Monday, September 28, 2009

Life and Death of the Lionfish

I thought I would be writing this blog weeks ago, but in fact it is a lot harder than it looks and took a considerable amount of time to learn.

But, yesterday evening I finally took three lion fish off the reef at our house Survivor style. It was actually very cool. A new skill set if you will. The lion fish, an invasive species here, has been an issue for the last two years. I have been on dive hunts and captured one in a net with Dinah. They are taken off the reef now almost every recreational dive that I am on.

Over the last few months they have been showing up in our snorkel area. At eighty feet they dont pose a hazard to me. In three feet of water, however, I draw the line. I do not like them at all where my children swim and snorkel. They are more aggressive in shallow depths. The problem is that they have no natural preditors so they fear nothing. No natural preditors until now. They are like an alien species taking over the planet and I am going to go all Master Chief on them.

Last night I steamed them. Everyone complained of being still too full from Alessio's dinner. They were very, very good, however, and were totally consumed within a few short minutes.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Its Funny Cause Its True

This afternoon we had a cookout at Alessio's house. OK, so this was a pretty entertaining afternoon. But, how can a 3 1/2 hour lunch not be entertaining.

Breaking things here is my Achilles' heal. I can not stand it. The problem is that you can not replace anything here. once it is broken, unless you can fix it, it is gone.

This morning Tiffany dropped a glass tumbler on the tile floor and broke it into a thousand pieces. This is Ok, it was one that we bought here,so I guess it can be replaced. Later, at Allesio's, she dropped a sausage into the fire, then in the middle of dinner she smashed a chair into oblivion.

OK, she did one of these things. But, it has been funny all afternoon to blame her, anyway.

Dinner at Alessio's never ceases to be an amazement. The conversation is always lively. The food is always spectacular.

But, given our last dinner, if you remember Lucas getting into a fight and breaking the platter, today was really funny. Not just a little funny. A lot funny.

Look at the chair. I can not even tell you how it happened. But look. That is crazy. And to make it worse, or funnier depending on which end of it you were on, evidently when I was falling I hit Jessica's hand who then proceeded to pour some liquid she was drinking all over me.

Tomorrow, when things are not so jovial it will not be funny. But I can fix it. My dad's got some tools.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Governor's Reception

This week we received an invitation to the Breast Cancer Awareness reception at Waterloo, the Governor's residence. It was exciting to get the invitation. We have a lot of visitors in the house and going to the Governor's residence is not something you get to do everyday.

I have been to better parties at the Governor's residence. But I have not been to a better party with Mom at the Governor's residence. She found something to wear in Deneen's closet. We had a good evening. We had great bacon wrapped lobster.

The vegetable boat came in from the Dominican Republic and we bought tomatoes, onions, and garlic. We went to the airport and picked up mom's prescription which I had Dr. Menzie send from Provo. We went to the beach and watched the Carnival Liberty pull out of dock. But the reception tonight was the highlight of the day.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Mom's Week on Grand Turk

Well, this week has been miserable.

I picked up Mom at the airport when her flight came in from Miami, no problem. We walked right over to the domestic desk and checked her bag and got our boarding passes.

At 4:00 we came back to the airport, got on the plane, and twenty minutes later we were in Grand Turk. The problem began when there was no luggage unloaded off the plane. Needless to say, to days and five trips to the airport later, Mom's luggage was lost somewhere between the small island of Provo and the smaller island of Grand Turk.

Most places this would be no problem. A quick ride to Walmart and you could replace everything in the bag for $100.00.

Most places...

On Grand Turk this is a major issue. Luckily Deneen has clothes here. Including a pair of brand new pajamas that came for Mom and were mistakenly brought to Grand Turk on some trip where I was home.

There was finally a cruise ship in today and we managed to buy a swimsuit and two pair of capris and resort wear shirts. This should get her through.

I am still waiting on a call from the doctor on Provo to see if we can get her prescription filled and sent over here.

Other than that her trip is going great.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Hanging Around Provo

Yesterday I finally installed the 1999 Our Islands Our Heritage children's art competition exhibit. I have been working on this project since last April, when the artwork was supposed to be framed and hung for two months. I did not get the artwork from the framer until June. Then I put it in the offices of the Department of Culture. In July and again in August when I was on Provo these offices were closed owning to the governmental issues that we have been experiencing.

Last weekend I had a meeting with David Bowen and we went to the Salt Mills Cafe. David and I have been talking about this exhibit since I came across the collection of children's art in the museum storage room more than a year ago. I showed them to David and as we were looking through them he kept saying, "I know her. Hey, she is working at so an so. She just got married."

I said, "Most of these kids were 12 to 14 when they painted this artwork in 1999. They would be in their 20s now. If they are still hanging around we should frame this and exhibit them like an art show." We got a grant and had 30 of the best pieces professionally framed.

We have been looking for a good, accessible venue with lots of foot traffic since then. After our meeting last weekend I called David and said, "Why don't we hang the exhibit at the Salt Mills Cafe?"

Today, we hung the art. I am going to put an interpretive panel together this week. it is very cool.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

International Talk Like a Pirate Day

Aye lady, today be international talk like a pirate day. Not a day when ye talk without "e," but a day when ye talk like a pirate.

Well, I did not talk like a pirate today, but I did talk about pirates. A big day on Provo I must say. This morning we moved the anchor and cannon from the old DuPont properties. I made some napkin calculations that the cannon weighed approximately 84 pounds and the anchor weighed in at around 600 pounds.

These artifacts were taken off the Northwest point of Provo sometime in the mid 1980s. They came to our attention this summer during the Search for the Trouvadore expedition.

On Provo we have been looking for two US navy ships that wrecked here while on anti-piracy patrol. Both ships wrecked in an area known as False Cut on the Northwest Point. The anchor is probably off of one of the wrecks.

Last weekend I was on Provo setting up the move with a local contractor. Today they moved the items. My job is to hang around and entertain the television crews and film part of a documentary that we are helping with.

All good.

This afternoon, the documentary film maker wanted me to film a segment about pirates. I have always wondered how the director of the Ohio Historical Society always looked like he knew everything when he spoke on camera. Now I have an idea.

I called Jessica, one of the volunteer archivists at the museum and asked her to find the Kosy book which I remember had some story about French privateers. A few minutes later I was ready to go.

In 1798 a sailing vessel from Rhode Island got stuck on the reef off of West Caicos. Colonel Thomas Brown, a loyalist planter from North Caicos, took five boats out to the ship to secure the cargo and take off anything of value. While Colonel Brown was on the wreck, a French privateer, a pirate ship, appeared on the horizon. Brown spent the next three hours fending off attacks from the pirates with his small flotilla. They only had two small cannon, but his slaves were armed with muskets and held their own. Eventually the pirate ship proved to strong and Brown lost the battle. Though he escaped with his life and his slaves, the Rhode Island vessel and its cargo were lost.

This was great, because the documentary was about the history of wrecking here. "Wrecking" is the word used to describe taking the cargo and everything of value off of a sunken vessel. We shot this on Sapadilla Hill overlooking the whole of Provo with West Caicos visible just on the horizon. It was very nice.

And me mates came off thinkin me knows alot about pirates and other scallywags that ply these here waters.

Have a happy talk like a pirate day!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Apology to Davis

Just a quick note before I fly back to Provo tomorrow to visit my favorite swimming pool.

OK, I have a saying here about snorkeling. If I haven't seen it, I don't believe it.

Maybe you have heard this before, from like when Aaron was here in the May 5 blog posting. But yesterday I was snorkeling off our beach and came across a huge spotted eagle ray maybe twenty yards from the beach. It was just sitting on the sand and when I came across it, it lifted up and took off (see the February 28, 2008 blog for a picture).

This is the second time in as many weeks. But Davis, there you go, I have seen it. There there was no "shark" when I turned around, but I can understand why someone would remove themselves from the water without hesitation.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Can you ever get tired of this?

The answer, I guess, is yes. Traveling aways sounds so great, and please don't get me wrong, it is far better than real work. But blah, another weekend at a posh world class resort! Please, I would rather be home watching football.

Oh, well we did watch football. At Jimmy's Dive Bar. They were having a lobster boil. And though we got there too late to participate(this would be a better story had we not gone to Hemingway's on the Beach, yet another resort restaurant, for appetizers). Yet, I still ran into a friend who was very much a Bears fan and we had a pleasent evening while everyone else ate lobster.

So, let me back up.

Yesterday, I picked up Tiffany at the airport in Provo. Nothing exciting about this. But when we got into the car that picked us up, David says,"Did you hear? Nikki Beach closed this week."

Yes, that is right. My all time favorite resort destination that I can not afford, closed. Evidently, they showed up to work one day and were told don't come back tomorrow. Same with guests. Here is their Facebook announcement:

"Nikki Beach Turks and Caicos was suddenly closed. “We are very sad to announce that Leeward Resort Ltd, the underlying owners of the property development in Turks and Caicos has gone into receivership and closed without warning. Nikki Beach Resort in ...Turks and Caicos was a management contract whereas Nikki Beach did not own the development and is out of our control. We are very sorry for any inconvenience.""

What a bummer.

It is evidently hitting the fan here. But what is bad for some is good for others?

I booked rooms through Travelocity at the Royal West Indies for $130 a night. This is CRAZY. The Royal West Indies has my favorite pool in the world. It is a small amorphously shaped garden pool with a waterfall cascading over a natural local limestone wall. I can hear the water lulling me into tranquility now. It is right outside my second story Botanical Studio with kitchenette room.

We are on Provo for two days trying to complete one museum project and picking up yet another. Everyone thinks Provo is a vacation. But for me it the most stressful part of my job. It is near constant work when I am here. Meetings, meetings, meetings.

I have to go. It is 10:00 already. I want to get to the pool before my lunch meeting at the award winning Mango Reef restaurant and then it if off for 3:00 tea at Beaches resort and spa. Just kidding...or am I?

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Eagle Eye

In the first months I was here my blogs reflected a deep fascination with snorkeling and marine life. In the two years I have been here, snorkeling and seeing marine life has became a normal everyday type of occurrence that sadly no longer requires reflection.

But I will share a story of snorkeling today, just so that I don't forget how remarkable life is here.

Today I got up to late to make dive two with Smitty. Instead, we spent most of the day cleaning the house and getting a room ready for Tyffany who arrives tomorrow. It has been unbelievably hot here this week and today was no exception. Sweltering.

At 4:30 we went down to swim at Chief Minister's beach. I snorkeled way out. And I mean way out. Not to the wall. But I was far off the beach.

Chief Minister's has a sand bottom and is very clear. It gets deep, to about 20 feet very quickly off the beach. I was in about 15-18 feet of water. Twenty minutes into my swim I dove down to check out a square object on the bottom. It turned out to be a concrete block. When I came back up I caught a shadow out of the corner of my eye. I turned to face a six foot spotted Eagle ray about ten feet from me. My heart started pounding so fast. All I could think about was the story Davis told about coming face to face with a ray which caused him to rapidly remove himself from the water in an exhilarated fashion.

I swam along side the ray for a couple seconds. It was moving very slow. But it sensed my presence and turned and swam swiftly into the blue.

I have seen Eagle rays four times here. This was by far the closest, and the most heart pounding. This was just a few seconds of my day, but it turns out to be what the day was about.

Go bucks.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Kenlove and Rueben

Dinah was here seven months running an after school homework program that was part of a grant funded program for hurricane relief. Look what has she left me with!

School started last week. Everyday we have had a troop of kids stop by the museum. Everyday I have to tell them that we do not have an after school homework program.

"Why does Kenlove get to come in?" they said.


I am trying to remember what Bryan and I were called at camp that was meant to be derogatory...the "favorites." I don't ever remember thinking I was a favorite of anyone, except maybe mom. I always just thought I had talents that made me more interesting than the other kids. Does that sound mean?

When I leave here, one of the things that I will take, I will remember, and I will miss are the relationships with my young friends who are drawn to the museum. Kenlove and Rueben have been coming almost everyday this summer. I finally gave Rueben a job and told him that if he was going to be here he might as well be productive. Kenlove is a different story.

When I first came to the museum Kenlove was hanging around. Kenlove has a way of... well lets just say he talks fast and loud and peaks English as a second language with an incredibly strong island accent. People would ask me why I kept letting him come in. I would say, "Why does he want to come in?"

One day, I picked up a notebook he was working in only to discover Kenlove's other world. It was filled with poetry. Well crafted poetry that is very visually constructed. Now, I have a program where Kenlove has to write one poem a day. Next month in the Astrolabe we are publishing an article and a few of his poems.

Before I went to the states a couple weeks ago, Kenlove came to see me. "I need some things for school."

"Just give me a list," I said.

His list was everything you would need to go to school from shoes to pencils. Tuval came to see me and told me to bring him back an Iphone. I have seen both the best and worst of handouts and dogooders here after the hurricane. But in my world there is a difference between a humble request for what you actually need; who's your neighbor.

When I gave Kenlove his supplies Tuval was beside himself. But Kenlove has been writing poems everyday. Stinky kids.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Grand Turk Deneen

I really,really miss Grand Turk Deneen. The Caribbean has a way of bringing out the coolest parts of people. It is like a magnifying glass that makes the coolest part of you bigger.

I can play a Bob Marley song at the 2005 River Days Festival and it is pretty cool. But I can sing the same song at some dive resort (and the duel meaning of dive resort should be read as semantically very cool)on Grand Turk and it is taken to a whole nother [sic] level.

In the same way, Deneen is magnified here in all of her strongest suits (read here, swimming suits). Sitting on the beach, sweating on the couch, lounging in the pool at Margaritaville; Grand Turk Deneen is the image of perfection in my mind. I was telling Jessica our story of coming to Grand Turk a couple days ago, and her comment was, "you must have the coolest wife in the world."

In fact, I think I do.

This summer was perhaps one of the best summers of my life. After the year I have had, it was amazing to have my family here. And I think we lived the best of Grand Turk for nine weeks.

I am beginning to be doubtful whether I will get Grand Turk Deneen back. But in the last couple of days I have begun to envision a London Deneen, or a South Carolina Deneen, and I like what I see in my mind.

I know this is just the ramblings of the lonely planet Neal, but I'm Just say'in.

Sunday, September 6, 2009


I keep waiting for something exciting to write about. Today, I tried to go diving but Smitty must be off island because there was no 11:00 dive boat. Then I came home and practiced using the SeaDoo for an hour. The SeaDoo is a small self-propulsion device for snorkeling. In any other world it would be a very cool, James Bondish instrument of total exhilaration.

I have bought two for the Ft. George archaeological survey and I am trying to get adept on the tool so that I don't come off as some sort of novice maritime archaeology shovel bum graduate student. Today I had a pretty good ride.

But what is today that is so important, you ask?

I almost forgot until a few minutes ago. Today, in fact, is the one year anniversary of of Hurricane Ike, and therefore, is also the end of my second year on Grand Turk. A couple days ago, we were gearing up for Tropical Storm Erika, which looked like it was going to hit us directly on the anniversary of Ike. But, no. This storm broke up and it is in fact a very beautiful day in the Caribbean. I actually got sunburned today. An unfortunate event that has only happened three times since I have been here.

Other than that, it has been a fairly uneventful day. I spent yesterday watching the OSU game. This will be the first season I have watched in two years. When we came to Grand Turk in 2007 we did not get TV until February. And last year we had a big hurricane the first week of September that ruined the season.

Saturday was good. I put on my OSU shirt and ball cap. I called Dave Horn expecting him to be sitting at the game. I made hotwings. And then I stood in the living room yelling at the television.

This probably would have seemed strange to Jessica, but fortunately on Friday night we watched the HBO documentary on the OSU vs Michigan rivalry and I seemed nothing more than some historical cliche of a typical Ohio native, or pseudo-native in my case.

So other than that, typical day. We are sitting on the porch listening to the staccato punctuations of portable keyboards accompanied by multiple versions of Don't Stop Believing from the Fox television show Glee. Both Jessica and I are waxing poetically about our current situations in the Caribbean. She slightly more melodramatic while I probably am more reflective. But I am also preparing for the Wednesday night premier of the newest hit series television show.

Today reminds me very much of two years is really hot today.

In a minute I think I will be off to delivery the platter...

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

This is your mission, should you choose to accept it...

Several years ago I decided that I wanted to travel. But there has got to be a limit.

Yesterday, Deneen and I drove to Pittsburgh, spent the night, and this morning I am back on a plane to the TCI. Traveling back and forth between the US and the TCI is never strait forward. There is always some mission attached.

I have two missions on this return trip. First I have to buy a serving platter, next I have to find Jessica. Then I have to get them both back to Grand Turk safely.

When we bought the serving platter at Pier One on the way to Pittsburgh it did not seem so big. Then it got bigger and would not fit into the suitcase. The it got bigger and had to be put in the overhead compartment on the airplane. Now look at it. It is bigger than Jessica. Oh, by the way, I found Jessica. I thought I would have to look around for a while to see if I could recognize her. We have only met once. But no. I easily found her at the airport in Charlotte.

I should have told her to look for me. I'll be the guy with the ginormous ceramic serving platter.

If I can get this serving platter to Grand Turk I will be amazed. It is a gift, a replacement if you will, for the serving platter lost in Lucas' fight with Alessio. I hope it will be nice enough to gain us an invite back.

Who is Jessica? you ask.

Jessica is an archivist that I met 15 days ago. Like most cultural institutions, the Turks and Caicos National Museum is struggling with professional staffing options. Basically, I don't have a budget to hire the qualified staff that I need to do the mission of the museum.

What I do have is 7 miles of white sand beach and 350 days of sunshine a year.

Jessica is one of the seven archivists that responded to my job posting at the Society of American Archivist annual conference in Austin. The posting read, “Are you interested in an Adventure instead of a Job?” Two of the archivist that I interviewed are going to come volunteer at the museum. Jessica will be here for the next seven weeks cataloging and describing archival collections.

We talked a lot today about what our goals were and how we are going to achieve them. She asked if she was going to have a couple days to review and become comfortable with our operations. I told her if we made a plan to do this some big emergency would come up and ruin our plans, so maybe we would just play it by ear.

Anyway, a big welcome to Jessica, the adventure begins.

The Fight, oh I mean, Flight to Columbus

We have spent four days traveling to Columbus, Ohio. We went from a small room on a cruise ship, to a small room in a very nice hotel, to small seats on an airplane.

All during the cruise Deneen says, “just sit hear and talk to me.”

This has always been very hard for me to do. Whenever I sit I am too busy thinking of everything I am not doing to enjoy it. Evidently Deneen can just sit on deck, and can just sit at the pool, and can just sit at dinner, and can just sit in the room. I don't know why we can't just sit in the casino. I did try my best though.

Did I mention that the hotel room was small? On Friday night, the last night on board the cruise ship, none of the boys packed, they just stayed out until 3:ish. On Saturday morning it was a mad rush to try and get everything crammed back into suitcases. In the hotel in Miami I think they just opened the suitcases and through everything on the floor. When we ordered room service the steward was actually taken aback. He literally took a step back. He had to step over a suitcase, a pile of clothes, and then there was no where to set the service tray down until Lucas cleaned off the top of it.

Well at about 4:30am we got up to catch our plane home. It was a mad rush to try and get everything crammed back into suitcases.

With little sleep we rushed to the airport, rushed through security, and rushed onto the plane. Now, evidently four days of travel can get a little stressful, though this was a pretty good travel experience as travel goes. But sometimes the stress of travel can make people a little cranky.

Just sit here and talk to me? This was about how the conversation went on the plane to Columbus. Not about. I wrote it down. This is exactly how the conversation went.

“You're too big for these seats.”

“What are you talking about?”

...“You are not listening to me.”

“What are you talking about?”

...”What are you looking at?”

“I can't believe this is our conversation I am going to write it down and put it on my blog!” And so I did.