Saturday, December 3, 2011

Fast Food

The fast food restaurants in Guadeloupe are McDonald's and KFC.  There are more than six on our island. Some are  in malls, and one is a big restaurant with a playland. I have eaten at five of them. I usually order hamburger and french fries happy meal. It comes with a toy and an apple sauce. The menu is a tiny bit different but mostly the same.

Uncle Max will be happy to know there are three KFCs. I have eaten at one, and it has a big playland. The menu is way different. I usually order chicken wings, and they come in a bucket with chicken fingers. Also at the KFC they have corn on the cob, and a juicy chocolate brownie so Mom can eat there too.

I love both restaurants and love the chance to get there.

By Odin

In Guadeloupe I like to do my work. My work is colouring in the colouring book and connect the dots and reading my cards. I like to swim in the pool. In the pool I wear goggles so I can see when I swim deep. I like to catch the marbles on the bottom of the deep end of the pool.

mommomodinodin

Thursday, November 24, 2011

The Donkey At My School

The donkey at my school goes hee haw a lot. There is people that live at the house with the donkey and I think that the donkey wakes up all the people at their house in the morning. The donkey is tied up close to the road by my school. At school I hear him when I am working and I hear him when I have recess and I hear him when my teacher is reading a story and I hear him when the parents pick up their kids. And the donkey scared Odin. Some people in my school laughed.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Cows

In our neighbour's backyard I saw three cows. They are on a leash. We see lots of cows in Guadeloupe, but no milk cows, only meat cows. And they are all on a leash. I've seen cows on the beach, and on the soccer field and beside the road. They are usually eating grass and there is a kind of bird that keeps care of the cows. The bird is white and looks like a crane. This bird stands beside a cow, and sometimes on the cow, and likes to eat bugs. In French he is called a garde boeuf which means take care of meat cow.

video

Thursday, November 17, 2011

A Beach of a Weekend

Saturday we beached at Plage des Raisins Clairs. This beautiful white sand, swimming beach is just 5 minutes drive from us.  The boys love to kick the ball around in the wide expanse of sand. Floating in the water is so relaxing (check out Odin below), and many locals grab a tube and just hang out for hours in the water.  Young boys are also in to surfing the waves along the shore.  They run, drop the board on the sand and catch a wave. So fun to watch.


Sunday we went exploring and so glad we did. Past Saint Francois we followed the signs toward Pointe aux Châteaux and stopped along the side of the road. We followed a trail through the trees to the shore, and came across a beautiful protected cove.  The sand was nice, the waves were not overpowering and lots of room to play catch with Stanley.  Just up over the rocky cliffs we found a shallow pool, with waves crashing into a blowhole showering water upon us.  I felt like a mermaid! Such a delightful spot. We can't wait to share it with visitors.

video



Friday, November 11, 2011

The Zoo in Guadeloupe

At the zoo in Guadeloupe I saw some raccoons. There were about 19 raccoons in the zoo behind the fences and they all came over to say hi to us. I liked the green parrot talking to Peter. He was loud. I saw one jaguar. I saw turtles swimming and some sitting and lots walking. There were also crabs walking right on the walkway in front of us. I like walking on the ropes in the trees, and I liked playing on the playground in the middle of the tall trees.
video

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Not Hallowe'en, but Toussaint

Hallowe'en is a favourite holiday of ours. In Toronto we delight in creating costumes, carving pumpkins and decorating the house. The excitement of trick or treating is as much for admiring the efforts of our neighbours and saying hello, as it is for the junk food haul. As Hallowe'en is not celebrated here in Guadeloupe we celebrated a few of our cherished traditions on our own. The kids threw together some costumes and we did some impromptu trick or treating around our home. Instead of our usual post-treat pig-out dance party, the kids jumped in the pool for a night swim, then we finished off the night with our favourite Hallowe'en stories.

This time of year is devoted to Toussaint, the All Saints celebration. Families spend the week prior to November sprucing up their family cemetery plots (which are above ground). Beginning the evening of Nov 1 the cemeteries are open and welcoming. Snacks and flowers are sold at the entry way.The dark night is lit up with candles on all the graves. Family and friends gather around their plots with flowers and rum to pray, give thanks, and reminisce about the good old days. There was such a powerful sense of community and belonging among the candles and we truly appreciated the opportunity to experience this unique Guadeloupe tradition.

Busy in Basse Terre

School's out for the week so we loaded up the six seater Fiat. I've never seen this type of vehicle before, with six full size bucket seats - Peter suggested that Homer Simpson designed it.

Our daily excursions took us exploring in Basse Terre.  The Botanical Garden is located just outside Deshaies in the northern tip of the island.  The gardens were suggested to us by our first landlady Francine, and they were as delightful as she described.  A winding path took us through a goldfish pond, fountains, and beautiful landscapes. Each of the trees and plants were identified by species and country of origin. The kids loved reading the country names. This place is specifically designed for kids with a playground featuring swinging vines and climbing equipment plus a petting zoo. I was a little unnerved by the free range chickens wandering around the picnic area - I have a thing about birds.


Mammelles Parc - Zoo is a jewel of a find carved into the side of the mountain. Small in scope but well designed and thoroughly enjoyable. Best of all were the rope bridges winding through the tree canopy overlooking zoo exhibits. This was a little slippery as it was raining when we were trekking through the zoo, but so exciting wandering through the leafy green trees.


The Cascade aux Ecrevisses hike was not a challenging walk, but the dip in the clear fresh waterfall was so worth the stop. We do look forward to more hikes throughout the National Park however, I think we may wait until after the rainy season.

The Glass Bottom boat in the Jacques Cousteau Water Reserve was located at the Maldure beach, which is a dark sand beach and very touristy.  Second only to St. Anne in regards to buildings, and tourist shops and services. The boat was super and all the kids loved being down below watching the fish swim around us. At Pigeon island we stopped for a snorkel and swim.  Xavier went with Peter to snorkel around the rocks. Odin couldn't wait to jump off the boat and swim around.  He even went off the slide at the back of the boat - no lifejacket or adult needed - an adventurous 3 year old indeed.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Into The Woods We Go

 Guadeloupe is home to an expansive protected parkland on Basse Terre. This National Park of Guadeloupe is a rich rainforest with volcanic mountains, waterfalls and excellent hiking trails throughout. We read through the guidebooks looking for an appropriate path for our family to take - 2 adults, one carrying infant in Baby Bjorn, 3 boys aged 9, 5, 3, and our dog Stanley.  We chose one labeled Easy that begins at the base of the volcanic mountain La Soufrier.
We headed through the town of St Claude and followed the steep road up to the starting point. There did not seem to be any signs, however, we were able to follow a clear cobblestone road.  Four barking dogs came out to welcome us as we passed a farm house. The rooster and chickens ran around us as we continued along the path.  It took us past fields and up and up until the path seemed to disappear.  We stopped at the top of the hill for a drink break and a snack and took pictures of the stunning view. We were all pretty excited by our successful first hike and headed back to the car.
On the windy drive back down the mountain we noticed a curious sign directing us down another road. It seemed to be indicating an official hike. This entry point had a map and a sign. This was indeed the trail we had been originally looking for.  We felt a little sheepish as we realized we had just spent an hour hiking and picnicking in some farmer's field.

Anyway, this hike was delightful. We followed a clear pathway through the leafy green forest until we arrived at the riverside. We continued along the rocks to the lovely Matouba waterfall. Water spurts out of the gully and spills into a deep basin. I stayed on the lower rocks at the river's edge with baby Milo, Odin and our dog Stanley as Peter took the older boys up and over the cliff. They loved climbing the rope ladder to the next level.
After a successful day traipsing through the woods we headed to the beach for a quick cool down before dark.  We are looking forward to going on more hikes together, however, this time I think we will remember to bring the map!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Bananas!

In my backyard we had a banana tree.  The person that owns this house cut it down and we had so many bananas - around 70 bananas.  We ate so many bananas and banana milkshakes. I really like banana milkshakes with chocolate. One day I ate five bananas. That is a lot.
The next day I saw a little stem and it grew so fast. Than I saw a leaf and so many other stems. One day Odin, Quincy and I were playing chase hide and go seek. First I found Odin and I got him.  Then it took me a long time to find Quincy but then I found him by the pool. I  got him and then he got a little mad and he kicked the little tree but it still went on growing and now it is bigger than me.  Right now we have about 64 little banana trees growing.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Pointe des Châteaux

I went walking yesterday at Pointe Des Châteaux. It looks long but it is a short hike up the hill. We also had to walk through a beach. There was a strong current. The waves were so big that they could reach to the end of the beach in a storm.  At the top of the walk there was a cross and we could see forever.

I saw two boats going fast in the water, one blue and one red. The red one is the one we went on to go to La Desirade. I saw candles behind the map and the cross.  There was a great view of where we had just walked and across to the islands. I even saw the place where we went snorkeling before.

Odin Likes to Swiim

This is Odin our first week at the country house with a pool. He was proving to me he could swim across the pool on his own, with no life jacket and no adult.  He succeeded!
video

Saturday, October 22, 2011

La Désirade

Sunday was our first family boat trip. We piled on the ferry headed to La Desirade riding through the choppy waters with great speed. Some of us our more sea worthy than others :-)

Peter enjoyed navigating the dirt road through this arid land on our rented 4 x 4. We explored the eastern shore with it's abandoned buildings (very LOST like) and a significant amount of free range goats and chickens.

Here we are at the lookout on top of the island. La Desirade boasts untouched nature, but up here we are surrounded by modern windmills - a green energy source.

This stunning view is from the top of the island. Directly below you can see the beach we are headed to Plage du Souffleur. Again, palm trees shade the peaceful shores. We play in the white sand and swim in the clear warm, waters.

This is a picture of almost six month old Milo enjoying the beach. He's surprisingly sand free in this picture, because while waiting for the camera feature to load, just a few seconds ago, he got knocked down by a wave. All smiles, though, he loves the water too.

The eastern shore is home to the iguanas and crashing waves on a distinctive craggy shore. We stopped to admire the view and seek out the resting and moving iguanas. A full day of sun, sand and water. We loved travelling together and look forward to exploring the other islands in the Guadeloupe archipelago. See Quincy's post - Our Boat Ride to Desirade for related information.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Our Boat Ride to Desirade

We took a big boat to Desirade and our big boat was red. And in the boat two people puked in my family - My mom and my brother Odin.  Milo screamed his head off. When we were going to Desirade there were very big waves in the ocean.
On the island I liked the view of the iguanas and I saw an iguana that was camouflaging. I saw six iguanas. Two iguanas were grey, and all the rest were green. They were on the grass, and I saw two iguanas on the fence. And when we were going back to our boat we got les floups (freezies) and when we were back on the big boat we got to sit on the top of the boat. There was no puking this time.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Snorkeling in plage d'Anse à la gourde

I went snorkeling with my Dad at Plage d'Anse à la Gourde on the weekend. The sand was like couscous, and there was a big rock platform with a river running behind it.  On my first day in the ocean I went one way and saw new fish. I was over my head but it was really easy to float in the salt water. Then, we snorkeled the other way. I saw sea urchins, and a weird spiky fish called a Lionfish.  If you touch it, it can make you very sick. There were so many little fish around Mom's feet. Even Odin could see these fish with just his goggles. Then we went home.

The next day we went snorkeling again.  The waves were rougher this time. The first way we went super deep I couldn't even touch. Not even close. We saw big and little fish.  Then we walked down to another part of the beach past the big rocks and the river. We were gliding back and we saw humongous, big sea urchins. We saw the Lionfish again. Then Dad saw this little hole. Then we watched a little eel coming out of it.  It was so cool. Then there were just these big and little fish again. It was fun.

Quincy was digging lots of holes in the sand. Odin was swimming around with his goggles and Milo loved swimming with Mommy. Then we had to go home. It was fun. I can't wait to go back again.

New Food

At dinner time I have to try new things that I don't like. Some things that I don't like are ratatouille and christophine au gratin. I didn't like the taste. Some things that I do like was spaghetti with a white cheese sauce and mashed potatoes.  They have lots of bananas and cereal with chocolate. I especially like to eat baguette.  We get it from the boulangerie every day.  I like mine with jam, or nutella or butter or plain. So that's all about new food here at Guadeloupe. I miss eating grapes, berries, bagels and timbits from Toronto.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

First Day of School

At my first day of school in Guadeloupe it was very hot. In the classroom it was so hot I could barely work. Class starts at 8 o'clock in the morning, but we get to go home for a long lunch break. I'm in a split class with around 20 kids in grades CM1 and CM2. They made us write so much just for math, like 4 536 923 = 4 x 1000000, 5x 100000, 3 x 10000,   6 x 1000, 9 x 100, 2x 10, + 3. My hand was tired after that.

At recess I met a kid that originally came from Montreal, and has also spent a few years in New York. This is his fourth year in Guadeloupe. There were a lot of Beyblades out at recess.  They just came out here in Guadeloupe and are really popular at my new school.  Almost everyone has them. I should have brought mine from Canada too.

After recess we had lecture silencieux which we also did when I was at  class in TFS too.  Mine was about music people. An artist drew a picture of five musicians. The teacher speaks french clearly and not that fast, I understood most of what he said. I was only at school for the morning today, but  I'm looking forward to going to school all day tomorrow.

My New Class

I met my new class and my new teacher and I had a snack.  I had a very loud class and a big class.  We were supposed to have 26 children in my class, but today was only 23 children because some kids were away.  My classroom is warm.  I did easy work and fun work at my class. At recess we got to play football. That's what they call soccer.  And that was all about my new class in Guadeloupe.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Homeschooling Fantasy

I've always harboured fantasies of running my own home school, nurturing my children through personal curriculum catering to their interests, strengths and weaknesses.  Coming to Guadeloupe has given me the opportunity to do just that. We started mid August, and have been working every day (minus a few travel days); a combination of old school table work and independent studies inspired by the world around us.

With daily negotiations Xavier diligently completes math, and language arts tasks from the grade 4 curriculum.  Current events and the island itself, are the source for many of his independent studies.  He has come to love reading books, and right now adores the Animorphs series.
Quincy has a voracious appetite for workbooks, and has fired through all the books I brought with us including the grade 1 language arts curriculum and Xavier's grade 3 math review.  He also loves to draw pictures of our surroundings, and write about them in his journal.
Odin completes our daily weather calendar, which always starts out sunny and hot in the morning.  Lately he comes back in the afternoon to change to rain.  He's also working on writing numbers and letters at the table, but he generally keeps busy learning through play.
Milo? Well, he sits at the table in a high chair putting baby toys in his mouth, and then rolls around on the tile floor grabbing more toys and putting them in his mouth until its time for his nap.

Now, how am I keeping 3 active boys reading, writing, drawing, typing in the hot Caribbean sun? With my positive teaching style and dynamic personality? For the love of learning? Sadly, no.

I have resorted to bribery. "Finish this and then we get to go swimming in the pool."  "Finish that and then we can go to the beach."  And the most important bribe of all: "When you reach the day's goal, it's free time"- translated into boyspeak - video game time!

Not exactly the way I pictured the fantasy, however, spending time learning with my children in this new environment is a challenge I'm grateful to experience.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Our New House

I  am swimming with my brothers and parents in our pool. I am at my new house in the country. Our neighbour has a cow.  My dog Stanley likes to bark at the cow. There are lots of bugs to see here. There is a mosquito net on my bed so mosquitoes won't bite me at night.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Hermit Crab

My name is Xavier. I am working on a Hermit Crab. I saw one at my house and I measured him. He was small, measuring 3.7 cm. Hermit Crabs are born in salt water. They live close to the water. Hermit Crabs can live to be ten years old. He has two claws; the right one is smaller than the left. They can climb really good. The one I saw had a white shell and inside his body was red. They can move back and forth, and sideways. Hermit Crabs are amphibians. They live in the Caribbean. They are fun to watch but they can get scared easily of people. I like Hermit Crabs.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Hot

Tip: don't leave crayons out in the Caribbean sun.
My name is Quincy.  It is hot in Guadeloupe.  My clothes are hard to get on because I am sticky.  My crayons melted outside.  The wind helps me cool down.  I drink ice water.  I take showers and go swimming almost every day.

Anole

Anole
My name is Xavier and I am working on an animal named anole. They have six legs, their eyes are blue and they can blow a bubble with their neck. They live in Mexico, Florida, the Caribbean, Texas, Georgia and Venezuela. The male is green and and the female is brown. They eat little bugs like spiders and bees. Anole are reptiles. They live near houses and they are fast. If you see one, do not say a word, only whisper. Do not move an inch unless you are trying to capture one for a pet. It will scare them. I like anole. I do, I do.

Home for now

We are living in a two bedroom apartment in a villa in the town of Gosier, just outside of Pointe-a-Pitre. This is located at a dead-end street (good for ball playing) on top of the cliffs of Gosier with an epic view overlooking the ocean, the seaside communities across the bay and the mountains of Basse-Terre. On a clear day (which is almost every day) our vista includes the outer islands of Les Saintes and even Dominica in the background. Every morning as we dig into our cereal and fresh mangoes on the outside terrace we can watch the colourful sailboats bobbing in the water, and hear the waves crashing into the rocks. I look forward to drinking my coffee out here as I guide the kids through their morning school work.

Apartment living comes with it's expected challenges; walking our dog Stanley for washroom breaks instead of the in/out privileges he is accustomed to at our home, being vigilant with the kids behaviour and treatment of property (ie no scooters indoors and please stop yelling) and living on top of each other in a small space. The most onerous of all has to be washing the baby. No bathtub here, so I'm standing naked in the shower stall, holding a 25 lb slippery, wet Milo under the water spout with one hand, and using the other hand to stretch out his rolls to clear all of his nooks and crannies of accumulated salt, sand, dirt and dog hair. Did I mention we are usually joined by Odin - the very persistent 3 year old, demanding his turn under the water? Needless to say, I am hoping our next home has a bathtub.

We take daily excursions in our 9 seater Scudo around the islands of Basse-Terre and Grande-Terre. The purpose is to explore the seaside communities as we continue our househunting, however, the highlight of each trip is always the beach - long stretches of unspoiled landscape with the promise of a refreshing dip in the sea. We've been swimming at over ten different locations already, each a unique combination of sand, water, and idyllic nature.

My first comment on our Guadeloupe experience would not be complete without a mention of the most challenging aspect of all, and that is the heat. Intellectually I knew to expect hot, and people warned me of the sun's unrelenting shine, however I really did not understand how uncomfortable it is to feel that hot, wet, and sticky day in and day out. Even as I sit at the computer now rivulets of sweat are running down my back, and my eyebrows cannot keep the perspiration from dripping off my nose onto the keyboard. We were so relieved to experience overcast skies and even some rain with the threat of Tropical Storm Maria. Storms and sunshine aside, I'm going to continue sitting here on the terrace, with fresh passion fruit, bananas and limes within arms reach, and finish my rich coffee sweetened with some island sugar cane. Let the dog bark and the kids bicker, I'm going to savour this moment at our home for now, with a view!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Arrived :-)

It was a whirlwind, but the family has arrived in Guadeloupe!

Xavier, Quincy and I started the long drive down to Miami Friday August 26  to kickoff  "Operation Airlift Stanley". With the mini-van loaded up with boxes and street hockey equipment, we passed through US customs without incident.  Strangely, the US customs guy didn't question me much about taking two kids, a dog, and a car full of stuff without Samantha.  No matter.  After passing through 8 states and skirting hurricane Irene, we arrived in Miami on Sunday evening. 

Now here comes the complicated logistics for getting a large dog to Guadeloupe.

On Monday, Samantha and the two little ones took an early flight from Toronto to Miami, while original drive-to-Miami team flew down to San Juan, Puerto Rico ahead of Stanley.  Just before 10 pm, Stanley followed us to San Jan and was put on an overnight cargo.  Due to temperature restrictions when transporting animals, an overnight flight is pretty much the only way to get a large dog to the Caribbean by air.


On Tuesday morning, the drive-to-Miami team greeted Stanley at the San Juan airport.  Needless to say, Stanley was happy to see us!  And it was the kind of happy that only dogs can pull off - dog happy.  With Stanley safely in San Juan, it was a race to Guadeloupe.  Samantha and the little ones hopped on an Air France flight to Guadeloupe while the drive-to-Miami team flew on a 6-seater island hopper. Stanley was sitting next to me in the middle row.

By mid-afternoon, we had all arrived safely in Guadeloupe. Now it's time to get everything in order for day-to-day life in Guadeloupe.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Getting Ready to Roll

It has been a busy summer putting everything together, but we're just a few days away from departure! One of the biggest stumbling blocks has been making the arrangements for our dog Stanley. Why?

- Except for a weekend flight from Montreal, there are no direct flights to Guadeloupe from Canada/USA at this time of year.
- Due to the summer heat, many airlines have pet travel restrictions in place.

So how are we going to do it? Stay tuned.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Logistics Continued...

We have a green light with Guadeloupe schools!  We are now busy working on getting through the next big hurdles:

- Long stay visa
- Housing
- Renting our Toronto home

Ahhh logistics.

Monday, May 9, 2011

The Adventure Begins...

Here we go! The family is getting ready for its first year-long trip to a new place. We hope to do this a few times over the next couple of decades, but only time will tell if we manage to pull it off.

We hope to plant ourselves in Guadeloupe starting in September. With over a dozen trips to France over the last couple of decades and our kids enrollment in a French school, it's a natural choice for the family. Guadeloupe also seems like a good place to get my head around social entrepreneurship. One day, I'll be able to step away from my role at ClearCenter and get busy with career 2.0. But that's for another blog post.

Now comes the hard part: logistics.  The big challenges include:

- Schooling
- Visas
- Housing

You can throw in insurance, transportation, communications and a couple of dozen other tasks too. Right now our focus is on the biggest hurdle - schooling. School enrollment may prove impossible since we are non-EU citizens hoping to live for an extended period of time in an EU country (Guadeloupe is part of France). Home schooling is also a challenge in France, so there is no easy fallback.  At the end of the day, we have until late May to figure out school enrollment.   If we can't find a way into a school by the deadline, then we'll start to implement Plan B.

Fingers are crossed!  We'll keep you posted.



This should sound familiar: we don't have many family photos with everyone in the photo.  Note: the naked blue guy in the middle of the picture is not part of the family (much to the chagrin of our kids).