Monday, January 28, 2008

Grocery Day is not very Posh

I was just reading my friend John Leistler's blog at He moved to Amman Jordan just four weeks before I moved to Grand Turk. His latest blog is about the posh life. In the blog he discusses spa treatments, gourmet dinner parties, being waited on my servants, and traveling to exotic places over the last few weeks. Which is not his normal routine, but over his current break he has had some very nice invites. Sounds great to me.

On Mondays we look forward to grocery shopping.

Grocery shopping here is kind of a game, not a puzzle game, but a get to the finish line first kind of game. Every Monday a produce boat arrives at Government Dock. In the early afternoon an email goes out telling what time the boat will be unloaded and when produce will be at the grocery store. On Monday evenings we go to the store.

You normally meet friends and colleagues at the store. Monday is grocery night. More business is done this way than actually takes place in a normal working day. Tonight, for instance we ran in to someone from the tourist board while getting ice cream at Cool Beans just after shopping. This person is now running the Canadian tourism office. We talked for a few minutes, and he met the family for the first time. Then he made tentative arrangements to bring me up to Toronto to do some tourism shows.

Anyway, back to shopping. We get all of our weekly groceries on Monday evening. We try and plan out what we would like to eat and then we adjust this to what is available. We have figured out a few staple meals that we eat almost every week. We have Caribbean jerk chicken wings with beans and rice once a week. We have a whole chicken with Caribbean jerk beans and rice once a week. And we have chicken with potatoes and rice once a week, without Caribbean jerk seasoning. Usually we also have spaghetti with leftover chicken stewed in Ragu marinara sauce. We also have bought hamburger patties which were on sale the last two weeks. When I get to Provo I will usually try and bring back pot roast and steaks from the IGA just to mix it up.

The first few times we went to the store we bought some things that I assumed would always be available. These included a large jar of Jiff peanut butter, a small bottle of vegetable oil, and margarine spread. Over the last three weeks, as we have run out of our first purchases, we find that many items are not regularly stocked. Now, if we see something we like to have on hand we buy two. Also, some items you can only buy in bulk.

Then there is also the expense of certain items. Some things are not worth having when you have to pay three or four times what you are used to. We drink very little soda pop. Deneen is not even drinking that much Diet Pepsi anymore. We have gone from three gallons of milk a week to 1/2 gallon a week.

Coffee, however, we buy in bulk. A wonderful espresso blend Dominican coffee is normally available in a four pack for just over $15. A week ago we bought a bulk 10 pack of spaghetti. We also always try a splurge on something each week. For the last couple of weeks this has been cheese. We argue over buying an $11 frozen pizza, but $8 for a small wedge of Stilton Blue Cheese seems like a bargain. I am going to eat the blue cheese tomorrow with honey dew melon.

We have not found small bottles of vegetable oil for the last three weeks, so tonight we broke down and bought a gallon. We need this to cook frozen french fries. The only way I can get everyone to agree to eating fish. Luckily, I had kept the small bottle so we are going to refill it. I guess there is not much of a posh life here.

Our latest indulgence has been Duncan Hines Dark Chocolate Cake. Cake mix costs $2.50. Icing for the cake costs around $8. So usually once during the week and once during the weekend we make a cake and eat it like brownies. In a good week we can stretch a cake into two after dinner deserts and one or two breakfasts.

I track our grocery expenses here just like I did in the states. I am like that. Between 2002 and 2005 our grocery expenses averaged $1 per item. Meaning that if our grocery total was $100 the number of items purchased would be 98. Some items might be $3 but these were offset by several cans of beans at .50 and so on. This was very consistent. Starting in 2006 this began to creep up. In 2007 our average grocery bill was $2 per item. Again this was extremely consistent. What we consume on a regular basis did not change that much. I understood this to be inflation catching up to us. Here, our grocery bills average $4 per item.

Our dinner tonight consisted of two Di Giorno pizzas because we ate late and Deneen did not want to do dishes after we picked up Martin from soccer. These cost $11.75 each. As I am looking at our receipt, our weeks worth of rice cost $1.75 and our weeks worth of red beans cost $1.79. The other night we were talking about what we would eat if we went home. Lucas said he is never eating at Chipotle again because he is never eating rice and beans after we leave here.

Side note:

On a side note. Tonight at soccer Martin said the coach read off a list of names of the nine people going to a tournament next week. Martin was not one of the nine. But this is really to be expected. In the scrimmage during the last half of practice, Martin shot four of the goals that allowed his team to lead six to two. At the end of the practice the coach read off the nine names again. Martin was one of the nine.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Where Has the Month Gone

Well, it feels like not that much has gone on for the last couple of weeks. Of course there is the regular normal stuff. The Holland America tours have been coming every Monday and Saturday, a lady came by wanting her federal style table back that she donated, another demolition permit has been issued for a historic building in our unprotected historic district. We got a subscritption to Netflicks to have instant access to movies. Every night we watch two episodes of The Office. The are almost through season 3. Our six pupppies are now big and loud. The make too much noise at night fighting, and the neighbors are complaining. Somehow it has become my responsibilty to deal with all the stray puppies in our compound.

We still are not quite adjusted to the local high school. Though it has been three full weeks now. Martin is playing on the soccer team. They all call him Alfredo.

It feels like I have been incredibly busy. But not that much has gotten accomplished. This whole week I have been trying to read through the page proofs of my Greenwood Press book. It is taking much longer than I thought. I am now a week overdue on my deadline. For the last two days we have met informally with an editor from Macmillan who is completing a new history of the TCI. We are supplying all the images.

Last week the museum held its first corporate event for the North Carolina Aquarium Board. On the same day I went on my first visit to Salt Cay to see the historic homes there and to look at the restoration project at Government House, which it looks like I will be consulting on. This trip could have been a blog on its own.

Work, work, work this month. Next week I am off to Provo to set up a table at the High School Science Fair. I will also get to re-stock up on frozen meet at the IGA.

This was just a quick note to let you know we are still here.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008


Almost everyday something really cool happens. And this typically feeds on itself.

Yesterday Ruth invited us to lunch at the Turks Head Inn, which is owned by Seamus. Today, Seamus called to invite me on the new helicopter excursion. The helicopter takes off from the old airport and flies around Grand Turk, then over the outer cays, over to Salt Cay, and back to Grand Turk. The view is amazing, looking over the teal blue water and out into the 6000 foot abyss.

The other people in the helicopter spotted whales. Which they talked about and talked about over the head set radios. I was taking pictures of our house.

The video is flying over the compound where we live and over the reef areas where we snorkel all the time.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Your Mama!

My mother and sisters arrived in Grand Turk today on the Holland America Zuiderdam. We have been anticipating this day since Deneen and the boys arrived at the end of November.

Mom, Blythe, and Linda were the first ones of the ship at about 7:30AM. We picked up some scones at the bakery (which the baker did not know were scones) and a gallon of water for coffee (I have been gone all week. Upon my return home I found the car void of gas and the house void of water).

Today was our first formal excursion with Holland America as well. Deneen dropped me at the museum and took Mom, Blythe, and Linda to see our house. They returned to the museum at 10:30 to go through the excursion tour and then we were invited to lunch at the Turks Head Inn, the second part of the "Taste of the Island" tour. After lunch we drove around looking at where the boys go to school and where we attend church. Then we went to Cee's and they bought the boys any snack food or pop that they wanted. These things are very expensive here and we do not buy them - ever. But I guess mom and aunts can spoil.

By this time it was 1:15 and last call for the cruise ship was at 1:25. I drove very fast. They were the last people on the ship.

If this sounds like an incredibly short visit, it was.

In the late afternoons you can see the cruise ships leave port and sail off into the sunset. The Zuiderdam is a very large dark gray ship. After going back to the museum to take care of ending the day, we watched the ship sail past the island. Watching it leave was a melancholy ending to a really great day. Deneen cried. I have not seen that in a really long time. We have lived next to my mother and near my sisters since the day we were married. We love being here. But we miss our family.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Home Again, Home Again


Flying at 4:00 in the morning is awful. No, I correct myself. Flying is awful. I love to travel, so I should blame myself. But since moving to the Caribbean I have been on 34 separate flights. Many of these flights are segments, but they all have required long waits and lines.

This morning is very bad. My bag weighed in at 55 pounds so I had to remove 5 pounds in order to check in. This may sound easy. But the reality is much different. I am now carrying a plastic bag filled with tea, Glad sandwich bags, a carton of Whoppers, and a computer modem. The biggest loss is I am having to wear my the clothes I just had dry cleaned.
This should be a reminder that I need to always travel with a second luggage bag that I can check when I buy extra things. I did this last time, but stupidly thought I would not need a second bag on this trip.

There use to be a real romance to flying. But now I hate flying. From now on its cruise ships only for me.


I have arrived safely in Providenciales. Though just my luck, I missed the early flight to Grand Turk by about two minutes. The time it took me to clear customs. I am on the 7:00PM flight so I have jumped into Gilly's to get a hamburger. I have not had any food today. I try not to eat to insure that I won't have a bathroom problem on the plane. It makes long days, but I guess not as long as one could be...

The conference was very good. I made one very good contact, Frederick Smith, the author of Rum. I have a museum, a research library, a publication, and unlimited opportunities for original research. He has a Ph.D. program looking for thesis opportunities at the College of William and Mary and is a Caribbean specialist. I think we might try and work together.

Well I am going to eat. By the time I get home it will be dark. But still 82 degrees.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

I Should Have Made a Left at Albuquerque

Someone emailed today to ask why I had not written a blog this week. The end of the week and weekend I have been at the annual meeting of the Society of Historical Archaeology in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Today I presented a paper titled "The Few and the Saved: The Shawnee Tower and the Civilian Conservation Corps, Building and Preserving Fire Towers in the Wayne National Forest." This was part of a symposium on the loss of fire lookout towers throughout the United States. Knock on wood, this will be the last Ohio-based paper that I will be giving at a conference for a while. But at the same time, I have sat through three days of papers on archaeological and under-water survey projects in the Caribbean. I have also met many good contacts of people working in the West Indies.

I am only in the states for four days. The trip out here took four flights and 18 hours. The trip back is only four flights and 14 hours.

Like any trip to the states, I had a long list of things to buy while I was here. I spent $438 at Walmart and $164 at Lowes. Deneen was giving me a hard time about not getting the picture frames and the Swiffer mop that she wanted, but I am trying to bring back 92 other individual items. I had to take ten items worth about $150 back to Walmart because thy just would not fit into my luggage. Seems crazy. For the last four days I have been either sitting or shopping. I also brought back some dry cleaning.

I also had more Starbucks coffee than food. Its funny what you miss. Before I left, the boys were all talking about what I would buy to eat. Everyone thought ice cream. Martin wanted me to bring back a Chipotle burrito. Lucas thought this was ridiculous because all we eat is rice. I guess what I miss is really good coffee. I also had a huge $7 bag of peanut M&Ms in my shopping cart. But at the last minute I put this back, just too hard to get them back.

I am getting up at 3:30am to get to the airport in the morning and I am still trying to watch New England and Jacksonville play right now. This is the only NFL game I have been able to watch. I will be back in the sunshine, though, by the time most of you read this.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Everyone Knows Its Windy

Deneen thought that the last blog was boring. Well, here is a short entry for those of you who think like Deneen. It has been very windy here the last two days. The waves out front of the museum were reaching six feet today. We shot a quick video to show this, but it did not go as planned.

Liar, Liar, Business Fire

There are no actual lies in this post. But last week the business school caught fire. This was the day after Christmas. I was the first person on the scene. I noticed smoke pouring out of the building, but flames were coming only from the area where the electrical service came into the building. I drove to the police station to report the fire. I fully expected that by the time the fire truck arrived from the airport, the entire building would be lost. Later, I went over to the property to tell them what I had seen.

A couple days later, the administrator of the school came to the museum to get me. She wanted me to go through the building with the contractor that had been hired to do the repairs.

I really thought I was leaving the stress of constantly fighting for the preservation of buildings that should, without much of a thought, be restored. I am the only restoration professional on the island. Everyone knows this from the article in the newspaper.

The business school is housed in a timber-framed house that dates to ca1800. The timber framing is incredible, very well done, very English. The frame is made from ship timbers and Bermuda Cedar. Surrounding the historic structure are newer classroom areas. The contractor wanted to tear the whole building down and build a similar structure in concrete block.

The building actually was very intact. The Bermuda kitchen, where the fire started, was totally lost. The rest of the building was salvageable. I spent an hour showing everyone how well the timber frame held up in the fire. Most rooms were intact and only required cleaning. There was so much paint on the wood paneling that the paint blistered and burned, but the wood remained intact. I thought that a full evaluation should be done on what could be saved.

Two days later I returned. All of the finishes were removed down to the timber frame. I met with a government official, the contractor, and school administrator. I went through the building and advised what should be replaced in kind, what part of the structural timbers should be replaced, and what finishes should be reproduced. The plan now is for the contractor to complete a major restoration of the interior finishes, including all of the wood paneling. I am to complete periodic construction reviews and advise on preservation issues. I think I can feel my ulcer returning.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Happy New Year

Well, we shall see what 2008 will bring. 2007 brought many changes. Here we sit on a small desert island in the Caribbean. That should say enough.

2008 will have big plans. My first book will be published in May. We have three grant projects to complete at the museum. I am consulting on three major restorations on various islands. We need to get two new vehicles. Martin and Lucas start high school next week.

Up until this week, it has felt like we have been in vacation for the last seven weeks. Once school and football (soccer to most of you) start vacation will be over.

This week has had its ups and downs. I would love to be more prolific, but instead I am going to try and include a short video of us snorkeling at Smuggler's Beach this past week.