Baby Beach Day

Being able to have an awesome beach day is one of the best parts of living here in the BVI, but, as I’ve recently realized, heading to your favorite beach for the day becomes a lot more complicated when you have to cart a little one with you. Over the last several months, I’ve been conducting serious field research on how best to enjoy a beach day with a little one. Here are my preliminary findings on the best way to include a baby in your beach day.

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Our baby containment unit is an inflatable pool.

  1. Contain The Baby. Maybe you have a mobile play yard or one of those zip-up cribs with the handles. There can be a lot to carry to the beach already, but trust me, bring that baby containment unit. My little one likes sitting in his inflatable pool, which we set up for him without any water inside. He likes to lean out of it to play with the sand, but I’m able to relax and enjoy myself somewhat knowing that he can’t crawl off into the bush or pick up any stray beach litter.
  2. Help Baby Entertain Him or Herself. For us grownups, it’s often enough to sit and stare at the water, but babies will insist on being wiggly, grabby little creatures, so now we bring toys (and things like plastic food containers that my son thinks are toys) which are great to keep him occupied so that the grownups can do stuff that requires two hands, like eating.
  3. Give The Sea A Few Tries. Our little guy loves bathing at home, so we figured some splish-splash fun in the ocean would be a cinch. Not so. As soon as a very mild wave touched his little toes, he cried. Hard. But after giving him a few minutes to get accustomed to the water (and making sure he felt comfortable snuggled up to his daddy), he got to really liking it.
  4. Put Things Away As You Go. It’s a bit of a hassle to keep track of all your various belongings on the beach, but when the little one has had enough and it’s time to go right-this-minute, you’ll be glad you didn’t leave everything you brought with you scattered in a 20-foot wide circle around you. If you can get a sweet spot on the sand right next to your vehicle, so much the better.
  5. Embrace Sand. It doesn’t matter how many rinses, how many brush-offs, how often you redirect a baby, a beach trip pretty much always means the kid is going to come away as the sandiest, messiest version of themself. So what if they eat a little sand? A day at the beach means the kid is also happy and exhausted, so as a mom, it’s a big win.

This column first appeared in the June 7 edition of the Limin Times.

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Bookworming it, part 2

I have always been a reader. Not the type of reader who enjoys the occasional sit with tea and the cat for an hour, mind you. No, I’m the type who, at 10 weeks into 2017, has read about 20 books. In my college days, I had shelves and shelves of books of my own, in addition to memberships at multiple libraries to feed my need to read. But with few bookshops, a tiny local library, and an even tinier apartment, I’ve had to adjust since coming to the BVI.

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My latest book purchase came with a matching bookmark.

The main thing was to be ruthless about my bookshelf. Parting with some of my beloved favorites was only made tolerable by the way I got rid of them: they went to friends, coworkers, or to the Red Cross thrift shop. Knowing that my novels and nonfiction would be enjoyed by some other reader made it okay that I was parting with them. Today, my bookshelf – just one! – is home to maybe two dozen tomes. Some are sentimental favorites I know I will want to re-read, while others are useful reference books. Fellow die-hard readers have probably already guessed that I also have a couple that have been on the shelf for years that I swear I will get around to reading one of these days.

You might wonder how I squeeze such a high volume of reading into my schedule. Technology helps a lot. Thanks to the internet, I have access to digital versions of almost anything I could want to read, from bestsellers to niche genre books and graphic novels to classic poetry. They get loaded onto my tablet and, since they’re digital files, I don’t feel wasteful when deleting them after I’m done.

I think the main way I get so much read, however, is that I do it daily: It’s how I unwind at the end of the day. Since I’m naturally an auditory person, a lot of what I read might be more accurately described as listened to. If you see me walking around town with my headphones in, the chances are good that it’s an audiobook, not music, that I’m listening to as I go.

If you’re so inclined, I can’t recommend audiobooks enough. Being able to read while doing mundane tasks like laundry, cleaning the house, or sitting in traffic not only makes the task pass more pleasantly, it also gives me the sense that I’m a multi-tasking superhero. And of course, it’s nice not to have to drown in paperbacks to maintain my two-books-a-week habit.

This column first appeared in the March 30 Limin Times.

 

St. Ursula, the BVI’s patron saint

Oct. 21 is a holiday here in the BVI. I did some research on why for the Limin’ Times this week. Here’s what I found (from the Oct. 20th Island Life column):

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Who was this Ursula person, anyway?

Most readers will know that this Friday the 21st of October is a public holiday here in the beautiful BVI, but I suspect that not as many know why.

The short answer is that we’re celebrating the feast day of St. Ursula, the patron saint of the Virgin Islands. The longer answer goes way back in history, all the way back to the 4th century, when a basilica was built to honor the memory of a group of girls martyred at Cologne. Who were these girls? Why and how were they killed? I bet it’s a fascinating story, but the truth has been lost to history.

In the absence of facts, several legends have cropped up to fill the vacuum that is their story, including one about a Christian princess from Britain named Ursula who, while traveling with 11,000 maids and ladies-in-waiting, was ambushed and slaughtered by pagan Huns. The legend eventually led to Ursula being named a saint associated with England, the city of Cologne, teachers, education and holy death.

There is even an order of nuns named after her. The Ursulines, founded in the 1500s, are devoted to the education of young girls. Now you might ask how this particular martyr came to be connected with the VI. Blame Christopher Columbus, who evidently thought this cluster of islands was like the legendary saint and all her attendants, calling them Santa Úrsula y las Once Mil Vírgenes or las Virgenes, for short.

If you want a visual of St. Ursula (other than the circa 1440 Stefan Lochner painting pictured above), all you have to do is check out a BVI flag. The woman on the green field is St. Ursula carrying a lantern, and around her are 11 more lanterns to represent her 11,000 co-martyrs.

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While those of us who are glad to have the opportunity to squeeze another beach day into our calendar can be glad that St. Ursula’s Day looks like it won’t be leaving the BVI calendar of public holidays any time soon, it’s interesting to note that we are probably the only place in the world that celebrates this saint with a day off. The Catholic Church removed her from its official calendar of saints in 1969 owing to a lack of historical evidence for the legendary martyr.

 

IMHO: The Best BVI Beaches

Okay, maybe best is a strong word. It might be more accurate to say that after nearly six years, these are the beaches I can go back to again and again, weekend after weekend, and still love.

  1. Smuggler’s Cove
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An afternoon in Smuggler’s Cove

Like all Tortola’s best sandy beaches, Smuggler’s Cove is on the northern shore, but unlike a lot of the others, the area is naturally very sheltered so the water is almost always calm. You can’t quite see it in this picture, but on this particular trip there were several really small kids enjoying the water — this is the kind of place you can usually take even your not-so-experienced swimmers. There’s also a reef for nice snorkeling if you’re into that and with so little wave action, the water is usually crystal clear.

Getting to Smuggler’s is probably the most difficult drive on this list, with a decent trek down a rutted dirt road that I’ve heard some in the neighborhood don’t want paved for fear it’d bring too many people to this extra-gorgeous beach. With plenty of sea grape trees and two separate parking areas, I find that even on a busy Sunday afternoon I still wind up feeling like I have the place to myself.

If you go: Watch out for the occasional undertow, and don’t forget your bug spray; the hordes of sand flies and mosquitoes make their appearance at about 5 o’clock every day.

2. Long Bay, Beef Island

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Sunset at Long Bay, Beef Island

With easy road access, plenty of parking and seemingly miles of smooth sand, this beach is a favorite for group gatherings of all kinds, from family barbecues to the annual Fisherman’s Day Jamboree. The length of the bay makes it popular with runners and swimmers seeking a good workout.

From Tortola, you get to Beef Island by driving on the Queen Elizabeth II Bridge. Close to deep water, this beach is a nesting site for sea turtles — once we discovered a handful of recent hatchlings climbing around on this beach — they were so cute!

If you go: This beach is right next to the Beef Island airport, so be prepared to hear the occasional takeoff and/or landing.

3. The Baths National Park

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The swimming area at The Baths National Park

If you can only see one place in the BVI, get yourself to Virgin Gorda and go to The Baths. Not only is the beach beautiful, the boulders all around the place that you can climb through are positively magical. It’s really hard for me to do it justice, but seriously, it’s a must-see.

Summer is when the water is calmer and the crowds are almost nonexistent, but if you have to go in the height of winter travel or on a day when you know there is a cruise ship in port, go late in the afternoon and you should miss the crowd.

If you go: Make sure you coordinate your ferry and taxi returns so you don’t wind up stranded in paradise.

4. Cane Garden Bay

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Jumping off the dinghy dock in Cane Garden Bay

Popular with sailors as an anchorage, entertainment is the perk at Cane Garden Bay, which is dotted with a variety of beach bars, restaurants and water sports rental spots. If you want to be served tropical beverages while relaxing in a rented lounge chair, this is the place to be. It’s also got a nice public restroom and easy parking.

All the amenities are also why it’s the most popular beach with cruise shippers, so on some days it can get quite crowded.

If you go: Check the cruise ship schedule so you’ll know whether to expect a big crowd.

5. Savannah Bay, Virgin Gorda

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Christmas day a few years ago in Savannah Bay

Beautiful sand, calm water, and cute little bohios (thatched shelters made of wood and palm leaves) make this a postcard perfect beach. There’s also a reef for snorkeling and it’s just a stone’s throw from Spanish Town, making it an easy picnic spot even if you have to get back to the ferry the same day.

If you go: Post up under a bohio for some shade! The sun is so intense some days that many around here like to say that Virgin Gorda has its very own sun.

BVI friends, how is my list? Did I leave out your favorite beach? Let me know in the comments!

 

I’m still here

So it’s been a minute, but I am still here in paradise. Tons of big changes since TWO YEARS ago when I last posted, like a brand new job at Island Publishing Services. The gig includes doing a bunch of fun things, including writing for the Limin’ Times.

Here’s one of the first things I wrote when I started. It appeared in the weekly Island Life column in the July 28th edition.

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Ready for de road

Join the Festival Fun

(or how to have the best possible August Monday in the British Virgin Islands)

You might think that the best way to enjoy August Monday is to find a shady spot to sit while watching the parade, but that’s not true. The real secret is to find a spot in a parade troupe. This year will be my third time in the August Monday Parade (and my second with the Tortola Dance Project — hey ladies!), which tells you that the experience is worth repeating. Here are my top six reasons why:

  1. The view: Being “on de road” offers the best people watching. You get to see the other parade participants while you wait around for things to get moving, and then you get to see everybody who’s watching along the route once the parade gets under way.
  2. Camaraderie: The best way to join the parade is with a lively friend, but even if you don’t know the folks in your troupe, you’re sure to bond quickly and make a few in short order. I’m still friendly with some of the people I met in my first parade back in 2011.
  3. Photos: My fellow social media junkies will have already noticed this one. After festival time the fabulous new profile pictures pop up and Facebook fills up with photo albums from the parade. Since all the territory’s best photographers work the event, you’re bound to wind up with several flattering shots of you and your friends.
  4. Vibes: Over the years I’ve noticed that whether the troupe is filled with disciplined performers, casual “freestylers,” or the members of a community service organization, band or sports group, the folks that care enough to form a troupe and show up on parade day are a positive bunch. Even if a day on my feet in the sun wears me out a bit, the positive vibes leave me feeling uplifted for days afterward.
  5. Music: Every year artists from around the region put out new music especially for the various Caribbean fetes. On parade day, between the DJs and the bands that play in the parade, you get to hear mixes, covers and originals curated by music industry professionals. If you love to dance like I do, it’s a great education on the season’s best tunes.
  6. Wardrobe: Being in a troupe is the perfect excuse to get out your beads, bedazzle your jeans, customize your t-shirt, and generally bling up. It’s probably too late at this point to get a feathered headdress for this year’s festivities, but hey, there’s always next year!

Just for fun – TMNT 1: Turtle Tracks

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Naturally, episode one is the origin episode. In case we don’t remember, it’s martial arts outcast meets mutagenic goo and rats and pet turtles in the sewers of “the big city” makes Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

April O’Neil, lady journo, isn’t really impressing me in this episode, running straight into a brick wall and fainting away twice in about the first five minutes. Her boss later reveals she’s maybe the third-best reporter at his station. She starts to redeem herself when she ditches the pizza-loving turtles to to go chase her story, but even that turns out to be just a way for her to be the damsel in distress. First she has to get rescued from a sketchy roof, then from a flooding building.

The show has some moments that make me feel like it was written for adults as well as kids, like the knowing comments to the camera, or the Casablanca reference, “here’s looking at you, kid,” or the gag about the check at Ninja Pizza.

It also has some moments that have me mentally preparing for some serious Japanese stereotypes, like a rope with a “made in Japan” being a clue that a crime was committed by ninjas.

I’m loving how sci-fi the show feels. We’ve got mutagenic goo, high-tech ninja weapons, robot ninja goons and big ol’ spy screens in Shredder’s lair. I’m also loving that various characters used the word “punk” to describe — I don’t even know exactly — inept ninjas? Trouble-making teens? Something like that.

Finally, how has no better cartoon theme song been composed since 1987?

Favorite quote of this episode:

Criminal to April : We got a message for you from the big boss man. He wants you should stick to reporting fashion shows.*

*It could have been ripped right from Said To Lady Journos!

Don’t forget I have a youtube playlist if you want to watch along.

Can you catch me?

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One of the best things about doing community news has to be the kids. It seems like I might be starting to look like I belong around here because at yesterday’s Commonwealth Day do in Cane Garden Bay, tiny kids were coming up to me like they knew me!

“Can you catch me?” one asked from the top of a playground slide.

I’m all about playground safety, obviously, so I said sure.

When the kid came off the slide, he told me he needed three dollars and pointed to the food tents on the other side of the schoolyard. He didn’t seem too surprised when I told him I didn’t have it.

A little while later another kid, this one even smaller, came up to me mumbling and waving a baggie of grapes.

“No thanks,” I told him, figuring he must be offering me some. Little kids love to share and all.

“But…” the kid said and gestured to the knot on the top of the baggie.

He needed adult help to get to his grapes.

After I untied it and handed him the baggie back, he even said “thanks.”