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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Well, that’s a wrap, folks!

Well, Operation In-Law Week (I think that’s what I was calling it, right?) has come to an end, and it will definitely be one to remember. In addition to the fishing expedition from last week’s post, we also climbed (literally, climbed. It was my fault.) the mountain to Brimstone Fortress, ran through some sprinklers at Caribelle Batik, rode on a car ferry, got lost in Nevis (the map’s fault, not mine), ate a fantastic hamburger covered in goat cheese, found a load of blue sea glass buried on the beach, talked to some goats (they talked back), and tried not to embarrass ourselves after accidentally eating REALLY REALLY spicy conch at a very fancy restaurant. It was a blast. 

And I. Am. Exhausted.

I don’t think I’ve been out of the house that much in one week since we arrived on the island last April and got forced into mandatory fun for orientation. But it was a fun week overall and I’m very glad the in-laws had the chance to come. They claim to have really enjoyed themselves – despite the island driving – and will probably be talking about this for months and years to come. There’s even going to be a movie made about their foreign expedition: “Country Mice Leave Home,” look for it in theaters near you! (I’m kidding, you guys are fantastic. :])

The vacation is over, however, and today was the first day of summer semester classes. So here’s to getting back to reality and the slow passage of island time. Like I’ve been telling the Mister a lot lately, one semester at a time and pretty soon it’ll all be behind us.

Happy Monday statesiders. 🙂

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.

And then I remembered

So the Mister and I are officially back on-island and he’s off to campus for his first day of third semester. We got back late Saturday night, and there were a few striking things about our arrival that smacked me over the head and literally screamed, “Welcome back to de island, man!”

But more on that in a minute. First, I want to offer a few observations about airports and airplanes. We’ve been in several of them lately so I feel qualified to comment on their eccentricities. Especially in Miami, my goodness!

First of all, why are airplanes basically the only “places” (if you can consider the inside of an airplane as a separate place) where bathrooms are exclusively referred to as “lavatories?” That’s always confused me. “It is illegal to tamper with the smoke detectors in the airplane lavatories….” It’s a bathroom. Call it a bathroom. Nobody knows what a lavatory is anymore.

Secondly, if I’ve already been through security, why must you feel it necessary to drag me aside as I try to board the aircraft and search my carry-on bags again? Do you really think I bought bomb ingredients in the duty-free store and assembled them during my layover? Come on now; you’re giving me way too much credit. Also, “checking a bag” is its own concept at airports, so when you scream at me that my tiny bag needs to be “checked,” don’t be surprised when I stare at you blankly while I try to figure out why and how my laptop is going to be put underneath the plane. And then when I figure out you mean you need to search my bag, don’t snatch it away from me and basically dump it all over the floor. I’m sure that’s not efficient bag-searching procedure.

Somehow, by happy expedia.com accident, our second set of tickets ended up being the bulkhead seats in business class, so the Mister and I were pleased to find out we had more leg room and exclusive meal service. However, the nazi flight attendant immediately shattered our visions of complimentary blanket-covered bliss. This plane was large enough that passengers were not required to check their carry-ons in the jetway, like on tiny airplanes, but we’ve never flown in the bulkhead seats, so we didn’t know the luggage rules would be different for us.

The Mister and I each had a carry-on bag and a personal item (backpacks), like we’ve always been allowed to have. We tried to put our carry-ons in the overhead compartments, like usual, but the bulkhead compartment is half as big as the others and was already full of something the attendant told me I “could not move because it had to stay there.” So she jerked both our bags away from me and started complaining loudly that they were past the weight limit anyway, she didn’t know why we even had them on the plane, and that we obviously hadn’t been paying attention and didn”t know anything about flying. First of all, I had all our bags weighed at check-in and they were well under the limit. Secondly, they would have fit fine if we’d had a normal amount of room.

Then, after I had to check those bags back on the jetway (thankfully for no charge), she was super nasty about making us cram our backpacks into the tiny overhead space, rather than keeping them out with us. I understand that is a safety procedure, but she could have been 100% nicer about it and not muttered about me in Spanish under her breath — part of which I understood thanks to two years of foreign language in college. It wasn’t nice, and if I’d had enough confidence in my memory I would have said something back to her in Spanish to let her know I could understand her ranting.

Then the Mister got a migraine headache and nausea almost immediately after takeoff – not a good idea to have a big last-American-meal during your layover. So that was fun.

The island welcomed us back with air more humid than I remember and a single immigration desk serving 100+ people with an attendant who obviously assumed we were idiots and treated us accordingly. I wondered what we’d done to offend her. Then I remembered.

We got out to a friend’s car in the parking lot and couldn’t get her trunk open. She doesn’t have a trunk handle and the latch doesn’t work from the inside. I almost asked if she could just push the button. Then I remembered.

On the way home I kept thinking, “What is wrong with these roads??!” every time she would hit a vehicle-sized pothole and send me and our suitcases bouncing in the back. Then I remembered.

Sunday afternoon we had to eat at a cafe because there was no food in our house, and the sandwich I looked at in the deli case was $14usd. I thought “Whoah! It’s just a sandwich!” Then I remembered.

The Mister and I sat at a table waiting for our food and watched a tourist family approach the counter to place an order. They were confused when the cashier standing at the register ignored them completely for five full minutes. The waitress brought me a panini and root beer instead of a regular sandwich and a Dr. Pepper. I thought, “Welcome home to the island of misfit toys, where the service is a joke and your order doesn’t matter.”

But we escaped the single-digit snowstorm temperatures back home and our flights weren’t cancelled for bad weather, so it’s all good, man. It’s all good. Carry on.

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.]