Tag

Expat

Browsing

A British girl moves to Barbados

In 2009, I took the bold step to move to Barbados after dreaming about it for years, and driving my friend’s crazy with my procrastination and excuses for not going.

You may ask what made me decide upon such a bold step; after all a holiday is one thing, but to live! My decision was made due to the cold. I wish it was something more romantic, but that’s for another time. Truth be told, I didn’t want to experience feeling SAD (season affective disorder) each winter and coming home from work when it was dark and damp. It made me depressed and it was getting worse. So, procrastination over, I made a plan, as it wasn’t a case (pardon the pun) of packing a suitcase, saying bye to my job and buying a one-way ticket to paradise. I’m adventurous, but a plan gives direction.

So, what did I do?

First, I built my savings as the cost of living in Barbados isn’t cheap and I had no idea of how soon I would secure work. I also told my family living in Barbados what I’d decided. Their reaction wasn’t what I’d hope. “Gail are you crazy? Barbados is a small island for a city girl like you. Wait a few more years (like when you’re about to retire) and then come.” However, no amount of dissuasion could deter me. Once they realized I was serious, my grandparents said I could stay with them, which meant I’d be able to save on rent until I got myself established with work.

With savings accumulated, I 

took flight. Upon arrival in Barbados, the first thing to hit me was the heat, had it always been this hot? I mean it was hotter than a volcano. In the past I’d always come as a tourist and loved the heat as a welcome change from the dreaded cold. Now I had to acclimatize.

I was fortunate to secure temporary work at a secondary school as secretary to the principal, and as my mother is Barbadian born, I was able to gain my citizenship through being a descendent, (thanks mom).

Eventually, I got used to the way of life with its slower pace, and less stress. Plus, the beaches were of course a bonus. I thought making friends would be hard, but it was actually quite easy. This was in part due to my philosophy of “when in Rome, do as the Romans.” I adapted and made myself fit in with the culture.

Today, the UK is just eight hours away and I fly back when I can. I’ve met some great Brits and we reminisce over a rum and coke (Barbados is famous for its rum), about how we miss fish & chips and pie and mash.

Barbados is truly the “Gem of the Caribbean” and I haven’t regretted my decision to live here.

My advice to anyone contemplating living abroad even for a short time is:

  • Plan and save.
  • Before the big move, visit the place and imagine it as home.
  • Allow time for a period of adjustment.
  • Don’t be a tourist. Immerse yourself in the culture.
  • Do it. Life is too short to live with regrets.

Barbados Journal Nov 2018

I now have a rooster. Our gardener brought him to us to protect our hens. But he doesn’t give the normal cock-a-doodle-doo when the sun rises, instead he crows at 3am and it sounds more like err-accck-er- errr.  Although scrawny, he is a proud and ambitious rooster. He is scared of just about everything in the yard, but chases the young hens incessantly and pecks at them if they get too close to his food. I’ve tried to tell him to be gentle with them, but he is consumed with the arrogance and vigour of his youth.

The hens are maturing nicely, no longer cute little chicks they are growing feathers and their own personalities. There is a natural leader I’ve named Delilah, she is always first out of the hen-house in the morning. For fun she chases the mourning doves around the yard, and when the rooster (I’ve named Doug) gets too aggressive with the other hens, she will come to their rescue and get a few good pecks in at him.  The others hens tolerate Delilah because they need a leader, but her exuberance for life upsets their conventionalism.

I bought my first car with a right-hand side steering wheel.  It’s a pea-green Kia Soul and there are only a handful on the island. We discovered that one belongs to the math teacher at our kids school .   We call him Captain Holt because he reminds us of the character on the t.v. show Brooklyn99. He likes things just so and always parks his car perfectly between the lines on the tarmac. For some reason my husband and I have had the same desire to park our car directly beside his whenever we come into the school parking lot. They look so cute together and I’m trying to think of ways to amp it up a bit. Thinking of getting them matching outfits, maybe a bow for one and tie for the other. I’m a bit worried I’ll run out of ideas, but the kids are a great help. 

Barbados is filled with so many stories and so much beauty. When you turn a corner you never know what you might find. To date we’ve come across: a huge pit in the middle of the road that was later filled with a mound of rocks; a goat; a breathtaking view of the Atlantic ocean, a drunken man wielding a machete getting slapped in the head by an old man who took away the large knife and sent him on his way, oh and some adorable puppies.  In the parking lot of the grocery store I stood in awe while watching  the magnificent frigate birds soar and diving into the ocean. 

 

The beauty of the morning sun on a field glistening with dew can take your breath away. And the sunsets that stretch over the sky, painting it shades of red and orange that move over the clouds has become our evening television.

I didn’t realize how much I needed to get away from Toronto politics. The pecking order there reminds me of the hens in my yard – those who challenge the status quo are natural leaders in turbulent times, and they withdraw when times are calm. But there are always predators who circle in the shadows feeding off the droppings. Going 2000 miles away has put things into perspective, from a distance Toronto is much smaller.

The tourists have started to come to the island. The main beach highway is now busy and the grocery store is filled with people wearing bathing suits and flip flops. They seem so incongruous in a country where sleeveless blouses aren’t allowed in government buildings. The radio ads that promote the tourism industry repeatedly telling people that roads, water and yes even the air we breath “is tourism” have, thankfully, stopped. I was hoping the grocery stores might get a bit more consistent in what they offer, one week you can buy lettuce but then it’s gone for the next two.  I haven’t found green beans in 2 weeks but did find some President’s Choice salsa this week. Although with Tostito’s scoops priced at $23.95 a bag, it’ll have to stay in the jar until the local nachos appear on the shelves again.   I’m hoping there might be real cranberry juice instead of the sugar filled juice blends – but I know that might be a stretch.

The art-eco centre boutique hotel project I’m working on is being met with so much support and positive feedback that I was a bit surprised. One large plantation owner offered to give his 400-acre plantation as an investment in the project – but alas it has not ocean views!   I have found that the people here are well educated and want to build their community. Like Canada there is a mix of many cultures and the local Bajans embrace them all. Although people recognize the economic importance of tourism there is a desire to push Barbados beyond being completely dependent on it. 

I’m learning what it is like to be an “expat.” You become part of a community of people all adjusting to a way of life that is quite unique and different than what many are accustomed to. Everything here is slower, and some people let that frustrate them. The rural lifestyle blends into the urban areas – so that you can drive down the main highway  and see a cow feeding in the ditch between the warehouse and the road. Or walk along a busy street among people – and chickens.  Expats choose to be here, and unlike living where you were born that choice inspires more commitment. I’ve also found that expats are in the most part friendly, positive and adventurous people.

Every Tuesday there is a party at the local rum shop just down the hill from us. We sit by the pool listening to the crickets and whistling frogs, and can hear the music wafting up to us. They play old 70s songs, Rupert Holmes – If you like Pina Colodas, and now John Denver – Take me Home Country Roads. The words make me think about all the roads I have travelled and I realize that home isn’t one place, it is the space that Greg and I create with our family and friends.