1 month in…

Bon Dia! One month in. We’ve been island side for 30 days or so now and I know the question on everyone’s mind…the inevitable…How is it? DO you love it? Could you live here longer than two years?

You know those are your burning questions…and I won’t disappoint by waiting to reveal the answer. In short, we love it. There are certainly things we need to get used to (heat being the biggy)…but I think once we acclimate all around, it’s a great place to be. I think the staff at my school can attest to that. People have been at the school for 10+ years. In fact, the middle school principal came to the island for ONE year…it was only meant to be ONE year (from somewhere in the USA). She’s now been here 19 years. Working on citizenship. She’s been at the school + the island for about that long. That does say something…to me anyway.

How is the school you ask? It’s a good school. Everyone cares about their students, and each other. It’s a close community yet everyone has their “niche” as most schools will. I have felt very welcomed and for the most part, supported as well. My buddy aka my landlady has been the most welcoming and helpful. Since she lives upstairs, it’s been very helpful to have her around. She was born and raised on the island, moved away for several years at 18 for schooling, lived in Spain with her husband and family for several years, and finally moved back here 5 years ago. Her daughter is in college in the Netherlands and is obsessed with Japanese culture (go figure right?) Her son is a junior, into technology, water polo, and diving. He’s been a GENIUS helping us out with various things. Her husband has also been very helpful in driving us around and offering advice and tips. Without these key figures, the transition would have been much more painful.

It was a different transition from Japan…and I can’t really explain how. Two opposing cultures and societies. There are so many similarities to starting out in a new country that I doubt it will be much different wherever you are. Some key things still remain: getting used to government policy…slow government pacing…odd hours for paperwork (and odd requests). The language isn’t an issue…which is nice for a change. Though most people speak Dutch or Spanish (or the mixed local language), everyone can speak English. We try using some local dialect in greetings, thanks, and good byes, but mostly we speak English. That’s helpful when trying to buy things, ask questions, look for cars, etc.

Hassles? BANKS! This is has been the focus of my ire for a couple weeks now. The school could be a bit better at communicating with us…that’s mostly one person though and I won’t get into that. We have been given fairly late and conflicting information in regards to our car search. That’s been the slowest process of this transition. We spend our 3rd day on the island car shopping in excruciating heat for an automatic within 10,000 guilder (loan maximum). Ya’ll, that was nearly IMPOSSIBLE. There are so many freaking cars on this island…seriously. And they are all so expensive. We could have had a really nice newer car if we had brought about 3,000 of our own USD…that’s not going to happen. So once we finally found our car…the loan process started, which should have been simpler as it’s through the bank and school. Not so much. I won’t go into those details, but it took 3 weeks of “one step forward, two steps back” before the loan was delivered to the car dealer. Luckily, Bruce was a cool, chilled guy (for a car salesman no less) and he was easy to work with. He took care of the paperwork, transfers (waiting in lOOOOOONg lines) and had things ready to go. That’s a big battle one as it takes AGES to wait in lines for government things. Even picking up a package at the post office can take half a day. You heard me right…half a day! Who’s got time for that? In fact, no one does really. It’s so bad, that the school has a hired man. You pay him 25 guilders (that’s nothing) and he will go wait in line for you. I mean come on. You literally can say, “I gotta man for that.” I guess that’s island time. And it’s real. And it sucks. Especially if you like efficiency and punctuality. I suppose I will adjust.

This was a week 1 accident…tripped in my drive way and busted up bad. It’s finally healed, though the fresh skin is whitish/pink and looks funny on my tanned knee. Oh, you wanted evidence of this random act of clumsiness…fine. Here. Locals said soak it in the ocean for 3 days, at least 15 minutes each time. It will heal faster. Took me almost a week before I could get to the beach…and yes, it healed faster. Locals know man. The ocean is amazing!

Let’s see…on to some fun stuff? Yeah, if you’ve read this far, you deserve it! The past couple weeks have been busy in a good way. We are actually kicked out of school at 4:30 each day…to save electricity costs and to have a life outside of school.It’s a novel idea, but I guess I can deal with that. It was hard at the beginning because new school, new grade…lot’s to do. I’ve had to lean to manage my time really well. In fact, though the school closes at 4:30, most people leave at 3:30 (school is out at 2:00 for elementary, 3:30 for secondary). I’ve adjusted to that ok as it seems now by the time 3:30 rolls around I am usually ready to go! Crazy right? I do bring home some things…but that’s minimal and might be some grading needed for the next lesson or homework planning over the weekend. Stuff I can do from a computer at home. After work, I come home and swim, read, check London for ticks (don’t GET me started on the tick problem here). Wait for the sun to go down so I can cook dinner…(did I mention there isn’t any AC in the living room/kitchen area?)…with a gas stove/oven (that I have to use a lighter to light), it gets reallllly hot in the kitchen as the sun is setting. We face west, so the hot sun + no AC + fans doesn’t cut it. So we either eat outside during the sunset if we are just too hungry to wait, or cook when the sun in down. It works out alright. I can find anything I need for cooking. That’s a relief after going so long without those “must haves” that remind you of home. This is a different experience from Japan all around. But I wouldn’t trade either experience for anything!

This random grouping of photos was from a day at the salt lake…muddy and smelly. Doggies run freely and play in the water. Not London of course…too proper for that. These salt lakes are home to flamingos! A couple weekends ago we went to another beach about 45 mins away where there was a salt lake on the way. More flamingos! Paul tried to get a good picture.

I’ve already finished one book and on the way to finishing another as I read by the pool after school. That’s a novel experience. (bahahhahahah, get it…novel…reading?) I crack myself up.

We go to the beach mostly on the weekends, although I am keeping my eye on beach options for after work.  We get discounts at different places because we are staff at ISC…there is someone who owns something attending the school. That’s helpful, right?

Photos of the beach at Port St. Maria. We drove about 45 minutes on various desert roads. You’ll see a picture of one such desert road…and then suddenly the horizon looms in front of you with a spectacular ocean view. Love it!

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We get a discount at a local gym. Spa, cafe, AC, classes (yoga/pilates/boxing-dancing hybrid thing, Zumba…). Looks good. We also get a membership discount to the Hilton Hotel beach club. Beach, spa, pools, gym, cafe with discounts. I can’t decide which….one has yoga and other classes I am interested in and is also closer to home. The Hilton is a 25-3o min drive without traffic. But, it offers more (like the beach!). There are some people who already have the Hilton membership and go after work several times a week. Workout, swim/snorkel, snack, drink at the bar, then go home. That’s what I am thinking I’d rather do. Leave school at 3 or 3:30, go straight to the beach-do some snorkeling, swimming, tanning, have a drink…chill out. Could leave by 6:30 or 7 and come home to cook if I didn’t eat there or go out. Sounds perfect to me! We shall see 🙂

Paul’s schedule is shaping up. At the moment he is teaching English classes to the community through the school twice a week from 6-8pm. Other classes might start in November. He is also talking with a retired local teacher who is trying to set up an education center, not unlike a tutoring/after school center. Shall see where all that goes.

Speaking of Paul, Happy Birthday Darling! Fantastic tapas dinner at Kome. Check out these plates! We had cupcakes at home after 🙂

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Have my first diving trip scheduled for next weekend! The dive club at the school does coral restoration and next week Jen and I (another diver and new teacher) are taking a locally credited certificate course in coral restoration. It will be classroom time Saturday morning with an afternoon dive, then a dive on Sunday morning. Not very deep-but it will get us up and going to work with the students during their monthly dives. The greatest part…when we go with the students it’s only 45 guilder (that’s like 25 bucks or something) for the trip and gear rental. So cheap! Yeah!!!

Random photos…

Our little house is cute. It’s the basement (1st level) of the main house. 2 Bedrooms (both with AC) and one bath (no AC). The living room, dining room, and kitchen are all one big space. We have a washing machine in the kitchen and we line dry outside. It’s great though because it all dries in a couple hours with this wind and heat!

We have our water, internet, and cable tv included in rent (which school gives money for). We have to fill our own propane gas tank for our stove. That’s handy. No monthly gas bills there! And we pre-pay for our electricity. Which is also handy. We go to the registered places, give money and our account number. When we get home, we key in our account number on the little electricity key pad and voila! We have updated electricity. SO no monthly payment there. As for my cell phone, I have my unlocked galaxy type phone from home, and a prepaid local sim card. I just add money and there you go. Pretty easy. Mom can’t stand that we don’t have “hot water”…technically you turn the left tap and nothing. We have the option to get a hot water box for the shower…but you don’t need it! The water is delivered to houses in giant cubes. So it sits above ground all day in the sun. When the water comes out the tap, it’s warm to hot-ish anyway. Usually, I wish it were cooler…and when I shower? I like the colder water. Remember…it’s hot! Now these are the two hottest months of the year. Everyone says it will cool down (75-80ish) starting in October. It’s windy year round which in the shade, makes 10 degrees difference. Right now it’s been about 95-100 degrees in the direct sun, maybe hotter. Today it’s storming and raining (thanks tropical storms north east of us!) which has cooled things down.

Volleyball tournament! For charity, we put together our “company” team to compete against other company teams. We signed up thinking only 4 games…nope. Try 8! Sheesh that was a long night. It was great fun though. SO fun in fact, we are now playing Fridays after school. Maybe next year we can take 1st place, rather than 3rd 🙂 (3rd is really good considering we practiced one time!).
Oh, and I won a raffle! Whoa! Dinner voucher at a local beach club. SO pumped!

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Wearing the school soccer uniform…because the soccer team wanted to wear the school volleball uniforms. What?

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So much fun! We had a star! The girl jumping is a former ISC student, volleyball player, and PE teacher’s daughter. We were allowed one non-employee to play. She’s studying art at SCAD!

Yesterday we went to explore the Hilton to see if I want to become a member. We ate at a pirate bar (food was ok, view was most excellent). Dinner at Indonesian restaurant and an evening on the beach after. The local beach area known as Papagayo and Zanzibar kind of turn into a club Saturday nights. It’s free parking all over the island after 6pm and no cover fees or rules really. We didn’t want to be in the middle of the club chaos, so opted for tiramisu gelato and sat on the beach chairs looking at the stars and listening to the outdoor club music. It was nice…until about 10 when the crazies came off the dance floor for evening swims-in various states of undress 🙂 They weren’t wild and crazy and loud, but we had been out for about an hour and decided it was time to head home and let the 20 somethings have their fun.

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So, one month in and things are settling down. Now we have our own wheels we can explore more. It’s been fun getting to know the island and learn the local way. I look forward to more memories, diving, beach time, and hopefully having some familiar faces join us in our little blue lagoon.

Pasa bon dia (have a nice day),

K + P + L

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