Saturday, September 1, 2012

Loose Ends - A Guest Post

Hey remember us?! Renee (& Michael) here. I noticed a lot of you sent a nice hello to Ben and were quite welcoming. Way to be the friendly people I've grown to know over the years! I haven't started a new blog (yet?) but wanted to update you guys on where things are with Michael and me. We have done nothing but run around like the Keys' famous chickens/roosters since we got here. As a matter of fact, this towel couldn't have said how I've been feeling any better.


We blissfully walked away from our lives and almost all of our stuff when we left the States in 2006. I was feeling pretty free when this was pretty much all our stuff too, just 1 week ago.



But we're slowly accumulating again. We just purchased two scooters, which we picked up today. We don't have insurance yet, so just took them back to our place and parked them. We got them from the Yamaha dealership and bought a new Road House 50 and a Buddy 50 (anything over 50ccs and you need a motorcycle license).



No, they don't have helmet laws here (I'll await your lectures). We already got 2 parking tickets on the mopeds we've rented (Michael's odometer doesn't work, my scooter doesn't start 1/2 the time, and only my brights on the headlight works). Welcome back to the States!

We went into the bank and I was a) surprised when someone held the door open for us - no one does that in St. Kitts for anyone - they walk thru the door and let it slam in your face, whatever color or sex you are; and 2) the teller was so nice it was as if she knew us. That second one was a bonus as I hadn't stepped inside a bank in maybe a decade and needed some guidance.

Michael just got an iPhone and calling plan (he can't figure out how to work the thing). How the heck do you people afford that crap? I was going to get one too but it was something like $160/month with taxes and insurance for the two of us (not including buying the phones). That's nuts. I'll stick with my pay-as-you-go until I can find something cheaper. Jeez. 

We spent a very, very loooong week trying to find a place to live. At least the place we were staying in for the first week, The SpeakEasy Inn, was really cute and the owners/workers were very nice too.



Jack was intrigued by something he'd never experienced before - air conditioning (set at 82) - and warmed up to the whole adventure. Zura, not so much.



The water pressure. O...M....G!!!


I would have loved to have stayed in these comfy surroundings forever, but noooooo. The pickings for housing are very slim right now, no matter what price-range you're in, but for us po' people it's not pretty. We looked at everything from places that looked like chattel houses (former slave homes), to barracks, to condos, to old houses, and it was all poopoo. We picked the least worst place (1/2 house in front) which we found out about from the bartender while were hanging out at the Sunset Pier with Scott (upcoming co-worker) and his wife Paula.



That was the Sunset Pier. As far as the house: Negatives: Tiny rooms (that 2nd photo below is the entire living room - sofa to right), one window, unfurnished, ancient appliances, no storage.  Positives: Big porch, nice/quiet neighborhood.............a place to live.



Except that I can't help but compare it to this (which was cheaper).



Sigh. Anywho, we found out the place wasn't available until the end of September, put a deposit down on it, and then wondered what the heck we were going to do for a month. Things were starting to get rather scary as we were about to end up in the street (yesterday); and literally, just as were chasing the cats down to cram them into their carriers again and head to the curb, we got word that we had a temporary place to stay. When we walked into the apartment, we couldn't believe our luck. It was really cute (especially when you compare it to the other places). Note that even the key was artsy.



The place has 4 apartments with really nice people living in the other units and comes with a shared pool and dining area in the back. When we walk out to our scooters, and the other tenants say hi to us from wherever they're perched, it scares the bejeebers out of me every time.



The landlord is going to love us. We've turned off the a/c and opened the windows. We have our own outdoor shower and dining area too. We can even use the bicycles (2 have flats).



Our overall impressions of the Keys? Well, everything is over air-conditioned. I carry my sweatshirt with me everywhere. The grocery store is in the running with the Miami airport for arctic temps. Both of us are showing signs of allergies. Michael sneezes constantly (which is real fun when I'm following him on my moped) and my eyes are perpetually tearing up. We're hoping our bodies adapt to this change. We definitely feel better since we turned off the a/c in our unit. The sun comes up late (7am) and it's more humid here.


Overall observations? The Circle K has a huge selection of booze and soda.  MMMMmmmmmmm.



There are sidewalks... Note that Michael is already getting into the American swing of things. I went to walk the four blocks to the beach and he asked why were walking. Sigh.


Chickens/Roosters: We see them, but haven't heard them yet. I think we're immune anyway. If you've stayed in Puerto Rico or the Dominican Republic you're an old-hat at the cockle-doodle-doo thing at 4am.



They have entire stores dedicated to one thing - from soap to olive oil. BTW, we went into an art store owned by a couple from Nevis. They weren't there that evening, but we loved their stuff.


Can you see the bulges on these mannequins? Pool boy? Plow boy? At the bottom of the photo "cocky" something-or-other. Cracks us up.


Food. We're back in the land of food (vegan dishes, to boot!). We had a slice of pizza (definitely not vegan) as we walked home the other day and felt all giddy. Palm beer is fantastic. Michael enjoyed ice cream from Flamingo. We haven't actually grocery shopped, but we did run in and out of Winn Dixie and Publix today. I think we'll be ok with our veggie selections, but we will have to shop at both stores. K-Mart was just as I remembered it (ugh) and the Home Depot was pretty organized (we need a scrap of carpet for our cats to scratch). Sears...soon.



The architecture is crazy with the Walgreens looking like a theater and Wendy's looking like, well, something other than a box.



Wildlife. I'm not sure where we saw that parrot. That's Midnight outside our short-term rental - this is very much a cat town. Turtle crossing!



And what is this? A mailman...and mail woman (with dreadlocks, no less)?! We were asking the long-term landlord how we should pay her for the house deposit - credit card, direct deposit, drop it by the office, etc. - and she looked at us very matter-of-fact and said "Or you could just mail it." Oh. Yeah.



We had a few run-ins with some snobby realtors, but overall people have been very friendly. I just want to get to the point where I'm not lost all the time. I hate this part of the moving process - the clueless part. There is no question that we are sooooo missing this (our last hash):




Especially when what we've got is this. Notice the concrete private "beach" and all the "Do not" signs?



Yep, this is going to take some getting used to. BTW, their internet goes in and out all day too (it's actually worse than St. Kitts). Grumble. At least it's fast when it is working.

Ok, what other loose ends do we have? Our frozen stuff. We've been sticking the bag in every fridge we've encountered without opening it. Finally today, just for the blog, we took a chance and peeked inside. We think it's ok. The stuff was pretty much just wheat and soy. We'll try some tonight. If something bad happens, you're the witnesses to our cause of death.

What else? Ah yes, the theft of our stuff the week before we left St. Kitts.  For those of you with Facebook accounts, here's a write-up of what went down from the police point-of-view. The reporter's command of English is atrocious, but you get the idea. I wasn't sure what info they wanted out there, but I see that for the most part that the cat is out of the bag, so wrote up my version of events. It's 4 1/2 pages long, so empty your bladders, get a snack, and settle in when you're ready.

So I still haven't decided whether I'll do another blog, but I have most certainly gotten a lot of feedback from you asking. How about you click on this and I'll decide by the # of yes's I get whether I have enough of an audience for the trouble.

Should Renee Start Another Blog?

 



Next week, I'm hoping to talk to one or two newspapers about starting a column. If that happens, I'll actually get paid to Babble, and will just give you a link to the column. If it doesn't, I'll start a blog if the interest is there. Any idea for names?

Again, I appreciate you guys showing Ben some love. Miss you folks - whaaaaa. Renee