My dad once told me that his dad used to tell him, “If you pray for a strong back, the Lord will give you a heavy load to carry.” As a child, this expression always struck me as something a farmer would say, perhaps more so because my dad grew up on a farm where back-breaking hard work was the normal daily routine. I’ve come to realize, however, that “heavy loads” don’t always mean farm animals or bales of hay.
The past few weeks at the Crookstons have been a time of heavy loads. Collectively as a family, we have been hefting around the very real possibility of splitting up our family for the next 12 months until Carina is done with classes at AUC.
We left Minnesota seven months ago with high hopes, excitement, some savings in the bank, and an offer to teach French at the local private k-12 school. We knew things would be tight, but we also had faith that it would all work out. When we arrived, however, the teaching position ended up being nothing short of a fiasco (read the full story here), and with the dizzying high cost of living on this island, our savings didn’t last all that long. The student loans to which Carina has access are, by design, just enough to support one person. They are decidedly *not* enough to support a family of five and a nanny. Most students here are single and can split the high costs of rent, utilities, internet, etc. As a family, we pay 100% of everything, and without an income, our life here just simply is not sustainable.
Once we learned that teaching French was not going to happen, we implemented Plan B. I’m lucky enough to have a skill that can easily be done from anywhere, and I immediately began to search for a programming job which could be done remotely. I thought it would be a short search.
Yeah. I was wrong.
Back in May I thought I had a temporary solution. I’d found a short-term contract that would have paid enough to see us through for quite a while, yet it turned out the company who “hired” me had jumped the gun, and they hadn’t actually secured the contract with their potential client, meaning the job they were offering me never really existed.
We were fast approaching the point where I either needed to find a job that I could do remotely, or go back home to get a normal job. Splitting up the family seemed unconscionable, and we were literally praying every day that I would find employment that would allow me to stay on the island.
In the final hour, I received a call from a recruiter for a position that was 100% telecommuting, meaning I could work from anywhere. At last! A strong lead! I submitted my resume and then tore into researching the company and pouring over their job description, brushing up on all the skills they were looking for. The first interview went well and we scheduled a second. The second interview consisted of deep technical questions, and while I did well on 95% of the questions, it also included some areas of programming that are not my strong point. Except for those few questions I couldn’t answer, I thought the interview went well and I felt confident that this was the job which would allow our family to stay together.
And then word came: They were going to pass on me and keep looking.
We had a family council in which we discussed what now seemed inevitable: We were going to have to split up the family. There were a lot of tears as we discussed the logistics and details, and while Cari and I tried to remain optimistic, it was darn hard to put a positive spin on this unpleasant reality.
The day after I heard that the 100% telecommute job didn’t come through, I set out looking for any job I could find in or around the Twin Cities or St. Cloud, even if it meant moving back and leaving Carina until she was done with classes at AUC. I made job hunting a full time job, pouring over posting on Monster.com and Dice.com and sending my resume to dozens and dozens of companies. It didn’t take long for the phone calls and emails to start coming back, and I began lining up initial telephone interviews. Jobs in my industry are plentiful… if you are willing to work in the office every day and not try to work remotely from a Caribbean island.
The Job Hunting Road…
In the past several weeks I’ve had too many first interviews to track, a multitude of second interviews, a few offers from off-island and out-of-state companies that I turned down, and one offer from a Twin Cities based company that I accepted.
Today is the last day of July, 2012. For the past two weeks, Andi, Tanner and I have been back in the U.S. staying with friends and family in the Twin Cities and St. Cloud. Tomorrow, August 1st will be my first day as an employee of Connexions Loyalty Travel Service. It’s a good company, and it’s a great offer. Under normal circumstances I would be totally thrilled for such a job. But… the job also requires me to stay here. So as it sits now, I will be staying in Minnesota while my family goes back to the island without me.
It makes me so sad I can hardly even think about it, so I think I’ll be done writing about it for now and move on to other subjects.
In Other News… Tropical Storms and Heat Waves
While Andi, Tanner and I have been up here enjoying beautiful weather in Minnesota, Carina, Piper and Michelle have been enduring a string of tropical storms down on the island. Before the storms, and before we left, the weather was just plain HOT. Instead of enjoying the beaches and the pool, we tried to find ways to stay busy and productive inside.
Each block weekend, the Spouse’s Organization raises money by selling burritos and treats to the medical students who are too busy to cook for themselves. They often ask for volunteers to man the food table, so last blocks, Andi, Tanner and I took a turn.
It sure beat just sitting around and being bored at home, and it was a good chance to mingle with the students and meet new people as well.
Some AUC Updates
Just before Cari began classes at The American University of the Caribbean, the school was purchased by DeVry. Almost at once, DeVry began pouring money into the old and dilapidated campus. In addition to fixing up and renovating the existing buildings, they are also adding some much needed new buildings as well.
While new buildings are great, that also means construction. And construction means noise. Loud constant noises and medical students trying to study do not mix very well, and after many complaints, DeVry decided to deal with the noise by giving away a free set of Bose noise canceling head phones to every student.
St. Martin, Round II?
For Andi, Tanner and I, “St. Martin, Round I” came to an end two weeks ago. Michelle and Piper will join us soon. And Cari will catch up to us while we’re in Utah towards the end of August after she finishes her second semester. Andi and Tanner are soaking up every second they can with friends, but we also miss Mom and Piper more than we thought we would.
Although it looks like a long shot right now, I am literally praying that this separation will be ONLY for a few weeks, and that when August is over, we will all head back to St. Martin together, as a family, and that these uncertain times will finally be behind us.
No matter what happens, we will all embrace “St. Martin, Round II” with open arms, together or separated. Andi and Tanner will be in school making new friends, and we’ll have discretionary income to enjoy some of the activities St. Martin has to offer beyond just the beautiful (and free) beaches.
Final Thought Before I go to Bed…
Just before the three of us left St. Martin, we discussed the words of the prophet Lehi. “For it must needs be, that there is opposition in all things. If not so, righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad… having no joy, for we know no misery; doing no good, for we know no sin.” In short, Lehi is telling us that in order to know true happiness, we must also taste sadness as well. Without opposition in life, we will never fully appreciate the good times.
While what we’ve been experiencing isn’t anything near “true sadness”, it hasn’t been challenge-free either. I want so dearly for this St. Martin time to be wonderful, sweet and pleasant for Andi and Tanner. (Piper won’t remember much of it, I suspect.) But so far their experience had been marked not entirely, but mostly with loneliness and boredom. The shortcomings “St. Martin, Round I”, I fully believe, will only make Round II all that much sweeter.
I hope, with all me heart, that the rest of our time here will be every bit the happy experience I envisioned for our family before we moved, and when we go back home for good we will reflect on St. Martin as a special time of our lives which we will treasure and remember with fondness forever. And in the mean time, the slightly heavy loads we are carrying right now will make us stronger in the long run.