January 30, 2010

Red Rock and In.Light.In

On Thursday I went with some of the other spouses to a place called Red Rock Haven. It is a little hotel, owned by a woman from Oregon, on the northeast coast of the island. This place is only about a 30 minute windy drive from where we live. It was a wonderful afternoon spent out on the beach catching some rays. We had lunch there, as well, in the most picturesque setting. Palapa covered tables, tiki torches, and some Kubulis made this a great afternoon spent with the girls.

Since being on the island we have not found a church to attend regularly, nor have we looked that hard for one. The majority of the people on the island are devout Catholics, but tend to practice in more of the Southern Baptist style, if you know what I mean. That isn't exactly our thing. Singing isn't really Kyle's thing and I need no excuse for him to belt it out even more. With all that said, I was introduced to an organization started by a pastor who is also the wife of a 5th semester student. When he first arrived on the island about 2 years ago he wanted to do so meting in the community that would make a difference and In.Light.In. is what he has come up with. Basically, we meet some of the local kids on the cricket field at 2 pm every Friday, when they get out of school. We play with them for a short while and then we split up into groups and have a short lesson from the Bible, do a craft relating to the talk, and have a meal that we have prepared for them. It is a lot of fun and the kids can't get enough of our attention. They want to play dominos, Uno, soccer, play on the playground, and just sit and talk and ask us questions. We stay there until about 5pm and those 3 hours, I am sure, mean more to those kids than we could ever imagine. Most of them have no father figure and the mother has many children. They live in a 1 or 2 bedroom house so one-on-one time is limited. I feel so blessed to be able to give just a short amount of my time to them. They really need it. I can't wait until next Friday to see all their smiling faces again. Kyle hopes to be able to join me a few times, but with Exam 1 in just over a week, he has to spend most of his days studying. If any of you would like to send school supplies, books, or coloring books to these kids, please let me know and we can figure out the details.

January 27, 2010

A Few Updates

Just thought we would update you on a few things. First, many of you have been asking us about our address down here. We are aren't sure if you were feeling charitable and wanted to send us some things (ie. Oreo's, granola bars, Copenhagen for Kyle) or if you just wanted to send a card to say hi. Either way here it is:

Kyle Hickman
Ross University School of Medicine
PO Box 266
Commonwealth of Dominica
West Indies

The other thing is we will be coming home in April for a visit while Kyle is on break. Yay!!! We will both be there April 28th to May 5th. I will be staying until the 15th of May. We hope we get a chance to visit with all of you in the valley. We can't wait as we miss you all greatly.

As always we request that you continue to leave us comments on our blog or send us emails. We look forward to them and really love hearing from all of you, even if it's just to let us know about what's going on in your life. As for here, we had a continuous downpour yesterday. I thought it would never end. Even our industrial strength Brookstone umbrella was crying for mercy. I did, however, finalize my decision to purchase a pair of rain boots. Some of the other spouses who have been here for a few semesters said it was a great investment. You know me...any reason for a new pair of shoes and is fine by me. Looks like I am trading in my wedges and stilettos in for Tevas and rain boots, at least for a short while.

January 22, 2010

Christmas in Dominica!

Stop the presses, call the president, and make it a holiday...OUR BARREL HAS ARRIVED! I know some of you must think it is silly to be so excited about our 55 gallon barrel showing up at our house, but around here it is the little things and I feel like our entire lives are in that thing. It really is like Christmas! We are so excited to have our own sheets, towels, pillows, kitchen supplies, and peanut butter. Yes... you can get peanut butter here, but it is expensive (like most of the grocery items) and I thought better to be safe than sorry so I put a big jar of it in with the rest of our stuff. Getting this barrel here was no easy task. Kyle and I have been waiting for about 2 weeks for it to arrive. We dropped it off in downtown Phoenix on New Year's Eve and it arrived in Miami the following Thursday. If it had arrived in Miami one day earlier we would have had the barrel last week. They work on a Wednesday to Wednesday basis. They ship out of Miami on Wednesdays and drop off in Roseau on Wednesday. This means our barrel was here 2 days ago, but with customs and "island time living" we didn't get it until today. They even called us last night and said they had it and would be delivering it within an hour. That was at 7pm and by 11pm we gave up. You learn to not depend on the locals that much around here. Don't get me wrong, they are extremely friendly and helpful, but they move a little slow. So if you will excuse us...we are going to tear through our barrel like a kid opening up a birthday gift.

January 18, 2010

Whale Watching and Grocery Shopping

Sunday Kyle and I did a whale watching excursion. It was a lot of fun that we didn't think would happen because of the rain. Apparently, here on the island, because it rains so much, they learn to do everything rain or shine...something we aren't used to back in AZ. Back to the whales...we saw about 8 sperm whales (the Moby Dick whale), some male, some female, and some babies. It was very exciting watching them swim around, dive for food, breach and make big splashes. They say Dominica is one of the best spots in the world to see the whales. These whales are here year-round due to the deep waters and the little boat traffic that Dominica has compared to some of the other places. Kyle was dying to harpoon one of them, but there were quite a few kids on the boat and he didn't want make them cry or me.

Today, while Kyle was studying away, I took a trip with the other spouses to Roseau, the big capital city, to do some grocery shopping. It was setup through the spouses organization and they did a great job putting it together. They took us to some of their favorite spots to get groceries, we had lunch, and then the drivers took us right to each of our front doors and unloaded our groceries. It was wonderful! It's amazing how excited we all got to see some familiar items at nearly half of the prices we pay here in Portsmouth. It's definitely a trip worth taking (1 hour each way) at least twice a month to load up on some key items. I figure I now know where to get the things I need. Between the meat man, the bread lady, the Saturday market, and 6 or 7 grocery stores I frequent to get what I need, I will be able to feed Kyle with some brain food to get him through those long hours of studying.

Kyle has a big day tomorrow. He will be going into the anatomy lab to dissect the spinal cord of his cadaver. I am a little repulsed, but you would think it was his birthday. That boy...

January 16, 2010

The Market (Take Two)

This morning we arrived at the market at 5:50am...we had learned our lesson last time and didn't want to miss the good stuff or the fish. Wouldn't you know it, we couldn't find any fish. We said oh well (we've learned to go with the flow around here) and loaded up on some produce and spices instead. Our hands were full and we were about to leave when I heard the conch shell being blown. I gave Kyle a look and said, "They have fish!". I think he thought I was crazy so I told him to just follow me. He did and we found the fish man! I don't remember where I had heard about the conch shell being blown and the fact that that meant the fish was in, but I'm glad I did. Needless to say we bought 5 lbs. of mahi mahi and 3 lbs. of yellow fin tuna for 54 EC ($20). We bought some other goodies today at the market. Lots of bananas and plantains as well as banana bread and cinnamon bread, rosemary, avocado, green beans, oranges, tomatoes, and lettuce.
I spent a good portion of my afternoon cleaning and packaging fish to freeze. I can honestly say it is not a job I would want to do on a regular basis. Kyle spent his day at the library and we plan to watch some football this evening possibly at our little sports bar up on the hill with a great view of the town and water. Should be fun.

January 15, 2010

White Coat Ceremony

Thursday afternoon Kyle had his "White Coat Ceremony". This is when a student, beginning the long road to becoming a doctor, is formally "robed" in his white coat by another doctor. It is a pretty special thing that marks a big step in a student's life. Needless to say I was late for the event, I only missed the long speeches and formal "crap", but made it in time to take pictures of Kyle taking his walk through the line. The reasons I was late were...first, mid-shower, and mid-shampoo I might add, a water pipe broke at our place and we lost all water. I had to think quickly and use the only water we had around, a nice cold bottle of filtered water in the fridge, to rinse out all the shampoo. After I got ready, I thought I was on my way when the "meat man" called and said, "I am here now, come pick up your chicken". How convenient, I thought, and made my way down the hill and to school, waited for him for 20 minutes in the sun (welcome to "island time"), and finally got my 36 frozen chicken breasts. I hate to complain because I really am happy about getting some protein in our house. These things are hard to come by around here. Sweaty as heck, I made it to the ceremony took pictures and was more than happy to tag along with the guys when they wanted to get a/some celebratory drinks.

Today, my day is less stressful and more about getting things organized around the house and maybe a bit of lying by the pool and yoga with some of the other spouses. I can't complain about that!

January 13, 2010

We Are Doing Ok

Kyle and I have received messages and emails from many of you wondering if we are ok because of the earthquake in Haiti and the answer is yes, we're fine. 750 miles is a long way for things to travel. Remember we live in Dominica not the Dominican Republic. Again...see the map from Monday's post. We didn't have any effects from it other than some REALLY big waves. Thank you for checking on us.

It's All Coming Together

It seems as though life is starting to make sense here. Our time here is feeling less like a vacation and more real...which is a good thing. With Kyle starting school and me starting to work at the prep school, we are getting into a routine. I still have time to enjoy myself in the afternoon and evening. He spends most of his days studying either at school or our house, but again electricity is expensive, so he likes to take advantage of what his tuition is going towards and study on their dime.
I am getting involved with the Spouses Organization here at Ross and they plan a lot of activities and provide helpful tips for life on the island, especially with regards to groceries. Let me tell you, to get the best price, the best quality, and the right item, you may have to go to 5 or 6 different places...and did I mention it is about 85 degrees with about 80 percent humidity and we walk everywhere? Let's just say I was a bit sweaty by the time I was finished shopping and had walked back to our house!
I also went to a yoga class yesterday evening with several of the other wives. It is held by a girlfriend of one of the students and takes place out on the lower deck on campus. The lower deck extends out over the ocean and allows you feel as though you are floating over the sea. The class takes places from 5-6:30, during sunset, and the waves are so soothing as they crash into the rocks. I must say it is something I enjoyed immensely and hope to make a part of my weekly routine. Even if I didn't like yoga, I would still go for the surroundings. I must say the my relaxation time was interrupted by a few of my friends, the mosquitoes, who come out as the sun goes down. But hey, what's another 4 or 5 bites to my existing 30 or so? Next time I will bring the repellent!

January 11, 2010

Island Tour


On Sunday we took a full day island tour with the university. We went to the botanical gardens, Roseau, Trafalgar Falls, and Scott's Head. It was very beautiful and we were glad to have the opportunity to explore a little bit of the island before things get too busy for Kyle.
In other news, today is Kyle's first day of school!!! I think he is excited to start and get into a routine. For now, my job is to support him and keep his tummy full...that is a huge problem for many of the other students since it requires a lot more work to get groceries and cook them here on the island. The dean of the school said many of the illnesses of the students come from malnutrition since it is pricey to eat out frequently and they just don't have the time to shop and cook. I made our first meal in our kitchen last night. Nothing local in flavor, just a pasta dish with tomato sauce and ground beef. Boring, but tasty. I do intend to explore, with regards to culinary flare of the island, more once the barrel comes in and I have more tools. I found out through some of the other spouses about a guy in Roseau who delivers meat, in bulk, to the students. The chicken is still just as pricey as in the small grocery stores, but I think it is cleaner and fresher. I can also get ground turkey, ground beef, shrimp, pork, and other things, but our freezer is only so big. I am hoping I can split it with some of our friends here.
Today's photo for this entry is a map of the island. I found that many of you seemed confused about where we actually are. If you click on it you can see a larger version of it. For the island tour we drove along the entire west coast. We started from where we live and Portsmouth (northwest coast) and drove down to Roseau, and then to Scott's Head (the southern most point). I hope this helps. Also, I decided to group our Kodak gallery photos by weeks so even if you have already looked at the most recent batch of photos I sent, I will be sending you "Week 1". This will have all the photos from before plus the ones from our tour. Eventually I will have this organized and all figured out. Right now it is a learning process. We miss and love you all.

January 9, 2010

First Time to the Market

This morning we went to the market around 6:30am. It starts at 6 so we thought we would just make sure all the people had their stuff out and were ready to go. Apparently we needed to be there at 5:55 since all the fish was sold by the time we arrived. Looks like we will be eating like vegetarians this week. We loaded up on a lot of produce and paid only $11 USD for all of it. Pretty good. We got a small bag of potatoes, 2 bags of green beans, a bunch of tiny bananas, 2 plantains to grill, 3 cucumbers, a large bunch of carrots, basil, thyme, and 2 large roots that I plan on using my mandolin (when it arrives with the barrel) to make chips out of. I'll let you know how that goes.

In other news, I have put a lot of photos up on my Kodak Gallery account, but I have to email you all in order for you to view the album. I have sent a handful of you the photos, but I thought it would be more appropriate for you to email me, heidiandkyle@yahoo.com, and request them since I do not know who all is following this site nor do I have all of your email addresses. Those of you who got the album sent to you, please feel free to share.

January 8, 2010

Over the Last Couple of Days

Over the last couple of days this is what we have learned...
  • Med school students are even more broke than undergrad students. Electricity in Dominica is very expensive and requires the use of a transformer and a converter for our American appliances. On campus there are US plugs everywhere and the electricity is free (or at least built into the cost of tuition). Because of the hassle and the cost of electricity, we have seen everything from toothbrushes, cell phones, and laptops, to razors and camera batteries being charged. It is quite a site to see!

  • Opening a coconut is easier said than done. We bought 2 yesterday on the side of the road from a very old man with only a couple of teeth. He had a such a heavy accent and smiled non-stop we simply nodded and smiled as he explained the proper method. When we got home we cut a hole in one of the eyes to pour out the water (which Kyle said tasted like sweat) and cracked it on the side of a rock to get to the meat. We spent the next hour or so picking at it and chewing on some fresh coconut. Quite frankly...it is worth it to by it at the stores in a bag.
  • Food from stalls and restaurants change from day to day around here depending on what is available. For example: one day you get grilled chicken breasts, the next day you get ground chicken. One day it is very spicy, the next day it is sweet and has beans on it. You never know what to expect so you just learn to be open and flexible and not crave something too much.

We watched the BCS championship game last night at a bar owned by a Dutch couple. The bar has a great view (pic above) so we decided to have dinner there and watch the sunset. Glad we were there early since the game didn't begin until 9pm and seats were hard to come by at that point. We drank some Kubuli beer and took in our surroundings. Our favorite part of the night was when the whole bar stood and sang The National Anthem. It brought a sense of home down to this little island we now call home. In other news, the local market is on Saturday and we are hoping to load up on fresh fish and produce there. We may even get a chance to go on a hike or to the beach. Kyle has been pretty busy with school things this week and all the hikes require us to take a cab to the starting points. As always we will keep you all updated and post pics. Thanks to all of you who are following our adventures. We love to see your coments.

January 6, 2010

Learning A New Way of Life

A welcome BBQ by the beach

We have started to set-up our home, which will be more complete when our barrel arrives (probably next Wednesday). That day will be like Christmas all over again. In there we have many kitchen utensils, bedding, towels, and other odds and ends. Some of them are possible to get here, but cost quite a bit, others are just simply not available. Our house has most of the things we need, but it will feel more like our home when we get the things in our barrel.

As far as the food here, the local stuff is pretty cheap and delicious. We found a chicken pita place where the guy makes his pitas from scratch and the chicken has this spicy Caribbean rub on it. We have also had mangoes that are very orange and taste like candy. We paid $ EC for 4 mangoes ( 2.67 EC = 1 USD). Basically, they were a great deal. This morning Kyle and I had them for breakfast as we read on our patio and listened to the local man sing and clean the roof. In our backyard we have star fruit, bananas, and coconuts. Can't wait to try them all. In fact, as part of Kyle's three day orientation, he had an hour presentation on the foods of Dominica. I snuck into that lecture and took notes as he slept. The woman brought in many different fruits and vegetables and told us how to prepare them and what they should cost at the local market. Can't wait to go to the market; hopefully on Saturday. Apparently, Tuna and Mahi-Mahi are about 8 EC per pound here. Yummy!

We have learned that the local people are extremely friendly. All you need to do is smile at them and say hello and they give you in return a big wave, a smile, and a "hey man" in a joyful Rastafarian accent.

We hope to go on a few hikes later this week before "the fun begins", as Kyle says and we'll keep you updated on our new adventures from day to day.

January 4, 2010

First Days of Our New Life in Dominica

Sunday, Jan 3
Well...after getting up at 4:00am in Antigua, we got on a plane (a larger one I might add) and began our journey to Dominica. $200 later (bag fees and a "leaving the country tax") and a one hour delay, we finally landed in Dominica. This place is absolutely breathtaking. It is pure lush green hills surrounded by clear blue water. After taking in this moment of "Wow! This is our new home", we learned that none of our bags made it! Ugh!!! Funny how all of our luggage made 3 change planes including one airline change to get
us from Phoenix to Antigua, but couldn't seem to make it on the 40 minute flight to Dominica. All is well now and less that 12 hours later we got our bags (aka clean clothes and undies).

As we arrived at school, after a one hour windy drive from the airport, we were greeted by our landlord, Trish, who loaded our bags and took us to our cottage. She also gave us cell phones with a prepaid card that we can refill as we need! Very nice of her. You can all call us, please check the fees from your carrier, and we can call all of you for 19 cents per minute. When we call other people on the island it is free.
Kyle: (767) 245-1791
Heidi: (767) 295-3820
We would love to hear from you!
The cell phone gifts from Trish were wonderful since everyone we talked to paid $40 for their phones, without any minutes.

We had very little time to scope out our new place before we went back to school for some lunch on the beach with some old friends (from Miami) and some new ones. We had a campus tour, a meet and greet social with drinks, got our luggage, and crashed in bed around 9:00pm; we were both exhausted!

This morning (Monday, Jan. 4) we unpacked our bags and placed everything in our large walk-in closet. We hope to go grocery shopping tomorrow, as today is a national holiday and everything is closed. As for now...the sun is shining, the water is clear, and we are enjoying life in our new home.

January 2, 2010

The Beginning of our Journey...

This morning (January 2nd) at 12:30 am we boarded the plane in Phoenix to begin our journey to Dominica. Since Kyle knew the guy who worked at the US Airways counter, we were moved to the exit row. We like to think of it as "land of the leg room"...very nice for a red-eye flight and one tall boy. We arrived in Charlotte around 6am where we had a 5 hour lay over and slept on the hard floor by our gate. Time passed rather quickly and it was time to head to St. Martin. While we waited for our last flight of the day, to Antigua, we toasted to our new life in the islands with a banana colada. Very tasty and much needed as we would later find out! As the sun set over the ocean we boarded the transfer bus to take us to our plane. Did I say plane? I mean a tin can with wings. We were both shocked as we approached the 20 passenger prop that looked to be a bit rickety and used and were glad we had a tropical drink to ease our minds. We crammed in, said a prayer, and off we went into the sunset gazing at the beautiful islands below us.

Now, after a wonderful island dinner, accompanied by at least 10 mosquito bites for Heidi, we are in our hotel room in Antigua where we will arise nice and early for our flight to Dominica...our new home.