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Tuesday, August 06, 2002

Just confirmed that my next trip will be to the Bahamas. I leave on 25th August and return home 20th October, just in time to install my show of quilts in the Arcadia Gallery in November. Currently I am busy all day creating new and exciting wall hangings and quilts for the show. So far its going to be a very blue show as I have lots of blue fabric, I think its my favourite colour. Of course all that may change as inspiration strikes.

Most of my time in the Bahamas will be spent on Andros Island, I will be working with at least six hotels there. This will be my first visit to this area, so I am really looking forward to it. Is it going to be hot? Yes. Is it hot in Toronto? YES YES

My big news is that I have decided to start a health journal on this website. I hope you will check it out and if you have anything at all to add, please email me at barbara@BarbaraElias.com
posted by Barbara Elias 9:08 AM

Monday, August 26, 2002

Monday morning. Stepped off the plane to a wall of heat and it was a long, outdoor walk, to the terminal. Got my baggage quickly and went looking for the representative of the tourist board who is supposed to greet me. No sign of anyone looking for me. Finally sit down on a chair outside. having been long abandoned by the porter who, to quote "has other people with more baggage to attend to" (read larger tip). Situate my cases with Ceso stickers promenantly displayed and wait, in the blistering heat. Finally, half an hour later a lady appears and asks my name. She was asked to collect me as the person who should have collected me had something else to do. Acutally she had been waiting there all along but the name of Ceso meant nothing to her. So much for communication.

Arrived at Dillets Guest House, situated in a pretty garden close to the beach. Family were having lunch so was invited to join them. Roasted chicken, macaroni and cheese casserole, white rice, lettuace salad. Refreshing lime juice to drink. Dessert was Iris's famous chocolate cake, which I passsed on in favour of mango ice-cream. The family were all listening to the Minister of Education waffle on the radio so I took a walk around the pretty gardens, finally escaping to the air-conditioning of my room,. only to have the electric power go off! Load sharing is part of the Island experience it seems.

Across the road from the guest house is a local church, so I was lulled to sleep by the enthusiastic sounds of voices and band.
Woke this morning to the sounds of dogs barking and birds cooing and chattering. This is not going to be a quite and peacful location.

The Bhamas has over 700 islands, a great many of them just sand bars with little or no vegetation. Nassau, where I am currently staying is a busy international port and Paradise Island the beach area. Lovely white sandy beaches ringed with huge hotel complexes and casinos. For many people its a one night stop-over before going on a Windjammer cruise, or visiting the out islands.

Probably because everything has to be imported, its very expensive here, and as they use US dollars to peg the local Bahmian Dollar, even worse for Canadians. It used to be very popular with US tourists but now that they don't travel so much, it is mostly people from the UK and Europe who are the tourists here. I will not be doing very much shopping, thats for sure.

Just had my continental breakfast, tinned orange juice, hard boiled eggs, cerials, toast and local jam and Johnny Cake (a bread made with lots of grated coconut) and coffee. Fruite of the day - banana - where are those Mangos? A trip to the local market may be in order today.

Now time for work and there is lots to do.
posted by Barbara Elias 10:42 AM

Thursday, August 29, 2002

I wrote a long journal yesterday and just before I posted it, the power went out and was off all day!
This is part of load sharing but at least they are installing newer and better lines so things in the future...

Had an interesting experience yesterday,. Got sucked in to taking the Royal City information session with the promise of free lunch and fity dollars. Definately NOT timeshare! HMmm Well the free lunch was ok as there was NO lunch where I was staying, the fifty dollars turned out to be a credit note, cashable in the Casino. Of course - why didn't I think of that. Tramped all through the casino to the cash-out desk, but credit note must be changed for, yes you guessed it, quarters! and at the change desk. Of course change desk is surrounded by one arm bandits, natch! Friends, You would have been proud of me. I took my five rolls of quarters, went back into the hotel, sweet talked the girl at the front desk to change them for a fifty dollar bill, and I left.

My client here is very discouraged, she has been planning a celebration for the 25th Anniversary of the small hotels association of the Bahamas for months. The Minster of Tourism had promised to be the key-note speaker. Yesterday, just three weeks before the conference date, he cancelled in favour of attending a function for the big hotels of the Bahamas. The organizer of the Big Hotels function was well aware of the date of the Small Hotels Association event, but did not care. No wonder the small hotel owners feel neglected by the very people who should be representing them. Seems that in the days of biggedr is better, the small hotels don't stand a chance which is a shame as these are the local people, most of the big hotels are owned bty off-shore organizations.

We have had a lot and I mean a lot, of rain here and for me its been great as it cools things down. Last night we had severe thunder storms which shut down a party in a garage parking lot. Thank goodness as they blasted my ears out and they were about a quarter of a mile away. Parties here tend to start around midnight and go on until dawn.

The owner of this small property is so discounraged about tourism that I am doiong a feasability study for her to turn it into a small conference centre. Her daughter has aleady left the business and is working in real estate.
posted by Barbara Elias 10:41 AM

Thursday, September 05, 2002

Had an intereting time on Sunday, my day off. Went to Atlantis Resort, on Paradise Island. Talk about out Vegasing Vegas! It was over the top by a mile. Huge, takes up half of the island. Big casino, lots of swimming pools, restaurants etc and on and on. At one point I asked the way to the beach "There are five pools here, why would you want to go to the beach" was the answer. Went to a patio and tried to get a cup of coffee. Must go inside and ask - of course. Service is not a big word in the Bahamas. Finally found a waiter, only to be told, it was after breakfast and before lunch so no coffee. Sat at a table anyway and a wonderful lady at the next table, who was from Boston, said "There are clean mugs over there and I have a jug full of coffee" So now I had a great mug of FREE coffee and a great conversation with this lovely lady.
Finally found the beach, chairs are free for the use of the guests. Catch is you have to sign your name on a list, and the carrier of the list expects a $5.00 tip. Like Isaid, its over the top.

I did have a nice time on the beach though, sat and read a book and got a little too red in places that were rather white before, and I don't mean my face!

Best news as far, I found a quilt club, wonderful ladies doing really great work. Have been to two of their meetings and to two fabric shops. Am now making a wall hanging - by hand - in my evenings.

I am at my second property now, a family run hotel on the ocean front, but no beach, only rocks. Two small swimming pools - now if it would only stop raining!
posted by Barbara Elias 3:23 PM

Saturday, September 07, 2002

Today is Saturday and I don't work weekends, despite a ardent plea from the hotel manager for me to work "just a couple of hours"

After a rather unsuccessful attempt to get "American Breakfast" I went in search of a locals fabric shop using the local buses. Actually it was not too difficult, as long as I remembered the bus numbers at the various changes. The local buses are great, all privately owned so of varying standards of repair, its a dollar per bus, no matter how far or how short a trip you take.

I found the shop and it had a great selection of fabrics from the USA and even a small selection of Northcott, which is made in Canada.

Did I buy a lot of fabric? YES. Was it the same as I could buy in Toronto?. PROBABLY. Was it more expensive? YES. Did I buy it anyway? YES I need to sew and am greatly inspired by the local quilters The Stepping Stones Quilting Guild. Actually I bought half yards of fabric with butterflies, fish and tropical landscapes to continue my theme of nature wall hangings. I have been offered to loan of a sewing machine by a delightful lady I met with the quilters but, to my surprise, I am enjoying sewing by hand and it goes along quite quickly and looks very neat, thanks to the sewing hints I received from Val Catford, a very acomplished quilting member of the Etobicoke Quilters Guild.

EVERYTHING HAS STOPPED HERE. LOTS OF SCREAMS. MUST SEE WHAT IS GOING ON. Am in a cyber cafe, eating a crab sandwich and drinking great coffee. A young lady, probably off a cruise ship, has seen a cockroach. I have been flicking them off the keyboard for the last hour! Welcome to the tropics.

Now she has run out of the cafe without paying and the manager is running down the road after her. All because of a "teenager" local name for small roach.

I enjoyed walking down-town, although it is very busy today with four cruise ships being in port. However I am a little sick of being accosted with "braid your hair lady", particularly as I hardly have any hair to braid! oops, pause to divert a cockroach intent on climbing into my crab sandwich. Now its brought the whole family. Time to moveto the pario and finish enjoying my lunch, even though its raining, as intropical storm raining!!
posted by Barbara Elias 2:47 PM

Wednesday, September 11, 2002

Yesterday I changed hotels, yet again. My latest hotel, whos' name I will not mention was pretty horrible so I checked out and into the Hilton for a couple of days, which soon restored my soul.

Tomorrow I fly to the island of Andros for about 10 days, then to Cat Island, then to Grand Bahamas, then to Eluthra, then home. My program has changed considerably with lots of 3 day seminars on a wide range of subjects. Such intensive seminars are quite a strain and its hard to keep "up" all the time but I have done it a number of times before so I am sure it will be fine. I may even get home a few days early.

I am enjoying my visits with the Stepping Stone Quilting Guild. They are great ladies and always taking me fabric shopping.

Isn't it strange how sometimes a couple of words brings back memories deep into our past. When I was a child, just a few short years ago (or so it seemed) there was a craze for autograph books. Not the kind that collected the signatures of famous people (we didn't know any, anyway) but a more modest style, in which friends wrote verses, some inspiring, some funny and some just plain dumb. Anyway the words "stepping stones" reminded me of a verse in my childhood autograph book that went something like this:

Isn't it strange, that princes and kings,
and clowns that caper in sawdust rings,
and ordinary folks, like you and me,
are builders of eternity.

To each is given a bag of tools,
a slice of time and a book of rules,
and each must build, 'ere his time is 'ore,
a stumbling block or a stepping stone.

I hope I am building a stepping stone, how about you?
posted by Barbara Elias 7:04 PM

Saturday, September 14, 2002

I like airports. I never get bored or annoyed if my fight is delayed. I particularly like small local airports so it was no stress to find myself sitting in the domestic side of Nassaur airport for three hours. I watched a lot of women clutching very tiny babies, waiting for their flights home. Most women go to Nassau to have their babies and any other medical treatment it seems. Although "bush medicine" is still popular, particularly amongst the poorer people on the out islands or family islands as they are called. A visit to the doctor is at least $30 US and medication is scarce and expensive. Seeing the goods being "walked in" (as opposed to being sent by ship) reminded me of how difficult life can be, away from the facilities and services that we take for granted in our cities.

The flight over, 12 minutes in a two engined tin box with eight seats, was hot but it was interesting to look down at the ocean and see the coral reefs outlined in turqoise water.

Andros is the largest of the islands of the Bahamas, and the least explored. Actually it is three islands, not connected by bridges, and lots of smaller islands that are attached to the main land with little bridges here and there. The land is totally flat with lots of mangrove swamps, ideal nurseries for the bone fish and snappers that are so plentiful around the reef. There are some beaches but most of them are rather inacessable without a boat. What little tourism there is concentrates on bone fishing. Seems the bone fish is a great fighter and a challenge to the true fisherman.

I am currently working at Creekside Lodge, a small collection of elegant cottages and a bar and restaurant perched over the waters of the inlet. The sea is just a few yards away and the great reefs, the third best in the world for blue holes after The Great Barrier Reef of Australia and the reefs of Belize, are close by.

It is totally wonderful to be here after the noise and activity of Nassau. The people are very warm and friendly and generous with their hugs - and we all need hugs. The pace is island slow and the salt air cleans and refreshes. This would be a wonderful place to come and write a book or recouperate after an illness.

Right now is the slow season and there are not so many guests so we eat as one big party. Last night we had lobster salad, followed by fried conch and home-made cake with custard. We all sat on benches running along the outside of a square covered space that held the BBQ. The night breeze was warm and the debate on free trade hot and heavy and dominated mostly by the women in the party. It was a sheer delight to listen to them, watch the tide ebb and flow and the fish jumping. The stuff dreams are made of.

Today the men in the party have gone fishing. We put in our orders, a perfect, pink king conch shell, two lobsters, three grouper and a shark. A hammerhead shark - ten foot long -this was from the lodge owner. I hope she was joking. Now the pool is calling so I am off. The computer room is no place to be on a sunny afternoon on Andros Island.
posted by Barbara Elias 3:34 PM

Wednesday, September 18, 2002

The weekend was very laid back at the Creekside Lodge. There were however some very interesting guests and we had some great debates. I partricularly enjoyed Cassius Stewart who is the leader of a small opposition political party. Seems he is currently out on bail for a major demeanor at the opening of parliament in Nassau. Being locked into the British parliamentary system, the opening of parliament is a very formal event, full of symbolism and ritual. One of the most sacred being the presentation of the Mace, without which partliament cannot open. Anyway said Cassius handcuffed himself to the Mace, thus aborting the opening of parliament. They had to get heavy duty metal cutters to separate Cassius and the Mace. It was all a protest against the changes on bounderies on the island. However it does not seem to have damaged his relationship with the current goverment as he was at the lodge with MP Ron Pinder, of the Health Ministry Mr Pinder is rather new to government and two very strong accountants, women from Nassau, had a great time in debate with Mr Pinder over dinner. I can say he matched the minced lobster we had for dinner at the end of it. The women of the Bahamas are VERY STRONG.

Now I am at the Lighthouse Yacht club in Andros presenting a three day seminar. Life is never boring!!!
posted by Barbara Elias 4:45 PM

Monday, September 23, 2002

Have not been ableto access the interenet for the last few days and my mailbox was full of junk mail, so if you wrote and could not connect, PLEASE write again. I do enjoy reading your emails - its my life-line to my real life.

I was sitting on the dock, enjoying the view of the boats and the water, a morning coffee and the warm sun on my back, feeling totally, perfectly at one with the world. I have always loved the water, in fact my mother used to say I had salt water instead of blood in my veins. I can remember as a child, probably only five or six, the joy of going fishing in the North Sea with my father. I had a little yellow oil-skin coat and a yellow hat, a miniture replica of the ones the lifeboat crew wore in those days. It would be cold and wet and I would be in my glory, dangling my line over the edge of the boat just like daddy and catching small dabbs (flat fish) and sometimes little cod fish. Later I learned the joys of sailing, starting in a small ten foot dinghy on the rivers and Norfolk Broads of England, graduating to 36 footers in the Virgin Islands and Chesapeak Bay and of course to Adriana, the 36ft Triamaran on Lake Ontario.

Talking about boats I just remembered that my great grand father was a sea captain, in fact I still have his telescope, so mabe I do have salt water in my veins.
posted by Barbara Elias 9:59 AM

I had a very adventurous weekend. Was taken exploring the backroads and creeks that cover Andros Island. Actually the Island is made up of three islands, none of which are connected by roat or bridge so today, when I go to the south of the island I have to take a small plane. Anyway back to the adventure. Mr Mac, who is a perfect island gentleman and a very knowledgeable tour guide, took us in his new Kia 10 seater. We were given the history of the island, right back to the days of rum running and Black Beard. Saw blue holes, deep inland caverns filled with sea water which were first explored by Jack Coustau and which are the striking colour of peacock blue. Went to "Barbies Cafe" a totally delightful small cafe, immaculately clean and decorated with artistic installations of
nets, large shells and starfish. The food was the very best I have had since arriving here. Fresh homemade bread buns, conch fritters, a local treat, platters full of fish, conch and lobster, all fresh from the ocean that day. All in portions of such generosity that we had to take half of it home in "doggie bags" island style, which is a paper plate covered with tin-foil. Were introduced to many varieties of local flora a fauna, stopped to try and catch huge land-crabs and received gifts of tiny orchids, coconut milk right out of the nut (served in ice chilled glasses - this man thinks of everything), and fruits right off the tree such as custard apples and saspadilly fruits. We visited woderous guest houses rught on the water and local fishing lodges. Truly a very special Island experience.

Saturday I had the great joy of sharing my quilting knowledge with some of the local ladies and forming the first Andros Island quilting club. They are very lucky as they have a great source of beautiful fabric from Androsia Batik right on the island. I am of course bringing home as much Androsia Batik as I can squeeze into my suitcase.

Hurricane Isadore has caused us some concern in the past few days but she has, like many other women, taken a liking to Mexico and while I am sorry for Cancun and the Yukatan area, am very thankful that she did not arrive here as this could have curtailed my visit, which I am enjoying so much now that I am in the out islands and away from Nassau.
posted by Barbara Elias 10:17 AM

Tuesday, September 24, 2002

Well sometimes you're the windscreen and sometimes you're the bug. Right now I feel that I am definately the bug! Yesterday I went to the airport to get a flight to South Andros, which is separated from North Andros by a large body of water. The flight came but the pilot, for some indefinable reason, chose to go right back to Nassau and not go to South Andros at all. So I went back to the hotel, got up at five a.m. this morning to get the early flight out as my seminar there starts at ten. The weather is really bad, we are getting the backlash of hurricane Kyle and the front lask of hurricane Lili. However the small plane finally arrived but they bumped me off as they had 16 people who had connecting flights from Nassau (the plane only holds 16 people). So now I am hoping that this afternoon the flight will definately go to South andros.
posted by Barbara Elias 9:25 AM
Given the record of Bahamasair, who knows. I just discovered that hurricanes are named at the begining of the year and as we are already up to Lili, we only have:- Marco, Nana, Omar,Palcoma,Rene,Sally,Teddy, Vicky and Winfred to go!!! Do you suppose we start at A again if we run out of names? Lili is heading our way it seems, but may only be a tropical storm. The people here live with these fears every year but for someone not used to it, it can be a bit scary. I was in Costa Rica during hurricame Ceasar and it was no picnic. Actually it washed out the Pan American Highway and we had to take a bus to the highway, clamber down a steep muddy bank to a very swollen river (carrying our own baggage) Walk across a very shaky log bridge and clamber up the muddy bank at the other side to connect with a second bus.
posted by Barbara Elias 9:40 AM
We are having connection problems and the last post should be read after the 9.25 post.
posted by Barbara Elias 9:42 AM
Back to my motto "When life gives you scrapts, make a quilt" So I am going to check back into the hotel - yet again- and work on my Andros Island Butterfly quilt, knowing that the universe will unfold as it should.
posted by Barbara Elias 9:44 AM

Thursday, September 26, 2002

I finally arrived at South Andros and I am glad that I finally made it. This part of the island is so peaceful and laid-back and the people so delightful. We had a great meal in a tiny local cafe,- crab and rice, wonderful fresh lobster and lots of salads- what more could you ask for. The owner/cook is a truly great lady and a delightful hostess. We could not stay in the lodge we were booked in to as a group of hunters arrived for pigeon shooting so would up in three apartments over a small row of shops. We were right on the ocean so I was lulled to sleep with the sound of waves crashing on the shore. Anyone who has been to The Bahamas and not visited the out islands has not seen the real Bahamas. Yesterday after the seminar we went by boat to a very remote eco-lodge which was totally out of this world. It was everything you have ever dreamed of when you think of an island paradise. A long stretch of deserted white powderby beach, backed by tropical fruit trees, palms, orchids and many other beautiful flowers. Brightly coloured birds and butterflies flittering and twittering. Wooden cottages hidden amonst the trees and the grand cottage, with its large dining table, sitting areas and island decor so inviting. Not to mention the double hammocks along the beach front. It is also totally self-sustaining with everything state-of-the-art ecco friendly. I will get the website address and post it soon sothat you can see for yourself.

Now I am back at the Lighthouse Yachtclub and Marina and tomorrow I go to a new resort called "Love At First Sight" I can hardly wait. Just hope those three hurricanes that are rattling around don't land here.
posted by Barbara Elias 5:58 PM

Sunday, October 06, 2002

As we left South Andros I saw a sign at the airport "live crabs not allowed on the plane unless well packed". What do you suppose that is all about. Did someone take some crabs in a shopping bag and let them loose on this tiny 10 seater plane? If so did they nip the toes of the pilot? Hmm interesting the things you see and hear at small airports.

Back in North Andros for the weekend, we had the second meeting of the Andros Quilting Club, with some new members and another visit to the Androsia factory outlet where I aquired more batik fabric, natch!

Then we went to Exhuma. What an incredible island. Everything one thinks about when the word Paradise comes to mind. White sandy beaches, sea the most unbelievable colour of Turqoise and almost totally unpopulated. We stayed at a new development right on the ocean. Lovely villas just like gingerbread houses. Acutally had time to walk on the beach in the evening for a short while.

Back into Nassau, then out again to Grand Bahama and the town of Freeport. Rather more developed but not as hectic as Nassau. Will be staying at Running Mon Marina from tomorrow. Right now am at Royal Islander which is across the road from the international bazaar and the straw market. Sadly most of the things in the straw market come from the Philippines, with prices marked up about a thousand percent. Not doing any shopping here thats for sure.

Now that the hurricanes seem to have left the area, at least for a while, we can relax a bit. It was quite a worrying time for although the islands were not hit the tides were high and it was quite windy. Hurricanes it seem can change direction at any time, so we were holding our breath a few times.
posted by Barbara Elias 3:06 PM

Thursday, October 10, 2002

I am now at Running Mon Marina and Resort and am loving it. Although not really a resort, its a small hotel on the banks of an inlet and very close to the beach. After visiting and staying in so many hotels that are in need of TLC its delight to be here. My room is right on the dock and I can see the boats from my window. Everything is immaculate, beautiful gardens with narry a weed in sight, a truly clean swimming pool and, best of, probably the best restaurant on the island. My room has a small kitchenette, inlcuding microwave and fridge and a coffee maker with all the supplies. So often itsthe little things that make such a difference to the comfort of the traveller. If only more hotels understood this.

Last night we had a ttrue "horror story" visit to a restaurant that likes to consider itself as the best in the Grand Bahamas. It started with the hostess not being able to find our reservation on her computer and leaving us standing for over ten minues in the lobby. Then the menu was not available for us to look at. Can you believe this. Seems a few things change on a daily basis, fresh fish for example. We actually waited over half an hour for the one page menu to be printed and when it arrived it was full of spelling errors. Guess they don't have spellcheck on their computer. During the time were were waiting we were given the wine list and asked to choose our wine. How they thought we could choose wine without knowing what we were going to eat, I don't know. Anyway the wine list, very impressive in a heavy leather folder, contained only wines from France. At this juncture I asked if it was in fact a French restaurant. No certainly not was the reply. Seems the owner likes French wines. Some time later a backet of bread arrived, wrapped in a cloth napkin that was full of holes, and not small holes but ones I could actually put several fingers through. And so it continued. The food, when it finally arrived was superb, although built so high the top layer almost tickled my nose. However the evening was a disaster for me. Dining out in a first class restaurant is a total experience, not just the food but service and attention to detail. To add insult to injury 15% service charge was automatically added to the bill. I was tempted to ask "what service"? but with a great deal of effort, managed to restrain myself The sad thing is that this restaurant is leasted out by a very pretty hotel and I feel that the hotels reputation will be tarnished by the actions of the restaurant, over which they have no control. Well tonight back to Nassau for three days R and R before going to Cat Island, one of the least known islands with pink sands. Am looking foreward to seeing it.
posted by Barbara Elias 9:52 AM

Saturday, October 19, 2002

I am standing at the ferry dock waiting to go swim with the dolphins. Can hardly wait. full report when I get home Sunday night Its alwasy nice to go home again
posted by Barbara Elias 8:09 AM

Monday, October 21, 2002

Swimming with the Dolphins was a lot of fun. They are truly awesome creatures. So gentle and they really do seem to enjoy interacting with us humans. I even got a hug from one of them AND I have it all recorded on video.

My last island was Cat Island and I think it is my favourite because of the wonderful beaches and the great resort we stayed at. Fernandez Bay Resort. It is all one dreams of when thinking of paradise. A pretty rustic little villa with all mod cons. Right on the beach so you walk out of the patio door and ten steps takes you into the crystal clear waters. The manager Donna was wonderful and so relaxed The meals were great and the wide smiles of the staff were so welcoming. Although we were there during a tropical storm which provided a bit of excitement from time to time, I still had a really good time there.

Now I am back home and already sewing up a storm, getting ready for my one man (woman) show in the Arcadia Art Gallery, which opens Friday 8th November and runs for three weeks, after which it is the Christmas Show in the Arcadia Gallery.
posted by Barbara Elias 9:45 PM

 
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