difficult before, but now it is almost impossible for her to accomplish simple tasks, like getting groceries or water.

I have been charging phones for Elaine. I picked up a phone from Louis when I helped her take water to the pound yesterday. Last evening Louis called to come get the phone. Later she called to say she had a flat near the hospital. A couple weeks ago I had to deal with flat tires on Elaine's truck and this is what I was expecting.

When I got over to Hospital Road, however, Louise was pushing a bicycle down the road. She does not drive. Like a ton of bricks, I was immediately hit with the responsibility that comes with understanding the purpose of prior events. These are the things we do that we often do not understand the reason or significance at the time. Like when you choose to take the long way home, and then find out there was an accident on the other road.

When I came back to Grand Turk after the hurricanes, I brought several things I thought might be important. Food was one. Diapers was another. I also brought back an assortment of a dozen bike tires and tools to fix bicycles. I can't even tell you why I though this was important. They were just really cheap at Walmart. When Dave was here, we unpacked them and took them to the museum. We fixed our family bikes and then organized a bike repair station on the tool wall.

There have been few people I have ever helped who were more appreciative than Louise was today. In less than fifteen minutes I had her old tire off, her new tire in, both tires aired up, and her chain oiled. I truly think she had thought that on Grand Turk the flat was the end of her bike. Her only transportation.

I can't take her thanks. In the end, I had nothing to do with this. It was a good day today because for a small minute I understood my purpose. This is fleeting though, because like everyone, I immediately began to focus on all the other little day to day things I have to do, which more often than not have no purpose at all in the end.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Elevated To Ultimate Best Friend Status

Dave Horn officially gets elevated to Ultimate Best Friend status. This week he made his third visit to Grand Turk within twelve months. Dave had been here two weeks before Ike. We shared some really fun experiences and I think he had a great vacation. This week was very different.

A couple weeks ago Dave emailed to ask what I needed. What I needed was a friend to come spend some time here. I had not realized how important that actually would be. Two days later Dave called to say he would be here on Saturday.

Dave brought down eighteen days worth of tuna and rice. He brought a guitar case, surprised me with a mandolin case, brought guitar strings, batteries, and some flavored tea mix packs to put in bottled water. Not the least significant, he brought a speaker diaphram and we were able to fix one of my water-logged, not working Mackie 450s. This was cooler than almost anything. Dave also brought some relief supplies for my museum employees, one of whom lost everything he owned in the storm.

Though the nights were too hot to sleep, Dave's visit was not filled with canned tuna over a camp stove. The first night we were on Provo we went to get sushi and then later hot wings. Our first night on Grand Turk we went to the BBQ at the Osprey. This was the first place to get electricity back a couple weeks ago. It is also where all the line crews are staying. On Monday we had excellent BBQ chicken with the new dive guys that have come to work for Mitch. We had bought frozen chicken thighs in Provo to keep the steak cool on the flight over and these did not go to waste. On Tuesday we had steak at Allesio and Jackie's house. On Wednesday we had some of the best Fillet Mignon that I have ever had when Bion and his son came from Maryland to check on their house. Ok, on Thursday we had canned tuna and pasta. But on Friday we went to Margaritaville, which has just reopened, and had hamburgers and fries. Dave said it would be hard to explain to people about his hurricane relief work and to convince them of how hard life was here.

But what Dave brought and allowed was some sense of normalcy and comfort for me and many other people around us. This was his relief work. Dave was a big help providing an extra set of working hands, but more than that, having him here really helped me. I had not realized how easy it is for mild depression to set in in conditions like are here. It sneaks up on you. I have spent 21 days eating canned food. This week, however, has been very refreshing.

A few more friends and acquaintances have left the island during the past week. One couple I really liked came back to rebuild their restaurant, but after three weeks of frustration they chose to not renew their lease and have left. Our favorite restaurant is now just sitting vacant on a trash littered beach. Another couple who was running excursions on the island have also been frustrated with the lack of support they were receiving to revive their tourist business. This led to stress and health problems. Our conversation about this that was filled with hints of depression. They have left.

This has all happened this week. For some people, this week, one month after Ike, has been the defining moment when they have given up. This week, one month after Ike, I have been very grateful for fellowship, companionship, and the comfort brought by a good friend. You could say a best friend.

Michelangelo's Big Toe

October 7, 2008

Suffering is a lot about the loss of comfort. Suffering is also conditioned by our past experience. I spent the weekend in Provo trying to get some business and banking done. I slept in a bed, in an air conditioned room, and I took a long, hot shower. This was nice, though it was also a reminder of what is missing from Grand Turk at the moment and was not satisfying.

Dave Horn flew into Provo on Saturday, before we left for Grand Turk we stopped at the supermarket and bought 13 steaks and some expensive cheeses. Though you think someone has everything they need, sometimes it is the little things that provide relief or comfort. I thought Allesio would appreciate the cheese. I was correct.

Tonight was exactly four weeks since Ike came across Grand Turk. We ate steak at Allesio's and the dinner ended with a fine selection of cheese. The six of us at dinner ate a lot of cheese.

Allesio is Italian. Dinner is his church. He says this often. During dinner Allesio is also often philosophical about life. Tonight he was particularly poignant. He waxed very poetically about the big toe of Michelangelo's sculpture of Moses, which is in the Santa Maria Novella in Florence. The statue is roped off, but it is situated in a way that you can see the big toe up very close. When you study the big toe, what you see is the unbelievably exquisite detail that went into this one small part of the sculpture. The folds of the cloth, the details in the face, all perfect. But what masterful work went into crafting even the big toe. What you realize is that many of us will never rise to the genius of Michelangelo's big toe. Let alone the entire sculpture.

“Let your creation express divinity,“ was Allesio's big message. Let what you do rise above who you are. Strive for beauty in your everyday actions. If you make great cheese, let making cheese be your religion.

I have seen the big toe of Moses in the Santa Maria Novella. With God all things are possible, but sometimes our individual efforts need a little more effort than we are normally willing to give.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Changing Tires

Alright, I can do anything. I can live in third world conditions without water or sanitation. I can sleep in the heat of the night under mosquito netting. I have proved this to myself. I could also leave here. And certainly this option has been presented. But that would seem like running away. Why should I expect my condition be any different that those around me. But 22 days of tuna and minute rice has become monotonous. The days have moved from constant work and constant exhaustion to frustration at the slowness of getting museum business completed. I am now back to the priority list that I had prior to Ike. But everything is slower.

I received the generator for the museum today. This sounds like it would be great. But it requires that the museum office be put back together. I have had a small generator at the house. I have mainly used it to do laundry. Since last week, I use it to watch TV in the evening. Both my flat screen and my satellite are working. But the news out of New York does not look pretty. I do like watching football.

Today, I spent all morning trying to change a flat tire on Elaine's van. This would be no big deal many places. But there is only one mechanic open, and he is working by himself. Elaine has been afraid of getting a flat all week. I changed one tire for her last week.

Elaine takes care of dogs on the island. She runs a shelter and does a yearly spade and neuter clinic at the museum. Elaine's helper was deported. The volunteers she use to have help her have all left the island. I now take her phone calls. I went with her a few days ago to feed a dog in an area she was afraid of getting stuck with another flat. The house was gone. The family was gone. But the dog has been returning every day.

He was not a happy dog. We left food and water. My plan has been that if she got another flat I would take a tire off the truck and come change it for here, at any time. She finally got a tire flown over from Provo. Today, one of her tires was flat. It was not even the one we have been concerned about. The problem was that the tire mechanic did not have air to fill the tire yesterday, though lucky enough he did have a spare rim.

This morning I took this tire to get filled and took the flat so Elaine could have a spare. The flat tire had two nails in it. This has been one of the problems here. There is roofing all blown over the place. But in every piece of roofing there were several nails. They are everywhere.

There was a long line of cars needing tires. I spoke to the guy. He told me a couple minutes, then he was gone. No one knew where he went. I waited for an hour, and then left. I tried to find somewhere else to get the tire filled. But to no avail. I eventually went back to the place. And the guy told me it was my turn. Bring the tires right now. I took the tires back to Elaine and got the new tire mounted. This took four hours. It is so hot.

I spent the rest of the day getting the generator out of customs. This only took four trips.

As I was publishing this blog the next morning; I noticed that I have a flat tire.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Who's your neighbor?

Yesterday was Ike plus 14. I have been on island for eleven days. It has taken nine days of continuous work, sun up to sun down, to get the three buildings I am directly responsible for aired out and dry. On Sunday I had a day of rest, so I spent the day helping other people with their houses. I helped my neighbor get his roof tarped, and then I opened the Harrison's house and bleached out mold that had begun to creep up their walls.

Matthew has has come to Grand Turk to take care of his parents house which is next to our house here. They were here in the late 1990s for four years when his dad worked building roads and the electrical generators. Matthew was 16. His parents worked in several places in the Caribbean. He was born in the Caymen Islands. He went to a boarding school in England but spent his holidays in Grand Turk. He learned to dive here. Of all the places they had lived, they bought a home in Grand Turk so that they could eventually come back.

After dark Matthew came over for dinner. I was able to get fresh snapper yesterday and we had pan fried snapper with home made potato chips. We sat out on the porch (which is now cleaned off) and talked about life until midnight.

It is very windy today. We are beginning to feel the effects of a tropical depression that is coming across Puerto Rico. This is making me nervous as I an unsure whether I should be thinking about moving out the last of the stuff from the back bedrooms (which I think will loose their tarps in a large storm). The wind made it very hard to get a tarp on, but it made it very easy to sleep.

Photo Essay

My neighbors at Corktree Beach

Joseph, Lina, and Lina's siter helping me clean out

Pounder, the amazing survivor. He is one of two dogs, out of the seven that were at Corktree, to survive Hannah and Ike.

Music night at the Museum

Steak night at Allesio's

Be Content, But Make a Difference

“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or living in want.” Philippians 4:12

I want to be a difference maker. At the end of my life I want people to say that my life made a difference. I fall so short on so many occasions. But I want to strive to be better.

Yesterday, I spent half of my day with my new friend Robert. He is really a friend of the museum. But he is also a difference maker to me. On the fourth day of his honeymoon, Robert and his wife left where they were and came to the TCI to help clean up one of the smaller cays where his family has had a home for many years. He brought the museum down a generator when he came and sent me several boxes of powdered Gatorade and some lights to pass out to people. Yesterday, he flew over for three hours to see Grand Turk and to bring me some relief. “What do you need?”

What do you need? This is a question that I always ask Joseph whenever I return to the states. The first time I asked the girls on my staff this question the answers were an Ipod, a laptop, and movies. These were the only things they will ever get from me. Joseph tells me what he needs. And I have never heard Joseph complain about anything, ever.

What we need is relative. It is relative to what we have become conditioned to expect. When I say we have lost all our clothes, what I mean is that I have had to do 40 loads of laundry to save 80% of our clothes. When Joseph says he lost all of his clothes he is holding two pair of pants that he saved and three of Martin's t-shirts that I gave him. Grand Turk is in a state where it is too hard for my family to be here, but our neighbors Rhoda and Rupert are living in the exact same condition with their 5 kids including a one-year-old baby.

“What do you need?” I need drinking water, cash, and something to lift peoples spirits. Robert brought me an emergency water filter pump. He brought more batteries. He brought parts to fix a broken generator. He brought 12 fresh steaks. He brought me a great deli sandwich and a cup of coffee. He also left me all the cash he had. To some this would be little. To some this would a lot. Yesterday it made a difference.

I have been operating on the trickle down theory of relief. What I get, I try and spread as far as I can. Robert and I tracked down Kenlove and gave him some money to make sure he and his young sisters were ready when school starts next week. We took the steaks over to Allesio and Jackie's house. They are planning a grill party for tonight. We filtered nine gallons of drinking water out of my catchment. Joseph took two gallons, he has had a problem getting water as well. I think he also provides for his cousin. When I share what I have with Joseph, I think he also shares his share with her.

Last night we opened the museum wet lab for a musician's jam. We have one of the few buildings not really affected by the storm. It was not advertised, but as word of mouth got around about 30 people showed up to listen and drink rum. This was the first time some people have played since Hannah more than three weeks ago. We played from 8:00 until 1:00am. It was a good night for everyone. A night surrounded by people where I felt very alone.

I hope that in the end it makes a difference that I am here. I miss my family. They are what I need. But, I am content in this situation.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

I Have Returned

It has been five days since Ike hit Grand Turk. The eye wall came across the islands as a category 5 hurricane with sustained winds of 160 miles an hour and tornadoes in the eye clocked at 265 miles an hour. I left on the first flight I could get out of Columbus on Thursday morning. I arrived in Grand Turk at 6:30PM with just enough light to stop by the museum then the house. The house is a disaster. I ate dinner with Allesio and Jackie and slept on their couch.

Day 1

I was up today at 5:30. I am sick this morning. I had to leave Allesio's so I could throw up outside. I am sweating so bad. I think the stress of yesterday has caught up to me today.

I went to the house and then to the museum to assess priorities. I found Joseph working at the museum. He has already cleaned up most of the areas around the museum properties. We walked through the Guinep House. It sustained no water infiltration. The science building and offices has standing water on the floor of the wood shop and smells like water soaked the carpets.

Joseph and I spent the rest of the day beginning cleanup at the house and getting the blue tarps that I brought down on the roof. 80% of our roof blew off, all of the ceilings fell. Everything in the house is soaked with water. We are working in triage mode, pulling things out that have a chance to be saved. Martin's room took the brunt of the storm. This is unfortunate because this is also where all of our music gear was. We took clothes and bedding and placed them in large plastic storage containers filled with bleach water. From 3:00 to 6:30 we quickly tarped the house.

I am overheated to almost passing out. I have a bad sunburn. It was so hot today. All of the shade is gone. I am so tired. There is not enough time to cry.

I had dinner with Allesio and Jackie again tonight. A wonderful spaghetti dinner by candlelight. This would have been an amazingly cool meal if circumstances were different. I spent the night on the couch on the porch.

Day 2

There are concerns on Grand Turk that tropical storm Kyle might come this way. I was up at 5:30 today. I have camping gear at the house and can make coffee. This is good.

Yesterday, I chased people away who were coming into Corktree taking our old roofing materials. Today, I spent the morning collecting metal roofing sheets from the bush and I dragged them to the house. By noon I was able to get old roofing panels back on the roof all the way across the living room. I now have at least the living room and dining room protected from a storm producing 30-40 mile an hour winds. The second half of the day Joseph and I opened the science building and began airing it out. There is minimal work to do here, but we will need to rip out the carpets and repair a few windows.

I had dinner at Chinese Joan's tonight with Allesio and Jackie. We had loads of shrimp and chicken. She is cleaning out the restaurant freezer. I have not eaten at all today, I did not realize how hungry I am.

Day 3

Up at 6:00 today. Today, Joseph and I spent the whole day cleaning out the house. We also got a small generator today. Joseph cleaned out wet drywall. I did laundry all day. Some stores opened and you can now get juice and water and beer. Others have opened as well. I bought more bleach. Joseph and I worked in the house until dark. We still are not finished cleaning stuff out. Things are starting to smell. After the sun went down I went for a short swim. Swimming would be relaxing, but I have to pull out metal roofing before I can swim. I also set up the camp shower in the tub. Deneen thought it was ridiculous that I brought this last year. Now it feels like a shower for a king. I made dinner on the camp stove of canned chicken and beans over rice. Miracles of miracles, the TV still works. Joseph and I ate dinner and watched Transformers sitting in the living room with all of our stuff piled around us.

I am so sore. My toes are blistered. I have a bad cut on my finger. My back hurts like you can't believe. I am having a great time and loving every minute if it.

Day 4 and 5 run together.

Yesterday was Monday. Three of my museum staff showed up for work. The museum will not open for weeks. I can not keep anyone except Joseph on staff. There is no power. There are no visitors. How do you tell that to people who have just lost everything else. We have been opening and airing our the museum buildings everyday. Monday we removed all of the computers and office furniture and took up the carpet. I also had museum business to attend to. Joseph and I came back to the house in the late afternoon and cleaned and did laundry until past dark.

Today was Tuesday. Spent the whole day working on the house with Joseph, Lina, and Lina's sister. I have done so much laundry in the past three days it is crazy. About half of our clothes and bedding can be saved. A pickup came by today with relief aid including fresh vegetables and fruit. It is unbelievable how good and sweet a cold orange tastes. You take them for granted. Don't.

I have realized today that my body can go for four days in emergency crises mode. I am absolutely exhausted and can not get rest. I do have help and much support here. That is not the problem. There are people who need the relief and available supplies more than I do. I was in a store yesterday and someone gave me a huge plate of food that they were giving out to their staff. This came at the exact time I was looking for lunch for Joseph and Arristad, who were cutting out the carpet. I had actually gone to the store to get jelly to make sandwiches, but we were able to split a hot meal. This is what the last 5 days have been like, the trickle down theory of hurricane relief.

The house is still trashed. We have managed to save one bed. I get to sleep on it tonight.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Goodbye to Ohio

I will be leaving in the morning to fly back to Grand Turk. Reports are that there will not be electricity for six weeks. We have lost the roof of our house and friends have told me the house is a disaster. I am packing food for a couple of weeks, tarps for the roof, a small cook stove, and a bunch of diapers for our neighbor.

Deneen and the boys will be staying in Columbus for the near and possibly long future. We enrolled Martin back in high school. Lucas and Davis will continue to home school on the outside chance we may have a house by the beginning of next year.

With no electricity or internet, it may be a while before I can write a blog. Images of Grand Turk are awful. The best ones so far are on youtube:

The first blog I wrote one year ago was called "Starting from Scratch." I have a feeling that I will be re-starting from scratch this next year. The whole month of August I replaced the bathrooms and part of the kitchen in the house. Last week Deneen and I bought the final few things to make the house perfect. Yesterday we took this stuff back and bought emergency supplies.

In November, when the whole family moved to Grand Turk we gave away or threw away everything we had in Columbus. We have now probably lost everything we had in Grand Turk. They have a comfortable place to stay in Ohio, but until yesterday Deneen did not even have a pair of jeans here.

We will see what the rest of this year will bring. At the museum we were on a roll with new programs, new tours, and thoughts of new exhibits. We will have to change modes from building bigger to re-building.

If you pray, please pray for us. We moved to Grand Turk to be together more. Spending what will now be nine months apart was not the plan. If you are a donor to the Turks and Caicos National Museum, this would be a good time to make a donation. We will be needing lots of additional funds in the very near future. You can always send donations the the US friends organization:

Friends of the Turks and Caicos National Museum
Corpus Christi Museum
1900 N Chaparral
Corpus Christi, TX 78401

I will let you know more as soon as I can get back online.


Monday, September 8, 2008

Update on TCI and Hurricanes

I left Grand Turk on August 28 to come home and get Deneen and the boys and to attend a family wedding. While gone, Grand Turk was hit by a category 1 hurricane, Hannah. This Hurricane moved at four miles an hour and criss-crossed the Turks and Caicos for four days. The next weekend on Saturday, September 6, a category 4 hurricane, Ike, struck Grand Turk directly. Reports from Grand Turk are that 95% of the homes have been destroyed or damaged.

We were on our way to Florida, traveling back to the Turks and Caicos, when this happened. We lost the entire roof of our home, as did everyone in our development. The museum appears to have come through intact. There will be no electricity for four weeks and very little food.

We have returned home. My family will stay in Columbus for the next few weeks or longer. I am desperately trying to get back to see about things. We are safe as are all of our friends on the island. We appreciate your calls and emails. As time allows I will keep in touch through the blog.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Sunset Cabana

I went to the Sunset Cabana tonight to wish Gavin and Justin goodbye. I hope my blogs make Grand Turk seem like a paradise of fun, which certainly is my intention. But I also have tried to share how hard it is to live here.

This afternoon I received a text message from Gavin. He and Louise have split up, and he is leaving on a plane tomorrow to go back to London. Thats how it happens. Just like that. Everything is great. Then you are gone.

You probably don't know Gavin, but he has been behind organizing the free Flowrider events. He has been around. But this is a quick life change.

Grand Turk is a microcosm of life. It is also an incubator of reality. The presure of the small island strips the release valve of abundance that keeps things on an even keel in the US. This pressure brings the reality of relationships, selfishness, trust, and value to the surface.

It is an incubator of truth. Within that incubator, some rise to find themselves. Some find love. Some find happiness. Others do not. But if it is unhappiness that you find, don't blame Grand Turk. It is not Grand Turk that makes you unhappy. You were already unhappy. It is just that all the stuff that abundance brings you masks the reality of who you are and what you feel.

Here, your path crosses with a cross section of those who are in between life or looking for adventure. Some have found this life suits them and have stayed for years and years. Justin has been here since August 15. He has done his year and is moving on. Of all the people I have seen come and go, I will miss Justin. What do you do with people who come and go through your life. Do you drink with them? Do you pray with them? In one way it is he right of passage to be here and be gone. But in another way you are spending the last night with someone whose world is crashing around them and who you will never see again.

On Thursday I leave to go back to the states and get my family. By the next time I write a blog I will have been here for a year. We will see what time will tell.

I finished the kitchen this week. It is the nicest kitchen money could bye in 1974.

I have one more day to get the house cleaned. I don't know if it will happen.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

The Iron Duke and the Harold

Deneen, Martin, and Lucas,

Justin and I kayaked out and snorkeled on the Harold today. This is his last week on the island. He is heading back to the states.

The Harold is the shipwreck we can see from our beach. We took Ben and Caroline's kayak and left from their house. It took about 20 minutes to reach the edge of the reef where the wreck is. The ocean looked like glass and the first half of the trip was fine. When we moved past the lee of the island, however, the wind picked up and it was surprisingly rough.

The Harold sits on top of the reef in about 4 to 6 feet of water. The bow of the ship is clearly visible where it jambed into the reef. This is the large piece we see sticking out of the water. Evidently the ship folded in half during the wreck, or thereafter. The stern is in front of the bow and has a single propeller of about 6 fix in length. The reef is littered with debris from the ship breaking apart.

I told you that when I talked about snorkeling here people told me they always see sharks. This was no lie. Twice a large nurse shark came from behind and swam underneath me while I was snorkeling. They come fast and silently. I had no idea it was even in the area until I saw it swimming away. They look magnificent swimming effortlessly through the water. It was super cool. Justin saw two additional nurse sharks and a reef shark.

We swam the reef from 2:30 to 4:45. I found another wreck somewhat in front of the Harold. This wreck included two propeller shafts attached to diesel engines. It appears to have been a wooden hulled vessel, because all that is left is the engines, shafts, propellers, and a bunch of tie pins.

When we came up out of the water the wind had picked up and the waves started getting strong again. We paddled in safely with no problems, but it was getting freaky. The Harold was a fantastic site, but the conditions change too quickly.

Tonight I attended a reception on the Iron Duke, a type 23 frigate that is docked at the cruise port. I took Justin as my guest. It was very nice and well attended. I spoke to Mr. Lewis (high school principal) and told him you were excited about returning to school.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Dave Has Left the Building

This has been a pretty good week. Dave Horn was my first true visitor. He had come to Grand Turk for one day on a cruise on October 23. Things worked out for him to come stay for the last 6 days.

Dave and I have been great friends for 25 years. That seems hard to believe, but true. We would have had a good time just hanging out and talking and watching the Olympics. But this morning we talked about how fast the week has gone. Dave was trying to remember all we had done. I will break it down.

In the last six days Dave spent 11 1/2 hours swimming or paddling in the water. He had fresh fish (caught in the last three to five hours) three evenings: grilled grouper, broiled grouper, fried chub, and snapper rissoto. He had dinner at Big Daddies at White Sands, ate BBQ ribs and fresh caught grilled lobster at the Ospey, al fresco dinner at Chineese Joan's, and cokes at the SandBar. He heard two local bands. He had meals with a diver named Eric, Justin, David and Katja, Alessio and Jackie, Joan, and tangigally with Monica, Donna, and Mario, and Chris and the SandBar gang. He kayaked with the Governor and swam with the stingrays. The back of his neck and the top of his head are about as tan as my feet. None of this includes the day and a half he installed AV equipment at the museum. I told him this morning that this week was about a month of activities for me.

Tomorrow I head back to work alone. I am probably going to miss my two BioRock dives because I have to take the Children's Club on a tour of the Royal Navy ship that docks in the morning, in the afternoon I have to complete a snorkel survey of the Harlod wreck site, and I have to attend a Governor's reception in the evening.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Not Doing Enough, Are You Crazy

Before last evening, I thought maybe Dave was not having enough fun or adventure during his week here. That changed yesterday.

On Tuesday night I called my friend Justin to ask if there was any way he would open the kayak excursion for Dave and I. He said that he was going to take Ben from the Governor's office and a few of Ben's friends on a kayak trip on Wednesday at 5:00pm. I asked if Dave and I could tag along.

So Wednesday evening Dave and I kayaked up South Creek with Ben's friends, who also happened to be the new Governor, the Governor's family, and all of the staff from the Governor's office.

We kayaked up the creek. We kayaked down the canal. We kayaked through the South Creek pond. We finished up at 7:30, took quick showers, and hustled off to Chinese Joan's for dinner at 8:00.

August 20 was my 20 year wedding anniversary. Deneen is 2000 miles away, so for our anniversary I had dinner with Dave and Justin. Just as we sat down David and Katja showed up so we had them sit with us as well. Dinner is always the entire evening on Grand Turk. Tonight was no exception. We finished sometime around 11:00.

This afternoon, we met up with Justin again. He invited us to Kayak over to Gibbs Cay to swim with the stingrays. So for this adventure, at 3:00pm four of us kayaked approximately 2 miles over the bank to the outlying island of Gibbs Cay. After traversing the waves and wind for 40 minutes, we banked the kayaks just as an excursion of 30 people arrived to the cay from the cruise ship that was in today.

Justin had brought $5 worth of conch to feed the stingrays. For lunch I showed Dave how to eat raw conch sashimi style; wash it in the ocean, bite off the head, eat it down to the claw, spit out the skin.

We left the beach and walked around the back side of the Cay. We snorkeled off the south end for a while. After the excursion people began to load back onto their boat, we snorkeled with the stingrays.

I have seen a stingray three different times snorkeling here. They have all been fairly small, abou tone foot in diameter. I though this is what we would find,a bunch of small stingrays. Instead, we were surrounded by a half dozen four to five foot wide stingrays wanting food and attention. The stingrays swim right up to you in a way that is at first freaky and off putting. With all the stories we have heard in the US in the last couple of years stingrays don't seem to be docile creatures. You can not help thinking about this as they whip their tales around your legs asking for food. They look menacing and quite frankly scary, but 100 people a day have been swimming withthe stingrays for a few years now, so when in Roam...

A stingray is a blubbery, slimy, ugly creature. They feel like a rotten peach. A rotten six foot peach with two beady eyes set close together and a whip-like tail with a small barb on the end. Four stingrays continued to swim at us from all directions for several minutes. This was very cool.

After this, we paddled further out to Round Cay, where Dave took some pictures and I snorkeled around the outlying reefs. At 6:00 we headed back in towards Grand Turk, fighting a current that was stronger than I expected. I thought we would be going with he wind so the trip would be easier. This was not so. The current kept pulling the kayak to the north. After a few minutes we figured out how to compensate for this and were more or less able to steer a straight course. After 45 minutes we arrived back at South Creek.

Tonight we ate dinner with Alessio and Jackie. We had a wonderful meal of rissoto with snapper and a main dish of pheasant. We spent the evening talking US politics. For the most part I think Dave had to bite his lips. We have just arrived back home. It is midnight.

I think we will go to breakfast in the morning at the Turks Head. This is one of the last places I wanted Dave to see. Then at noon he will leave. It has been a good visit.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Dave's Day Two

Dave had to pay his rent today. We spent the entire day installing a ceiling mounted LCD projector in the museum classroom. This turned out great.

Dave wanted to have one evening where we bought and cooked fresh fish, so we stopped at the fish market this afternoon and bought $20 worth of Grouper. This was Grouper for about 6 people. We grilled it, broiled it, and tried to fry it but I did not have any flour in the house at all. We have been eating Grouper for the last two hours. I also grabbed a conch out of the ocean and made a small fresh conch salad which was fantastic.

Now we are too full to move. But we get to talk about politics so it all works.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Adventure Swim

Dave Horn arrived last night. He has come to spend the week with me while Deneen and the boys are away. I did not want his first day to be all cleaning the house, so after attending church we went up to the light house to check out the beaches there. The light house is at the northern tip of Grand Turk. Deneen would refer to this area as having "unsafe conditions." I call it adventure swimming.

Anyway, I thought I should let Dave tell the story since it is his first day.

Here is Dave's blog:

"See that point? Just on the other side is a really cool beach. That's where we're going." That's not so far, I thought. I figured that once we trudged through the water to the beach that we'd spend an hour or so snorkeling, lie around on the beach, and come back. I should have known better.

As it turns out, we did swim for about an hour, looking at coral, sea urchins, fish of various types, and more. I turned to look and was surprised to see Neal swimming toward the beach. I thought to myself, "That was nothing. All I hear about is how much he swims and how Deneen thinks he is stupid for taking risks in the water. Here we are, already finished."

I rinsed my feet off, put the snorkel and fins back in the bag, and as I prepared to enjoy a few minutes on the beach, I hear a voice saying, "See that point? Just on the other side is Smuggler's Cove. I've been there once, and I'd like to see it again. Let's go."

We swam, we walked, and I tried to keep our only towel dry on the way to what Neal thought was Smuggler's Cove. The towel, as it would turn out, was nothing more than a wet hindrance, on the way to another point near which a couple guys were fishing.

We talked to them briefly, tried to climb and walk around what should have been the last point. It quickly became apparent that our walking path would end and that if Smuggler's Cove was around the third point that we'd have to get back into the water.

I haven't yet mentioned that there are many shipwrecks around the North Point of Grand Turk due to the way the water moves in and around two reefs. The water comes in quickly, is a strange mix of icey cold and sun-warmed, moves out in unpredictable ways, and is a little bit rough. But hey, Smuggler's Cove was just on the other side, right?

This time, Neal was correct. Smuggler's Cove was around the corner, but after swimming for an hour, it was still almost half a mile away. After dodging waves and sharp coral to get this far, I wasn't about to turn back, but I was still dragging a fin bag full of wet towel, Keen sandals, and sunscreen. I was tired.

Along the way around the last point we passed a local man fishing. As I swam, I wondered about what he thought of us. 30 minutes later, as the water become too shallow to swim, I looked over at Neal and said, "I'm walking the rest of the way. I'm tired."

Neal looks back to me and says, "How cool is that? We swam around the North Point of Grand Turk and kicked its ass." I laughed. "You remember that local guy back there? I guarantee you that he thought we were insane. Local people don't swim the North Point, and that's one of those swims that Deneen thinks is stupid."

Along the way, we saw an underwater military junkyard in addition to fairly typical sea life. The North Point was a submarine refueling and observation station for the US Navy. Today, it's abandoned and it's apparent that when the Navy left, that equipment was "buried at sea" (pushed off the dock and sunk where very few would ever see it). We did.

I don't know whether we "kicked" anything or not, but I was pretty spent by the time we got to Smuggler's Cove. I was happy to walk back to the truck (as opposed to swim), and if Neal would have really known where to go, it would have been much easier to walk to Smuggler's Cove, but then we wouldn't have a story to tell to make our mothers, sisters, and Deneen think that we're stupid.

I guarantee you that probably tomorrow I'll hear "See that point? Just on the other side is..." and whatever it is won't be anywhere close to wherever we are.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Hide from the Storm Upcoming

We have been preparing today for the arrival of Faye tonight. This is just a small tropical storm that I dont think was even named this morning.

I got a call this morning from a friend who heard people were begin to move boats into protective areas. Another friend told me that people had been buying lanterns today as well.

It now looks like the storm will track to the south of us, but we are expecting a deluge of rain overnight.

This will be great, as we have not had significant rainfall since late February. Like many people, we rely on water catchment for our household plumbing. I am hoping that our water tank will fill before Deneen and the boys come back in a couple of weeks. So I am thrilled about an early season storm.

This afternoon we had two or three bouts of rain, right now it is absolutely beautiful outside so who knows. We will see.

Thursday, August 14, 2008


Last night I was awakened by a huge crashing sound. A cow was on the porch and had knocked over the weight bench. The two hundred pounds of weights fell into the stacks of wall tiles, which crashed all over the concrete floor.

I told the cow to get out of my yard and went back to sleep.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Turtles and Stingrays

I was 105 feet underwater today. If this does not sound crazy to you. Please go to the nearest building about 8 stories high, climb to the roof, and swim back down to the street.

I am sorry my blogs have been about this lately, but with Deneen and the boys gone I have been working at the house and trying to get twenty dives completed. Thats about all I am doing.

Today, I dove with Andre and Joe, who are writing a book on diving the reefs of Grand Turk. We dove in two areas that are not dive sites yet. The first site will possibly be called Turtle Paradise, because there are always turtles on the reef. We saw six Green Sea Turtles.
I explained already about breathing control, right? This dive was 55 minutes at an average depth between 60 and 80 feet. When we came back on boat I had 1200 pounds of air left. I was with four other very experienced divers and did well enough that for the second dive they decided to try one of the more extreme dives they have discussed in the book.

We dove between two mooring sites. We swam down the wall at 60 feet, and then into a crevice where we went down under a coral head and came out at the base of the wall, at 105 feet. We swam back to an area they called "the cut" and went back up to the top of the reef. We swam back to the boat at about 25 feet to gas off the nitrogen that collects in your blood when you dive deep. This was a 70 minute dive. I returned with 800 pounds of air.

Here is a picture of the kitchen. I tried to work today, but I am exhausted from swimming.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Did Chris Get Certified in a Pool?

Diving is an interesting adventure. I have always loved being under water. One of my favorite things to do in the pool in Columbus was to go swimming very late at night and see how long I could lay on the bottom of the pool looking at the stars.

Since Junior High school I have practiced holding my breath. A couple months ago I held my breath for two minutes. This is nothing to the free divers down here who regularly hold their breath for three minutes or even four minutes. But try it, I bet you can't make 30 seconds. I love snorkeling here are seeing how long I can stay under to swim with the fish. It is a few seconds of intense freedom.

Diving is like holding your breath under water for an hour. It is liberating to someone who loves being underwater. Yet, there is also something kind of disconcerting about it as well. It is not quite natural, and occasionally I get anxious underwater. Some dives are great. But sometimes small things get in the way. Last weekend I had a problem adjusting my left ear past 50 feet. When I tried to force an adjustment I became slightly lightheaded. This made my heart start racing, which caused my breathing to increase, which made it more difficult to get air, which creates anxiety, which makes your heart start racing...

One of the first lessons you learn is to slow your breathing down. You learn to practice and to concentrate on slowing your body down and relaxing. Staying in control is the key. Mitch Rollings, the dive instructor who we learned from, talked a lot about the zen of diving. Yesterday my dive was perfect. I was on the anchor site of the west wall of Grand Turk. We leveled off at about 70 feet and swam 35 minutes down the wall and 35 minutes back to the boat. Though I have questioned my diving abilities in the last few weeks, the other people on the boat could not believe this was only my 11th dive. Diving over an hour on one tank is very unusual for a new diver. This means that the diver was incredibly relaxed and used very little air.

I have found that focusing on work under water makes diving different. Today, I had two dives helping the Department of Environmental and Coastal Resources with the Biorock reef project. This project involves moving damaged coral from the cruise center site to an electrified iron structure that allows the coral to grow and heal five times faster than in a natural setting.
The marine archaeologists I was with last week only work underwater. They never do recreational diving. Dr. Donald Kieth once told me that he does not even notice coral or fish anymore. But he loves a good shipwreck.

A 70 minute dive at 70 feet was a good accomplishment. I did nothing the rest of the day. When the crew was excavating the Trouvadore during the last two weeks they worked at a depth of 15 feet in three hour shifts. The archaeologists spent 6 hours a day working under water.
Diving is a new world and one of the perks that I was really interested in when taking this job. But come on, is this crazy cool or is it me?

Saturday, July 26, 2008

I Have Returned

I have returned to the house today. The water is off, the bathroom is torn completely apart, and this afternoon I ripped the kitchen apart. This weekend will mark nearly a whole month that Deneen and the boys have been off island. On days like today, I feel like life has not changed that much.

At other times, however, I step back and I am amazed at what life has become in the past year. Today I have just returned from spending the week on the Explorer II, a live-aboard dive boat. Last week I flew into South Caicos and caught up with Randy and Robert, two guys working on the Trouvadore expedition team. We had lunch off cracked conch and chicken wings. An hour boat ride later we were around South Caicos to East Caicos and onto the Explorer II. A half hour later I was 80 feet under water diving the EC.

The next day I was diving on the Black Rock Wreck, looking at the extent of the excavations that were completed over the last two weeks. All evidence points to the Black Rock Wreck as being the slave ship Trouvadore. This was a Spanish ship illegally bringing enslaved Africans to Cuba. The shipped wrecked on east Caicos in 1841. 196 Africans escaped to freedom and many stayed in the Turks and Caicos. Today, many people in the Caicos Islands are descended from this one wrecking event. The museum has been looking for the Trouvadore for six years.

In preparation for this week I have been working on getting my dive certification so that I could dive on the Trouvadore. Martin, Lucas, and I all did this together and completed our final dive on June 22. Since then, I have been trying to get dives in to get comfortable under water. I do well most dives. I have five dives this month and will do three more this weekend.

My job on the Trouvadore was unfortunately not to work underwater, but to facilitate many parts of the project from Grand Turk. We had great success in getting newspaper coverage with a double page story in last week's paper that included a page of diary entrees off the website.


After a quick couple of days on the Explorer II, I was off to my next big project - the Ft. George Collection. On Thursday I was on a small boat with Robert for a two hour trip back to Pine Cay and then on to Provo. I have been working all month trying to facilitate accepting a collection in private hands on Pine Cay. I met with the collectors on Thursday. On Friday I bought boxes and packing material and went back to Pine Cay to pack the collection for shipping. Late Friday afternoon Robert and I took the collection back to Provo to try and get it on the shipping container loaded with the expedition equipment going back to Grand Turk.

By the time we got back to the marina and shipyard, we had missed the shipping container. Missing the container would mean waiting on Provo with the collection until Tuesday, when I could get it on another boat. After much debate we decided to try and get into the secure storage at the larger commercial shipyard the next day in order to reopen our container and get the boxes with the collection stored for shipping. This was a huge problem in that the container doors were askew and would not close without some kind of mechanical assistance, which had been a big problem that the crew just delt with when they loaded the container at the marina.

This morning, which is Saturday, was spent trying to get into our container. This went ahead with much difficulty, but by calling the right person we managed to pull some strings and get security passes. Suffice to say, we got the collection securely in the container and I was on the next flight back to Grand Turk.

I will give you a quick aside that I have been thinking about this afternoon. The key to success or failure at getting into our container was trying to find someone in the shipyard to close our container with a forklift. After we got the doors open and our boxes packed inside, I walked out into the yard to find a forklift. Not far away a few guys were sitting around talking to other guys in a white pickup. I walked over to say that I needed help from the forklift. Sitting in the truck was a young guy from Israel that works as a construction supervisor for a large construction company on Provo. I can't ever remember his name, but three different times I have run into this guy accidentally when I have needed help on Provo. He was sharing orange juice with the guys around the fork lift. I spoke to him about a trip I knew he had taken to Israel last month. He told me he is going back in October to get a degree in architecture. The guy I needed help from said, "Hey is this guy your friend," and then told the guy on the forklift to go get me whatever I needed. Within a few minutes we had closed the container and were out of there. Three times... just like an angel or something.

This has been a huge couple of weeks. I am absolutley exhausted. The last three days has been a breakfast of coffee and Excedrin.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Explorer II

Today the Turks and Caicos Explorer II came into Grand Turk to load our underwater excavation equipment. The ship sailed from Provo where they have been working all last week.

What is great to report is that we have located the USS Chippewa, one of the two US Navy vessels that were in the Caicos islands on anti piracy patrol. The Chippewa sank in 1816 off of the northwest point of Providenciales. The ship was located from the trail of carronades that fell from the decks during the wrecking event. These are also diagnostic, meaning that they prove this is the Chippewa.

I had dinner aboard the ship tonight. I was a little hesitant to be on the dive boat, but now I am Jonesing. It leaves in the morning for East Caicos to search for the slave ship Trouvedore. I wish I was going to be on it. Tomorrow I have to work on press releases. Hopefully within the next 14 days I will be able to get onboard and participate in the search.

The Trouvadore search is a project that the museum and Ships of Discovery have been working on for the last year. The full details of the search are located at

RFA Wave Ruler

"You know, you sail around the world, you see hundreds of people. But sometimes you meet a guy who's just a real good guy."

OK, this could have been the alcohol talking. But I still took it as a compliment as I stood in the Officer's Bar on board the RFA Wave Ruler, on Monday night. Gordon has been blasting the Red Hot Chili Pipers all night. Now we are listening to Deep Purple played on the bagpipes. The bar closes at 11:00 so about 10:30 the songs began. "Scotland our home, we shall murmur, murmur, murmur." I sing along, "watermelon, watermelon, watermelon." What did you say? "Olive juice."

30 minutes earlier the conversation was even louder, talking about the intricacies of cricket. Something about scoring six points if the ball bounces once, one if the batters cross, something "murmur, murmur" the ball bounces twice, and all eleven batters are out when the ball hits the wicket. I think we were speaking English, but I swear I am only catching every other word.

"Why is it that the English can invent a game, teach everyone to play, and now they are all better than us," the Chief Petty Officer says. "We taught the Indians to play, now they play better than us. We taught the Jamaicans to play, now they play better than us. We taught the Aussies to play, now they play better than us."

I reply, "What, ya, exactly, mate!"
"There was one?"

A couple hours ago I was on the flight deck at a very nice cocktail party for the Governor. The guest list had been 122, but only about 40 people came. But all my new friends are here; Ensign James, Tard, and Officer Cockburn.

"Tard, are you serving drinks tonight, or drinking drinks tonight?"

"I've been drinking since the minute I started serving," is the reply.

Seven members of the crew spent the day at the museum cleaning brush from the back of the National Arboretum. They arrived at 9:00. By 11:30 they had most of the brush cleaned and trash raked up. My goal is to get this area cleaned out, so that the neighbors stop using it as a dump. The crew built a compost pit for the leaves. We also began lime washing the garden walls to remove the tagging (Eventually, Joseph and I painted 20 gallons worth of lime wash this week). Most of the crew have been scratched and cut to pieces by the thick thorns of the underbrush.

At 11:30 I went to get Poop Deck chicken. I had told them I would provide the best fried chicken in the world and a case of beer. They agreed I was spot on about the chicken. By 12:30 the beer was gone and I had to get a second case. The crew received a VIP tour of the museum, and spent the rest of the day snorkeling.

A few of them wanted to see the pirate canon collection, so I took them into the lab. One of the older guys, a crewman named Mick, saw that we had ships insignia badges and wanted to have a look. Royal Navy ships occasionally present a ship's badge to the Governor's office when they call to Grand Turk. We have 42 of them in our collection. Mick new most of the ships and organised the collection by ship type. He gave me quick stories that I attached with sticky notes. I have been trying to organise and make sense of this collection since I have been here. what I could not do in 8 months, Mick did in 30 minutes. Two of our badges are significant, in that they are from ships that were sunk during the Falklands War in 1982. Mick was visibly moved at recognising one that he witnessed the sinking of.

Three of the guys who came to work at the museum had been part of the detachment that took the Museum Kids Club through the ship on Saturday. We took 5 kids on board for a one hour tour on Saturday morning. 15 kids had signed up for the program, but only 5 showed up. They had assigned 5 crewmen and Ensign James to our tour. Because our numbers were so small, each child basically received a personal escort. Everyone went out of there way to show the kids exactly what they did on board the ship. We toured the Rasco, and the bridge, and each kid sat on the 30MM canon and turned it around like a theme park ride. Our hour tour turned into a two hour tour and ended with refreshments and biscuits in the Officer's Bar.

Last week I was in Pine Cay and Provo for most of the week. Right before I left, I received a phone call from the Governor's office that a Royal Fleet Axillary ship was to be in port over the weekend. These ships are crewed by civilians but serve Royal Navy warships. The Wave Ruler is in the Caribbean on hurricane patrol. And among other things, carries relief supplies. This was last minute because of security, but the ship was interested in giving some tours and they wanted to know if the Museum's Kids Club would want to come on board. The Governor's staff thought that they might be able to free up some crew for a work detail at the museum as well. I had staff put together a last minute radio announcement for Kids Club and told them I would be back on Saturday to take care of whatever happened with the ship.

I told the Governor's staff that the museum would do whatever we could to make this a good stop for the crew. Whatever I did, they told me, "make sure you provide beer because English sailors like to drink in port."

This was a very busy week, but I thought it would be fun to get on board and see what the ship was like. You never know what can happen here.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Pine Cay

The Trouvadore project begins this weekend. On Friday, dive crews begin flying into Provo. On Friday my family also flies out of Provo to go home for nine weeks. I would mourn this loss, but I have the feeling that the time is also going to fly starting on Friday.

Tonight I am on Pine Cay staying at the Meridian Club. I was here in February looking at a historic site called Ft. George. Today I have come to Pine Cay with one of our trustees to look at a private collection that may be of interest. I have been taking loads of pictures and writing descriptions that my archaeological friends would be proud of. I.E, "Creamware with green glazed scallop edge and feather molding."

This is all part of a bigger story, but I will save you from the details. What I will say is that working on Pine Cay is tough stuff. I am almost blinded by the stars tonight. And while I was at dinner someone came into my room and stole all the pillows and bedspread. I was going to complain, but someone said that this was called "making down the bed." I am from Ohio and not use to all this fancy shamcy...

Anyway, here is a picture of Dr. Keith and myself hard at work in Pine Cay.

I have to go..the pool closes at 10:00.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

The Old Man and the Sea

Today, I went deep sea fishing for the first time. I received the invite over the weekend and thought this a great opportunity to gain an experience that I have never had before.

But, just like Hemingway's novella, written not far from here, the experience was a little more than I was hoping for.

This weekend was the Grand Turk Fishing Tournament. On Thursday there was a boat auction, where people bid on the fishing boats that they thought would win either the most fish caught or the the most pounds caught. I bid on the Bohio boat thinking that I would be overbid, but I bought the boat for $150.00. Other boats went for two and three thousand dollars.

Yesterday, the Bohio boat was in second place. They had caught a 70 pound tuna the first day, and two other large tunas the next day. Though the largest fish brought in yesterday was a 257 pound Marlin.

Today, I joined the boat. But, boat is somewhat of a misnomer. They are fishing from a small flat bottom Carolina Skiff. These are generally used as a Dive Boats here.

So today, I spent 10 hours deep sea fishing on a small dive boat. We left the Bohio at around 5:00am. We were trolling for tuna on the north west side of the island in an area known as the "cut," a deep sea shelf to the north. I have never been out this far before, especially not on a small boat. The winds come from the east, so the west side of the island is generally fairly calm. But when you get into the open ocean, the swells become unfriendly.

I was hoping that I could hold it together and not get seasick. Now, before I get a head of myself, I did fine and held everything down. But it was only through continuous focus on something other than vomiting.

Fishing has got to be one of the most boring activities in the world. The best thing about fishing was laying down and trying to sleep while my body was being racked by the constant slamming of the boat against every wave. We sat in that boat, trolling up and down Grand Turk, for six hours. Then, wonders of wonders, we caught two small tunas in fairly quick succession, which the guys in the boat benevolently let me reel in.

At noon, the captain thought we needed to do something different. He decided that we should go around to the east side of the island and come around to the south end to change things up.

The east side of the island is windward. And today it was windy. I have never been there on a boat before. I hope this was a first and last. In a matter of a few minutes we went from boring to terrifying. The bank is very long on the east side. Longer than I realized. We had to take the boat over the bank and out into deep water. Do do this we had to climb 15 foot swells. The boat captain powered up the swell and cut the engine on the backside. The boat climbed up the wave, hung for seconds, and then slammed back down into the water. When we got out past the bank we turned and boated along the swells, up one side, down the other, with the side of the boat rolling and rolling. I would have been freaking out, except the other three guys were totally fine with this. The captain said we would be fine as long as a wave did not crash over the boat. I thought this was a pretty long "as long as."

I spent the next hour praying we could be done fishing. Finally, as we neared Gibbs Cay and still had not landed a fish big enough to way, the captain said, "enough is enough." Thank you Jesus, we turned into surf and made for shore.

The crew graciously gave me the two small tuna. Tonight, I cleaned fish for the first time. I know to some people this may seem strange. But they did not offer a fish cleaning class at The Ohio State University, where I have been spending all my fishing time for the last 16 years.

We had the best fresh tuna steaks tonight. I marinated the tuna in a lime, garlic, and Worcestershire sauce and quick grilled it. We had a house full for fish. Mel, our visiting curator, came over and ate with a table of teenage boys, Martin, Lucas, Denzel, and Luke (who is here for the fishing tournament).

The fish was excellent. My head is still spinning. I need to take some aspirin and go to sleep so I can dream about turtles.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Open Water Dives

Today is a holiday. The official bank holiday in celebration of the Queen's birthday.

Martin, Lucas, and I had our first two open water dives for our scuba certification. We went out on the boat at 9:00 this morning. The winds were coming from the south and the water was rough. I did fine until I got my tank and BC on, then I got sick. Getting into the water usually helps, so I fell backward and was underwater. We dove to about 30 feet, completed some coarse safety tests, and then continued out over the reef. We went down to about 50 feet.

I enjoyed the diving very much, but could not get over the previous tossing and stomach turning. At about 40 minutes into the dive, at 50 feet underwater, I got seasick and vomited several times underwater.

I am sorry I don't have pictures. It was quite something. If you want to imagine this, hold your breath while throwing food into your bathtub. Them swim around in it. I decided to complete my second dive later. I did receive praise for "remaining calm under a stressful underwater situation."

The boys continued on with their second dive. They are very comfortable in the water and have taken to diving naturally. It is amazing to see them. They are growing and changing and are different people than they were six months ago.

When we got home we received a call that they were training staff on the Flowrider at the Cruise Center again at 1:00. We went down and rode the Flowrider for a couple hours. We are home now, the sun is falling in the early evening. The boys need to study for their exams tomorrow, but they both fell asleep.

I wish I could be perfect and compete with them at the adventure sports that surround us here. But I am having to get my personal gratification at being able to expose them to activities that they would otherwise never do. I am frustrated that my body can not keep up with my mind. But I shall not complain too much. This has been a pretty arse kick'n week.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Queen's Birthday

This Saturday was the official celebration of the Queen's birthday. We received an invitation from the Governor to sit in the stands at the parade grounds during the governor's iinspection of Her Majesty's Police Force and Her Majesty's Prison Guards. The parade also included the Police Band, cadet corps, and a selection of elementary and secondary students.

Lucas was chosen to march in the parade. He had a three hour rehearsal on Friday. He was thrilled to get to march. Though the parade started at 5:00pm, it was still very hot.

The parade was one of the most impressive things I have seen since I have been here. It was quite unexpected. The pomp and ceremony was what you would expect from a colony. It is for sure a holdover from the nineteenth century empire, but the discipline and ceremony of the spectacle reminded me of the civility inherent in English culture. Though at the very end, the police band struck up an island sounding song and band leader danced. So even in the pomp, there was local flavor. This was the best part of the parade.

Saturday night we were invited to the reception at the Governor's residence. This also served as the goodbye party for H. E. Tauwhare and his wife Amanda, who are leaving the post at the end of July.

Deborah's Last Day

Friday was Deborah's last day. She has been on island for 28 months. Beginning last January she has served as the interim director of the museum. Our current staff were mostly hired during her tenure. With the exception of a couple who were hired by Nigel Sadler, the previous director.

Though I came on in September, It has been a hard transition for most of the staff, who still call back to talk to Deborah about all staff related issues.

On Friday night, the girls on our staff through a party for Deborah. They wanted this to be a surprise party and no one was to leak anything about it.

They have been planning the party all week. Raising money - though a considerable amount of this came from me - and buying and cooking party food.

Friday after work, and after Deborah left, we set up our tent, lights, and tables and chairs. Everyone showed up at 7:30 with food and decorations. At 8:00 we had and waited for Deborah. In our totally strategic plan at keeping this absolutely a one had made arrangements for Deborah to show up to her surprise party. SURPRISE. Everyone thought someone else had taken care of it.

Earlier in the week I had spoken to Thomas about planning the party, but with no follow up, he did not make arrangements either. At 8:50 I called Thomas' phone - no answer. At 9:00 I called Deborah's phone - no answer. At 9:15 I drove down to the SandBar on the outside chance they might be there. They were. The minute Thomas saw me he knew what was up. They had just finished eating dinner, but left immediately.

The party got started just after 9:00pm. I think our staff felt good about it. It was not necessarily a party for Deborah, but it was in fact a party for her staff, on her behalf. The party was planned for about 30. Most of them friends and family of our staff. Probably 10 more young men heard the party and came in from the alley to get food and drinks.

The dancing started at about 11:00 and continued until 12:00. I think the staff were hoping for a local type of party. This is what they got. This was not your parent's museum party. That is for sure.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Diving and Flowriding

Melonie Clifton-Harvey flew in on Tuesday. She was here as our visiting curator in December and has come back for three weeks to assist with additional curatorial issues that we have. Mel is a conservation specialist from England that I met on the Attingham program. I have been trying to keep her informed about how much work we have to accomplish while she is here. But it has been a hard sell since Tuesday.

On Wednesday we had a staff appreciation party. Deborah, thanking everyone for their hard work while she was interim director, took everyone to lunch and then we went kayaking. This was very cool, because most of our staff had never been in a kayak or canoe before. It was super cool for me, because I saw my first live shark here. They were in fact two baby sharks who circled within inches of our kayak.

Today, Martin, Lucas, and I had our first confined water dive for our scuba certification. This was a total combination of very cool and very weird. I could talk at length about this, and maybe I will later, but for now I will sufice to say: it was so loud...I just did not expect that.

Late this afternoon, we got a call from our friend at the cruise center to come down and assist with staff training on the new Flowrider that has just been installed. This is a giant wave pool that you can surf and bodyboard on. We went down and took turns riding so that they could work out kinks before they open tomorrow.

Davis and I actually did this the other day as well. But tonight we rode for about two hours for free. Tomorrow, I think the free rides are over. But Davis is very good at it, and I think he will probably wind up going a lot.

This is the only Flowrider operated in a Carnival cruise port. It is very cool. It will probably make Grand Turk one of the best cruise ports in the Caribbean.

Deneen and the boys are excited about coming home. We bought the tickets and they fly out July 4th. They have tickets to the new water park in Columbus and can't wait to go. That sounds great. I like to remind them that here they live in the theme park and are some of the few dozen people that ride for free. I dont think they appreciate this yet.

Saturday is the Queen's Birthday. Lucas has been chosen to march in the Queen's parade and Saturday night we have to go to another party at the Governor's residence.

Such a hard place to live.