Dick's Chat Column

August 25, 2017

"My Summer Walk In Bermuda"


(Written by Lois Stetler)


     As I step out of the front door, I am hit with a blast of heat and humidity.  Often the sounds of yellow Kiskadees screeching to each other greet me.  I start down Middle Road and greet our neighbor, Leigh, a British woman, who often says that I am out for my daily constitutional. I just smile as I greet her because I'm out to greet the world.

     At the bottom of Flatts Hill, I turn onto Harrington Sound Road where I greet the usual people who are waiting for the bus that will carry them to their workplaces in Hamilton.  Often I would see a young Bermudian deaf lady who would tell me that her birthday was coming or talk about a trip that she was planning to take to New York City in the near future.  I miss seeing her since her brother put her in a home to help her cope with her diabetes. It was often difficult to understand her speech but I always found time to listen. 

     As I proceed along Harrington Sound Road, which has a section of no sidewalks, the Sound comes into view.  Some days the water is as still as glass, creating a painting of colorful reflections of houses on the distant shore.  Other days it is very choppy and full of whitecaps.  Also, I can see rain storms approaching across the Sound from St. George causing me to make a decision to continue or to return home before becoming soaked to the bone.

     As I turn up Harrington Sound Lane, I admire the colorful zinnias.  Occasionally, I meet Warren, the gardener of Manor House, and I tell him how much I enjoy his well maintained landscape.  Growing along the wall as I walk up  the hill, I notice two Night-blooming Cereus which only open after nightfall and are wilted by daylight.  On this particular cloudy morning, the Night-blooming Cereus were still open.  They are huge white blossoms with a delicate yellow center on a thin cactus-like plant. What a beautiful sight!

     At the top of this hill, I meet a Border Collie, Brit and her master.  The woman told me that both of them are old and both are hard of hearing.  They live in a home with a swimming pool used by her grandchildren. Today, she is outside and wants to tell me that her pastor is leaving because he wants to find a place to settle his young family.  He is from South Africa and found that New Zealand is accepting all his paperwork for residency, something Bermuda was unable to provide.  Another loss as a much loved Anglican pastor moves on.

     I enjoy my view of the Sound as I walk down the hill and along the road to Town Hill Road.  This road is nice and shady for awhile so I can close my umbrella which I use for shade.  As I start my climb up the community road with no sidewalks, I am greeted with the smell of bacon and pancakes being prepared for someone's breakfast.  I savor the smell as I continue walking with remembrance of my breakfast that Dick calls, "sticks, twigs and birdseed."

     As I proceed with my uphill climb, I greet painters who are painting an apartment building a very deep turquoise.  Next door to where they are working are cheery green, yellow and pink sets of condos.  As I continue on, I compliment a man who has plowed part of his yard and created a beautiful garden.  He tells me that he is a cancer survivor and will give me some of his Bermuda onions at harvest time. 

     Next, I am greeted by the steepest part of Town Hill Road.  As I reach the corner, a lady in the basement window is tossing crumbs to the birds that have gathered for their morning feast. 

     I often enjoy the breezes as I walk but now I am ready to walk down the hill.  I see a piece of fruit that looks like a lime but it is attached to a vine.  I pause to ask the gentleman who lives there what type of fruit he is growing.  He asked me to wait there while he retrieved one from his home.  He returned with a small yellow ripe Passion fruit.  He told me what to expect when I cut it open. Now I know why anything with Passion fruit is extra special since only two tablespoons of seeds with juice are inside.  After using a blender, the mixture will add a wonderful flavor to any juice.

     As I continue down the hill, I meet an older woman from the Azores that I used to see at the bus stop sometimes.  She is waving an envelope that she wants to mail.  She had tried to mail it yesterday but when she went to buy stamps, the Post Office was closed.  I informed her that Bermuda's Post Offices were closing an hour earlier each day to save money.  She was happy to know this and decided to go to the Flatts Post Office this morning. 

     Now I'm nearing the end of my outdoor walk, as I have part of  Flatts Hill yet to climb to get home.  Some days lots of people are out and about and other days my time spent outdoors is more quiet.  I always return home before 9:00 a.m. due to the sun's intensity with UV rays of 10 which is very high.  Obviously this was a composite of what my daily summer walks are like, but always, each day features a new adventure.

August 12, 2017

"Our Love Affairs With Animals"


(Written by Dick Stetler)

     Those of us who have shared our lives with pets know how they literally become members of our family.  We are in our seventh year of living on our beautiful island and during that time two feral cats have adopted Dick and Lois as their guardians, providers and playmates. 

     Recently, our older feline friend, Heena, tangled with our neighbor's bulldog.  We saw her running down our driveway and we assumed everything was fine.  But, she had been running on a healthy infusion of adrenalin that initially disguised her physical condition.  It took us three days before we realized that she was dying.

     Off to veterinarian we went, vowing years ago never to spend a dime on either of them.  But, during one moment in our garage, she looked up at me and meowed in a way that formed words in my head, "I am in serious trouble.  Please help me."  I could not resist.  The vet x-rayed her.   

     After what their team saw on the x-rays, they were not sure that she would survive the surgery that was necessary for her to live. We were told that after three hours of surgery she had a detached and broken sternum, a punctured lung, and retraction of numerous central muscle groups that needed to be re-attached.  Her heart and spirit, however, were strong and in tact. 

     After a week in the hospital, she was sent home with lots of medications.  She was shrewd enough to foil our best efforts to give her what she needed.  She would hide the pills in her cheek and then spit them out after we had struggled to feed them to her.  Back to the vet she went where she stayed for another week.  Initially, it took three of the staff to get those medications into her.  People in the waiting room with their pets heard Heena quite audibly growling bloody murder.  A receptionist had to explain the ordeal to the curious patrons about what the staff was doing to our lioness.

     Finally, we brought her home for several more weeks of house-arrest --she could only be in a part of the house.   The stitches came out and more weeks of containment were necessary to avoid infection.  An outside cat does not care for captivity no matter how attractive the enclosure. We learned that normally cats sleep about eighteen hours a day.  We have clinical evidence that suggest otherwise.  The air-conditioned environment and a fresh litter box did calm her down, but still she sits at the kitchen door staring through the glass at the world that she left behind.

     We have stopped talking about this incident to friends because everyone with whom we shared our drama, indicated that they would have put her down without the slightest hesitation.  However, she had become part of our family and we had to choose to give her a chance at living, even though she has bitten me several times and her claws have drawn blood.  Why is it that we bond with our animals?  Perhaps it is our reverence for all living things that produces our love affairs with all God's creatures. 

     After the second weekend in August, she will be released and become reunited with the world that has remained on the other side of our kitchen door. It will be interesting to see what happens next.  While feeding our other outside cat several days ago, a skinny feral rooster walked up to me looking for a handout.  The cat stopped eating and looked intently at the rooster.  Sensing no threat, she remained completely undisturbed by the chicken's arrival and began eating again.  The rooster now struts down our driveway on a daily basis.  What is unknown is whether or not Heena will share her outside world with a wild rooster?  Time will tell.

August 15, 2015

"Preparing For America's Cup"


(Written by Dick Stetler)


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      Bermuda was chosen to host America's Cup in 2017.  This is a big deal for our twenty-one mile island.  The event will take place in the Great Sound which is near Dockyard (Kings Wharf) on the West end of the island where most cruise ships dock.  The planners intend to empty a basin of water and put land-fill in the area in order to build viewing stands for the thousands of international visitors that will be coming for the race.

    Advanced teams are already on the island busy constructing the various venues where the international crews will be preparing their teams.  Right now Team Oracle (USA) and Team Artemis (Sweden) are here with their catamarans.  These are practice vessels that allow the crews to familiarize themselves with Bermuda's winds and ocean conditions. 

     While our son Steve was visiting, we were able to watch and photograph the two crews as they toyed with each other.  We watched them practice from Fort Scaur one afternoon.  The teams race at enormous speeds and then stop to turn on a dime.

     Bermuda has two years to get ready for this huge sailing event.  Everyone wants to show case Bermuda as an ideal tourist site.  Entire families are relocating here.  Suddenly, the government is bending most of the rules that are generally in force.  These visiting families can put their children into private schools and they can rent homes on the island.  A common rent is $1,000 a week.  Many Bermudians are renting their own living quarters to make the big bucks that will come as a result.  They are able to rent cars.  Thus far in Bermuda's history no one is able to rent cars here, only motor scooters.  

     The attached pictures feature some construction and the equipment necessary to ready the crews for their big race.  The actual catamarans will not be coming until closer to the date of the race. 

     Oracle's 45-foot catamaran, owned by Oracle's CEO Larry Ellison, will cost between eight to ten million dollars, a price that has caused many national teams to withdraw from the race.  Thus far, six teams have entered.  Rumors persist that China wants a piece of the action. 

     It will be fascinating to watch as this drama unfolds. This event means jobs for lots of Bermudians not only in construction but in hospitality management (restaurants, hotels, etc.).  We could still be here for the action.   

     For the building drama:  https://www.youtube.com/user/AmericasCup


August 2, 2015

"Once Again It is Cup Match Time"


(Written by Lois Stetler)


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     We are celebrating two National Holidays this week when most workers receive a four-day weekend, July 30 - August 2.  Emancipation Day was on Thursday, July 30 and Somer's Day on Friday, July 31.  The biggest event scheduled on those same two days is the annual Cup Match that pits the St. George's Cricket Team against Somerset's Cricket Team.

      Cup Match originated in 1902 in celebration of the emancipation of Bermudian slaves and was held between the east-end and west-end cricket clubs.  Eventually, the government introduced the two-day holiday due to the popularity and mass attendance of the two-day game.

      Leading up to Cup Match weekend this year, the island experienced seven inches of liquid sunshine (rain) in seven days.  The groundsmen at the home field in St. George kept the pitch area covered with tarps in the hopes that the large puddles would drain away from the field in time for the match.  The crew could not get all the grandstands built during the daylight hours so they worked all night to finish the seating area for the fans. 

      By 6:30 a.m. the gates were opened to thousands of spectators as they flooded into the park to eat traditional Bermudian fare and drink lots of beer (their favorite beverage), play Crown and Anchor (gambling game) and maybe watch the game.  As the two days passed in positively sterling weather conditions, Somerset, the defending champions, ended the match by an 8-wicket win.  This was their first victory in 34 years on St. George's playing field.  (The teams rotate between east-end and the-west end locations for the games each year)

      During these two holidays, tenting occurs everywhere there is a public space to set up temporary housekeeping.  Most families like to camp in eyesight of the seashore. Driving by these sites with the windows down, drivers could smell hamburgers and chicken being grilled.  The weather has been perfect for cooking, sharing family time and sleeping outdoors.  What made the event even more colorful was the occasion of a Blue moon -- a rare occurrence of a second full moon in one month which gave rise to the saying, "Once in a blue moon."


January 15, 2015

"January At Our Bermuda Parsonage"


(Written by Lois Stetler)


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     Even though it is January, our gardens are full of flowers.  Temperatures fluctuate from the low 70s to the high 50s at night.  Hibiscus bloom year round but the red Winter Lilies only bloom in January.  The Phlox are blooming as well as  the Bougainvillea and the white Calla Lily by the front sidewalk begins to open.  It is most unusual to see yellow Chrysanthemums blooming at this time and in the same bed as a Rose bush.  The brilliant yellow Mexican Sunflower blooms in our backyard.  The orange Inpatients and yellow Marigolds  line our front beds trying to survive the invasion of hungry slugs.

     All this beauty is possible since Bermuda is visited by the Gulf Stream that brings us temperate weather.  As incredible as it may seem, the Gulf Stream travels all the way up to Scotland where the western part of that country also has palm trees.  Indeed, this is a unique element of nature that makes our island living a wonderful year-round experience.

December 23, 2014

"Centenary Celebrates It's 175th Anniversary"


(Written by Lois Stetler)


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      2014 is rapidly coming to a close.  However, this year was a very busy year for Centenary United Methodist Church.  We celebrated the 175th Anniversary (1839-2014) of this small but highly energized congregation.  The pictures tell the story of our church building from its earlier days to the present. 

      Through the years,  the people of Centenary have carried out a quiet ministry of service to the greater community of Bermuda, upholding the core values of Methodism from its earliest days.  In 1748, Rev. George Whitfield arrived.  In 1799, Rev. John Stephenson broke through racial barriers and was jailed for it.

     There have been a number of Bermudians that were a part of the Centenary church family during the 175-year history.  They include Mrs. Hilda Aitken, the first woman elected to Parliament, Dr. Ted Outerbridge, physician and missionary to China, Mr. Chalmers Stevens, leading horticulturalist and exporter of Bermuda Easter lilies, Mr. Frank Gambel, the Founder of Bermuda's Red Cross as well as the many leaders of the 19th Bermuda Cub Scout Pack which Centenary has sponsored for more than 50 years.

     Today as we continue to carry the torch, we planned several events during the year to celebrate our 175th.  The Big Event was our celebration on Sunday, November 23.
  Our bishop from the U.S., Bishop Marcus Matthews and his wife Barbara were on the island for their first visit.  Bishop Matthews delivered the morning message.  Also, in attendance was the Honorable Premier Michael Dunkley, who brought greetings from the Government of Bermuda.  Premier Dunkley was accompanied by his wife Pamela.

     We had a grand service with lots of singing.  The Celebration Singers -- a group of Filipino women -- sang in Filipino and English accompanied by a guitar.  Our Spontaneous Choir also sang.  The choir received its unique name because there are no rehearsals.  People come from the congregation spontaneously and sing.  Our substitute organist that morning said that he could hear the harmony. 

     In addition, we dedicated two new stained glass windows in the narthex.  One with Easter lilies was dedicated in memory of Sharon Johnson, given by Margot (Sharon's sister) and David White.  The other window featured sunflowers and was dedicated in memory of Norman and Irene Noble, and was given by their daughter, Linda and her husband Roy Parker.

     We had a remarkable service followed by a bountiful luncheon at Grotto Bay Resort.  The Bishop and Barbara received gifts from the church and all families present received a Bermuda cedar tree to plant in honor of Centenary's 175th Anniversary. 

     This anniversary has given us the opportunity to redefine our unique identity among the hundreds of congregations that offer a smorgasbord of worship styles for Bermuda residents and visitors.  Centenary clearly is a small church filled with people with big hearts.  We believe we still make a difference through our strong mission programs.  


August 27, 2014

"The Summer of 2014 in Bermuda"


(Written by Lois Stetler)


     Bermuda may be a tiny little speck all by itself out in the Atlantic Ocean but it does not lack for high drama and making waves on its own.  For example, we have experienced hundreds of marchers that walked from Victoria Park (named for Queen Victoria) to the Cabinet Office building to present a manifesto to Acting Premier Michael Dunkley.  He accepted it very graciously and promised to review its contents.  Mr. Dunkley had not been in office long.  Our Premier, Craig Cannonier, tendered his resignation in late spring. 

     After this march, we had another march of hundreds of people under the leadership of Marc Bean, the Opposition Leader.  They walked to our Governor’s house and demanded that he resign from his office.  Governor George Fergusson is appointed by the Queen and this group of protestors discovered that only the U.K. can recall our Governor.   

     Then we had grease balls begin to appear on a few of our most popular South Shore beaches.  Our American Consul General Bob Settje notified the U.S. that any citizens coming to Bermuda should have their shots before going into our waters.  It was discovered that restaurants were sending their waste kitchen fat out with their dishwater.  Bermuda has no waste disposal plants.  The waste is carried by pipe way out into the ocean.  On rare occasions, the tidal currents are such that the waste does come ashore.  The problem was solved just as our summer tourist season was starting.  Bermudians were not happy with the U.S. Consulate sending out an alarm without first consulting with the Government.

     This summer the race issue, which is constantly making its presence known in island life, was back in the headlines again.  Black Bermudians had homes on land that is now Tucker’s Point Golf Course and Resort as well as property that has become an elitist, gated community for very wealthy home owners.  When Bermudians were asked to surrender their homes, they were given financial compensation and land to build whatever home they desired.  Many of these properties were ocean front and the homes from their compensation are magnificent.  However, descendants of these ancestors began to protest that their families were not compensated enough.  They petitioned Parliament to see if the U.K. would give further compensation to families that may have been cheated many generations before.  The U.K. was not interested.  Decision makers in the U.K. assumed that was a money-grab by people who were not making it economically.

     Bermuda likes to copy-cat the U.S. and took on the ice bucket challenge for ALS.  Governor George Fergusson and Acting Premier Dunkley both had buckets of iced water dumped over their heads.  The Governor will donate to ALS as well as a local charity PALS (Cancer).

     Summers in Bermuda are very hot and humid so iced water may be a treat.  Temperatures usually range in the mid to upper 80s with humidity in the upper 80s every day.  This is most oppressive and working outside is torturous.  The UVA rating is always 10 or above even on cloudy days.

     Now we are closing out August and are approaching record rain fall for this month.  We are very close to 14 inches – the historic high.  Hurricane Cristobal is making a pass at us tonight.  The waves outside the reefs will reach 12 to 18 foot swells.  The ferry service from Dockyard to St. George has been cancelled.  We have also had two major cruise ships cancel.  Anyone coming here this month has either roasted in the August sun or are crying because some days have seen two inches of rain. 

     With all this rain, we have enjoyed a huge banana crop as well as plantains.  Also, we have eleven avocados on our tree for the first time in four years.  We hope our avocados survive Cristsobal’s winds.  Weeds are also plentiful in our flowerbeds.

     Just as summer is coming to a close, we received word this week that my Aunt Alvina left this earth at the age of 99.  She was the sole surviving sibling of the nine children in the Overgaard family and she lived in Apache Junction, Arizona.  Most of them including my Dad lived into their mid to late 90s.  She was full of energy.  Aunt Alvina sang in her church choir and stayed to help count the offering after services.  She played pinochle a few days ago with family members, was taken to the hospital where she died in her sleep within a week.  Her memorial service will be held on what would have been her 100th birthday.  So ends the summer of 2014.    

February 11, 2014

     I had no idea.  I happened to be in the barber shop when in comes this film crew and shot me.  They choreographed what I was to do and I was clueless what it all was in reference to, until I saw the finished product.  I have a glorious 2-seconds (~1:45), so don't blink.  The clip is a lot of fun and gives a real snapshot of Bermuda.  Click on the link below or copy and paste into your favorite web browser.




December 25, 2013

"Christmas Day In 2013"


(Written by Lois Stetler)


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 Last evening as we were driving the mile or so to the church with the ocean in view as we approached our destination, the thought occurred to me, “Would I ever have dreamed of celebrating Christmas on the island of Bermuda?  On top of that, would I have ever considered going to the Christmas Eve service without a coat or jacket?  This would have been unheard of in Bowie with temperatures often in the 30s.”

     Dick, on the other hand, was wondering how he ever managed three Christmas Eve services for all those years at St. Matthew’s.  In Bermuda, we had one service at 7:00 p.m. replete with candlelighting and the singing of Silent Night. 

Christmas Day in Bermuda begins quietly with very little traffic on Middle Road in front of our home.  The sky is gray due to a cold front moving through.  We had some drizzle and wind as the front passed, leaving us with 66 degrees.  With a fire blazing in the fireplace and the background of Christmas Carols brought to us through the magic of television, we opened a number of Christmas gifts (mostly from members of our congregation). 

    We enjoyed talking to Sue and Steven as they celebrated Christmas together in our Bowie home.  We had just finished our Christmas breakfast as they were about to eat theirs highlighted by Welch’s white grape juice – a family tradition.  Even though we are separated by miles of ocean, we feel closeness courtesy of our Vonage line. 

      Today we are surrounded by the beauty of nature indoors and outside.  Inside we have several poinsettias and Christmas cacti blooming.  Outside we have marigolds, Angel begonias, bougainvillea, white callalilies, hibiscus and roses blooming. We also have numerous sleeves of bananas that are ready for picking.  

     This evening, Christmas night, we will go to dinner at the home of a wonderful Bermudian couple and their large extended family.  Some of them are local but some fly in from Toronto.  This home has a 180 degree view of Harrington Sound.  We are taking two large sleeves of bananas and an Overgaard favorite that no holiday would ever be without – Date-Nut loaf.  We have learned that Christmas is wonderful wherever people find themselves.  Merry Christmas!   



August 3, 2013

"Bananas - A Bumper Crop"


(Written by Dick Stetler)


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  This is the first year where the rainfall has kept up with what is considered normal levels.  The weather pattern has caused varieties of vegetation to bloom that residents have not seen for years.  The Poinciana trees, for example, were absolutely magnificent.  They provide a canopy of red blossoms that cover the entire tree.  The green leaves are completely hidden.  

     Old timers have said that when they bloom in this manner, it is a signal that hurricanes are coming to the island.  The Poinciana trees have not been visible with this intensity for over a decade.  We shall see how good the trees are as crystal balls that accurately peer into the future!

     The added moisture has given us a full tank/cistern to begin the month of August.  That is remarkable since in former seasons it has been less than half full.  We have also had a bumper crop of bananas that are as large as any shoppers would find in grocery stores in the States.  Normally, Bermuda bananas are half the size. 

     Shown in the pictures is a shot of our 30 plus trees.  These trees bear one sleeve of bananas and then die.  However, there is a resurrection.  New shoots immediately sprout from the former trees’ root system with new trees for the next growing season.  Often Bermudians can have bananas almost year round since the growing season on the island is 12-months.

     Another picture shows the beginning stages of the banana’s growth from a single bloom that has a hand behind each pedal.  A single tree can produce 50 to 60 bananas in a moist season and the trees often need to be propped up lest the weight of the growing bananas topple the tree.  Bermuda bananas are different.  They have a sweeter taste than regular store-bought bananas.

The final picture shows Dick in our garage preparing the harvest from just two trees.  He put 8 to 10 bananas in bags and made them available to the congregation after the service on July 28.  In a flash, all the bags were gone!  Bermuda bananas are a coveted commodity and are more pricey than their imported cousins.

     Dick allowed them to stay on the trees longer than usual.  Like tomatoes, when bananas get too ripe, their peels split.  When that happens, the ants have a virtual feast.  While Dick was preparing to clean and bag the fruit, he had ants crawling all over his arms, legs and hands.  As he says, “Ants come with the territory when you live in Bermuda.  They are everywhere and get into everything.”


May 24, 2013

"Springtime Is Bermuda"


(Written by Lois Stetler)


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After a very cool, damp, windy winter, all Bermudians are happy for the temperatures to be rising into the middle 70s.  In Bermuda we have flowers blooming year-round but it’s especially nice to see the Angel begonias, snapdragons, Easter lilies, day lilies, geraniums and daisies blooming profusely.

       Easter came early, March 31, consequently the island had few blooming Easter lilies at the time.  Lots of giant snapdragons in the fields were ready for harvesting.  Actually, the snapdragon is the traditional Bermudian Easter flower.  At one time, Bermuda grew vast fields of Easter lilies and even exported them to the U.S. as a cash crop. 

     In April one of Dick’s sister’s, Jane, and her husband Tom, visited us.  We had a whirlwind of activities and they loved the weather in the 60s.  It was so much warmer than the 20-30s in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  They really enjoyed sitting and relaxing on our front porch.

     Bermuda worked very hard to line up more buses, more taxi drivers and more ferries for the arrival of the Norwegian Breakaway on its maiden voyage from New York City to Dockyard.  This cruise ship has 18 decks and carries more than 4,000 passengers.  The vessel has 770 theatre seats, 28 dining options and 18,000 square foot casino, plus on deck 15, there is a running track that circles the ship.  When Breakaway docked, we also had a regular-size cruise ship docked at the same time.  The island became quite busy during the month of May.

Everyone has birthdays but this spring Dick celebrated a significant milestone – 70 years!  We never dreamed we’d be in Bermuda for this event!?!  Going out to dinner was already on the agenda.  To celebrate in Bermuda, I decided to make our first picnic lunch and take it to Spittal Pond Nature Reserve.  Lots of birders enjoy this area.  However, we hiked further down the trail and sat on the jagged coral rocks where the fierce winds generated by an approaching storm were sending the breakers slamming into the cliffs creating quite a show. The experience was wonderful and one in which we could relax in the arms of Mother Nature. 

Now we are preparing to celebrate Bermuda Day, May 24th.  It is a National Holiday and a chance to see a float parade downtown.  Over one thousand runners participate in the Appleby Half Marathon Derby.  Boats will be quite visible and tenting will begin.  Bermuda Day is a celebration that used to honor Queen Victoria’s birthday but now it signals that summer is here.

January 13, 2013

"Paradise Is Within Us"


(Written by Dick Stetler)


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 In the book The Little Prince, there is a line which reads, “It is only with the heart that anyone ever sees clearly.”  There is a high degree of accuracy to that statement.  People continue to ask how life is in Paradise.  Actually, it is like living anywhere else, i.e., we experience what is inside of us. 

     Bill Butler, a member of the church we served in Arden, West Virginia told me a story that has never left me.  New people had moved into the area and they met a farmer.  They asked him, “What kind of people will we meet here?  The place where we came from was wonderful.  Everyone was a neighbor and there was a wonderful sense of community.”   The farmer said, “That is exactly the kind of people that you will find here.” 

     Another couple moved in as well and met the same farmer.  They asked the same question as the earlier newcomers.  However, they said, “We hope to find it better than where we came from.  In our former community people were secretive and unfriendly.  All of us had to watch our backs.  They gossiped and had nothing better to do but cut each other down.”  The farmer said, “You’ll find the same kind of people here as well.” 

 By looking at the pictures you’ll find the same thought and emotional patterns in Bermuda as you will in any other part of the world.  The headlines all came from just two newspapers around Christmas time.  The difference is in the spirit in which one lives.  We also live in a land where avocados can grow to be over two pounds and where bananas grow so low to the ground, one does not need a ladder to harvest them.  Also, our poinsettias grow like weeds and actually need pruning.  

     There is that saying, “Two men looked through the prison bars, one saw mud and the other saw the stars.”  Truly, Paradise is anywhere that the mind, heart and spirit dreams of being. 

December 18, 2012

The Moon Gates of Bermuda


(Written by Dick Stetler)


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Moon Gates were incorporated into the architecture of Bermuda in the late 19th century. The Bermuda Moon Gate is slightly different from the original Chinese design, as it is often left free-standing or attached to a lower wall. In Bermuda, Moon Gates are regarded as good luck for newlyweds as they walk through them on their way to their future. 

     When our daughter Sue was here, she took pictures of thirteen of these structures that are arranged in a collage below.  Some of them are at sites frequented by tourists and others are in private residences.  One private residence had two Moon Gates, one at the front entrance and the other at the back. 


December 18, 2012

Election Time In Bermuda

(Written by Lois Stetler)


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     Dick and I were surprised to find that Bermudians were highly interested in US politics during its electoral process.  I heard someone on the radio saying that they intended to stay up all night until a winner was declared in the States.  Such jubilation came forth from every quarter of Bermuda with Obama’s victory being celebrated in our local newspaper.

     Does anyone in the US know that Bermuda is having an election on December 17th?  Bermuda has two major parties, The Progressive Labor Party (PLP) and the One Bermuda Alliance (OBA).  Our Premier, Paula Cox, is head of the PLP and Craig Cannonier, the head of the OBA, is a member of Marsden First United Methodist Church, our sister church from the Baltimore-Washington Conference.  Independent candidates are also running for the various posts.

     Premier Paula Cox, who also happens to be the Minister of Finance, can call for an election anytime she wishes.  During her Throne Speech, her annual State of Bermuda speech, Premier Cox called for an election on December 17th.  This notification immediately dissolved our Parliament preventing the opposition party (OBA) from making an official response to issues raised in the speech. 

     Annually, the Throne Speech is written by the Premier but is read by the Governor of Bermuda, an official that is appointed by Queen Elizabeth II.  This year there was a mistake in the Throne Speech that was corrected in every distributed copy but the one that was read by the Governor.  Premier Cox had some explaining to do on how something so important was overlooked.

     What we are finding is that they are taking pages out of the US election book.  For example, the PLP claimed that a vote for the OBA will send blacks back to the plantation, a statement reminiscent of Biden’s comment that blacks would be put back in chains if Mitt Romney won.  The PLP official stance was that no one would play the race card but their campaign proceeded to tell people to remember their roots.  Further, the PLP’s campaign went on to claim that mistakes were made during the last five years, but that the Party would do better as “we move forward.”  Even further, PLP’s campaign pointed to the OBA as being the party of the white population in Bermuda.  Even though the OBA’s leader is black and many of the campaigners are black, it must be noted that more whites appear to be involved in the party than are supportive of the PLP.

     As Ex Pats, Dick and I are unable to vote in any election even though we received notice of our polling station.  The PLP chose a precise strategy for the timing of the election.  Many college students will not be able to be home for the elections as that will be the week of their final exams.  There will be no absentee ballots since the claim was made by the PLP that such ballots lead to fraud during the election.  Choosing to have the elections so close to the holidays also would interfere with islanders’ travel plans.  But everyone knew the Premier was gearing up to call for an election before the end of the year and after the US election.

     Election Day arrived.  A beautiful, sunny day made it nearly impossible for people to make excuses for not going to the polls to vote.  As we watched the local Bermuda evening news, we saw two of our church members entering the polling station for Spanish Point residents.  Both the PLP and the OBA were confident of a victory.

     After five weeks of a mud-slinging campaign, the voters have spoken and a brand new party, which had just been formed in the late spring, won the election.  The OBA won a 19 seat majority in the House of Assembly to the 17 seats by the PLP.  What made matters worse for the PLP was that former Premier Cox had lost her seat in Parliament so her party is left without an official leader.  All fifteen Independent candidates lost their election bid. 

      We have been five weeks without a government since the Senate and the House of Assembly were disbanded once the election date was set. This morning, December 18, Premier Craig Cannonier will be sworn in at the Government House and immediately select his Cabinet Ministers from among the OBA candidates that were elected.  The Senate has 8 seats with 5 going to the ruling party plus 19 seats in the House of Assembly that is made up of 36 members.

     Our new Premier, Craig Cannonier, has a big job ahead of him as he tries to pull our island’s people together.  The election ended the 14 year reign of the PLP.  Bermuda is 1.6 billion dollars in debt.  The key issues facing this new government are jobs and the economy.

November 4, 2012

Autumn In Bermuda

(Written by Lois Stetler)


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We have no beautiful sights of autumn leaves but we do have temperatures in the high 70’s to the low 80’s.  The ocean temperature is 78 degrees.  This season of the year is pleasant for outdoor activities including harvest-time.  The Bermuda pumpkins, not orange in color, are ripening in the fields and avocados are hanging heavy on the trees, some weighing two pounds.

     After the farmer who rents the field behind our home harvests his crop, we pick the pumpkins that have ripened on vines that have crawled up our bank and into our yard.  We also helped to harvest avocados that hang high in a tree that is as tall as the oaks that are in the backyard of our Bowie home.  Dick sat in the fork of a tree and used a 25 foot fiberglass mast that had washed up on shore.  On the end of it was a bag and the pole had been rigged with a clipper.  Four buckets were filled by collecting them one at a time.

     Halloween was celebrated with the island’s first Zombie Walk, an event that turned Somerset into a Mangrove Hallows looking like a deserted town in a typical horror movie.  Trick or Treaters were out looking for candy but police were begging folks to keep the night safe as they patrol the island.  An interesting observation is that the Portuguese population does not celebrate Halloween.

Hurricanes are also a part of our autumn.  We have had three beginning with Leslie.  For the most part, we have gale force winds and rain.   The problem with high winds is that they carry salt spray that damages gardens and vegetation.  With many homes painted with very vivid floral colors, they also have to withstand the salt-filled breezes.  Hurricane Sandy brought her fury to the U.S. while in Bermuda we had a few cloudy days, some wind and rain but no weather-pattern out of the ordinary for this time of year.

      Autumn also brings fewer tourists to the island.  This is good because the white-helmeted tourists on motor scooters are not holding up traffic, but the economy suffers as a result.  Some shops close for the season and will reopen in the spring.  Others close for good due to the financial strain on the shop owners who, without the cash flow, can no longer pay the rent. 

      We still have a cruise ship on occasion arriving in Dockyard (King’s Wharf) but due to the close proximity of hurricanes to the island recently, they have canceled their stops in Bermuda.

     Autumn in Bermuda is also a time when a number of church members travel off island to Florida, where they own condos, Canada and Great Britain.  They also take European river boat cruises. 

     Another aspect of autumn is turning our clocks back, a ritual that signals the end of our much loved daylight savings time. Even though we turn our clocks back, Bermuda is still one hour ahead of folks that live on the East Coast. We are on Atlantic Time.   

June 10, 2012

Produce Growing Around the Parsonage

(Written and photographed by Lois Stetler)

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(Avocado Tree) We are so grateful to see avocados growing on our tree this year.  The wind usually harvests them before they are ready.   (Bananas) We enjoy lots of bananas and continue to give them to neighbors and the people we visit.  We can have 20 to 30 bananas per tree.  The trees bear fruit and wither but send up new trees for next season.  They require no care.   (Parsley) Pictured here are three of our Parsley
plants in our very modest garden.
(Cherries) Bermuda cherries are sweet (if ripe) with a large pit.  The gardener’s machete did not get all the blossoms, so we have been enjoying a bumper crop this season.   (Tomatoes) We planted tomatoes but had to harvest most of them early since the feral roosters enjoy them too.   (Plantains) This Plantain, banana look-alike, seems to take longer to ripen and are more challenging to harvest.
(Fig tree) This year the fig tree is tree is full because the rain came at the right time. We had two crops of figs. There is a magical window of one or two days when they must be harvested because the birds are watching and know when they are ready. The figs are delicious!        

May 23, 2012

“Where Is Tom Bodett When You Need Him?”

(Written by Dick Stetler)

     Recently, a New Yorker wrote a Letter to the Editor posted in the Royal Gazette, after hearing about the sizzling summer offers in Bermuda.   Our island is really pulling out all the stops to get tourism to flourish once again.   Ron Lacey went to:  GoToBermuda.com and began listing the room rates for the various hotels on the island.  He entitled his letter, These prices don’t sizzle.

     Lacey’s list included the Fairmont Southhampton, $300; Pompano Beach Club, $340 a night; Coral Beach and Tennis Club $350; Grotto Bay Beach Resort & Tennis Club, $373; Royal Palms Hotel, $378; Rosedon Hotel, $398; The Reefs, $400; Newstead Belmont Hills Golf Resort & Spa, $450 and Elbow Beach Bermuda $455. 

     There simply are no Motel 6 resorts anywhere on the Island, so Tom -- sing your heart out because Bermuda could sure use one.  Recently, there was some in depth reporting on how challenging it is for hotel investors to turn a profit.  The recession has crippled the industry here and there have been a number of Four Star Hotels that have closed their doors for lack of customers.  Yet, Bermuda is still trying to entice investors to build newer hotels.

     Conservative building costs in Bermuda placed a price tag of one million dollars per room for new hotel construction.  Current investors of existing hotels are holding on for dear life so that the banks won’t eventually inherit their investment.  To say the least, tourism here is being challenged, particularly when the tourist season is from April to October.  When people add up the costs associated with a ten day vacation package in Bermuda, it equals a state room on a cruise ship.  Aboard ship all the meals and amenities are included.  Here a dinner for a family of four can easily run $45 per person with a 17 percent gratuity added for good measure.     

April 16, 2012

"Easter 2012"

(Written by Lois Stetler)


     Easter weekend began with Holy Thursday services held in several churches, including ours at the bottom of Collector’s Hill.  But if the truth were known, many people stayed home from worship services here because they were busy making codfish cakes, Cassava pie and hot cross buns for their large family gatherings on Good Friday. 

     Good Friday is a national holiday, so many people gather with their families at the beach, in the parks or at their homes for a big feast or picnic.  Older folks, as well as, youngsters enjoy flying homemade kites and some have a hummer which makes a buzzing sound as they fly.  They have kite flying contests at Horseshoe Bay – a main tourist attraction.  Every part of a kite is a symbol of Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection.

     Easter morning begins early with Sunrise services.  These services are held along the ocean at Elbow Beach Hotel, Ocean View Golf Club, John Smith’s Beach and on church grounds that have properties bordering the coast.  Centenary’s service was held on the terrace of the Pink Beach Club.  The early morning was dominated by brisk breezes and 50 degree temperatures.

     Our service began with a full moon in a dark sky and ended with a brilliant sunrise over the ocean.  Even though three churches were sponsors of the service, the attendance was half of what it was last year – thirty-eight people -- probably because there were no hot cross buns and coffee that had been a standard in former years.   

     Following our Easter service at Centenary where almost every inch of our sanctuary was decorated with flowers, Dick and I observed an old Bermudian tradition by traveling to various churches to see their floral displays.   We visited two Anglican churches, a Catholic Church and a Lutheran church that had its doors locked. 

     In the accompanying photos, please note the absence of potted Easter lilies like those used in the U.S.  In Bermuda, the people that arrange church floral displays use cut lilies in bouquets or baskets.  Historically, Easter lilies were once a major export item to the United States.        

  Centenary UMC Closeup of Santuary Centenary UMC Sanctuary Centenary Window View Christ Angelican Church Outside View
  Christ Angelican Church Santuary Christ Angelican Pulpit St. Mark's Angelican Church Outside View St. Mark's Angleican Church Pulpit View
  St. Patricks Catholic Church Outside View St. Patricks Catholic Church Altar St. Patricks Catholic Church Narthex  

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 March 25, 2012

"An Immigration Glitch"

(Written by Lois Stetler)


     We celebrated one year in Bermuda in the middle of January.  We could not believe that we have been on the island for a full year.  But that brings up our immigration status.  Dick’s Work Permit and Entry/Re-Entry Permit and my Entry/Re-Entry papers clearly state that permission to be in Bermuda ends on 01 April 2012.           

     The process of filling out all the immigration papers began as well as needing four passport-size photos.  We had to locate a shop in Hamilton for Dick to have his photo taken while I could submit four photos from our original documents.         

     The Centenary UMC had to post an advertisement for three days (see ad below) in The Royal Gazette so the position of Pastor was made available.  There were several issues with this.  First, local Bermudians may apply which further complicates the process, and second, the church does not have the right to interview potential candidates since only the Bishop has that authority to appoint new pastors.

     A potential nightmare began when an application was received on the day before the deadline.  A Bermudian AME pastor applied for the position and an interview had to be set up which she cancelled due to a conflict.  This delayed submitting our immigration papers.  The interview and the result had to be submitted with our papers to satisfy government requirements because when jobs become available, the government likes to see them filled with Bermudians.

     Finally, the interview was held with the Pastor-Parish Relations Committee where the applicant was informed that the posting of the position was being done to be in compliance with the Government of Bermuda.  Because of this glitch, Centenary now has a letter from the District Superintendent stating the denomination’s policy on hiring new pastors, and, therefore, Centenary will be granted a waiver on its need to advertise in the future.    

     The advertisement had also upset some of our church members.  They did not remember that we came on a one-year Work Permit.  We were happy to tell them that it was being done because of government regulations.  Now we have submitted a request for a three-year Work Permit so that we do not have to go through this process each year.  Even though we have applied for a three-year Work Permit, we know that the Bishop could make a change at Centenary at any time. 

     Right now it is not April 1, so we are still waiting for this government process to work for us.   

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January 15, 2012

"Statistics From Bermuda’s 2010 Census"

(Written by Dick Stetler)

Bermudian Census data for 2010 has surfaced in various publications.  The questionnaire was unavailable.  Below are some statistics concerning the island’s racial make-up, household and pension incomes, and the leap in health-related issues since the last, the 2000 Census.  The numbers are quoted directly from The Royal Gazette articles which may represent only the highlights the publication thought significant to Bermudians.  I discovered no editorializing by commentators about the direction Bermuda was headed. 

·  Since the 2000 census, government jobs have increased by 52 percent, or an increase of 1,315.  Ten percent of the workforce is now employed by the government. 

·  The Hotel sector saw the largest drop in jobs, with 900 fewer from the earlier census when 2,738 were employed.

·  Men accounted for 18,812 jobs and women came in at 18,591.

·  When race was a consideration, the number of mixed and the people specific ethnic groups (other than black or white) have more than doubled to 5,853 from 1,934 counted during the 2,000 census.

·  Blacks accounted for 20,213 of the working population (54 percent), while whites comprised 11,337 or 30 percent of the workforce.  In 2000, the ratio in the workforce was comprised of 21,848 blacks to 13,096 whites. 

·  A sharp contrast surfaced in the racial make up of managers, professionals and associate professions with 65 percent of the positions held by whites compared to 40 percent by blacks and 39 percent by those of mixed racial heritage.

·  The median household income has risen from $72,000 in 2000 to $108,052 ten years later.  The median pension income has increased from $11,286 in 2000 to $15,606.  In 2010, the annual pension for males was $19,385 and $12,132 for females or, has risen 48 percent for males and 23 percent for females.  Pensions for persons of mixed heritage have risen 49 percent, followed by whites at 47 percent and blacks at 33 percent. 

·  The median age when couples get married has risen from 24 to 27 years in ten years.  In 2010, 13 percent of females entered marriage for the first time as teenagers compared to only 3 percent of males.

·  The number of African-born Bermudians has tripled since 2000.  The second fastest growing segment of society is the doubling of those born in Asian countries.   The foreign-born population has grown at a 5 percent faster rate from those born in Bermuda.  The Bermuda-born population has stayed at 67 percent (42,802) compared to 18,532 or 29 percent foreign-born.

·  People born in the United Kingdom make up the largest segment of expats on the island or 3,942.  Asian-born residents count for 2,305 and African-born, 615.  The number born in Caribbean countries is 2,651.

·  The 2000 Census indicated 17,048 residents had health problems.  The 2010 Census indicated that this number has leaped to 44,804.  There has been a dramatic increase in diabetes, learning disabilities, epilepsy and high blood pressure.  Women far outpace the men in every category for resulting disabilities due to poor health.  

January 15, 2012

"Veggies For The Taking"

(Written by Dick Stetler)

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      Recently, the farmer that rents our lower 40 has harvested his sweet potato crop.  He leaves bushels of potatoes all over the surface of the ground, knowing that only the flawless ones are good for market. The picture was taken from our patio.  The Stetlers will have sweet potatoes for weeks to come. 

     What is interesting is that the gatherer can use a paring knife and cut off the damaged parts and the potato will scab over and keep for quite some time.  Shortly after Dick collected a bushel for the cooler months, when temperatures plunge into the mid-60s, the farmer returned and tilled the field for the next crop.  Last year at this time, the crop was carrots.  We know this because we are celebrating our first anniversary in Bermuda on January 13.  Where has time gone?  And yes, we gathered carrots at that time. 

We always learn new things.  Just as we had never seen white, purple and red carrots, we have never heard of white sweet potatoes.  The picture shows the kind with which we are most familiar.  When this picture was taken, the larger ones were in the oven baking.  Apply a little butter and a person has a very tasty vegetable.  What made them even more delicious is that they were free.  In the store, they sell for close to $3.00 a pound. 

January 13, 2012

Our First Anniversary in Bermuda

(Written by Dick Stetler)

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January 2, 2012

Thanksgiving and Christmas

(Written by Dick Stetler)

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We were eagerly waiting to see how the island celebrates during the seasonal holidays.  We were pleasantly surprised with Thanksgiving.  The sales in the food sections of the local paper drew our attention.  The word “Thanksgiving” was everywhere and the sale items featured turkeys, hams, cranberry sauce, pumpkin and mincemeat pies, etc.  Major food chains advertised complete meals with 12-14 lb. turkeys for $84.00.  Not a bad price, really!  Our son, Steve, was visiting that week and we cooked a turkey with all the trimmings.  Our Thanksgiving Day, however, was a normal work day for Bermuda.

     The theme of Black Friday was also adopted.  Last year a few stores engaged in the practice for the first time in Bermuda’s marketing history, but this year countless vendors got behind the idea, replete with opening and closing at insane hours.  The early birds got the worms, e.g., big screen televisions, computer monitors, lap tops, etc. 

     There is a big push for the public to buy from Bermudian stores in order to support local businesses, but a letter to the editor in mid-November summarized the feelings of countless Bermudians.  “I would love to support local businesses, but, on a restricted income, I can no longer afford to buy here.  I priced an item yesterday at $63.  I checked on the Internet and found the identical item in the US for $16.50.  Suck it up retailers and get real!  Upping the customs duty to 35 percent is just punishing Bermudians by restricting our choices.  I will do without rather than pay these inflated prices.”      

    The preparation for Christmas was different.  For example, Christmas trees that arrived on a container ship were sold out within a few days.  They would not last since the weather here was still in the mid-70s.  Many people waited until Christmas Eve to turn on any outdoor lights because of the price of electricity.  Years ago many houses were adorned with outside decorations but very few were seen this year.           

     We attended a Christmas boat parade, an event that happens every two years.  People stand along Front Street in Hamilton andwatch yachts motor by that have been decorated with Christmas lights and carolers.  Some of them were quite elaborate.  The winner of the contest was most interesting.  It was a light saber battle between Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker with all the sounds and fury of the Star Wars movie.  How’s that for a Christmas motif?

     Our Christmas Eve service was sandwiched between rain showers.  Dick used his sound system to have Andrea Bocelli sing the Lord’s Prayer backed up by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, the organist sang O Holy Night that brought tears to many, and a choir of seven Filipino women accompanied by a guitar blessed our congregation with two selections.  After a brief meditation, the service closed with Silent Night and the lighting of candles.  The church was beautifully decorated with poinsettias and each window sill had five candles each.  These candles will provide enough light for Dick’s New Year’s Eve meditation service.           

     A unique addition to the Bermudian diet at Christmas time is their cassava pie.  The cassava root is a challenge to prepare so a number of cooks buy this main ingredient frozen.  Among the items the recipe calls for are one pound of butter, a dozen eggs and four pounds of any meat of choice.  After eating some, we learned that loving cassava pie is an acquired taste. 

     We were invited to have our Christmas meal with one family at 1:00 p.m. and another one at 6:30 p.m.  Not wanting to turn down any opportunity for a meal and to observe the cultural expressions in two Bermudian families, we made the decision to experience both.  Dick and Lois arrived home after 10:30 p.m. filled with two gigantic meals that were only hours apart.  Both families live on properties that capture commanding views of the water.

     Tuesday was Boxing Day, something we experienced while at Capitol Hill.  Historically, it was a day when merchants gave boxed gifts to their clients and workers as a “thank you.”  Today, it is a public holiday when people gather to eat the left over food from Christmas and give gifts.

    This was our first Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s with Bermudians and they demonstrated their reputation as being a very warm and loving people.  When we were eating with the first family, a friend of the teenage daughter came to visit.  They simply moved the place settings over and made room for her at the table.  Like us, she instantly became family.  The holidays were celebrated with grace and warm hospitality by everyone in our lives.  And, yes, the temperatures stayed in the high 60s with everything green and blooming.

November 20, 2011

Bermuda’s Transportation Story

(Written by Lois Stetler)

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Bermuda has advanced since its early days of pirating.  Of course, the only way to reach the island was by ship.  We have learned that early ancestors waved their lanterns luring ships to the Bermudian shores.  The ships all met with certain death on the coral reefs.  This gave the opportunity for the natives to gather the ships contents including their treasures.

     Early transportation was by walking.  Stories abound of people walking from Somerset to Hamilton, but soon the horse and buggy – like the Amish in the U.S. -- became a more comfortable way of traveling.  The next form of transportation was the bicycle, a mode of transportation that became immensely popular because the owners didn’t have to feed them!  However, we still have a few horse-drawn carriages for tourists to take leisurely rides around our capital city, Hamilton.

     The need for a better mass transit system was installed with the advent of a train that carried passengers from one end of the island to the other.  This provided locals with jobs and provided efficient transportation for the growing population.  A recurring problem in Bermuda today happened in the earlier days – mechanical failures of the steam locomotives and no parts and mechanics to make the repairs.

     Today, the rails are gone and Bermuda has lovely walking paths, like from Shelly Bay to Flatts; but now and then, water is encountered, and the only semblance of the former rail system are the concrete pylons (right) that stand as sentinels that remind people of their past.  Tourists still have access to train rides in St. George and Dockyard (left) but there are no tracks and the tires are rubber.

     Many Bermudians as well as tourists make their way around the island on motor scooters.  The government has specifications that prevent the large bikes (like those manufactured by Harley Davidson) from coming to the island.  Cars were finally allowed on the island, but only one car per family; and, today, there are no businesses on the island that rent cars.

     What is fascinating is the courage or stupidity of a good number of motor scooter drivers to pass cars on blind corners making the center stripe on the road as a third lane.  Part of the motor vehicle driver’s training is that cars are to hug the center line of the road.  In spite of the risk takers on the road, the motor scooter is a popular choice for countless Bermudians.  Cars are small and outrageously priced.  Only recently were SUVs and large trucks admitted to the island. 

     The trains were replaced by pink buses, a color made popular by the school children.  The buses are an excellent way for citizens to travel anywhere on the island.  They are dependable and on time, unless the drivers are on strike or they have a daytime union meeting.  Currently, many buses are in the garage waiting for repairs by the German manufacturer who is sending mechanics to teach their Bermudian counterparts. 

     Taxis (right) are everywhere.  The drivers are friendly and well informed about the island’s history and tourist spots.  A number of drivers have been practicing their craft for 30 plus years.  One of them, upon delivering us from the airport, informed us that we had one of the oldest, original cedar trees on the island in our front yard.  Most of the cedars were destroyed by blight.

     Being surrounded by water, boats and ferries (left) are also a favorite mode of transportation.  Ferries are a popular way for workers to get to their jobs.  They carry passengers to all the central areas of Bermuda, i.e., Hamilton, the Royal Navy Dockyard (below right), and St. George.  In many instances, a ride can be secured each half hour.  Marinas are everywhere filled with pleasure and fishing boats.

     During a number of ferry rides, we have seen where people have built their homes on their own small islands which they access only by boat.  There are also special boats, some with glass bottoms that take interested parties to explore the array of tropical fish, ship wrecks and the coral reefs. 

     On numerous holidays, people use their boats and jet skis for recreational purposes. Bermuda has boat races during the summer months, both speed boats and sailing vessels.  Hopefully, we will be able to see the Christmas Boat Parade and the fireworks in early December. 


September 19, 2011

 "How Many Bullets Can We Dodge?"

(Written by Dick Stetler)

    The good ole’ Bermuda Triangle is playing havoc so far with hurricanes hitting Bermuda.  Irene scooted by us and Lee brought up the water tables in countless states along the east coast of the U.S.  Katia was recorded in Bermuda as a threat to the island, but she too left her footprint with only a little rainfall and some high surf.  As I write this, Maria is on her way around us.  We’ve had some heavy downpours and thunder but nothing sustained nor out of the ordinary.

    Some pictures lift up a couple of interesting points.  One is how close houses are built near the water along the south shore, the place where most of the hurricanes slam into Bermuda.  When Hurricane Fabian hit the island in September of 2003, an entire section of South Shore Road was removed from the shoreline by record winds and surf.  It took considerable effort to reconstruct the road bed.  Large boulders were installed as a protective barrier.  Concrete trucks routinely dump their excess on those boulders as they head back to their base at the end of the day.  The second picture shows where Fabian hit.

    Homes like ours are constructed out of “Bermuda Stone” which is cinderblocks cut from striated coral that was formed millions of years ago.  Very seldom are these houses damaged from high velocity winds.  Flooding occurs but it does not last.  Bermuda has centuries of time-honored tradition in weathering the most severe hurricanes.  We have been told that, with the least provocation, people lose their electricity.  So far that has not been part of our experience. 

    The farmers on the island have sustained major losses, however, particularly those who have their gardens along the south shore.  Information from a woman of our church indicated that there is a price to pay for the views that she and her family enjoy.  Their garden was destroyed by Katia, not because of rain or winds but by the salt spray.  Salt spray is carried high on the winds to properties that are well-removed from where the surf slams against the jagged coast line. 

    One gardener lost the $1,000 investment he made in his plants.  Carrot and beet plants that were several inches high were all killed.  We think that when the Farmer’s Market we frequent opens in November, there may not be much of a vegetable selection.   First, the long drought discouraged farmers from planting and now the salt spray from various hurricanes has destroyed crops.

    When Sue was here for a week, we drove on South Shore Road to photograph the high surf from Katia.  Within a few moments our eyeglasses became spotted, camera lenses were blanketed with salt spray and our skin became coated with moisture loaded with salt and sand.    

    Even though we have only reached the middle of hurricane season, we still have a distance to go before our island’s people become preoccupied by other distractions.  An interesting side bar is that we still get emails from friends that are thoughtfully praying for our safety, particularly when hurricanes are wreaking havoc in the Virgin Islands or the Bahamas.  Perhaps they cannot imagine this exotic island with its year-round tropical climate being 600 miles due east of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina.  However, we are always grateful for their prayers.    

August 16, 2011

 "Bermuda’s Legal Challenges"

(Written by Dick Stetler)

    For countless generations Bermudians have experienced a tranquil and peaceful culture.  Many of their laws were written decades ago for the genteel spirit of the people that lived here. Members of the Supreme Court, for example, still wear wigs while deliberating on the cases brought before them, harkening back to Colonial times. 

    What has jolted the culture of Bermuda in more recent times is the rise of thirteen gangs and the occasional use of firearms by gang members.  These two ingredients have caused Bermuda’s judicial system to play catch-up with their counterparts in other countries.

    The newspaper clipping that accompanies this chat is truly astounding when one considers that the island supports a population of approximately 67,000 people.  Since Bermuda seldom experienced murders, most of their forensics has to be outsourced to experts who deal with such crime scenes every day.

   Achieving a conviction in the court system here can be a challenge for several reasons.  The laws were never written specifically for crimes that were once considered unthinkable.  Thus, it is not too difficult for today’s sophisticated attorneys to derail the best efforts of prosecutors.  Jury trials present another variable.  So many people are related that defendants can easily be distant family members to a number of the jurors. The defense attorneys have counseled their defendants to appear in court well-groomed with polished speech and manners, a wholesome appearance that can confuse jurors.

    Recently Bermuda had a case where a young man’s bandana and gloves were recovered near the crime scene – the theft of $68,000 worth of jewelry from a couple.  Four intruders entered a couple’s home during the day and made their demands while brandishing a gun.  A young man was later arrested and it was determined that his DNA matched that found on the bandana and the gloves.

    Prior to the case being tried, the defendant pleaded that he was innocent of the charges.  He claimed that the two articles, indeed, were his.  He had worn them earlier during the day of the robbery while making some repairs on his motor scooter.  After he completed his chores, he put the articles in a bag on his front porch. He claimed that someone had stolen the bag and must have worn the gloves and bandana during the robbery. The defendant was handsome, soft-spoken and looked as though he had just come from his church.  He was acquitted by the jury.

    What we have in Bermuda is a very innocent culture being deeply affected by a tiny minority of young men who know about the revolving-door of the court system, who have easy access to firearms and to attorneys that can pick apart existing laws.  If they are found guilty, they know that the sentences being handed down by magistrates are relatively light when compared to those of other national jurisdictions. 

    Like with so many other areas within Bermuda’s government, they are working on refining their legal practices.  However, one cannot be too critical of any government after the recent performance displayed by both houses of Congress and the Executive branch of the United States’ government. Truly, every nation has its issues while each deals with the accelerating changes taking place within a world community hurling through the earliest years of the 21st Century.  

July 31, 2011

 "Some Interesting Numbers"

(Written by Dick Stetler)

         We find ourselves in the last week of July.  Folks who use the Internet for communicating all sorts of fascinating data have indicated July will not have five Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays for the next 832 years.  Of course, that is far from the truth but people love to report anomalies without doing their homework. Whatever would we do without Snopes.com?

         As Lois and I have gained more experience living on the island, we have found some interesting numbers.  The first picture (Click on the pictures to see normal size) shows the wonderful, quaint bridge at the bottom of the hill in our community of Flatts.  Several times a week we walk down to the bridge and watch the swift moving tidal waters pass back and forth under the bridge.  We see everything from Stingrays to five to eight pound fish maneuvering in the currents.    

         The next picture shows a close up of the sign and the modest fine posted for people caught fishing anywhere on or near the bridge.  Has this stopped people from fishing?  Hardly.  Those who want to fish, continue to do so from the bank on the other side of the bridge because there is no sign posted there.  Funny.    

         Lois and I recently invited a young couple to have lunch with us at a local restaurant. What is fascinating about most restaurants in Bermuda is that they will put the gratuity as an automatic ad-on to the bill.  In this case, it was 17 percent.  Most people pay with a credit card.  When the slip arrives for the patron’s signature, only the total appears along with a line for the “Tip.”  Unsuspecting tourists that do not scrutinize the items on the original bill will often add an additional 10 or 15 percent to their bill.  Who knows if the server takes home the entire gratuity?

         The final picture may be too small to read, but it features a BIG sale on favorite products from one of our local grocery stores.  July 28th and 29th are national holidays in Bermuda.  The 28th is Emancipation Day when slaves throughout the British Empire were granted their freedom on August 1, 1834.  The 29th is Somers’ Day, a day set aside to remember Admiral Sir George Somers who colonized Bermuda for Great Britain in 1609. 

         However, aside from some festivities commemorating the national holidays, these are the BIG days for a cricket match between the rival teams of St. George’s and Somerset parishes.  The accent, of course, is on the game of cricket.  In spite of the heat, people come out in droves to passionately witness this two-day event.  The society has chosen the two national holidays for this traditional contest. 

         Since most stores, restaurants and shops close during this two-day holiday, grocery stores were celebrating with the lowest prices of the season in commemoration of the Cup-Match.  Featured in this picture are the rock bottom prices of some of the favorites, favorites like the hotdogs and hamburgers that frequent many tables during America’s July 4th celebration. 

         It was fascinating to see in a recent Gallop Poll the number of Americans who could not name the country from whom the Colonies gained their independence.  Fireworks and parades often take priority over remaining informed on any excuse to party.  Here the same might be said as the Cricket Cup Match has many Bermudians riveted to the outcome of this classic rivalry.        

July 6, 2011

 "The March of the Critters"

(Written by Dick Stetler)

         With the beginning of summer, the hot and humid weather patterns have entered our lives.  These were the days we read about in Tracey Caswell’s book, Tea with Tracey.  One reference claimed that the sweat you break into by the morning brushing of your teeth will stay with you until you lie down on your moist sheets for a good night’s sleep.  Nice imagery!

         Thankfully, that is not the case.  While we were in the States recently, the kind folks at Centenary installed two air-conditioning units, one for my office and the other in the living room.  These are wall-mounted units with the heat exchangers outside.  They are powerful enough to dehumidify the entire house.  What a wonderful gift!  There are other surprises, too.

         Most homes in Bermuda have two mailing addresses, a site address and a P.O. Box.  Lois was checking on our site mailbox where she disturbed a spider that exited the box opposite her hand.  She said that it looked like a Tarantula.  In any event, it was the largest spider she had ever seen.  Yes, with hairy legs.                                        

         The other morning I was headed outside to purchase our morning newspaper when I spotted a six inch gecko or chameleon clinging to our front door on the inside.  He was a challenge to catch.  We allowed windows to remain open, but he preferred being inside or was unable to recognize the escape route we had mapped out for him.  I found him looking at me from my dresser-top and sitting on the sink in our guest bathroom.  He had become our house guest. 

         Then on Sunday morning, as I turned out the light to my office, I heard scratching noises coming from inside a small copier we are no longer using.  He was in there!!  With a towel over the opening, I placed the copier on the front porch as we headed off to church.  He finally made his way back into his natural habitat.  Upon hearing this story, church members told us that they enjoy them roaming in their homes because they eat other critters that come in.  We were reminded, “They don’t bite.”  This would be like having black snakes around the house because they eat mice.

         We had an evening when our sleep was interrupted by a tree frog that was sitting just outside our bedroom window.  His calls for a mate were like sleeping in an apartment complex when someone’s car security alarm goes off below the window and no one attends to it.  It was a non-ending screeching.  I went outside with a flash light.  We banged on the window air-conditioner – all to no avail.  Finally, the love of his life must have heeded his call because he grew silent.  We have not heard from him since.  Presumably he is happy and the pair has relocated to a real tree.  

         The exceedingly hot and dry weather has caused the numerous ant colonies that have encircled our home to seek moisture and food.  They have institutional knowledge of every pathway into the house.  They even crawl up the electrical conduits and exit the receptacles. Yes, I have risked electrocution by spraying Ortho Max right on the plugs, occasionally hearing the hissing sounds from electrical arcing inside the box.  The advance team, known as the scouts, seen crawling on the walls, the stove, counter tops, our arms and legs is part of the price of living here.  Everyone smiles at these stories and says, “Well they have to eat and drink, too.  Welcome to Bermuda.  We all have them.”  They often add, “Wait until you see the flying roaches that are two inches long.”  We can hardly wait!

July 3, 2011

 "The Beginning of Summer"

(Written by Lois Stetler)




The first day of summer has arrived in Bermuda, too.  We often awaken with the temperatures in the middle 70's but the humidity is anywhere from 77 to 86 percent which makes it feel much warmer.  By midday you are longing for shade if you’re outside with 81 degree temperatures and 78 percent humidity.  One positive aspect to this is that the laundry, hung on the lines outside, dries quicker due to the intense heat of the sun.  The evenings are wonderful on the back patio as the shade comes early around 4:00 p.m. and continues to cool as the evening shadows fall, especially when there are gentle island breezes.

         We have had several occasions to receive mail from the States and find it fascinating that the same size envelope comes with a wide range of postage, e.g., .98, .88 and .44.  They all arrive on the same day in Bermuda even when being sent on the same day in the U.S.  In Bermuda, residents have a physical address for their homes so others can find where they live, as well as a mailing address which is usually a post office box where residents receive their mail.   

Most homes have a name such as Edgecliff, Kentholme, Green Pepper or Minstrel’s Gallery.  The latter name belongs to our next door neighbors who live in a pink church that was converted into a home.  Our home does not have a special name other than the Centenary UMC parsonage on Middle Road which most delivery people seem to know.  The parsonage for Marsden United Methodist Church, the other Baltimore Conference Church, is called Aunt Minnie’s House in honor of the woman who donated the property.

  Quite often when we go to the grocery store, we learn something new about Bermuda.  We bought a piece of meat that had a sticker on it that gives shoppers a $2.00 instant rebate at the cash register.  In Bermuda, cashiers do not honor any coupons even though they are attached to their products.  The comment given is, “This is Bermuda.” 

         However, grocers do cater to persons from Canada, the U.K and the U.S. with particular items.  I was surprised to find ruby red rhubarb that looked as though it had just been picked. We bought some and I made a rhubarb pie for Dick for Father’s Day.  Believe me, it was as delicious as any pies I have made in the past.

         Dick wanted a picture of it which reminded me of my earlier days in 4-H, when I won the Pennsylvania State Bread Demonstration for baking Stollen.  In 4-H, participants always had to have their picture taken with their project.

         We have been watching a cluster of large bananas on one of our taller trees, much like the variety we found in Hawaii.  We also have thirty smaller banana trees like the ones we saw in Haifa, Israel.  Currently six of our trees are producing fruit. 

         After a while, we noticed that some of the leaf fronds were dying on one of the larger trees that had grown a nice quantity of bananas.  We made the decision to harvest them before we lost the trees since we have had very little rain.  Dick came to the rescue of the tree with a ladder and a machete.  The bunch weighed about 35 pounds.  That stalk, featuring several hands of large bananas, is currently hanging in our garage to finish ripening. 

         A good number of people have banana trees on their property so they are plentiful here.  More bananas will ripen with the heat of summer, but what Bermuda really needs is rain.

June 15, 2011

"How Little Things Matter”

(Written by Dick Stetler)

         The United States has seldom had a year like the one that is currently unfolding.  We are only mid-way in the year and hurricane season is just beginning.  The Weather Channel featured the top five explosive events in the U.S. and all of them were labeled as Natural Disasters.  The tornadoes, floods and fires have evoked untold suffering in the lives of people.  Many people have personalized these events and wondered, “What would we do in similar circumstances?”  These things make us think.

         The U.S. does not stand alone in these matters.  The unsettled aspects of our planet are appearing within the boundaries of countless nations.

         Yesterday it rained a half inch in Bermuda, ending what many forecasters believe is the worst drought experienced here for about fifty years.  A number of farmers and gardeners did not plant their normal crops this springtime.  Those that did were betting that rain would eventually come.  It did not.  Their withered crops lie in total ruin.  We are fourteen plus inches below the rainfall amount for this time of year.  So, that small half inch of rain really mattered.   

         Here folks cannot irrigate because they would have to use water from their cisterns.  As it is, water trucks are seen every day as drivers try to keep up with the overwhelming demand.  The water companies want ten days notice before a cistern goes dry.   

         But, that half inch of rain brought the world to life.  Every shrub in our yard is one that produces flowers.  It is remarkable that in two days of on and off showers, the growth of buds has begun.  All nature is singing.  We can hear the music our drain pipes make as they empty their precious commodity into our cistern.  Yet, we cringe at the layers of dust on our roof and the atmospheric pollutants that are also part of the process.  Only the limestone coating on the roof provides what filtration there is. 

         Fortunately, we have a triple filtering system on our tap water that we brought from the U.S. in our move.  Currently our unit is off line because Dick decided to purchase a new Kohler faucet for the kitchen sink.  After it was installed, the Kohler strainer was recessed so deeply in the unit that the threaded nipple was not long enough to join the faucet with our water purifier.  No company on the island had the ¾” 15/ male adapter.   The customer service representative from Kohler was classic, “We are getting hundreds of calls about that problem but we are not prepared at this time to help you.” 

         A friend of ours found the precise linking piece that we need on the web and it is currently on its way.  In the meantime, we are managing with our Brita water pitcher.  Small things really do matter.  

         Oh, and the next time you enjoy a watermelon, think of us.  The small green circular ones which are currently available in one of our grocery stores cost $15 each.  There is no need to complain.  We have so much for which to be thankful.  Do not let the little things upset or distract you.  Look around at all the little things that make our lives an absolute joy.  Focus on them and not the dark traffic light that has served us well for years.  Life is too short not to enjoy every adventure that comes.

May 13, 2011

"Life Does Have Its Variables

(Written by Dick Stetler)

         A number of people continue to ask, “What’s it like to live in Bermuda?”  The answer is very clear to those of us who do.  We tell people, “It is like living anywhere else.”  In fact, one does not think about living on an island until you drive along the shoreline within minutes of your home. Life is always what we make it.

         Our ability to romanticize Bermuda is there only for honeymooners and occasional vacationers. The reality is that no matter what the symbol is, the grass is never greener on the other side of the fence. 

         When you live here, you learn that water trucks can be seen every day on every road.  The cisterns of many homeowners are going dry.  Bermuda is eight inches short of its normal rainfall amounts for this time of year, so the island is in drought conditions.  The government is urging people to conserve their water. Water trucks are usually visible during July and August – the dry season.

         To make matters more challenging, the island is covered with milk snails that consume many of the leafy crops.  It is not uncommon to go into our yard early in the morning and collect 30 - 50 snails as they seek moisture from the dew. Some farmers have lost their entire crop. Citizens have been advised to kill them by gathering them into zip lock bags and placing them in the freezer.   The story goes that years ago a local restaurant owner imported them to use as escargot.  Yes, these snails are edible.  In throwing the small ones away, he never thought about what might happen.  Well, it is happening. 

         Another issue impacting the economy comes from the government’s intervention.  Where have we heard this before?  The island’s many small businesses deeply depend on tourism. However, a new crop of political leaders has started to cut back the ferry and bus service to “save money.”  This comes as Bermuda is approaching the peak of its tourist season.

         There is a growing awareness among both the citizens and the tourists that the institutional memory or blueprint for how various government agencies once functioned has not been followed.  Individuals who have come into power wish to exercise their own authority and power.  TThus, decisions are being made without the vision of the unintended consequences that might result.

         Tourists have been left standing at bus stops for hours.  Many of them have to learn by experience that one ferry route has been cut from 24 to 13 ferries. Many have vowed never to return.  There is also competition everywhere between the tourists and the locals for seats on the regular bus routes.  There was a day when the island graciously managed extremely well three times the number of tourists that are now arriving.   The pushback is considerable when you read the sentiments from citizens and expats in the Letters to the Editor of our daily newspaper.

         So, what is it like to live in Bermuda?  It really is like living anywhere else.  Perhaps things would be different if a person lived on 200 acres in Jackson Hole, Wyoming,, but there aren’t many Harrison Fords in the world who can afford that.

         The best lesson that saves us from the romance that life can be better in another environment is to remember that we were created to bloom wherever we are planted.  If people are looking for wonderful, generous, loving people, they will find them everywhere here.  If they come here with expectations that they have escaped the nastiness of living where they are, they may be disappointed.  We do not see things as they are; we see things as we are.

May 10, 2011

Chat from Lois/pictures by Sue

Our daughter Sue visited us a couple of weeks ago and took a few pictures of the house, the church and the island.  Click HERE to view.

April 22, 2011

"Easter, Cruise Ships and Tourists!

(Written by Dick Stetler)

         Today is “Good Friday” and in Bermuda it is celebrated as a National Holiday.  Everything shuts down. Ahhhhh . . .  no early morning traffic zipping passed our home, a traffic pattern composed mostly of motor scooters performing at various decibel levels.  There is no sleeping in ever at the Stetler’s.  We are eagerly awaiting the arrival of our daughter, Sue, who arrives from Atlanta tomorrow to spend some time with us. 

         There are the traditional church services today in various places, but mostly Good Friday is celebrated as a family day when folks gather to fly kites in various locations on the island, particularly at Horseshoe Bay.  There is some religious significance, but one has to stretch his or her imagination to see the cross sticks of a kite as being symbolic of the Roman execution device. Of course, I have always been at a loss to explain how the Easter Bunny, fake grass, baskets, jelly beans and hollow chocolate rabbits have anything to do with an empty tomb.

         While continuing to gather more courage driving in the insane traffic on the island, I was driving along Front Street in Hamilton and we observed the gigantic cruise ships that were tied up at the dock.  The island businesses owe much of their existence to their arrival.  What has been fun is to connect with the visiting Americans who are eager to discuss what it is like to live here.

         Last week we were riding on a bus with six Americans.  Two sat facing us and two couples sat across the aisle.  They had lots of questions from weather to prices.  Lois pulled from her grocery bag a medium box of cereal and showed them the eye-popping price on the box.  We told them that new arrivals on a work permit eventually do heal from sticker shock.

         The six were going to St. George’s, a magnet area for tourists’ who love history and shopping. We were asked about real estate prices.  Since our bus was destined to go passed our home we told them we would show them where we live.  As the bus began to slow, we told them that our home and the three acres owned by the church are worth well over a million dollars.   They audibly gasped with “say what?” expressions on their faces.  We told them that many people pay between $8,000 and $12,000 a month just to rent a home. 

         We encouraged them to purchase a copy of The Royal Gazette and review the Real Estate Section if they wanted to see some real money being spent on housing.   We reminded them that Bermuda has one of the highest standards of living in the world.  There is a comment that frequently appears in newspaper columns – “Many Bermudians are land rich and cash poor.”          

         Aside from the prices in Bermuda, we are entering the season where everything growing on our plantation is springing to life.  I have been topping a number of the fruit trees and pruning the scores of rose bushes and other shrubs.  One of the more intriguing aspects of nature to observe is how bananas grow.   One large pod appears on the stalk, and, as it slowly opens, behind each leaf that peels away, a tiny hand of bananas emerge.   As more and more hands appear, the gardener picks the top bunches.  We have close to 25 banana trees and scores of little ones sprouting.  We enjoy bananas but we will have plenty to share.

April 3, 2011

"Our First Trip To The States

(Written by Dick Stetler)

         Upon receiving the news that Lois’ mother had transitioned to the next phase of her eternal journey, we had to make hasty arrangements for a flight back to the U.S.  Direct flights from Bermuda to BWI do not begin until the tourist season, so we went with Delta.

         We began to white knuckle it after Delta changed our departure three times.   Another change may have caused us to forego going at all.  We arrived in Atlanta, got our first taste of Popeye’s chicken in months and headed for the gate.  All went well and we were greeted by our kids, Steve and Sue, after midnight.         

         The next day, I realized that I had forgotten how long to set the time for boiling water in the microwave for my morning cup of coffee, the channel numbers for the TV stations and worse yet, the user name and password to log onto my home computer.  Fortunately, Steve and Sue became our compass for such critical information.  Sue was still sleeping and she said, “Dad, just click ‘Okay’ and you’ll automatically log on.  Don't you remember that here you never had a user name and password.” 

         It was wonderful to be in familiar surroundings as guests of Steve who has maintained our home in pristine condition.  The water for the morning shower was strong.  Doing a load of laundry the washer filled in a few minutes rather than the 15 it takes here.  The water pressure in Bermuda is about one third of what we experience in Bowie.  In Bermuda, however, due to our using rain water for everything, there is no build up of soap scum on the shower walls. 

         During our trip to Pennsylvania, I must have turned on our windshield wipers a half dozen times because that is where the turn signal lever is on our Bermudian car.  BUT, we never found ourselves driving in the left lane.

         The experience of being with family was comforting.  Esther Overgaard was 91 and she and Dad would have been married 70 years this coming Christmas Day.  She left us during her sleep which is the way most of us wish to continue our experience once we leave our physical forms.  She was ready to leave.  Her body's systems simply shut down.

         The return flight was equally as dramatic as the first.  We arrived in Philadelphia fourteen minutes ahead of when our flight to Bermuda was to begin boarding.  The problem was that our next gate was miles away from where we were.  We flagged down an in-terminal taxi and off we went.  He dropped us off because his route took him in a different direction so we started running with several carry-ons in tow.  We finally flagged down another taxi and off to the races again.  Out of breath and hearts pounding, we made the flight.

         This time we entered Bermuda as residents because Dick had his work permit.  But, it was dated April 1 and we were arriving on March 31.  There was some behind the scenes chatter with officials and they waved us through.  Our bags were not opened and that meant no customs’ duty on all the supplies we had stuffed in our luggage from BJs.  It was equally good to be “home” again with our “goodies” and sporting fresh hair cuts.

         We had been home for one half hour when one of the saints in our new church family greeted us with a bouquet of flowers and a fruit basket.  It was wonderful to be in our warm climate again but we were saddened to read the banner headline in Friday’s morning paper, “Shock As Island Records Third Murder Of 2011.”  Life goes on.

March 13, 2011

"Our Second Month Anniversary”

(Written by Lois Stetler)


         Having a license to drive on Bermuda’s roads is just the beginning.  At first Dick would pay for gas and return to the car on my side, forgetting that the steering wheel is on the right.  What is even more important is concentrating on looking right to pull out and forgetting to look left to see the oncoming traffic.  For our first attempt at night driving, sitting in the dark, Dick was unable to find the knob that would turn on the headlights!!!

         Now we are busy trying to find our way around the island on our own.  We did manage to find the local Farmer’s Market held in a Hamilton parking lot garage.  It was finding our way back home that was challenging.  A one-way street prevented us from retracing our steps.  Dick made several turns and we wound up back at the Market again.  With a little more trial and error, we managed to arrive home safely.  Dick still finds the roundabouts nerve-racking since common courtesies from drivers are as nonexistent as they are in the States.

         We enjoy trying to find the homes of our church members.  We get directions from several sources.  For example, “Go to Devil’s Hole, pass the blue church on your right and keep looking to the left for the road.”  Everyone, but newcomers, knows about such landmarks.  Many of the homes are tucked away off of obscure lanes that are named but there are no signs that would be helpful for visitors.  

         We have been attending the United Methodist Women’s meetings at night.  It has been helpful to make a dry run during daylight hours.  Before the last meeting we drove to the home twice taking different routes.  Are we glad we did!  Our impression of “the right house” was wrong and we only learned this during our second trip.        

         Getting to know our new church members is so important to us.  When we call to make a date for a visit, we are often told, “Come after 3:00 p.m.”  We are finding that our visits coincide with Tea Time.  Our tea is sometimes accompanied with other treats.  Everyone has a fascinating life-story to tell whether they are native Bermudians or found their way to Bermuda as part of their life’s journey. 

         Since Lent was about to begin, we had our first Ash Wednesday service at Centenary UMC.  Where does one find the ashes?  Yes, Dick decided to create his own.  Into the kitchen he went with one of last year’s Palm Sunday crosses he found.  He set the cross on fire using our gas stove (we could not find any matches) and tried to contain the ashes in a can.  The scent from his efforts permeated through the house before he remembered to turn on the exhaust fan. 

         He placed his finished product outside on our tiled patio to cool.  I found the empty can where the wind had carried it and so the process had to be started again with dried clippings from some of our palm trees.  Dick began to burn these on the stove, sending burning leaf fragments everywhere as he tried to stuff them in the can.  After covering the stove top with ashes, he managed to secure a nice collection for the evening service.  Now, we are looking forward to Easter.  Because Dick is the new guy on the block, he has been chosen to preach at the 6:30 a.m. ecumenical sunrise service at the Pink Sand Club.

March 6, 2011

"From Politics To People!”

(Written by Dick Stetler)

         It seems that no matter where one lives in the world, the frailties of the human spirit are everywhere.  There is no better forum to view the drama than in the realm of politics.  Like so many other countries in the world, Bermuda finds itself in an economic quandary. 

         Part of Bermuda’s bread and butter comes from the tourist trade which is down 48 percent from the heyday of 600,000 annual visitors.  The newspapers are mentioning countless examples of how Bermuda is so hungry for tourist dollars that there is a culture developing that could be hostile to the guests of the island by charging higher fees for staying longer.

         The last premier spent quite lavishly on his numerous trips abroad.  During his tenure he spent $360,000 in travel, citing that he was not about to check into a Motel 6.  There were countless building projects that were awarded to “friends” of the premier rather than put out for bid.  The cost overruns on a number of these projects were enormous.   It appears that on a number of occasions, inefficiencies arose because someone was asleep at the switch of accountability.

         Never in Bermuda’s history has there been a shortage of money to run the government.  The 1.3 billion dollar budget manages a population of 65,000.  The island is also struggling with an 800 million indebtedness, part of which is tethered to the bailout of the 130 year-old Butterfield Bank that had extensive investments in subprime mortgages. 

         Because of the instant flow of information in today’s world, we know what is happening from Wisconsin to Libya.  Politics is a necessary component for the way many cultures govern themselves, but it is also a germinating ground for the seeds of both altruism and greed. 

         What is absolutely apparent in Bermuda, however, is the outstanding quality of its people.  There is a friendliness here that is hard to find in any other venue.  Even when people board the pale pink buses on the island, they greet everyone with, “good morning.” 

         A Portuguese housekeeper of one of our church members recently brought to the house a platter of warm doughnuts.   If you have never had warm Portuguese pastries, you have missed a chapter of your life.  Lois and I ate all of them before supper and we looked at each other and said, “What just happened?”  And yes, they were coated with granules of white cane sugar. 

         When another family discovered that we had gleaned left-behind carrots from a freshly dug up crop that had been planted on the part of our property rented to a farmer, they took us home and gave us beets, lettuce, carrots, cabbage, etc. from their gigantic gardens.   They also want to furnish us with brown eggs on a weekly basis.  In Bermuda, it is a challenge to find white eggs.

         As springtime arrives, this island will take on a look of paradise.  We are surrounded by beaches and already the sun is almost too hot to sit in for long.  Even though politics are the same in countless municipalities all over the world, the people of Bermuda are like folks that you have known all your life.   We may never come home!  The sense of community is everywhere.  In fact, the environment here takes me back to the days when most communities were like this.  The only time Bermudians are in a hurry is when they drive.  As a very unseasoned driver, I would prefer to find impatience almost anywhere else but on the highway.

February 20, 2011

"We Need Our Wheels!”

(Written by Lois Stetler)

          Can you imagine landing on the island of Bermuda and having no wheels to get around?  A car cannot be rented even if we can pay for it, but there is no need to rent one when you have a shiny little black car in the garage.  We have to depend on the kindness of others to take us to church every Sunday, to the Farmer’s Market as well as taking Dick to his driving lessons.  We really enjoy our time spent with others during our rides, and we are seeing roads we may never find again, but we need our wheels! 

In addition to the kind people who transport us to the various government buildings, the hardware store, the Cable Vision company etc., we also have the bus to use.  We usually use the bus to go grocery shopping or to find Dick a barbershop in Hamilton.  Conveniently, there is a pink bus stop in front of our home.  Very suddenly last week, the bus drivers went on strike because of a union grievance.  Lucky for us, the strike only lasted three days; meanwhile we had no wheels. 

Our Bermuda cottage is very comfortable and keeps me busy.  When I do a load of laundry on sunny days, I usually hang it outside for several hours before putting it in the dryer for a short time to complete the drying process.  While cleaning the wood floors, I am often confronted with webs built by large spiders in the corners.  Dick claims that I should not disturb the ecosystem of this 100 year old house.  However, I do not want to be awakened with spiders crawling over me. 

We haven’t cooked with gas since we lived on Capitol Hill.  Recently, Dick was frying a hamburger on the stove-top and used my new acrylic cutting board for a lid!  A splash of cold water and a heavy kettle sitting on it flattened it somewhat!!!

At times we have gale force winds that rattle the front door sounding like someone is shaking the handle trying to get in.  I have found that wedging a folded dishcloth in the quarter-inch gap allows us to be at peace.  Sunday night the wind gusts of 75 mph helped to self-prune a number of our palm trees

Living along Middle Road, a main road that divides the island, has been an adjustment because of the volume of traffic speeding around the several curves in front of our home.  When I walk to our post office, I find myself breathing in huge amounts of exhaust fumes from scooters and trucks.  To stay away from the fumes, I enjoy walking up Fielders Lane and then walking around a deserted cricket field located there. 

Most of the lanes and roads near us have pink, darker pink, reddish and even double yellow flowering hibiscus hedges as tall as I am.  Walking around our large yard, you can see yellow chrysanthemums, roses that are white, red or pink, white daisies, wild freesia, yellowish-orange nasturtium as well as amaryllis blooming.  All of this is beautiful on a sunny day, but I also use the treadmill that arrived with our belongings. 

          Did I mention that we need our wheels?  Well, Dick is off to take his driving test this morning.  We need the use of our car so we have the freedom to explore and learn the country roads of Bermuda as well as find our way to a gas station, the church and grocery stores.  We also will be able to begin visiting our church families and get to church activities.  Wait a minute!  Dick just came home.  Yeah!  We have wheels!!!    

February 15, 2011

"Our Belongings Arrived From the States"

(Written by Dick Stetler)

          We were overjoyed when our belongings arrived in the same crate into which they were packed a scant four weeks ago.  Living out of suitcases had grown quite old.  My case of Sumatra Starbucks coffee was finally here. 

I am not a fan of working with a laptop computer but that is what I carried with me when we flew to Bermuda.  Now that our belongings had arrived, I immediately hooked up the tower and monitor.  The week went south from there.  I was knocked off the Internet twice and had to engage the services of an overseas company.  Lots of the $1.45 per minute calls went to Linksys technicians (3 to be exact) who tried to walk me through reconfiguring the router.  Currently, the tower, keyboard, mouse and monitor sit lifeless.  The old router had malfunctioning Ethernet ports.  A new Linksys router is now en route to Bermuda.

Next, I experienced remarkable motivational pressure from the Conference Center staff.  An email mentioned that 48 churches in my district have neglected to turn in their Statistical Reports.  The deadline was Monday and it was now Friday when I received word that Centenary’s report had not been done.  Churches that failed to submit their reports would enjoy a 10% increase in their apportionments.  I gathered the numbers from several sources and struggled mightily to type them into the various applicable fields on the Conference forms.  Nothing typed. 

There were numerous calls to Conf. Staff and the kind staff person gave me a new link that worked. All of the numbers were securely in their proper fields, but when I tried to send it, the report refused to leave my computer because of a fatal error. More calls were made.  To this writing, the Conference does not have Centenary’s statistics and their IT people are confounded as to why my report did not send.

Finally, our Vonage gizmo arrived that will provide world-wide communication at a very reasonable cost.  It does not need a computer to work as does Magic Jack.  BUT, it has to be plugged into the modem and there are no more ports on my modem.  So, we need a splitter.  I know nothing about splitters because, when I was born, I found that God had given me five bananas on each hand when it comes to solving technical issues.   But, the eyes of gratitude were opened and that melted away my anxieties of the week.

We found a wonderful program on television recently called, “Bosses Undercover.”  We watched high salaried CEOs struggling to do the most basic tasks side by side with their own employees, many that lurk at the bottom of the corporate food chain.  What a great show! After watching several episodes, I realized that I have not had to deal with any of the technical issues listed above for 33 years because I had office administrators who performed these tasks.  And when there were computer or software issues, IT people would come immediately to lay their healing hands on our machines. 

Once again the lesson learned was to remain eternally grateful for the staff I had at three of my former churches.  While whining in an email to a friend, because all these tasks are now mine, he wrote back a one-liner, “Aren’t you the one who taught all of us to row, row, row our boats gently down the stream?” Yes, I am.  The learning curve continues.

February 13, 2011

"Could Paradise Be in Peril?"

(Written by Dick Stetler)

          When someone mentions Bermuda, countless people assume that the island is somewhere in the Caribbean.  A number of people have appeared stymied by the thought that the island is 580 miles east of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina.  This little island is literally in the middle of nowhere, formed over a hundred million years ago by a violent upheaval in the earth’s crust.  After a short distance of hidden coral reefs, the drop off around Bermuda is over two miles – 12,000 feet.

If one looked at it on dry land, it would resemble Devil’s Tower in Wyoming with a small civilization sprawling on the very top.   The land mass is only 20 square miles. The highest point of Bermuda is 258 feet above sea level.  We live very near to that top.  In case of a major Tsunami, we do not have far to walk to be sitting in the crow’s nest of the island.

Bermuda is actually a string of 180 tiny islands with only 21 of them inhabited with people.  Only seven of the 21 are linked by bridges to the main island. The rest are habitats for migratory birds.  

Bermuda is in the way of major shipping lanes and has been the cause of just under 200 ship wrecks.  As late as 50 years ago, Bermudians could walk along the shorelines after major storms that were accompanied by a low tide and find gold doubloons and pieces of eight from sunken ships.  The extended coral reefs were invisible to uninitiated sea captains.   Their losses have created a rich laboratory for students of underwater archaeology. 

Each year more than 80 million dollars is added to the economy from tourism.  For 2011, 385,000 people are expected, mostly from the 180 contracts that have been secured for incoming cruise ships.  However, the issues affecting the international community have finally reached the shores of this island.  Layoffs are occurring as many others fearfully lay in wait that they may be next.  Visitors to Bermuda had reached a height of 600,000 during the boom years.   

The rose of paradise that has bloomed for years is slowly losing some of its petals.  With the arrival of smuggled cocaine and marijuana has come the growth of gangs and crime.  Robbery is on the rise and for the first time in recent history a man was shot and killed during daylight hours in sight of scores of witnesses. 

With the rapid spread of information via the Internet, cable and video games, the seamy side of human behavior and attitudes is having its impact here.  The island has 100 plus churches, and if there were ever a time for them to reach out to several generations that no longer have spirituality in their lexicon of pursuits, that time is now.  If not, the long cherished values held by Bermudians for hundreds of years could be poised for the rough tides of change that could alter their culture.

February 2, 2011

"The Learning Curve Continues"

(Written by Dick Stetler)

          Few of us have had the privilege of living out of a suitcase for about a month.  Fortunately, our belongings may come on Friday.  The word may is conditional because one never knows the exact timing of the schedules that others follow.  Among our belongings is my toolbox that my former church gave me.  Squeaky hinges are begging for a shot of WD-40.  And the stuck door bell that was buzzing endlessly likewise requires a screwdriver to disable it.  I found a rusted utensil that worked most effectively.  The quiet has returned.

Among the accomplishments the other day, we opened up a bank account with HSBC that touts itself as the World’s Local Bank.  We opened our account in one bank branch and had to walk to the central bank of Hamilton to get the bank card.  After waiting in a long customer service line, I found that the card was not ready.  Since we had traveled there by bus, I told them to send it.  The clock is ticking.  Their mail service is another reminder that this is not the United States.  When I inquired what HSBC stood for, some employees did not know.  Thinking it was like the mysterious words behind the PNC bank, I asked until I found out.  HS stands for Hong Kong Singapore – need I say more?

Next, maneuvering through traffic while walking requires being very intentional.  There are buttons to push that causes the red figure of a person at the traffic light to change to green.  No one obeys those but newcomers who don’t want a jaywalking ticket.  If you do not push the button, the little guy stays red.  One has to learn such little things.  Yes, we walked on red.

In preparation for the written portion of the driver’s test, the preparatory manual is a piece of work.  There are 17 pages featuring 138 signs future drivers must learn to recognize.  One has to know which signs are giving “orders” and which are providing “warnings.”   Yes, some questions about signage were on the test.  Once completed, I looked for one word, “Congratulations.”  I never checked which ones I had missed.  What lies ahead is the driving and parallel parking skills.

Of course, there are symbols of American influences everywhere.  In this morning’s newspaper, for example, there was a three-page advertisement featuring Super Bowl XLV from Lindo’s, a popular grocery store.   AND, miracle of miracles, I found bags of Starbucks on the shelves in that store.  These bags held only 12 ounces.  The case I brought from the States is filled with 16-ounce bags.  Hopefully, I’ll have that case by Friday.  Earlier we were driven to three grocers to find Grape-Nuts cereal.  The store that had it was right across the street from our church. 

          While looking at fresh fruits and vegetables, either in the stores or at a local farmer’s marketplace, frequently we have no idea what we are looking at.  Once we were told what they are called, we still didn’t know what they were or how best to prepare them.  Ah, the learning curve continues.

January 23, 2011

"Learning Different Routines" 

(Written by Dick Stetler)

          We have discovered that the learning curve is well-positioned in every phase of living in Bermuda.  This is certainly evident in our having to learn an entire set of new skills.  Since most of the homes here are not equipped with either a furnace or central air-conditioning, during the winter months, families have to run circulating heaters 24/7.  This practice naturally plays havoc with the electric bill. 

          Bermuda’s morning newspaper, Royal Gazette, is a good publication, but where we live, one must walk to a neighborhood convenience store to buy it for a dollar.  Timing of that walk is everything.  One learns that if you purchase the paper after 8:30 a.m., the traffic on Middle Road is so steady that there is no way to cross the street.  Cars are flying within 5 to 8 feet of each other without a break.  This is Bermuda’s rush hour and these drivers are headed to work in Hamilton.

          Perhaps the most nerve-racking routine adjustment is learning to drive on the left side of the road.  Most of us have learned to drive in the midst of many distractions, particularly allowing our minds to wander.  Here that could be suicidal.   The husband of the former pastor of my new congregation totaled the church’s car and then totaled his motor scooter.  That information is very unsettling for one who has spent 51 years driving under the guidance of a different rulebook.  I am applying for a driver’s license, a task that requires a physical examination. 

          Humidity is a constant variable.  The paper for the office copier has to be kept in a heated bread crisper.  An ink pen will routinely feather on any writing surface.  A yellow highlighter will smear the print from any inkjet copier.  Towels never dry.  Carpets remain moist.  Clothing must remain in the clothes dryer for extended periods.  If one damp-mops the tile of the kitchen floor, it stays wet for most of the day.  One’s clothing must hang in a closet that has a heater that remains on permanently so they will not mildew.

          One looks at the temperature of Bermuda on a weather map and says, “Aren’t the people living there lucky.  Here in the D.C./Maryland area, we are locked in a frigid cold front.”  Yes, it is 60+ degrees here on many days during our winter, but that is also the case inside the house.  Only inside the house the construction retains the dampness – plastered coral blocks called Bermuda Stone.  They are Bermuda’s version of cinderblocks.  Our home was built in 1905 and it is no wonder that hurricanes come and houses remain completely intact.  In fact, many people are fascinated why homes in Florida are not built like these.   

          Finally, the water system is quite unique.  Water from rainfall is collected in 12,000-gallon tanks under each house.  They fill up during the rainy season, which we are presently experiencing, and then during the dry season morning showers are extremely brief.  There is no filtration of the water so presumably as the rains clean the atmosphere, what comes out of the faucet is the result.  Most people use a Brita filter on their water pitchers.  We can only hope that the atmosphere above Bermuda is exceptional.  

          With all of these adjustments, our biggest challenge is keeping warm.

January 16, 2011

"Getting To Bermuda"

(Written by Dick Stetler)

Try imaging what it was like preparing for retirement.  Having logged 45 years in the pastoral ministry, I felt wonderful that Lois and I could spend the next few years traveling and visiting places we had postponed seeing before settling down to other pursuits.  We had already installed a new roof and gutters on our home and engaged in other renovations to further feather our nest.

Out of nowhere came an invitation from a Conference District Superintendent to take a small church on the island of Bermuda.  Our Conference has two churches there. We needed a couple of days to consider the request, and almost immediately after consenting to go, Lois and I were on an aircraft bound for Bermuda wondering what our experience would be like. 

We were able to spend two nights in the furnished parsonage, a lovely two-bedroom, two-bath home that sits on three acres of real estate, part of which is leased to a farmer.  The parcel of land is near the highest point on the west side of the island.  In fact, at the end of the driveway, one can see Harrington Sound.  We are above the little village call Flatts.   

Prior to meeting the church leaders, five of us went to an inexpensive restaurant directly across the street from the church.  This was our first exposure to sticker shock.  A lobster was $90.  Teasingly, I asked how many people this lobster would feed?  I ordered the fish chowder, a traditional dish that is a must for newcomers arriving on the island.  

We interviewed with church leaders and found them to be friendly and ethnically diverse.  The meeting went very well as they asked many questions.  Our gathering concluded with our decision to stay for one year to test the waters of compatibility.  They asked, “When can you come?”  They had been without a pastor since the end of June.  We told them it would have to be the middle of January.  We had airfare tickets booked for several trips and we had made commitments many months before to perform several weddings.  They indicated that would be fine.

The time passed quickly.  The movers arrived on December 28 to take what few articles we were shipping.  The foreman of the moving crew was a man whose wedding ceremony I had performed back in the mid-1970s.  Amazing how small the world is.  The garage had become our staging area.  BJ’s got a lot of our business that final week.  Shrink-wrapped bottles of almost any product never looked so good!

Soon our flight was scheduled and then promptly canceled because of the blizzard conditions in the northeast from whence our flight was originating.  We booked an identical itinerary for the following Thursday, taking us through Georgia, and we launched.  We landed amidst three other flights and were in a serpentine line that reminded us of Disney World. 

Hours went by as we inched our way toward Immigration and Customs officials armed with two oversized and overweight suitcases and a number of carry-ons.  Because of hours of hassling with Delta, they waived the overweight bags. We both had thoughts, “What have we done by making this decision?”

We arrived at the parsonage by taxi because of the sheer volume of our stuff.  We knew we had to be sustained for six weeks by what we brought since it would take that long for our shipped articles to arrive.  

I got my sermon together and delivered it to a congregation of 25 people.  It was just the best!  Obviously, my reputation as a preacher had preceded me.  A nice coffee hour followed with lots of food.  The adventure has begun.

January 13, 2011

Dick and Lois Stetler Face a New Opportunity

(Written by Dick Stetler)

      Just when Lois and I got our retirement home the way we wanted it, an invitation has been extended by a Conference District Superintendent.  I've been asked to forego the pleasures of retirement and re-enter the craft.  This new relationship will be with the congregation of Centenary United Methodist Church (left), located on the Island of Bermuda

      Fortunately, the church offers a lovely furnished parsonage and a car, allowing our home in Bowie to remain as our permanent residence.  We will officially leave Bowie in the middle of January, returning for occasional weekends to honor previous commitments. 

      A wonderful primer for newcomers to Bermuda is a positively delightful booklet entitled, Tea with Tracey, by Tracey Caswell.  Tracey’s writing style describes in vivid detail what the uninitiated can expect during their first year.  Readers smile and laugh as they read what, in many cases, will gradually become our reality. 

     Coming out my brief retirement, I will once again be contributing sermons to this website, still a work in progress.  In the New Year, fresh material will begin to appear.  As I've frequently said, “Row, row, row your boat, gently down the stream, merrily.”  And so, “The adventures continue.”