It’s Saturday morning. 6:55 am. Only Tanner and I are awake. When tonight rolls around, we will have been here for a week. And what a week it’s been! To be honest, the kinds of things we’ve been doing are the same things anyone would do after moving to a new place and trying to settle in. We’ve just been doing them on a Caribbean island. And in the process we’ve been given a healthy dose of island craziness.
We awoke to find we had no water. Oh. Great. What’s this about? I threw some clothing on and went down to the office to inquire, and on the way down met another resident.
“Do you have water?” he asked in a heavy Dutch accent.
“Well at least it’s not just in my unit” he said. I was thinking the same thing.
The lady in the office was curt. “It’s not just here, it’s everywhere. It’s the island water plant. This happens from time to time. Nothing to do but wait.”
No water. And no food.
Ever since we’d arrived on Saturday night, we’d had no food in our condo. The stores had closed early for New Year’s Eve, and on Sunday they are always closed. No 24 hour Super Walmart’s here. If it wasn’t for the Daniels sending us home with an emergency stash, and for inviting us over for dinner two nights in a row, we would have starved.
So when Monday morning rolled around, we were itching to go grocery shopping. Problem: No stores within walking distance. And no car. Solution: Once again, Daniel’s to the rescue. Cari and I walked over to their place and he drove us to CostULess, the warehouse type store on the island. Think Sam’s Club but nowhere near as classy. And a lot more expensive.
I’ve never had to buy everything all at once. And I mean everything. Imagine if someone came into your house and took every last ounce of food and you had to start over. Now imagine you are doing this at prices that are comparable to New York City.
To thank Karla and Steve Daniels for all the help they’d given us, that evening we invited their three young boys to come hang at our place while they went on a date. It was the least we could do after all they’d done for us.
Still no internet, phone or car. But at least we had water!
Much of the day was spent on campus getting Cari registered and taking care of boring paperwork. We also went to the business fair I described here, and we brought the kids up to campus, mostly so Andi could get online and set a time to Skype with Lily, her friend from St. Cloud. The kids hit the pool in the afternoon, but otherwise it was a low key day.
Highlight: We met our neighbors, Jason and Kristen and their nine year old son Noah. Jason is a second semester student at AUC, so we will be here together for sixteen months. Good people!
Enough is enough already. It’s time to put this whole no-internet thing to rest. Permanently. After a morning of cleaning and doing laundry while Cari attended some mandatory pre-semester meetings for new students, I rented a car, drove to Philipsburg and acquired the means to get us online. When I returned, there was much rejoicing as we all splurged on Internet access and the ability to finally communicate with friends and family both here and back home.
One of the fringe benefits of the trip into Philipsburg: I stumbled across the Little League stadium where I just happened to find a team practicing. I spoke with the coach and told him I had an eleven year old son who was dying to play some baseball. The conversation was fascinating and worthy of its own post, which will come soon.
The kids also hung out at one of the three pools on the property. Piper has a new word: Mimming! Translations: Swimming. I know it’s annoying when people brag about their kids, but it really is dang cute when piper says, “Daddy I’m going mimming!”
And of course, there is a very heavy European influence around here, which means people often dress like Europeans when spending time around water. We’ve already been exposed to a healthy dose of topless women hanging out at the pool. One of them got mad at our kids for splashing and making noise. “I’m trying to enjoy my holiday. Please stop splashing!” I told them if she ever says something like that again to just say back, “You’re just here on ‘holiday’, but we live here.”
We still had the rental car, so we took advantage. Still lacking from our kitchen were a few basic essentials that the giant warehouse CostULess was either missing, or had but was too expensive to buy there. Andi, Tanner, Piper, Michelle and I made our first visit to Le Gourmet Marché, the small neighborhood grocery store where I suspect we will do most our shopping.
Highlight: REAL French bread! Like I’ve not had since I lived in France while I was a missionary! Happy, happy daddy!
After putting the groceries away, Andi, Tanner and I walked over to The Caribbean International Academy where we took a semi-tour. I say “semi” because all the doors were locked and nobody was there but Pearl, the assistant giving us the tour. As of this moment, we are still undecided if the kids will be going to school there, or if I will be teaching there. It looks like a good school, but… dang. It’s expensive.
That evening we had a good visit with Cheyenne McGlue and her son Ronan. Cheyenne’s husband is a fifth semester student at AUC which means they only have four months left. She’s a veteran of the island and has, from what I can see, gone out of her way to embrace all it has to offer, more so than many AUC spouses. She home schools her two boys, ages nine and eleven, and she stopped by to tell us about all the ways we can get our kids involved in social activities should we decide to home school Andi and Tanner.
I have not yet mentioned the heat. It’s really HOT down here. And humid. And it’s only winter. Our condo has large southern facing glass patio doors, and in the later afternoon it becomes an absolute oven. We’d picked up a few tips from other families and couples on how to make our condo more temperature friendly without having to run the AC non-stop, which is horrifically expensive.
Today was the day to implement those tips.
We’d decided to keep the rental car one more day, so Andi and I drove to Ace Hardware to pick up a few simple items: a makeshift screen door so we could keep our northern facing front door open, and black-out curtains to cover the large, southern facing patio windows.
The challenge was how to get the screen door home. Andi and I chuckled as we solved the problem island style… we bungee-corded our screen door to the top of the sub-compact rental car and drove it the half hour back to our condo. We both agreed that such an act back home would have drawn stares and laughter, but here we noticed nobody gave us a second look.
Once our new items were in place, a light trade winds breeze blew freely through the apartment and the beating sun no longer penetrated our living room. The difference was profound. And welcome.
And this brings us to today. It’s now almost 8:00 am. Tanner and I have been joined by Mommy who is studying her spinal cord flash cards. And Piper just woke up and will want attention. Time to make some breakfast, and then I think we will actually take an official trip to one of the nearby beaches. We’ve been down to the small little private beach just below our condo complex, but so far we haven’t done a real beach trip.
Today’s the day.