“The time is currently 9:38am, and we at Life are giving you your first wakeup call.”
I must say that I love Bermuda. After getting in on Thursday and making my way through Customs in a record breaking 9 minutes (Canada Customs should take notes on how Bermuda does their stuff) which would have been less had there not been a lineup at the duty cashier, I was off in the ACT truck to my flat about 20 minutes away from the airport. Yes, I was over-worrying about the whole thing earlier as I just told them how much cash I had on hand, and just looked the other way at a couple of the smaller items. At first, getting in the truck on the left hand, front seat was a bit weird considering I wasn’t driving, but that weirdness faded away pretty soon after.
While driving down one of the four highways (these “major roads” are incredibly narrow roads that have one lane for each direction and no shoulder, but rather a cliff, and are smaller than most Canadian residential roads) you soon forget about the fact that you’re driving on the wrong side of the road as you pass palm tree after palm tree and villa after villa, reminding you that you’ll never have to worry about black ice or blizzards ever again. Between the lush greens lining the sides of the road, on the hills that the roads are literally carved out of, you can see house after house painted in any of about 15 different beautiful pastel colors, made out of concrete and limestone which is the only thing houses are legally allowed to be made of, the reasoning behind which is to withstand hurricanes, and the noise created by all of the squirrly-sounding scooters and mopeds that careen down these streets at any and all hours of the day and night.
It’s a strange sight to be driving down one of the main highways and still have houses within arm’s reach of the thoroughfare, but with only 22 square miles of land, and close to thirty thousand dwellings, space is limited and you can bet that Bermudians make use of every available inch. Even so, nothing seems crowded per se. Close together? Absolutely. But unlike some South American countries where it seems like space saving was nothing but an after-thought, Bermuda has been planned out to the nearest millimeter while still retaining the luxury atmosphere that it is world famous for.
I came to Bermuda with the impression that cars were a luxury afforded by only the richest of the rich (which is definitely saying something in a country where a loaf of bread costs $4.95 and gas is close to $1.70 a litre), but it turns out that the ratio of cars to scooters is almost 6:1. The lawmakers do have a rule that you are allowed one vehicle per household (“vehicle” being anything with four or more wheels) but it was still a shock to see so many cars on the road, when I was led to believe that scooters were the main mode of transportation on the island.
The cars you’ll see are mainly the same kind you’d find if you were driving through the British countryside, which is to be expected, seeing as Bermuda was only declared an independant British colony less than 10 years ago. You’ll find Peugeots and Daihatsus, Opels and Hyundais, which have all been engineered to fit Britain’s tiny, winding roads, which almost seem to have been transplanted here by way of sky crane. You won’t find a straightaway that lasts more than a hundred meters or so; everything winds left and right, up and down at a furious pace.
After reaching my apartment, I unloaded my bags on the floor (all 125+ pounds of them), got changed into something more appropriate than ripped jeans, a t-shirt and a vintage blazer, and headed back to the office in downtown Hamilton to meet the rest of the ACT team. After meeting everyone and making my calls to everyone back home to let them know that I had arrived safely, we left work to go to the Front Street Yacht Club where we were celebrating Alan’s 20th year of service with ACT. There was more sushi than you could ever imagine being consumed in a single sitting, the 20 of us ate every last morsel and proceeded to congratulate him for such an accomplishment. I wanted to stay for drinks until late that night, but I’d been up for around 36 hours at that point, and I could hear my bed calling from Paget Parish 10km away, so I hopped in a taxi and went to spend my first night in the company apartment.
On Friday, I got to sleep in which was definitely appreciated as sleep had become a luxury at that point, and hailed another taxi on North Shore Road (one of the four main streets; the others being South Shore Road, Middle Road, and Front Street) and departed Paget for the 10 or so minute taxi ride back into the town of Hamilton to the office. I made a quick stop and bought a scooter helmet at one of the numerous scooter shops around town and then walked into the office to fill out some miscellaneous paperwork like the non-disclosure agreement and the health insurance cards.
After work, I walked over to the service center where Matt works, and hung out there for a bit while he finished up work and then we took his scooter back to his apartment in Devonshire Parish to have him get changed so that we could go out for Friday dinner at the Pickled Onion on Front Street. They had an Octoberfest special going on, which included a 12 oz. steak for $20 (this is an /incredibly/ good deal in Bermuda) so pretty much everyone had a steak plus a number of drinks while we waited for our food to be served. It was amazing. After dinner, we stayed at the PO for drinks, and talked about every topic under the sun. Following the wonderful dinner, Matt, Hazen (the other guy who will be living with us), Sarah (friend of another ACT employee) and I all headed to the only pub on the island that plays hockey on TV called Flanagan’s. We had a few more drinks, and then made our way to a club called Ozone, which is half indoors, and half outside in the middle of this courtyard. After sufficiently drowning any remaining brain cells in what can only be described as liquid pain, we apparently made our way back to Front Street and hailed a taxi and made our way back to Matt’s place and proceeded to fall on any surface perpendicular to the ground and passed out.
EDITOR’S NOTE: While Canadian’s seem to think they have the market cornered on drinking for sport, I would like to point out that Bermudians seem to have made it their national past-time. Screw cricket or football or hockey, these guys go out with the sole intent of punishing their livers for some unknown reason to the point of near-suicide. This could take some getting used to.
Saturday mornings, Matt has a tradition with a few of his buddies here where they meet up at a bistro (aptly named “Bistro 12”) right near our office to have brunch. I, of course, feeling about as well as a recently mowed down pedestrian on the Deerfoot didn’t feel like going, but after he started blasting the 80’s pop at near deafening levels (remember, the walls are ten inches of concrete, so the neighbours don’t care), I proceeded to get up and focus all of my new found hate towards destroying any and all remants of this best forgotten era. We took a taxi to where we left the scooter the night previous and made our way to the bistro where I attempted to eat some bacon and eggs, all the while trying my hardest not to fall asleep on the table and/or slide completely out of the very chair that was keeping me off the ground.
We had our brunch (well they did, I had about 2 bites and almost got sick) and scootered off back to Matt’s place where I had intended to nap off the hangover, but decided instead to make a few phone calls home to let everyone know how I was doing since I hadn’t spoken to anyone since Thursday. After the phone calls and trying to nap (which failed thanks to Matt’s insistence that I stay awake and watch him play some MMORPGMMASKEMEWOALSQRO) we tried packing some of his things that he will be moving to our new place, but were foiled soon thereafter as he didn’t actually have any boxes to put said items in.
Saturday night was pretty uneventful, as I’m pretty sure I was still drunk from the night before and just wanted to relax, so we watched a couple of movies and proceeded to pass out on the futon. While it was amazingly comfortable, for the first time since being here that I was actually of sound mind to “experience” falling asleep here, which is quite a strange experience. Even though the walls could withstand a nuclear attack head on, the sound of tree frogs seem to penetrate even the most unforgiving surface and so all night you hear the unmistakable chirping which bears the sounds levels of a twenty by twenty foot box of pissed off crickets.
Sunday we woke up and took a ride over to our new place. Oh. My. God. The place is nothing short of stunning. Compared to the other apartments I’ve seen, the place is like a castle. It’s actually a complete house (with an attached guest house which is occupied by the owner’s aunt, who is actually a taxi driver… Gee, can you say “convenient?”) with two huge normal bedrooms, an even bigger master bedroom, a massive kitchen and eating area, and a living room that will take a considerable amount of furniture to fill up. All this backs on to a yard that could host an international soccer–er–football (gotta get used to that down here) match in an emergency. After the yard, there’s about a 300 foot drop (a.k.a. a cliff) which lands directly in the ocean. It is just an amazing view, and our house looks out directly on to it.
After meeting with the owner and his aunt and we all signed the lease, we made the southwest trek about 40 minutes to Swizzle South Shore to have lunch and the official Bermudian drink: the Swizzle (their motto is “You swizzle in and swagger out”). It’s a mix of mango and pineapple juice, a LOT of dark rum and I think some grenadine for coloring, and my God is it potent. After drinking 3 of them (they go down surprisingly fast) which are served in something reminiscent of a very small wine glass, I was definitely in no condition to drive anything more than a golf ball and only then if it was in a computer game, let alone a motorized scooter. Matt drove us the rest of the way to Horseshoe Bay where the entire company meets up every week to play some beach volleyball and swim in the crystal clear, amazingly green water.
We hung out there for a few hours and tanned (or burned, as the case was for a few of the guys), and then we all went our separate ways. I went to Matt’s place, where we had a bite to eat and watched a movie and then I went home to get myself ready for the first day of work.
I was asked on Friday to be at work at 8:30am this morning, so being the keener that I seem to be, I woke up at 6:20, got myself ready and left the house around 7:15. Of course, it goes without saying that I’m a tremendous idiot, and didn’t realize that even if traffic is at a complete standstill, it will never take me over and hour to go 10km from Paget Parish to downtown Hamilton; it will take about 15 minutes. Arriving downtown almost an hour early, I made the decision to eat, as my stomach was still trying to make up for Saturday, and walked back over to the bistro where we had brunch the other day, and made my second attempt at eating the two egg breakfast that came so highly recommended. I wolfed it down in record time (these guys definitely know how to make eggs) and walked back to the office and waited at the bottom of the stairs as there was a homeless guy blocking the door, not to mention that I didn’t have a key anyways.
After a few minutes, Georgina arrived and let me in where I puttered around the office until Mark showed up and took me over to my new digs at Bank X. I met up with my team lead and have been looking over random printouts of process while I wait for my IDs to be created and for my mentor to show up.
Oh, and for those of you who have mentioned to me about checking out 9 Beaches Resort, I haven’t had a chance to go take a look at it yet, but if you take a look on the map, you’re looking at at least a 45-minute-to-an-hour scooter ride during non-rush hour from Somerset Parish (northwest corner of Somerset Island) into the city of Hamilton, plus another 15 minutes or so from Hamilton to Hamilton Parish where our new place is. Just make sure you’re ready for that, because don’t forget: tourists cannot rent cars here. Not that it matters anyways, because unlike cars, scooters are able to scoot past the cars to the front of the line at the light by way of riding past them on the dotted line. While it’s not necessarily “legal”, it’s absolutely an accepted practice, and it happens everywhere.
So I think it’s time to sign off; I’ve spent the better part of this morning writing this while I wait for everything to be set up, but I’d like to at least /look/ productive rather than writing a blog post in Notepad.
Boiling In The Hot Sun of Paget Parish, Bermuda