Wat a dem de, mon?


Captain Kirk tackles tribbles

All over the city of Kingston, funny furry things have attached themselves to wires, street lights and fixtures. We call them tribbles, from the only old Star Trek episode that I know was meant to be intentionally funny. Remember, that one?

Suspicious, though, that this may not be 100% accurate….I did a little online research. It turns out that aren’t fluffy aliens at all, but Tillandsia recurvata, commonly known as Ball Moss, which derives mainly physical support and not nutrition from its host (such as a telephone wire), and photosynthesizes its own food and absorb water that collects on its leaves. They typically rang in size from a golf ball to a soccer ball. Most seedlings germinate on tiny branches and less often on vertical bark of tree hosts, which has been suggested to indicate that local spread of Ball Moss is mainly by seeds sprouting from bird droppings on stems of shrubs and trees. So its kind of like one of those air plants that used to be so fashionable. I sort of prefer the tribble explanation though.


Tribbles on Kingston’s wires

First Impressions of Kingston


I was definitely surprised how green the city appeared when we first arrived. We are limited to the Northern suburbs (away from the violence of the downtown areas) with green hills across the skyline. No smog. No concrete jungle.

First impressions can be hard to report so long after the fact. Devoid of context, they are just supposed to be gut reactions to what you first see around you. A couple of months have gone by, so now I have filters…but maybe a few of my first photos will help bring it all back. Continue reading

Home in Jamaica

refugees-pic-editedMy blog tends to get followed by those interested in travel, or lumped together with travel writers, but what I think differentiates it from traveler blogs it is that its about living in and discovering new places and making them home, which is a lot different that being a tourist or a traveler.  We have lived in so many places over the years, and been through the transit of settling.  Its tiring in the best of times, which this hasn’t been, and this time around I’m just exhausted by it all.   We’re lived out of suitcases for months, been through the process of unpacking and finding homes for the contents of 176 boxes, hung the art on the walls, and tried to fix the terrible lighting in this house in the name of making life feel our kind of normal. I know the process, the pitfalls and what helps make us slowly fit in and really call somewhere home.  For any number of reasons, 2.5 months into our “Jamaican homewarming”  I am still struggling to feel the spark.  This is mostly not the fault of Jamaica (or Jamaicans) but a cocktail of difficulties that has made our time here to date less than ideal.  I’ve struggled to do things like maintain this blog, or spend time doing things I used to enjoy, and I am in a funk.  Friends and family have asked me if everything is alright and encouragingly ask me about life here, but my blog approaches its third month of silence, its time to make a decision on the way forward.  There are interesting things and stories here, and there is so much that is better.  We have clean air, views of the mountains and somewhere to go walking after work.  The streets have traffic, but not the lunacy and filth of Kathmandu streets.  Our area of Kingston is so much more attractive than our earlier homes, but I miss the enthusiasm I had for discovering Manila and Kathmandu.  Perhaps it is time to see if the passion can rise from the storytelling process and not just the other way around?  Will the discipline of writing again help ignite some kind of spark for life in this country?  I’ll give it a try.  Words of encouragement are very welcome.

Five Days/Five Greek Photos Day 4: Ouch!


So, some might say its a Greek initiation. (However, I have– unbelievably– been able to avoid it over the last 30 years.) The sea urchin injury claims almost everyone at some point or another…and it hurts! The spines are very brittle and break off easily into the careless swimmer’s foot. And unlike, say, a thorn or a splinter of wood, the spines have no structural integrity, and cannot hold together through the extraction process. They break off or flake away in pieces, leaving the tip of the spine hopelessly buried in the skin. As you walk, the spines press down painfully and there’s nothing you can do except wait for the body to push them out.

Fluid builds up around the remains of the each spine, pushing the black implants back up to the skin’s surface. Ten days later, you have your foot back. Tread carefully if you don’t want the majority of your vacation compromised!

Five Days/Five Greek Photos Day 3: Once in a Blue Moon

S0227081My favourite routine each evening was to have dinner on the front patio looking out to sea, watching the sun’s orange glow slowly  dip and disappear.   For a short while, as the sun descended, the horizon displayed fantastic shades of purple,  which sadly faded as the light gave way.   The orange moon ascended and turned white.  This year the municipality turned off half the island’s street lights to save money, so the moonlight  featured even more above our darkened view of the town below.  Every night the lunar show was repeated but every night it was a little different.

As the days passed and our evening moon became fuller and fuller, media chat started about the forthcoming blue moon, which was just an expression to us before.  We learnt,  like the rest of the planet,  that its the rare second full moon in one month, and we decided to spend it on the beach.

I loved how brightly the blue moon burned and lit up the rocks on the beach.  We barely needed the lamp.

Five Days/Five Greek Photos Day 2: Harrods


Fifteen years ago when we lived year round in Greece, if you needed thread, pillows, tableware, fabric…just about anything really…you went to Harrods to see if they had it in stock.  If it was on the island at all, Harrods was often your best bet.   The British community had affectionately dubbed it after the famous Knightsbridge store in part because it was the was the general largest store on the island and had seemingly be around for ever.  And in part, I think, because it highlighted just how limited our shopping options were at that time.

Inside the store was a fascinating mix of old style retail design with funky old Greek products and modern items from all over the world.  The main sales counter also doubled as the haberdashery section with bolts of cloth on spools lining the wall behind the cashier.  The main floor was covered in motley displays of everything: men’s, women’s and children’s clothing, lingerie, bathing suits, pressure cookers and reels of floral plastic sheeting that Greeks love to use to cover dining tables.   Above,  a traditional narrow mezzanine floor stored boxes and dusty old promotional posters for 1970s L’Oreal products and Sloggi underwear.  It was a time warp, and there was nothing else like it.

Twenty years before I remember several similar department stores in Athens.  Some still had wire or cash carrier tubes to carry  cash and receipts and the same old-fashioned mezzanine floors.  They are all gone now as far as I now, but Harrods lived on, at least until about five years ago when I returned one summer to find it closed.  One summer soon I expect to return again to find it gutted, characterless and selling $400 designer jeans.  Its the way the world turns I suppose, but I would love to get another peek inside at its faded glory and its glimpse of another time.


Five Days/Five Greek Photos Day 1: Oh the Veg!

We spent a very fast month at home in Greece. When we arrived it seemed far longer than just a year since we were last there. The events during our last three months in Nepal left us desperate for some peace, quiet and calm, which Spetses has in abundance and we desperately sucked in.

Unusually this year, I never went out to hike and explore, which is one of my favourite things to do. It wasn’t an effect of the earthquake but a small, persistent injury that kept me from the hiking trails. So this year, I just focused on the simple pleasures of the low-hanging fruit – both literally and figuratively.

Oh the Greek fruit and vegetables! How I love thee!  And how I loved shopping in the local twice weekly market, seeing fresh, abundant produce piled high on the tables.  They glistened in the early morning sun and screamed “buy me”… even calling out suggestions for dishes I could make.  That’s how good they are!

Road Blogger (I am not)

Hello from New York. Sometimes it hard to believe that such different cities (from the one I just called home) exist on the same planet. I went from a world that barely knew what a cookie was to NYC where they are available served warm and gooey for insomniacs until 3am. After five weeks of traveling, the difference is mind-bending for me, but something that you have to have experienced to necessarily appreciate…and maybe not really blogging material, at least at the level that I want to examine it.  What was once normal can rapidly become normal once again, but I’m still enjoying crosswalks, sidewalks,traffic rules, fresh air and no horns.  (No horn honking especially is still a pleasure!)  Blogging in the midst of all this rediscovery has not been a focus or realistically possible given all the competition from travel, seeing friends and family, and just the packing and unpacking of our voluminous stuff.  Last time my blog needed a little kickstart I reignited it with several short posts with the five days, five stories challenge, so I though I’d do that again starting tomorrow.  This time with a Greek focus…stay tuned!

WPC: Inspiration


This week the Weekly Photo Challenge asked us our definition of Inspiration.

This is one of my favourite photos from my time in Nepal. I took a blind Nepali exchange student (who had recently returned from study in the US) to a Kathmandu school to talk about her experience in America. She was an inspiring speaker who talked about the challenging of tackling a culture very different to her own, not only as someone who had never been out of Nepal, but also as a blind person. The audience loved her, especially the girl in the photo, who stayed at the end to ask so many questions. For me, it was the very definition of inspiration.