We’ve been here just over a month now, and it seemed time to share some of the things I’ve learned in my short time here. This may help new people coming to the island, our friends and family when they come to visit, or just act as a reminder to me when we come back after going home for the summer.
- We were exceptionally lucky to not lose bags on our trip. Nearly everyone we run into, whether they flew Jet Blue, Caribbean, American or Liat, lost bags. Many have been missing for weeks with no resolution in sight. That being said, I’ve learned that the next time I pack, anything I have an emotional (or hefty financial) attachment to, I will carry on. It’s too bad that some of our most precious belongings are our fancy knives. Those will just have to be packed with a hope and a prayer.
- On the bag front — and I alluded to this in an earlier post — book your tickets on the phone and confirm the number of bags you are allowed with the agent. Ask them to note it on your transaction. Call back later and ask them to read you any notes on your ticket/transaction to confirm it was done. This may sound petty/small, but it would have helped us immensely with the bag embargo had there been a note on our account saying what we had been told. Yes, we ended up making it through with everything, but it was a close call and huge hassle.
- The people here are incredibly friendly, but just like anywhere, no one walks around with a smile 24/7. When you’re at home, this doesn’t seem too weird (in fact, it would seem creepy if everyone had a non-stop plastered on smile), but when you’re in a foreign country, your (my) immediate thought is “everyone is so grumpy and must hate foreigners!” Not the case. I’m an introvert at heart and have never been one to offer a smile and hello to a stranger in the street. Not any more. Now I smile and say hello to every person I pass. I even wave at people in cars! And you know what? People smile and greet me back! What a revolutionary idea, right?
- When you say “thank you” to someone here, you don’t get a “you’re welcome”, you get an “alright”. At first, this seemed almost a little rude to me, but I think they’re meaning, “it’s alright, I don’t mind”.
- There are going to be days when you think you have everything together, and then it turns out you don’t. For example, I menu planned the hell out of last week, yet we didn’t have the meal I scheduled for Monday because the chicken wasn’t thawed in time, and we didn’t have it again Tuesday, because I forgot that it required a 24 hour marination period. You just learn to roll with the punches and adjust.
- You will live in a perpetual state of itchiness. For me, it’s my feet. Even when I’m religious about applying bug spray or Odomos, I come home with bug bites any time I venture outside. This will leave you with two options: have the strength of will of a champion, or end up with some scratching scars. I definitely fit into camp number two. I’ve heard B6 helps your blood taste nasty to mosquitos, so I’m trying that now. I’ve also found that taking an OTC sleep aid, like Wal-som, helps with the itchiness overnight, since it is basically Benadryl.
- Always have an umbrella on your person. At all times. It could rain buckets at any given time, and unless you enjoy getting soaked, making some purse or backpack room for a mini umbrella will save your shorts. Literally.
- On the rain front, wearing shoes that you don’t need socks with is really the way to go. Flip flops and sandals are ideal, but any sort of ballet flat/slip on type shoe works too. You pretty much want shoes that if you walk through a puddle, you won’t be hating your soggy-sock life for the rest of the day.
- Bringing a ton of cooking equipment has allowed us to lead a life virtually indistinguishable from what we led in the States. With our Cuisinart, I have made pizza dough, puff pastry and bread — all of which I had never tried at home, mind you. Our rice maker allows us to not only make quality rice, but also acts as a steamer, slow cooker, or small oven. Our mini blender allows me to have smoothies every morning, make lemonade slushes for treats, and make milkshakes when I have a craving. The giant cutting board that we brought allows us to have a secondary workstation by our sink. And of course, our pots, pans, knives and knife sharpeners have allowed us to keep cooking the way we love to. When packing, I highly recommend considering what will make your life easier. Food is a big part of our relationship, and being able to cook healthy, delicious meals here makes a huge difference in our life here, not to mention the fact that being able to cook the foods we crave (i.e. pizza) allows us to save on eating out costs.
While I’m sure I’ve learned much more, that’s a start. I’m sure I’ll be adding more to the list the longer we are here.