Holy Mackerel!

Operation In-law Week is off to a great start! Monday the four of us chartered a deep sea fishing boat for a half-day tour, and what started out as a rather boring loop-de-loop offshore turned into a battle to stay in the boat as a very angry mackerel tried to pull us all in with him.

We had expected to be taken to a particular fishing area and allowed to fish off the side of the boat until we caught something, but that’s not actually how it works. Instead, the captain rides back and forth along the coastline while the deckhand strings six poles and releases the bait into the water. Then, you wait. And wait. And wait some more. Then, with any luck, one of the poles will eventually jump. This is your cue to jump into the special reeling chair and take the pole handed to you by the deckhand and try to pull “your fish” into the boat.

The Mister reeled in the first fish – a large mackeral about 18 or so inches long. An hour and two lost bites later, his dad got to reel in a beautiful barracuda. Then, it was boring for a very long time. You can only play “i spy something blue” for so long.

As we were on our way back from Nevis, one of the poles jumped violently and everyone started. It was my turn. I jumped into the reeling chair and grabbed the rod that was handed to me… and immediately realized I am not strong enough to turn it. The Mister rushed over to help me, and even with the both of us reeling the fish was not ready to cooperate. It ended up getting so wrapped around another of our lines that the Mister had to reel in one rod and the deckhand had to reel in the other just to keep both lines from snapping.

This continued for a good ten minutes with no progress being made at all, so the captain finally came down to the deck to help. It took the Mister AND his dad reeling the first rod, the deckhand reeling the second and the captain leaning over the back of the boat trying to haul the fish in bodily to defeat it. Judging from the fight it put up, we were expecting a shark! It turned out to be a spotted mackerel almost two feet long, which the mister estimated to weigh close to 15 pounds. It was an exciting catch.

(Yes, at this point the captain is on the deck pulling in a fish and untangling line, so nobody is steering the boat. Which is why my father-in-law and I can now put “helped drive a fishing boat” on our lists of personal accomplishments. :])

We only kept the fillets from the big mackerel and let the captain and deckhand have the others. One fillet served all four of us! I roasted the pieces in a little olive oil, salt, pepper and garlic powder and we ate them with rice and some red potato wedges from Sunday’s big lunch. It was surprisingly good, and the Mister and I still have a whole fillet in the freezer for a rainy day!

Today we visited Brimstone National Fortress and Caribelle Batik, where they make a type of Caribbean dyed fabric. My legs might never walk another set of stairs again! Nevis is on the agenda for tomorrow, so wish us luck getting onto a car ferry that apparently leaves whenever it feels like it, regardless of the posted schedule. :/

Meera is getting to go play with Daisy and Penny – American dogs that belong to our friends – tomorrow, so that will save her from a whole day in her kennel. She’s really taken a shine to “Nanna” and “Big Dad” and hates to leave their sides. First grandpup is a success!

Happy mid-week to you all, and to all a good night.

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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.]

“Let’s Learn About Our Great Federation”

Last week my housemate, B, and I were entertaining one of the little girls she nannies at our house, and I was letting her play school with my small dry erase board. The first grader grandly announced that I, her student, would be learning about “our great federation.” Obviously a phrase she’s heard used many times in school.

(The fact that the Mister and I are temporarily part of the Federation is a wonderful technicality that seems to be lost on most people, but I love it.)

It was requested a few weeks ago that I have a post about the island itself – what sorts of businesses and activities we have here, what the land is like, etc. So this is that post, albeit probably not as in-depth as some would like.

The Federation of Saint Christopher (St. Kitts) and Nevis is made up of two islands (obviously called St. Kitts and Nevis). We are located in the upper Antilles islands in the West Indies, also known as the Leeward Islands. The Federation is the smallest sovereign state in the Americas, both in land and in population. It was among the first Caribbean islands to be settled by Europeans and was home to the first British and French colonies in the area.

This is where we are in the grand scheme of things.

This is where we are in the grand scheme of things.

The total Federation is approximately 104 square miles, and that is divided between two islands and includes the small amount of water area claimed by the country. The two islands gained independence from Britain on September 19, 1983, and Nevis is still trying to gain its independence from St. Kitts.

The middle portion of the island is mountainous and not many people live there. There are no roads going through the island and only one road – “Island Road” – going around the shoreline. Driving around the main part of the island takes about three hours. Most of the population congregates along the shoreline and a majority of that is at the southern end of the main part of the island (before you go onto the skinny peninsula), because that’s where Basseterre and Frigate Bay are – the two most popular areas of the country. The peninsula is very under-developed, but at least one luxury resort and several high-class condominiums are under construction with the hopes of attracting big spenders. (The cover image at the top of this blog is a view looking down the peninsula. The Atlantic Ocean is on the left and the Caribbean Sea is on the right.)

Doesn't it look like a chicken leg?

Doesn’t it look like a chicken leg?

I’ve been told there are about 40,000 people on the island and approximately 80,000 green vervet monkeys, which are native to the federation and found nowhere else. There are probably about that many centipedes, too. . .  but that’s a different story.

As far as businesses, we have a Subway, a KFC and a Church’s Chicken in Basseterre (the capitol city), but they get mixed reports as to whether or not the food is totally safe. There are no drive-thrus anywhere on the island, which makes sense because a “quick meal” anywhere takes at least 30 minutes between the time that you order and the time you get your food. And that’s when a full staff is focused and attentive, which doesn’t happen often.

A view looking north from Brimstone Fortress, a National World Heritage site originally built by the British to defend the island from the Spanish navy.

A view looking north from Brimstone Fortress, a National World Heritage site originally built by the British to defend the island from the Spanish navy.

There are three “major” (as in, not just a hole in the wall) grocery stores. There are several independent restaurants, including a pizza place, a sushi place, an Indian place and a French place. There are also a couple higher-end restaurants for those who are on luxury vacations and can afford to spend more money. I think there are about five, and two are inside the Marriott Hotel and Casino, which is easily the largest and most extravagant building on the entire island. The largest percentage of restaurants are beach bars, which can be found on almost all of the island’s beaches and typically serve hamburgers, French fries, seafood and alcohol. Mainly alcohol.

Sunset from Timothy Beach - aka "The Strip" - as Friday's cruise ship sails away.

Sunset from Timothy Beach – aka “The Strip” – as Friday’s cruise ship sails away.

Main island activities for those who are interested include going to a beach (we have both black and white sand beaches) or swimming pool, snorkeling, hiking, golfing at the Marriott and, for those who can afford it, going on Catamaran trips (like a large sailboat with an open bar). Key words: open bar. Basically, the main island activity is drinking and the primary food group here is alcohol.

There are three major international schools on the island: Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine, Windsor Medical School and the International University of Medical and Health Sciences. (The Ross University Medical School is on Dominica, not Nevis as mentioned earlier. Thanks to Jackie for finding my mistake.)

Let me know if there is any else you would specifically like to read about and I will do my best to find the answers for you.

(All the historical facts and specific statistics I got from Wikipedia, since the St. Kitts tourism site doesn’t seem to be working at the moment.)

Not the Right Side, the Wrong Side!

So the Mister and I have been driving our own vehicle here on the island for about two weeks and have only had one near-death experience, which is pretty good for learning to drive on the wrong side of the road. (And I would like to clarify that I was not driving at the time of the aforementioned incident.)

To the Mister’s credit, however, I wasn’t helping matters by yelling “RIGHT SIDE! RIGHT SIDE!” when I meant “correct side” – aka the left, not the right. But we survived so that’s what counts.

There are a few important things to know about driving in St. Kitts. First of all, obviously, everything stays to the left. Secondly, there are very few other rules.

There are no traffic lights on the island and very few stop signs. All intersections are roundabouts, which we sometimes in America call traffic circles. (To all of you in Spring Hill – imagine the circle outside Target and Olive Garden. . .  but you go around backwards.) Vehicles already inside a roundabout have the right-of-way over those trying to enter the roundabout, but otherwise it’s a hang-on-to-your-seat-cushions free for all. There are technically two lanes inside roundabouts – an outer lane for those exiting immediately and an inner lane for those going farther around – but no one actually uses them. Once you’re in the roundabout, you’re in.

There are also very few street names. Getting directions is a little like this: “Take the bypass around to the sugarcane man and turn right. Go past the fire station and turn right when you get to the bay by Port Zante. Go down to that funny little roundabout, take the first exit (which is the first road in a left hand circle, which is essentially just straight) and then take the second right close to the post office. Take the second exit in the Circus (a big fancy roundabout in town) and go straight to the government offices building and turn left. It’s on your right a ways down.” (Those are essentially directions to Karibhana’s, the only department-store-type establishment in the area.)

In America, we honk our car horns to show frustration or as a warning to other drivers. Here, it’s like having a conversation between cars. People honk when passing pedestrians or other drivers, you honk when you see your friends going the other way, taxis and buses honk to potential passengers on the side of the road, you honk when going around sharp curves, you honk when someone lets you into traffic (which isn’t often. . . . basically you just honk all the time. Cars are very vocal here. Which is troublesome because our car horn currently doesn’t work.

A few other things to note: You are not required to slow down to pass another vehicle. All roads are two lanes, but there aren’t really any center lines so if someone in front is slower and the oncoming lane is clear, you just circle around them (after you honk, of course). Also, cars, taxis, buses and people routinely just STOP in the middle of the road without warning. They stop to have conversations with other pedestrians or drivers, sometimes taking up both lanes of traffic. They stop to run into stores; they stop for herds of goats crossing the road (I myself have been stopped by two different herds since we’ve had the car); they stop to pick up or drop off passengers. Thus, the rules about going around people. If you didn’t pass, you’d never get anywhere.

[NOTE: While you can honk at anything else on the island, you cannot honk at the goats. It only scares them and scatters them further across the road and around your car, rather than actually hurrying them across.]

What else, what else. . . oh, left hand turns are automatic but right-hand turns have to look for oncoming traffic, which of course is backwards from the States. There are a few three-way intersections here are there, but they are very confusing because you can’t just continue on to the right, you have to pass the first entrance and then turn right across oncoming traffic, which is also backwards from the States. The gear shift is on the left-hand side of the steering wheel (which is on the right) and the blinker is on the right-hand side, which at least for us is backward and always causes us to turn on our windshield wipers when we’re intending to turn. (No one but American students really use their blinkers around here anyway.)

There is a special type of “car math” used on the island as well. This is not so true in private vehicles, where the driver of course can make his/her own decisions, but in public buses, taxis or when a private person is serving as public transportation (such as picking up attendees for church), there is a special formula used to figure out how many persons a vehicle can ACTUALLY hold. This is very deceiving, since you’d think the number of seats in the car would indicate this, but that is not true. To the best of my ability, I think I have figured out that, in a smaller car, you take the number of actual seats in the car and add two to find the true maximum capacity for the vehicle. In a taxi or bus (which are just 15-passenger vans), you add 1.5 people for each row in the van and that gives you maximum capacity. So it’s not uncommon for a 15-passenger bus to actually have 19-21 people in it. Good thing nothing on the island is very far away.

It is illegal to use a cell phone while driving, in any shape form or fashion. Speeding is also illegal, but it’s one of the many laws that aren’t enforced. (But you can’t drive very fast anyway because the pot holes will rip your car to pieces. And because people just STOP in the middle of the road!) However, the car insurance law is enforced and they will put you in prison if you’re caught driving without it – something I think the U.S. should definitely adopt.

One last thing – there is a reason cars here are called “island mobiles.” They are not the same types of cars we would normally drive in the U.S. Here, it’s considered perfectly normal for a car to not have working air conditioning or functioning power windows, power locks, radios, windshield wipers or blinkers. Island mobiles also have the odd habits for all the doors to not work properly. It’s normal to have at least one door on your car that either doesn’t open from the inside or doesn’t open from the outside. On our car, for example, the passenger’s (front left) door won’t open from the inside unless you pull the open handle and the lock switch up at the same time, and the back passenger’s door won’t open unless you smack your full weight into it. The driver’s door won’t stay locked from the outside unless you push down the lock switch, close the door while holding the handle out, and then release the handle. Oh – and almost every vehicle on the island, if it was owned by a Kittian at any point in its lifespan – has some sort of name or saying painted on it. It’s just something they do here; I have no idea why. Ours says “Pure Rumours” in a strange font across the back windshield. One car that parks on campus a lot says “No Me Fault” on the front windshield and all the buses have crazy names painted on the sides. It’s just another one of those strange island habits that I guess you get used to here.

What are some driving rules in your country? If you drive on the left side of the road, what are some tips you could give those of us used to the right side?

Top Ten Thursday – 10 Things to Know Before Going Grocery Shopping in St. Kitts

1. Be prepared for the sticker shock. A package of Charmin toilet paper can be $32EC.

2. Check all expiration dates and examine food through plastic windows whenever possible. If you buy cereal, ask at the register if you can open the box and inspect the bag.

3. Be familiar with the three major grocery stores and their standard prices so you know what items are cheapest where. Rams sells many items in Bulk; Best Buy carries more name-brand things; IGA has weekly sales and is sometimes cheaper.

4. Know that the stores generally restock on Wednesdays. This means go on Thursday mornings whenever you can.

5. Get produce at the markets first, then at the grocery stores. The campus market is small and on Wednesdays; the city market is much larger and on Saturdays.

6. Do not trust the shelf stickers. Compare the sticker item numbers to the bar code numbers on the box/can before trusting that it’s the right sticker. Also, when things don’t have stickers, it’s a gamble. You can’t just estimate based on the prices of similar items on the same shelf.

7. Try not to buy things out of the freezer section if you can help it. First of all, the freezers are never cold enough to actually keep things frozen, which brings the safety of the food into question. And secondly, if it has to be frozen there’s a reason for it, and it will be thawed by the time you get home anyway so there isn’t much point.

8. Sign up for all the shoppers’ numbers and cards, since they do sometimes get you discounts. However, they only process the applications once they have a full “batch” (however many that may be), so you might go shopping for the next three weeks and not be able to benefit from the number. Also, you collect “points” when you shop with your card or use your shoppers’ number, but it’s not like at home where you can redeem them for things. Here, at certain times of the year (I’m told in December), the points will suddenly become redeemable and you can use them on certain products.

9. Put your groceries on the belt in the order you want them bagged, because the cashiers and baggers don’t care how they are sorted. A package of frozen bagels will go right into the bag with bathroom cleaner and hamburger helper if you’re not careful.

10. Call your taxi when you get into the checkout line. It will take the taxi 10 minutes to get back to the store (at least) and you’ll be in line at least that long anyway while the cashier ignores you and talks to her friends at the other register.

(10b. If you’re riding in a taxi, don’t buy more than 3-4 bags of groceries and make sure the tops can be tied. You’ll want to tie them closed and tie them together before putting them in the taxi so you know they are yours and so they won’t roll everywhere. If you’re riding in a bus – good luck with that.)

Top Ten Thursday – 10 Things to Bring With You to Ross

1. Bring basic kitchen tools with you in your luggage. I brought measuring cups and spoons, a good paring knife, a meat thermometer, a good spatula and a can opener. (We fit them into the small pockets and lining of our garment bag suitcase.) Those I would definitely recommend, as well as some food storage containers, if you can fit them, and a few basic spices. I also wish I’d brought a mixing bowl, a whisk, kitchen tongs and a vegetable peeler. Yes, the kitchens here (in the dorms especially; the off campus apartments are better) are stocked with cookware and small appliances, but it’s only basic basic items. You’ll be amazed the things you never think about that you suddenly don’t have access to and really wish you did.

2. Bring as many towels (all types) as you can fit in your luggage. You can buy them here if you want, and that’s fine, but either way be prepared to go through a large number of towels. Things in the dorms never get completely dry – or at least in our room they don’t. It’s all the humidity and the lack of a good ventilation system. I wash towels constantly because everything gets that musty, wet-dog smell after 3-4 days.

3. Which reminds me, bring laundry detergent. I brought a gallon-sized ziplock bag of those little Tide detergent pods. They’re wonderful! No bottle to pack and worry about leaking; no bottle to lug around; I just toss one in from my little baggie and we’re done! If you do laundry on campus they are card-operated machines and the washers and dryers are BOTH $8EC a load (so $16EC total). HOWEVER, you can save $8EC by splitting the dry cycle. The dryers automatically give you about 75 minutes of drying time, and there is no way to decrease that. No load of laundry really needs 75 minutes in the dryer; our clothes are always done in 30. So always try to wash two loads one right after the other, since the washers take 30 minutes, so then you can use one dry cycle for two wash cycles. That $8EC adds up over time!

4. Bring supplies for whatever craft/hobby you have (if you’re a VIP). I finally found a few balls of yarn to buy off a professor who’s moving, and I was so happy to finally have something to do with my hands during the long hours of watching television or waiting for dinner to cook. (Thankfully I was smart enough to have brought my crochet hooks.)

5. Bring extra toiletries of all types. Pack as many bottles of soap, tubes of toothpaste, bottles of contact solution, cans of bug spray, etc. as you can fit in your luggage. You’ll be glad you did.

6. Bring sunscreen in various SPF numbers. I personally really like the spray-on kind because it’s quick, easy and not greasy at all (we have the CVS brand), but it does run out pretty quickly. The lotion is fine too if you prefer that. Something is different about the atmospheric protection here, and even people who’ve never burned in their lives wake up like lobsters the morning after the beach.

7. Bring sheets and pillows. The dorms have full-sized beds, but US full-size sheets will not fit them properly. If you can, try to shrink them some before you come, and if you have room, bring more than one set. The dorms also come with pillows, but they are the super flat, super tiny almost travel-type pillows that are 30 years old. The Mister and I fit three of them into one of our pillow cases before we finally found a store here (TDC Hardware – $60EC each) that sells better pillows. I know it’s hard to pack pillows, but use them as your comfort carry-on or put them in vacuum-seal bags. You’ll miss them if you don’t.

8. Bring decorative items (with command hooks and strips). You’re so far from home, even just a few familiar items will make your place feel more comfortable.

9. If you have space, absolutely bring non-perishable food items – especially things you eat all the time. Have a favorite brand or flavor of coffee? A favorite gum or not-melty candy? A favorite type of soup? Bring them. Even bringing basic things like peanut butter, popcorn, crackers and noodles will save you money at the grocery store.

10. Bring movies or TV shows on DVD. VIPs will want these distractions and students have to take breaks every now and then. Netflix and/or Hulu subscriptions are great, get them if you can, but be warned that they don’t work the same way outside the US. We can get many of the things we would have watched at home, but they come with Spanish subtitles, and some movies/shows aren’t available here at all. It has to do with where your IP address is coming from (in our case, Puerto Rico – aka, Spanish movies).

**I’m adding #11 after the fact because I just glanced around our room and thought of it – bring surge protectors. We currently have two and that seems to be a good number for us – but they are both almost full. You are not allowed to have octopus or other multi-outlets. Only surge protectors with switches. Also, bring a wireless router, if you’re lucky enough to have one. Students don’t need this so much, but VIPs, who only have ethernet access to the internet (oh yeah, bring an ethernet cord too), will appreciate it.

*DISCLAIMER: I know this is all overwhelming. Before we moved, I would read the school’s “official list of things to bring” and then read blog posts of students saying things to bring and then read the baggage weight limits for our airline and think, “HOW IN THE WORLD AM I SUPPOSED TO PACK ALL THOSE THINGS???” Trust me, we know. A good rule of thumb is: if you use it on a daily basis or use it for class, if it makes you feel comfortable in your own home, or if it helps you keep your sanity, bring a supply. Paying the costs for an extra bag or an overweight bag will be worth it in the long run if it lets you take those things that will keep you from crying every day or murdering a rude cashier who doesn’t know if the island stocks SweetTarts. (FYI – I don’t think it does.)

Top Ten Thursday – 10 Basic Things to Know Before Moving to Ross

*My Top 10 lists are not necessarily in order of importance.
**Some of these things are for couples in particular, since that has been our experience, but single students can learn from them as well.

1. When applying for housing, it’s easy to look at the housing rates and decide “We’re married. We can live in the same room together for four months to save the extra money on a bigger dorm apartment.” I strongly caution you about this. Yes, it’s cheaper, but there is literally nowhere to move around. Everywhere you go you’re in the same place and there is no room to get away from each other when you are both home. Living on campus is not such a bad idea the first semester, since you won’t have a car for a while and it helps you meet people, but don’t go with an efficiency (studio) apartment. Splurge for a two-bedroom or opt to go off-campus right away. (Efficiencies are fine for single students.)

2. Make finding a car your first big financial priority. Yes, there’s a public transportation system that can take you virtually anywhere you want to go, but trust me, it gets old fast. Cars down here are not like cars in the states; they all have weird problems and would never be given a second glance off the island. But here, it’s all you’ve got, so bring your standards down and get used to it. The average vehicle around here in between 5-7,000 US dollars, when you wouldn’t pay 2,000 back home. But take heart, you can probably sell it to an incoming student when you leave and make most of your money back. (Single students will want to keep this in mind as well, although it’s much easier for a single student to use the public transportation or bum rides off other students for the first semester and buy a car once you move off-campus.)

3. Bring plenty of cash with you in your luggage. The Mister and I only brought enough cash to pay our Visa fees, which we thought they would take at the airport, and brought the rest in traveler’s checks. You don’t pay your Visa fees at the airport, and you don’t deposit traveler’s checks until 5-6 days after you arrive, so thankfully we were able to use that cash for spending money or we would have been in a lot of trouble. You’ll eat out A LOT during orientation week, so be sure you have enough cash with you for a week of expenses. And remember, it’s a tourist economy so things are expensive here.

4. Wean yourself (or your husband, in my case) off milk and soda. Ram’s is the only grocery store that sells large packs of soda bottles (or cans, for that matter), and a 24-pack pallet is around $60EC ($1US = $2.7EC. You do the math. Still not good.). Milk is about $11EC a quart, so we only use it for cooking now and the Mister has just had to learn to live without his three gallons a week. Milk is also very unpredictable, since it’s not processed in all the same ways as in the states. Regardless of the printed expiration date, it’s a toss-up. I’ve bought milk and had it last in our fridge beyond the printed date, and then I’ve bought the same brand from the same store and had it be semi-solid in 3 days (long before the printed date). So you never really know.

5. Also wean yourself off chicken, if that’s a personal favorite, and prepare to eat a lot of fish. Ground beef isn’t such a problem to find and usually turns out well, but chicken is another story. You can find it, but I wouldn’t always eat it; let’s put it that way.

6. The VIP (very important partner – aka, the non-student) needs some sort of creative/productive hobby. Lots of VIPs have online jobs from the States, which is awesome if you can find one, but otherwise, you need a hobby. Whether you paint, sew, crochet (like me), read, write, do complex mathematical formulas, it doesn’t matter. You just need something to occupy your free time, because trust me, you’ll have a lot of it.

7. Be comfortable being apart. Clingy couples will not make it here. Neither will over-protective/jealous couples. You won’t spend a ton of time together during the week because the student will be in the lab or studying with other students, so the VIP has to be comfortable on his/her own. If you’re not good at making friends without your significant other around, practice before you come. If you don’t like your significant other having a lot of friends of the opposite sex, get over it. Most students are female and most VIPs are male, so if you’re a male student and a female VIP, that’s going to happen a lot.

8. iPads are something I think all students should consider here. It’s an investment that will really be beneficial in the long run. The Mister has apps to track his constantly-changing class schedule, to organize and search through his notes, to view class powerpoint presentations and to create flashcards with images of the various bones, muscles, etc. iPads are also much easier to carry around campus and to use at other places on the island (beaches, pools, restaurants, etc.) if you want to study on the go. You can also hide them down in your bag easier than a large laptop, which is important to not getting it stolen.

9. Don’t order your textbooks from the campus website. Just don’t. Find them on amazon.com or through another online retailer, or see if upperclassmen are selling them on the various Ross students facebook pages (that’s probably where you’ll get the best deal). If you HAVE TO order them from the school page for whatever reason, only do it if you have several months in advance of when classes start, and don’t bother paying for more than standard shipping. They won’t get here when they are supposed to. Period. It never happens, so just don’t even waste the money or the brain cells worrying about it.

10. Bring a camera, one for each person if you can afford it. It doesn’t need to be a big fancy camera, just something to keep in your pocket for those off-guard moments when you glance across the sea on the way to class or the market and see Nevis haloed in mist and rainbows. Trust me; you’ll want to snap that. Also, if it takes underwater pictures, be prepared to share because everyone will want to borrow it. It is gorgeous here, despite the discomforts, and you’ll definitely want to have those pictures to look back on and remind yourself that the experience wasn’t a loss after all. (And to post on Facebook and make your friends and family jealous. :-))