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.


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

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.


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.


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!


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!


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?


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.


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.


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.


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!