Saturday, May 31, 2008
Friday, May 30, 2008
I have a telephone interview next Tuesday for a job in Dominica.
I'm nervous - it's bad enough having a face to face but long distance on the phone with time delays and lots of 'pardons' will be a challenge. So, that's 4 sleepless nights from now until then....
Well, I received 3 solar lamps - 2 for the garden and 1 hurricane lamp, from China this week even though I didn't pay for them. They felt sorry for my bank fiasco on the transfers. They are great - in the garden and lighting up every night. This photo looks like daytime when in fact I took it at night so you can see how bright they are - sometimes my camera is just too efficient for me. Anyway, I now have to decide whether to buy more. By the way, you may think our grass needs cutting but I actually had to find a spot where Ollie couldn't find them and carefully destroy the solar panel tops - they are very attractive.........
Life Insurance - got it here in Belgium this week as trying to obtain it long distance was not the quick process we thought (even if we had signed it all). It should be finalised on Monday when we have to sign yet another form for the NBD and that's the last, inshallah, piece of the loan jigsaw.
I got the latest pictures from Montenegro and the landscaping is looking great and the site cleaned up. However, the municipality having nearly finished the road outside have just dug it all up again, to relay new water pipes. Our next guests arrive on the 7th June, the clock's ticking....
In a hot climate the chlorine in a pool soon diminishes due to 'out-gassing' so you need to measure it constantly and top it up. Sometimes the chlorine is made by using a salt generator. The name is misleading. They use salt (sodium chloride) to generate Chlorine.
The best alternative, without spending a fortune is silver/copper ionisation. Positively charged ions of silver disable the deleterious bacteria (negatively charged) while the copper causes the algae to flocculate into bunches which get removed by a sand filter through which they would normally pass unscathed.
Here endeth the lesson for today.
Saturday, May 24, 2008
Then at 8pm, our first guests in Montenegro rang and said they were moving out as they couldn't use their pushchair up to the apartment as the temporary road is gravel and not concrete. They want a complete refund. Also, there was drilling next door and the building ban doesn't come into force in Montenegro until 1st June so builders work around the clock in the last few weeks before the summer curfew. What do do, they were the ones that asked to bring their dates forward a week.
It wasn't a great Friday night all round.
Friday, May 23, 2008
Dox arrived in DOM. Money's in the bank Frank. All systems are go. Our builder, Oliver, is very happy and so are we. Andy says we can open the $100 bottle of champagne tonight and even drink it. Wow! Then it's Cava from then on I guess. Desmond the gardener can start landscaping too. I sent him some exotic Latin names from my 'How to Garden in the Caribbean' book. He thinks I'm bonkers and sent me a plan of what he is going to do with all English names on. At least I showed an interest. Yesterday I bought 2 water barrels - they come with little taps on and everything (!). Then came my fatal error. I explained to Ollie how they worked. In an island where it rains most days I'm not sure our water barrels will be topped up for long.
Thursday, May 22, 2008
The landscaping at the apartment in Montenegro is all finished and the pool is being filled as we speak. Can put this one to bed for now too, phew.
Friends and family rates of course:-
www.holidayrentals.co.uk - Property Reference 77447
Now we are working on how to build ours in Dominica incorporating solar power and an eco but reliable sand filtration system. At least we've found an expert to help us and can nod wisely at his suggestions....we are also learning about wind turbine power too. Who'd have thought it eh....will be wearing crocs next...
Well we did complete something this week. The Spiderman globe puzzle. Scarlett found the missing No.1 piece, well she did hide it, so here you go.
I have been working on advertising Sisserou Villa and Sisserou Lodge and one of my options will be to use www.natureisland.com. It's steep, they take, 20% of the accommodation cost but their site is extensive and fairly well advertised. Now I just have to provide them with pictures and a description. No problem then....
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
In the meantime, I'm still waiting for our manipulated to regulation Home Office size photos from the photo studio. Hope they make an appearance pretty soon too. It's not like I've got a Plan B if we don't get our passports in time........
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
Monday, May 19, 2008
Are there croissants?
Are there chocolate croissants?
Are there CocoPops?
Are there CocoRocks?
Are there crisps? (they were lying around, honestly)
Is there cheese (Ollie likes continental breakfast).
Feeling hoisted by my own petard I boldly declare:
'Look, there's nothing beginning with 'c' ok'
I will have to relent soon I know but in the meantime, it's fab. Every plate is spotless.
Thursday, May 15, 2008
My newest worry is Residency and clearing our shipment. Apparently we need Residency to clear our effects duty free and for Residency there are of course various criteria which we won't fulfill before our container arrives. Also, Residency issues have changed ministries now too so our original paperwork is no long valid, probably. Also, we need to have a return ticket to enter Dominica. As I mentioned ours is one way. We now have to buy a one-way ferry (cheaper than Leave Island Any Time ticket) ticket to Martinique, closest place. I've always had it in my mind that it would be nice to visit but I didn't think I'd be buying the ticket quite so soon.
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
The Grieve family sail into St. Vincent where they are besieged by local boatmen touting for trade, in sharp contrast to the easy-going charm of Dominica.As we entered Wallilabou Bay on the island of St. Vincent, a haphazard flotilla of boats made their way out to greet us. Some men rowed, some shot over in high-powered pirogues and others pulled themselves towards us on nothing more than old surfboards.
My heart sank as I watched this little armada of hope approaching. Known as boat boys in this part of the world, these men regard anyone on a yacht as a multi-millionaire. In comparison to them we probably are.
The water in this bay is deep right to the shore, and figuring out how to anchor safely was a challenge. At the helm, trying to concentrate on calculations regarding fathoms and feet and lengths of chain and warp, I kept being distracted by insistent calls.
"Hey Skip!" one man cried as he pulled up on the port side, clinging to the guardrails while his boat clunked worryingly against Forever's hull. Another man was abreast of us: "Follow me and I'll take your shore line," he shouted, rowing energetically to keep up. "Want some bananas?" I heard from the starboard side, and turned to see Oscar and Luke already accepting a brownish hand of fruit.I looked over to another yacht that was also being besieged, and decided to turn around and head back out to sea. As we left the men called after us, some of them imploring, others philosophical, one shaking an enraged fist.
Out of the bay we sat in silence, relieved to have escaped, yet feeling guilty at having turned away from people who are desperate.
St Vincent in particular has suffered a number of attacks on yachtsmen in recent years, and it is not difficult to see why, as boats lie unprotected and vulnerable in isolated anchorages, surrounded by people who have absolutely nothing. It's unpleasant to find ourselves in a situation where people view our boat as a kind of floating cash machine.
A few weeks earlier we'd had a completely different experience as we entered Prince Rupert Bay in Dominica. A mile or so off the island I radioed a man named Martin Carriere, aka Providence, who, according to the pilot book, provided a really good service to visiting yachts.
As we neared the bay another fast boat came out to meet us and offered help with getting food and supplies. I thanked him for coming over but said that I had already arranged to meet Providence.
"Hey, no problem," he shouted with a grin. "Welcome to Dominica!" After we had dropped anchor, a sleek, homemade boat shot over to us and carefully drew alongside. It was Providence.
He handed us a map of Dominica, and as we all talked it was clear that this bright, energetic man would add greatly to our experience of the island. He guided us up the magical Indian River and introduced us to Paul, who took us into the interior. We stopped to marvel at precipitous hillsides planted with verdant crops, picked fresh coconuts, stood on bubbling volcanoes and sucked cocoa beans.
A farmer we met by the roadside took us to see nutmeg and cinnamon trees, and then - as we said goodbye - pressed a cutting from a vanilla vine into my hand. As we passed Paul's home village, he stopped the car beside his aunt's house, and emerged with the biggest grapefruit we had ever seen - a gift to our children.
We stopped to eat chicken with "provisions", a local term for vegetables dating back to the times of slavery, and as we ate we looked out at a view of the Atlantic framed by reefs, offshore islets and palms. Passers-by stopped to ruffle Oscar's hair or chuck Luke under the chin, and around us weekend village life continued in truly relaxed West Indian style.
Dominica has something special, which stems from pride, which comes, I believe, from the knowledge that it is self-sufficient. Tourism is a good thing, certainly, but in the knowledge that it can afford to be fussy, Dominica is taking steps to ensure that development happens sensitively and well.This positivity is evident as soon as you arrive, and are welcomed rather than besieged. People like Providence have realised they have great wealth, and this richness stems from their island and a way of life that is simple, joyful and independent
Well the DHL package arrived. The courier actually wore yellow trainers with a red stripe - wonder if they are regulation kit or I'm so out of date it's some trendy new brand. Anyway, I have around 25 forms to fill in for our loan and life insurance. I started at 1pm and by 8pm I still hadn't finished. No, I can read honestly. Having the kids at home from midday didn't help admittedly - Wednesday is 'frites' day - it's usually just frites but I felt so guilty knowing I'd be ignoring them for the rest of the day that I allowed Fanta and Mars Bars to enter into the equation too. It doubled the bill but gave me an extra hour or so to work in relative peace. Chloe kept asking me if I needed help. Some sort of homework role reversal she must have thought as I kept huffing and puffing. Andy doesn't do forms. So they are now all beautifully completed and waiting for his signature with little crosses by the line he should sign on. I was a great PA. Just need to get an official sounding witness to rubber stamp them all now too. In the meantime, I've been flooded with requests to stay in our apartment in Montenegro. Don't get me wrong, it's great but I can't keep up with the admin today. At least with my head spinning with admin there's no room for worry.
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
ps Our DHL package is due to arrive today - it will have taken 6 days. Should have used FedEx.
Now it's sunny and paddling pools are springing up everywhere. Under pressure now from kids to join the ranks of pool owners. When I say pools, it's these inflatable ones but with cleaning pumps in and heating. All mod cons, not like we had, with slimy green bottoms and full of holes patched up with plasters. The kids went to 3 different sets of friends this weekend and everyone had one. We haven't. Do we buy one for our last 8 weeks here or do we take one with us so the kids can use it whilst ours is being built? We have the hole dug for ours and it now has 8 foot weeds in it but at least it's started. Since mentioning the pool we have of course heard loads of horror stories of leaking ones, filthy ones and ones situated where after a heavy rainfall, the contents of the neighbours garden ends up in your pool. As pool building isn't that common in Dominica (well, why would you when there's over 365 rivers and you're surrounded by sea) it is difficult to ensure all these problems won't be our problems too. I need to do some serious research on this for sure.
Monday, May 12, 2008
We've just had a great long weekend here in Belgium, 30 degrees and BBQ's with friends. However, I am still looking forward to leaving. The children say they will miss their school friends. For me, I just had acquaintances here and one best friend. So it's her, Lemony, that I'll miss. She's American but normal. I say that in the nicest possible way. I've taught her to speak English of course but she naturally possesses the brittle dry humour of a Brit. It's easy, the kids get on, the husbands talk sport and we put the world to rights over a bottle or two. I know I'll make new friends but Lemony I will truly miss.
Saturday, May 10, 2008
Trying to do our website for Sisserou Lodge and Sisserou Villa (we're keeping out options open and offering both for rent - obviously not at the same time as we'd all have to fit in the tent then - if we had one that is. Anyway, so far it has taken 9 hours. You'd look at it and think it had taken 9 minutes. I have 5 pages to fill with so far, one floorplan, a few finished product photos and some pictures of the view. You'd think I'd taken my pictures at midnight. I really do need some help with some convincing (honestly it is the) Caribbean shots. Sent it to my Dad for moral support. Reply "Presumably you will put photos of the house from outside, and then views around looking outwards to the sea etc. - ie not views through the windows looking out - makes it look too small and sombre." Ok. I need to spend a few more hours on it, or weeks or months. Problem is I've only got days. Need to start advertising this asap so I can put some figures in the 'Income' column of the 'Budget'. There's a possible comparable Villa in Calibishie with a pool which gives me an idea on rents, however our pool won't be ready for this season unless we can do some really creative accounting. However, my creativity is as good my photography. However I can make a boat out of corks (endless supply) and leaves - Montessori trained you know.........and here's one I made earlier...........
So I've succumbed, given in, relented, you name it, the 40 inch flat screen has now moved from Makro's shelf to our spare bedroom. No, of course we don't know how to actually set it up to watch it. So here's the story, it started off at Euros 1400, went down to 1100, final price 900. That was 3 weeks ago. Well we go again today, because that's what we do on Saturdays, and for the actual store model, last one left (always a heart rencher), there's a further 20% off. As I am explained to in that slightly 'can't you get the point?' manner (rather like my landlord did the other day actually) this price will then be reduced further as we get 21% back for VAT as we are going to export it within 3 months. So, clearly it's a no brainer and we must buy it. They only take cash, remember it's Belgium, so not much left for the essential toner for the printer and the eco lightbulbs. Hey, who needs lights when you've got the glare of the 40 inches. Anyway, on the way back in the car, I'm holding it on my lap (like a firstborn) as it doesn't come in a proper box, shame really as we can't wave it around in front of the neighbours, and Chloe says 'why didn't we get the bigger one?'. Her father's daughter clearly.
ps The all new Milka 'Choca Swing' is what I got today. You know how it is, there's a little stand in the store with a little old lady painstakingly breaking up a product into as many tiny pieces as possible, with white gloves on and luring you in like Hansel & Gretal for a taste. After the 3 kids have grabbed as much as possible, destroyed the Jenga like display, and underneath Granny's imploring (they must get commission) glaze, I am compelled to buy the full size product. Could be worse - it's a chocolate biscuit sandwich............no, I'm not going to miss chocolate at all....
Friday, May 9, 2008
Yesterday the landlord visited, we can only give calendar notice (p.23, line 16, subsection b - and lots of finger jabbing at the contract) and it must be 3 months so at the moment that takes us into September when we are actually booked to go the first week of July. Also, the damp on the bedroom wall that came through from the shower next door is because we don't open the bathroom window enough and that it must be 'an English thing'. I then got a lecture on all the things I'd be charged for including the trees having grown too much in 3.5 years. I reminded him our garage automatic door had broken yesterday for about the 6th time and he said a new part would take a while. This is from someone whose company letterhead proudly proclaims 'suppliers of quality automatic doors and gates', say no more.
Thursday, May 8, 2008
Tuesday, May 6, 2008
My brother says I should keep Ollie in one of these.
I got Euros 30 back in my bank account today of the Euros 95 I sent to China for my samples. So I'm Euros 65 worse off and no samples for my big business idea. I wouldn't make it on The Apprentice that's for sure.
Wonder if there's a Sumo Suit market out there instead, sold as 'particularly useful when negotiating cliffs and potholes...........'
Monday, May 5, 2008
I talk about money in this blog because that's what people ask - often indirectly but nevertheless I can see their brains ticking over and wondering what exactly we are going to live on and then outloud, how much it's going to cost us to move. What I can tell you is how much it is likely to cost you to relocate. You plan as best you can but there's always an element of juggling and this is what you need to be prepared for. Today was an example of that at 9am but by 5pm everything had changed. This is how:-
* Resigned to booking our flights to St Lucia at an increased GBP2,700
* My brother & sister-in-law step in and very generously and offer their airmiles, reducing out cost to GBP1100
* I want the children to complete their school year here so I postpone the packers to July 3rd. This pushes us into high season price and an increase of Euros 900 to their quote.
So that's how it goes and you can only do so much in preparing yourself for the final cost of a move as there are so many unexpected variables, so it's always tricky when people ask how much is it going to cost to move..... Later on this week we have our landlord coming around and will find out what this part of the process is going to cost us. It's very complicated here - our rental agreement is 25 pages long, in Dutch. So that will be interesting.
So there you go, money, and as they used to tell me in the Middle East:-
"Mafi felous mafi saddique"
Trying to book our flights asap as they are increasing the whole time. XL is now not our cheapest option unless we fly on the 15th July - this give us no time in the UK to say goodbye to everyone and panic buy Mint Crisp. So we are back to Virgin Atlantic at a cost of GBP2,700 for us all and flying on 25th July. Booking return tickets is cheaper than singles, however, surely everyone who wants a one way ticket just books a return and doesn't use it. Or do Virgin have a magical way of finding you and zapping you back. I digress as usual. This VS flight is good as it connects directly onto a Carib Aviation flight at 2.40pm which in turn flies directly into Canefield which is very close to our house. The cost of this part is US410. It is an, how shall I say, interesting experience landing/departing at Canefield or as my sister-in-law hysterically said on board last year 'I earn enough not take this plane'. She does. Anyway, at some stage we will try the high speed ferry option. Hopefully their doors close properly.....
In the meantime, Ollie is at home today after going into Casualty last night or as some call it the ER (hope Dr Kovac stays) which sounds more trendy. This is Ollie's 6th ER visit. What can I say, at least we will be living near the Princess Margaret hospital in Dominica. As for hospital teddies ......our collection is as large as his file....
Sunday, May 4, 2008
Saturday, May 3, 2008
We had no computer access for the last week so no news on our loan. The first thing I did yesterday was crank up the pc (it's very old) and scanned for Tina's name. Yes, there was one on the loan but just saying we should transfer the Alien Landholding Licence fee to be held in escrow, if required. This morning, I see Tina sent another at midnight saying to ring her today as she has good news. Now I'm just counting the 6 hours until Dominica wakes up, fingers crossed. How early can I wake her without her jumping out of bed thinking it must be a 'someone's died' phone call, I wonder.
Anyway, here are a couple of photos from Montenegro last week - the outdoor life and fish for lunch every day. I love it!
You know the reality building programmes on TV, well we were in one last week. I guess the flight should have prepared us..........our 'direct' flight actually landed in Montenegro and flew onto Croatia. However, as we were not booked on this flight originally we had to carry on to Croatia and drive the 2.5 hours back to Montenegro. We arrived in the offices of A.V. Properties
(a.k.a Anyone Visible Properties?) to be advised that we could stay with an old lady in a field with the enthusiastic 'that will be great for the kids won't it' accompaniment. Jovo, our driver, saw my face and then saved the day saying we could stay at his apartment - Anyone Visible retorted they would only pay him what they were paying the field lady. He agreed, phew. The next day we saw the site and our apartment. A picture tells a thousand words so here they are.