people telling me I live in a tropical paradise! Allow me to give some Q & A's about St. Maarten REAL life. Keep in mind that we are talking REAL LIFE, not vacation life. There is a vast and deep difference. (I am copying the Q & A form from Katie because hers are just so dang cute! I hope mine comes across as entertaining as hers!)
Q: Wow! You're living in the Caribbean?? That must be great!
A: Actually, no. We really miss the U.S.
Q: No....are you serious?
Q: Well, why??
A: Let's see....where did you buy your groceries? Walmart? Albertsons? Target? We don't have any of those. We have a Cost-U-Less, which is like a small version of Costco...sort of. We have a Grand Marche that is the closest thing to a normal grocery store. And we have a Food Express, which is more like a glorified food mart gas station, without the gas. All of these stores are hit and miss: the prices vary day by day, the quality varies by how close to get it after arriving on the island, the actual products vary because sometimes they just stop stocking things, and all the produce is a little sketchy. Also, you have to bag your own groceries....or tip the black kid in the red shirt a dollar.
Q: What do you mean, "tip the kid"?
A: Like I said...the baggers are NOT employed by the grocery store. They just wear red shirts and show up and bag your groceries. You are supposed to tip them a dollar. I, however, tip them a dollar only if they bag my groceries and take them to my car. You have to earn my dollar...
Q: Well, aside from grocery shopping, it must be nice, right?
A: What other errands do you have to run? Going to the bank? Going to the post office? Let me give you an example of these things: there are several different banks on the island and they are all run the same. There are three or four tellers, and four to five people in line. An hour later....you are called. Yes, an hour...and that is fast.
Q: Why does it take so long?
A: Yes...that is the question. Anyway, after waiting in line for an hour, you ask them politely to cash your check. They take quite a percentage off and slowly, slowly, count the money out for you. This is, of course, assuming everything is okay with your check. Sometimes it can take two or three trips to the bank to get a check cashed. Onto the post office. The post office is located in the middle of Simpson Bay. It is a teeny tiny little room attached to the back of the Pasta Cafe restaurant. There is one teller and one security guard passing out numbers. The numbers are written on little torn pieces of cardboard. You get your number - 4. Not bad. They call out number "12"...not a good sign. Well, after waiting in line for two or three hours, you get to the front of the line only to realize that your letter is going to cost $4.50 to mail it. It is just one letter. By now you are severely irritated because not only is it extremely expensive, but you are hot and sweaty from waiting outside (yes, outside) for two hours. You give up and pay the $4.50 and hand your cardboard number back to the security guard. Once again, this is assuming something didn't go wrong.
Q: Wow, that sounds irritating...but the weather is nice, right?
A: I suppose....if you were to sit around in a swimsuit all day on the beach. It is SO ridiculously hot and humid. It is like the air is so thick you can't breath it in. Blah. At least there is a breeze most of the time, but when there isn't....holy crap. So hot. The only thing that feels better is jumping in the pool...thank goodness for that!
Q: But you have a nice place, right?
A: OH YES! We absolutely LOVE our new place. Oh yes! Oh yes!! It is clean and beautiful and has a pool and a hot tub and a breeze and everything! We Love Love LOVE our apartment. Also, we live right next door to another student couple who are VERY nice that we really like!
Q: Is the food good in St. Maarten?
A: Well....the food is hit and miss. If you have the money to spend, then the food is really quite good. If you are starving students like we are....you kind of settle for less - like Subway. The restaurants are all a little sketchy, though - there are many horror stories from other students about MOST restaurants on the island. You kind of just have to get used to the fact that there are probably cockroaches in the kitchen, and the cooks probably don't wash their hands. Yum...
Q: Will you miss anything about St. Maarten when you leave?
A: Bubble Tea - the best slurpee thingies ever....but they just built one in Salt Lake....sooooo, yeah. No need for St. Maarten on that one. Also, we will miss Pizza Dans. His pizza is VERY good, but nothing California Pizza Kitchen couldn't do! :)
Q: Is it harder to have a baby down there than it would be in the States?
A: Not necessarily - you just have to be aware of different things. I never, EVER have to worry about her being kidnapped or hurt by anyone and it greatly raises my safety by having her, but you have to worry about other things like: mosquito bites and the diseases they carry, heat stroke, dehydration, sun burn, etc. Also, it is a little annoying trying to buy anything "baby" related down here. It is either really cheap and poor quality, or REALLY expensive! I also didn't know that little toddler treats existed by Gerber! I bought quite a few when we were in the States and will definately bring a lot back again! :)
Q: What is your LEAST favorite thing about the island so far?
A: The people. Yes...you read right. The people. They are irritating and lazy. Everyone down here knows it, too. There is no such thing as customer service and the racism is ridiculous against white people - especially Americans! People do tend to treat me nicer since I have a baby, but still...it is a little ridiculous. Some people will charge you more for something just because you are white, and they will answer "I don't know" to everything, just so they don't have to stand up and go ask someone to find out! It is VERY frustrating. That is one of the main reasons we like to shop at Ace hardware and the Grand Marches - because they actually have decent customer service! The whole concept of "The Customer is Always Right" does NOT apply down here. Wow....not at all.
Q: So do you think you'll visit St. Maarten again after you leave?
A: Um...not if we can help it. MAAAAAYBE on a cruise...but even then....we might just stay on the boat.
Q: Are there good days and bad days down there?
A: Yes. Good days are when you don't have to go into town and deal with the locals. Good days are when you can just hang out at home or with some friends and it is really quite pleasant. Bad days are when you have to go grocery shopping or running errands.
Well, there we go! It sounds a little negative, but lets just say its been "one of those days" all the other island girls will know what I mean... :)
Lots of love!
p.s. Everyone needs to come visit us!! It makes things so much more pleasant! We even have an extra bedroom!