So my lovely husband asked me what I wanted to do on Monday, because we had the day off for a public holiday. In fact it was the first Portuguese Day here in Bermuda, celebrating the contribution the Portuguese community have made to the island. I thought, well, go to the block party of course. I’d seen stalls and covers being set up in St George and there definitely was a celebration on in Hamilton. So we decided to go to it later on arriving at six o’clock with the intention to get dinner there. It looked fairly quiet in St George as we pulled in, and sure enough no one was there, we had missed it. I had thought it might be on Saturday but neither of us checked. I had a melt down. I was hungry. We had a busy day prior to that moment sanding a book case and varnishing it, as well as snorkeling, so I have to admit, I had a right tanty. I was disappointed. You see we don’t always get it right here, but I had visions of a fantastic blog, amazing photos and being able to document the first official holiday. Not this time.
This week I volunteered again for another charity’s tag day in Hamilton. I was amused to find myself opposite parliament, sitting on the wall by the Government building. My amusement was because I’m not really meant to volunteer with my visa status, but it’s okay as long as they have tried and can’t get a Bermudian to do it first, and as long as it is not connected to my trained profession that I’m allowed to seek work in. It’s very complicated, but being the victim of immigration policies before, I’m very cautious and know my rules. And there I was placed between two official government facilities. The day was humid, and very, very overcast with a tiny sprinkle of light rain from time to time. I was hoping it would stay off, but the sky got darker and darker. When we left home earlier in the morning, it had rained already, good heavy tank rain, and the sun was coming out. I thought it was over, but not in Hamilton. It turns out they hadn’t had any rain yet. I never cease to be amazed how much difference ten kilometers can make for weather. My planning was off as I was in flat sandals, with my tiny Kathmandu umbrella my lovely boys gave me that I carry everywhere, and just had a light windbreaker jacket with me, so I was starting to stress.
My intention was to catch the bus home, once I finished, so I packed up and walked through town to the bus stop. My lovely husband said ‘take the car, I don’t need it today’, but I was looking forward to the walk from the bus stop to the house, but thought I knew best. Well, that’s when my day’s adventures really began. I caught the bus amongst little flurries of trying to rain drops, my head was getting the atmospheric crush and beginning to pound. A lady stopped at the bus stop and told me she was ‘discombobulated’ when I asked after her day. She had lost her jacket and was trying desperately to find it, all the time checking the skies. A few cell phone calls later she located it and was off at a great pace to retrieve it. The bus came and I sat beside a man that I thought looked around seventy-ish, and we struck up a conversation immediately when he heard my accent and realised I was a kiwi. I find that all around the world, if I can communicate with enough language to get me by, I have the most interesting conversations with many, many lovely people. It has been quite a feat to overcome any shyness that may had kept me quiet in the past, and just revel in the enjoyment of meeting people, finding out their story, and sharing a few minutes learning about their life and them. I got half an hour with this lovely gentlemen who first told me about his world travels, how much he missed his deceased wife, how proud he was to be independent, and how he had lived in Bermuda his whole life. He got offended when I didn’t ask him his age, and proudly reported that he was one hundred and three years old. Now that floored me; I was the same age as his great, great granddaughter. He spritely got off the bus and hightailed it over to his car parked nearby. Imagine, living independently, still driving, and looking so young at that age. He was alive when horse and cart were still transport, when the railway line was put in, and disbanded again, and remembers the first car. We went past a mansion that he pointed to, and told me he remembers playing on the foundations as a child while his father worked on the building. We worked out that would be in the 1920’s. What a privilege it was to meet him.
When it was my turn, I got off the bus and the second I did, the rain absolutely exploded from the sky. Now I often joke that the rain here is like someone throwing a bucket of water at you, and this was worse. In two steps away from the bus door, my shirt, bag and tiny jacket were soaked. My poor favorite sandals may never recover. Sprinting to get home, I realised that it was futile and turned myself around to seek out shelter in the bus stop. Bus stops are made of limestone, with tile roofs, and usually a seat; or just a pole. Blue for traveling away from Hamilton, and pink for traveling towards Hamilton. Some have a solar panel and wi fi, others have an old chair a local has placed for people to sit on by the pole. It’s luck of the draw which one you end up by, but this one was solid and a good shelter. Often in the mornings when it rains, scooters will be parked all around the bus stop and it will be crowded with people trying to stay dry until the rain stops. It doesn’t usually last long but this went on for ages. I had company as a man was waiting for a bus, and said ‘you are really pretty for your age’. Well. Now where I come from, these days, that is harassment, especially alone with a strange man at an isolated bus stop. Here in Bermuda, it’s an absolute compliment, and it’s just meant as that. One man I met at a social event explained to me that Bermudian men ‘bank it’. What he meant by that is compliments are given, lavished actually, because they are being ‘banked for later’. You never know when they might be repaid. Hmmm. I’m unsure if I’ll ever feel comfortable being told by a complete stranger how beautiful they find me, but it’s a frequent occurrence here. I should be flattered, but really – what age did he think I was?! I cringe when asked in the shops if I have a ‘Senior’ card and try my best not to be insulted that they think I’m over sixty-five. I decided not to ask. Although I have to admit relief as the bus came to collect him, and the rain finally stopped, so off I went.
I walked about twenty meters and down it came again. Good grief. Now the decision, do I just get wet, or return back to the bus stop? I was already wet through, I couldn’t use my umbrella because it was too windy, and I was contemplating my dilemma when a car pulled up. The man said ‘Girl, get in, your getting wet, I’ll give you a ride’. Now here I am again challenged by my cultural upbringing, my stranger danger and having lived for three years previously in a country where people don’t ever talk to strangers. In the UK you can travel from North Wales to London on the train and never even have the person opposite you actually look at you! I replied that I was okay, and he was entertained by that notion as I was getting soaked. Bless him, he explained that his mum would rip strips off him if he left me without help in the rain, and he lived near me and had seen me out walking, and it was no problem. He reeled off shop names and family connections to make me feel more assured he was a safe bet. Cautiously I accepted, after all he was about my son’s age, had impeccable manners and owned a car like I used to in the UK. I also thought, he’s a bit skinny so I could over power him easily if I needed to! This young man was delightful, and I’m so glad I met him. He did me such a favour driving right to my door. The only other time I have accepted a ride was from two old blokes in a beat up car, and only because I was running late to the bus. When I got in I immediately regretted it, not because they weren’t perfect gentlemen, but because the car was so full of ganja smoke, I was as high as a kite by the time I got out, and very unwell. They stopped traffic for me to get to the bus stop, including a police car. It was bloody funny.
Finally home, as I walked past my neighbours, she leaned out the window and said ‘Girl, you didn’t walk in the rain? You should have called me!’. You know I never thought of it. But I will next time. I had a lot of explaining to do to my lovely husband when he got home, but he just shrugged and said ‘I told you to take the car’. I promise to listen next time!
More soon – Sally