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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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.