chariots of fire

March 15, 2008

The local elementary school had “Sports Day” today. So while cheering the young athletes on, I snapped a few photos; this one especially seemed to capture the striking intensity of colors there, what with the Caribbean sky, the athletic uniforms, and the multi-hued youngsters.

life as it is

March 14, 2008

In case you are tempted to suspect that life here in “paradise” is too good to be true, I thought perhaps I should take the occasion of this day’s events to illustrate that life is life wherever you happen to be living it. In doing so, my intention is not in the slightest to put a damper on my desire to embrace all that life here on the island has to offer; rather, I would simply like to make note of the fact that we must embrace the negative aspects of life as well as the positive: it is only in living through the muck that we can survive to enjoy the goodnesses.
That said, a bit about my day . . .
It began in a usual manner—if one can have a “usual” after only 9 days of life in a new country. At any rate, my usual so far is, of course, a long run, listening to my current podcast. This morning it was a speaker on a popular Christian radio series.
After running a load of laundry, making a few logistical phone calls about the funeral, choir practice, and youth group meeting, I headed out to walk into town for groceries. En route, a friend passed and asked if I needed a ride. Turns out she was also headed to the grocery store, so I hopped in with her and her young niece. As we drove we talked a bit about some of the food costs and the ways that we are learning to save here and there so as to manage the escalating prices. I was saddened as I listened to her, with the weariness evident on her face as she spoke of how difficult is was to make ends meet. I almost worried about our conversation’s appropriateness for 7-year-old Devonia. But then I remembered that I don’t like the idea of censoring “real life” conversations from children—for the most part, that is ☺ Arriving at the store, we made our respective purchases, chatted with neighbors there, and headed out again. I thanked her for saving my kingfish filets from a hot walk home, and they headed back to Sports Day at school.
Next on my agenda, after lunch, was a walk back into town for a quick stop in at the bank—which was really an excuse to take the route passing the beach, which already has a rather powerful pull on me! As I walked I heard a shouted “Hey!” from the workers on the construction site I was passing. Now here I must interject an aside for those of you not accustomed to much traveling or moving around: as a woman, I have developed a thick skin when relying on walking as my means of transportation; I have learned to walk with a stubborn single-minded gait, and with ears that are quick to feign deafness.
Consequently, I immediately assumed the need to pretend I had not heard, for the sake of conserving the small amount of time I had left in my day before the next appointment. I listened carefully as I walked, however, in case I were to hear a valid reason for turning my head. I did not. What I did hear, after several more shouts of “Hey! You!” was a rather startling call of “Whitey!” It took me a moment to process this call, but once I had, I spent the rest of the walk into town and back wondering exactly how I felt about this name. It occurred to me that I was actually a bit hurt on one level. Thankfully I have a “family” here, in the church I am a part of, and in the children and youth I work with. As a result, I am not as easily wounded as I would have been in some of my international stints. But it was a thought-provoking event all the same, making me ponder the ways in which living abroad makes one face a certain amount of prejudice simply by nature of being an obvious foreigner. What I mean by this is that being different in an external way makes you labeled in a manner that local folks simply are not—you lose a certain amount of individuality by nature of having an externally obvious “mark” of difference, as it were.
Once home, I dressed and composed myself for the funeral. This was my first public event where I would be up front for more than just my own church, as this was going to be a pretty well attended funeral for the community. Our song went well [it better have, after a practice that lasted until 10:00 pm the night before!], and the funeral was a simple, tasteful affair. I had never met the deceased, but his 86 years of life were paid good tribute to by his children, grandchildren, nieces, and nephews. As they always are, the ceremony was a helpful, needed reminder of the necessity of living a mindful life, focused on the long-term and on the truly significant things in a culture that beckons us to be waylaid by all manner of pressing trivialities.
And now my day is done—and I am glad. It is a sweet thing to be back in my peaceful home, alone with my thoughts in a house that is blessedly devoid of any noise save that of the passersby in the street and the roosters next door. It is strange how easy it is to adapt to the quiet of no TV or radio when so recently I was surrounded by that hum in most areas life required me to be at any given moment of the day!
But like I was saying, at the beginning of this post that is turning into quite a wordy one, is that life is the same messy life here in paradise as it is anywhere where life exists. Such is the human experience. And I would not trade it for anything—except perhaps the life that is to come, the life that this present messiness hints at, with tantalizing glimpses and dreamlike moments . . .

a bit of earth

March 13, 2008

This is a peek at the plot of paradise that I have grown accustomed to . . . the bit of earth that I make every effort to pass by once a day, so that my daily errands can intersect with a swim in the sea and a stroll in the sands.


March 12, 2008

As I headed out to pick up my bakery order for this evening’s youth group meeting, I debated for a moment whether or not to bring my camera. Then I decided that the fact I had remembered it at all was a sign that I should do my blogging duty and carry it . . . so here is a shot of one of the critters that roam freely here. I hope you appreciate the fact that I even sucked up my pride to look utterly touristy holding up my camera while walking on the sidewalk. Not only that, but the resident was pulling in to the drive as I did so. When I stopped to let him go in, he kindly pointed at the Iguana and waved at me to finish taking the photo while he idled and watched. Here he is, picture perfect :-)

perfectly paired

March 11, 2008

As requested, I carried my camera with me today while walking to the phone shop to purchase a local phone plan. Sure enough, it came in handy: this pair of striped bathers stopped me in my tracks while I headed to the water for my afternoon dip. And they were kind enough to allow me to snap this shot of them when I asked their permission, so you can all share my heart-warmed moment :-)

whiter than snow

March 11, 2008

It was a scene plucked straight out of stereotypical Southern gospel lore.
White-robed choir members swayed in sync with each other, clapping as the sang.
Parishioners raised their arms in the air, swaying from one bare foot to the other in the sand while they proclaimed their ‘Hallelujah!’s.
The preacher beckoned us all to come be washed clean, baptized of the Spirit. Waves rolled in over him, swirling the layers of his robe till they billowed up to his outstretched arms.
As I approached for my between-services swim in the ocean, I paused next to a cluster of women attired in all their Sunday finery of frocks and hats and frills. Since I had not yet drawn near enough to see the actual goings on in the water [all I could see from there was a large crowd of onlookers], I turned to one of the ladies: Excuse me, Ma’am—is something happening here?
“Why yes, honey—something GOOD is happening here!”
At this point I guessed at the nature of the crowd, so I nodded and said, Ah—a baptism?
“Why yes,” she said, taking stock of my beach tote and probable tourist-like appearance. “Do you believe in baptism?,” she continued.
Pausing for a moment to consider the ramifications of my words, I replied, Yes Ma’am, I do.
“And have you been baptized?” she said, gazing pointedly at me as she emphasized the “you” in her question.
At this point I paused slightly longer, wondering if my Presbyterian-style baptism would be seen as valid in her eyes. But I answered with confidence,
Yes Ma’am, I have!, and bid her goodbye as I continued on to claim a spot on the sand.
Who knows—I may have just passed up my only opportunity to be washed by the blood on Caymanian sands . . .

someday . . .

March 9, 2008

This morning I enjoyed the company of Elder Raymond as we unbolted and took down the storm shutters. When I moved in the house’s interior was darkened, all the windows being protectively shielded from hurricanes—the last resident preferred it that way as it keeps the place relatively cool. I am not so practical, I’m afraid, preferring the sunlight. So the church kindly accommodated my request for their removal.
Sitting in the living room afterwards, admiring the sunny results of our work, I gazed out the side window. As I did, Elder Raymond asked if I had noticed that I had a sentry out there. When I looked in the direction he indicated, I found this fellow firmly grasping the window pane. He seemed to be sullenly holding his ground, as if to make it clear that he was utterly perturbed to have his cubby so rudely opened to the light by our intrusion.
I do hope he chooses to remain here. I also hope he decides to forgive my demolition of his home; perhaps if he does, he will allow me to pucker up and plant a prince-worthy smacker on his horny hide.

There is nothing like an international move to teach one the art of rolling with the waves, in a manner of speaking. I should know this by now. But today I set out ambitiously energetic about my plans, fully expecting to systematically whittle down my to-do list. The island had other plans . . .
First on my list was the licensing department, which I had noted was within walking distance of my place. After prayer meeting last night, I met with the elders and discussed the logistics of my work here. One of which was driving the van, which requires first switching to a Caymanian License and then taking the test to get a “Class 3” added, in order to safely transport a crew of youngsters in the Church van.
So at 8:15am I walked to the door to discover an 11:00am opening time. Back home. Returning promptly at 11:00, I found a new note pasted on the door. “Due to power outage, management has required doors to be locked until power returns. We apologize for the inconvenience.” Back home—where I found I too was enjoying said outage—so much for online work I had as a back-up plan.
Instead I set out in the opposite direction for the bank. Having already contacted my home bank, gone online for the checklist of materials, and talked to my local branch here, I thought I was prepared with all the letters of reference, work permit, proof of address, etc. “I thought” . . .
Once at the bank, I discovered that the letter I had acquired from the elders last night, affirming my residence here, listed my mailing address not the physical address—so it was useless to me, not fulfilling the bank’s requirements after all. So much for that errand.
Back home. Well, not quite. Here is where my sheepish confession comes in:
How can I possibly be concerned about waylaid plans when the walk home from the bank just happens to go past the beach—and when I just happened to go with a beach tote in hand, just in case it were to come in handy. Even at the time, I did realize the irony of the fact that I was filling out banking paperwork while laying on the sand drying out from my swim.
Before you tease me too mercilessly, however, I should add that once I did make it home, I returned to the licensing department. By this time, power being back on, the office was open. So I am now the proud owner of a snazzy Caymanian driver’s license ☺

caribbean blue . . .

March 5, 2008

. . . is the color of my true new room . . .
Ok, so it’s a bit of a stretch as a reference. But, all the same, it has been the phrase running through my mind today. Mainly this is due to the fact that I am intrigued at my current love of bright, caribbean-style decor. For someone prone to spare decor in shades of calm neutrals, this is an interesting personal shift that has come about during my recent move.
And so it is that after a day and a half of fluttering about in a home-making flurry of shifting furniture, changing bed linens, and swapping curtains, I have ended up with a brilliantly “Caribbean blue” bedroom. Along the same lines, the bathroom is largely coral-hued, the extra bedroom sea-green and, well, you get the picture.
What this signifies to my analytically contemplative musings is that this place is exactly where I should be at this point in the meandering path that my life has been. As such, I am ready to morph into Caymanian life, gladly accepting the differences as they come. Such is my hope, at least–my prayer. May I embrace this new culture, love the youth entrusted to me, and live in all God-graced fullness.