Thursday, September 06, 2007

What do I do all day?

The sultry season is well and truly upon us. The harbour front is closing down and the staff of the little restaurants and bars are taking their much needed holiday. They work all year round until now, the summer, the quiet season, the hot season, when they close for a month and we all retreat to our homes waiting for life to return in November.

They say if you can survive a summer in Bequia you are 'hardcore'. We are getting there but are not yet through the worst. 'The worst' of course is all relative. What can be bad about living on a Caribbean Island? Nothing really, nothing is bad. But it is trying at times, a test of something. 'Silly season' they call it; the summer. There is little to do and even less people to do it with, but still we pass our time.

People at home ask me what I do all day. 'Nothing' I reply playfully. I try to convince them that it is a fine art this nothingness. You wrestle, at first, with guilt and restlessness. 'I should be doing something, I should be busy'. It takes not weeks but months to wind yourself down to a state where you can happily wake up each morning with no idea of what you are going to do. But still the day passes and happily, usually. I still fight the inbuilt urge of list writing. If I have more than a couple of things to be achieved in a day I feel I should write it down. But I don't, I stop myself, I just get on and do it. If I forget something there is always tomorrow.

I have moved house again this week and extended my visa; these have been stressful times. House hunting here, like everything, is done by word of mouth. There is no register or list of places to rent. You carry on with your daily life and ask everyone you know or pass whether they know of anywhere that's free. I was passed from person to person, driven from this place to that. I discovered secret gems and art studios high up on deeply vegetated hills and finally landed in the new place I call home.

Extending your visa is always a nerve wracking experience. There is no rhyme or reason to how the system works. When I first arrived I was given 3 months. I went away, sailed to North America and on my return was given only a month. The visa extending process usually involves going to immigration, filling in a form, showing them your flight ticket out of here and stripping yourself of all the freedom you have ever known by leaving your passport with them for 3 days. You return, anxiously to collect it, are met by an expressionless face which gives nothing away, and are eventually told to go to the next desk to buy your $25 stamp. This is the signal that you are in, you have made it, you can stay.

This time however it was different. For starters I was given a new form to fill in, a 'sponsorship form'. This worried me slightly, why was it different? The form involved me tracking down my landlord and asking him for various details. He had to make a trip back up the hill to find his passport number for me. The form explicitly stated that even if you had a sponsor you were 'prohibited to work'. The next section asked for details of your employer! A trick question perhaps? Who knows, I left it blank. When I finally arrived back at immigration with all my forms complete they were closed, for lunch. An hour of loitering and chatting to friends and I finally went back and submitted it, gritted my teeth and handed over my passport. Without looking up he told me to go and buy my stamp. I looked at him perplexed, this usually happens when you collect your visa. I bought my stamp, carried it back across the room, he stuck it on the form, stamped my passport, and handed it back to me. That was it, no stripping of one's identity, no nervous 3 day wait, my visa was granted right there on the spot. No-one I know has ever had this happen to them. I have no idea whether it is to do with me or the mood of the man on the desk, but I walked out quickly, without looking back, in case he changed his mind!

And so the days go by. The laundry gets washed, the floor is swept and meal after meal is made. The beach is walked to, the length of the bay swum, talk is talked and gossip is passed.

And sometimes I actually sit down and write my blog!