Sunday, January 24, 2016

FAQs about St. Croix

I write this blog so that my family can keep up with my island adventure and so that people who are considering doing what I did get a glimpse of what island life is really like. From time to time, I get emails from my amazing readers who are actually considering the move and have additional questions for me that the blog may not answer. I wanted to put some of those questions into this post for those of you who may be wondering the same thing...

How hard is it to find an apartment? What are average apartment prices?

My apartment story is a little comical. I actually ended up meeting my boyfriend when I looked at an apartment that I wanted to rent but ended up not getting. Three weeks before I was set to move to St. Croix, I had to go online and look at postings to make sure that I had a place to live once I got here. I found a place and sent my deposit and first month rent in the mail and I had a place as soon as I arrived to St. Croix. It was a really nice apartment so everything worked out. I'm moving in with my boyfriend next week, ironically into the same complex where I originally wanted to live, but I really loved my first apartment here even though I never saw the apartment before I moved in. So that said, it's not hard to find an apartment, it just depends on where the apartment is located and how much you want to pay.

I would strongly suggest doing a pre-move visit so that you can at least see where things are and have an idea of where you'd like to live. We have the East End, the West End, North Shore and Christiansted. All locations have their pros and cons but moving from one apartment to another is pretty easy as most apartments are fully furnished and leases usually don't extend past six months at most. Apartment prices varie but a one-bedroom apartment averages about $750.00. Before I came here, I always used air conditioning in the summers but after living here for a little while, I barely used my air conditioner. Electricity prices are really high and the breeze is usually pretty good, especially when you live higher up, so living air conditioner-less becomes part of the island life experience. 

What is the job market like?

Jobs are hard to get in the Virgin Islands, especially when it's slow season which is in the summer months. Jobs in the service industry are easier to find than more specialized and professional jobs. I found my job through people that I had met who introduced me to my current employer and I consider myself very lucky because of that. Average pay here is also lower than pay for the same job stateside. The cost of living isn't necessarily lower but we need less "stuff" here so we end up spending less on average and housing costs are pretty low as well. So spending a little more on food isn't that much of an issue when you don't have to buy new snow boots every year and get your car battery replaced because it's so cold. My best advice for job hunting here is to network, this island is all about networking the old fashioned way so being nice and personable goes extra far here.

Can you make friends easily on the island?

 Yes yes yes. Everyone here is very friendly because most people moved here for the same reason so you already have something in common before you even meet. Most people you will meet here also probably left their family and friends back home so they are also eager to make new friends. This fact, along with the attitude of people who generally find the idea of living on an island in the Caribbean Sea appealing, makes people pretty relaxed and open to new people and experiences. Those who aren't as relaxed usually end up going home shortly after they arrive here so this leaves most people that you will meet here pretty happy and easy going. But friends don't usually magically appear so make sure to say hello to people and introduce yourself and make plans for coffee or dinner, and you'll know the whole island in no time!

What is the crime on the island really like?

It's hard for people who don't live here to gauge the crime because sometimes what you read in the newspapers seems like we all live with double bolted doors and bullet proof vests here. That's not true here or probably on any island. The facts is that because there are so few people here as a whole, when there is some kind of crime, it does make front page news and it is talked about. However, just like living anywhere, as long as you're street smart, the crime that does exist here shouldn't reach out to you living here.

Most crime is drug related between local gangs. Some of the other crime occurs when people are walking alone at night in deserted areas. A good rule of thumb for anyone who is coming to live here, especially if you are single and female, is that if you wouldn't do it back home, don't do it here. I probably wouldn't walk down an ally by myself back home in the middle of the night and I am sure not going to do that here either. All in all, it's pretty safe because all our crime is literally reported in the paper so we all know exactly what's going on every single day. In comparison to the crime in Chicago, this really isn't a problem and I do feel much safer here on a daily basis than I did when I lived in a big city.

If you have any questions or are just curious about living in St. Croix, send me an email at the link on the right. I'll try to answer it as best I can with what I learned so far. And if you want to try living in St. Croix, do it! The only thing you'll miss is what I hear is supposed to be a pretty big storm heading everywhere but here :)

Restaurant Review:

No Bones Cafe
No Bones is one of my favorite restaurants on this island and this restaurant has the least island feel. Located at the dock side of the Gallow's Bay shopping area, this restaurant is completely inside and it has a very cool relaxed chain restaurant feel inside. The lighting is very dark and there are futuristic screens at every table showing the daily specials. One of my favorite things to eat here is the meatloaf and it's amazing!

Whether it's lunch or dinner, there is something for everyone here, and the bar is it's own conversation piece. I try to make it out here at least once a month and you should too if you're vising or especially if you live here.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

New Beginnings and 2016

Happy New Year!!!

We all made it to 2016 and it's been so busy already! New Year's in the Virgin Islands means a Christmas themed carnival and parades that go on forever. It also means a new apartment and getting your electricity inadvertently shut off. It's only been ten days and it's been exhausting. I can't wait to relax for the rest of 2016!

New Year's Eve started off with apartment hunting at 8 am. This was probably not the most convenient scheduling but a lot of times, island time, while slow, is not necessarily convenient.  The day proceeded with finding an apartment and finalizing the terms. I was so tired by 7 pm that a nap was urgently needed to avoid passing out before the long-awaited New Year's mark. I've spent many New Year's at restaurants, at shows and also at people's houses over the years. And it has always been a tradition to turn on Time Square's ball drop when I was in Chicago because it always happened an hour before the actual New Year and it was a great way to guage the time. In St. Croix, we're in Atlantic Standard Time which means that we are one hour ahead of New York so our new year's eve was spent without any television accompaniment (although in customary local fashion, the local station did try to loop the same carnival clip over and over again in hopes nobody would catch on). Overall, New Year's Eve's night was very relaxing and spent with good friends. We were all ready for the new year and all the great experiences it would bring.

The main attraction of the New Year's celebration in St. Croix is the Carnivale Adult Parade. This parade was held on January 2 in Frederiksted and was very late to start. When it did start, the costumes were amazing and the bands made up of school children sounded really great. However, after about an hour or so, there was a two hour break!!! We almost left because we though the parade was over but then it started up again and went on for a while longer. The parade is something everyone who lives here or is visiting should see at least once but with it going on for almost the whole day, you need to have a lot of endurance to come see the parade in consecutive years.

And as I am now moving, I decided that I would inform my utilities to turn off the electricity on my move-out date. This is something that I always did back in Chicago when I moved and I'm sure most people do this. I should have known better and it did seem a little too easy as I emailed the power authority in St. Croix to notify them of my move and asked them to turn off my electricity on January 31. So of course, on January 8, my power was completely shut off. January 8 was a Friday and at 9:30 pm, I was almost in tears trying to get the one person who was still at the electric company at that time to turn my power back on. The islands are known for the kindness of the people who live here, so while the power should not have been shut off, the power authority did send someone out at 10:30 pm and my power was restored. I live on an island now and while I love to think that I can do without many of the conveniences that I was used to in the states, it's really dis-empowering to think how debilitating not having power can still be. Somehow I'm okay not having power when we have storms or potential hurricanes, but when everyone else has power, I still want it as well!

So that is my feel good story for the beginning of my island adventures of 2016. As the months pass by here very slowly, I'm reminded of the goodness of people in general. I'm also reminded of how great it is to have really good friends who visit you, who remember you and who are there for you. This year, I"m going to strive for creating a positive environment for those around me as I am beginning to understand that for me, the meaning of life doesn't revolve around just creating a positive energy for myself but for also making sure that others have the opportunity to have positivity in their lives as well. After all, my experience here has been so good and positive because of all the opportunities and experiences that others have created and that I took a chance at accepting not too long ago, and that has truly made all the difference.

Activity Review:

Point Udall Sunrise

One of the best days I have had here so far and one of best presents I have ever received was being surprised and taken to Point Udall, the Eastern-most point of the United States, for the sunrise on Christmas Day. Ever since I got here back in June, I wanted to go but getting before the literal crack of dawn is so hard to do! So on Christmas Day, my wonderful boyfriend woke me up and surprised me at 5 am and told me we were going to see the sunrise. I was as happy as anyone who gets their long awaited present on Christmas morning, except mine was in the form of a memory that I will get to keep forever.

Point Udall is magical when the sun rises. It is better than any picture I can post or any description I can write. Being at Point Udall with people you really care about makes it even better. I wouldn't recommend going here by yourself or anywhere at the crack of dawn in St. Croix, but going with friends or the special people in your life creates a really unforgettable experience. I know that many people come here to see the first sunrise of the year on New Year's day but every day here creates a new and unique sunrise that will never be repeated. And best of all, this activity is completely free except that it does take a good 20 minutes to get to Point Udall from Christiansted. For most of my stateside friends, that's a short trip, but here on the islands that's as far as most people are willing to go, but it's definitely worth it!