Sunday, August 12, 2012

Here We Are. Again.

In fact, we’ve been here (that is to say, Grenada) since Tuesday evening.  Our summer was short, hot and hectic.  And, were I any kind of courteous blogger, I would have posted a basic “on hiatus” post, or “away for the summer” notice.  My apologies to anyone who checked, however infrequently, for updates on my vacation.  I promise to work on my carelessness in the future.
First things first: Our escape.
Ivan's notes from first term the day before we flew home

Into the garbage!

We flew out of Grenada on May 21 via American Airlines to Miami, where we had a three-hour layover.  From the moment we stepped off the plane (note—this is after taxiing and farting around while everyone got their carry-ons unloaded) to the moment we exited security, took almost exactly one hour.  That included claiming and re-checking all of our luggage, following color-coded lines across the airport, like mice at a crumb trail, passing through customs and inching through agonizingly slow security.  Then we took the air train (Miami airport’s speedy people-mover) to the wrong gate.  So we hopped back on the air train to the correct gate and had just enough time to cram fast food down our gullets before our flight to Pittsburgh began loading.  All in all, I would not recommend students or SOs book flights with a layover shorter than three hours at Miami, unless you are thoroughly familiar with the above process and the airport’s layout.
On the plane and in the airports, we had our priorities…

  My first few days back in the States were dizzying.  I couldn’t get over this airy sensation that I now attribute to, well, patriotism.  I love how enormous my country is—and I’ve barely seen a fraction of it!—the rolling highways of maintained order and cleanliness (trust me, in my position, you’d feel the same way), the soft grass and familiar trees, the spacious roads and sidewalks, the traffic lights and traffic signs and speed limits, the feel of carpet, the apples (Oh! The apples!  We must have eaten fifty Gala apples!), and the wealth.  Of course, the wealth, which is why I was able to spend my vacation strolling through aisle after aisle of limitless merchandise and choosing between fifty different brands of hair conditioner before deciding I don’t really need conditioner, I just like to know there are five-hundred bottles of it that I don’t have to buy, and there are five-hundred more at the store next door, just in case I want to do some price comparisons.  It’s a consumerist society, my country, and I’m only mildly ashamed to say that I love it that way.  Or, perhaps I’m just accustomed to it.

Our summer, then, was pretty great, albeit not quite the vacation we’d planned.  We spent the first week living with my parents (in my old bedroom, no less).  Everything was hunky, and also dory, while staying with the folks.  We went grocery shopping (one of my most favorite types of shopping) at Wegman’s (one of my most favorite places to shop) so I could shanghai the kitchen (one of my most favorite rooms in a house) and do the cooking (one of my most favorite activities of all time).  Then we visited one of our dogs, Babe, who was being kept for us while we were abroad.  For this, that, and the other reason, we had to remove her from her temporary home.  After a few unsuccessful attempts at relocating her, we found ourselves being the ones relocating—with Babe in tow.  Having already parted with the other two dogs—not to mention 90% of what we’d spent our lives building—we were not going to lose Babe.  In this decision, I was (and am still very) resolute.
Megan and Emma
We moved in with my brother, Ed, and his wife, Mēgan, (to whom we are eternally grateful and will not forget when we are back on our feet) to share their home in Pittsburgh with my nephew, Eddie, niece, Emma, and niece-dog, Ziggy.  We stayed in their finished basement where the arctic A/C couldn’t scare us from the wall-mounted wide-screen plasma TV with DVR which, incidentally, worked very well with our Wii.  Ed and Megan were amazing hosts, even throwing me a surprise early 29th birthday party, and I got to spend tons of time with my hilarious nephew and utterly adorable niece.  Babe will be staying with them while we’re in Grenada and we get to see them all again this Christmas (I can’t wait… already!).
Mom and Dad

My birthday cake--a reference to the children's show Yo Gabba Gabba and a side effect of living with children

Birthday presents!

The night ended with me smearing the birthday cake on everyone as they slept... it was a good night.

We flew back via American Airlines on August 7th.  Flying from North America to the Caribbean via AA means coach passengers are allowed one free checked item apiece (pretty unheard of these days!), with an additional piece of checked luggage costing $40.  The luggage cannot exceed 50 pounds, as you probably already know.  We decided to check three bags since we had more items to bring back this term (mostly kitchen supplies for our new digs).  As far as I’m concerned, this was a little bit of genius on my part, since shipping fifty pounds to Grenada would cost… oi! you don’t want to know!
Our first bit of luck was when we checked in at 4:30 am and weren’t charged for a single checked bag (weighing in at 49 pounds, 49 pounds, and 50 pounds).  So we saved $40!  Our flight was smooth and I actually got a little sleep without the need for Dramamine.  We had almost a seven-hour layover in Miami.  Finally we took off again and landed in Grenada about 20 minutes late.  Per usual, we walked across the tarmac to the wee airport where Grenadian greeters offered us rum punch.  Now, if Wal-Mart would fashion their greeters in this way, people might hate that place a little less (I know a certain Wal-Mart-hating sister-in-law that would).  Unfortunately, having been up since two that morning, rum punch wasn’t piquing my appetite.  We breezed through immigration, found all three of our bags, wove past the swarm of passengers missing all or some of their luggage, and made it through customs with just the receipt from our laptops from last term (and we did so very cautiously since we never paid duty on my Canon SLR).  Our friends were waiting to give us a ride to campus where we finally got to see our new home for the term!
Not the worst view

It took a few days for us to get the place set up and presentable, but now we’re really happy!  It’s so bright and clean.  I chose bold, fresh colors for decorations, which has made all the difference.

We’ve been eating some meals on the balcony, which is so nice and breezy.  The bed is a queen, with box springs, and the back pain that had been bothering me for weeks is almost gone entirely!  The shower is huge (comparatively) and the water pressure is intense, like a speed addict running a Gatling gun on your back… except loaded with water.  The refrigerator is normal size, relative to those back home, and giant size, relative to those elsewhere on the island.  There is no oven, but we make do with a microwave, two burners, toaster oven and electric kettle (at 220v, 4 cups of boiling water in literally less than sixty seconds).  I already made sausage and cheese calzones—well, calzonettes—in the toaster oven, with homemade whole wheat dough, at that!
One of our first meals. Looks like they wrung out our sandwiches. Such great customer service here... sigh.
The kitchen is a little cozy, but totally manageable.

Poached egg with my new "poachie" and bruschetta... sort of.

Bulgur and tilapia with fresh pico de gallo! Someone's happy about this!

Dinner on the balcony.
Our apartment is the top balcony unit.

Scotch bonnets at IGA. Also, behind them, ONE yellow bell pepper for $16.56 EC.

The convenience of living on campus is undeniable, and classes haven’t even started yet!  We’re able to run a couple laps around the school, then trot over to the “gym” (SGU’s version of a gym, at least) to do a couple miles on the elliptical machines before walking the three-minute trek back to our dorm for a much-needed shower.  Catching a bus is no problem when you’re already on campus!  If you forgot something at the store, there’s a store here!  The electricity is already included in the rent (which is taken right out of your loans), so there’s no sick feeling at the end of every month when you have to pay the electric bill.  Mind you, the dorms are one of the more expensive options for living on the island, and the rooms are small (studio apartment), but we couldn’t be happier with our choice to get on campus!  It’s not perfect and, as time progresses, I’ll find issues, but we’re pleased.  I feel like this might amount to a temporary home for us this term, instead of a temporary asylum.  (P.S. No mosquitos yet!)
The wet season hasn’t been any wetter than the dry season, though I have heard that we had an exceptionally wet dry season.  It also doesn’t seem any hotter (especially not compared to some of those scorchers in Pittsburgh this summer!).  Maybe later in the term the heat and humidity will really kick in.  On top of the hill, though, it’s pretty comfy, bug free and breezy.  Let’s hope everything stays this agreeable.

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