Tern is a very small island, so you’d think it would get a bit claustrophobic at times, but its pretty hard to feel that way when surrounded by the vastness of the ocean. Especially when that ocean is fully explorable if you hop on a boat or slap on a snorkel mask and fins. But the weather does always permit such activities, and neither does our work schedule. So in the free time after work hours we are usually limited to shorter activities such as: reading, taking the trikes for a spin (picture), pretending to be photographers, sunbathing, jumping off the dolphin (see picture), watching movies, shooting pool, playing ping pong or foozball, playing guitar (the Tern version of Wagon Wheel was a favorite for a while), or just blasting tunes and dancing in the kitchen. Every now and then we get into a wild game of Spoons or build a fort in the living room. There is always some way to find entertainment, and we’ve got it pretty good out here.
The “town of tern” consists of a handful of buildings on the southeast end of the island. The warehouse, the barracks, the tractor shed, and the boathouse. I’ll talk a little about the barracks since that’s our home. It’s a termite-cockroach-ant-insectofyourchoice infested building raised on concrete blocks and steadily rotting and falling apart. The front door doesn’t fully shut due to cracks in the concrete around the frame. In fact, the concrete on the deck actually fell through (unfortunately for Paula, as she went down with it) a few months ago because of the rusted internal rebar that eventually disintegrated. The salt eats and rots everything out here. And if its wood, the termites gobble it up until its there is nothing left but a flimsy exoskeleton that occasionally spits out termite turds – a good reason to always wash dishes directly from the cupboard. That said, the place is actually quite lovely with beautiful paintings all around and loads of dead things to decorate with. Biologists love to have dried baby sea turtles and frigatebird skulls as household accessories. Plus the geckos that race around the walls also provide a nice touch and entertainment value when they fall from the ceiling (though they are yet another reason to always wash dishes before use… gecko turds on the baking sheet or cutting board doesn’t taste so good). It’s nice to not feel completely indoors when in the house. The rain coming through the roof also adds to that effect. Though anytime there is a roof over my head, leaky or not, I feel I’m living like a queen.
The food situation on Tern is also worth mentioning. And I must give the disclaimer that the food is actually not as bad as I make it sound. We have TONS of food and spices and gadgets to cook it with, its just that some of the edibles are a little scary. The policy is to eat the oldest foods first, which usually means the freezer burned chicken or the rusted canned good that expired in 2004. If its even marginally edible, we eat it. The sauce is brown when its supposed to be red- that’s OK! The canned mandarins have white freckles – it’ll make your stomach stronger! The sour cream from the freezer looks like sand with consistency of milk – I’ll have another serving please! We had a shipment of food last week! Hadn’t had one since March. I can’t even express how nice it is to have some fruit that isn’t saturated in corn syrup. And some veggies that don’t taste like a tin can. I realize that I shouldn’t be complaining at all, considering that food is food and no one is starving out here. I’m just a ridiculously spoiled girl from California, used to eating my locally grown fresh organic produce. But I have adapted well out here, and I have to say, I haven’t had a meal yet that wasn’t deeeelicious. We take turns cooking every night (expect Sundays…that everyones’ day off from everything), and the plates are always licked clean. And there is almost always dessert. And about 10 cups of tea consumed per person per day. Usually herbal for me, except I stay away from the chamomile tea bags that smell like mildew (because they have probably rotted).
Water and electricity are things we like to conserve out here. There are 5 tanks of water, not all full, and some leaky. So we do limit our use. Most people only shower once a week (not too necessary when you jump in the ocean a lot) and laundry is usually done every 2 weeks. We have a high efficiency washer now! The only thing water isn’t spared on is washing food wrappers (anything that has a trace of food must be washed and hung to dry to prevent bugs from taking over the house). When mopping the entire barracks we usually only change the water once. And it usually looks like mud when we’re done (so I’m never really sure how clean the house actually gets on cleaning day – which is every Thursday- though it does look cleaner). We have solar panels on the roof which provide our energy, so we get yelled at frequently for any lights left on and we can’t do things like run the coffee machine and the toaster at the same time. But thank goodness we have those things to begin with! I dont drink much coffee, but I am thankful the coffee drinkers here can get their fixes.
Alright… that’s enough for now! Congratulations if you managed to read all of that!