Coming Home

Returning to Canada initially felt like a vacation. My first order of business was poutine, a beavertail, and a slurpee. I had wisely chosen to return near the end of summer, so I could dip my toe into the autumn and slowly ease myself into the winter. The splendor of the changing of seasons was something I had forgotten. My eyes were treated to the myriad colours of the fall leaves which could easily rival the beauty of Bermuda's scenery . Though I was no longer pleasing my ears with the rhythmic lapping of waves on the shoreline, the sound of crunching leaves brought back a pleasure I hadn’t known for many years.

barrhaven, ottawa  

barrhaven, ottawa

 


However, when the novelty had worn off, adjusting to Canada was not as easy as I would have hoped. Twelve years is a long time to live anywhere. I had plucked myself out of my comfort zone and left friends, co-workers, and familiarity behind. That first year I felt like a fish out of water. Winter, in particular, took some serious adapting. Fortunately, the first one we returned to was unseasonably warm. My daughter had never experienced snow and took to it like a seasoned Canuck. Although, the following two polar vortex winters had me questioning my decision.

pink lake, gatineau park

pink lake, gatineau park

I was in my homeland though, and the best thing about Canada is Canadians. The weather may be cold, but the people are warm. I was no longer reminded I was a foreigner. No one asked me where I came from and when was I planning on going home. Making new friends in our great nation was easy. There is a way about Canadians that makes me proud to be one. Simply put, we are open to one another and we celebrate our differences. Our smiles are genuine and our hearts are generous.

While visiting, a friend of mine had noted that the houses in Canada seemed to be almost plain on the outside, but were interesting, comfortable, and unique on the inside. This was in contrast to Bermuda, where much care is given to exterior of buildings and less so the interior. Generally speaking, I felt he was not just referring to our homes, but also our natures. 

My island years were enjoyable. There are days when I wish I could walk out my front door and head to the crystal blue waters and soft pink sands of a Bermuda beach. However, Canada's beauty comes not only from its geography, but from its diverse and compassionate inhabitants. There is a quote I had read as a young girl before I had begun travelling. I now understand why it remained hidden in the recesses of my mind until now.

“We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.”  - T.S. Eliot

Rina Gibbons

Rina Gibbons is the mom of a self-proclaimed 5-year-old “Wild Child” - apparently the apple landed right next to the tree. She holds a Bachelor of Commerce degree and is now in the Professional Writing program at Algonquin College. Having travelled to over 20 countries she has recently realized Dorothy was right, “There’s no place like home."

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Hook removal

Having a child changes everything. Truer words have never been spoken. With the birth of mine, the days of frolicking on the beach without a care in the world were history. Although there was nothing more enjoyable than sunset swims with my daughter, there was a reality to face when we left the beach: we needed a home. For a mere one million dollars, I could have one in Bermuda, but that meant I would become another slave in paradise. As much as I loved the island, that was just not going to happen.

Even if I had a million dollars in my back pocket, there was another issue that struck closer to my heart: Bermuda’s culture was one I could appreciate, but it wasn’t mine. On my travels, I used to describe my fellow Canadians as puppies. We are lively and fun creatures, accepting of all those who grace our shores.  I loved growing up in Canada, and as much as I enjoyed travelling the world, I always identified myself with our kinder, gentler nation. More than anything, I wanted my daughter to be one, because there's nothing better than being Canadian.

No disrespect to my island friends, you are wonderful people.  However, there was an undercurrent of xenophobia that ran through the island, and that increased with the global recession. There is a saying, “When the U.S. sneezes, the world catches a cold.” Well, Bermuda got hit with the flu. It went from over employment to unemployment, and that changed the culture of the island dramatically, especially when it came to foreigners. I understood; they watched their friends and family being laid off, foreclosing on mortgages, and applying for financial assistance. Meanwhile, a foreigner remained employed. Bermuda began to experience an exodus of sorts with expats returning home, and locals heading to greener pastures.

bye bye paradise

bye bye paradise

Bermuda had changed, and I had changed. My relationship with the hook in my mouth had changed. What had once slid into my cheek effortlessly, and lodged there for many years comfortably, now felt cold, hard, and heavy. I began to understand the warnings I had received from the locals: it’s easy to get lost in the Bermuda Triangle. The beauty of the island is the proverbial worm, but one should be wary of becoming hooked to its attractiveness and charm. There needs to be something deeper, something that fulfills you body, mind, and soul. For me, that was my daughter. And with her future in mind, I sold my belongings, packed my bags, and headed to the airport. I had become unhooked.


Rina Gibbons

Rina Gibbons is the mom of a self-proclaimed 5-year-old “Wild Child” - apparently the apple landed right next to the tree. She holds a Bachelor of Commerce degree and is now in the Professional Writing program at Algonquin College. Having travelled to over 20 countries, she has recently realized Dorothy was right, “There’s no place like home.”

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Life on "De Rock"

Life in Bermuda, or “De Rock”, was a dream come true. I love nature, so with the ocean sparkling in every direction, flowers blooming all year round, and the never-ending sing-song of birds and tree frogs, it was close to heaven. Then one day, a cockroach made my acquaintance by flying directly into my face while I was riding my moped. Yup, you heard me. FLYING cockroaches. That's not heaven. Cockroaches are the bane of island living; they are everywhere in Bermuda. Since they can’t dig into the limestone and make a home, they move into yours. You would think that they would prefer to live in the billionaire mansions in Tucker’s Town. But no, some of them wanted to slum it with me in my $2500 a month rental.

the only cockroach worth seeing!

the only cockroach worth seeing!

 lunchtime swimming spot behind my workplace

 lunchtime swimming spot behind my workplace

Bermuda sunset

Bermuda sunset

Did your jaw just hit the ground? That’s not a typo, paradise is expensive.  Bermuda has one of the highest costs of living in the world. I was told by a taxi driver one day, “Yes I live in paradise, but I’m a slave in paradise.” No joke. Unless you were born into the one percent, you are going to work your ass off in Bermuda. Most locals have a minimum of two jobs, and three is completely normal. Don't get me started on the price of food and gas. Since Bermuda is an island, and a tiny isolated one, almost everything is imported. The only way for the 99 percent to survive is to embrace a simpler lifestyle, which is not hard if you appreciate the wonders of mother nature. Except cockroaches, they were sent by the devil.

So once I got used to the devil's pets, (i.e. I stopped screaming like a banshee and started smashing them with the closest hard object), and losing most of my paycheck to rent and groceries, it was a walk in the park; or rather a saunter on the beach. Lunch hours were spent swimming in the sound behind my job. Weekends consisted of  fishing off the rocks, or someone's boat if I was lucky, hiking the Railway Trails, barbecues, beach parties, snorkeling, swimming, and lazy Sundays playing dominoes while watching the sunset.

My favorite time of year was Cup Match: a two day paid holiday right before the weekend. The summer sun is blazing, the water is warm like a bath, and the whole island shuts down and gets wild. For the sports fans it’s about the cricket game; for the party animals, it’s Beachfest, the Soca vs Reggae concert,  and the Non-Mariners raft up; but for this nature gal, it was four days of glorious beachfront camping.  

Camping at Whale Bay

Camping at Whale Bay

The tents spring up everywhere on this holiday: roadsides, parks, where ever there is water and a peg can go in the ground, there's a campsite. Locations are staked out the night before and extended families reunite at their annual spot. For the next few days, from one site to the next, it's all about yamming down barbecue, guzzling swizzle, and creating moments only Facebook remembers. Sleeping is optional.

Bermudians are some of the most charming, funny, and sweet people you will meet. Don’t you dare walk on by without a greeting. It doesn’t matter if you know someone or not, it’s practically an unwritten law. And don't forget to depart with, "Have a Bermudaful day!"  

I can’t say enough about my island years. Some of the best I've ever had. Let me end with this video which shows what can happen on an average weekday night walking down the street in town. You turn the corner, and see a bunch of strangers doing this. Well in Bermuda, you just join right in.


Rina Gibbons

Rina Gibbons is the mom of a self-proclaimed 5-year-old “Wild Child” - apparently the apple landed right next to the tree. She holds a Bachelor of Commerce degree and is now in the Professional Writing program at Algonquin College. Having travelled to over 20 countries she has recently realized Dorothy was right, “There’s no place like home.”

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“Don’t get hooked by the hook.”

Cheshire grins and knowing eyes gave me that warning soon after I moved to Bermuda, or “De Rock” as the locals lovingly call their fishhook-shaped island in the middle of the Atlantic. Perched on top of an inactive volcano, this archipelago of 181 islands is the northernmost point of the Bermuda Triangle. The closest point of land is North Carolina, 1030 kilometres to the north-west.  Its name comes from the Spanish explorer Juan de Bermudez, who discovered it in 1503.  Isolated in the North Atlantic, as the island’s unofficial anthem declares, Bermuda is another world.

I came to the island as an expat employed in one of the island's hotel chains. After marriage, I found myself working in the prison system as a teacher of GED Social Studies and Science, and eventually in the accounts department of a charity where I stayed for 11 years.

I can still remember the first time I stepped off the plane and into this paradise. My lungs were tickled at the freshest air ever encountered (air pollution is zero). The sun enveloped my pasty Canadian skin in the warmest of embraces. However, the biggest prize winners were my eyes. The hypnotic ocean is visible in every direction, since the island’s widest point is just over three kilometres. Powdery pink sand beaches, lush green flora, and unique pastel coloured buildings with their glistening white roofs completed the visage.

As I crossed over the causeway from the airport to the next island, a closer view of the water made my mouth drop open. This reminds me of an anecdote shared by a friend who was the concierge of a hotel on that stretch. A guest had once come up to her desk with five baby jars. She wanted to fill each one with a different color of water to take home and show her friends. I wonder how many jars she had to fill before reality hit. Clueless woman aside, pictures do not do justice to the variety of blues that will delight your eyes.   

The locals were toying with me with their warnings. My breath probably smelled like worm, and metal was undoubtedly poking out of my cheek. From the moment I had stepped foot in this utopia, mouth agape, the hook had slid in cleanly and without obstruction.   


RINA GIBBONS

Rina Gibbons is the mom of a self-proclaimed 5-year-old “wild child” - apparently the apple landed right next to the tree. She holds a Bachelor of Commerce degree and is now in the Professional Writing program at Algonquin College. Having travelled to more than 20 countries, she has recently realized Dorothy was right:  “There’s no place like home."                  

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