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12.24.2009

Christmas in Barbados

Christmas in Barbados is kind of a big deal. All that is on the radio, starting right after Independence Day - Nov. 30, is Christmas music. Every station except for the BBC plays some variety of Christmas songs. There's soca Christmas, reggae Christmas, calypso Christmas, Christmas played with steel pans, and of course, Bing Crosby and White Christmas. The only thing here close to a white Christmas are the white sands of the beaches and white foam in the waves.

Here's an example, it's Scrunter singing "I Want a Piece a Pork for Me Christmas."




This photo of a lady on Christmas day is from notnA's Flickr stream.





We had the great fortune of being invited for Christmas dinner last night. This was a Bajan Christmas. I don't know what other Barbadian Christmas celebrations are like but this was very festive...hats...charades...a beautiful table setting...prayers, one to the Queen (!)...toasts. And the food was delicious. There was baked ham and roasted turkey with fabulous gravy. The stuffing had rum in in. There was jug jug, whipped sweet potatoes, cou cou, beets, macaroni pie, and bread pudding with rum for dessert. You can't tell in the photo but we all have a head adornment of some sort and the table is filled with lovely ornaments, candles and glasses. What a fun time we had and what a privilege to attend.

More photos are here on my Flickr.

12.19.2009

Travelers Checks in Barbados - Don't Bother


I don't like to gripe and use this space for ranting, but American Express Travelers Checks are useless in Barbados. We brought a lot, I blogged about it, but if I had it to do over again, I would not bother with travelers checks. Not one vendor has taken them. They are NOT like cash here in Barbados. Even banks are not thrilled with them. If you're coming for a short visit, bring cash or use the plentiful ATMs and just suck up the transaction fees. Or if you're very fond of travelers checks, make sure there is a bank here that your home bank has a relationship with and then you can cash those checks.

The image above is from Wikipedia.

11.16.2009

Workshops for the Grenadines MarSIS Project

As I mentioned a couple of days ago, Kim Baldwin and I went on a somewhat short, somewhat whirlwind tour through St. Vincent and the Grenadines to give workshops on Kim's Grenadines MarSIS project. Kim created a map of the sea using GIS to gather all the data into a single location and I extracted her data and brought it into Google Earth. The details on how that was done, the steps and stuff, I'll but in my other blog.

Here is a reporting of our trip. Unless noted, the photographs are mine.

Also, you can see where we went by using Google Earth. I made this file with the locations (clicking it launches Google Earth).

Lat: 13° 4'41.65"N; Long: 59°29'19.51"W - We left Grantley Adams International Airport in Barbados on November 8 on Liat Airlines with only a minor delay. Our flight got into St. Vincent at about 7 pm.

Lat: 13° 9'15.24"N; Long: 61°13'27.55"W - That evening we stayed at the Heron Hotel next to Heritage Square.

Lat: 13° 9'16.10"N; Long: 61°13'35.68"W - The next morning, November 9, we got up early and wheeled our suitcases and gear the two blocks to the Fisheries Division in Kingstown, St. Vincent. The workshop was to start at 9 am but we got there early because we had to set up a wireless system, get the projector going and make sure the laptops were loaded with the presentation materials. We also had to get the room ready for the participants and pass out folders with the agenda. We carried with us in those suitcases abut six laptops between us, plus all the electronic equipment we thought we might need. We used it all.

The audience consisted of people already familiar with the MarSIS project and this workshop and the others to follow was a way for Kim to update the stakeholders on her progress. Kim gave her talk on what her project was about and what GIS is, but she also ran through many demonstrations on doing GIS analysis with the MarSIS geodata. Using ArcGIS, Kim did select by location, select by attributes, queries and summary tables, among others. This got the participants interested in her data, which is really their data, as they helped collect it and helped to identify what was needed for such a geodatabase.

Once Kim finished her presentation, I ran through a demonstration on how to use Google Earth. I showed the participants how to add their own data as placemarks, lines, polygons and scanned maps. After breaking for a yummy lunch of West Indian food we all came back and they got to 'play' with the MarSIS data using Google Earth. The screen capture to the right is all I can show for now, until I integrate all the great comments from the attendees.

What you do see in the screen capture is a map of the shallow water habitat near the island of Mayreau, plus Turtle Nesting Beaches and beaches where you find Whelks. This just scratches the surface for what's available.

The workshop ended at 3 pm or so with folks filling out surveys, having a Q & A session to get some more user feedback and packing up to make a flight. The response to this workshop was overwhelmingly positive.

We got a ride back to the St. Vincent airport and checked in to take a puddle jumper flight on Grenadines Airlines to Union Island. We sat down and waited for boarding. The appointed time came and went. The sun went down and we kept on waiting. Turns out our flight was canceled (because the Union Island airport does not have runway lights). We had another workshop to give at 9 in the morning so this did not please us. However, it peeved the Union Islanders even more. They raised hell and we ended up getting set up in a place for the night, plus some more West Indies food for dinner.

Lat: 13° 8'39.23"N; Long: 61°13'15.38"W - We got driven to the apartment by the man who owns the apartment. On the way there, he stopped in at a what looked to be closed restaurant to ask for some food to be cooked up and sent to the apartment. When we arrived to the apartment, the room was clean and nice, but it was dark outside so we could not see the view, though we knew there was one. This was the view at sunrise.


When we were at the St. Vincent airport the night before, Kim managed to get booked on the first flight out to Union in the morning. I was going to go on standby but it was pretty critical that I made that flight too.

Lat: 12°35'44.29"N; Long: 61°25'5.56"W - OK, so tragedy averted, both Kim and I got on the first flight out of St. Vincent and we got the second workshop by 9:30am, only a little late. Fortunately, so was most everyone else. Might have something to do with Caribbean time. The second workshop was held on Union Island at the office of Sustainable Grenadines, above Mitchel's Hardware on the main road in Clifton. We repeated the everything we said and did in the first workshop, and we both think our presentation improved. Actually, the workshop had a different flavor than our previous workshop, not better or worse, just different questions and interests. I can't wait to see the survey results.

We stayed at the Clifton Hotel, a funky place right in town and on the water, right down the street from the workshop location. Clifton and Union Island reminded me of a place Jimmy Buffet would sing about. It was pretty cute.

Kim seemed to know everyone in town. Not surprising. Union Island is part of her field area. I think she must know all the islands and the locals living in the Grenadines in this way. That evening we ate at Ciao Pizza and had rum and Hairoun bitter lemon at the rum shop next door.

Lat: 12°38'0.54"N; Long: 61°21'17.45"W - On Wednesday, November 11, we had a free day, so to speak. In the morning, Kim needed to attend to some speech work but in the afternoon, for two hours, she took me out for some amazing snorkeling at the Tobago Cays Marine Park. We were let out near Horseshoe Reef and snorkeled/swam back to Baradal cay to be picked up by a water taxi. We saw sea turtles galore, parrot fish, trunk fish and loads of different types of coral. It was incredible. There are no permanent structures in the Tobago Cays so you get there by boat and then leave when you're done for the day. There were a few catamarans and sailboats out there, but in high season, there are sure to be loads more. It was the most beautiful blue water I have seen...the kind of 'Caribbean blue' in post cards. I did not have my camera with me so take a look at jaja13's shot of the Tobago Cays found on Panoramio.

Whew! That two hours alone was worth all of the efforts getting around with heavy luggage, and we still had another workshop left to do. If you want the fly-through version, check out the Google Earth tour to see how we got around.

Lat: 12°29'0.77"N; Long: 61°27'32.46"W - We took a water taxi to get to Carriacou, went to Immigration and got our passports stamped their, and then took a passenger ferry over to Grenada. I took video on this part of the journey, no photos.

Lat: 12° 2'30.49"N; Long: 61°44'55.01"W - We got into Grenada by ferry and took a taxi to our hotel, The Lazy Lagoon. This is the view from the parking lot, it's right on the bay or lagoon. We stayed here Nov 11 and 12.

Thursday morning we got to the third workshop, at the Fisheries Department (couldn't find the lat/long). This workshop had media present, reporters and cameras. Why? Because the Honorable Dennis Lett, Minister of Agriculture, Forestry, Fisheries, Public Utilities and Energy gave the opening address for this final workshop. The workshop opened with Justin Rennie, the Chief Fisheries Officer of the Grenada Fisheries Division giving a speech. Kim also gave her overview talk. In the photo to the left is Mr. Lett, Kim Baldwin and me.

The workshop went much like the other two, great feedback, happy participants. We hope to write up some sort of paper on the outcomes of the workshop and the use of Google Earth, a web 2.0 technology, and the ability to deliver geospatial data to anyone with access to a computer.

Here is where we went during the short trip. Clicking on the link will launch Google Earth.

11.14.2009

Google Earth and GIS Workshops for MarSIS Project


Kim Baldwin and I just returned from a five-day stint in St. Vincent and the Grenadines launching Kim's geodata. Here is a little background on Kim's project, the Grenadines Marine Resource and Space-Use Information System, or MarSIS, that I mentioned here before.

I'm not going into a lot of detail here, just wanted to show off some of the workshop photos, here on my Flickr site. Basically, I took Kim's GIS dataset, her 'map of the sea' and brought it into Google Earth. I showed the workshop participants how to use Google Earth and make their own maps and then showed them the MarSIS project as a KML file. I'll provide that KML later, once I integrate all the fabulous feedback we received from the workshop. I'll also get into more detail of this wonderful trip once I rest up a bit!

11.04.2009

Hello, Good Day! More Sea Turtles

I got home from work to the excitement of the family finding baby turtles in our "backyard." They found about twenty five Hawksbill turtle hatchlings and encouraged them to go to the sea where they belong.

Only one of the hatchlings was left by the time I got there and that's what you see on the video below and in my photo to the left. The kids, again, had another turtle episode in their lives. Now, it seems we live on a beach where the turtles have been nesting (though the season is over) and the babies are starting to hatch, so we may have more turtle saving and chasing yet to come!



11.01.2009

What Are We Playing?




A few summers ago when my daughter had a friend over (the same friend of Build-a-Bear and Skype fame), the two of them were playing a game in which they set up an inflatable flotation device, a beach towel and some Cheerios and when asked what it was they were playing, they said simultaneously "We're playing This Is The Life."

That's what we're playing now...This Is The Life.






Photos shot be me.

10.30.2009

Thoughts on the Bajan Buses


I didn't take this video but it gives a glimpse into a semi-typical bus ride in Barbados. This family's observations are similar to what I pick up on when I take the bus home from work. Note the woman says she's sitting on a sub-woofer (the yellow buses can be quite booming.) The one thing missing in this clip is that a Barbadian bus ride is mostly standing and we're usually packed in like sardines. Where these folks are driving looks like my neighborhood. (Did the kid really say "drink rum and have fun"!!?? Geez, what is it with these American families, by golly!)

The yellow and the blue buses costs $1.50 BDS, very affordable, and they run all over the island. The blue bus has a money deposit slot at the front and a receipt dispenser. On the yellow bus, you sit down or take some space in the aisle and a person comes to collect the money. But the most important observation about the buses that is not clear in this video...they all tend to go FAST. If you're on the bus, hold on and if you're driving and sharing the road, steer clear, give them room.

The clip below (also not mine) is an experience I have not enjoyed...a ride on a ZR bus. That's pronounced 'zed R' and what you have along with all of the above (booming soca or reggae, folks squished in, plus super fast driving) as the added attraction of the bus being the size of a mini-van.


Let's hear it for affordable and plentiful public transportation!

10.12.2009

Things We Should Adopt in the U.S. #3













Photo by
apalca on Flickr




"Hello, good day."

"Good afternoon."

"Hello, good evening, how're you going? Right."

Pleasantries. I'd love to bring back a tradition of pleasant greetings to the U.S. In Barbados, it's hot. The pace is slower. When people meet up on the street, friendly greetings are exchanged. You slow down, you say hello, then you ask how much it costs to send a letter back home. Ask about how a person's day is going, mean what you ask, then put your groceries on the conveyor belt. Slow down. Be nice.

10.04.2009

Sailing at Carlisle Bay



Adding to the fun of this year-long adventure...sailing lessons for Jill and the kids. Again, I am the documentrix, not one of the sailors. This location is Carlisle Bay at the Barbados Sailing Association. It's a great way to learn to sail, lot's a hands-on and terminology and ropes instruction. Actually, it's an amazing place to learn as you can see from the video.

Here's the link to the Sailing Association's training page.

10.02.2009

Things We Should Adopt in the U.S. #2

School uniforms. I see them everywhere. On the way to work between 7am and 9am and again when the students get out starting at about 3pm. Girls in their orange dresses, belted at the waist, or blue skirts with Mary Janes, boys in their brown short pants and knee socks, or natty white shirts and ties. Always, the shirts are tucked in. I like this. The debate goes on in the States about school uniforms in public schools but American school kids should wear them. Uniforms level the playing field. Everyone has nothing special and everyone is already special within. When I look out and I see a sea of uniformed Bajan children, I see the future of Barbados. Drivers slow down without School Zone enforcement because these children are the future of the country.

9.28.2009

Nidhe Israel Synagogue


We visited the oldest synagogue in the western hemisphere, Nidhe Israel, recently. The building is a beautiful light pink color on the outside and on the inside, lovingly restored. It is a two-story square building with only one Jewish-identifiable symbol, a Star of David in a stained-glass window. It was first built in 1654. What I have to say about the synagogue cannot compete with a recent article in Reform Judaism called Diaspora: Miracle in Barbados. There was also an in-depth blog post that I found prior to coming to Barbados, researching what we might find in our new yet temporary home. It was written in 2008 by Drew Kaplan.

While visiting, we met the shamas, Emerson, who gave us a friendly and detailed tour of the synagogue. The museum was closed so we will definitely go back some time in the future. The adjacent cemetery had an odd arrangement of above-ground graves and some propped-up headstones; it's pretty clear that many of the graves were not in their original position and during an earlier renovation these sites were disrupted and not put back with the best of care. Also, there is a renovation currently going on of a mikveh, discovered in 2007, which will probably not be used for its original purpose, once it is opened. The mikveh dates to the 1700's.

The picture of all of us above is outside of the entrance to the upper gallery. The entrance to the upstairs is in the back of the building.

Services are not held here year-round but will begin in the winter, tourist season. Congregation Shaare Tzedek will meet in Nidhe Israel Synagogue from about December to February.

The video and the photographs are mine and can be found on YouTube and Flickr.

9.22.2009

Hello, Goodnight! Turtle Watching in Barbados

I had the great opportunity to go on a turtle watch walk with CERMES graduate students, led another PhD student, Darren. Darren is a marine turtle expert and works for the Barbados Sea Turtle Project. I mentioned Darren's terrific guest lecture previously.

Our walk and turtle watch was part of the turtle watch program going on all around Barbados while the marine turtles are nesting, from June 1 to the end of October.

We met up at 8:30 pm and were out until past midnight and on our watch we saw a single hawksbill turtle track (a failed attempt of the nesting female to come on land and nest). Darren also got a call that a hotel found some hatchlings running towards and into the
hotel. These hatchlings should have been running towards the sea but they get confused by the lights of all the developments in the area and ran towards the brightest thing they saw. In pre-development days, prior to all the hotel and fast food lights, the turtle hatchlings ran towards the brightest thing they saw, which was the sea reflecting the moon's glow. We let out the little turtles near to the shore, in a darker part of the beach and they scampered to the sea. It was so sweet.

In 2003, in my pre-bloggings days, we lived in Trinidad for six months. We trekked out to Grande Riviere to watch the leatherback turtles nest and we all fell in love with these giants of the sea. Towards the end of our (first) Caribbean stint, we went back and saw the babies come up out of the sand. We had no idea what we were doing and there wasn't really a research agenda going on in Trinidad, at least as far as I can tell. I will say, though, that there were turtle guides. We were strongly discouraged from going out on the beach to look at the leatherbacks on our own. We were told not to use flashlights unless we were told that it was okay. The flashlights spook and annoy the nesting turtles and she may not lay her eggs. We signed up for a turtle guide and we were told to go to sleep "and we'll wake you when we see a turtle." I can still remember the lovely sound of the guide waking us up with a gentle "hello, goodnight, we have a turtle."

The first two photos I took last night and these last few I had
to move over to my Flickr account, I took them in 2003 in Trinidad.

This is sleepy Caleb, all of five years old, posing with a
leatherback.






Caleb woke up very early to try to spot a hatchling and he did! he came running back into the room shouting with glee.








Caleb and Tillie (almost 3 years old here) with a bucket of turtleback hatchlings.








A nesting leatherback, after laying her 100 or so eggs, going back to sea.

9.18.2009

Things We Should Adopt in the U.S.

After I was here a week, I was asked to be a second marker on an exam. I had never heard of this procedure (being a second marker) nor the terminology of 'marking.' What this is is just being a second grader on a final; a second set of eyes in the process of evaluating a student's written materials. This is great idea as it would add some integrity to the evaluation system. A poor grade or a great grade is validated by a second set of objective eyes. I wish I could take the concept back with me to the U.S.

9.17.2009

Instructional Technology at the UWI, Cave Hill

I met with my counterpart, a fellow educational technologist, Pat yesterday. Pat heads up the Learning Resource Center. In terms of instructional technology support, she is the one on campus to go to. This campus has 8,000 students and 200 to 250 full-time faculty. This department does no computer repair or support. Pat has her hands full this semester as the UWI decided two weeks before the semester began to fully launch Moodle and give up on BlackBoard. For those not used to the edutech lingo, these are two Learning Management Systems that allow professors to provide course materials to their students in an on-line and secure environment. Anyway, this campus is going with using Moodle Rooms for hosting. The UWI system comprises four campus, one in Jamaica, in Trinidad & Tobago, the Open Campus and this one in Barbados. All other UWI campuses are already using Moodle.

At Vassar, I am missing out on this semester's launch of using Moodle. Vassar went about it in a little bit different fashion than here at the UWI. There were faculty beta testers of Moodle last year. Vassar has used BlackBoard for years, so rather than rock the boat too hard, Vassar is keeping all courses this year in both BlackBoard and in Moodle. Lot's of work and resources, it sounds to me. I like the UWI's approach better.

Notice above that I just mentioned Pat. There is no GIS specialist on campus, no scientific software specialist, no visual arts technologies specialist. But she doesn't maintain a computer facility!

9.16.2009

Got the Geodata to Start the Project

I will be working with Kim, a PhD candidate at CERMES, for the next few months or more. She handed me her MarSIS geodatabase yesterday and now it is time to bring her GIS datasets (aka geodata) into Google Earth. This approach will allow others who do not have access to ArcGIS software to view her data.

There are two goals in the coming months: to create a KMZ of the Grenadine Islands geospatial data that Kim has been collecting and to create a web map, hopefully in the MarineMap interface, of those same geodata.

Let the fun begin!

9.13.2009

Skype and Build-a-Bearville: Bridging the Miles Between Friends

We’ve been here in Barbados for twelve days but my daughter has been missing her friends a lot. Fortunately, we have Skype and Build-a-Bearville accounts to shorten the distance.

Today, I overheard this conversation while she was on the phone (aka Skype) with her good pal. My daughter’s Build-a-Bear avatar is named MaggieMay123 and her friend’s is AJ2Hip456.

MaggieMay123: Hold on, I’m going to do the Dance Sequence number 1 .

AJ2Hip456: Wait, why don’t you do the Trumpet? Okay, and I’ll dance. Start after three. 1 – 2 – 3.

And then AJ2Hip456 started dancing at the same time as MaggieMay123 played her trumpet. They both giggled.

The thing that was so nice about this interaction and the rest of their hour spent in Bearville scooting around to the Skate Park and the Coffee Shop (where they both got ‘jobs’) and Friendship Forest Park is that this is the same way these two play when they are right next to each other. It was as though there was no distance whatsoever.

My son has had his own web 2.0 interactions with another long-time friend. They Skype and talk longer on the phone than these two boys ever spoke before. They’ve played games via Skype.

When we return to Poughkeepsie, the continuity of friendship kept with these children will make it so the kids will not miss a beat.

In 2003, we lived in Trinidad for six months. We had a dial-up internet connection. There was no Skype back then. There was no Gmail. There was no Build-a-Bear or Club Penguin or Second Life. It’s like it was the dark ages and it was only six years ago. What will the fruits of the internets be in another six years?



9.12.2009

Surfing at Surfers Point


Not much to say about this as it's pretty self-explanatory. You can surf in Barbados. Yeah! Not me, though. I'm a landlubber and a chicken.

The surf instructor is Alan Burk, at Burkie's Surf School.

This location in the world is found at Latitude 13° 3'10.40"N, Langitude 59°30'19.54"W

Fly there in Google Earth with this placemark.

9.11.2009

Good and Full Day

Today was a pretty great day. I had a very nice morning getting some minor things cleared out of my to-do pile and then met the CERMES technology support person, Dale. Why should that be so terrific? He came by my office to familiarize me with the UWI and CERMES system and see what I might need, technologically speaking. There was a nice matter-of-fact calm about Dale. What was interesting to me, as someone coming from the IT sector in higher ed, is that he is a dedicated staff member for the CERMES program. He doesn't need to be the expert on a variety of software packages or the campus Learning Management System. He supports the use the desktop machines, the computer labs, the projection (from what I can tell), and the campus (or CERMES) server access. It was great working with him. He’s going to load ArcGIS on my desktop machine, plus the extensions I need. I don’t have to do it. Just today, prior to meeting this technology support specialist, I tweeted something not too kind about IT professionals, after reading an article on IT staff and “the way they are.” I have to be a little kinder about the IT support folks.

By the way, I did NOT take any of these photographs. The hawksbill turtle (first photo) is from the Bienvenidos a Bajatortuga site . The leatherback turtle (below) is from Gabriel Malor's blog.

In the middle of being shown the technology facilities at CERMES, a professor came out of a lecture room and said to me and Dale, “there’s a talk on turtle in there. Do you want to learn about marine turtles?” Why yes, I’d love to learn about marine turtles, especially in Barbados. I sat in on a fantastic guest lecture from someone from the Barbados Sea Turtle Project. I learned all about hawksbill turtles (above, in water), green turtles, and leatherbacks (the one in the sand), who seem to be nesting in Barbados right now. I know a bit about leatherbacks from our time in Trinidad. All of these amazing sea turtles are engendered in some classification or another. I hope to be able to participate in a field trip with this same lecturer and the students in the class when they go out to monitor turtle nesting in the near future.

I had to sneak out of the turtle discussion to meet with my new colleague Kim for a planned meeting to discuss her Grenadine MarSIS data. Kim is a PhD candidate at CERMES who is heading up the Grenadine MarSIS project which is a “multi-knowledge Participatory GIS (PGIS) which integrates a range of transboundary information on marine resources, biodiversity and ecosystems of the Grenada Bank together with the social and economic aspects of marine resource use patterns and corresponding activity profiles of its users.” It’s an amazing geospatial, space-use analysis project that I will go into more discussion about over the coming months. I’m working on the Google Earth and web mapping integration of Kim’s collected data. Kim’s blogged during her recent, and final, reach vessel outing, which you should check out.

Scooting out of the meeting with Kim to make another meeting, this time with the ChargĂ© d'Affaires ad interim at the U.S. Embassy to Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean. I met Dr. Brent Hardt, we chatted about the Fulbright and what I will be working on, he met my family, we shook hands and took a picture, not with my camera. It was brief and yet, very exciting to be taken so seriously. I also got to meet the person at the Embassy, Juanita, who has been helping me all along the way, after I found out I received the Fulbright award. Juanita’s assistance prior to coming to Barbados was invaluable and helped make the transition very smooth. Oh, one more thing that my family and I got to experience at the Embassy, a security briefing. It got us a little nervous, though it is always wise to stay alert and be sensible. Afterwards, I felt protected. No pictures from my own camera, though. Drat. The photo is of the US Embassy in Barbados and is grabbed from the Embassy's web site. I couldn't take my own photo.

Finally, we ended our evening with a shabbat service at the Shaare Tzedek synagogue. There are about sixteen Jewish families who are members of this congregation (the only Jewish congregation on Barbados, I believe) and for the next 11 months, ours is family number 17. Services were held in a home made into a sanctuary found in a neighborhood. It was lovely. The photo below is from this Jewish Virtual Library site.

9.10.2009

Fun in Barbados - Our First Week


I don't have too much time to blog right now, but take a look at a Reader's Digest condensed version of our first week in Barbados. This is a beautiful island with so much to do.

9.06.2009

We Have Arrived in Barbados


We made it. We left September 1, picked up by a driver at 4:30 am, and we all got to JFK for the 8:30am direct flight to the Grantley Adams International airport in Barbados. It couldn't have been smoother yet we were saying at the end, "let's not do this again." I do believe that all the extra effort that goes into moving to a new country for a year is well worth it, but time will tell. The view to the left is from our apartment in St. James so I think we will be pretty happy here.

Tomorrow is my first day going into the UWI, so I wanted to catch this blog up on what all went into getting off to Barbados. I’ve been without internet of late, detailed below, but now I’m back in action.

I mentioned in a previous post some of the things that needed to be done or looked into prior to departure. Here are a few more items that we needed to take care of before we left:

Mothballing the vehicles - Since we decided on NOT taking a car with us, we needed to winterizing them. We have two cars. We're not driving them so we needed to take care to get the insurance reduced for the year and still have it so that mice won't eat the rubber tubing and start to live in the vehicles.

Internet - The apartment we are renting comes with high speed internet through the phone line. I haven't heard of this, but that is what it is. We needed to look into buying a modem prior to taking off. We were told that we go to a Lime Retail Outlet and buy one and then we are all set.

Packing, packing real real light! - We had a pile worth of mostly essential items to bring. We had two large suitcases or duffel bags each. We had a scale. We did a pretty amazing job of keeping our weight per person down to 140 lbs. I will be going back in October and will pick up those few things that we could live without for a month and a half.

Paperwork for a long-term visa - We needed to take care to remember the birth certificates, passports, extra passport photos (because we'll be in Barbados so long), vaccination records for the kids, police character report, a letter from our bank and a character report from our employer. Wow!

Bringing money - We decided to bring American Express Travelers Cheques. We got the travelers checks at AAA, where, if you are a member (which we are), there are no fees. This was a big cost savings. (Note: Updated travelers checks information added Dec 2009.)

Starting a bank account - We were advised by past Fulbrighters to Barbados that opening a bank account can take some time. With a few phone calls we decided to go with one particular bank. The bank asked us to bring a bank check from your bank in the U.S., plus a letter of good character from the bank, plus two forms of ID. All of this should expedite our new account.

After arriving in Barbados, here are some things to note: Though we brought Travelers Cheques, they are definitely not preferred by vendors. (See this post added in Dec 2009.) The checks take a month to clear at the banks. What we need to do is cash them and then pay in Barbados dollars. Since we’ve opened a bank account, we think that we will be able to cash the travelers check and not have to have the long wait.

The funds that we brought via a bank check will take a month to clear. Seems excessive but we can wait that long.

It took longer to get our car arrangement than we had originally planned so it took longer to get to the Lime Cable & Wireless Retail Store to buy the modem. We finally bought the modem (wireless!) but it is still not working quite properly. We hope this will be resolved by Monday. I need to call into Lime and give them a number off the bottom of the modem and then, viola, we should be in wireless business!

We got to the Lime Retail Store in Speightstown by bus. The bus was a breeze and costs very little to ride. While at Lime, we bought two cheap, no-thrills, cell phones. We also got $25 BBD worth of minutes.

Food and other supplies are expensive. Eating out at restaurants is very expensive. Rum drinks are not expensive.

The Bajan people have been so friendly and welcoming. One guy thanked me for coming to share my knowledge.

We started taking photos and videos. No more co-opting other people’s nice shots! I’ll put them up in Flickr and Panoramio. This is us in full research mode! Cute, huh?
It's all about to begin!

8.20.2009

A Little Nice Press for the Fulbright Award

I'll try not to do this all that often, but this is a cross-posting with my GIS blog.

My local newspaper, the Poughkeepsie Journal, published an announcement about my upcoming Fulbright to the University of the West Indies in yesterday's paper and the geospatial blog All Points Blog got a hold of it. Thanks for posting this, Adena! I hope to meet you some day soon.

No, you do not have to be a faculty member to earn a Fulbright grant.

But I found this blog post from a tweet from FulbrightSchlrs, who wisely thought to send this info along to @vassarnews. Hint!

Added 8/23/09
Here's another blog mention, in a St Vincent and the Grenadines blog.
And MADSVassar blog.
And Employee Leasing Solution blog. (humm?)

Added 12/1/09
Vassar College acknowledges ALL of their 2009-10 Fulbrighters given that Vassar was hailed as a top-producer of Fulbright Scholar and Student recipients amongst liberal arts colleges.

Added 12/23/09
CERMES loaded an end-of-year document with some information about me and the workshop trip to the Grenadines, pages 4 and 5.

8.10.2009

The To-Do List: Preparing to Live Abroad for a Year


My family and I will move to Barbados on September 1 and live there for a year. In order to make this transition smooth, we've kept a running list of things to do on a Google Doc spreadsheet. I've worked with the U.S Embassy in Barbados on some of this, and that has been great. I've also worked with my CIES contact in Washington D.C. and that, too, has been terrific.

Until I start to take my own photos, I'll borrow shots from the internet of where we're headed. This one is from Panoramio and is by Terry Andrews.

Here's a list of some of the more pressing things we've been taking care of in the past weeks:

Vehicle - To take a car or to not take a car. Shipping our vehicle seemed to be an option for a moment and we even fantasized about bringing the kayaks and bikes. However, the more we delved into the matter, the more it seemed cost prohibitive and/or impossible. There is an age restriction of four years for cars imported into Barbados. Ours is ten years old. The other issue would be duties. I never got a really solid answer, but it may be as much as 61 percent of the value of the vehicle. Here is the page that I went by.

What we will do for a car is rent one long-term. I got the name of a mechanic who does this through the person at the UWI that I am working with.

School for the kids - Public vs. Private. We decided on a private school option, the Learning Solutions campus. School will start right away for the children. They are mixed between excited and dread but mostly they are filled with happy anticipation.
Place to live - If you're going all the way to paradise, might as well try to be near the water. As I reported before, we went to Barbados and looked at a bunch of housing options. We settled on one that we love and got that all taken care of. It was very easy to find housing on-line. There were photos, email addresses and phone numbers.

Clothes and shoes - The average temperature is 85° F. We will want to have light clothing but not too casual. The kids will need school clothes. We are buying Keens, sun protection shirts, and shorts (not cargo shorts). When we visited in May, we saw a notice at the airport that there was a restriction on wearing camouflage attire. We will not bring any camo.

Airline tickets and luggage - We got our airline tickets on American Airlines. Jet Blue has a very low fare from JFK to Barbados but it does not start until October 1. As for the luggage, we can bring only two checked bags and one carry-on with us. Checked bags can weigh up to 50 pounds, carry-on can be 40 pounds. We will need to be frugal and conscientious with what we decide to bring.

Diplomatic pouch - We sent four boxes of books and articles via the Fulbright diplomatic pouch. Each weighed 50 pounds and the cost was about $80 total. These boxes get sent by 'media rate' to Washington D.C. and then are forwarded to the U.S. Embassy in Barbados. Utilizing this benefit was important given the weight restrictions on our flight. This shipment was done three weeks before departure.

Phone calls - We will suspend our U.S. cell phone numbers but keep our land-line operating with a message to call our Skype number (same area code). After a paid for the Skype number for a year ($60) I heard about MagicJack, a device that allows you to make calls from your PC through the internet ... for free. Sounds too good to be true so I will need to check this out and report back. The Magicjack costs $39 which includes the first year's service cost. The next year will cost $19. When we get to Barbados, we'll get cell phones.

Visa and passport - We all have passports but we all need to get a visa. This should not be a problem we just need to bring five passport photos of ourselves, a birth certificate, and the kid's vaccination records. I have a working visa while in Barbados.

Medical insurance - I get extra medical coverage through the Fulbright. The family needed to get extra coverage for international travel and emergency medical evacuation coverage.

Miscellaneous items - software for the kids, renting the house, storing the cars(s) and removing the license plate, finding temporary homes for the pets, finding a gardener to keep up the lawn and clean the leaves, buy snorkel gear, new (sun) glasses prescription, medical and dental appointments, hair cuts, and on and on.
This last shot is also from Panoramio and is by jamesbell07. It clarifies the reason for the SPF shirts, snorkel gear and flotation devices. And sun screen.

6.28.2009

Second and Third Days of Fulbright Orientation




DAY TWO
We started the second day with a run-through of how to manage our Fulbright grant. The CIES representatives discussed our book allowance, the diplomatic pouch, the extra allowance for dependents, how to handle medical insurance among many other administrative topics.

The second session was a two-person panel discussing policy issues in the western hemisphere. The first speaker, an executive from the U.S. Department of State, mentioned that we will be thee U.S. representative in our host country, that we need to understand the significance of that fact and that role. He mentioned that initiatives that came out of the Summit of the Americas include a call for multinational (as opposed to binational) coalitions to be called together to work on issues such as microfinance, energy and climate change partnerships, best practices for each country, security issues which really includes narcotraffic and violence related to drug trafficking, a and more focused look at diversity and tolerance and introducing an education program. I will need to go back and look at President Obama’s Summit speech in Trinidad but I hope that the teaching learning truly goes both ways, I think the U.S. has loads to learn about the issue of diversity and tolerance from places like Trinidad, where there is a true diverse culture, with 40 percent of the population of African descent, 40 percent from Indian subcontinent descent and the other 20 percent from China, Canada, Syria and elsewhere. Often times I think the U.S. should sit back and just listen.

The second speaker was an academic with much of his experiences in Mexico. He said he couldn’t think of another time when left-of-center politics were on the rise in the western hemispheric region. I do not know what was implied by this discussion, that the politics of democratically-elected Venezuela, Chile, Bolivia, and others, should worry us as a country, but I do not share his (or the previous speaker’s) concerns. What we need to keep in mind as we all go forward are the words Obama said at the Summit of the Americas “I didn't come here to debate the past -- I came here to deal with the future.”

We had breakout sessions for people going to certain countries. Fulbright alumni came to give some words of advice. My breakout group included Barbados, Dominica and Jamaica. This was a great way to meet the scholars and students going to Barbados (though I already met all of them) and to hear from those who recently went to the country I am going to. This was a great session, though one thing is clear, Barbados is not like Jamaica. Neither is it like many of the other locations making up the central American region.

After lunch, we saw a panel of three Fulbrighters showing some images from their time in their host country and offering some words of advice. Some of this panel is shown in the video above. This discussion was helpful though seemed to be giving us something we might already know: be logical, be careful, and immerse yourself in the culture.


DAY THREE
We started the third day with a breakout for the scholars, those teaching in a foreign country. We heard from four scholars about their experiences teaching in their host countries. All four mentioned challenging teaching conditions, students showing up late, lack of resources. There was a lot about what the country didn’t have, there wasn’t much on what to do with that situation. If one is used to teaching with a projector and computer and all one has is a blackboard and no chalk, how does one work with that? Given the technological and physical challenges one faced how did you modify your pedagogy?

I will be teaching a GIS class and I’ve seen the facilities for teaching this computer-based course. I think I will be okay, technologically-speaking, but this discussion gave me food-for-thought.

There was a talk on what is offered as a Fulbright alumnus. This was pretty cool. I can get an email address, access to academic journals and newspapers, a jobs database and information on volunteerism.

Overall, this was a great orientation. I feel really ready for this academic adventure, I met some wonderful students and the other scholar who will be in Barbados when I am there, and I understand the significance of what I am about to embark upon. Here we go!


The above photo is from David E Marshall's Panoramio collection and it is called "UWI Cave Hill Campus - Clock Tower." Looks beautiful!

6.25.2009

First Day of Fulbright Orientation


I am attending the Fulbright Orientation for scholars and students going to the Americas. Yesterday was the first. Here is the schedule and here is what we did the first day:

I’m in Washington D.C. for the Fulbright orientation (at the Grand Hyatt in Washington, DC, 38°53'58.34"N, 77° 1'35.79"W) for students and scholars going to central America and the Caribbean. There are about 100 Fulbrighters here and 2 dozen of them are Fulbright alumni from the region.

During the welcoming remarks we were told that the Fulbright award is among the most competitive in the country. The remarks were important to hear to set the tone for our future experience in the host country. The program is 63 years old and the Fulbright objective has always been “to build mutual understanding between people and places.” We were told that the program is built on soft diplomacy and for building relationships among countries.

The Fulbright program is ‘at a high-water mark’ in terms of funding and solidity but to remember that the U.S. taxpayers are paying my way. My responsibility, however, is not to defend U.S. foreign policy and I am not an official representative of the U.S. government. They do expect all Fulbrighters to be mindful of what we do and say, especially in the context of blogs, Facebook photos or Twitter tweets. I am the face of America and should get out and mingle with as many people as possible while in my host country.

The significance of President Obama making one of his first international visits to the Trinidad and Tobago for the Summit of the Americas meeting was underscored and should be of particular interest to all of us traveling to the Caribbean. This kind of regional presidential attention has not been paid of late and the opportunity for diplomacy with and among the United States’ nearest neighbors is ripe.

The keynote speaker, Dr. Joan Dassin, is Executive Director of the International Fellowships Fund at the Ford Foundation, highlighted the fact that we are leaving for a region at a particularly positive time and we are traveling as ‘citizen-diplomats.’ Latin America has welcomed the election of Barack Obama. Dassin asked the hypothetical question ‘How far do the U.S. presidential policies point to real change?’ We will live out that answer as we move and act as citizen-scholars and citizen-diplomats. There is an important shift in hemispheric relations, where Obama says we “seek an equal partnership in which there is no senior or junior partnership.” As Fulbrighters we have an opportunity to listen and learn from the rest of the world. We must learn as much as we teach and reach beyond individual specialization.

This is going to be a fantastic experience, this Fulbright year ahead of me.

Oddly enough, no one seemed to be Twittering the event. People were paying attention! I did do some Twitter searches only to discover that there were simultaneous orientations going on (in addition to the orientation for China scholars going on at the same hotel as mine).

Click here for days 2 and 3.

6.15.2009

Living in Barbados

We settled on an apartment for next year. It's going to be great. You've got to see it to appreciate it. If one goes all the way to a beautiful place like Barbados, shouldn't one try to live as close to the beach as possible? That's the thinking on this.

Next part of the Fulbright experience will be the Fulbright Orientation in Washington D.C. next week.

5.28.2009

Next Adventure - Barbados!

Very exciting news! I was awarded a Fulbright to the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill campus in Barbados for the academic year 2009-2010. I tend to keep pinching myself in disbelief but it is, in fact, true. I will be heading out in late August for a nearly year-long adventure for the whole family. Photo credit Kate Skegg.

This blog will be a way to document my travels and experiences as a Fulbrighter. CIES, who administers the Fulbright grants, encourages dissemination of the Fulbright experience, so I am starting that process with this blog post. Thank you, U.S Department of State for making this happen. My work with the University of the West Indies (UWI) is based on my geospatial expertise; I will teach a GIS class and work on at least two mapping projects during my nine-month stay. If you want to know more about the geospatial aspects of this research, please see my other blog, GIS @ Vassar. Sometimes, hard to believe, folks don't care all that much about computer-based mapping. Go figure! But while in Barbados and "employed" at the UWI, I will have the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) privilege of visiting nearby Caribbean islands at the travel rate for a Bajan citizen. I hope to do some travel around Barbados, of course, and I hope to make it back to Trinidad for Carnival and Panorama (I went there in my pre-blogging days), and other yet-to-be-determined islands.

I was in Barbados recently to try to find a place to live, a school for the kids and meet with my new colleague at the UWI, Centre for Resource Management and Environmental Studies (CERMES). It was a whirlwind trip but very productive. We looked at so many apartments, villas, houses, and such that our heads were spinning. I had a Flip video camera in hand and took lots of video all along the way. Here is our hotel in St. Lawrence Gap, called the South Gap Hotel. I didn't review this hotel on TripAdvisor because I've been more busy than ever but it was not a bad place to land for a few nights. Not bad at all.



Like my other posts from China, I want to make my posts geospatially aware. Though I did not take my GPS on this recent trip, I was here: 13°0'N 59°32'W

Every place we went, every turn we made, the beauty of the country was evident. The ocean on the south end and the west side of Barbados was amazing. Though the locals complain about traffic and travel times, their gripes fall on the deaf ears of a native of Los Angeles. If I have to commute 45 minutes to the UWI, it's a small price to pay for being in what seems to be very close to paradise.

Here's what I want to find out while in Barbados: When is mango season? Are the birds as beautiful as in Trinidad and Tobago? Is Mt. Gay Rum truly superior to Jamaica's Appleton? Is Crop Over comparable to T&T's carnival? Will I get a new soca fix? What is it like to live in a country geared towards a tourist economy as opposed to T&T where they practically spit on tourists (I was NOT one, thank you very much). And...what IS this thing you call 'cricket'?

With any luck, I will come to an understanding of cricket, and the obsession that exists for the game in the West Indies. I was in Trinidad and Tobago for six months in 2003 and got to feel the national love for Brian Lara (running with bat in hand above), but never really 'got it.' Maybe now I will... Photo credit Chennette.

The next part of my Fulbright experience will be a Fulbright Orientation in Washington DC. I look forward to this experience and so much more. Stay tuned!