• Liz Lopez

Settling into Life as Bajan American’s

We’ve called Barbados home for ten weeks now and as expected, Lopez is referring to himself as Bajan American on a regular basis. With just under seven months until our lease is up, we’re generally acclimated to life in the Caribbean.

Now that we’ve gotten into a groove, our days are standard, much like they would be at home in non-pandemic times. The biggest game-changer is the lack of work around the house. With no yard work or house projects, the only day to day responsibilities is standard and boring, like dishes and laundry. Lopez cooks dinner most every night, enjoying trying new vegetables and creating different meals we wouldn’t normally eat at home. Faith and Aiden requested he continues to cook at home – compliments to the chef and fingers crossed!

We’re currently on break from school, since their half-day on Thursday, December 10th. This one week we have the kids home while both of us work, until my extended staycation starts on the afternoon of Christmas Eve. I’ve rented a car for the 29th-30th and the kids and I will be exploring and enjoying some of the island’s best excursions those days.

Weekdays in Barbados, school and work

Penny has homework on Wednesdays and Fridays. Some of the homework she can’t do because she doesn’t have the right books. The teacher said she’d send something home on those days, like a copy for us to print or go along with, but she’s hasn't. Truthfully, I’m completely fine calling this year a wash (already), because it’s a COVID year. I want my kids to soak up the new culture and life here instead of doing homework. (PS – my friend, a fellow Welcome Stamper from Canada, is on the same page with her daughter’s behind-the-curve school year here too).

Callen gets homework on Fridays and he loves it. The first homework he got, he shouted so loud and completed each assignment immediately at the dining room table while I finished work. He likes sounding words out, aware of almost every sound each letter makes. He loves his Pre-K ‘learning book’ Grandma Jones got them this summer and does ABC Mouse for fun.

Curriculum in Barbados is ahead of in the States and Canada. According to our friend Lili, it’s all rubbish compared to the British system. Personally, as an American, I appreciate more time spent on imagination versus reading in kindergarten. Her teacher knows it’s more rigorous than Penny is accustomed to but says she’s settling in well and gets along with everyone. She ended the term with a collection of merit stickers, which took some time to get to her as she remembered how to use her listening ears.

I don’t think the kids love school yet. It could be due to their late arrival, or that they haven’t made good friends, or because the days are more demanding. Their days seem a bit intense, but I keep hearing how far ahead they’ll be next year when they return home. They take Spanish here, which will be helpful when they attend school next year since we plan to get them into dual-language school next fall.

Uniform is required every day; for three days they wear their formal attire and for the other two, the more comfortable days, they simply wear their gym clothes. Although scheduled gym doesn't always mean it happens, like when the Coach just doesn’t show up so the class is just bypassed. The first day Cal had gym he was so hyped as we imagined all the cools sports he would learn to play. But nope – they just ran laps around the outdoor courtyard and Cal said it was far too hot, declaring the sun was his ‘worst enemy of the day.’

They did have a Christmas celebration where Santa came to meet the kids, although Cal has since declared not only was Santa a girl, she was mean. But Penny and Cal had fun, playing exclusively with each other at recess instead of new friends. Penny’s teacher said that it would probably be easier after Christmas break because they kind of start over again with some of the stuff and do more ‘welcome back’ activities to get to know each other.

Penny also came home with a gift from Faye, and immediately Lopez and I panicked that we’d missed a Secret Santa in her class, imagining some poor kid opening nothing. I instantly messaged Mr. ElBadiou and thankfully she confirmed that Faye brought gifts in for just her closest friends, and Penny happened to be one of them. Yes, Faye, you will be invited to Penny’s birthday even though we’ve never met, and thank you for being nice to my baby!

Weekends in Barbados, fun and sun!

The weekends are usually a mix of errands, beach time and social gatherings. The other weekend we took two ZR’s to get to Sheraton Mall to finally pick up my phone – I’d been without it for over a month - and as soon as we landed at the mall to pick it up, Lopez realized he lost his on the ride over. So off to Bridgetown Jerry took him to pick up the phone from the kind soul who found it.

This weekend Faith and I hit Sheraton again for Christmas presents and New Year’s Eve heels (first being me, latter being her). Instead of taking the ZR home, we decided to walk; the estimated walk time was likely less than the two-stop trip home on the ZR and I was antsy to meet Lopez and the babies for swim time. The walk was totally worth it, passing colorful and lovely houses up close, plus steps. There was a landscaper who asked if we were ok, given our multiple reusable shopping bags plus one black garbage bag of presents lumped over one shoulder like Santa, but we were great!

The time outside of errands is usually given to the beach or recovering from whatever other activity we did in the melting heat outside. Not long ago, I spent a Saturday morning sleeping in with Bow while in typical dad fashion, Lopez took the babies to breakfast instead of feeding them at home. There he met a like-minded dad at the restaurant from Atlanta, also with his kids but no wife (she who was also home sleeping, due to dengue!!). They’ll stay through November, which makes me too damn hot just imagining summer here. The kids hit it off, playing then asking the chef if they could feed the chickens. They could so long as they moved to the side yard instead of by the tables, or they’d start jumping on tables to steal food. (Side note – this is accurate; our landlord thinks one garbage can is enough for three families and when it overflows, the chickens jump onto the heap and tear it apart for food.)

We’ve enjoyed pool parties with friends, tried out the new Barbados waterpark (Rascal’s), had impromptu burger nights, fish fries, and cemented our weekly tradition of Sunday Night Karaoke in Dover. We’ll be hosting New Year’s Eve this year, in typical Lopez style, and I’m already pondering which appetizers to make. We’re just about ready for Christmas, making crafts and shopping for gifts (actually at the store!), with nearly every present accounted for. I’m missing family and friends more than usual with Christmas this week, still not fully believing that we’re missing so many traditions this season. On the plus side, we still get to wrap presents and watch the best Christmas move of all time, Die Hard, like we do at home.