Top Ten Thursday – Starting Second Semester

This week’s top ten Thursday is going to be a quick list of five reasons why I can’t wait for break to be over and five reasons why I’m sad for it to end.

I can’t wait for break to be over…
1. Because we’ll be down to only one dog (that I’m responsible for) and all our friends will be back on the island.
2. Because we’re going to try to retrain Meera to potty when the Mister goes to school and then go back to sleep until I wake up (which hopefully means I’ll be getting more sleep).
3. Because all our stuff will be in the same house and we will (hopefully) have our own car back and (hopefully) have internet throughout the whole house.
4. Because we’ll have a pool in our front yard to chill out in.
5. Because it means we are that much closer to my mom and grandparents coming to visit in October and to us going home for Christmas.

I’m sad that it’s ending because…
1. I won’t see my husband again until Christmas break.
2. We’ll have roommates again, and while I really like our roommates, it’s been nice being able to wander around the house in my underwear because it’s too hot to put real clothes on.
3. I’ve only just gotten the Mister to stop talking about classes and exams in every single conversation and now all the jibberish is going to start up again.
4. The Mister will be back to playing beach volleyball on Friday nights, which means having to sit in the hot sand like a good supportive wife while trying to half listen to, half tune out the conversations around me.
5. The Mister’s stress level is going to go back through the roof, this time with little-to-no air conditioning at the house.

The Island Car Chronicles

So when I wrote and posted “From Four-legged Children, on Two-legged Children” I only did that because I thought it was Monday and therefore time for a new post. Obviously I am more messed up than I thought I was.

But, even when I start to worrying about running out of post material, something always seems to pop up at the last moment and prove itself worthy of Nut House fame. This week, it’s the island car chronicles.

We bought our car a few weeks into the semester (remember this post?) and didn’t have any major issues with it for a while. That is, until the transmission FELL OUT during the Mister’s finals week. Quite literally.

I was driving home from a VIP event the Tuesday night of finals week and the car suddenly made a loud POP! and started skidding and grinding metal in the middle of a roundabout. Thankfully there is a gas station at the edge of this particular roundabout and I was able to pull in and grind to a stop before I was rear-ended or veered into oncoming traffic. I got out thinking I had just blown a tire, but upon trying to restart the car I was greeted by the most horrendous screeching noise ever heard by man. The gas station attendants helped me push it to an actual parking space, since it obviously wasn’t going anywhere by itself.

The Mister came to rescue me and, with the help of a Ross security patrol car, we were able to go home and call a mechanic in the morning. We made a down payment today on what turns out to be a complete rebuild of the transmission (an axle snapped, thus the screeching and no-wheels-turning problem).

But it’s not just our car, oh no. That would be way too easy.

The girl who brought Matthew to come rescue me got to the gas station and discovered a huge hole in her transmission hose, causing her car to leak all over the parking lot and become unsafe to drive back that night. She also left her vehicle at the station and rode back with us in the security car.

The next morning, a friend tried to drive the three of us back to the gas station so we could meet with the mechanic and discuss our options. His car wouldn’t start when we got in. Another friend helped us move to our temporary place a few days later and she also discovered a battery problem.

Now the car we’ve been borrowing over the break has a major power steering fluid leak and popped a tire, which we had patched this morning.

IS EVERYTHING WE TOUCH FALLING APART???!!!

Some days I wonder, I really do.

I haven’t done the research on how much it would have cost to ship a car to the island, but I’m starting to wonder if it wouldn’t have been more cost-effective to ship a reliable car here and then sell it to another student when we leave. But of course then, with our luck lately, something would have gone wrong and there would be no mechanic on the island who knows how to fix something that isn’t already a piece of junk.

Island cars – 5. Chesnuts – 0.

On the bright side, however, we seem to have chosen one of the island’s only mechanics with a sense of timeliness, so he estimates our work will be done by the end of this week – thankfully just in time to start the new semester.

One semester to go until Christmas vacation. It’s so hot here, I think I’m going to get off the airplane in Nashville and purposefully stand outside without a coat just so I can appreciate the sensation of freezing to death.

From Four-legged Children, on Two-legged Children

I realized this weekend that I completely forgot about having a Thursday post. If anyone noticed, I apologize. If you didn’t notice, my feelings are hurt. But either way, if you’d been part of the week the Mister and I have had, you would understand.

We’re still living in puppy land waiting for our new apartment to be move-in ready. We are a bit disappointed with the way the housing situation is going, since our new landlord assured us that our apartment would not only be cleaned quickly and ready for us to move in over the break, but also that there would be no problems with the unit and that it would come stocked with basic kitchen appliances, utensils, cookware and tableware. None of these things has turned out to be true. She told us the house was ready for us to start moving in yesterday, but when we arrived with a load of our belongings we found the bathrooms in mid-repair, half the house dirty and electrical wires hanging out of the wall in a state of mid-examination. Welcome to St. Kitts, one of the few places in the world where unkept promises and terrible service are both expected and considered acceptable.

We’ve also had three more centipede encounters since my last post, the last two of which were a fully-grown 10+ inches long and one of which bit a friend’s foot and caused lots of screaming and panic on all sides.

But the biggest revelation from this past week is the constant reaffirmation of the fact that the Mister and I are not mentally or physically prepared to have children, third world country or not.

You parents out there will read this post and laugh at our expense, I’m sure. But, to make up for not having a Top Ten Thursday list last week, I will give you a Top Twenty-two list of valuable lessons these puppies have taught me about my parenting future.

1. In one episode of The Big Bang Theory, Sheldon explains that women are naturally more likely to be woken by high-pitched noises so we will be able to hear our babies crying. I have proven this absolutely true, as I seem to be able to hear the tinkle of a dog tag through concrete walls and floors with two fans whirring and from a deep sleep.
2. There are not enough toys in the world to occupy three children (or in our case puppies, which are basically the same thing). The floor is covered in chew toys, plush animals and tinkling balls of all shapes and sizes, but the only toy worth playing with is the one currently in someone else’s mouth.
3. They will never give you enough sleep. Ever. Even on the one morning they mercifully allow you to go back to sleep on the couch, it will still be an intermittent nap, punctuated by frequent yelps and shouts of “No! We don’t chew on people’s faces!”
4. You have to constantly be making sure they are chewing on something acceptable and not destroying mommy’s best pair of flip-flops.
5. If they all suddenly go quiet, that’s not permission to relax. That’s a sign to get off the couch in panic and make sure you can account for all of them. (See item #4.)
6. You punish them and sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. And then sometimes it backfires. Like when you swat one for howling senselessly in the middle of the night and you wake in the morning to a pool of retaliatory pee in the kitchen floor.
7. Listening skills deteriorate over time, especially when the listener in question seems to feel that your commands are increasingly irrelevant. Why would I let you take me inside to protect me from a giant poisonous bug when I could be running through the tall grass in the dark getting stung all on my own?
8. Some things in life are certain, like death and taxes. Poop schedules are not one of those things.
9. They are always hungry. Always. Even if they just ate a heaping bowl of food and then stole some from the other children. They will still eat mouthfuls of paper in order to chew into the food bag and find some more.
10. Loud noises are often made for no logical reason other than to annoy the fire out of whoever is in charge at the time.
11. Just because they bark and howl at the unexpected visitor doesn’t mean they won’t run for cover behind mommy’s legs when that stranger tries to touch them.
12. Your dreams revolve around caring for and worrying about them. So much so that you sometimes wonder whether you were ever actually asleep or not.
13. The first few times you lose sight of them outside, you panic and call their names, clapping your hands and running to look around corners. As time goes on, you cease to look and just start to figure they will turn up on their own at some point.
14. When you have three, there will always be one that’s left out. It would probably be easier to have four, that way everyone should always have a playmate. However, if we can’t handle three we certainly should not have four, so we will be stopping at two.
15. They want to sleep all the time…except while you’re asleep. They wake you up at ungodly hours of the morning and then sleep for most of the morning and afternoon and don’t want to go to bed at night. You know that, logically, you should keep them awake during the day so they will sleep at night, but you just don’t have the energy because you’ve been awake since 5:30 a.m.
16. Sometimes they crawl over to be sweet and snuggly. Sometimes they crawl over to let you know they are about to poop all over the place. These actions look EXACTLY THE SAME! Always ere on the side of caution.
17. Sometimes the one you expected to be the most challenging is actually the best-behaved. It’s during these moments when you do a double-take to make sure you still have all the right ones.
18. You become overly concerned with bathroom habits. Who pooped and how long ago? How much? Did it look normal? When did they pee? About how much came out? Etc.
19. Things that never seemed complicated before, like leaving the house to pick up a pizza with friends, suddenly require a ridiculous amount of preplanning.
20. You begin to take an absurd number of pictures and post them online. These pictures will all feature the exact same thing and you will check back frequently to make sure everyone in the online world appreciates them as much as you feel like they should. If they don’t, you will take this as a personal offense and consider using this criteria to clean out your friends list.
21. At the end of the day, no matter how much they’ve driven you crazy, it still breaks your heart to hear them whine about going to bed alone.
22. There really is nothing better than warm snuggle time.

What lessons did your children (or your pets) teach you about parenting? Did you learn anything you didn’t expect to learn?

Three dogs, two people, one poisonous insect… 116 legs

**CAUTION: This post contains pictures which may be disturbing to some audiences.**

As I explained in last Thursday’s post, this week is crawling with puppies for me and the Mister. What it’s not supposed to be crawling with, however, is hundred-legged nightmares.

Meet the Caribbean centipede.

caribbean centipede

These little terrors can grow to be more than ten inches in length and have poisonous bites and stings that can cause extreme pain, swelling and other adverse reactions to both humans and animals. They are largely nocturnal, prefer tall grassy areas and are unaffected by most insect poisons, including the ones that have been banned in the United States. (Yes, we use those here.)

The Mister had only ever seen a dead baby centipede and I had never seen one at all… until last night.

A departing seventh semester vet student saw my online wanted ad for a large dog bed for Meera and offered to give us hers if we were willing to come pick it up. We don’t turn down free stuff – we’re not stupid – so we went to retrieve the bed yesterday afternoon. It is essentially a giant fabric bag containing the biggest lumpy pillow I’ve ever seen. It took us the entire back seat of the car we were driving! We weren’t completely sure if it would work or not – it took up almost half of Meera’s kennel – but we stuffed it in and flattened it out as best we could and waited for her to arrive.

The afternoon passed normally. Meera arrived and made friends with Kylie, our first puppy-sitting charge, and everyone seemed happy. Then bedtime arrived. Meera will sleep in a kennel sometimes during the day, but does not like being locked up in them. We have to crate her at night though because she is still in the chewing phase of her puppyhood; but we couldn’t put her water bowl in the kennel with the giant pillow! So the Mister pulled it out to lay it in the floor.

And then the dreaded insect emerged from its lumpy lair.

“ERIN! BRING SOMETHING QUICK!” the Mister yelled to me in the kitchen. Since this is a rather ambiguous request, I went to see what was the matter.

The Mister was holding the puppies out at arms’ length in opposite directions while he straddled something I couldn’t see on the floor.

“Take the dogs! Where’s my backpack?! Bring me something heavy!”

That’s when I saw it… at least four inches long (relatively small, actually) and waving its little stingers around. I couldn’t find anything heavy enough (the only way to kill a centipede is to crush it and cut it apart), so the Mister picked up Meera’s kennel in a panic and slammed it onto the creepy-crawly. His Leatherman pocket knife separated the head from the maimed body and we both sat back, adrenaline rushing and puppies going crazy as the hundred legs continued to move independent from a working nervous system.

caribbean centipede in our house

“IT TOUCHED ME!! IT CRAWLED ACROSS MY LEG!!” the Mister exclaimed over and over as he rushed for the shower.

That thing had been in that dog bed all day long! It had been in the car with us and in the living room for hours. We had handled the bed multiple times during the day! We almost locked our precious puppy up with it. Things could have been much worse. But luckily the Mister was not stung, neither of the dogs were hurt and it didn’t run away before we could kill it (those buggers are fast and evil!).

Needless to say, I carried the bed outside at arm’s length and dumped it on the porch until I can find the guts to carry it all the way out to the dumpsters. It might be perfectly fine now, but there is no way we’re keeping it without a way to know for 100% certainty that there aren’t anymore poisonous insects living in it. (It’s too big anyway, and at least it was free.)

Now, I can hear some of you back home shaking your head and wondering, “Ok, so you killed a bug. Why is this such a big dramatic event?” But you don’t understand. Yes, it’s just a bug. But it’s a bug that strikes fear even into the hearts of natives who have been here their entire lives. The first thing the locals ask when you are introduced as a student is, “So have you seen a centipede yet?”

caribbean centipede eating a lizard
(Yes, that is a centipede eating a lizard…)

And now I unfortunately have to say that yes, yes I have.

If you want to learn more about the Caribbean centipede (for some reason…) visit this site.
——————
[On a completely non-bug-related note, the Mister got his grades back Friday night and passed his first semester of vet school. Watch out, second semester! The Mister is coming for you!]

Top Ten Thursday – It Is Finished

All the questions have been answered and the bubbles darkened. Study rooms have been cleared of debris and the students who aren’t rushing to catch flights home are curled up in darkened bedrooms sleeping off three weeks’ worth of stress and sleep deprivation. We have survived our first four months on this floating rock. Finals are over, and whatever will be, will be. The only thing left to do is wait anxiously for grades to be posted this weekend.

Well, that and become parents. (Puppy-parents, that is.)

This first island break is going to be an interesting one, I’m sure. First of all, we’re moving out of our tiny dorm room (thank heavens!) and into a much larger apartment with a set of roommates. Secondly, we’re bringing home not only our puppy, Meera (we decided to keep her island name), but we’re also taking in two additional dogs for the duration of the break.

The August break is two weeks long, starting today and going until classes start again on the first Monday in September. Students are required to move out of the dormitories by this Saturday, but our new apartment won’t be cleaned and ready for us to move in until the end of next week. So another student/VIP pair has graciously allowed us to stay in their home while they are gone for the break. In exchange, we’re dog-sitting their sweet island puppy, Kylie. A third dog, Roy, got added to the deal somewhere along the way and will be staying with us as well. Kylie and Roy are already good friends, so we’re hoping Meera will get along with both of them too.

Our apartment will be ready for us by the second week, and we hope to take all three dogs to our new place, rather than leaving Kylie and Roy alone in the other house for a week. (Of course we would go over each day to feed and walk them, but it just seems unfair to expect them to sleep contentedly for seven days straight.) It’ll be an action-packed two weeks, I’m sure, but at least we’ll be making a little bit of money and keeping ourselves busy while the majority of our friends are off-island.

We hope to get to explore and appreciate the island a bit more while the Mister’s not in classes as well. We already have reservations to go to Lobster Fest at Reggae Beach this coming Friday night, and we also hope to explore some of the less-popular beaches and possibly visit some of the tourist attractions in the area. I would love to stay overnight on both Nevis and Statia at some point, but that might not be possibly this time since we’ll have all the dogs to feed.  

Nevis is the island immediately to the south of St. Kitts and is part of the Federation of St. Christopher and Nevis (obviously). We’ve been told that we must visit the old sugarcane plantations and the natural healing hot springs, as well as the island’s botanical gardens. All the taxi drivers and tour guides will tell you that Alexander Hamilton – on US $10 bills – was born on Nevis and his grandfather is buried on St. Kitts not far from Ross University. Nevis is also a popular destination for celebrities.

Statia, however, is often forgotten. Eustatius (nicknamed Statia) is a tiny island just to the north of St. Kitts. According to the tourism website, the island is largely undeveloped and is a very good example of how Caribbean island life was before everything started to be so commercialized. There is a botanical garden, a bird sanctuary, lots of beautiful hiking trails and picturesque old Caribbean villages with their local art and traditions. I definitely want this to be an item on our island bucket list.

So, because it’s Thursday and I’m expected to have a Top Ten list (something I forgot about until just now), here are a few items on my island life bucket list.

1. Spend a night or two in a plantation bed and breakfast on Nevis

2. Visit Statia

3. Watch the baby sea turtles return to the sea

4. Go ziplining through the rain forest

5. Ride the Scenic Railway

6. See a pelican catch a fish in its mouth

7. Successfully go snorkeling

8. Teach my dog to swim in the ocean

9. Hike to the crater (which is realistically probably not going to happen, since I am anti-sweat and anti-mud. Lol)

10. Visit and photograph all the accessible beaches on the island

Do you have any advice on caring for three puppies at once? What would you add to my bucket list?

The View from the Other Side

Last week a heated argument broke out on one of the many Facebook pages set up for island students (there are two medical schools here in addition to RUSVM). The young woman who started the debate posted about her interaction with a St. Kitts post office employee who charged her an unusual fee for her package and then refused to accept her check in payment. The student pointed out a sign that hangs on the post office desk that clearly states that they do accept checks. The employee said that they only accept local checks and not US checks, clearly assuming the young lady would not have a local form of payment. But we, as students, do have island checking accounts and are issued local checks, which the girl explained. The employee then restated her objection, saying that the post office does not accept checks from STUDENTS.

A Ross employee spoke up in the online debate and insisted that students are not targeted or excluded from doing business with locals and that there is no difference in treatment between students and local customers. That may be the official line, but I am here to tell you that this is not true.

Now, the real issue here is not about whether or not the local post office should charge for shipped packages or what forms of payment businesses should or should not accept. It is about mass judgments and assumptions based on nationality – i.e. racial discrimination.

The three island schools represent a wide variety of countries and ethnic backgrounds. Windsor, a medical school, seems to be largely composed of Indian students and native islanders, from what I have been told by others. The student bodies of the University of Medical and Health Sciences (UMHS) and Ross Veterinary School, however, are predominately white. The Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis is predominately black (albeit, black of various origins; suffice it to say, “not Caucasian”). There is nothing wrong with this. However, there is something wrong when a white student is made to stand in line until all locals have been served first, has honest payment refused, is detained at police checkpoints purposefully set up on exam mornings, or is required to pay a ticket fine for an unenforced offense that locals are seen driving around with every day (like chipped license plates or nonfunctioning headlights or blinkers).

The issues of racism and discrimination have been on my mind a lot since we moved here, and when you spend some time on this island you understand why. I, and I would say probably the majority of Ross students, have never been in the racial minority before. We complain about it, we cry “discrimination!” and argue with officials about the injustice of their accusations . . . but what can we really say? Are these not things all too often experienced by racial minorities in our own country? We just don’t complain as loudly there, because they don’t happen to us.

Yet it’s an odd thing – racism. I want to say that I do not make split-second judgments about those around me based on the color of their skin. I want to say that I do not apply American racial concepts to the black islanders around me because they are an entirely different people with a different history. But I do. And I do not know why I do.

I truly believe that all people have beautiful souls, valued by God, and are deserving of the same courtesies, respects and opportunities. I also believe that any person can be malicious, dangerous and cruel. Yet how many times have I been out shopping alone and felt that prickle of fear go up my spine when a black man approaches? How many times have I had to fight the urge to roll up my car windows as I pass a group of black men on a street corner? I do not automatically have those feelings about white men. I used to tell myself that it was because the men in question fit a certain stereotype – the saggy pants, the backwards hats, the gangster jewelry . . .  but that’s not true either. The locals here do not conform to those stereotypes – they are American-made and American-bred ideas – yet I still fight those same feelings here. Obviously the connecting element is the color of their skin. I do not know when or where I learned this, exactly; I only know that it is something I cannot claim to have avoided.

I would like to say that I will lay aside these judgments and assumptions after having experienced discrimination from the other side. I would like to say I will return to the U.S. with a new respect for racial relationships. But I find myself resenting the locals for their treatment of students. I resent being on the bottom and treated like I am untrustworthy, unreliable and inferior. This in turn cycles back, causing the locals to resent me and my fellow white students for our intrusion into their country and our insistence that we be treated well. We are visitors here, and yet we all too often act like the color of our skin entitles us to something . . .  even though it is their country. (Isn’t it ironic that this perceived sense of entitlement is also what irks so many white Americans about black Americans?)

Somewhere, the cycle must stop. Somewhere, there has to be someone who refuses to be treated differently; but in the exact same place and time, there also has to be someone who refuses to treat people differently. Sadly, it probably will never end. There will probably always be people who hate other people because they are different and there will always be those who lash out. (However, it would help immensely if the media would simply refuse to reward racial acts with extensive coverage, but that is another debate entirely.) But that does not mean nobody should try.

Why shouldn’t it start with us? Why not me? Why not you? Why not start today and see if your attitude toward another person can influence their attitude toward the next? See people as other souls moving through this world in search of an ultimate purpose. See others as Jesus sees you. Love God, so love people – all people – starting now.

Top Ten (almost) Thursday

One major benefit of being a VIP and not a student is that I don’t have to go to class, study or take exams. However, I’m attached to a student who does. So this week’s list is ten eight ways a non-student can tell that final exams are upon us here at Ross. (Assembled with help from my fellow VIPs.)

1. The students are nowhere to be found. There’s not a line to use the ATM. There are vacant tables outside the Student Union during lunch hour. The campus convenience store is empty. There simply are no students anywhere! (The Mister, however, reads this and says the students are everywhere, all the time. Change of perspective, I guess.)
2. Yet somehow, there is nowhere to park anywhere on campus. Not even on the weekends or early in the morning.
3. Every store on the island is out of Red Bull and Diet Coke.
4. You’ll find people sleeping in random places on campus, and students start scheduling power naps into their planners days in advance.
5. VIPs everywhere are scrambling to make a week’s worth of leftovers and flee the house. You see them congregating in abnormal numbers at restaurants, housing complex pools, the Marriott and beach bars for long hours in an effort to escape the strange person who sits at the kitchen table and mutters medical jargon late into the night.
6. The campus sale on Wednesday is more crowded with sellers but less crowded with buyers (the sellers being the only ones with a reason to be outside the lab). The wandering VIP now has his or her choice of whatever items may be available at rock-bottom prices from desperate seventh semesters who are eager to leave the island in two weeks with as little excess baggage as possible.
7. You can’t visit a seventh semester’s house without inevitably leaving with clothing, household goods, jars of spices, nonperishable foodstuffs, cosmetics, lawn chairs and anything else they are frantically trying to get rid of.
8. Everyone is using one of two Facebook statuses: (1) I’m going home in XX days! or (2) I’m not going home this break and I hate all of you who are.

What are a few signs that the end is near at your school?