Readjusting to the Mainland 101 – “Rossie Rehabilitation”

So this past weekend marked the end of seventh semester for the Ross University class the Mister and I started with back in April of 2013. Green semester has returned home to the mainland, and our friends are struggling a little with the transition back to first-world life. So, since the Mister and I have been back stateside for almost a year now, we’ve (well, I’ve) decided to help “rehabilitate” the island-dwellers with an orientation course of sorts.

So, in the spirit of what I used to call “Top Ten Thursdays,” here are ten lessons recently-returned Rossies should keep in mind during this transition period.

  1. Intersections: There are stop signs and traffic lights here, and you do actually have to stop a few times between your house and your destination. Yes, I know it’s annoying, but it’s the way things are here. Google the rules about turning arrows, right of way and right on red because you’ve probably forgotten how to handle those.
  2. Passing other drivers: There is a thing here called a “double yellow line.” There are also sometimes things called “passing lanes.” Familiarize yourself with their meanings and purposes, because they are important. Don’t do like I did and fly around somebody in the oncoming lane just because you can… because my person turned out to be the mailman, but your person might turn out to be a cop.
  3. Police: If your person that you flew around on a double yellow DOES turn out to be a police officer, don’t offer him or her money. I know that was the accepted thing on the island, but it’s sort of frowned upon here on the mainland.
  4. Money: Prices here are in U.S. dollars. All prices – not just things at fancy hotels. The U.S. dollars are the green ones; the money with all the colorful sea turtles doesn’t work here, so don’t try. At first you will mentally multiply everything by three and add import and VAT taxes to find the price in EC and then think, “This is only $20. $20! Can you believe it? We can afford 15 of them!” But don’t. Just because that shower curtain costs $3 US and not $25EC doesn’t mean you need one in every color. This will be hard, so stay strong.
  5. Technology: When you return to the States, you will likely acquire some sort of Smart Phone. Or at least a phone with speaker capabilities (unless you’re me and the Mister, who still haven’t gotten there yet). These phones are very complicated and can do things like actually call the person you want to call, deliver text messages on time and sometimes even talk to you. Do not be afraid – that voice is contained within the phone and won’t come out to strangle you in your sleep. Yet. (Also, people here expect you to carry your phone with you at all times and answer it reliably. This is a skill I have not yet remastered.)
  6. Air conditioning: There is another wonderful thing here called “air conditioning.” It’s this thing where you tell a little box on the wall how hot or cold you want it to be in your house, and cold air comes out of the walls to make you happy. It’s wonderful. Use it as much as you want. It’s not free, but there is no reason the bill should be $900 a month (and if it is, complain. This is not considered “normal” here.).
  7. “American” time: Time passes much more quickly here on the mainland than it does on the island. It is not normal for food to take an hour to reach your table, and if it does you will probably get it for free. Also, you will be expected to get to places “on time,” which means at or before the time the event is scheduled to begin. You can’t simply assume the event won’t start for another hour and show up then. That’s not how it works here.
  8. Fast food: Speaking of food not taking an hour, there is even an entire eating genre called “fast food.” You can drive next to a building, tell a little talking box what you want to eat, and you can be eating it in five minutes or less! You will probably gain some weight in these transition months, because who doesn’t want to eat something you can have in five minutes?! But try to control yourself. You’ll thank me later.
  9. Centipedes: Be sure to check your luggage, anything in your luggage and the areas around your luggage thoroughly for stowaways. It has happened. My in-laws didn’t see a single ‘pede while on the island, but managed to bring two of them home last year. (Don’t worry; they were immediately extinguished and a centipede uprising was prevented on American soil.) After the initial check, you can relax. The centipedes here do not bite, are not poisonous and will not make a home out of your pillow cases. However there will be a long period where you may freak out in front of your neighbors when that long black smudge on the wall looks like it might attack. Develop a cover story for this situation early so your new friends don’t think you’re simply crazy and afraid of moving shadows. *shudder*
  10. Seasons: They change here. You’ve spent the last two years and four months on a tropical island where the only seasons are “raining” and “not raining.” Here, it will start to get cold in about two months. Sooner for those of you resettling in the northern part of the country. I know you probably haven’t seen a sweater or a pair of thermal leggings since 2013, but you’re gonna want to find those, and soon. You’re probably shivering right now, since anything under 78 degrees feels like the arctic. You’ve also discovered the air conditioner at this point, so you’ll want to bundle up in those jeans and hoodies just for the sake of cranking that beautiful central air unit all the way down and bragging about it to your friends.
  11. BONUS! Grocery shopping: You do not have to shake all the pasta boxes to find one without bugs. You do not have to put your cereal, rice and noodles in the freezer to kill the weevils. You should never have to skim floating insects off the top of your boiling water again. You also have a significantly increased expectation that the milk and dairy products you’ve selected will still be good the next day. Or, for that matter, later that same day when you open the container and take that first sip. And if you run out of something – YOU CAN DRIVE DOWN THE STREET AND BUY SOME MORE! (Although keep #4 in mind at all times.) Mind-blowing, isn’t it?

Take notes. There will be an exam.

Happy homecoming to you all, and may the force be with you.

-The Missus

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How my fur-baby is teaching me to be a parent.

I’ve never gotten a Mother’s Day card. I’ve never had labor pains or contractions. I’ve never sat outside my baby’s door while he cried and prayed for him to soothe himself to sleep.

But I have comforted a scared baby in the middle of the night while the thunder rolls. I have rolled groggily out of bed in the wee hours to take care of bathroom needs. I have inspected poop and discussed bathroom habits at length. I have had a tiny head (or a heavy head, in recent weeks) fall asleep on my chest; I have also woken up with small feet in my ribs. I have taken my baby to sitters’ houses and to the doctor’s office and driven away while she cried and didn’t understand why I was leaving.

She didn’t come from my own body and I didn’t carry her for nine months, but she is no less my baby than someone else’s two-legged human child. And she has and is teaching me many things about how to be a good parent to those human children if and when they hopefully come along.

She has phases just like human children – she throws tantrums, she listens well sometimes and not at others, she is smart one day and sort of dumb the next. I have phases too; phases where I love her so much one moment and want to lock her in a box the next. I feel like that’s probably normal.

The phase we are in now is wanting to sleep on the bed at night, and I am learning a lot from the successes and failures of this phase.

She is allowed on the bed during the day, but has learned that she must (A) be invited, and (B) stay on the blue part of the comforter. These two things have been successful, although I don’t know how they stuck so well, but we at least have that.

In St. Kitts, she slept in the floor but would spend the last hour (between potty time and real waking up time) sleeping on the foot of the bed. When we came back to America, we decided there would be no dogs sleeping on the bed at all. This worked for a while and we didn’t have any problems. Then came the winter, when it was cold and I wanted to avoid taking her out to potty as long as possible. I found Meera would sleep longer and more soundly if we let her sleep at the foot of the bed; so we did. This also served the double purpose of keeping our feet extra toasty. When the summer started, she made us too hot and had to resume sleeping in the floor.

Well, she didn’t like that so much.

At first, she would give us the horrible pleading puppy eyes at bedtime and we wouldn’t have the heart to make her move. She got her way for a while. Then, she would start out in the floor but later disregard the “must be invited” rule and sneak onto the bed in the middle of the night when we either wouldn’t notice or would be too exhausted to bother trying to correct her. She won again. Now, most recently, she starts out in the floor and tries to sneak onto the bed. I make her get down and tell her to be quiet. She settles back into the floor for about 10 minutes before taking up a post near my head and groaning softly until I acknowledge her presence.

“Hush, Meera! Lie down!”

She resumes her silent staring. A few minutes later, the groaning starts again. “NO, Meera!” Silence. Then she’ll go around to the foot of the bed and try to make another sneak attempt where she doesn’t have to climb over me and might get away with it. The Mister wakes up irritated at this point.

“Meera! Get down! Shut up!”

This cycle repeats itself throughout the night.

On the one hand, I’m always tempted to just pat the mattress and let her win. It’s faster, easier, and I can go back to sleep without further incident. That little head curled up on my legs is so comforting. But there is always the inevitable moment hours later when I try to move my legs and can’t – there’s a very large, very solid object in the way. Said object is more than half my body weight and very, very warm. Said object is also, probably, snoring. You see, she observes the “stay only on the blue part” rule very well, and at night, when the comforter is pulled up around the Mister and I, the entire bed is the blue part… and she wants it all.

Down she goes into the floor again and the routine resumes. I don’t feel like we’re getting much sleep.

On the other hand, I can stay strong, be firm and say no. It won’t kill her to sleep in the floor or in the armchair in the living room. This, while painful for me now, is ultimately for her own good. Parents have to be the bad guys sometimes. If I let her win, she will run my life. I am her mother, not her friend. Be a parent, not a peer. Stay strong!

The voices in my head repeat these and other such cliches throughout the cycle.

In the morning, she’s always by my feet. I don’t know how this happens. We’ll try again tomorrow.

So, in summary, parenting lessons learned:

  • Don’t let the babies start doing things you don’t want them to do forever, because it’s harder to change the habit than to prevent the habit.
  • When you say no, mean it. They know when you are weak. Be strong!!
  • Just because she doesn’t like it doesn’t mean it’s hurting her.
  • Punishments must be consistent and predictable. She has to know that when she gets on the bed or knocks over the trash or doesn’t come when she’s called she will get a predictable, unpleasant result every. single. time. Not just sometimes, because she’s willing to play the odds. (See #2.)
  • I am a total pushover.

I think everyone thinking of someday having human children should have to train a dog first.

What do you think?

Top Ten Thursday – Zip-a-dee-doo-dah

 

My grandfather and I have been singing this song for as long as I can remember, and it’s always been “our thing.” Back home it would come to mind every once in a while, but here I sing it a lot for some reason. Maybe it’s being so far from home, maybe it’s my brain reminding me to be happier about my life, but for whatever reason it’s been my theme since about the end of April.

This has been a pretty good week for me so far. I’ve had lots of chores to do and errands to run and places to be to keep me busy, which is always a preferable alternative to wasting my life away. In the past three days I’ve been grocery shopping, met with a mechanic about fixing our car, been to a girl’s night pizza dinner, cooked several good meals, been to the campus sale, met with our new landlord to sign our new lease, sent several important emails and gotten in a few payable hours for my online job. . .  so I consider that a pretty successful start to the week. In keeping with my currently positive attitude, this week’s Top Ten Thursday list focuses on good things about the island and life here.

1. It really is beautiful here. I probably don’t get outside and just enjoy the view often enough. There is a certain calming, meditative feeling that comes from just sitting on a hill by the ocean and watching the white caps of the waves come and go and the water change colors as it reflects the passing clouds and then the blue, blue sky. I’ve never seen water so crystal clear. Somehow the beaches are different here too, as compared to the few times I’ve been to a beach in the U.S. The sand is whiter and finer, the water is always refreshing and never cold, and there aren’t hard rocks everywhere to step on.

2. I have learned to enjoy some types of sushi. Rituals Sushi near the Marriott is a good Friday night place, and I’ve come to love their grilled salmon rolls. Granted, this is the first place I’ve ever eaten sushi so I don’t have any points of comparison, and grilled salmon roll is definitely the safest thing on the menu, but a girl’s gotta branch out just a little at a time.

3. I now feel like if I don’t have to chop or dice something, I’m not really cooking. We eat a lot of fresh vegetables here (when I can convince the Mister they won’t kill him) and I enjoy cooking them. Yes, it’s more work than just pouring out a bag of frozen broccoli or dumping baby carrots into a pot, but I think it’s fun. The incredible expense of packaged foods here forces us to eat healthier, and I think this will be a habit we carry back to the States with us when we leave (probably to the Mister’s disappointment, but oh well).

4. We have discovered that we can live without a lot of things. Granted, we’re not as comfortable without those things and probably won’t give them up when we move back home, but for the time being we’ve learned that we don’t need cable or even a television; we don’t need automatic car washes or drive-thru fast food; we don’t need air conditioning in the car; we don’t need internet (or a camera, or even speakerphone) on our cell phones; we don’t need more than one room in our house, a dish washer, washer or dryer, and we apparently can eat without an oven. Now, like I said, we don’t need these things to live (not that these examples are life-altering anyway), but they are definitely bonuses and we will be reclaiming their luxuries when we get home. There are days I would do almost anything to be able to just drive past a window and order a quick dinner, and I have 14 days as of this posting until we move into a place with an oven and I am counting every minute until it gets here. But at least the knowledge that we can do without if we have to is positive.

5. We’ve met lots of new people from areas of country we barely knew existed, much less knew anything about. Diversity is good, and I’ve learned that the South really is the best place to be. 🙂

6. I’m learning many new crochet stitches and will, I hope, soon be learning to make small stuffed animals as well. I probably wouldn’t have ever sat down and taken the time to improve my skills back home.

7. I’ve really come to love the concept of yard sales. I fully expect to be a “yard-saler” when we’re back home for good because that’s the only real shopping I get here and I love it. Here of course we actually need things like household and kitchen items, towels and school supplies that we can’t get cheaply in the stores. But at home, I can really see myself getting into repurposing crafts and finding all sorts of things at yard sales that I can turn into cool pieces of furniture or artwork. This may or may not be a good thing, depending on how the Mister looks at it.

8. We have a greater appreciation for manners and common courtesy. Our future roommate and I often talk about how we would be thrilled if a grocery store cashier actually told us to have a nice day. I feel like I need to be careful to be more purposefully  courteous and understanding when working with the public because I now know what it’s like to be constantly running up against walls because I’m different and locals don’t want to work with me to help me understand their expectations. Maybe this will help me in my future public relations position. This leads me to #9.

9. Common courtesy lesson #2: I’ve always known that people who work in some positions – trash collectors, gardeners, taxi and bus drivers, for example – are undervalued and underappreciated, but I didn’t really take much notice or put much thought into it before now. Here, my eyes have finally been opened to how much these people really put up with from the rest of society. Here, taxi drivers are ordered around a lot; it’s the nature of their job to be told where to be at what time and where to go and how to get there. But at the same time, that doesn’t mean you don’t still need to be courteous about your requests. The Mister and I took a taxi (our favorite driver, a super sweet older man) to meet a few friends a couple of weeks ago. When we arrived at the location, we were in the midst of telling the driver when we needed him to come back and get us when our friend approached the driver’s-side window. And right there in front of him, not even caring that he could hear her, she started talking about how the group would find us someone to ride home with so that the driver (talking about him like he wasn’t there) wouldn’t have to come get us and we wouldn’t have to wait for him or have to ride home in a hot cab. Her language was very dismissing of him and his hard work and I was embarrassed for her and for him that he had to listen to it. We paid him and did end up riding home with someone else, simply because the situation was easier that way, but I still hate that so many people just talk over others like they aren’t there. I want to stop this habit in myself and take a better appreciation of these people and their work back with me to our life in the States. Which leads me to #10.

10. Common courtesy lesson #3: I have a much greater appreciation of what it’s like to be a visitor. Students here, and not just from Ross but from all over, are so rude and messy and disrespectful to the locals, even those who help us, and the rest of us who want to be mature adults get punished for it. For example, it’s so hard to find a place to live that’s a reasonable price, will let you keep pets and doesn’t require you to pay the extra $1,600 to put the electric bill in your name. Why? Because so many students in the past have come through and not cleaned up after themselves or their pets, damaged or destroyed furniture and other property, left landlords holding the bills or left the island without advance notice, leaving the landlords to clean up horrendously disgusting apartments. Our future roommates and I are still trying to convince our new landlord that we will pay all our bills on time and in full if she keeps them in her name. She is reluctant to do this because the previous tenants let a problem with the electric meter (their bill was $30 a month and they knew this was a malfunction) go on so long that the landlord was left holding a final reconciled bill for more than $4,000. I don’t blame her hesitation, but because of their irresponsible actions, those of us who have actually learned to be mature adults have a hard time getting people to trust us. So I feel like this experience will help us be more welcoming and understanding toward visitors in our lives, whether it’s visitors at church, new people at work or just those who are new to the area in general. 

She’s got a point here….

Yet another internet find with a valid point.  Enough of society teaches little girls early on about the “importance of being pretty;” why don’t we try to spend more time modeling the importance of being smart? I’m not saying you should never crouch down and compliment a little girl on her pretty new shoes or hair bows, but I do agree that we should take more care to ask about school, about reading, about science and see what kind of thinking we can start. 🙂

http://latinafatale.com/2011/07/21/how-to-talk-to-little-girls/

How I Know My Wife Married the “Wrong” Person

Obviously my wife didn’t marry the “wrong” person (haha – get the joke, people), but these are excellent thoughts by somebody that I don’t know, but I already respect just from reading this. Enjoy.

-the missus

How I Know My Wife Married the “Wrong” Person.