International Workshop on Limited Visibility
Bellairs Research Institute of McGill University
Barbados, West Indies
February 4-10, 2006
Circumstances changes from one year to the next, so some of this may
not be accurate for this year. Suggestions for updates are always
Barbados is 1 hour ahead of Montreal time.
The telephone in the visitor's area is area code +1-246-422-2034. From
North America, you call Barbados just as you would call someplace in
Canada or the US. It is area code 246. From outside North America, note
that the country code for North America is +1 -- giving 1-246-422-2034.
The office telephone (working hours) is +1-246-422-2087. The fax number
in the office is +1-246-422-0692. The telephone in the visitors' area
For long distance calls, you can buy a Barbados phone card, which can
be used in public telephones displaying the phone card sign. One such
telephone is located near the bus stop at the Sunset Crest shopping
plaza, a 15 minute walk from Bellairs. (Calls to Europe are roughly 10
Barbados dollars for 3 minutes. So get the other person to call.) Try
Cave Shephard, and the convenience store in the Texaco gas/petrol
station. Also, you can also buy, for Bbdos$20, a Barbadian calling
card. You read the number over the phone to the operator, and it works
like a debit card.
Your own telephone company's telephone card might or might not be
useable. Typically 800 numbers are not available in Barbados, or at
least, not from the telephone in the vistors' area at Bellairs. If you
have a Barbadian calling card, you might be able to reach your 800
number by using it at the Bellairs telephone, to reach the number that
gets you access. Read: long distance calls are not impossible, but they
aren't easy, either.
Bellairs Research Institute,
Holetown, St. James,
Barbados, West Indies
There are a few PCs in a small room to the left of the entrance
to the administration building (located to the east of the
accommodation buildings, closer to the road. ) There is a slow,
sometimes unstable internet connection and a printer. Login as a guest:
you will be given a password. In 2005, the printer was not working. If
you really had to print something, this could be done by emailing it to
the secretary, who then printed for you during working hours. This is a
slow process, and there is a page charge. There is a wireless internet
connection, sometimes reachable from the lawn and some rooms. It is
US and Canadian citizens do not need a visa to travel to
Barbados. Please check with a Barbados tourism board or a travel agent
if you are not a US or Canadian citizen. In any case, you'll need
something like a passport or a driver's license. Check with a Barbados
tourism website, e.g., http://barbados.org/
Please remember (in addition to your bathing suit):
1) This is small, informal workshop. We will be living in close
quarters, cooking breakfast together, working together for a week. The
facilities are not run as a hotel. There is no main desk lobby area,
coffee shop, laundry service, etc.
Your towels must last all week. Payment: By credit cards, travellers'
cheques, US, Canadian, or Barbados dollars. Keep your expectations low
as to services and workshop organization. Suggestions and initiatives
are very welcome.
2) There is _almost_ nothing that can go wrong. It's hard to imagine
not having a pleasant and productive
time. Barbados is a small (10miles x 20 miles) island of reserved,
friendly people. They are proud of their tourist industry. At the
shopping centre a 15 minute walk south from Bellairs, there are banks
with machines that will take a standard variety of bank cards; there's
a post office, a grocery store, a pharmacy, even cappucino, Cuban
cigars and various specialty items for tourists. Anything you leave
behind, you will be able to buy there, plus t-shirts, post cards,
sunscreen, etc. Many shops take credit cards. Note that duty free shops
such as Cave Shephard require your passport in order to sell you
something, or at least, to offer you the duty free rate. Thy duty free
rate is something like 50% of the price for residents.
There's only one airport. (Bridgetown is the capitol city, Grantley
Adams is the name of the airport). After going through customs and
getting your bags (this may take a while), go outside and get a taxi.
Tell the driver you want to go to Bellairs Research Institute in
Holetown, St. James. Explain this is between the Folkestone Park and
the Coral Reef Club in
Holetown. Bellairs shares a fence with the park. It is the first
property to the north of the park, on the beach
side of the road. As you will be coming north from the
airport, you will pass the park, then turn left into Bellairs. It's a
tiny driveway. There may be a sign that says "Coral Reef Club Goods
Delivery". Nothing about Bellairs. No big lighted sign. Your driver
will find it without much trouble. The fare will be about US$30. If
it's a van for several people and their bags, it will be more, about
Barbados $80. (1 Barbados dollar is .50 US) You can pay in US dollars
or Barbados dollars.
Airport departure tax is Barbados $25, which is sometimes already
included in the airplane ticket. Put your departure card and Bbdos$25
in your passport, as you will need to produce all three of these when
you leave. There are opportunities to spend the Barbados $25 in the
departure lounge if the fee is not included in your ticket.
Car rental: It's pointless to rent a car for use during the week,
but if you really want to, you can find cars for rent at Sunset Crest,
the shopping centre just south of Bellairs.
Buses: You can get
around easily on the buses. Fare: Barbados $1.50. Exact change helps,
although you may pay for more than one person at a time with bills. Do
not expect to get change on a crowded bus, although you may be lucky.
Buses are frequent and
interesting. The small, yellow buses are privately operated and often
feature reggae music. It's a lot of fun when the passengers are "into"
the music. The large blue government buses provide more dignified
service; look for signs and icons listing the things you are not
allowed to do on a govenment bus: play music,
carry big smelly fish, eat snow cones, shell peanuts, etc., etc.
Taxis: There are taxi stands close to Bellairs, across from the
Sandpiper Hotel, and at Sunset Crest, where we can rent vans in small
groups and be taken around to interesting places by a driver (the
charge is negotiated -- something like US$40 per hour, for a 3-4 hour
van tour, with entrance fees to parks and the cave extra). The cook,
Gwen, has a cousin, Diane, who runs a taxi service. Traditionally, we
arrange through Gwen to get Diane to drive people to the airport on the
departure day. Another reputable van driver and taxi driver is Neville
Archer. His name is listed in the telephone book. He has a cell phone
by which his wife contacts him. He is very pleasant and reliable.
Barbados is an independent country (before the 1960's, it belonged to
Britain), and so has it's own currency, the Barbadian dollar. Two
Barbados dollars is worth US$0.98 . Many shops and people will take US
or Canadian dollars, including some taxi drivers and beach peddlers.
However, you will need some local currency, or you will be getting into
complicated international finance deals involving small sums of money
with the other conference participants. (E.g, we rent a van together,
and everyone is to pay the driver 50 Barbadian dollars. You have 20
Barbadian dollars and 20 US dollars. If you have Euros, will someone be
willing to pay for you if .... etc.) This is not the kind of math
problems we want to concentrate on.
The currency exchange at the airport closes on Friday at 5pm? 6pm?
However, there is a bank machine at the airport that accepts most
international cards and gives local currency. To find this bank
machine, go through customs, exit the airport, and follow the signs
around to the right of the exit leading through some construction work.
The signs are pointing the way to a bank named something like "Bank of
Barbados" or "Carribean Bank". It's exact location depends on the
status of the construction project, but it is typically located
someplace near the ticket counters in the departure area. Also, there
are automatic money machines that accept most international bank cards
in the Sunset Crest shopping center near Bellairs, and they dispense
local currency. The CIBC has combined with a local Carribean bank, and
there is a machine in the Texaco station. There is a Scotia Bank
machine on the beach side of the road, opposite the bus stop at Sunset
Crest. A few minutes' walk farther south, there is a Royal Bank and a
Barclay's Bank. You might consider picking up free tourist guides and
maps at the airport. These are generally located at the exit from the
arrivals area, just as you are going outside to the taxi pick-up area.
The Toronto and Montreal airports sell Barbados dollars, unless they
run out, which they sometimes do.
You'll need local cash for Saturday and Sunday dinners, since the cook
may not work on weekends (restaurant dinners can be expensive -- say
US$25 each), plus Saturday and Sunday lunches and snacks (say US$10
each), plus the taxi from the airport. Sometimes we send out for pizza
on the weekend, from Pizazz (or is it Pizzazz?). One "ridiculous" pizza
feeds 4 adults (caveat: John Iacono counts as 2 adults). Highly
recommended: the flying fish pizza with plantains. Mmmm, mmm.
On Monday, you will be able to cash traveller's checks at the banks at
Sunset Crest shopping plaza.
The cash machines at the shopping plaza are available on the weekend.
Dinner is at 6:30pm, but is available Mon-Fri. and possibly on Sat.
Late arrivals can find a pizza/sandwich place a 10 minute walk away.
Late late arrivals -- let the organizers know if we should save
leftovers for you
in the kitchen.
Upon arrival, check for a message next to the telephone or on the
blackboard or whiteboard in the patio area for messages for the group.
For your room assignment, also check the patio area for a list. The "E"
rooms are in the east block (away from the beach); the "W" rooms are in
the west block (closer to the beach by a few metres). (This is where
the workshop will take place, around the dining table in the patio
area, or on the picnic tables under the patio extendsion. We have a
blackboard propped against the wall, and some chalk. Hopefully, there
is chalk.) When you get out of the taxi, look around for the main
lighted area. That will be the dining area. It's only a semi-enclosed
patio, so it's easy to find. Seabourne house is the house on beach past
the complex of low buildings.
The workshop officially begins 9am, Sunday morning this year. Each day
will typically have two sessions, 9 to noon, and after-dinner to
In general, Barbados is expensive. Everything is imported except the
beer, rum, and sugar. You can buy sunscreen, film, etc., there, but at
fairly high prices compared to the US or Canada. So bring those things
with you that you would mind paying a high price for. A very rough
estimate of expenses in US dollars: $300 for 7 nights' room and
breakfast (roughly US$30 each night) plus and 5 nights' dinners (USi$18
each) at Bellairs; $50 for 2 nights' dinners away from Bellairs; $70
for 7 days' lunches away from Bellairs; $50 for taxis; $50 for
souvenirs, entertainment, postcards, phone charges, etc.
Roughly US$500 total for expenses excluding airfare. A popular
pre-dinner group activity is watching for the green flash on the
beach-front terrace of the luxury hotel next door to Bellairs, the
Coral Reef Club. Sunset is around 6:05pm. A Perrier at the Coral Reef
Club is Barbados $6.25. Pina colladas are Bbdos$12.50.
Try to settle your bill a day or two before leaving, since many people
may be leaving around the same time, and it takes a while....
Most people are not in a rush in Barbados.
Food and beverages
Beer/rum supplies: Sometimes we pool our resources to buy a stock of
beer/rum/refreshments. Sometimes groups prefer taking turns making
contributions to the group welfare, sometimes groups like to keep
careful accounts of who owes what. You know how it is. We'll see what
kind of group we are when we get there. Experience over the years is
that if someone contributes a bottle of rum, some limes, and some
peanuts to the table in the evening, it will be consumed, no problem.
Breakfast: Bellairs provides breakfast items of a rudimentary nature in
the visitor's kitchen. Fix it yourself, clean up after yourself. Label
any items you store in the fridge or on the counter that are not
intended for general comsumption. Dispose of these items at the end of
the workshop. Beer bottles may be returned for a deposit. Otherwise,
there is no general recycling of plastic, glass, metal, and paper.
Kitchen rules: We are expected to clean up our own dishes. Glasses and
cups should be retrieved from rooms. The cook washes the dinner dishes,
but appreciates help carrying out plates and then clearing the table.
Return dishes to the cook's kitchen, not the visitor's section.
Material for breakfast is provided (usually, unless they forget) by
Bellairs. This is basic fare: Wheatabix, corn flakes, white balloon
bread, eggs and cheese, margarine, guava jelly. Sometimes some fruit.
Look under the plastic basket on the counter in the kitchen. The
purpose for hiding the fruit under a plastic basket is to keep the
birds from eating the bananas. They are quite bold and fly into the
kitchen when someone leaves the screen door open. The birds also
scavenge for cereal, sugar, and bread, so please keep these items
closed. We make our own breakfast. From the fridge in the kitchen, we
may take milk, eggs, bread, jelly, cheese. If you are good at making
coffee, omelettes or french toast for a crowd, whoever is sitting at
the table will be happy ....
There is a "cold room" down the hall, where extra kitchen supplies are
stored. Beer may be placed in the fridge there. Look in the cold room
for extra supplies of milk, fruit juice, etc. It is important to check
the night before that these items are unfrozen and in adequate supply
for the next morning and have been moved to the visitor's kitchen.
Coffee/tea: Instant coffee and tea is provided. Often people
bring their own favorite teas or coffees. Helping to make coffee for
the group is always appreciated. Bring your favourite gourmet coffee
beans to share -- the coffee supplied by Bellairs is not the best. A
coffee bean grinder and drip coffee maker are available in the
visitor's kitchen. If most people bring a bag of beans, we'll enjoy
good coffee for the week.
Meals: Restaurant meals are expensive, but there are a couple of beach
snack food places that are reasonable. We will go there a LOT for
lunches. Also, the tiny little rum shacks often have sandwiches (ham
and cheese/ fish) to take away at inexpensive prices. (The ham and
cheese are very good in Bbdos. Also the bread.) We'll have dinners at
Bellairs (possibly going out one night in addition to Saturday and
lunches we'll have down the road -- or find your own provisions at the
grocery store in the Sunset Crest shopping plaza (now open on Sunday
afternoons). Favourite spots include: Chefette (a local chain serving
rotis, chicken, veggie burgers, pre-boxed salads fast-food service
style, with picnic tables on a covered deck by the sea); Surfside (a
sports bar behind the post office opposite Sunset Crest -- noisy when
there's a cricket or soccer match on, slow, but pleasantly located
under the palms on the beach); Pizzazz (a pizza place also serving
sandwiches, but the metal roof over the dining patio area can get hot,
even with the fans on); DeGroots (immediately across the street from
Bellairs -- it has rotis, is pleasant, but not exactly fast). If for
some reason you do NOT want dinner at Bellairs with the rest of the
group, please let me know before 11am that day, so I can tell the cook
-- otherwise your bill will include these dinner charges.
Fruit: there are fruit/vegetable stand(s) on the other side of the
shopping center from Bellairs, and on the way from Bellairs to Sunset
Crest. Or you can buy fruit at the grocery. Don't eat the fruit of
strange trees. We almost lost the guy whose curiosity tempted him to
try the (poisonous) fruit of the manzanel tree on the beach.
THEFT the _almost_ above
In recent years, there has been a growing problem with theft from
rooms. This is not caused by the Institute's loyal employees of many
years, but rather by determined, swift, and invisible outsiders
and/or former security guards. Do NOT LEAVE YOUR ROOM UNLOCKED while
you are sleeping, or while you are showering, or while you are stepping
outside even for a minute. The Institute has no way to reimburse your
losses. The thieves are apparently after CASH, not credit cards,
passports, laptops, etc. However, this may have changed since last
year. It's probably all right to bring a laptop, but please understand
that the risk is yours. Do not leave items on the window sills. There
have been incidents where the screens were cut and items were stolen.
Two participants at our 2002 workshop had their money emptied from
their wallets. Do not bring valuables. You might consider keeping your
passport, tickets, etc. in the office safe, starting on Monday
(although personally, I rarely do this -- it's inconvenient for duty
There are some small ones, especially at night, and especially under
the table and in the shower. They do not generally carry diseases, and
they only itch most people a little bit. However, cases of Dengue fever
have been reported in Barbados. Generally, it makes you sick with
something like the flu; occasionally, it is fatal. As a general rule,
the problem is in dense urban areas, and the kind of mosquito that
transmits the disease is active during the day, 2 hours after sunrise,
and 2 hours before sunset -- i.e., around 8am and 4pm or so, so to be
on the safe side, do wear your mosquito repellent especially at these
times. In your room, you may find a small plastic object that plugs
into the wall.
You put a small, blue "fish" tablet onto the metal plate of the object,
and ensure that it is plugged in. This helps repel mosquitos. Replace
the fish tablet every day or so, when the table turns white. The fish
tablets should be supplied to your room. They are inclosed in foil
wrappers and should be left on your night table or desk. Even better is
to turn on the fan at night, and lie in the breeze.
This year, there were mosquito nets above the beds. You might want to
bring some repellent (although this can be bought there).
Mainly, the mosquitos hide under the dining table and bite us in the
evening problem sessions. They also lie in wait in the showers, so
you'll want to do everything you can to keep the floors in the
bathrooms dry. For more information on Dengue fever see
scraping against coral, stepping on sea urchins (ouch!), becoming
addicted to snorkeling and scuba diving, being pulled out to sea on
your rented windsurfer by off shore breezes, being swept away by the
undertow (usually there isn't one, but sometimes, there is). Red flags
on the beaches warn of dangerous conditions and should be respected.
These are not fancy. Each room will have as many as 3 people in it;
each person will get a narrow bed with a thin mattress. Your 2 towels
are for the entire week. Do not take them to the beach (you might want
to bring your own towel for the beach).
When you arrive, you should find your room key either in your room, or
in the patio areas. Assuming the participants in the previous workshops
remembered to return their keys at the end of the week, there should be
a key for each participant. Some but not all keys come enhanced with
keys to the cold room and/or the computer room and/or the visitor's
kitchen. Also, there are keys to these rooms for general use, hidden
away in the telephone book next to the phone in the visitor's area.
Please keep the computer room and the cold room locked at all times, to
prevent theft; please keep the visitor's kitchen locked when nobody is
around (e.g., when you go to bed, if you are the last one up, please
check that everything is locked up). You will make yourself very
unpopular if you forget to return keys to the phone book and lock
everybody else out of the kitchen or the computer room.
The bathrooms and showers are down the hall. Some rooms have
bathrooms, but these may not have hot water. The plumbing is quite slow
and sometimes needs encouragement; it has a difficult time swallowing
items that would go down with ease in, say, Canada. Please try to keep
the floor in the shared shower/bath areas dry, as water attracts the
Please wash the sand off your feet at the outdoor pipe outside the
dining area or at the outdoor pipe at the beach end of the East dorm
when coming from the beach. You might want to take off your shoes and
leave them outside next to your room if they have picked up a lot of
sand. Otherwise, your room will silt up quickly.
Usually very nice -- temp.s in the 80's F, 25 C. Usually
sunny, but sometimes cool with brief showers. It has been known to rain
all week. You might consider bringing a brolly (to ensure that it won't
rain) and a light jacket.
Barbados is very close to the equator. Light skinned people burn very
Possible things to take
sunscreen, hat, sun glasses, camera, lap top, bathing suit, snorkel,
fins, extra towel for the beach (the one in your room is for the entire
week), shampoo, ear plugs (an employee of the park next door uses a
leaf blower every morning, early, and it is not a quiet leaf blower;
also, there are often noisy parties in the park on Saturday night;
also, live music venues can be loud), a couple of pads of paper (not
provided at Bellairs), pencils, coloured pens, ticket, travel
documents, possibly a light sweater or sweat shirt (occasionally, it's
cool), small umbrella or rain jacket (occasionally there's a 15 min.
shower), beach or shower sandles, something to wear to a restaurant
other than t-shirt and cut-off jeans (nothing fancy -- it's just that
some places don't like jeans and beach wear and won't let you in if you
are a guy wearing a sleeveless T-shirt and ragged cut-offs and shower
sandals, say), running shoes if you're a jogger, mosquito
repellent, copies of papers for reference or to pass around, overheads
if you'd like to give a talk. If you are thinking of bringing a laptop,
or "schleptop", remember that security is minimal. Don't leave it lying
around while you are at the beach.
Some are within walking distance; usually we work on Sunday morning,
but this can be rearranged to Sunday afternoon if anyone wishes to
attend services, as was the case once back in 1994.
Computer use fee
If you use the Bellairs internet connection or computers, you can
expect a small fee (something like $10 Barbados) when you check out.
There is a photocopier. Log any copies you make and pay at check-out
time. Barbados 15 cents per page, the same as for printing from the
printer (if you succeeded in doing that).
There are limited laundry facilities we can use for a charge at
check-out time. These are located at the extreme east end of the East
block, on the side wall facing the administration building. However,
they cannot be used during the day, when the maids are using them.
Large numbers of people using these would straing the system, but in
principle, it is possible to do a laundry.
If you'd like to give a talk, please let us know in advance. Usually
the overhead projector works, but you might be using the blackboard
instead. There is both an overhead projector and a data project (for
power point presentations). The data projector is kept locked away in
the office, so to use it on the weekend or evening, we must make
arrangements ahead of time. The first session on Sunday morning will
begin with a discussion of what problems we'd like to work on for the
week. Think about suggesting some problems that you'd like to see the
group tackle. That's about it.
Oh, one more thing: do NOT,
please, do NOT, leave Bellairs with your room key in your pocket!
As just demonstrated, it is very easy to forget the key.