It was during my second trip to a country I had never heard of before, when we decided to sell all our Worldly belongings and move the entire family. Two suitcases per person would be all we’d bring and the house, cars, furniture and everything would have to be gone in a little under two months.
While that may seem like an ignorant decision, it was precisely the opposite as I knew my (overly) analytical self enough to realize that if I properly looked at all the moving pieces of this move, I’d only talk myself out of it.
I didn’t know if there was an appropriate school on island, although I’d heard rumours. We had no car here and no idea how to buy one and we certainly didn’t have the faintest idea about what living in a developing country would be like and the lack of conveniences and options that presented.
But I had done a cross-Atlantic move, alone when I was far younger, far more ignorant, without knowing English and somehow that didn’t manage to kill me, so surely, relocating to a remote Caribbean island wouldn’t either.
Plus, I figured even if it all went south, I could chalk this up as a “great adventure and learning experience” which would likely not permanently scar the kids, who were 2, 2, 6 and 8 at the time.
So a few deep breaths and a giant leap of faith later and we arrived in “paradise”.
A local friend I had worked with during my initial IT consulting engagement had organized a house, which we rented sight unseen. It was a “rental house” and as the name implies, I assumed it had been rented before and therefore would contain all the usual things one needs to live.
You see where this is going, right?
We arrived to find basic things like silverware, trash cans, sheets and many, many other things missing.
Ok fine, so this isn’t the US and there’s no 24/7 stores, or really any stores but clinging to my “this isn’t going to kill us” quote, this was merely a question of deflecting around these minor road bumps in other ways. Except, as it turned out, my usual methods of distraction weren’t an option any more with all the “things and stuff” gone and in my purging frenzy, I’d gotten rid of virtually all toys and craft supplies in exchange for being able to bring my espresso machine. I know, don’t judge me!
But I knew that any growth that would come out of this adventure would involve some pain and I was prepared to have cranky kids out of their element. And besides, part of why I wanted to raise the kids on Anguilla had to do with them being able to learn creative problem solving. Looking at it that way, this was basically their first chance at an “opportunity for growth” which is another way of saying “deal with a crap situation”, but never mind that.
What didn’t ever occur to me, was that I would have to spearhead this “deal with a crap situation” and come up with some creative problem solving skills myself, in the absence of stuff, toys, a movie theatre, fast food place or parks to distract with.
Enter duct tape.
While looking through our new house to find something – anything – to turn the energy in the house around, I found an old roll of grey duct tape. And we had internet. And espresso.
In hindsight, this all seems so obvious…
Since that day, a large variety of things have been created out of this magical sticky tape such as geek game show trophies, shields, hats, wallets, beach-proof casts, piñatas, backpacks, art, messenger bags, bookmarks, Halloween costumes, purses, lunch boxes, precious silence and duct tape bikinis.
But duct tape means so much more than any physical thing. It represents the ability to work with inadequate tools and circumstances and look beyond obvious limitations to come up with something creative and beautiful that spreads joy. Or nervous laughter. Either way.