Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Re-entry Wrap Up

We've been back on-island for three weeks now. And we've been visiting friends, taking care of business, and just generally trying to get back in pace and up to speed on life as we thought we'd left it. There are real contrasts and trade offs involved in living here and spending a lot of time in the mountains reset our frames of reference a bit. But after a few nights the constant breezes, ever moving ocean and starry nights start to feel familiar again. The sound of waves on the rocks during calm weather has become like a familiar lullaby of white noise. We're appreciating the tropical sunrises once again.

Up to speed is probably the wrong phrase to use here, now that I think about it. In addition to being another of those threadbare clich├ęs that I should try harder to avoid. It's not as though any paces go faster when they get here. It might be more accurate to say that we're still trying to match up re-entry speeds with the lives we left somewhere on a mooring in a parallel universe.

I like watching sunrises like this, when the light climbs up behind low cloud banks. Anyone who was watching might think it silly of a grown man to be standing there watching the horizon like a kid trying to guess where the sun is going to pop through like a cosmic Jack-In-The-Box. I try to pick the exact spot, and it's tougher if you don't keep up with the changes. Hey, I still build sand castles, too, when no adults are around.

While I was off topping up my coffee I committed the sunrise observing sin of stopping just to check my email. These sunrise things happen fast here. So do sunsets. We're down near the part of the ball that travels the fastest while we spin through space. So of course I missed the best part of this one. By the time I walked back outside it had completely changed. And that was okay, too. I realized that I liked being back, and standing out in the quiet dawn barefooted and shirtless and watching the day approach us. I even took another photo. Things got way too bright to look at just a few seconds after this one.


We spent most of the first week we were back repairing and sorting things that needed sorting and repairing after nine weeks of negligence and inattention. It was enough that we had to make a written list, if that gives you an idea. I've already mentioned several of these in the previous blog post. There were a number of issues with electricity, appliances, and hardware at the house. Our lesson from this, once again, is that things designed to move really do need to keep moving here. That keeps the moving surfaces like bearings shiny and lubricated. If they stop, they immediately start to corrode, and if it goes on long enough, getting them started again can get complicated. Remember that old parable For the Want of a Nail? It's apparently been around since the 14th century but the short version I found on Wikipedia is;
For want of a nail the shoe was lost;
For want of a shoe the horse was lost;
For want of a horse the battle was lost;
For the failure of battle the kingdom was lost
All for the want of a horse-shoe nail.
-Unknown

I'm willing to bet that the troublesome little nail that started it all was made of iron. As is the main motor shaft of a ceiling fan, for example. I wonder if Unknown lived on a tropical island because I can imagine what would happen to an iron horse shoe nail here. Tropical horses must go barefoot a lot. I know we do. I'll tell you about what happens with leather, latex, and elastic things here some day. Realizing that some of us may be more interested in those things than others.

We've slowly been making the rounds since we got back, checking up on friends to make sure everyone is still in place after another storm season. And we found some changes. We learned that a significant number of people here have been infected with the Chikungunya virus while we were away. It's really spread throughout the population. It's a mosquito borne virus, and so there are certainly precautions that can be taken. But people here are not typically worried much about mosquitos. They tend not to be a problem here for most of the time. These islands are just too arid and windy for the most part. But we've just gone through storm season, with several storms like Cristobal dropping torrents of rain.
This is visibility lowered to several hundred meters while Tropical Storm Cristobal dropped ten inches of rain.
Preacher is a wealth of information about the "bush medicine" here. He's handed us some strange looking berries, stalks, and fruits to try over the years, and we've eaten every one no matter what our initial impression was. And they've all been good. So far. Preacher told us that everyone in his part of town had come down with the Chikungunya virus, including him. He also told me that when we get it (note, he didn't say "if" we get it) we should drink tea made from the neem tree. He says that he drank this tea for three days, and his Chikungunya symptoms were gone. He also told me that many of his friends and neighbors who went to the clinic for approved medicine were still suffering effects weeks later. Preacher is in his mid 60's. He's been living here using bush medicine for all of his life, so yeah, we decided we just might go take a look at one of these neem trees. I had never heard of a neem tree in my life. Neither had La Gringa, but we looked it up. And by golly, it's looking to me like the old dude might know what he's talking about. Again.
Preacher told us that these trees are all over the place. Not hard to find at all if you know what to look for. He pointed one out to us, and we pulled a couple hand fulls of leaves off of a neem tree.
You can see why this area might have a chikungunya exposure issue. The water there in the background is essentially a fresh water pond when it's high like this. A big influx of rain water dilutes the normally brackish water and activates all the larvae and bugs that cycle with these seasons. With all of the rain this island has received recently, the mosquito population is quite healthy. And that's the problem.
And those things standing in the water back behind the momentarily sidelined panga are not big pink mosquitos, despite my dire description of infested waterways. Nope. Just a flock of wild flamingos. I know they normally eat shrimp, and obviously they find something they like here. I wonder if we could teach them to eat mosquitos.


One of the things that kept us tied up for a while upon our return was renewing our automobile permits. The way the system here works, driver's licenses and automobile registrations expire on one's birthday. Renewing them is not always a simple and straightforward process, although I once heard a story about a guy who walked in one day, and walked out an hour later with his registration renewed. I think that's an urban myth. I've made seven trips in pursuit of a renewed driver's license so far this year, for example. And I don't have it yet. We also do not have the registration decal yet, after another two trips for that. So we've again spent a large part of several days driving back and forth into town, a total of nine round trips so far, to deal with renewing a drivers license and auto registration. This is turning into what I will always remember as November's Latest Mandatory Surprise Happy Birthday Registration and Torture Regulations. And it pretty much happens this way every year.
Well, after about a week of that we thought we'd treat ourselves to a nice conch lunch on our birthday. We hadn't been to da Conch Shack in a long time, and we missed it. So despite the effects of a rainy weekday, we drove over for a couple of plates of our favorite fried food. The water had a strange, tranquil quality to it compared to the usual gnarly reef view from the Conch Shack porch.
It's still a bit early in the season for them to be crowded on rainy weekdays. This will change over the next few weeks but for now we really enjoyed the quiet, unhurried pace. The guys who clean up and sell the conch shell souvenirs have their wares arranged in colorful rows, awaiting a customer. I thought it a bit interesting that they were covering up their display with plastic to protect it from the rain. I think that, personally, I'd be a bit wary of any seashell that couldn't handle a little water. But I'm old school curmudgeon. RetroGrouch. Don't pay any attention to me.
How's this for having the place to ourselves? The man standing in the rain down the beach runs the other conch shell business. I don't know if they're competitors or both working for the same who owns both conch shell staands. I know the gguy reading the paper inside the dry restaurant would seem to have the better location.
I want to go ahead and get this little bit posted to prove we're still kicking. We actually have quite a bit more to talk about but I've been having a devil of a time getting this put together. I've had a Lenovo high end laptop fail, an Asus mid level laptop fail, and an iPad blogging app suddenly stop working. La Gringa loaned me her computer to get this post together. So I'm going to spare you the long winded DIY stuff about all the little things we've been working on. And the way things are going we'll have fresh things to talk about shortly. We did launch the boat already. We got delayed a bit. After looking at the paint job condition, we decided to have the bottom cleaned and painted. Here's how she looked sitting in the yard when we got back to the island.

I'll talk more about that later. And we'll try to find out the story about this propeller, too. I suspect it's a doozy. I bet this this five bladed former beauty costs at least a hundred bucks.
We'll get the details and post as much of the story as we can tell you in print. Wow. That's enough zinc to do our whole boat.
And we're happy to see the sun setting in the ocean again. We'll find some spots for photos that don't include Providenciales, or the neighbors house for a change.