Monday, October 27, 2008

Weather Changes

Here we are again, the weather is changing in South Florida! I read yesterday in the new paper a comment by a popular local writer. She said small things point to this change: temperatures a couple of degrees lower, a feeling of crispiness in the air, she is wearing jeans instead of shorts.....She assured us that Fall is indeed here. Of course nothing like what is happening in the Northeast or the Midwest, but Fall none the less.

Well, I am glad someone is keeping tabs! I have noticed a bit of a cool breeze in the mornings and early evenings when I walk. I have also noticed that the water in our swimming pool is cooler and humidity is a bit lower. My husband and I went out last night and we saw people already wearing sweaters and jackets....a bit premature, if you ask me, but a sure sign that Floridians think Fall has arrived. After five years living in Miami, I think I can tell these changes. Still, is nothing to write home about...yet! Except if you are a long time Florida resident, I guess.

In a few weeks it will be delightful, though. People will congratulate themselves for living in Florida. The days will be sunny and bright and crisp...there goes that word again. Mornings will be cool enough for a sweater and jeans will be wearable again, at least for me. I don't dare to wear them in the Summer. I will take a wrap when we go out at night, just in case it gets nippy. Sandals will be replaced by more covered shoes...not necessary at all times! Yes, the best part of the year in South Florida is starting. Everything that we like to do will be more enjoyable and it's the time of the year when I am almost glad we moved here!!!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Hurricane OMAR

Hurricane OMAR formed in the Eastern Caribbean on Tuesday....just off Curaçao!! This most have been a first...It caused widespread damage along the beaches. High winds and torrential rains kept the island on a state of alert until today. It has been a couple of very active years for hurricanes, but what is more worrisome is that they are getting closer.... It used to be that Curaçao was way outside the hurricane belt. Even when storms came close, the damage was never as bad as in other islands. This has changed lately. As I said before, whoever is in charge...STOP IT!

I have been in touch with friends back home. The pictures are scary. My friend Vicki sent pictures of the storm today...she hosted our bridge morning today and everyone had to help keeping the water out of her house. The winds were so strong the water was seeping under the doors! They had to use towels to stop the water!!! It even came through the closed windows in the dinning room. A old satellite dish fell in the pool. It was empty, but the rains filled it overnight. What is this? It hardly seems like the Curaçao I remember.

Monique sent pictures taken along the area where I used to walk...couldn't believe the damage. Then there are the beaches, not one escaped unscathed. Something similar happened when LENNY came calling years ago, and it took years to repair them. This time it will be worse, some of them are unrecognizable. How sad!

Considering the state of the world's economy, the fact that people are guarding their pocketbooks and vacations are not going to be priority, this could not have come at a worse time. I only hope that this is the last of the big storms of this year....fifteen is quite enough!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Moving On...

What makes you an expat? the fact that you move away from your country of origin and make a life somewhere else. I am not talking about the people that move reluctantly looking for a better life. They move because things in their country of origin had deteriorated so badly that it is impossible for them to make a living. Life will be hard at times and they do work hard, they need to support their families back home and that is a priority. More times than not, they end up just assimilating into the new country. Those are not real expats, but immigrants. I am talking about the ones that voluntarily move away, willingly pick a place and do research about it and make the move. They arrive there, make a life and decide if it's worth staying or if it's not, they decide to move on again. Those are, in my view, the true expats.

There are more and more of these lately. The younger generation of expats is a motley group that know what they want and are not afraid to go get it...anywhere that is. It is a refreshing trait, I find. Completely different from the thousands that moved to remote places in the previous two centuries, looking for a life of adventure, going to represent their countries' interests, settling there and seldom coming home until they retired. The new expats have the advantage to come home as much as they wish, they spend holidays all over the globe and are not afraid of moving to another country at a drop of a hat.

What wonderful thing! In some ways, it has to do with age, but mostly it has to do with a sense that the world is an open's there to be seen and enjoyed. Take my daughter, Camille. She went to London five years ago to study Art at the Sotheby's Institute. It was to be a fifteen month course and once she got her degree, she was to return to Boston. Well, she fell in love with the city and decided to stay. Since she carries a Dutch passport, this was easily accomplished. She finished, got herself a job and a flat and stayed. She has made friends and has enjoyed evey minute.

In true expat fashion, she has adapted and calls the city home . She travels around Europe when she can and has no desire to come back to the States for now...but would not rule out moving to another European country. She is considering it! And why not? isn't this what the new expat is? someone that can adapt anywhere, at any time? I do envy her....must be so exciting to move freely and to know that you can make it and succeed, because you already did!

So back to expats, there is another kind and it also has to do with age. These are the ones, that looking to retire, have found that staying in one's country is not always the smartest thing. Your money can go a long way in other countries.....can't count on the developing countries economies anymore. Millions are moving overseas to live the life of their dreams: a nice home, household help, good health care that is cheap. I have friends that have done this and cannot be happier. So move on if you can and want, the world with all its complications is still a wonder!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Hunting Iguanas...

What's that? in South Florida? I thought only in the Tropics were iguanas are a source of income or food. You catch them to sell to people who would take them to pet shops in the US or Europe, or you put them on the pot for a bit of protein in your diet......I can almost understand this from people in need. Now, for profit and blatantly catching them in the waterways and canals of South Florida.....really.

It seems that since 1966, when they were first introduced to the area, iguanas has multiplied at an incredible pace. Brought here by pet shops specializing in exotic animals...and why may I ask!...the reptiles have adapted well. Not being indigenous of these parts, their unchecked growth is worrisome to environmentalists. There is little they can do against nature. Once they are let loose by owners that cannot handle them anymore, the creatures take to the wild and breed. As anything brought on by globalization, the results are not good for either side. Unfortunately, the iguanas are the bigger losers

Enter the profiteers. These pet shop owners, wholesalers and retailers, see this as a bonanza. They prowl the canals and waterways of the area at night. It's at this time that the iguanas are in a state of suspended sun! They are easy to catch and there are so many of them. People along the banks, either don't want them caught or are happy to get rid of them, so there is a debate raging on. Not one the iguanas will win. There is no law against this practice because the iguanas are not protected, they don't belong here in the first place. Besides the government is too preoccupied with the economic situation and has no resources to tackle the problem.

The iguanas I see along the bridge on Brickell Key will sooner or later be pry of these hunters...that will be a really sad day. They remind me of home, and I have grown accustomed to them. They look so peaceful and harmless on the bougainvillea bushes, sunning themselves in plain view......having no clue what's coming!

Monday, October 6, 2008

Life Changes

I'm online a lot...mostly for work, but still it happens. I find that lately, more and more I am running into friends in cyberspace. So chatting away with people I haven't seen in ages has become a pleasant occurrence and one I truly enjoy.

This morning I ran into Cheryl (not her real name!!)......I met her through my association with FAWCO and she was always so very nice. Well, we got talking and things are not looking so great for her. First, her husband has decided he is not interested in the marriage anymore. Nothing new there, some men of a certain age, think they can do better than the wives they have and that some young thing will be interested in them and make their lives exciting again....what to do? That happens frequently lately.....

As many in her situation, Cheryl, is putting herself through a question and answer exercise: where did I go wrong?, why is this happening and what do I do about it? That is normal...but she also has started to focus on a novel idea: I did this. NO, she is not getting herself waddled in self-pity. She is recognizing that when she was young and had everything, she had little care for the future. She spent money in traveling and redecorating, she did everything that she wanted and had no concern for what would happen when she grew older. She had no interest in financial matters and thought that everything was always going to be the same.... AHH, youth!

I said the right things, told her all would be fine and we promised to keep in touch from now on. We probably will, but let's be realistic, time and distance are not on our side. Afterwards, I sat here thinking....she is right! Most of us will have no problems of this kind, our marriages are solid and we'll grow old together. For some of us, though, Cheryl's case is too close for comfort. Youth makes everything look so safe and so permanent. We do spend, travel, live our lives like there is no tomorrow....but in these times of market instability.....that is scary.

So, maybe Cheryl has a point: were the friends that worked all their lives, saved and planned for retirement, the ones we thought boring and we felt sorry for, right? are they having more fun now with their future secured? I couldn't say, since no retirement plan seems secured at the moment, but I figure they have something to count on.......In any case, the question is out there: have fun now and will see about the future or work now and have fun later? These are things that we ponder in these days of crashing markets, 401K loses and uncertainty in stock values......not your average Life in The Tropics, for sure!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Lighter Musings

All this depressing news....I have to get back to the things that motivate me and made me start this blog: my experiences abroad, my life in the Tropics. Since moving to Miami, domesticity has become more and more part of my daily routine. Yes, I write, I meet deadlines and I go about my life. Still, the daily chores are part of this...and where is a good housekeeper when you need her?

Today, I was trying to get the silver organized: take it out, clean some of it...I know this seems so trivial in the mist of the market scare...but, you know, we need to do what we can control! So, I took these things out and looked at them. Is it really necessary to have them shiny? is it really worth it? I love to see them shine , but what for. I never use my more formal things, our life here is very casual...even more than in Curaçao. Amazing!

Let me give you an example. I have a large collection of silver spoons, the small ones you use for coffee or tea. Love to look around for them in antique shops or estate sales, friends and family give them to me as presents....well, I have not used one of them since we moved. Nobody here comes to your house just for coffee or tea...everyone wants to meet you somewhere. Dinner parties are rare, better go out to a restaurant. The niceties of sitting down with friends for a coffee morning, for afternoon tea, are not part of the culture here in Miami. What a shame!

Back in Curaçao, besides my bridge mornings, there was always someone receiving friends at home for a cup of tea or coffee. It was a simple pleasure and I miss that. It made for more communication with your friends and family, it made a difference in your day. Ah, the good old days! I am beginning to realize that I am looking back, more than looking this old age or just homesickness? Powerful thoughts for another day.....