March 27, 2010

The Shacks

This area of campus is called "The Shacks". It's not actually on campus itself, but it sits right next to it. Although Ross has a Subway, a Chinese food place, a hot dog stand, and a few others places to grab a snack, this would likely be considered the food court of Ross University. I am not exactly sure if the locals who run their stands pay Ross to be there or what, but boy do they have a captive audience. You can find everything from chicken sandwiches, pasta, crepes, pizza, and produce at these little huts. This is a staple in the diets of many of the students living here, mainly the single men...and this is the leverage I have on Kyle. Better be nice or he too could be trading in his gourmet lifestyle for some chicken and fries surrounded by flies. Now I don't mean to be so harsh on The Shacks because, I too have eaten there a handful of times, but my favorite shack is Magdalene, the fruit juice lady. She has mango juice, guava juice, coconut water, starfruit juice, and my favorite...banana juice; it's so smooth and creamy it's almost like a milkshake. The best part about it is how cheap it is, less than $1.50 US for a large cup. Around here, if you can help it, or if you have a loving wife at home to cook for you, it is best to avoid these eateries. Why, you may ask? Well, there is a rampant disease around here called "Shack Attack". Those of you who have traveled to Mexico might know this as another form of Montezuma's Revenge. I won't go into details...I'm sure you are getting a vivid image in your head right now and let's just be's not pretty! Fortunately Kyle and I have not dined here enough to partake in this unpleasant experience, but we know many people that have! The photo I took of The Shacks was at about 11 o'clock, but in about another hour, lunch time, this place is a sea of people who I wave to as I walk through with my Tupperware of homemade delightfullness. I'm not going to lie...I've gotten looks of pure envy and even a few "what are you having for lunch?". It really is sad, but thank goodness for The Shacks, otherwise students would probably never eat or resort to making a meal out of a vending machine. In the end dining here is like dining in any other foreign country or even in the US. You just have to be careful about what you eat and where you get it from. There are plenty of places at home with far lower standards than The Shacks and it's all about what your stomach is used to.

March 24, 2010

Visa Interview

Today Kyle and I had to go to an interview for our resident visas for Dominica. They aren't as concerned with the students themselves, they mostly worry about the spouses or companions that are here with the students. Well, I can honestly say it was a waste of a perfectly good hour...they asked us the dumbest questions that I'm pretty sure had nothing to do with me staying here and getting a visa (or going home). If someone can tell me why it matters how many bedrooms our house has or what the name of the school was that I worked at before I came here I would be appreciative. The icing on the cake was the way the woman just randomly thought of questions and wrote them along with our answers on a blank piece of lined paper. The whole things seemed quite official (haha).

March 21, 2010

Where I Hunt and Gather

Now that I have taken you on the walk we take everyday, I will now show you where I do my grocery shopping here in Portsmouth. I also do a great deal of shopping down in Roseau, but that is usually done only once a month. I enjoy the saying that grocery shopping here is like hunting and gathering. Taylor said that one time and I thought that was a perfect way of describing it. At home we are used to going to one giant store or supermarket and getting anything we want any time of the year. Here, we have to go to several stores and still may not find everything on our list. Produce truly has seasons here, so for example, we just started getting a lot of mangoes, but before rarely would you find one. Anyway, here are just a few of the places I do my hunting and gathering. Now remember, don't judge, these places are no AJ's Fine Foods...

This first place is "7-11". It isn't affiliated with the 7/11 we have at home, but it is the same concept. It's basically a large convenience store. I like this place since they are open 7 days a week from 7-11. Most places around here are closed on Sundays and are only open from 10-9 so thisw is a good back-up in case I need something on Sundays.

Here is D's Tropical Fruits and Flowers. She has a great selection of produce, including cantaloupe, apples, and grapes, that she imports from Martinique, who gets them from France. She is typically a little more expensive than the rest of the produce stands, but she is fly free and is a jolly, friendly woman who always has the things that are harder to find on the island.

Picard Grocery is a great place to find things like bagels, bread, and dairy goods. They have a good variety of everything, but no produce. I can get my eggs here as well. Did I mention the eggs and milk are not refrigerated here? Well, they aren't and we haven't died yet. It is just something we have to get used to here. This place also has sour cream and cottage cheese occasionally as well as yogurt. It's weird how you get excited for the smallest things here. When the sour cream arrived I paid about $4 US for about 3/4 cup. It was delicious and worth every penny!

James Store is rather large and has both groceries and home goods. Although, I only buy things like canned goods here since they are known to have bugs in their pastas, rices, and anything not sealed in hard plastic or tin. It's a great place to come for anything having to do with hardware, kitchen supplies, or household cleaning supplies.

This place is called The Courtyard. They really don't carry much, but it's a place I'll check out every now and again. They pretty much only have liquor and wine, chips, pasta, cereal, cookies, and snacks. They do have great rolls that I like to use for sub sandwiches.

An IGA is currently being built about a 2 minute walk away from our new apartment. It is said to be done in August, but who knows. They are actually making great progress on the construction. I have been to the IGA in Roseau and it is like a smaller version of an American grocery store. It will be great when it's done, but unfortunately it will likely put out some of the smaller businesses.

So, now you see where I do my grocery shopping here. I'm not going to lie...there are times I would kill for a Wal-Mart. Ahh, those large carts, air conditioned isles, shelf upon shelf of choices, and of course it's all under one roof. I think it will be a while before Dominica gets one of those and we only have a year left here. It may be a more difficult way of shopping, but that's what we have to do for now. In the end I still make food that tastes like home and I have leaned to make things homemade when I can't find it here. Things such as tartar sauce, sweet and sour sauce, tortillas, rolls, and bread are part of my new recipe collection. So long Sara Lee and Heinz, hello Heidi's Homemade Creations...

My LONG Walk to Campus

I had said before that I wanted to take you all on a tour of where we live and how we live our life here. I thought I would start out by showing you our walk to school. I actually do this walk a lot more than Kyle since I walk to town for groceries, to bring him lunch and dinner, and just to do daily/weekly chores such as paying for time on our cell phones and going to the bank. He also tends to do this long walk at the coolest times of the day, in the morning and in the evening. I, on the other hand, make this trek as the sun is beaming down on my head as I'm lugging bags of produce and frozen chicken. I don't complain about this too much to Kyle since in my spare time I am usually out by the pool with my friends and he has his nose in a book. Anyway, let our journey begin on the 1.5 mile walk to school...

So this is where my walk begins. This is the walk from our house out to the dirt road that I have learned to HATE!

And this is the dirt road I spoke of so fondly above. The reason I hate this road is due to the fact that it is long and bumpy. It's a great place to twist an ankle and it's a real joy after a hard rain and you're sloshing through mud. Oh and did I mention that there are frequently cows roaming the road? Well, there are and they leave nice piles to step around and the love to stand in middle of the road and stare at you like you are in their way. Whose cows are they you ask...actually nobody actually knows but they certainly are a nuisance at times.

Here is what I see as I reach the end of the dirt road and reach the main road. It's a KFC and a Rituals Coffee (aka Dominican Starbucks). We have been to the KFC twice since we've been here and only eaten there once. They seem to always be out of chicken...go figure. I also love that they never tell you what they do have, they just let you keep asking for different menu items only to say "No". Needless to say I think I only had french fries that were cold and greasy. The Rituals Coffee is pretty good. They have lots of "chillers" that are like frappacinos and a good variety of muffins, croissants, and lunch items like sandwiches and paninis. The only thing I caution to people if they are going to eat there is don't be in a hurry. A coffee and a sandwich could take a good 45 minutes. They don't move too fast around here. I guess it's the whole "island time" thing.

Now we are at the main road. Now that I have made it here I still have another 10 minute walk to campus. I definitely stay on the sidewalk as I walk here since cars here can drive a bit fast for my taste. I also have learned to look closer as I cross the street since they drive on the left side of the road. So instead of looking "left, right, left" I now look "right, left, right". It took me a while, but I finally got it down.

This is the main road again, now we're around campus. To the right is the school and to the left are some apartments and shops. As you can see it's nothing fancy when you are on the outside of campus. There is certainly a separation between the technology and money spent on campus and the poverty across the island. The locals all seem grateful for our presence since Ross University has brought a lot of jobs to the island, but it still a very poor place.

So, now you have seen our walk to campus. Since we will be moving into another apartment next semester, our walk will be shorter. In fact, we will be about 50 feet closer to campus from the KFC and will be just off the main road. This means no more long dirt road. This will make my life a lot easier and as Kyle says, "A happy wife is a happy life".

March 17, 2010

Standardized Patient...My Other Job

Another "job" I have in addition to the coffee business is in the Standardized Patient Program. This is something that the med students start doing in their 3rd semester. I do get paid for my time...just a little extra grocery money. Basically, I am given a new scenario each semester and I have to study the case. I learn about my symptoms, my medical history, my family medical history, and any other information that may also go along with my condition. Then, after weeks of practicing, I finally perform my illness for the med students. I am in a room that looks like a doctor's office and I wear a gown. Two students come into the room, dressed professionally and in a white coat, and perform both a physical exam and a patient history intake. The whole process takes about an hour and then I give them feedback on how they did. Most of them do very well. I can tell they are nervous, but I am too...I am not the best actor in the world. I do two hours in a row each week. It has been a lot of fun so far and I will continue to do it each semester while we are here. I have already had some of our coffee customers as "doctors" which is a little awkward so I can imagine when it is Kyle's semester that is doing it, I will know quite a few of them. I just have to stay in the role and not break character. For the disease I have know, pulmonary embolism and deep vein thrombosis, I have to rub red lipstick all over my right lower leg to make it appear swollen and red. It's kinda fun to get paid to play dress up and pretend to be sick.

March 14, 2010

Time with the Hubby

This past week has been wonderful. First, Kyle did amazing on his exam and I am so proud of him and his hard work. Second, it was a slower week for the students, in terms of classes, labs, and lectures, so we were able to spend a lot of time together. It's amazing how I learn to appreciate every minute he can give me out of his busy days. He has been home for dinner around 6 or 7 instead of the usual 10 or 11. On Tuesday, we went to the beach right here by school. I believe since we've been here I have become a bit of a beach snob. The one here by campus is a little rocky and the water isn't as clear, but it was close and that's where we went, but I must say I prefer some of the other beaches around here more. We went swimming and played in the sand with some friends. It was a really great time.

On Friday afternoon a bunch of the girls went on a wine cruise. The description for this activity from the Spouse's Organization was "come out on the water and enjoy a variety of wines and light appetizers". Well...the wine was just ok, nothing fancy and we drank it out of small plastic Dixie cups, and the "light appetizers" included Pringles and Doritos. We all just laughed at the Dominican way and had a great time anyway. We were able to anchor down by the coast and go snorkeling in the beautiful clear water. It was stunning!
The clear waters where we went snorkeling

Taylor and I out on the boat.

Some of the girls are floating in the water, others are snorkeling.
On Saturday, my friend Meagan put together an island tour since her sister is in town. We went to Trafalgar Falls, Scott's Head, and Champagne Bay. All of us had our husbands with us which made the trip even more special.
The whole gang that went on the trip, including our driver "Bones".
Kyle and I at Scott's Head
Here I am looking mighty dorky in my snorkel gear. Getting ready to find some beautiful fish.
Our friends Ali and Dani hiking down from the falls to the pools.

Here I am swimming in the cold freshwater pools below Trafalgar falls.

March 8, 2010

Expanding the Business

Taylor and I have been talking for a while about adding some baked goods to our business, but things like chocolate are expensive and hard to find around here, the solution...cinnamon buns! I made our first batch, from scratch, yesterday which we sold with our coffee. They are very cheap and easy to make and the students couldn't get enough of them, especially when they were doused in a glaze. We sold out completely and we made 65 EC. This isn't bad considering I gave away the first 5 to our friends to try. Now I know we can make them for less that 1 EC each, mom and I did a cost analysis, and sell them for 5 EC. We are both very excited about the addition to our "company". Nothing like something sweet to go along with a hot cup of coffee. As my dad says, "I see income potential". I don't think these buns will pay for medical school, but maybe some groceries or electricity.
Note: I bought some local cinnamon and I had to laugh at the label on the bag...SEENAMON. 94% literacy rate...doubt it!


Well, it's been one week since my last entry, which I apologize for, but I have been so busy just relaxing and spending time with my mom. We have only done a few of the touristy things here...for the most part we have just relaxed and enjoyed the weather since we got back from Martinique. I've been showing her how we live around here. Everything from where we get our groceries and produce, the campus, our favorite spots for a drink and the sunsets, and our favorite beaches (see the tan/burn line on my mom's back). We've had so much fun. I'll be sad to see her leave, but only about 6 weeks until we come home in April. We will actually be coming in sooner than originally thought! Now we will arrive on Wednesday, April 22nd and I will be staying until the 15th of May and Kyle until the 5th of May.

Speaking of Kyle, my hard working husband, he had his 2nd exam today. He felt good about it, but still say a prayer for him. He makes me so proud and I do not know how he can put it almost 14 hours of studying every day. He is so determined. These next few days will be nice since we have several plans to go to the beach, snorkeling, and to a waterfall...that is if it doesn't rain. We have had a huge drought here. Not one drop of rain for nearly 4 weeks. We finally had a little today, but weird to think that back in Phoenix there has been tons of rain. The rain here is nice because it does cool things down and as long as it stays rainy and the sun doesn't come out until the next day it doesn't feel as much like the usual sauna we have around here.

We would also like to let you all know that we will be moving. No...not to another island or city, but into another apartment. We really do love our place and we feel comfortable here, except for our temporary live-in fruit bats, but it is just a little too far to walk every day in the scorching sun and the heat will only get worse. Our new place is right on the main road and is just like an American apartment. My mom saw it and really liked the place. This will make our break in April a little stressful with the move and our visit home, but I feel like living here lets you know you can get through anything.

I've decided that in the next couple of weeks I will be posting little blurbs along with pictures of our life here. The grocery stores, the campus, our house, etc. I feel like most of you probably can't picture where we live. Or, maybe you have a picture in your mind, but let me tell you it is probably different than what things are actually like. looking for those posts in the next week or so. Also, I will be sending out another thing of pictures from my mom's visit and the past few weeks.

March 1, 2010

Martinique for the Weekend

This past weekend my mom and I (Kyle had to study unfortunately) went to Martinique. We took the ferry, which we had heard horror stories about, and arrived safe and sound and pleasantly surprised about how great it was. I think some people just haven't gotten out much. We rented a car and mom drove us all over the island. She gets a little crazy with the stick shift at times, but we had a lot of fun and it brought back old memories of driving around Europe. In fact, Martinique is A LOT like France. They speak French, drive the same cars, and use the Euro. If I didn't know it I would have thought I was actually there. Most of the islands population is people who have moved from France. Anyway, with all those similarities to France came the same grocery stores and shopping malls. I thought I had died and gone to heaven. We spent one full day in 3 different supermarkets, me just drooling at all the things they have to offer. I now understand what people who move to the USA from a 3rd world country go through. It almost seems like there's too much, like it will all go to waste. None the less, I embraced it and walk up and down every isle scanning the shelves for things we could bring back that I couldn't get here in Dominica. Unfortunately , most of the things I would have liked to have brought back needed to be kept cool and wouldn't have made the trip home. I bought everything from a bag of apples and wine to plastic household goods and a fan. You should have seen us going through the ferry terminal. We looked like the Clampets! It was all worth it when we got it all back. In between drooling in the grocery stores we did have time to go to the beach, drive around half of the island, have a picnic complete with a French baguette, and visit the center of the large town. It was a wonderful trip and a great time spent with my mom.

Did I mention we ate ate McDonald's, twice? Ooooh that burger and fries tasted soooo good.
Overall, we had a great trip...thanks mom.