The Nut House Goes House Hunting

All first semester students here at Ross are given the option of living in the on-campus housing (dorms). And I’m not saying that’s a bad option – it puts you in easy walking distance of the main campus, with its ATM, fitness center and eating options, and you meet a lot more people in your class that way – but for us being a married couple, it has definitely had its challenges. We live in an efficiency room, which means we have about 20 square feet of space that serves as bedroom, living room, study area, kitchen and dining room all at once.

Yes, we’re married, and we’re close, but there comes a point where you get TOO close. . .

There are other types of dorm rooms – two bedrooms, and even split-level townhouse-type apartments – but everything is first-come, first-serve. So we have an efficiency. It is what it is.

But everyone has to move off campus for second semester, so we’re house hunting! I think it’s a lot of fun to go around and look at all these places with the realtors, although it would be more fun if we had our own car and didn’t have to call a taxi every time. (Cross your fingers and toes – we should have possession of our car within the next two weeks!)

Our future roommates (M and B) and the Mister and I have looked at a few options with a lot of potential and have our eyes on one in particular, if we can work out some kinks in the rental agreement. I won’t post any pictures or give any real details until we settle on something, since there may be other Rossies reading this trying to hijack our house, but let’s just say the one I like best is a real catch. (I know you’ve already got your fingers and toes crossed, so go ahead and cross those arms and legs too while you’re at it.)

We’ve looked at three so far: two in quiet neighborhood-type areas and one up on the tippy-tip top of a mountain overlooking basically the entire island. The view is breath-taking! But the drive up is pretty frightening, so we’ll have to see how that one goes.

Ross is really good about helping students find housing, and they have an entire website dedicated to listing the available units and showing extensive pictures and details about each one. The school is really good about understanding exactly how much students can be expected to tackle alone in this brand new area and new culture. They conduct security checks on all the properties and list the approved units on the student housing site; they include all student housing in the safety rounds and help write the lease agreements on whatever units we choose. However we are still responsible for setting up our own appointments with the realtors, finding our own roommates and making our own final decisions. You can choose to live somewhere that’s not Ross-approved, but it’s a decision you make at your own risk. And even then, if you ask, they will still send out a security team to conduct the check on your unit and give their professional opinions.

So we’re on another leg of this continuing adventure. But at least we are making friends, learning our way around, testing our wings and trying to make the best of it. So wish us luck in the house hunt. I will soon have an oven again, hallelujah!

 

 

**NOTE: I am trying to start a weekly blog theme called “Top Ten Thursday,” and I am open to any and all topic suggestions you may have. The Top Ten lists can be cultural, like local customs we’ve seen; they can be photographic, like local flowers, birds, colorful headdresses, etc.; they can be personal, like marriage lessons; or they can be how-to tips we’ve used, like about flying internationally or driving on the left side of the road. Anything really. realLeave your suggestions in comments and I’d appreciate it. 🙂

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First Anniversary and a Blogging Award!

So today is the first day of Year Two of my marriage to the Mister, and I’m pretty proud of the way the first year has gone. I don’t think we’ve had any big fights yet (beyond normal irritations) and he has learned to leave muddy shoes at the door, put his clothes in the laundry basket and catch the apartment door before it slams when entering AND LEAVING the house. So I consider it to have been a successful year. 🙂

Our anniversary itself, May 19, was a rather normal Sunday and uneventful as far as Sundays go. We actually celebrated on Saturday by going to see the new Star Trek movie in town and spending a lazy study-free, lab-free, other-people-free afternoon at home. We’d debated going out to eat somewhere, but since all nice restaurants here are priced in US dollars for American tourists (and are therefore, literally, three times as expensive in Eastern Caribbean Dollars) we opted not to do that. But I did cook the Mister’s favorite fish recipe in my tiny kitchenette, so that counts.

—–

The second big thing (and actually the part of this post that I’m more excited about, lol) is that I have been nominated for a Liebster Blog Award by Sarah’s Brand New Chapter, a blog I read regularly. Sarah’s blog is a diary of sorts, but a funny one. She offers insightful comments on both the good and bad aspects of life, marriage, the working world and the constant challenge of learning to love yourself for who you are. You should definitely follow the link and give her page a look!

The Liebster Blogging Award is intended to bring attention to blogs with less than 200 followers (I currently have 190, documented in case that rises in the next short while). Each nominee must follow a set of rules in their announcement post and then nominate 11 other blogs which they feel deserve the same recognition. I’m not sure what the procedure is for a winner to actually be chosen, but regardless I am honored to have been nominated. This little blog has really become much more than I ever thought it would be, with more people interested in my stories than I ever expected, so this is a very, very cool moment.

Liebster Award

Nominated by Sarah’s Brand New Chapter, May 2013

Here are the rules:

1. Thank your Liebster Blog Award presenter on your blog and link back to the blogger who presented this award to you.

2. Answer the 11 questions from the nominator, list 11 random facts about yourself and create 11 questions for your nominees.

3. Present the Liebster Blog Award to 11 blogs of 200 followers or less who you feel deserve to be noticed and leave a comment on their blog letting them know they have been chosen. (No tag backs)

4. Copy and Paste the blog award on your blog

 

First, Sarah’s questions:

1. What got you started blogging in the first place? How long have you been blogging? I’ve had several failed blogs in the past, the first of which I think was a wordpress about myself and the seven girls I lived with in college and how we could have fun without being drunk or high all the time. Obviously, that never went anywhere. I started this blog as an exercise in column-writing, since that’s the only position I would want if I ever need to someday work for a newspaper. I enjoy writing in a conversational, humorous style and thought I might entertain friends and family with our newlywed antics. This blog started in February of 2012, even though we didn’t get married until May 19, 2012. I didn’t make the blog public until shortly after (or before. . .  I don’t remember) the wedding.

2. Tell me what your ideal vacation would be like. Well it would not be to the beach, I’ll tell you that much. Although I have learned to enjoy the smooth, cool Caribbean sand and the sound of waves on the shore (which is kindof a necessity here). My ideal vacation would be somewhere beautiful and quiet, like up in the mountains, close to a larger town to explore and with a theme park and roller-coasters nearby. No idea where that would be. Lol!

3. Who are two famous people who are currently dead that you wish weren’t? Why? I actually have a list of dead people I would like to talk to. I guess if I had to pick two, I would say King Henry VIII and Abraham Lincoln. I pick Henry because I have a strange fascination with his life and his wives and the entire English monarchy from the War of the Roses to the present. I don’t know why, but I like to read historical books about them and learn about the family tree and the succession of the throne over the years. I puck Abraham because I am also fascinated with the American Civil War and the issues surrounding it, and I think it would be cool to talk to him about the choices he made and how he felt about them at the time, and maybe how he feels about them now.

4. I say, “Chocolate.” You say “_____________”? Please send me some!! Chocolate is hard to find here, and when you do find it it melts before you can get it home. 😦

5. Name at least one person who has made you who you are today. Wow that’s hard. My parents and family and best friends, obviously. My husband. A not so obvious one? The two girls who made my life miserable in the 5th and 6th grades. My heart will probably speed up every time I climb onto a school bus or walk into a crowded cafeteria for the rest of my life, but in retrospect, they did teach me a lot about standing up for myself.

6. What is your pick-me-up song after a bad day? Anything Disney (classic Disney; none of this new-age digital animation stuff)

7. If you were on death row and had a last meal request, what would it be? Haha! This makes me laugh because this answer is very different now than it would have been back home. Back home, it would have been something extravagant. Now, it’s really just a heaping plate from Cracker Barrel.

8. What is your favorite article of clothing? A comfortable hoodie

9. If you were President, what would be your first order of business? Get out the budget sheet (if it’s not in a neat spreadsheet I would have someone do that for me) and then start marking down all those things that aren’t necessary. Like congressional vacation perks, welfare for those who’ve not been looking for employment for more than four months, and food stamps for anyone who’s gone through a checkout line with a cart of food stamps and then pays cash for a cartload of beer.

10. “Party like it’s 1999!” What was going on in your life that year? I was nine. I think I was in the 4th grade and had just moved back from living in Panama. I spent almost every afternoon playing with Corey Gossett on our backyard swing set.

11. Who is your favorite Lord of the Rings character? (And if you haven’t seen it, go and do that ASAP, fool.) Ugh. Lord of the Rings. I watched those movies under duress and really wish I could get all those hours of my life back. (Sorry Sarah. . . )

11 Facts About Me

1. I hate making lists of facts about myself. Lol. But rules are rules, I suppose.

2. Sometimes I still wish I had gone to medical school and been a pediatrician like I originally wanted to.

3. When I’m angry, I have long conversations with the voices in my head, pretending they are other people and saying all the things I wish I could say and get away with. My husband thinks I’m crazy.

4. I am an introvert who has to struggle to be an extrovert when I job demands it. I like to be around people and be social, but after a few hours I get drained and just want to go home and be by myself.

5. I am somewhat addicted to Grey’s Anatomy, which I’m rewatching from the beginning on Netflix.

6. I hate washing dishes so much that I would almost live on disposable dishware.

7. I’m super excited about the very faint tan line on my shoulders. I’ve never had a tan before.

8. My first kiss was with my husband. Not necessarily on purpose, but it just worked out that way.

9. I love high heels and tennis shoes, but hate flats.

10. I’ve only recently come to terms with being barefoot. I still don’t like it much.

11. For some reason I’ve always liked the hecticness of hospitals and airports.

My Liebster Blogging Award Nominee

Veterinarianess — (Most of the blogs I follow have larger followings, and of the smaller blogs this is the only one I would nominate. She does a very good job chronicling life as a vet student and post-grad.)

11 Questions for my Nominee

1. How did you originally get started blogging?

2. If you could write a book on any topic or from any era, what would it be?

3. What is your favorite movie or genre and why?

4. Have you had any “eureka!” moments in your life and what were they about?

5. What’s the story behind the most meaningful object in your house?

6. If you could have lunch with any person, dead or alive, who would it be and why?

7. Do you have any hidden talents?

8. A client comes into your business and doubts your abilities because you are a woman. How do you respond?

9. If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?

10. Describe your favorite pair of shoes. What do you think they say about you?

11. Where do you see yourself in five years?

So you wanna go limin?

The Nut House’s Top Ten Things Learned in the First Two Weeks

1. “To Lime” means to hang out.

2. Do not wear jeans before 6 p.m. or you may very well die of a heat stroke.

3. There are approximately 40,000 people living on St. Kitts. There are 80,000 monkeys. And they are not afraid of you.

4. Drive on the LEFT side of the road!! And don’t watch when your taxi/bus driver drives. . . they are vicious.

5. Sticker shock is a real disease and should not be taken lightly. To minimize the side effects, divide all store prices by 3 (or by 2.6, if you’re good at math) to estimate the U.S. dollar amount. Prepare yourself, because it still will not be pleasant.

6. Check expiration dates on everything you buy and examine all boxes and bags for signs of holes and bugs.

7. Go out to eat before you are hungry, because by the time you get your food, you will be hungry. Don’t expect dinner to take less than 2.5-3 hours.

8. Expect there to be sand everywhere. Even when you didn’t walk through any sand, touch any sand or bring any sand into the house, it will still somehow end up in your bed.

9. Do not swim in unmarked areas. Yes, the beach and the water are beautiful, but the bottom is guarded by sea urchins and fire coral. (9b. Do not touch the fire coral.)

10. Ross University is kind of like Fort Knox. If you do not have your I.D., you will not get in. (Unless you get the nice security guard that knows you and likes you and will take your ridiculous story about losing your I.D. card to a monkey.)

[11. Because this needs to be said for the sake of all who may someday come to visit us – everything down here involves alcohol. All the restaurants serve alcohol. All the beaches have bars. All the locals and students get drunk everywhere. It’s just something you’re all going to have to deal with and work around when/if you come. If you can’t deal with it, you might as well not waste the money.]

Be Careful What You Complain About

So my second “moment of clarity” is actually a series of moments from last Sunday (May 5th). The Mister and I were able to attend church services for the first time here on the island, and I was struck by several things over the course of the morning and evening services.

1. I, as an American Christian, am spoiled beyond belief.

Our taxi drops us off in front of the building and the first thing I notice is that the doors and windows are all wide open. We quickly discovered this is because the building has no air conditioning, which should not have been surprising, since electricity is an incredibly expensive luxury here on the island. The building is stifling hot, despite the ceiling fans and brief breezes from the coast, yet all the attendees are still modestly and respectfully dressed to worship the Lord. The evening service was slightly cooler, but mosquitos buzzed around our heads, a small lizard climbed the wall behind the pulpit and at one point a bat flew in the open door and hunted moths over our heads for several minutes. When was the last time that happened at home?

I won’t say it was all I could think about, because I did enjoy and appreciate the sermon and the worship service, but a prominent thought in my mind throughout was, “What would the little old ladies say about this?” Every congregation has those individuals who want to complain about how hot or cold the building is or how uncomfortable the seating is; we all know who they are. I would just like to remind them, and you, if you are one of those people, to say a prayer of thanksgiving every time someone goes to adjust the thermostat for you. Be thankful you have a thermostat to be adjusted, because so many of our brethren don’t.

2. We, as American Christians, often keep ourselves too secluded.

The doors and windows of this church building are wide open throughout the services. The minister, Brother Prentiss (they all use “brother” and “sister” here), speaks through a microphone, not caring that his words are booming out over Five Points (an outskirt section of Basseterre, the capitol) and might be disturbing someone in a house nearby. Our singing drifts out over the streets and housetops, not caring that someone might be trying to sleep or study. The gospel is for all; the gospel should be shouted from the rooftops; the gospel should not be shut inside a building and only available to those who venture inside.

3. The gospel is everywhere. Christians are everywhere. Christ will not be stamped out and conquered.

The Mister and I were surprised to learn of two St. Kitts congregations and one on nearby Nevis while we were still in the U.S. We go to worship on Sunday morning believing this to be true. There are two other new Ross students there, and two more regularly attending students expected back from break next week. Sunday night, on our way out to the main road to meet our ride to evening services, we are approached by a Ross security guard asking where we are headed. It turns out he is a Christian as well and worships with a third congregation just south of Basseterre. On a piece of land in the middle of the ocean, where we thought there would be few Christians, there is a Sunday school teacher guarding our dormitories.

It turns out there are three congregations on St. Kitts and two on Nevis. The largest, the one we’ve visited, has about 75 people on a good Sunday morning. The others range in size from about 35-50. They are just like our congregations at home. They worship three times a week, have a similar order of services and sing the same songs in the same ways. They have visiting preachers and singing services, and they have social gatherings and enjoy each other’s company (albeit they have potlucks on the beach, whereas we go to SportsCom). They greeted us like family and welcomed us into their arms. We are all connected. God is everywhere.

4. The gospel is still relevant, no matter where you are.

Sunday morning the Mister and I sat in the sweltering heat of the church building and swatted away the constant flies. We listened to the scripture reading and struggled to understand the heavy island accent reading in the King’s English. I thought of the beautiful (air conditioned) buildings of home and missed the beautiful singing. I thought about how coming to all three services might interfere with the Mister’s study and exam schedule, about how much it would cost per week to take a taxi to worship, about how it is hard to concentrate in such heat. I thought these might be good reasons to only worship on Sunday mornings and perhaps study alone in our apartment on the other nights.

Then the sermon was on excuses.

I have been struck on several occasions in my life with the feeling that a sermon was delivered especially for me. This time, the irony slapped me in the face. Satan wants to see if we will use our new surroundings as an easy excuse to drift away from God. If we take these excuses now, what’s to keep us from someday using crying children, hectic work schedules or unwashed dishes as reasons to avoid worship services? Life will always have mountains to climb, but as long as we keep our priorities in order the rest will work out. The Mister may have a lot to study, but if God is first, his schooling will work out. Our money belongs to the Lord first anyway, but if getting to service is the first priority, our finances will work out as well. (And already have, since we’re now on the pick-up list for the various members that run around the island picking people up each week.)

The gospel is the same, no matter where you go. Truth is always truth, sin is always sin, and God is always listening. You just have to be paying attention when He sends His answer.

The Missus has a Moment of Clarity

Actually, that title should be moments of clarity because there have been several this week already, and it’s only Tuesday night. (I’ll explain the most important now and leave the second for another post, to avoid creating a short novel.)

Last week, I was pretty miserable. That’s not really a secret to anyone I’ve talked to, emailed or blogged with since we left the United States. Actually, I was pretty miserable up until sometime during last night’s (Monday’s) white coat ceremony. Even while getting dressed and walking over to the auditorium, I was ashamed of myself because I knew it was an important milestone in the Mister’s life, but I just couldn’t make myself be excited about it. In my mind, it was just somewhere else I had to go in my job of following him around.

But that changed somewhere during the keynote speaker. A Ross graduate, this woman has been studying neurological diseases in dachshunds and using her research to potentially find a way to cure a similar lysosomal disease in human children. She talked about all the places she has worked, the research she has done and the good she is doing for both the animal and human worlds. Then I watched the Mister get his white coat, which symbolizes the official start of his veterinary career, and some light bulb in my head flicked on.

This is not just a college on a cool island that the Mister wanted to come to for the fun of it. This is not just a joyride he dragged me on because he thought it would be an adventure. This is veterinary school, something he has wanted his entire life, and it will prepare him for the rest of his life supporting me and our future children. He didn’t bring me here to make my life difficult; he brought me here to help him ultimately make my life easier.

Boy did that punch me in the gut.

I’m here because I can help keep him on track and focused, push him in the right directions and remind him what he’s working so hard for. And here I’ve spent the last 11 days moping and crying and wanting to go home.

So I made myself a promise that I’m going to be supportive and helpful while I’m here. I may not like everything about this place, and I may have a lot of reasons to want to go home, but I am going to do my best to make sure coming home is the best part of the Mister’s day, rather than the worst. I’m going to do my best to make sure he doesn’t waste time worrying about me and feeling bad about having brought me here when he could be studying. I’m going to be productive; I’m going to make friends; I’m going to learn about the island and its people and their culture and I’m going to absorb as much of it as I can. Because, in the end, what good is the experience without the stories?

(Although I will never get used to sweet ketchup and squash in alfredo sauce. Ever.)

The Mister and I after his white coat ceremony.

The Mister and I after his white coat ceremony.

Oh – and as always, there are more photos at www.flickr.com/photos/chesnuthouse. Although I’ve reached my free upload limit so I’m going to have to find another way to share photos with you guys in the future.

And so the journey begins

Well it’s been a rollercoaster week for the Nut House. We left my parents’ house at 5:30 a.m. last Saturday, with me not having slept in 48 hours from nerves and stress. Our plane left Nashville at 8 and then our connection left Charlotte, NC, at 11 without any problems. We actually got to the island a bit earlier than planned, even though the flight was long and boring. We did end up sitting next to a very nice lady and her husband who were headed to the island on vacation, and got to talk to several other new Ross students while waiting in the immigration line. The airport here is just a tarmac and one room where you wait to go through customs.

From there our orientation leader (Caitlin, who is wonderful, by the way) took our orientation group to the grocery store to pick up some snacks and a few basic things for our new apartments. On the way there, Caitlin advised us to check the expiration dates on everything, open cereal boxes to check for bugs in the bags, and remember to divide by three to estimate the US dollar value of items. That was definitely a culture shock. We had been warned that shopping would be expensive, but when the sticker by the toilet paper says 32.75 for six rolls…. that was a shocker. Granted, that’s about 10 US dollars, which is better than 32 but still very expensive. (Prices are all listed in Eastern Caribbean dollars, which are about 2.6 to one US dollar.) Then our group went to dinner and saw some of the other groups out as well, which was very disheartening because everyone here drinks. A LOT. The Mister and I are not drinkers, so that has made for several uncomfortable meals since we’ve arrived.

Sunday we were not able to go to church services, since we don’t yet know how to find addresses here or how to navigate the public transportation. We hope to start attending somewhere in the next week or so once we can figure all that out. Instead, Sunday was IT day, where all the students got their electronic devices set up on the school wireless network. This was the first instance where I realized that my status as a VIP (a spouse, child or significant other) is very different from the Mister’s status as a student. I had been told I would be able to attend all the orientation sessions with him and move through the process as a couple. Well, that is not entirely true. The IT workers were not able to add my laptop to any of the wireless networks because I am not a student, and I had to beg them to add my iPad. Even then, I’m not allowed to have my own log in information; I have to use the Mister’s student information.

This has been true at all the orientation sessions I have attended. The school employees have, for the most part, been nice to me, but that doesn’t change the fact that I am constantly hearing, “This is not for you,” “You can’t do that,” “You can’t use this building,” etc. I know there must be other VIPs here with students, but I have only met one in passing. He is a fiancé to a student and was running against many of the same walls. So at least it’s not just me.

I did have one unpleasant encounter though at the immigration table. All the students were able to process their student visa paperwork at “one stop” on Monday, and I had never been told I couldn’t process my paperwork there as well. (I will not have a student visa, but I do have to apply for a visitor’s extension.) I had all my paperwork filled out, signed and in the order listed in our welcome packet. I approached the table and let them know I am a VIP, and the woman asked for the paperwork from my packet when I arrived on the island. I gave her the forms I had filled out that morning, and she insisted that I did not have them all. However she would not tell me which form I was missing so I could look for it in my stack. Then she saw my other paperwork and started yelling that none of that was for me, I had done everything wrong and I hadn’t read any of the instructions. Which is not true, I followed the instructions backwards and forwards. So when I finally convinced her that I did have everything in order, she yelled at me to pick up my papers and stop cluttering her desk (I only had my one neat pile). Apparently VIPs can’t be processed until next week. She could have just told me that instead of making me feel and look stupid in front of a whole line of people.

Unfortunately this is the same woman who runs the VIP program. Needless to say, it was not a good first impression. Maybe she will make up for it at the meeting next Monday.

I have had fun on our two trips to various beaches this week, however. I am adjusting to the presence of sand on everything and have even managed to avoid much of a sunburn. Which for me is a small miracle in and of itself. Last night our group met the other groups on “The Strip,” which is a length of each where all the beach bars are, and played sand volleyball until the sun went down. I like volleyball, but I chose to walk along the beach and recharge my solitary batteries instead; but the Mister’s team won the orientation group tournament. We have gotten to know and like the members of our group pretty well, and we generally have fun together.

Right now I am in our apartment while the Mister is in some sort of leadership training seminar. I’ve been going to the orientation seminars for fear of missing some important piece of useful information, but so far nothing has applied to me. Hopefully this will improve next week when I’m able to meet other VIPs and start making friends who don’t talk about emergency surgery procedures all the time. It’s definitely a downer to be the only person at a table of eleven who doesn’t understand what the conversation is about.

Prayers for both of us are appreciated. The Mister starts classes on Monday and receives his white coat and takes the veterinary oath that night, a ceremony which will be broadcast live over the internet. Anyone who is interested can go to http://www.rossu.edu, select ross veterinary school across the top, click the academic events calendar on the left, and then look for “white coat ceremony” under Monday, May 6 from 4-6 eastern, 3-5 central time.