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Offbeat news and upbeat thoughts from Dunmore Town
Harbour Island, Bahamas

Volume III
In this issue:
Fast Ferry Provides New Access From Nassau-to-Briland | I Want My E-Mail! | After-school Program Meets Kids' Special Needs | Showing Results
Background in Special Education | This Glorious Place
Cruise in Style with a Briland Modem T-Shirt | Island Passages
Our First Letter to The Editor:

Fast Ferry Provides New Access From Nassau-to-Briland
You can tell it's 10:20 a.m. when the new "Bo-Hengy" Fast Ferry arrives from Nassau and pulls up to Government Dock at Harbour Island. While Brilanders board for a day of shopping, visiting the family or dentist,or just another day of business in Nassau, a few dozen shorts-clad visitors disembark for their first look at an Out Island. Several of these have bought an excursion rate that includes lunch and use of a specially-built new changing facility at the Coral Sands Hotel. Later that afternoon you'll see them returning to the dock glowing with sunburn, rum punch, and the joy of their first visit to Briland.

Beginning last summer the Bo Hengy, named for one of Briland's favorite sons, has been providing service to and from Nassau twice a day, several days a week. Although some people were worried about the impact of a large number of visitors arriving daily, so far few problems seem to have materialized --with the exception of some visitors ignoring signs that reserve beach furniture to guests of the hotels. The Coral Sands Hotel has since placed a limit of 30 people as the number who could be sold the package rate that includes use of its facilities, in an effort to make sure that impact on the beach is minimal.

Some who have tried the ferry call it, "A wonderful way to travel between Nassau and Harbour Island." They cite lovely views, especially going around the northern tip of Eleuthera, and the freedom to be able to get up and move around during the trip. It is also convenient that the Nassau drop-off point is centrally-located at Potter's Quay dock near Paradise Island.

Coral Sands manager Judy Allen notes that many of the day-visitors come to her hotel desk during their visit to ask for brochures. "We have made several bookings as a result of people seeing us first-hand," she says. "The comment I usually get is, 'This is the Bahamas I was looking for.'"
I Want My E-Mail!
A new option for Internet service has just opened that offers a potential for Brilanders to soon access the 'Net reliably without paying for each phone call. If you already use an Internet account from Harbour Island, you know first-hand the frustrations you've experienced these past few months. If you use Batelnet, the Internet service provider (ISP) of Batelco, it can often be difficult to get and maintain a connection, and connections are limited to a speed of 28K.

To get around these limits, some locals and visitors use one of the international providers like Earthlink or Mindspring, but that means paying for a long distance call every time you dial their access points overseas ($1.10 -$1.25 per minute to the U.S.). And until now, there have been only two services, America Online and Nassau's JAMZ 100 radio, that offer local access points within the Bahamas, thus requiring that you pay only for an inter-island call ($0.30-$0.40 per minute).

But based on seeing postings at the Briland Modem message board, another regional provider has just decided to extend its service to Harbour Island, Eleuthera, and Spanish Wells. Out Island Internet (OII.Net) will offer access via their faster rate of 33K, which they achieve with their satellite uplink in Abaco's Marsh Harbour.

"We are willing to add the necessary modems and phone lines here in Abaco to accommodate the additional load from Harbour Island and North Eleuthera, and we have the license and people all ready to go," says Robert Malone of OII.Net." Dake Gonzalez of Island Services on Harbour Island has agreed to act as OII.Net's local agent to sign customers up, effective 1 February 2000.

The best news is that Malone says that if enough people from the Eleuthera area subscribe, OII.Net will open an access point in Eleuthera. And because there is no charge for a call from Briland to Eleuthera, this means Brilanders would not have to pay for each call to check their e-mail or surf the 'Net.

Until an Eleuthera access point is ready, Internet service through OII.Net will still require paying Batelco for an inter-island call to Marsh Harbour. But that cost, notes Malone, is two-thirds lower than the cost of access to ISPs located overseas. In the meantime, OII.Net offers a competitive package:
A one-time $100.00 Sign Up fee for ALL accounts. We have 3 levels of service that we offer at the moment.
GRUNT $20.00 p/m $2.50 per additional hour
CHUB $40.00 p/m $2.25 per additional hour
BARRACUDA $60.00 p/m $2.00 per additional hour
In its home community of Abaco, OII.Net has also developed an ingenious system for offering subsidized service to the islands' schools and library. "Many of our customers are part-time residents who maintain regular monthly accounts and keep them open even when they are not on the Island," explains Malone. "When they aren't using their accounts, we offer their unused hours to the schools and library. For customers who do not wish to do this, we close their accounts when they leave, and restart them with our $100.00 set-up fee when they return."

Briland Modem is exploring with OII.Net how such an arrangement might fit into similar plans already in the works for Harbour Island's library and a number of community computer setups. Stay tuned to The Fig Tree for future updates

Contributing editors Teri Murphy and Kimberly King-Burns researched the preceding story. For more details on phone and Internet service for Harbour Island, see the telecommunications FAQ at
After-school Program Meets Kids' Special Needs
If you walk into the Methodist Church any Monday through Thursday after school hours, you're likely to find 10-15 attentive children working with volunteers to build their reading skills. Each child is in a small group that will focus on his or her special need.

The ones who have trouble hearing certain sounds may be playing a game of "Sound Bingo" with Islanika Thompson, whose own child is in the program. Those working with volunteer and artist Sally Hope may be making letters out of clay. The group working with recent local high school grad Donna De Costa are reading letters off of flash cards. Crystal Lawson, also a local mother, may be helping her group to make sentences out of the spelling words that are currently being taught at the All Age School. And Eleutheran Jennifer Stack may be off in a corner working one-on-one with a child to arrange paper words into sentences. She makes the ferry ride each day because she finds the program, "inspiring and necessary."

But the best news is that Malone says that if enough people from the Eleuthera area subscribe, OII. Net will open an access point in Eleuthera. Because there is no charge for a call from Briland to Eleuthera, this means Brilanders would not have to pay for each call to check their e-mail or surf the 'Net.

Each of these volunteers comes four days a week to make possible this state-of-the-art literacy program which was founded last October by American Lang Fincher. Lang is director of the North Eleuthera District of the privately-funded Every Child Counts foundation (ECC), which is based in Abaco in cooperation with the Roman Catholic Diocese. ECC seeks to identify children with educational handicaps and provide the individualized instruction they need to reach their full potential. They do this by training teachers, parents, and community volunteers how to identify what problem a child is having and develop the best strategy to meet it. ECC also provides equipment to test for hearing loss or other physical problems. The children are first through seventh graders who may need extra help because of speech or hearing difficulties, emotional problems, or any other types of learning disabilities. Soon, high school students from All Age school who need some extra practice time themselves will join the program as tutors for the smaller children.

Showing Results
Teachers at All Age School say the program is showing results, noting that some of these kids are participating in class for the first time. Fifth grade teacher Ms. Taylor says of one of her students, "I can see a difference in the way she confronts reading...she sounds out words a lot more and doesn't give up so easy as before." The children say they are coming because it is fun.

The program is not limited to after-school hours. Behind the scenes Scott Glover, a long-term visitor to the Island, has built wooden carousels to be placed at the All Age School. When a special needs child is falling behind in class, he or she can go to the carousel to listen to recorded lessons at his or her own pace.

Lang began by teaching a daily special needs class at the school two years ago. The biggest obstacle she faced at first was many parents' misunderstanding of special education. "People assume it's only for kids with below-average intelligence," she says. "But actually these children have average or above average intelligence. They just have some specific problem in processing what they learn. This is about learning how to learn."

Lang also says she is grateful to several teachers who helped her understand how to work in tune with Harbour Island's values and culture. "Mrs. Pinder, head of the primary school, is very dedicated and has been helpful in advising me," Lang says. And she credits North Eleuthera District Superintendent of Education Cornetta Fuerguson with encouraging her and helping her understand local needs. "The community has been very supportive, " says Lang. Rev. Neely graciously opened the Methodist church to us. And when Briland Modem posted our need for books, a donor from Miami called and promised to send exactly what we need."

And of course, there are the inevitable jokes about people confusing "Miss Lang" and "Miss Ling," referring to Elodie Ling who has run her own after-school program for students for many years. "My focus on special education is different from her program," says Lang. "But we exchange helpful tips with each other."

Background in Special Education
This is not the first such program Lang has directed. The willowy blond is four months shy of completing her Masters Degree in Special Education. But unwilling to wait for that degree, she took her first teaching job in Miami after receiving her bachelor's degree. in 1996. There she taught autistic and severely emotionally disabled children for four years. "These kids in Harbour Island have nowhere near the problems my kids in Miami had," Lang says.

Her next move was to Costa Rica. Spurred by a request to do some research for the Discovery Channel, Lang stayed on and single-handedly organized and gained private funding for a program similar to the one she is currently running in Harbour Island. She succeeded in turning the program over to local people, and it is still in operation five years later.

What made Harbour Island her next challenge? Her mother, Jane Fincher, owns a home in Harbour Island, and over the course of 13 years of visits Lang came to consider it a second home. "I wanted to put my energy into a place where I would have some roots," she says. "And of course, Harbour Island is a very special place."
This Glorious Place
by Jim Reno
While flying my kite on the pink sand beach on
our last visit, we chanced to meet a beautiful
Brilander named Tina and her Heaven-sent two-year-old, Aday. Tina walked along the pink coast talking to my beautiful wife, while I flew and Aday ran naked along his native shore. His naturally blonde dreads flowed in the same wind that lifted my spirits, and my kite.

My wife Beth and Tina stood alongside me, their words flowing naturally like those of any Brilander who has just met a stranger.

Special Ed Wish List
Following are the resources
needed by the special
education program:
  • Travel funds to bring in instructors for the teacher training component.
  • A substitute to take Lang's Wednesday class when she is working with teachers in Eleuthera
  • Salary for an assistant for Lang Long-term, regular volunteer tutors.
  • Dry erase boards and markers.
  • Education journals to be shared among teachers.
  • A computer for administrative use.

I listened to the wind, the waves, and the sweet voices of two women who would never compete for the same square footage of land, as there was plenty for all of us. As my kite rose and fell, Aday looked on, amazed at the bird with the strings attached. Was he looking at me, or the kite? Did his two-year-old eyes see something I didn't? Beth and Tina spoke of this wonderful land that held all of us up and became fast friends. I looked only up, save for a glance at my new, silent buddy, a boy who yearned to hold the strings. I asked Tina if it would be okay if I handed him the kite to fly. She nodded. Aday was tentative, to say the least. He trusted me. I handed him the lines and lifted the kite, offering instruction. He nodded and I let it fly... and he threw the handles onto the sand in fear.

We all laughed, but I understood what he thought. I was two years old that day too. As beautiful as the bird was, I wanted to throw the strings on the sand just like he did, in his Crayola wisdom. The strings let us fly, but they also hold us to something we can never do. It was enough for all four of us after that to enjoy the wonder of the pink sand, the waves you can see right through, and see our own reflections.

That child resonates in my own soul to this day. I'm sure Tina won't forget us. I hope we never forget her. I hope one day we both can let the strings go, and watch that colorful, elusive bird fly away. My wife once told my mother-in-law that the first time she walked on that soil, she felt she was in "the palm of God's hand." I think we'd all agree.

Let the bird fly away. Keep his strings. I'll take the sand.
Cruise in Style with a Briland Modem T-Shirt
The cool new Briland Modem Fund t-shirts made their debut over the holidays by being modeled by designers Ridgie and Buttons Barton during December's festivities. They're now on sale at the website. 100% of all proceeds go to the Briland Modem Fund for providing computers and Internet access for the library, school, and other community centers. Thanks to Mandy Barton [] for setting up the fulfillment side of things. See her accompanying ad for how you can order yours.

A Briland Blessing
My wife told my mother-in-law that the first time she walked on that sand, she felt she was in "the palm of God's hand." I think we'd all agree.



Island Passages
Congratulations to Robert & Anna Arthur of Arthur's Bakery on the arrival of their new granddaughter. Ariel Toni Arthur was born January 25th, and both grandparents are faring well. In other news, our prayers for a speedy recovery go out to Roger Becht of Runaway Hill, who was seriously injured in an auto accident in Ft. Lauderdale in early February.

Our First Letter to The Editor:
Just now I have found the time to browse the website, and I am really impressed. What a wonderful idea -- and very attractive home page -- and I sincerely thank you for the time and effort you have invested to make this a reality, not to mention the e-mail network I use frequently to keep friends informed of island activities. While browsing the site, I stumbled upon the first edition of the Island newsletter, and was completely "blown away" and particularly honored that you chose to use some excerpts from my post-Floyd island account. I do a lot of writing, but I have never been so proud to see my name in print.

Jamie Pratt, 1/14/00

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