Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Island Activities

Just received an email from the American Women's Club of Curaçao. It brought back such memories! The club was always there to provide support. Whoever is staying put this Summer will be getting regular messages on what to do for entertaining. This list includes art shows, a classical music recital, and AIDS fundraising with a Dutch artist, a marine biology workshop given by a doctor from Chicago, a dance presentation and a tour of one of the landhuizen (plantation houses) that includes an Antillean buffet. Definitely more than I have planned for the next two weeks! and then they ask me what do I miss about the island.

My involvement in the AWCC was a true lifesaver. My friends urged me to join, after all I had American children. It all started when my son wanted to know if they had Halloween in Curaçao. That seemed an important question when we told him we were moving. The AWCC did, along with Thanksgiving with all the trimmings and a Christmas party that had the best Santa ever. So joining was a given. What I never imagine was how involved I would get. They had me for treasurer (I have no clue why since I can't even balance my checkbook!), president, secretary; I was the unofficial historian and for the last few years, FAWCO rep. What is that, you might ask. I will let you know, don't worry.

First let's talk about our club. American women are everywhere, did you know that? They have been living in every country in the world for generations. For years, it was marriages that took them there, they married a "foreigner" and move to his country or the husbands were transferred by the companies they worked for. Lately is their own jobs that takes them abroad. Once they arrive, these women get involved in their new communities and put their best foot forward to help in any way possible. I mean this, they get there and organized themselves into clubs and get to work. Did you know that American women's clubs all over the world raise thousands of dollars (in every currency imaginable!) every year for charity? that they do it selflessly, having fun at it and without fanfare? These women mean business and making their new countries a better place seems a natural thing for them.

Then there is FAWCO. Did I tell you I was their representative in Curaçao? Of course, I did. I'm very proud of that. The Federation of American Women's Clubs Overseas was founded in 1932 in Europe. Nowadays it includes about 17,000 members in 78 clubs in 36 countries! It is a force to be reckoned with and a Non Governmental Organization of the U.N. FAWCO has lobbied, and still does, in Washington D.C. for the right of Americans to vote from overseas, the right to pass American citizenship to children and grandchildren of Americans living abroad and paying taxes in the US. It is involved in environmental and educational issues, women and aging issues and a host of other worthy causes..... and you thought American women only wanted to have fun!

I have yet to find a group that would fill those shoes in my life. Of course there are the ones that return and have to adapt again to life in the States. Difficult, trust me. Especially, because we encounter a bit of a condescending attitude. As if by reminiscing we are somehow....... bragging! What we miss, what we did and what we can't do here are points some don't want to hear about. Better keep to ourselves, nobody is interested, "please get over it, you're back in the States" is a common feeling. What to do?....... get a blog and reminisce away!!!! Here is to the AWCC, may it continue to flourish and help others adapt to island living!

Thursday, June 7, 2007


We know, I can hear you say...... so what? Bear with me. In Curaçao, this is the day of the week when we GO OUT. Fridays are "happy hour time", as everywhere else in the world, but Thursdays are special. It's the day when everyone goes out for more than just drinks.

Thursdays are the days off of most housekeepers; and , yes, I can hear that too. How spoiled are people over there? Well, let's face it, everybody wants help with dinner, with laundry and other domestic chores. Don't you? I have seen people with all kinds of backgrounds adjusting smoothly to this way of life, believe me! And whatever people think, it does leave you time to enjoy other things. I was grateful and miss it! A good housekeeper is a treasure. Anyway, back to Thursdays. With housekeepers off, the family makes plans for dinner out or visits with friends. The children enjoy these outings in the middle of the week, a break of sorts before the weekend because it involves the whole family. Trust me, it really helps with the dynamics of life in a small community.

Plans are made throughout the week, or during that day. Phone calls, exchanges when picking up your children at school or leaving work in the late afternoon.... everyone gets into it. Of course, if you are not married, have no children or a housekeeper you can join as well. It's expected of you! In most cases plans will be made for drinks in one of the "in" places around the island. Everyone knows where to go and at what time it would be appropriate to show up. In most instances there will be music, food and lively conversation. Depending on your preference, you can stay a couple of hours or until the early hours.

There are, of course, people who do not feel partying on Thursday is the thing to do; but will dine out with the family and the children. Or they can go shopping. Yes, Thursday night is koop avond or shopping night in Dutch. It's one day a week in which stores are open at night. That is what's great! There is something for everyone on Thursdays, not only sitting in front of the television watching one more episode of some boring reality show. Since this is a small place, you are bound to encounter everyone or almost everyone you know, in whatever place you chose. I can tell you, everything on the islands is a social function and you'd love it! Thursdays rock in the Tropics..... why not here?!

Monday, June 4, 2007

Brown lawns?....Hurricane Season

Just in case there was a doubt, Summer is here! As June knocked on our door, Tropical Storm BARRY came calling. Of course we needed the rain. Our lawns were looking awful and our gardens were dying, right? Well, after living in Curaçao for 20 plus years, that doesn't really bother me. I am a firm believer that we should plant what grows in the area, keep the indigenous flora intact. Why fool with Mother Nature with anything else? In Curacao I had bougainvillea, hibiscus, frangipani and aloes in my garden. Here we do plant anything we like, so we need LOTS of water. Personally, I want it to rain over Lake Okeechobee, that's where we need it. Water for our daily life! Anyway, I seem to be alone in this.

When I moved to Curaçao, everyone told me that it never rained there. Famous last words, because when it rained, it rained cats and dogs. I remember one year, a tropical storm passed through the island. High winds and torrential rains made a mess of everything. Streets flooded and there are no draining systems on the roads. School was out for two weeks and there were pools of water all over the countryside. On Christoffelberg, the highest point on the island, a small waterfall sprung and lasted for a while. It became a must-visit site for all of us.

When the rains ceased, and the sun came out for more than a couple of hours a day, we were left with a big problem...... the pools of water became a breeding ground for mosquitoes. The Health Department became very worried about dengue fever and other illnesses that this could bring. So, we got guppies! Really, that was the solution: the guppies would eat the larvae, and bye mosquitoes. Isn't that fantastic and environmentally sound? I miss that ingenuity!

Mostly I miss the fact that hurricanes avoid my corner of the Tropics! Rain I can cope with; high winds, crashing waves and mass destruction, don't do anything for me. So one more time since I move to Miami, I am wishing for a mild season!

Friday, June 1, 2007


On my daily walks around Brickell Key, I pass by a beautiful bougainvillea bush. I am surprised there are not more of them in Miami. They flower all year round and come in a rainbow of colors. This one is specially big and covered with blooms. There are usually several people looking at it. NO, is not a rare kind or even an unusual in color. I have seen bigger and lusher and with more flowers in Curacao. This one is home to a whole family of......iguanas!

The biggest one is a dark green and must be a male, they always grow bigger. Several dowdy females and bright green babies move about and seem unafraid. Sunning themselves on the branches hanging close to the water, eating the tender new leaves or the red flowers, these creatures seem perfectly at home. Big difference from the ones in Curaçao that know they should hide when humans approach or become lunch! They are an endangered species back home; people hunt them for...... YES, food.

How did they get here? I don't think they are indigenous of these parts, much less of this small man-made island..... pets let loose when their owners didn't know what to feed them or lost interest in the exotic creatures? Who knows. The fact is that they are attracting more interest than anything else on the small island. People stare, take pictures; parents take their children to watch them and they bring lettuce and pieces of fruits to feed them. Of course nobody gets too close, they look intimidating, and very unfriendly!

Since hurricane season is starting tomorrow, I am beginning to wonder: how would they survive the hurricane season in that bougainvillea bush so close to the water? There is not many trees or bushes around there to run to when wind and rain hit. Back home no matter how hard it rains, it clears rapidly and the sun beats down again. There are no high winds, no hurricanes. The landscape, more Arizona than Hawaii, is ideal for reptiles. Of course there are iguanas in many places in the Tropics, not only on the islands. These ones could be their descendants.

Now, like many other immigrants that have come to Miami, they have adapted and thrived , but keeping to some of their traditions. After all they live in extended families, eat their native food (the bougainvillea bush), stick together in their own neighborhoods and have learned to take advantage of what is offered in their new home.