Welcome! Tally ho!

Our B.V.I. Adventure is designed to give our family, friends and any other interested followers a look into the life of two expatriates making their way on the island of Tortola. Tortola is the largest island in the British Virgin Islands.

So, why did we move 2,000 miles away from our home in Knoxville, Tennessee? Michael accepted a position as the director of retail and international sales for a Caribbean clothing brand.



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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Anniversary Survey

First of all, a HUGE thank you for all of the submissions to our Anniversary Survey.  It was wonderful to hear from so many people from all around the globe!  We are going to do our best to answer all of your questions and we have a special video reveal for the giveaway, so make sure to read (and watch) all the way to the end!

The survey is divided into three categories:  About Us, About the Past Year and About the BVI.  Let's start with that one...
About the BVI
Question: What is the most similar about the culture of the BVI and the US, and what is the biggest difference?
Answer:  The most similar...let's see...this is a hard one.  We share some of the same holiday traditions, which is evident now as we see Christmas decorations dotting the island, and rows of little bikes and other toys lined up outside the department stores.  Even though it's 80 degrees and sunny, the Christmas spirit is very much alive in the BVI right now.  And similar to the pomp and circumstance associated with the 4th of July in the states, the Emancipation celebration we witnessed back in August was impressive.  We could most definitely identify with the pride of the people on display that day.

The biggest difference has to be the drive, or lack thereof.  I'm reminded of a certain passage from "Don't Stop the Carnival" that really sums it up:
The West Indian is not exactly hostile to change, but he is not much inclined to believe in it.  This comes from a piece of wisdom that his climate of eternal summer teaches him.  It is that, under all the parade of human effort and noise, today is like yesterday and tomorrow will be like today...the idea is to take things easy and enjoy the passing time under the sun. 
Michael and I - like so many other expats here - arrived in the BVI and marched in that parade of human effort and noise, until we turned around and realized the culture of the BVI prohibits the locals from joining in!  The best way we've learned to cope with this stark difference is to adopt the old adage, "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em!"  So in a way, we've become more like them.  This change was most recently realized when we met some new expats.  We just nodded and listened as they shared their first impressions of the island with us.  While we shared those exact experiences and felt the same frustrations, we are much more mellow now.
Question:  What could you tell us about finding a place to live in the BVI?
Answer:  The housing situation in the BVI can be a challenging landscape for expats looking to rent.  If you're a buyer, there are quite a few houses on the market right now and great real estate agents to show you around.   (Louise at Coldwell Banker is highly recommended!)  From large estates with guest houses and maid quarters to small cottages or even condos are available for sale.  Apartments for rent, on the other hand, are harder to come by...  It's not that there isn't a plethora of options, it's just that so many of the houses have the most ridiculous furnishings or finishes.  This is something that you have to see to believe!

Question:  What's involved in obtaining a work permit?
Answer:  Obtaining a work permit in the BVI is more often than not a very long and daunting process.  The BVI protects it workforce which means expatriates (non-belongers) must go through a few rigorous rounds of applications in various offices to obtain a work permit.  The entire process - from start to finish - took Michael 10 weeks to complete and for my "dependent status" it took another 9 weeks after that!  A full medical exam is required, along with criminal records from the state from which you are leaving and the state where you were born.  You will need a handful of passport photos and a whole lot of patience.  One of the most frustrating things about the work permit process???  The bizarre hours the different departments keep.  It goes something like this:
The medical office accepts immigration/work permit papers on Wednesdays from 9 - 2 and 8:30 - 11:30 on Thursdays, except for the third Wednesday and fourth Thursday of the month. 
The labor department accepts final applications between the hours of 11 - 3 on the second and third Tuesdays.
While these are a bit exaggerated, it's not by much as anyone who's been through the process can attest!  Oh and lastly, while waiting for your immigration status to be finalized, you must leave the country every 60 days.  For us, that meant a few day trips to St. Thomas and St. John here and there.

Question:  We know from past experience that the cost of goods is considerably more than here in North America, and the selection of available goods is different. But what more can you share with us?

Answer:   One thing that may surprise you about the cost of goods in the BVI is that beer is cheaper than Coca-Cola.  Pretty much anything that has a "sin tax" in North America is dirt cheap here.  Liquor, wine, and cigarettes are extremely affordable, while a bag of Ruffles potato chips may run $7, as opposed to the $3.99 you might pay in your local grocery store.   

Question:  Is the BVI more Caribbean or more British?  Or is it a mismash?
Answer:  The BVI is more Caribbean, but in it's own BVI-way.  If you've traveled in the Caribbean you know that each island, from Jamaica to Grenada, has its own identity.  And the BVI is no exception.  However, the majority of expatriates are British, but I don't think that population defines the island as much as the BVIslanders do...that's just my opinion.   

Question:  Why does the BVI use the US dollar?
Answer:  I'm not really sure why the BVI uses the US dollar, and I can't seem to find a definitive answer...we are close in proximity to the USVI, so maybe that's why? I did find out when the BVI started using the US dollar.
With the breakup of colonial rule in the eastern Caribbean in 1956, the BVI declined both amalgamation with the USVI and membership in the now defunct West Indies Federation of British Islands (1958–1962). Constitutional reform in 1967 established the BVI as a British dependent territory, with a locally elected legislature and chief minister, and also established the US dollar as the official national tender.
About the Past Year...
Question: Has Milly made any friends?
Answer: Yes! Our dear Milly has made friends with a few dogs on our hill. One in particular is named Molly. They met when Molly was just a few weeks old and have been friends ever since.

Question:  What's been your most hilarious moment on the island?

Answer:  Goodness!  There have been so many!  One particular night comes to mind....  It was the middle of June and we were at the Tamarind Club with Felicity and Jerry when the boys decided to go swimming to cool off.  In nothing but their boxer shorts the boys jumped into the pool!  Well, for Jerry his boxer shorts were white Calvin Kleins!!!  Felicity's face was about as red as a fire truck when he emerged from the water!  Ha! 

Here are the boys sipping their rum and cokes!

Question:  What's the most beautiful thing you've seen or experienced?

Question:  What is the most memorable moment of the past year?
Answer:  These two questions have the same answer.  The most beautiful thing we've seen and experienced in the BVI is the sea life!  Watching dolphins swim in White Bay on Jost van Dyke...snorkeling with parrot fish at the Indians...holding our breath as a barracuda swims beneath our boat...squealing with delight at the sight of a flying eagle ray!  These are all moments we'll never forget!

Question:  What has been the hardest thing about life on Tortola?
Answer:  Life on any Caribbean island comes with its share of challenges, but on Tortola, we've survived a hurricane, a subsequent power outage and lack of water.  That was one of the most challenging weeks of our life, not just this past year!

Question:  What's your favorite food and/or drink that you've discovered in the BVI?
Answer:  This one is pretty easy...Anegada Lobster!!! 

Question:  How many bottles of Pusser's Rum have you consumed in the past year?
Answer:  In our old house, we actually kept track by placing empty bottles on top of our kitchen cabinets.  We had a "home team" (Pusser's) and an "away team" (Mount Gay).  It was neck and neck there for a while.  It's probably been 1.75 bottles/month, based on an average of 2.25 visitors/month.  Ha! 

Question:  What was the hardest lesson to learn?  And the most pleasant discovery?
Answer:  One lesson we learned the hard way was the difference between a sidewalk and the side of the road.  Parking on one is legal and the other is illegal.  The problem is telling the two apart.  A few $100 parking tickets later, we figured it out.

The most pleasant discovery was the Tamarind Club.  We had lived here almost two months when we finally made it to this special place.  I remember it well - fried green tomatoes were on the specials menu!  And we heard the word "Y'ALL!"  (The owners are from Georiga, you see?)

About Us...
Question:  Will you ever jump off of Willy T's in nothing but your birthday suit?  Or have you already?
Answer:  Uh, no.  ;)  While we have jumped off Willy T's, we are far too modest to jump sans bathing suits.  That doesn't mean we don't enjoy watching the occasional exploit!  Right KK??? 
Question:  If you could have a daily supply of one thing from the US that you miss, what would it be?
Answer:  Well, we drink coffee from our Keurig Single-Cup Brew each day, and we rely on our guests to bring us boxes of our coffee K-cups.  It sure would be nice if each and every morning we woke up to a new supply.  Another another thing I would love is a Chick-fil-A drop every once in a while! 

Question:  If you and Michael could magically transport yourself back to Knoxville once a month - but for only two hours - what would you do each and every time without fail that you can't do on Tortola?
This is really fun to consider! 
During football season, we would tailgate on G-10 and maybe catch the first quarter of a game in Neyland Stadium!  (Preferably it would be the Florida game in September so I could cheer on my Gators!)
I would love to go back - once a month - for a long lunch at Taccer del Saco!
For Michael, he says he would spend his two hours getting his hair cut by a proper barber.
On a hot summer day, we would also love to splash in the pool with our nieces, Avery and Gracen.

Question:  What is your favorite island drink?  (Carib, Presidente, Painkiller, Bushwhacker)
Answer(s):  We both really like Presidente, which is imported from nearby Dominican Republic.  Michael prefers the painkiller to the bushwhacker and I'm just the opposite!

Question: How do we get our own Da Tree Men t-shirts?
Answer:  First, you need to buy a plane ticket to the BVI, come stay with us at Gecko Manor II, attend a Da Tree Men show and buy a t-shirt during their break. Total cost: $678.98. It's really a win-win. ;)


Now, onto the giveaway!  We put the names of the entrants on little pieces of paper, put them in my sun hat and drove to Smuggler's Cove.  Michael will take it from here...


Lily's Laundry Boutique said...

I LOVE THIS!!!! Merry Christmas! Love Ya.

Miss Earhart said...

ha ha Stephen was cracking me up! (and Michael, it looked like . . .)

Ashley J said...

I loved this post!!! The Q and A's were great!!!

Beth Webb said...

Yayyy!! So excited to be a winner :) And loved reading your answers to all the questions. The blog stalking continues....