Saturday, October 14, 2017

Life Post-Irma and Maria

We've had two category 5 hurricanes hit the Virgin Islands (only one them directly on St. Croix) and we're still here. We don't have power or internet at home but we do have hot water so it's a start! Here's a picture of the water cooler from government house where we have found new careers as reporters short-term. Things are definitely getting better day by day but it will take some time to get back to what it was and make it even better.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Married life on an island... is the best thing ever

The wedding was a huge success! Being married is amazing, much better than what you hear from friends or on TV. It's the first time since we've gotten engaged we can just enjoy being with each other with nothing to do or plan. They don't mention this in the magazines but when you get engaged, it's great and all, but then you realize that you have to plan a wedding and becoming your own wedding planner is less than amazing.

We planned to have to family and friends arrive a few days before the wedding and we scheduled boat trips and bingo discos to make sure everyone had a good time while they were with us getting to know everyone else. Our families and friends loved each other, which was a relief and also an affirmation that we go well together as our friends and family seemed to mesh well.

The wedding day was everything we could have hoped. So many people said such nice things about us at the wedding, we were very humbled. And it went so so fast.

One moment we were walking down the aisle and forgetting our vows, then we had the first dance, there was cake and then it's over! It literally goes that fast. There are pictures that were taken that I don't remember posing for. We even had wedding crashers and someone did end up in the pool :). It was a perfect island wedding party.

Then came the honeymoon to a nearby island on a cruise which was pretty perfect and extremely relaxing. We can never go on a regular vacation again.

And then we came back to St. Croix and we got to be here for the first time as husband and wife. Now we had lived together for almost two years before we got married so we thought it would be all the same but it's not! Living together, being married and not having to plan a wedding is like the best thing ever. We come home and we can do whatever we want now! We spend lots and lots of time doing pretty much nothing and it feels really good. I think that's how you know that you married the right person.

As a wrap up: 

  • I recommend getting married (to the right person).
  • Cruise vacations are the best (get a cabin in the middle of the boat if you get seasick).
  • Have your dog be the ringbearer (it's extremely cute and we had backup rings just in case).
  • Get a cake that not only looks great but tastes great too (it was chocolate with pineapple filling and it was amazing).
  • Don't leave the dog in a room alone with your jewelry (she may or may not have eaten it).
  • Enjoy each and every day together (even if you don't live on an island).

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Tears and Happy Endings

First, I have to tell you that this story has a happy ending (yep, that's where the title comes from). However, it's going to take us a little bit to get there so bear with me on this journey. Everyone knows I'm getting married and nothing takes a blushing bride to tears like someone telling her that "she cannot get married." Yep, in those exact words. And this phrase has no weight except when its spoken by the only people with the power to give you a wedding license. Yes, again.

So let's go back to a bright sunny day on June 1. I love the first day of the month. There is so much hope and promise that a new month brings with it. If you had a really bad month, it's so easy to put all your money on the greatness that the next month will have. It usually takes at least until the second day of the month to determine that things are still going downhill. Not in this case! Nope! June 1 was the day that my fiance and I decided we would go to to get our marriage license. There is a waiting period in the USVI before you get married so we left ourselves plenty of time.

I actually wanted to go later because we were coming up on my fiance's "birthday weekend," but we decided June 1 would be a great day to begin our journey of starting our lives together as husband and wife. My fiance has also apparently never heard of "birthday weekend" which was shocking to me so I made up "birthday month" as well and we had a really fun time making jokes about it. Well, "birthday weekend" actually entailed horseback riding and dinner and a boy scout camp open house so I really didn't want that ruined. I never thought anything bad could happen from a trip to get a marriage license. I've never heard of such a thing.

So we got to where we needed to be on the afternoon of June 1. It started raining a little bit and that may have been our first sign, but we live in the tropics and rain is usually a relief from the heat and rain does good things here. It took us about a half hour to get to where we were going and we had all our documents ready. My fiance even wore pants and real shoes (when it's this hot, shorts and flip flops are the usual uniform).

It took the office that grants marriage licenses no more than five minutes to proclaim that my fiance and I could not get married for at least two to three months. No kidding. Someone actually set us down in a very small space and told us point blank that we could not get married. Now, I know what you're thinking, you're an attorney (and I am still licensed to practice law in Illinois), couldn't you just say fancy attorney words and fix this? Yes, of course I tried, and I quickly realized that fancy attorney words would not work. In fact, even fancy things your favorite attorney actors on TV in these types of situations could do would not permit us to be legally married by our wedding date. So I tried the next best thing; I pleaded to have another option than just a solid no.

We went to eat plantains and chicken while we waited for the results of my pleading. I don't think anyone at that chicken place saw anyone more sad trying to eat a plantain. It was plantain de tears, a new menu item for them. I love plantains, I have never been so sad eating one in my life. Of all the things that I thought could possibly go wrong with the wedding (and up until now, my fiance and I just said we'd go along with anything that happened), I never thought someone would tell us we couldn't do the one thing we just spent a year planning.

So we got the call and the answer was "no but maybe if... and we won't know the answer until tomorrow morning." We drove back really dazed. We tried to do everything we could to take our mind off what was really happening even though we couldn't really wrap our heads around it (I will save everyone from the boring details). We hugged a lot of dogs that night. Then morning came and I told my fiance to have his pants and shoes ready in case we had to go back to get our license again. I was hopeful. I got the call pretty early that morning and it was a "no." I pleaded again. I was told again that "maybe."

We were really close to "birthday weekend" now. I spent the day without plantains or much of an appetite. Nobody gave me an answer either way and the day ended. I came home and I broke down. I was not a fan of anything that night. We came up with some plans, one of which was to go to Vegas where we knew we could get married without any problems (their license offices are open 365 days/year and until midnight and pretty much anyone can get married there, fyi). We both love Vegas so why not have a really expensive party in St. Croix, go on our honeymoon and then get married! This was an option.

Now that we had options, it was time for birthday weekend and we started with touring the boy scout camp. It was great. Then we went horseback riding in the ocean! Yep, you read that right, in the ocean! The horses took us up to our waist fully clothed and we went through the rainforest. It was amazing and for about two hours we focused on nothing but not falling off those horses. It was a "magical" experience as we call it here. Even my fiance thought it was "magical" and he has never been on a horse before. Then we had dinner and it was a nice day.

On Sunday, we mostly worked and finished some wedding things that we needed to do because were still having our really expensive party no matter what, we weren't going to ruin this for our family and friends who had non-refundable tickets and reservations. We also realized that going to Vegas may not be the right option for us but we live really close to Miami so we had a day trip planned as a plan B. We would get married before our wedding and then walk down aisle and renew our vows. It seemed like a better option. I researched tickets, we were set. I still held out hope that maybe Monday would come and this small little nightmare would be over somehow.

On Monday, I woke up super early. Even the dog didn't want to get up yet (but she laid out on a pillow in the cutest way possible so it became a great picture opportunity). I got dressed and it was still super early so I decided to go to work early. As I was driving into town, I got a call from the licensing office. They "found a way" to give us a license. Now granted, this "way" was one I suggested in the beginning but we weren't going to delve into the details, we were too tired. I rushed back, got my fiance up and into pants and we were off. Everyone was super nice to us and we got it done... or so we thought. I got back to work and everyone was hugs and smiles. Then I get a call again... we had to resign something. But that was okay because what's another hour and some more pants wearing time. So we went and we did whatever we were asked and we came back.

Monday night, we ate some soup and we went to sleep. We were emotionally done. Up until June 1, the hardest thing we had to still finish for the wedding was clean our rings. My fiance thought this would make for a great blog post. I thought otherwise but I was also really emotionally exhausted.

This whole twilight of an experience made me realize something... up until someone told us we could't do it, I didn't realize how important it was to us to be legally married on our wedding day. I know that people actually get legally married before or after all time for various reasons but we didn't have any of those reasons. We're older so we're way past the age where we think that we have to be married. At our age, we get married because we actually want to, because we found the person who makes everyday better and who doesn't annoy us to the point of craziness. It's amazing when you find this, it's like everything any fairy tale you've ever watched tried to show you it could be with a glimpse of what it's like two years down the road when everyone is still alive and well and still talking nicely to each other. And we really wanted to share that real "I do" moment with our family and friends and not tell them we were married when were not or vice versa (otherwise we'd avoid the really expensive party and just rent a boat for a few hour, which is actually my advice to anyone who doesn't want to do the whole party thing).

So when someone tells you can't do something that you think is a basic right that you have, especially if you comply with all the rules that are writing, it becomes a really sad tear-filled plantain experience when someone tells you that you cannot do that. It doesn't make any sense and it isn't fair. I didn't go into details because those aren't important here. What is important is that we're getting married on June 20 (we will not be married before or after that date for sure now) and we are so excited for everyone who is coming from the states to join us next week, and we're equally excited to have our friends here join us as well. See you soon :)

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Lying under the stars

In the midst of everyday life, there are those special moments that stay with you forever, and we had one of those this past weekend. Last Saturday, we went to Sandy Point (the beach featured at the end of Shawshank Redemption) on an organized tour to see leatherback turtles nest. I honestly did not think we would see any turtles (although it's one of the most popular beaches for leatherback turtle nesting). The beach is closed from now until September for turtle nesting so it was just our group and a few others who were researching the turtles.

While we were waiting, we laid out on the sand looking straight up at the sky. It was dusk and somewhat cloudy but one by one the stars started coming out. It felt a little like a movie where the main characters have this incredibly romantic and private moment. We were with a group but it felt like we were the only ones there. It was really magical. And then our group leader got the call that a turtle was coming up to nest.

We saw this pretty large turtle lay her eggs and now the whole sky was filled with the most magical looking stars. It was one of the most magical moments I have had on this island. Not only was seeing a gigantic turtle lay eggs amazing to witness, but being in that place at that moment was one of those times in life where you realize that life is really special and being in the moment and being able to really enjoy what is happening is a gift. It's times like Saturday that I realize how much I love living here.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Happy 100 years U.S. Virgin Islands!

Last week we celebrated the 100th anniversary of the United States purchasing the U.S. Virgin Islands from Denmark. The day was a territorial holiday and the Prime Minister of Denmark as well as the Secretary of Interior were on St. Croix to commemorate the event. We even had fireworks, and it's always an event here when fireworks are involved. Overall, it was a nice celebration with parades and lots of people filling the usual spots. It was nice to see everyone come together and celebrate. Not everyone was happy but you can't make everyone happy all the time and that's okay, especially here.

We're happy when our electricity is working and when our internet is on; everything else is a huge bonus. There are days on this island where everything works out and everyone says yes and those days are amazing. Then there are those "no" days when nothing is possible and you have two flat tires all at once. Thankfully, the "no" days are far fewer than the amazing days, and all days include amazing views of the ocean and really good people always ready to help.

When I moved here, I lived alone and I handled most of my island issues alone as well. My days were filled with endless trips to the gas station to get air for my tires (I haven't met a pothole I didn't want to know on an intimate level yet). Then I met my fiance and life became so different and in such a great way. I was so used to doing everything on my own that I never really thought about how life changes when there is someone else in it to go through everyday challenges with me. We now go through every day together and it's nice not to have to get my air all by myself all the time. I know I still can but it's nice to know someone else wants to do it for me.

It's nice not to have to do everything by myself anymore. Especially living on an island, when there are certain challenges that go way above what I can handle sometimes, it's nice to know there is someone next to me that can do those things that I cannot, and that we can get through everything together. I do think that my overall island experience would be so much different if I was still on my own here. It doesn't mean that I wouldn't live here anymore but it would definitely be a lot more challenging and I would be full of a lot more frustrating tire stories. My fiance makes my life easier and more fun, and it's better than I ever thought being with someone forever would be.

Recently, I've been thinking about the things I miss since moving here. I really miss water slides. There aren't any here and we can't just drive to a water park or hotel that has them. We also don't have Starbucks or any coffee location that is open past 5 pm. I remember going to these places to decompress on a bad day with friends. Here, we have to find different ways of filling these voids. One of them is to go to our brand new movie theater or taking really long walks on the beach. I still miss the slides though...

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Just like the states!

This weekend was so busy. On Friday, I had my hair and makeup trial for the wedding and then we went to do our engagement pictures at the beach where we got engaged. I had a ton of make up and I don't think my fiance recognized me, but I felt like a Disney princess and the pictures that we took turned out great. We'll have to see what the actual professional pictures look like when they come, but hopefully they look even better than ours.  For the first time, I looked older than a teenager and I really liked it.

After pictures, we went to dinner, which was a new experience for us on St. Croix because we got to cook our own dinner at a restaurant (more on that in the restaurant review below). And then we went to our brand new 8-screen movie theater! You probably take your movie theater for granted because you have a few others within driving distance and some are bigger and nicer than some others. On St. Croix, we had only one movie theater. It was very small and did not have stadium seating. Now, we have a gigantic movie theater with huge screens and stadium seating, and it still has that new car smell. We went on opening night and we were the first ones to sit in our seats. We got fancy popcorn and it was a really great experience. The best part about this theater is that while we have to pay outrageous prices for almost everything here, our movie tickets are only $8.50. This is about a $1 more than we used to pay for our not so great theater but it's definitely worth it.

On Saturday, I had my first island facial and I also met some very nice people from Wisconsin at the grocery store who were here on vacation (shout out to them, sorry I didn't get your names). Getting back to the facial, when you first move to an island, every time you go to the beach feels like getting a facial.  After two years, the beach facial wears off and dry skin comes back in full swing. I got the facial at the Buccaneer Hotel Spa and it felt amazing. All in all, this weekend reminded me of being in the states. When I lived there, I went to huge movie theaters, got facials and went to all kinds of do it yourself restaurants. Living on an island is very different on a daily basis but doing things that remind you of the states is good sometimes. I'll take these fun parts of living there minus the traffic, sub-zero temperatures and massive crowds any day. That's what makes living in our island bubble so magical sometimes. We get the best of both worlds.

Restaurant Review:

Starlite Grille at Divi Carina Bay Resort

On Friday, after our engagement pictures, my fiance and I were really hungry. Divi Carina Bay Resort is a stone-throw from our house so we decided to go there for dinner. We figured this is an all inclusive resort so they would probably have some good dinner options. We went into the hotel, saw the Starlite Grille and decided we'd try it out. We saw some people having meals brought to them on a hot lava rock and we just figured that was some sizzling skillet dinner choice. We sat down and ordered (btw, we had the option of dining inside which is somewhat rare here) and then it hit us; We realized that all the food served in this restaurant was served on a hot lava rock where the guests get the privilege of cooking the food themselves! We had a laugh about sending the food back as it was way underdone, but when our raw food did come out, we cooked it, seasoned it and proceeded to eat it.

Now a little bit of back story before I proceed with the review. My fiance is a chef so he cooks while at work and also when we eat at home. I am not a chef and I think that hot pockets are perfectly suitable meals when out of time or ingredients with which to cook (apparently my chef fiance does not agree with my adoration of hot pockets but we agree to disagree on such important issues which is what makes our relationship amazing), so cooking my own food at a restaurant comes as a unique experience while out to dinner. To my fiance, this is just another opportunity for him to cook which apparently he doesn't necessarily enjoy if he's going out to eat.

Once we finished cooking our food and it took probably not more than 10-15 minutes, our food was pretty tasty. The ingredients were really fresh and plentiful (he had the lamb, I had the veggie dinner) and the mashed potatoes, corn on the cob and steamed vegetables did come out already done. I looked at Divi's web site after we came home and it says "this is stone age cooking with a modern flair." I think it's a unique experience and the food tastes good. I'm not sure if I would order the chicken and try to cook it myself on a lava rock but I would definitely come back here again, and I may invite visiting guests for a "different" island experience as all island experience are sometimes.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

A new year on St. Croix

It's been a while since my last post and some people have emailed me and have asked if we still live on St. Croix. The good news is we are still here and we are still in love with a lot of our island experience. The less great news is the reason that I haven't posted in a while is that a few months ago we got robbed. It was hard to come back here and keep writing, not really knowing how to explain how I felt still being here after that experience. We were in our home unfortunately when it happened but we were asleep and we didn't see anything and nobody was hurt, which is most important.

Since then, we have moved to a different part of the island and we have started over, renewing our relationship with a place we really do love. It has felt like a long journey but we are in a really good place now where we can start to see everything that is great here once again.

While we did consider moving off island, there are so many reasons we want to stay. We love the way of life, our friends, the beautiful views and of course, the perfect weather. I have spent the last several months repairing my relationship with this island and I'm in a really good place now. We have a new beautiful view and an amazing outlook on the future. I'm also really happy that our wedding planning is almost now complete and we still have about 4 months to spare.

Life is definitely a lot busier than it was when I first moved here, from repairing car tires to going to dentist and vet appointments, but it's a good busy because our lives have transitioned from just being on a temporary hiatus from our old lives to our new long-term lives on a small tropical island in the Caribbean.