I open at the close…

It’s 3 a.m. The Mister and I said goodbye to our island family several hours ago and have been trying to wind down and get some sleep since just after 11. Obviously that’s not working so well.

I’ve spent a few hours in that state where you are calm enough to rest but not quite enough to actually sleep, so I don’t feel too terrible right now, although I’m hoping the action of coming upstairs and writing this post will help push me that last little bit into dreamsville. I’m not sure if the Mister is still awake or not – I have a feeling he is – but we’re coping in our separate ways.

This is my last post from the island, which is actually very fitting, since I sat at my mother’s kitchen table at 2 a.m. (Central Time) the night before we originally came here and wrote out my nervousness in a journal much less public than this one.

I know that in a reflection such as this I’m expected to say things like “it was a life-changing experience” and “it was for the best that we came,” but if I’m being honest with myself and with you, I don’t know how true that is. I sort of feel like we’re returning to the States with roughly the same amount of physical, mental and financial material that we left it with, which makes me wonder if we couldn’t just rip out these pages in our history books and piece pre-St. Kitts and post-St. Kitts together like a jigsaw puzzle without any gaps in-between.

The Mister got his chance to try veterinary school, and that is good, but he worked so hard for so long only to get pushed aside in the end by an administration that poses as one “for the good of the students” but is really just about the money.

I don’t know that I am any better about dealing with different kinds of people and cultures, but I was at least forced to give it a shot, and I suppose that is good as well. If nothing else I now have a much greater appreciation for southern hospitality, courtesy and common sense.

There have definitely been both good days and bad days along the way, but I think they ultimately balance each other out into a fairly neutral overall experience. We will of course never forget or be able to replace the friends we’ve made here and the people we will be leaving behind, but I have faith that tonight will not be the last times we see them, Lord willing. They, at least, are the tokens we will cherish most from this chapter of our lives.

I do intend to continue adding to this blog as time goes on, but the main content will obviously have to change as our lives evolve around it. Hopefully there will be updates about jobs, houses and the antics of children in the future, but we’ll just have to see how the world turns.

One thing I can be completely certain about, however, is that after tomorrow I will not be getting on any airplane of my own free will for a very, very long time.

So here’s to change, to starting over and to second chances. Here’s to bumps in the road, broken transmissions and busted radiators. Here’s to the hundreds of slain mosquitoes flushed down our drains, and here’s to a thousand blazing sunrises over a sparkling ocean. Here’s to pelicans, stilt birds and mongooses. Here’s to lying by a pool, watching shooting stars light up a Caribbean sky, listening to the chatter of your best and closest.

Here’s to endings.

And new beginnings.

Here’s to life. Go make it happen.

A New Road to Walk

The night the Mister and I said goodbye to our families before we caught that first flight to the unknown world of St. Kitts, I cried so hard I could hardly speak, and then sat at my parents’ kitchen table from 2a.m. until flight time trying to figure out why I felt such an oppressive weight of doom.

I was convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that we were being sent from our loved ones and exiled into a world of shadowy darkness to chase a dream that – had the system been constructed fairly – the Mister could have followed at a stateside vet school. I know it’s no secret that I’ve not always been the biggest fan of this Kittitian world, but when faced with the immediate prospect of leaving it, I find there are many things I will be sad to leave behind.

I have so many more faithful readers on this humble blog than I ever thought I would gain, and I feel that, since you’ve journeyed with us on our island travels for so long, you deserve to know how they have ended.

Without going into the long details, which will only sound like I’m blaming the school (which I’m going to try not to do), I can explain that the Mister’s final exams last semester did not go as planned – due largely to outside circumstances – and he fell into a loophole in the system not directly addressed by the student handbook. We went through the process to appeal his scores, and found out yesterday that the committee went strictly by the closest handbook rule and decided to release him of his responsibilities as a student and send us home. Where some other students have won their appeals on the same subject, the Mister’s status as having already repeated a course meant he was gleaned from the flock as a matter of “principle.”

The man responsible for handing the Mister the committee’s final decision told him he had not slept well Tuesday night because of it and felt terrible to be delivering the envelope.

However, technicalities and finger-pointing set aside, the decision has been made and the Mister and I are getting our island affairs in order and plan to return stateside by the end of the month. Thankfully we’ve been blessed with families who won’t leave us out in the streets and friends who work in industries where the Mister can look for a job. I myself have applied for a public relations position back home and have a few other possibilities to look into once we get back.

This is not the end of the road for us, but merely the start of a new path. We know we will be ok in the end, even if the going is rough here for a while. It is better to have tried and failed than to have never tried at all, and we have learned so much from this experience that will shape us into better adults in the future.

Prayers and good thoughts are always appreciated, and if you know of anything in the middle Tennessee area that is hiring or might be looking for workers like us, please let us know.

–The Missus

Aaaannnnnd we’re back!

Hey readers, I know it’s been a long hiatus these past few weeks, but the Mister and I are safely back on the island and readjusting ourselves to loose brakes and stringy chicken as we speak. ūüôā

The vacation was wonderful and definitely necessary for our sanity. We got to spend time with most of the family and saw a lot of good friends at a beautiful wedding the first weekend we were home. We went to the zoo and canoed down the mighty Duck River, roasted marshmallows over a backyard fire, replenished my yarn supply for this semester’s animals, and ate enough good food to kill a horse. I myself ate four cartons of blueberries over two weeks… but that’s a separate story altogether. (Hey, I really have a thing for blueberries, ok?)

Meera stayed with another student while we were gone and seems to have had a good time. She got along well with the other dogs in the apartment complex, had lots of yard space to play in, went on at least one hike and completely wore herself out to the extent that she’s been asleep since we brought her home earlier this morning.¬†

We had some complications with the way last semester ended so we have to sort out a few more things before the Mister can start classes for this round, but we should know the outcomes of those decisions by Wednesday. Whatever happens though, we know that life will go on one way or another, and we’ll figure out what path our family is meant to take and see what waits for us at the end of it.¬†

Please keep us in your thoughts and prayers that God’s will will be done, and whatever that turns out to be we will be able to accept it and move forward. Thanks, and happy Saturday!

Here we are again

It’s finals week again in the Caribbean. You can tell because the grocery stores are out of Mountain Dew and when you walk around campus, the air is deathly silent except for the strange mutterings of students who have their hands buried in their hair and their eyes starting to bug out of their heads.

The Mister took his first final this afternoon and has his second tomorrow, so all good thoughts and prayers sent his way are appreciated. He has been studying hard for several days and I have faith that he can get the grades he needs to move on in the program. We won’t know until Friday though, and by that time we will likely be on our way back to the mainland.

One of my best friends is getting married this Saturday, so the Mister and I are making the trek back to the land of milk and honey for the two week break. We are super excited to see friends, family and a long list of restaurants. Especially the restaurants. ūüėČ

There may not be posts for the next two Mondays since we’ll be running around trying to fit in all the family visits, scheduled appointments and other activities that need to be done before we return to the island of misfit toys. We wish we could fit in more people and places, but it’s hard to do everything in only 13 days, so if we don’t get a chance to see you this break hopefully we’ll be able to do it the next time we’re in the country.

We’re counting down the hours and crossing our fingers for good results on Friday. Love to all and, if you’re in the home area, we hope to see you soon.

And then there were four… five… six… wait, how many?

Well the semester is drawing to a close and the Mister and I have become the figurative guardians of at least three tiny baby geckos, recently hatched in various parts of our bedroom.

Baby gecko on the ceiling

Baby gecko on the ceiling

I was getting into the shower one night a month or so ago and noticed something moving around the shower head. My first thought, of course, was that it was a centipede, so I jumped out and grabbed a flashlight. Whatever it was was gone, but I could see something unusual in the gap where the faucet pipe comes out of the wall. Upon further inspection, it turned out to be half of a tiny eggshell! 

Since that night we have seen one baby gecko that hangs around the shower, one that hangs out in the closet and one that can often be found in the main area of the room. They are slightly different, but are all less than two inches in length and very cute to watch. Over the past weeks they have started to expand their territories, and it’s cool to watch them venture into new areas and react to their new surroundings.

The closet gecko, which we call Sam, likes to crawl out of the closet and peek out into the room from the safety of underneath the nearby dresser. The shower gecko – George – recently ventured onto the bathroom counter and then tried to hide against the back side of my makeup bag when the Mister came in to wash his¬†hands. The third baby, who doesn’t have his own name, can often be seen crawling around the vicinity of the air conditioner.

Unnamed gecko baby near the air conditioner

Can you see him? He’s up above the air conditioner cord cover. (Closer pictures were too blurry.)

We like our tiny gecko family and do our best to be mindful of their positions and leave them alone. We have had to scare them away from things that could be dangerous to them, though, like the whirling ceiling fan or Meera’s kennel. (She ignores them for the most part, but she will lie on the bed and stare at them suspiciously if they are moving across the ceiling.)

We have plenty of mosquitoes to go around, and I would rather have geckos than centipedes any day. 

What do you think we should name the third baby? Feel free to submit your suggestions in the comments. 

The one with the feet

There’s a very bohemian, devil-may-care feeling to sitting on an upper story porch, lounging in a deck chair with your bare feet propped up on the balcony railing like a flower child with her legs hanging out the car window.

I don’t know why it is exactly, but this is my favorite happy place. Our upstairs porch is well shaded and gets a good breeze during the day, and I can watch the comings and goings on the golf course from the relative privacy of my chair. I like to bring my breakfast out here in the mornings before the Mister is awake and take time to enjoy the quiet before the golf course tractors really get going. (It helps that this is also undeniably the coolest place in the house.)

I feel like this is one of the only places where I appreciate living here. The island is beautiful — regardless of how I may feel about the rest of it — and I often forget to stop being irritated with the locals long enough to appreciate my surroundings. At what other time in our lives will we live on a tropical island? At what other point will I have enough free time to sit in the gentle breeze reading classic novels for hours at a time? Never. This will never happen again. And while there are days that I hate this place with so much passion it consumes me, I do have to sit back and acknowledge that this is a gift I will probably miss once I have a 9-5 job again and children to chase after.

We joke about how golfers and yard workers can often look up at our house and see Meera’s little gray face watching them through the railing, but the truth is that, more often than not, they can also see my feet hanging out into the sunshine. What a strange picture that probably is. I’m sure that’s probably how the pool cleaners know which house is ours from the back — they just look for the one with the feet.

porch with a view

So. Much. Singing!

So I know I’m a bit late on this week’s post, but April Staycation 2014 has gotten off to a busy¬†start!

We got some disappointing news Friday night when grades were posted and we learned that the Mister will have to repeat a class this coming semester, thus putting him a semester behind where we were before and adding three and half months to our island sentence, but we’ve worked past the initial shock and are trying not to let it ruin the rest of our staycation.

[You see, it’s a bit backwards¬†for us because staycations are staying on the tropical island and vacations are leaving it, but at least most of our friends stayed behind with us.]

So far we’ve been to see Captain America and Rio 2 (so. much. singing! I was not adequately prepared for the ridiculousness that is¬†that movie and laughed hysterically through most of it. Mostly in shame that I was even there.); we’ve had a game night potluck and a movie snack night; the Mister and I hosted a pool party today; and we have a puppy play date planned for tomorrow night. It’s been a busy first half of the week, but it’s wonderful to be out and about and enjoying days with friends. The last time we stayed on the island for a break (last August) we were stuck inside a borrowed apartment with no air flow, stranded by a borrowed car with no power steering and sleep deprived by the three puppies¬†we watched in¬†exchange for staying in the borrowed apartment. It was miserable.

But this staycation is turning out a hundred times better and we’re not even halfway through. The Mister’s parents’ vacation joins our staycation on Saturday night, so next week will be filled with sightseeing and island tours with the in-laws. Hopefully our week will be a thousand times better than theirs.

Tomorrow evening I have to go across island (like across town? get it?) to Best Buy (which is a grocery store here, not an electronics place) to check out the meat situation. Apparently they get a better stock of normal-type meats there, but you have to go on Thursday night if you hope to get anything before it’s all gone. (And by normal-type meats I mean pork loin as opposed to ox tails and turkey necks, which is what my regular grocery store sells.) The meat selection will then determine what meals I plan for our visitors next week, thus dictating the direction of Friday’s grocery shopping. We’re also getting hair cuts (the Mister has looked like a homeless man for months) and cleaning the house so I won’t be ashamed to bring my in-laws inside. (Ok, I’m cleaning the house. Who knows what the Mister will be doing.)

To all you U.S. vet school students posting constantly about how “you can’t wait for summer vacation,” poo on ¬†you. Try going year-round in a foreign country and then get back to me. To all you Rossies who escaped the island on a two-week furlough, eat some good American food for us and don’t brag about it when you get back. To everyone else, merry April and happy springtime.

Borrowed stories – A week to remember

A friend of mine here on the island recently had her in-laws come to visit, and boy did they have a week to remember! She’s too nice to post any of these stories online because she doesn’t want to “make this place look bad,” but I have no such filter (often to my husband’s chagrin), so here it goes.

The day her in-laws arrived was the day the airport people finally found an employee that had died in the service elevator three days previously.

The first night they were on the island a  young local man was shot in Frigate Bay, which is the area where they, we and a large portion of Ross students live.

One day they took a boat ride to Nevis and saw a badly injured baby goat thrashing in the waves off-shore. They rescued the goat and then her husband carried the goat on the boat all the way back to St. Kitts. The goat bled all over the boat, peed on the husband and pooped in their car. They ended up calling several RUSVM professors and the emergency clinic and had the goat euthanized (it was too badly injured to recover). [Granted, this particular episode is more on them than the island, but still factors into the interesting week her visitors had.]

While they were in Nevis, she and her mother-in-law witnessed a small boat pull up close to shore and dump several large packages into the water before taking off. These packages were then retrieved by a couple of men in a waiting pickup truck, who eyed them and their camera suspiciously before taking off as well. Definitely a drug dump.

The last day her in-laws were in town the family was eating at the Circus Grill (which is in port near the docks) and witnessed the chaos of two dock workers being drowned under a cruise ship that pulled out too early.

I mean MY GOODNESS! Could they have had a better vacation? (Holds up sarcasm sign.) Somehow I don’t think they’ll be visiting again anytime soon.

Here’s to hoping my in-laws have a better visit.

[NOTE: Stuff like this doesn’t happen every single day around here, but corrupt and suspicious things do happen a lot. These people just seemed to have come at the right time to get a good dose of all of it at once.]

Constant Carnage or Conquered Cohabitation?

The first thing I do every morning when I climb the stairs to our kitchen is peek around the corner to see if I can see ants in the floor and then ¬†flip the light on and check the sink and counters for more intruders. More mornings than not there are at least a few scrambling around somewhere. A good day is a few. A bad day is a full sink. Or a trail coming down from the ceiling. That’s happened too.

If they’re in the sink I just flush them down the drain and watch as their on-counter companions retreat in droves for the nearest tiny exit hole. Probably one I’ve already sprayed or plugged with bait half a dozen times.

You see, that’s the thing about the ants here: they don’t care. I spray them with poisons (even one type of poison outlawed in the United States because of its effects on humans); the first few die and the others climb over their fallen comrades and continue their raid. I spread¬†tasty Combat-brand ant bait around all their favorite entry points; they eat it and say “thank you” and continue on their way after my garbage disposal. I use traps; they ignore them. I scatter piles of ground cinnamon on the window sills (because I’ve been told by many that that works); it doesn’t; it just makes my kitchen look dirty. I squish them, stomp them, vacuum them and drown them and they just keep coming!!! Short of burning the house to the ground, I don’t know what else to do.

We’ve determined that they mostly come in after water, since I do keep the kitchen clean and the sink mostly empty. But we haven’t had good rain in months and they mainly congregate around the faucet so that has to be what they want.

Which brings me to the following confession: I am learning to live with ants.

There are always a few scattered on the kitchen counters, but¬†as long as they aren’t directly in the way of me preparing food, I leave them be (my rule of thumb is about 15. More than that and I bring in reinforcements). We also have ants downstairs in our bedroom that come in under the window every night at around 9ish and follow a set path underneath the dog kennel, in front of the bathroom door and underneath our entertainment center, where Meera has lost a few bits of dog food that I just can’t reach with any cleaning utensil known to man.

I was going on a tirade every night around 10, vacuuming and stomping and spraying until nobody could breath in the bedroom and everything with more than four legs¬†was deader than a door nail. However, that gets really old after a while and, like everything else, it doesn’t work. So I’m learning to just step over that particular line of grout where they walk and go about my business while the tiny scavengers go about theirs.¬†They’ll get what they came for and be gone by morning anyway.

It’s gross, I know, but sometimes things have to be sacrificed in the name of personal sanity.

So, do you ever just throw up your hands and let nature have its way or are you a fight to the death kind of person?

Hurricane off the port bow!!

(Bonus reader points if you know which of my favorite movies that line comes from.)

Ok, so it’s not hurricane season yet (that starts in June), but you can sure tell we’re headed in that direction. The weather here has been beautiful – your idyllic Caribbean vacation weather – since early December. “Summer” (as opposed to what, I don’t really know) doesn’t technically start until May, but those of us who have been here through the “winter” can already tell it’s starting to heat up again.

Of course, “heating up” is a very relative idea around here.

Basically I mean that there isn’t quite as much breeze off the water, the ceiling fan doesn’t seem to be quite as effective as it was and I find myself kicking off the bed covers more often than last month.

Yes, I know, all my polar vortex friends back home are throwing things at their computer screens right now and making up new things to call me.

You’d think that as a Tennessean I’d be used to the unrelenting humidity that makes you want to take a shower every time you step outside. But I’ve realized that, at home, you get to go inside. You endure the pressing heat for the time it takes you to get to your car or into a building, and then you cool down and spend the majority of your day inside an air conditioned office, house or vehicle. So, yes, your desktop weather report might say the temperatures and humidity levels are technically the same here as they are at my parents’ house, but remember, we don’t have air conditioning, so 89% humidity is a lot hotter when you have nowhere to go to escape it.

My in-laws are coming to visit at the end of April and asked me what they should pack to wear, because “it’ll be in April, so it won’t be so hot yet.” Ummm…. no. When the Mister and I got off the airplane at the end of last April, I thought I was going to have an instantaneous heat stroke right there on the tarmac. And we stayed that way for eight months.

But, rejoice! I only have one more summer to spend here and then I’ll be back in the great land of the changing seasons! (Albeit, just in time for Tennessee summer and tornado season, but, like I said, air conditioning makes a big difference.)

Can’t wait to see what Meera makes of her first cold snap…..