Monday, May 30, 2011

The Top 10 Dumbest Things I Packed for St. Thomas

After waiting about two weeks, I joyously got my car and all of my belongings last Thursday night.  As I took the time to unpack all of the boxes and bags of what were once seemingly precious items, I realized that when faced with the dreamlike reality of moving to a place with gorgeous and warm weather every day, I had reached a state of complete confusion.  Personally, I think this is understandable since for 10 years I lived in a climate where you must be heavily and somehow fashionably dressed from head to toe for at least half the year.  However, it didn’t take long for me to realize what is and isn’t important to have down here.  After only two and a half weeks living in St. Thomas, I now know that many of the belongings I had desperately and thoughtfully packed were completely ridiculous.
The following is a list of these silly possessions:
10) 1 blue plaid flannel shirt.  Did I mention it's 85 and sunny here everyday? 

9) 2 aprons. Both aprons have sentimental value, and I do love to cook, but I'm pretty sure that neither of my grandmas even wear aprons anymore.

8) 7 designer purses/bags.  After about 3 days here I learned that I needed to check my vanity at the door.  It's too hot and nobody is spending money on frivolous items down here.  I now carry a black canvas bag that seems much more reasonable. 
7) A pair of black leather Frye biker boots.  These are my favorite pair of boots.  I’m still convinced that once I acclimate to the warmth down here, I will wear these boots.  I also should state that, of all the items I packed in my car, including a stereo/surround sound system, Xbox and all of my clothes, I was most concerned that someone would steal these boots.
6) A pair of light pink patent leather Stewart Weitzman stiletto heels.  Frankly, I hardly wore these in Chicago.     
5) My royal blue Nike running wind-breaker/jacket that I’ve had since high school.  Clearly, I can’t part with this item. 
See ‘The Hill’ posting for further explanation as to why this is dumb if you don’t already know.
4) A full length, hooded, terry-cloth robe.  I take cold showers now, so that I don't continue to sweat after I've washed off.  Absolutely no need for this one.      
3) 8 Scarfs.  These scarfs range from sweater wraps to pashminas to ‘summer scarfs’ (a la Jennifer Aniston).
2) A ski jacket.  This is a two piece coat that includes a heavy fleece layer and a water-resistant shell.  This coat ranks a close second in warmth to my full-length down coat which is tucked away in storage where it belongs.
1) A fake bearskin/fur blanket.  I don’t need to further comment on this one.          
So, that's it folks.  I'm a changed woman, and I now see the error of my ways. 
I'd like to dedicate this posting to my beloved boyfriend, Kevin, who repeatedly told me that I was packing too much unnecessary stuff for St. Thomas everyday for two weeks prior to our move.  He also continues to point out each item that I shouldn't have brought.  Kevin is a proud contributor to this posting.    

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Short, Short Stories: Part 1

I’m Starving
On the first night of my arrival to St. Thomas, we got in so late that there were very few restaurants open.  Starving, I pulled the car over and asked someone where a restaurant called Sibs was, as I had been told they served late night food.  In broken English and with an extremely heavy Caribbean accent, the man said to keep going straight, ’don’t go left, don’t go right’ he said. 
Upon moving ahead not even 1/8 of a mile, I reached a ‘Y’ intersection. 
Can I Get Some Help Here?

Since signing the lease to my home, I had been working directly with my landlord on anything related to the house.  He seemed pretty involved in the place and didn't have a problem talking to me about issues.  In addition, he was already working with me on fixing an issue with the refrigerator.  So, when I emailed the real estate agent, that had originally showed us the unit, for my landlord's personal contact information, I was taken off-guard when she firmly stated that she was managing the property and that any and all issues should go through her.  She called me to further discuss the issues at hand.  When I explained to her that the TV was shutting off automatically after being on for 5 minutes, she said that this was an issue that the landlord would have to deal with since he would have better knowledge of his own TV than her. 

Quality Customer Service

In order to set up phone/internet/cable on the island, you have to go in and meet personally with a representative of the cable company.  You can’t do this over the phone.  After spending an hour and a half with my cable company rep, who would hardly speak to me except for occasionally asking basic account set-up questions, the receptionist walked over to get my rep's extension so she could transfer a call.  Since my rep seemed too preoccupied with finding information to set up my account, the receptionist took it upon herself to look at the rep's phone to find the information she needed.  When the call was transferred, my rep was visibly upset and through clenched teeth she said, ‘Can’t she see I’m with a costumer?!” as though I was suddenly the most important thing to her.  She then answered the phone, all the while looking around for someone to express her frustration with in regards to the receptionist. 

Bravely, the receptionist came over to see what the problem was at which point my rep – still on the call with another customer - held the phone away from her ear and barked, ‘Can’t you see I’m with a customer?!?!  Why would you transfer a call?’  The receptionist immediately turned around and said ‘sorry’ in a meek, yet unapologetic voice as she was walking away.  Feeling as uncomfortable as a 5 year old that had just seen my friend get spanked by her parents, I wanted to look at my rep and say, ‘Yes, you are with a customer.  Could you please calm down?’, but instead I persevered through another 30 minutes of this nonsense before I could pay up and get the hell out of there.

Union Work At Its Best

While at the American Airlines counter to check in for our flight from Miami to St. Thomas, an hour and a half early, I noticed that it was taking a lot longer than I had expected.  Originally, I thought this was because we were checking in with our two dogs since there are guidelines to follow and additional paperwork to complete when traveling with pets.  The dogs seemed fine, so I decided to join my visibly annoyed boyfriend at the counter to assess the situation. 

Our airline representative had taken out a rather long checklist of things that needed to be done when checking in pets, and she seemed to be asking the representative next to her something about each item on the list.  She would then reiterate to us whatever the knowledgeable and capable woman next to her had just said even though we were standing right there and could hear everything.  Then the cycle would start again for the next item on the list.  I mean, this lady didn’t know one thing about the items on the list, and we came to the realization that not only had she never checked in pets, she couldn’t read English.  I’m not kidding.  She was at a complete loss as to what she should be doing with this checklist. 

When she couldn’t figure out how to peel a sticker to put it on the dog crates, my irritated boyfriend asked if he could do it for her.  She declined his offer and told him that he needed to calm down.  In his defense, I explained to her that we were concerned about making our flight.  She then reprimanded me by saying that we were supposed to be there two hours ahead of time since they were very busy and had important things to do.

Get It Together

When I got off the flight from Miami to St. Thomas, I was relieved to see that there were only 2 people in line at the car rental counter because it was getting late, and I was exhausted from a week of traveling and moving.  I quickly got in line behind a rather tall, middle-aged, southern gentleman.  After standing in line for a few minutes, I could tell that this man was looking for a reason to chat.  He looked down at me and said, ‘Wow!  What a pretty shade of toenail polish that is!’  I immediately didn’t believe that he liked my polish since it was an electric blue shade that would have been better worn on a 15 year old than me, but this guy had a southern accent so it seemed wrong for me not to oblige.  I responded with a sincere “thank-you”, which was the invitation he was looking for to converse further with me.  He asked me if I was on vacation, and I responded by telling him that I was actually moving to the island.  When he asked me why, I told him that we were moving for all the obvious reasons.  Meanwhile, the lady at the counter left and he moved ahead to take her place. 

This man then proceeded to take approximately 30 minutes to figure out whatever it was that he should have figured out prior to booking his reservation.  After standing there forever, the man’s wife walked over to me to apologize for the time it was taking him to get a car, and to thank me for my patience.  This only made things worse for me.  I looked at my boyfriend who was standing over in the luggage claim area and told him out loud that I was losing patience, and that I needed backup right away.    

Stool Sample

Anxious to start working again, I decided to look into a serving/bar tending job at a popular island place right on the water.  I figured, if nothing else it would be quick, easy money, and maybe I could make some friends. 

I bellied up to the bar around lunchtime and asked the bartender if they were looking for any help.  He said they were looking and asked if I had a Health Card.  Confused, I told him that I had health insurance, while I dug through my wallet for my insurance card.  He corrected me by saying that the Health Card is something totally different from insurance, and it’s exclusive to the service industry on the island.  He then proceeded by instructing me to buy a sampling cup, poop in it and then take it to the local hospital for inspection.  Before going to get his manager to meet me, he warned me to go to the hospital early because apparently there are a lot of people out there needing to have their poop checked and it gets really busy. 

Eventually, the manager came out to let me know that they were definitely interested in hiring me, but that I had to get a Health Card first.  Legally, they couldn’t hire me without it, and he didn’t think that it was even worth it for me to fill out an application until the Health Card was obtained.  In all my life, including 6 years in the service industry, I’ve never had to give a stool sample.  So, I couldn’t help but ask the manager what they were looking for in my sample.  He looked at me and reassuringly stated, “Oh, don’t worry they aren’t looking for drugs.”    

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Hill

After having a great weekend hiking and hitting the beach, I woke up Monday morning with a positive attitude about the week.  I decided to start my day off right by going for a jog.  Jogs on this island are no easy task, as I now live at the very top of a large, steep hill that includes at least two very challenging switchbacks. 
I planned on running down the hill, into the valley, up to the beach, then back through the valley and up the hill.  This is about a 3 mile run split evenly among the downhill, uphill and valley portions.  I’ve been running long distance for nearly 20 years, and a 3 mile run is something that I probably could have done on one leg back in Chicago.  No sweat, I thought.
I started out, blazing a trail down the right side of the hill (we drive on the left now), with all kinds of pleasant thoughts.  It was a nice sunny day, and I was looking forward to the benefits that running the hills would bring me.  In particular, a tighter ass and more toned legs.  I took in the ocean view to my right and enjoyed the decline.  As I passed people along the way, I made it a point to offer the standard and very much expected island greeting of “good morning” to each one of them.  I even cheerfully said hello to a lady curiously going up one of the switchbacks backwards.  And, of course I waved to all my neighbors when they drove by in their cars.  
Things leveled out when I reached the valley.  I was feeling pretty good at this point and contemplated a quick swim in the ocean when I reached the shore.  However, I decided to turn around and continue with my jog.
Everything changed quickly and dramatically upon starting my incline back up the hill.  All positive thoughts and happy greetings went out the window, and I switched into survival mode.  As I pumped it up the first hill toward the entrance to my neighborhood, I became conscience of how much I was sweating.  God it was hot.  Were my lungs burning?  I was approaching the switchbacks and decided to walk so that I could rest a bit before taking on the hardest part.  To me walking is demoralizing, as I've always thought walking during a run is admitting defeat.  This damn hill, the stifling humid air and the blazing sun had defeated me.  So, demoralized, hot, sweaty and with burning lungs, I gathered up as much strength as I could, turned up Rhianna on my IPod and ‘jogged’ my way up the switchbacks.  Thinking back to that strange lady, I wondered if it would be easier to turn around and do this backwards.  I was desperate.
After reaching the top of the switchbacks, I was probably a quarter of the way up the hill and completely out of breath.  I stopped.  I don’t mean I stopped running to walk a bit.  No.  I completely stopped.  I can’t remember the last time I was so out of breath, and I was no longer concerned for my safety as cars passed me by on this narrow, winding road.  I realized that there was no amount of Black Eyed Peas, Rhianna, Nine Inch Nails or Lady Gaga that could help me through this.  I was on my own - just me and the hill.       
I won’t bore you with the rest of the pain I endured as I made my way up the remainder of this mile incline.  Suffice it to say that I did make it home eventually, where I treated myself to a cold shower and some Gatorade. 
I will live to see another run.          

Sunday, May 22, 2011

It's a Jungle Out There!

After spending several days on St. Thomas, one of the biggest things to jump out at me is the amount of animal run-ins I’ve had. 
St. Thomas is what they call a dry-tropical climate.  There are cacti right next to palm trees, which doesn’t seem to make sense, but that’s how it is here.  It is two extremes.  With this in mind, it’s my impression that when animals and plants have a chance to get some water, they take full advantage of it and thrive for however long the water lasts.  Plants that seemed to be dying, all of a sudden bounce back and animals appear out of nowhere.
With this in mind, the weather has been very rainy over the last few days, so it shouldn’t be surprising that the island and all of its creatures have come alive, except…I’m not used to all of these creatures, so it’s been surprising the hell out of me.
The first day in the house, I made the mistake of not closing the screen door.  Naturally, a lizard made its way inside and hid under the TV.  After my boyfriend and I spent several minutes trying to locate it, I yelled, “There it is!” when I found the lizard on the speaker.  My boyfriend then looked at it and said, “That’s not the one I saw.  That’s another one.”  So now we were dealing with 2 lizards – that we knew of.  We grabbed a garbage can and a piece of paper, our weapons of choice, and focused our efforts on catching the one we could see.  However, it eventually disappeared, so we went back to trying to get the one located under the TV.  After moving the TV several times, the lizard finally ran out from under the TV, seemingly running directly at me, at which point I screamed at the top of lungs as the lizard hid underneath the couch.  Without much success, we tried to get the lizard out from under the couch.  We finally gave up with the hope that our new friend would find his way back outside as easily has he found his way inside. 
Frogs are also prevalent in the area.  One night as we were sitting down for dinner on the deck, my boyfriend waved me over to one of the plants on our table where we had planned on eating.  He pointed to the plant.  There, nestled in the potted plant on our table was a frog.  Apparently, its best defense was to stay put, as it showed no sign of moving.  After some debate, my boyfriend and I decided to leave him alone as we sat eating dinner, perfectly aware that this thing could jump out at us at any minute.
Frogs and lizards aside, it’s the mosquito that is the most stealth and threatening of all the creatures I’ve encountered.  Make no mistake, these things are animals, and they attack with a vengeance equal to that of a panther.  After waking up with countless bug bites one morning, I quickly realized that all precautions must be taken to protect myself.  I set out to buy bug spray, anti-itch cream, citronella torches/candles, mosquito coils, etc.  As a side, the mosquito coils are to be burned outside, but I prefer to burn them, 2 at a time, inside for maximum protection.  I’ve thought about burning the torches inside, too.  We also sealed off all of the doors and windows, and at night we close all drapes and turn off every light.  This has helped, but not totally prevented bites.  I’m still at a loss for how the islanders avoid getting eaten alive by these predators. 
The biggest variety of wildlife can be seen by simply driving around the island.  One night, on the way home from watching the Bulls game at a sports bar, I saw a large crab scurrying across the road.  On that same drive I saw several frogs desperately hopping off the road to safety.  When pulling out of the Home Depot parking lot the other day, I found a small herd of goats eating flower petals.  There is also the occasional rooster that I either hear or see along the road.  In addition, I’ve seen a curious animal at the beach that appears to be some kind of ferret/squirrel hybrid.  Finally, there are numerous iguanas along the side of the road – dead and alive.  Part of me finds humor in the fact that, similar to what the possum is in the States, the iguana is road kill down here.  The other part of me finds it very sad that these poor things are getting hit by cars while innocently trying to make it across the road.   
I’m sure I’m leaving out several other creatures that I’ve seen, but the point is that it truly is another world down here.  I’ve found it extremely entertaining to take in all of my new little friends and enemies.  For the first time, I feel as though I am living in their world, rather than the other way around.  I’m not sure how I feel about this, but either way it’s probably the way things were intended to be.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Day One

Last Saturday was my first day on the island.  After only about 5 hours of sleep I woke up surprisingly energized and enthusiastic about what the day would bring.  I had planned on getting some shopping done in the morning, then hitting the beach in the afternoon.
After grabbing some breakfast at my new favorite coffee shop, the Barefoot Buddha, I began exploring the few shopping options that the island has to offer so I could get some supplies and food for the new place. 
I started by signing up to be a member of the local Price Smart where I can buy a variety of items in bulk.  Now that I have a house to store 100 rolls of toilet paper, I intend on buying that many rolls at an unbelievable discount.  I also proceeded to buy several other things in large quantity such as 2 ½ dozen eggs, 2 liters of Extra Virgin Olive Oil, 2 restaurant size bags of frozen vegetables and enough season salt to last for several years.
The next stop was Kmart.  Since there aren’t many clothing stores or drug stores, Kmart is THEE store on the island, and I quickly realized that this was where I’d be shopping on a consistent basis for most of my needs.   I succeeded in piling the shopping cart full of a various things, most importantly beach chairs and a cooler. 
I also checked out the local Home Depot and Cost U Less to see what they had to offer before driving back to my place.
Once I was home I unpacked the car and got started on getting the house situated.  Since our house is fully furnished, there wasn’t much unpacking to do, but I did spend a good amount of time cleaning up the kitchen and bathrooms. 
In fact, I had been so gratified by my shopping excursion and engrossed in cleaning that I never made it to the beach.  Instead, I was enjoying getting everything in order, and it had become a cloudy afternoon anyway.  It was just nice being in the house and getting familiar with things. 
By dinner time, I was exhausted from the day, but not too tired to throw together some chicken and vegetable kabobs to put on the grill.  When the food was ready, I sat down at the table on the deck, and looked out over the ocean.  From the deck I could see Tortola and several other islands in the distance, and it was a quiet night, so I could hear the tide.  I had a sip of my wine before digging in.  When dinner was over I sat there for a long time, relaxing and taking it all in.  
I will never forget this day.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Be Afraid...Be Very Afraid.

Last week I dropped off my car at a port in Florida to have it shipped to St. Thomas, and for any of you that have concerns about border protection and/or homeland security at our nation's sea ports, I can confirm with confidence that all of your concerns are legitimate. 

My experience began at the security entrance of the port, which resembled a toll booth.  I was greeted by a security guard that asked where I was headed.  When I gave him the address of our location, there was some confusion, and I was told to pull ahead, turn around and come back to the booth so the guy in the car behind me could pass through.  Once I moved ahead, I was immediately stopped by a different security guard that told me to simply pull aside and park while I reconfirmed my destination.  After telling the guard that my destination was to a company called Sea Star, the guard asked me for my drivers license.  In the meantime, another guard who I presumed to be this guy's boss walked by and berated the security guard by repeatedly telling him that, 'you don't ask the right questions, you don't ask the right questions, you aren't asking the right questions'.  The guard smiled at me with some embarrassment and walked away with my license.

When he returned, the guard handed me my license.  He then gave me a name tag that said 'Sae Star' and resembled something that you'd wear at a company cocktail party.  He then asked me if I had any weapons.  I responded by telling him 'no', which seemed sufficient enough to him, since he then told me that I was clear to move on.

Now, I'm aware that when racial profiling, I'm not at the top of the list of concerns from a terrorism perspective, but my car was loaded with sealed boxes and bags - none of which were inspected.  I find it confusing that I have to take off my flip flops to be scanned through security at the airport, but an entire SUV full of sealed boxes to be shipped to St. Thomas via Miami and San Juan were of no concern to the port security.  As far as this guard knew, I could have loaded up my car with enough ammo to blow Miami, San Juan and/or St. Thomas off the map, or more likely, that I had loaded my car up with enough cocaine to retire off of, but he simply let me move on.  I'm guessing that he was probably thankful to get rid of me, so his boss would get off his back.

I then met with a representative at Sea Star.  Once all the necessary documents were collected in their mobile home of an office, I was told that my car would be inspected for insurance, not security, purposes.  I met the inspector, who spoke no English, outside by my car.  He gestured for me to pull my car back into the middle of the parking lot.  When I struggled to understand exactly what he was asking, he got extremely frustrated and made the same jester in a more dramatic and angry sort of way.  I eventually caught on and did what he wanted.  He then proceeded to look my car over, documenting all dents, scratches, etc.  He also measured the car.  I wasn't sure if they were concerned that the car may not be the same size when it arrived in St. Thomas, or what, but this guy meant business.  After looking my car over, he slammed down his clipboard and pealed off a sticker to put on the windshield, meanwhile allowing the paper backing of the sticker to fly away in the wind.  After that, he picked up the clipboard and stammered inside without acknowledging me as he passed by.  I'm hoping that security has him on their radar. 

Eventually, the polite lady that originally took our documents told me that I needed to drop my car off at a different location and explained where I needed to go. 

This was the final destination, and when I got there, I realized that this was where the semi-trucks also go to deliver all their cargo.  Upon getting out of my car I couldn't help but notice that the entrance for the semi's was 'gated' by a rusty chain that a security guard dropped when allowing the next truck through to check some sort of tag on the back of the trucks and move them along.  Surely this chain was no match for a semi, but this was their process and by the looks of the chain, this had been the process for some time.

I was relieved to find the final part of the shipping experience to be rather easy.  I basically gave over my keys, and someone drove my car away.  However, I was surprised to find that the only documentation that was provided as a 'receipt' for the car and all the contents of the car was a green carbon copy piece of paper with some chicken scratch on it.  Did they not realize that I had just dropped off my car and all of my bare necessities to be handled by them?

Alas, the process was over and a cab was on it's way.  It didn't take too long for the cab to find me, but shortly after getting into the cab there was a sudden sort of semi-truck rush hour to get out of the port.  After approximately 60 seconds of waiting without moving and several sighs/grunts from the cab driver, he decided he couldn't take it and got out of the car to see what the problem was.  No doubt, this guy was a loose cannon.  He then got back in the car, complaining, and we continued to wait another 5 - 10 minutes.  He then decided to maneuver the car through the semis by driving along side them in another lane that opened up.  When the movement of that lane stopped, he pulled our car through another lane by squeezing the car in-between the front of one semi and the back of another semi.  I prayed that the driver of one of the semi's could see us and didn't move forward, which would have crushed our car.  Luckily, we made it through that lane and into another free lane, where we were able to move ahead and get out of the port.  We then got on the highway and moved along at a good pace, but that didn't stop our driver from continuing to complain about traffic.  At this point, I had had enough, I put on my headphones and continued listening to my audiobook until we reached our hotel.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Moving Day Misery

Monday was moving day, and I had food poisoning.  By experience I can confirm that there is no worse combination than moving with food poisoning.  Ugh.

I can't help but feel somewhat responsible for my own misfortune.  After all, when faced with the fact that I was moving away from one of the best food cities in the United States, I made it my weekend mission to eat as much as possible of all of my favorite foods.  I had stuffed pizza, Kimchi fries, Korean BBQ tacos and several Indian dishes.  In addition, I had countless drinks at my going-away party on Saturday night, including one large fishbowl that contained some sort of blue concoction.  It was gluttony, and I was loving every minute of it.

So, it shouldn't have been much of a surprise when I woke up at 1:00 a.m. on Monday with the most intense feeling of nausea.  I'll spare you the details, but the rest of the night wasn't pleasant, and I got very little sleep.  It was all I could do to get up when my alarm went off at 6:00 a.m.  In fact, I was so sick that it took me about an hour to shower, get dressed and strip the bed.  By that time, there were only about 30 minutes left until the movers arrived. 

While the movers did their job, I spent my time taking Pepto Bismol and trying to find a comfortable place to lay down in my increasingly empty apartment.  I finally found some refuge in my closet where I proceeded to shut the door and lay down in the fetal position on an old comforter.  This was rock bottom for me.

Once the place was packed, I muscled up enough strength to drive to the storage facility and wait in my car while the movers packed the storage units full.  By the degree of exhaustion I was feeling, you would have thought I had physically moved my entire apartment all by myself.  And, in some sort of Black Swan weird way, I kept wondering if the movers resented me for my apparent laziness.

Finally, by about 2:00 p.m., when the moving was done and the loose ends were tied up, I was able to lay down once again.  I desperately blew up my Aero Mattress and past out for a few hours before passing out again for the night at around 8:00. 

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Meet Bob

Ironically enough I was in the Caribbean last week on vacation and took the time to swing over to St. Thomas to meet with the landlord and pickup the keys. 

The house is fully furnished as most St. Thomas homes are, and contains several peculiar items including, a ceramic and possibly life-sized leopard, a jukebox, a couple swords and last, but without a doubt not inversion table.  The contents of the home led me to be extremely anxious to meet my landlord, Bob. 

As I pulled up to the house I was immediately greeted by a small, white, barking dog that seemed quite threatened by me, but harmless nonetheless.  I walked to the door and knocked a couple of times, but there was no sign of Bob, except for what I presumed to be his car in the drive.  Eventually, Bob appeared walking up the road at his own pace, and he introduced himself and his little white dog. 

Bob started out by telling me all about the plants in the front yard, how long to water them and how often.  He continued to confess that he rather enjoyed pouring himself a drink in the evenings and taking care of the yard.  By the look of his round belly and red nose, I'm guessing Bob doesn't need the plants as an excuse for 'a' drink, but it sounded good to me. 

Then, we proceeded to the other side of the house where Bob explained that if there is a hurricane, and it's bad enough, he will take responsibility for boarding up the house, which is a 10 hour affair.  Apparently, Bob has been on the island for 30+ years, so he knows when a bad enough storm is coming, but to put things in perspective he told us that Hurricane Earl wasn't bad enough for him to board up the house.  This seemed slightly alarming to me since the winds from that hurricane were blowing at 85 mph.  I'm hoping that his gage for the force of a hurricane is as he said, based on experience, rather than based how hung over he may be that day. 

Bob continued with this tutorial by explaining the water situation.  In St. Thomas everyone uses stern water.  To put it bluntly, I'm going to be using water that has come from the roof and made it's way down into a huge tank located underneath the house where it sits until it is needed.  That's right, folks.  As one person put it, there will be iguana poop in my water.  However, that's not the least of my concern.  Bob pointed out that while the tanks are large enough that the water shouldn't run out, I should be smart about water consumption in order to avoid having to order and pay for more water to be delivered.  Bob further explained what he meant about conserving water by telling me that when showering we should rinse off, turn off the water, then lather, turn on the water and rinse again.  This also means that we shouldn't flush for #1s, only for #2s.  Meanwhile, Bob still has the garden hose running full blast on the same tree it was on when  I arrived.

Next we moved into the house where Bob explained a few quirks with the refrigerator, the screen door and the jukebox.  As a side, the jukebox isn't functioning, which was a complete disappointment to me.  He also mentioned that the inversion table may not be staying in the house, so long as his 'lady friend's' health allowed her to use it in their home.  Fine by me. 

We wrapped things up with Bob's explanation about the generator.  I'm guessing a lot of you have heard of these, but aren't really sure what they are and most of you have never used one.  Basically, the generator is going to provide electricity/energy as a back up for when (not if) the electricity goes out.  Apparently, the electricity goes out at any given moment for an unexpected amount of time.  Bob seemed to think that the generator should suffice as long as we don't turn anything on.

Upon completing Bob's explanation of the house we have some small talk where Bob tells me that he lived on a sailboat for 5 years, has 3 sons and currently lives with the aforementioned 'lady friend'.  He also reassured me that he is one of the island's better landlords, which I actually believe.  He then hands me the keys and sends me on my way.  

Monday, May 2, 2011

Run For It

There is still a lot to do before moving next week, but today I took a mid-day break to go for a jog on my usual path through Lincoln Park.  While passing through the park, I realized that this would be one of the last runs I'll take in Chicago, which is unfortunate because, unlike St. Thomas, Chicago is a great running town.  There's a lot of flat land, a great park and an entire lakefront to jog along.  I took advantage of this to train for two 13.1 marathons while I lived here.  The training for those races resulted in several runs in extreme weather, but also a good amount of runs with an exceptional city view and fantastic people watching.  Regardless, all of my runs made me feel accomplished at the end.

Ultimately, that's why I came to Chicago - to accomplish something.  I didn't know specifically what I wanted to accomplish, but I knew I wanted to see how far I could take my life while I was here.  And, Chicago didn't let me down.  I've made good friends, eaten amazing food, drank at every possible bar I could find, gone to sports games, built a career, fallen in love and bought a house.  Indeed, I grew up here in Chicago.

Many people may wonder why I'm leaving Chicago if I've had such a wonderful experience here, but it's because of my good experience in Chicago that I feel even more confident that I'll have another good experience elsewhere.  Of course, if my move isn't what I am hoping, I know Chicago will be right where I left it. 

So, this week I'm going to run my runs through the park and enjoy what I have before I leave to see where my life will take me.