Monday, June 13, 2016

Caribbean Note #53 ~ Bonaire Reporter Edition

Here's a link to a nice article about Berit and me by Greta Kooistra in the latest edition of The Bonaire Reporter:

In the Article I made reference to Richard Pyle and his study of life on the deep reef. Here is a link to a TED Talk by him on the subject:

All is well here on Bonaire and life is good.

Sunny regards from both of us!!

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Caribbean Note #52 ~ Referendum Edition

Bonaire Referendum vote YES or NO?

So, here’s the deal with the Referendum on December 18, 2015.

There are a whole lot of very smart, passionate voters on both sides of this issue. With the usual spate of crazy, sometimes racist rhetoric, the issue at stake has been bubbling in one form or another, from World War II onward as countries around the world gained their independence from the colonial powers that ruled them for centuries. Bonaire’s independence or some form of integration into The Netherlands has been voted on since 2004 and will be voted on once again. Some argue the vote is nonbinding and therefore inconsequential. But don’t be fooled into complacency because this vote does matter. It matters a great deal.

You can vote if you’re a resident and you’ve had your Sedula for five years prior to the election and you should vote if you’re allowed.

People who are voting YES are mostly happy with the way things are and people who are voting NO are mostly unhappy. Even though the vote isn’t about if you’re happy or not, it’s about whether to keep or change the current political relationship with The Netherlands.

There is a lot of misinformation and confusion about which way to vote and it’s complicated by the fact that the published explanations and on line debates are in Dutch and Papiamentu (the two official languages of Bonaire) but rarely in English.

The question translates to English as: Do you agree with the current status which is a direct link to the Netherlands? In other words, should Bonaire remain a special municipality of the Netherlands?

If YES wins a simple majority nothing more is voted on.

If NO wins a simple majority then there is another vote to choose between three options, which are Independence , Autonomous Status within the Kingdom, Integration or perhaps any other political status freely determined by the people.

And now the fun begins. The basis of the question becomes very important but you can’t explain your answer you can only vote YES or NO. And the result of your vote is seen to mean different things to different people.

Those Voting NO:

Some of the people voting NO are clearly not happy with the current political status and want nothing less than the freedom of self determination for Bonaire; an end to Dutch rule. The argument here is that independence and self government can be accomplished and funded without recourse to supervision by (or foreign aid from) The Netherlands.

But other people voting NO are fine with the political relationship but are unhappy with the condition of life here on Bonaire. The recent five year assessment by Commission Spies, the official report on the consequences of the change in Bonaire’s status on 10/10/10, is grim and points out the many inequities and deficiencies in the condition of the island’s people as a direct result of changes made by the far off Parliamentary Government in Holland.

These NO voters who never-the-less want to remain connected to Holland see “leverage” in getting improved conditions for the people of Bonaire by voting NO and then negotiating for changes that will improve the quality of life for people living under the umbrella of Dutch Government and money. They say that a YES vote will allow the government to boast that all is well and the people are happy, so a NO vote is required to gain political advantage.

Those Voting YES:

Meanwhile there are people voting YES who are clearly happy with the current political status and have very little compassion for the issues facing the island’s marginalized, underemployed or undereducated people, let alone the poor who have seen their meager resources stretched to the limit by rising fixed costs and eroding incomes; especially seniors and pensioners who, according to the official report, have been hit hardest by the changes made on 10/10/10.

And finally there are YES voters who abhor these conditions but believe that the political forces in Holland will use a NO vote to leverage an already xenophobic government into legislating even less in terms of support for a people seen to be ungrateful and dismissive of the benefits already provided.

These are the political forces in parliament who (since the referendum in 2004) have promised equality but have delivered a separate rule of law whereby unequal treatment for local people is mandated and seen as “currently adequate” for any number of reasons which change over the years but always tend toward asking for patience with the promise that “someday” their lot in life will improve but currently all is being done that is possible.

Therefore these YES voters, who ardently want improved conditions for all, feel the best way to achieve them is to move forward under the current status and lobby for necessary changes and improved conditions through political action and an appeal to “the better angels of our nature” i.e. the good, positive, constructive acts and feelings we share as compassionate and empathic beings.

In respect to Bonaire’s budget requirements (currently around 300 million per year), the relationship between local taxation (around 100 million) and “foreign aid” (around 200 million) becomes critical. The infrastructure of Bonaire and the regulatory climate for business has improved dramatically since 10/10/10, but as the Spies Commission Report demonstrates, the impact on the quality of life for most local people has been adversely impacted by those same changes.

So these YES voters do not want to risk losing the money (or military protection in this potentially unstable region) currently provided by Holland but do want to achieve the equal treatment promised for more than ten years but still deferred.

So what happens if the NO votes win?

Choose Independence?

This option will never pass in a vote of the people, even if the vote was restricted solely to those who consider themselves descended from the ancient culture of the island. While there are those including James Fines who argue that “The Netherlands continues its position as a colonizing power perpetuating abuse and violating fundamental human rights and interfering unduly with the local political process”; there are others who consistently out vote them in favor of the current arrangement whereby Bonaire benefits from being a part of The European Union.

Choose Autonomous Status within the Kingdom?

This option will never pass a vote of the people because it requires even more trust in local politicians who have proved themselves to be ineffective and feckless at best and just plain corrupt at worst. And it is our dirty little island secret and everyone knows it’s true.

Choose Integration? (or perhaps any other political status freely determined by the people?)

This option will never pass a vote of the people because nobody even knows what this means. As conflicted as so many are about the YES or NO vote, they do have strong feelings about what they like or don’t like about the current political relationship and how it might look after this new referendum vote. If the NO votes are in the majority this option will be a distant third in the minority choice.

Keep the current political arrangement but renegotiate the unequal status of the people and use The Speis Report as a starting point to redress the issues of poverty and underemployment and poor quality education and living conditions on the island?

Unfortunately this is not one of the current options. The argument was expressed by Sean Paton as a question of whether you are happy as a second class citizen of The Netherlands YES or NO. And he suggests it’s a no brainer unless you are already a first class citizen of The Netherlands.

But many like Bart Snelder and Michiel Van Borhorst believe if you do vote NO and then ask for the government to behave as if you’d voted YES “with conditions” it stretches credulity to think that you’re in a better position to negotiate than if you’d voted YES and then used the political process to make your case.

All things considered it seems the sensible vote is YES and then continue to work within the system for necessary change.

Just my humble opinion.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Caribbean Note #51

We returned to Bonaire with fresh memories of our oldest grandchild turning 21 and our newborn grandchild squinting at the light as he began to see the new world around him. Lots will happen before little Christian reaches his cousin Garrett’s age. Berit and I were sad to say goodbye to you all but happy to be back here in our island paradise.

We arrived just in time for Regatta Week and right away were plunged back into our normal routine of birding with our friend Jerry and diving with our neighbors. When the winds are down we dive the otherwise violent east coast of Bonaire. Strange that this happens when the annual sailboat races are taking place!

Once again I chickened out of the 800 meter swim to Klein from Eden Beach. I go every year to join the crowds of people of all ages but my latest round of knee injections hadn’t kicked in fully and I was too timid to try, yet again. Maybe next year!!

We volunteered as flaggers and water station workers at the annual Duo Extreme bike race. I have mad respect for the riders in this 80 kilometer mountain bike race. The riders are faced with trails so steep and rough they sometimes have to carry their bicycles to negotiate the worst parts of the route. Every year we see the wounded who have fallen onto the rocks or into the cactus with bikes so covered in mud you wonder how the wheels turn or gears engage.

A formal end to hurricane season brought the cruise ships back in ever increasing numbers and by Matthew’s birthday we were once again faced with big city style traffic snarl in our little town of Kralendijk. Cruisers love to get on busses and into taxis and onto scooters and tour around our tiny island at 5mph on narrow roads where oncoming cars meet each other with one set of tires on the narrow asphalt roadway and the other set of tires on the coral rubble shoulder in order to fit two trucks into space enough for only one. It’s revealing that most everyone cooperates in this little maneuver and passes with a smile and a wave. But watch out too for herds of goats and foraging wild donkeys!!

In addition to our other official government business (residency, insurance, banking, taxes, political action and volunteering) we decided to get our driving licenses. They are required of residents but we only recently understood that we should have done this years ago. You see, there are the rules that exist that don’t get enforced and the rules that do get enforced. And recently, with the local cops setting up road blocks to check for license and registration we see it’s now time to comply with this rule.

It turns out it’s just as complicated to get a driver’s license as it is to do any other kind of government business here. We first had to go to the registry and pay to get a document that showed we were in fact residents. Then we took that to the “DMV” and made an appointment (five weeks away) for our driving test. Since we have valid Oregon driver’s licenses we didn’t have to take a written test, just a driving test, and in addition to paying the fees for the license, we were advised to hire a driving instructor to practice with because “everyone fails the test on their first try”.

As the weeks went by we asked around about the driving test and discovered that “everyone” really does fail the first time. So we hired a driving instructor recommended by the DMV and Berit and I went off with him to practice driving. It soon became clear that the reason everyone fails is because there are some very specific details you have to get right in order to pass.

For instance:
  • No open toed shoes or you must reschedule your test.
  • No sleeveless shirts or blouses.
  • No shorts or capris; only long pants or dresses.
  • No driving over 40 kilometers per hour (24 mph) which is really hard to do when everyone else is going at least twice that speed or faster.
  • When making a u-turn the tires may not leave the asphalt roadway. So a turnaround involves going forward then backward in tiny increments on the narrow roadway until you’re all the way turned around.
  • There is no need to parallel park but they make you back into these very narrow, sometimes skewed parking spots where you only have about six inches to spare on each side between the white lines. They have two examiners during your test and they open the doors on each side of the vehicle and compare notes before they agree you made it. And you have to succeed at this from each direction backing into the spots both from the left and from the right.
And the list goes on and on. They tell you that if they instruct you to turn a certain direction then to do that properly, but if they say nothing at an intersection you are supposed to “follow the rules of the road” and if you are confused you fail.

For example, you’re supposed to know (if uninstructed) that when you enter a roundabout you must signal and make the second right hand turn. By the same token if you arrive at a tee intersection (and there is no instruction) you must turn to the right. Oh, and if there is any construction on the road you may not go faster than 15 kilometers per hour.
  • Or you fail.
  • Or you fail.
  • Or you fail.
We were glad we hired a driving instructor (for $60 more) and in the end we both passed on the first try. And then made an appointment for two weeks later to return (to a different office) to get our actual drivers licenses. Which we did and can now pass through the roadblocks without concern.

And yes, after working on it from the first of August until Thanksgiving our sedula’s have been renewed for the fourth time. One more year and we’ll be able to renew our residency in five year increments instead of each year!! WooHoo!!

By December we had been involved with the 35th year celebration of the establishment of the Bonaire Marine Park with accompanying Lionfish Derby (killer Berit and I are up to 3,267 and counting); we had donated to The Sea Turtle Conservation Fundraiser Auction and had “won” a very nice driftwood carving called “Serenity” which is so big we have no idea where to put it; but it’s nice!!

We have once again witnessed the arrival (by boat) of Sinterklaas and The Black Piets (don’t ask!?!) and have helped serve at the annual Old Folks Christmas Dinner held this year at Divi Flamingo; which was pretty awesome. Thanks to our friend Michael Gaynor.

Of course we've been diving north, south, east and west with old friends and new friends and are very much looking forward to Matt & Kelli and Garrett & Zoe arriving soon to spend their Christmas vacation with us here on Bonaire.

Berit will be returning to Oregon in the middle of January for a six weeks stay in order to see family and take care of some necessary business and then return by the end of February in time for a visit from our friends Bob and Noelle in March. The diving here is still spectacular and our house is always available should you care to visit!!

As you surely know, you are in our thoughts and never a day goes by that we don’t speak of you all and hope you are finding joy and the strength to meet life’s challenges.

Merry Christmas (Felis Pasku) to you all!!


PS The truck (in our fenced and locked driveway) was broken into yet again. This sort of thing has become routine and sadly just a part of our new normal. This time in addition to all the other parts, they took the driver’s door right off the hinges!! So we’ve hired an electrician and designed additional security measures (lights and proximity sensors) to be installed in the driveway. At best it will discourage the thieves; at worst they’ll have better light to work in as they dismantle our truck.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Caribbean Note #50

Hey Everybody,

Wow, it seems like such a short time ago that we sent our original email to you all from Bonaire letting you know that we’d purchased a house here on the island. Now it’s been five years since that first Caribbean Note and today I’m writing number fifty. I suppose it’s fitting that these are nice round numbers since we've reached another milestone.

Work on the new house next door is finally finished and the place is ready for vacation rental. Here’s a link to our neighborhood website where you can see pictures of the house (Kas Koral #3) and potential renters can make contact with our property manager.

Kas Koral - Bonaire Exclusief Bungalow #3
A new website is being developed with an updated appearance and additional information about the Bungalow Park, but this “old” site will have to do for now. Berit and I have worked hard this trip to make Kas Koral comfortable and nice and already people are signing up to rent this little vacation cottage. Of course it’s also available to family and friends, so we’ll be able to spread out between the two houses when you all come to visit. Just let us know when you can come and we’ll contact our property manager and have him block out the time for you.

You may remember the big news in my last post was all about my broken foot. I’m happy to report that all is well and mended now and we’ve resumed a full schedule of diving and hiking the goat trails in the mundi with Titan.

He’ll be traveling back to Oregon with us at the end of the week, so we’ve taken him to the vet for his shots and well dog paperwork and found a small carry-on kennel for him to travel in on the airplane. We’re not sure how he’ll react to the rain and cooler weather in Oregon. Since he barks and chases every critter he encounters from iguanas to goats, with great intensity, we’re a little concerned about him meeting Bentley and Kirby at the next family dinner. At least Cooni and Zumo won’t be there, so we have a pretty good chance that he’ll at least adapt to members of his own tribe. Please don’t hesitate to bring your dogs to meet him.

Speaking of the family dinner how about Sunday the 15th of June at our house for a back yard BBQ? We can grill burgers and hot dogs and make some of grandpa’s onion dip. Let’s say come at noon and we’ll eat around 3:00. The only thing missing will be the grilled Lionfish. We’ve got a recipe for ceviche from Chef Hagen that Berit has wanted to try. We’ll make it for you when you come to the island.

We’ve missed a ton of recent birthdays and events to celebrate at the dinner too. Berit, Carrie, Amber, Sidney, Kelli, Ian and Jesse and I are all getting older and Zoe is graduating from high school and heading off to Oregon State; not to mention Sidney and Jesse are cooking up a brand new baby for us all to spoil and Geoffrey (with Amber’s help and support) has opened his new store. So much life happening all around. It will be nice to catch up on all the news.

As usual there have been some challenges living here on this little rock. When we arrived in 2008, the Island Council was embroiled in controversy and charged with all manner of corruption and criminal activity. The several coconspirators were placed under indictment and their records seized by the Dutch Government Officials who have had them under investigation all these years. And now the charges have been dropped and these men are back in office or currently forming a “new” political party to run for office in the upcoming election.

The 2015 evaluation of the 2010 change in the political status of the island is creating a push for a new referendum to include the choice to separate from the Netherlands and become an independent country; an option favored by a small but vocal group unhappy with Dutch rule. An appeal is being made to the United Nations under a sixty year old UN mandate ordering European powers to allow free elections in their colonies. Bonaire keeps voting for inclusion within the Kingdom of the Netherlands and this group keeps saying the elections are unfair and the vote is bought by local politicians aligned with Dutch interests.

Bonaire Marine Park has won its battle with Karel’s Beach Bar and now the huge new water park and hotel complex will not be built on the waterfront on new piers extending out onto the reef. In addition the pilings already sunk into the reef around the existing party pier will have to be removed. This is good news for the cause of reef conservation and the diving industry on Bonaire. But there are so many new hotel and development projects that the island infrastructure has been overloaded and power, water, roads, schools, airport, hospital, police, etc. etc. are all struggling to keep up with the influx of people and especially the island's embrace of tourism in the form of additional cruise ship amenities like shopping malls and island bus tours. The traffic is insane some days.

And Bonaire’s problem with petty theft and burglary just keeps getting worse. Social service programs and social welfare programs are stretched thin and with the lack of avenues for upward mobility the poor keep getting hit harder and harder with rising costs for food, power, water and other essentials including taxes. Many here blame this situation for the rise in petty theft and burglary. Our latest brush with crime resulted in our car being damaged and tossed right in our driveway inside our locked gates. Berit awoke to Titan barking at 3:00 AM and went outside but saw nothing in the darkened driveway. In the morning we discovered the damage to the truck and the missing tools and jack. We wonder if the dog had not barked would we also have lost the battery and tires or even the car itself.

But in spite of all this, Bonaire rewards us far more than she punishes and we do live on an otherwise beautiful, safe and essentially crime free island.

We fly back to Oregon in just a few days and can’t wait to see you all and especially Titan’s reaction to wet grass. With Rose Festival comes rain and more rain and our “outside dog” will have to learn to adjust. 

Our Sunbather -- He's gonna hate Oregon!
He may come to love the spot in front of our fireplace as much as Rexx did.



Monday, March 31, 2014

Caribbean Note #49

Hey Kids and Kidlets,

Well, we've been away from Oregon for a month and for the first three weeks Berit and I walked along the waterfront every morning and hiked in the mundi on Saturday and biked along the coast road on Sunday and stuck to our regular workout routine after returning from our early morning adventures before enjoying a leisurely breakfast in our garden. We were back in our little island paradise doing all the things we love after our cold, icy stay in the Pacific Northwest.

We managed to fit in a bunch of nice long dives during those weeks and then, in light surf on entry at Playa Frans, I stepped wrong on the coral rubble bottom and broke my foot.

The trials and tribulations of getting from that moment to this one;

were all handled with very competent and patient resolve by Nurse Berit who performed as ambulance driver and admittance clerk and personal assistant who took care of recording the doctors instructions and obtaining the crutches you see and making me comfortable etc. ad infinitum. Many thanks for this and all the years she’s chosen to put up with me. I know it’s been a lot of work.

The doctor said the foot was broken and I was given a temporary cast and after ten days hobbling around, I was to return to the hospital for evaluation and would know my fate. There was to be either a good result and I would get a walking cast to wear for the following five weeks, or surgery would be required to pin the broken bone back where it belonged and then later the walking cast.

This was a very, very long ten days; and after new X-rays were evaluated the result was better than I could have ever hoped. The doctor cut the cast off my foot and told me there was no further treatment required and I was free to go.

This is my left foot.  You see that little round broken bone fragment that sits isolated to the left of the large bones in my ankle?

That kind of looks like Klein Bonaire?

Well the doctor doesn't think it needs to be connected to anything, including where it broke from, so I’m released from my cast and free to walk on my foot as long as it doesn't hurt too much.

Which is very good news if my foot eventually stops hurting too much. For those of you who are old enough to remember, I’m getting around these days like Chester on the old Gunsmoke TV Show. “Mr. Dillon! Mr. Dillon!!”

During this time we've been entertaining our visiting guests Bob and Noelle, along with their son Matt. So while I was holding down the fort at home with Titan, they (Berit, Bob, Noelle and Matt) were out diving, during which time Bob took 650+/- pictures like this one of a Green Moray:

Bob and Noelle spent their non diving time taking care of projects around the house like figuring out and labeling the fuses in the electrical box, moving furniture around, sewing new curtains to replace the poorly functioning closet doors and were very helpful and fun to have around, especially while I was limping here and there on crutches. Matt was an interesting guest too; a physics professor at MIT when he’s not on Bonaire diving. We talked about gravity wave detection and the existential angst felt by those silly string theory guys. You know, small talk and chit chat.

Our guests have gone and things are getting back to normal. Berit’s birthday was a bit traumatic for her. She prefers to be confused about her age but this time it’s pretty easy to remember since both numbers are now the same.

She managed to get an additional 28 Lionfish while I was laid up and Bob took a bunch of shots of killer Berit too:

Going in for the kill

Got it; fish on!

Our houses look nice with their new paint, but we’re still waiting for the white stone to finish our project from last visit. Oh well; poco poco.

We don’t get a lot of news and would love to hear more from you all. Please “reply all” and let us know what’s up!

Love, Dad

** All photos courtesy of Bob Evans.  Thanks, Bob! **

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Caribbean Note #48

Greetings from rainy, but warm, Bonaire,

All the news will follow, but first, allow me to digress.

Back in the olden times, around 1975, we lived in a 2nd floor apartment that backed up to a wooded area of very large trees.  It was during the time I was trying to quit smoking (Geoffrey was a new baby) and I would go out onto the balcony and sit there and smoke the occasional cigarette so as not to smoke around the baby.

There was a huge tree adjacent to the apartment complex and as I sat there smoking I wondered if I could make the leap from our balcony to the tree.  It was pretty far and there were no limbs at the second story level, but there were thick wrist sized vines growing up the trunk.  The tree was quite a bit taller than our three story building and I thought that if I could leap onto and grasp those thick vines they would be able to hold my weight and I could climb up into the branches above.  So I finished my cigarette, climbed up onto the balcony railing, took a deep breath and jumped.

Everything worked out as expected, except for the fact that those thick vines turned out to be Poison Oak.  By the time I had climbed up and back down that tree, my arms were scratched up pretty good and over the next few hours my arms began to swell and by the next day were covered in oozing pustules.  The worst part was that everywhere the open wounds touched new skin the stuff would spread and take over and man did it itch.

I discovered that if I held an affected area under really hot water the itching would subside, and since, by now, I was essentially covered with sores, I got into the shower and sort of scalded myself from head to toe.  This brief relief was followed by the realization (over the next few days) that my hot water treatment had managed to spread the poison oak more or less uniformly over my entire body.  To make a long story short (or at least less long) the sores eventually scabbed over and healed up, but I've been scrupulously avoiding poison oak, poison ivy, and any other kind of skin irritant from that day to this.

Until now! Here on Bonaire I've managed to get into something similar and, as I write these words, I’m on day six of a too familiar adventure.  Yes, I’m older and wiser, so I tried to determine what plant could have been the culprit (thanks, Jerry Ligon, for all your help with that) and began to treat the affected areas right away with Daktacort, a hydrocortisone cream.  Still don’t know for sure which plant was responsible and the stuff is spreading, though very slowly, and it looks like the original sites are healing, so maybe in another week I’ll be back to normal.  Yikes! What a mess!!

In our last note I told you about our painting project and the new neighborhood pool project.  Well, the painting project, which was to take three or four weeks, is now in week twelve with no end in sight; and the pool project was cancelled by the neighborhood association because the owners could not agree on the design and cost of the new pool.  This pool project has been talked about for years and now is tabled.  The subject will be brought up, yet again, when the new board meets in the spring of 2014.  I was afraid this would happen and once again it has. We’re stuck with the crappy old pool for now.

We've been working toward the third renewal of our Sedulas (residency permits) since we arrived at the beginning of August and it looks like we’ll be able to finish that process next week.  Four months out of each year devoted to renewal.  Wow.  We love Bonaire. On our fifth renewal we can do five years at a go instead of annually; can’t wait!

Our interest continues in the kid’s abuse hot-line, Respeta Mucha (Respect Children) and the afterschool programs Jong Bonaire and the Junior Rangers, along with a new program designed to assist abused women and children called Bea Vita (Beautiful Life).  This is essentially a poor island and in spite of new money and improved services since 10-10-10 the plight of the Bonaireans has not improved.  The budget for the island High School has been cut again and while political action and activism are on the rise there is still a lot of suffering here on the island.

Speaking of suffering, hurricane season is officially over and the cruise ships are back so our wrecked streets are once again clogged with pod people by the hundreds.  I suppose it’s good for the tourist industry and the restaurants, but it sure makes it hard to go to town.

Tina was just here for a nice two week visit and in addition to diving and joining us in volunteering to help with the annual Duo Xtreme Mountain Bike Race, she brought along the locations of “buried treasure” and we spent a couple of days “GeoCaching” by using a handheld GPS unit to find boxes of trinkets hidden by others playing this world wide treasure hunt game.  A couple of the twenty five places here on Bonaire, required a long hike to reach and of course a search to find the spot, sometime on top of a huge boulder or buried under a rock or stashed in the out crop of a cliff face.  We signed the enclosed logs and took or left objects for others. One cache had a travel bug with a message that it wanted to go to the Pacific Ocean so Tina took it and will place it in a cache on the Oregon Coast at Canon Beach. We found nine caches; it was great fun!  

At our water station at Washington-Slagbaai Park gate.

Found it!
We took Tina diving on “the wild side” and she did here first solo dive too, and as always diving here in our beautiful crystal blue waters was wonderful.

Lionfish hunting continues unabated with our total in the 2500 range now.  There are more frequent opportunities to dive with rebreather friends, which is awesome, but still only occurs occasionally.  I sometimes dive solo with my scooter and am able to cover several kilometers of reef and explore places I wouldn’t otherwise be able to reach without my trusty Magnus 950. (When I write that I always feel like Harry Potter gushing over his Nimbus 2000.)

Berit and I celebrated the 23rd anniversary of our first date and our 20th wedding anniversary.  Matt and Garrett are both Happy Birthday boys since the last Caribbean Note and Geoff and Amber will be traveling with us to Missouri for Mom’s 90th next month.  Everybody’s getting older!

Berit’s crown has been bothering her for some time now and she’s been avoiding having a root canal because of the new evidence of the negative effects of that procedure, until finally the tooth became very painful and last week she was the first of us to visit the island dentist and had the tooth pulled.  All went well and since it was in the back you can’t even tell she’s missing a molar.  Any additional work can wait ‘til we’re back in the US in order to visit her regular dentist.
Sunday is Dia di Gracia here on Bonaire and Thanksgiving is fast approaching; in just four short weeks we’ll be back in Oregon.

After our weekend trip to Missouri for Mom’s Birthday, we’ll be back in time to cook Christmas dinner, so you’re all invited to our house on Christmas Day for the usual celebration. And just for the record, if any of you want to host the family gathering one day, we’re fine with that, as long as you invite us too!!

Shoes filled with straw are being left in the markets and images of Sinter Klaus and the Back Piet’s are everywhere here!!  We feel part Dutch; Christmas is coming!!

All our love,

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Caribbean Note #47

Hey Everybody,

It’s very hot here in the southern Caribbean.  I hear you’re having quite the opposite weather in Oregon.  Sorry to know you’re dealing with cold temperatures, but happy to remind you that we’re only a plane ride away.  Come and see us!!

The plethora of birds is singing in the garden and the iguanas are gathering for their breakfast of salad scraps and old fruit left over from meals past.

Our big news these days is we’re having our houses painted.  We’ve done more than our share of this sort of thing in years past, so we’ve hired Stefan (PRO-Home) and his crew for the job.  All we really have to do is unlock the gates before we go diving and admire their work when we return.  This project includes building a new security door and some necessary roof repairs on the new house and should be complete in three or four weeks.

Our owners association is finally taking action to build a new pool in the neighborhood.  We have witnessed quite a lot of drama in emails and at the meeting to approve the design and accept the contractors bid.  Wow, I thought dive club politics were problematic.  We were shocked at the emotion invested in this decision making.  But, I think it’s all settled now and I expect to see bulldozers and backhoes any day now.

We’re still trying to exercise daily and have established a routine of early morning (weekday) “Insanity” warm-ups followed by a long walk along the waterfront; plus a (Saturday) uphill walk to Sera Largu and a long bike ride on Sunday.   I’m sure there are a lot of people doing more, but at least we’re trying to stay with it.  It seems we often try to find a reason to skip it today, but so far we’ve been pretty good.  We’ve been taking Titan on these walks and he seems to really love it!  He’s all jumping around and happy and when we’re out in the mundi, on the hiking trails, we let him off the leash and he exhausts himself running after the goats and bounding around in the sticker bushes and cactus like a little gazelle.

We’re in the middle of our annual residency renewal process and it’s going slowly, as usual, with the never-ending glitches in the operation of the island bureaucracy.  But poco poco as they say here, little by little we’ll get it all done.

The Sailboat Regatta and annual Extreme Mountain Bike Race are coming up soon, along with a Royal visit from the new King of The Netherlands. So life goes on here as always.

We’ve always had an interest in local politics and have been looking for a way to make a positive contribution, so we’ve agreed to help fund a new foundation established to provide kids with a hotline and access to resources when they find themselves with problems they can’t solve and nowhere to turn for help.

In addition we’re interested in a friends desire to create a community center where anyone can get a meal without the normally requisite hoops to jump through like paperwork or proselytizing that typically are part of programs for the poor.

Meanwhile the investigations continue into corruption in Island Government and the charges brought against current and former government officials along with myriad environmental scandals that affect Bonaire’s reef and wildlife.  So, there are still plenty of local issues to interest an activist child of the sixties.

We’ve been taking advantage of the calm September winds to dive the "wild side" of the island whenever possible.  I’ve been lucky to meet a few rebreather divers who are here on extended stays and have done some nice long dives with them.

Berit and I are looking forward to visits by Tina and later Bobby, and also my cave diving buddy Dave and a group of rebreather divers from Canada who will all come to Bonaire in October.

We’re still finding a bunch of Lionfish but see a definite reduction in their numbers in recreational depths.

Divers still come to the island in droves, but it’s nice to have a break from the cruise ship passengers; too bad hurricane season doesn’t last all year.

Our 20th anniversary, along with Garrett’s Birthday are coming up next week and we’re kind of starved for news from home, so please drop us a line and let us know how everything is going in your lives.  We think about you every day and hope all is well.

Love, Dad