Thursday, October 07, 2010

I feel as giddy as a 16 year old.

What a week this has been! Since I last posted, we've continued settling in to our new home - Bermuda!! I can't even say that with a straight face. Every so often, Jeff and I look at each other, usually after he's had his modified version of a dark 'n stormy, and blurt out, "how the hell did we wind up here?" Echoing the theme of the classic Talking Head's song, "Days go By," we have indeed found ourselves watching the water go by on Bailey's Bay, watching the sun set and rise with pink clouds and gorgeous weather.

We're also kind of just doing the mundane, quotidian things that one does when one makes a place home.

For me, that means going back to my routine of running. I noticed an ad in the Royal Gazette mentioning an upcoming 5k. So, I signed up. Why not? Nothing like running a 5k in the humidity of Bermuda, up and down the winding roads when you are completely out of shape and haven't run a solid 3 miles in weeks.

Oh well. I did it. In 35 minutes, Lord help me. The longest it's ever taken me to do a 5k, even when injured (32 minutes). Eh. Just getting out there was the goal. But dayyum, you have got to see some of these Bermudian runners. I always say runners come in all shapes and sizes, but these women are like nothing you have seen. Sleek, lean, incredible leg muscles from doing these hills. I saw herds of them at the starting line and seriously felt like I should just turn around and crawl home.

On the topic of feeling sick to my stomach, this week I was scheduled to take my road test. Excuse me for a second while residual feelings of nausea and light-headedness pass. Let me digress for a minute about driving on Bermudian roads.

Bermuda, as we know, is a small country of approximately 21 square miles, give or take. The roads consist of narrow, winding passageways where drivers occupy the left hand lane, akin to other UK systems. Fine. Driving in Bermuda by car is limited to residents only, meaning locals or expats who can demonstrate they intend to live here beyond 30 days. (Keep this in mind when you plan on visiting folks. You do NOT rent cars here).

Most locals grow up learning the roads by riding bikes. Bikes means scooters. As early as 16, the young 'uns are out there riding the lanes with a reckless glee that makes my heart stop. At 18, they can graduate to higher powered motorbikes, and most quickly do. You need a special license for a scooter of a higher cc.

I imagine, it isn't much of a stretch then for these kids to then progress to driving a car. Of course, each household is only permitted one car, so they might have to negotiate a bit with mum or dad for the privilege.

In my case, however, a car is an absolute necessity. Since getting here, I have tried very hard to be a good sport about using public transportation (buses - kind of fun, not so much with kids though), as well as taxis (outrageous, cost-prohibitive). But if we plan on making this a home, some one needs to drive the kids back and forth to school every day. Oh, hello. That's me.

I'm an upstate girl. That means I have been driving solo since I was 16 years old. Given how far out we lived, when I was a kid, my parents just turned over a car to me when I got my precious driver's permit, and that was the end of it. All told, I have been driving for 22 plus years.

That means ABSOLUTELY NOTHING when it comes to driving in BDA.

I did pass the written test last week. No worries there, it just involves studying the handbook. And anyone who knows me, knows what a consummate nerd I am. I can pass anything in writing. The road test on the other hand, consumed my brain for days. I could not sleep at night. My stomach was tied up in knots. I felt sick and shaky and more nauseous with fear than I ever felt with either of my pregnancies. Seriously, going into my road test on Tuesday, October 5th, was scarier than walking into the hospital to be induced. And I know, since, in fact, I had to drive MYSELF to the hospital to be induced unexpectedly with Mina. I was remarkably calm about the whole thing.

I was very realistic about the whole thing. I signed up for a couple of lessons with a recommended instructor. Hiya Delores! She's a local, who's had her hand in all sorts of businesses over her many years on the island. She's calm, friendly, in a go-girl kinda way that makes me feel right at home.

She also grabbed the wheel twice from me on our first lesson when she thought I was about to side swipe parked motorcycles. Damn left hand side of the road, narrow road ass driving.

Anyway. We did purchase a car early enough for me to sneak in some driving on my own before the dreaded road test. Dear Jeff may have lost a few years of his life sitting shotgun, but that's what one does when he loves someone, right? Sacrifice? Right?

I quickly got the feel for proper driving techniques on the road itself (stay as close as possible to the yellow line in the middle of the road. AS CLOSE AS POSSIBLE! Imagine you are going to high-five the driver coming at you from the oncoming lane of traffic. Seriously. Just a quick high-five as you pass one another between two limestone cliffs.

The one thing I was terrified about was this strange thing called the "zig-zag" test. Or "s-test." It consists of a z shaped pattern on the parking lot, with the angles marked by cones. Your job is to drive though it (easy), then reverse through the zig-zag backwards. It is much harder than it sounds. If you cross the lines bordering the zig-zag, you fail instantly. If you touch a cone - the same.

During practice with Delores, I hit the cones twice. I also lost at least a pound in water weight, judging from the sweat that poured out of my back and the neck. I don't even sweat this much running. Driving the zig-zag was the single best weight loss method I have yet to encounter.

I was so sick with worry about this zig-zag thing, I took to drawing diagrams at night of the pattern, and practicing with one of Jordan's matchbox cars as I mentally traced the techniques Delores recommended on each angle. Laugh if you will, as Jeff certainly did, but there was no way in hell I was going to fail this driver's test.

The day of the test - October 5, which coincidentally also happens to be our anniversary, I had another lesson with Delores right before the test. She asked me how I felt, and I responded honestly that I wanted to throw up, right there in the parking lot. She laughed. I did not.

And off we went to practice zig-zagging some more. She gave me some more advice. I promptly proceeded to hit another cone. She sighed. My stomach clenched into knots. And she said, "you're over thinking this."

Telling me I am overthinking something, is like telling a pearl diver not to breathe when he comes up for air after a drop. Much like a diver coming up for air, I cannot stop overthinking it.

And then, Delores, in her infinite wisdom mentioned something that suddenly made me rethink the whole approach I had to the zig and the zag.

"Stop coming at the cone straight." She said. "Come in at an angle."

I looked at her. She looked at me. And suddenly the chorus of angels began singing in my head.

There is nothing straight about a zig-zag. Much like Bermuda, you gotta appreciate the soft curves of the road.

I came in at an angle and aced that zig-zag.

An hour later, I met my road test instructor.

I kicked ass.


I zigged. I zagged. I did it within a minute, well short of the requisite three minute time frame we are allotted. I also kicked ass on the parallel park (even though the instructor messed up. He had the cones set for a small-truck park, not a car. Right in the middle of my backup, he stopped me, moved the cones up to make the space much smaller and told me to start again. I did. Nailed it instantly.

Then we hit the road and the streets of Hamilton proper.

The man chatted with me the whole way. He must have thought my parking lot skills were reflective of how calm I am as a driver, which is totally not the case. Despite a load of Secret Marathon deodorant (shout out to Beth from "Shut up and Run!"), my pits were wet from anxiety. But, there I was, chatting away, doing the Bermuda round-a-bouts and inching my way around trucks in tight corners.

When we pulled back into the TCD (Bermuda equivalent of DMV), I made the one fatal error of the whole test. I went the wrong way into the lot. Though there are no signs, the lot is designed as a one way entry around. The instructor made a grunting noise, but didn't seem too worried.

As we parked he said, " How do you feel?"

me: Sick. Sick to my stomach.

He: Really? You did wonderfully!

me: Really?

He: grunt.

Not once did he actually say I passed. But, a half hour later, he handed me this:

Shout out yo!! And I got all B's!! Which is higher than some people on this island who mocked me while I stressed, and yet proceeded to share an aero-bed with me.

And then I got this:

Yeah, I know it has my address on it. Go ahead and send me junk mail, I dare you. Wait till you see the postage rage.

October 5th was a great day all around. I picked up the kids from school and Jordan's teacher informed me he received a blue card! For the uninitiated, the blue card is a symbol of ultimate primary school accolades. Jordan was awarded a blue card because he demonstrated exceptional good will and kindness to another student (helping him clean up) without being asked. It's a big deal at the school. The kids leave the classroom, head to the principal's office, where they are handed the blue card with a special letter of explanation for the parents.

We celebrated with Portuguese cake. Mina happily shared in the honors.

That evening, Jeff and I celebrated our anniversary at Tom Moore's Tavern. This was quite a posh restaurant, despite the casual name. In fact, it's one of the oldest residences on the island. Made famous as a temporary resident of the Irish poet, it now serves continental cuisine, in high fashion English style. Of course, the proprietor is Italian, but it felt very English to me.

fois gras.

This shot was actually intended as a test of the lighting for my camera. And then I realized who it was and snorted. Politics aside, the food was fantastic. Service was impeccable. And it was a perfect place to celebrate the many, many years Monkey Sr. and I have been together.

For rich or for poor. With furniture or without.

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