Cheers to 3 years!

It’s hard to believe we’ve already been married for three wonderful years!  The time has really flown by.   In those three years, we’ve had so many adventures. We’ve . . .

. . . lived in 3 different countries.

. . . lived in 4 different apartments.

. . . attended college level/grad school courses on 5 different colleges campuses.

. . . traveled to 5 countries together.

. . . mastered public transportation systems in 2 countries.

. . . learned to crack/hack open coconuts ourselves to drink the coconut water.

. . . visited some of the world’s most beautiful beaches.

. . . had a few “pets”: a pack of feral cats (Richmond), curly tailed lizards (Bahamas), and a rat, an anole tree lizard, and a frog (Dominica).

. . . studied our butts off (me, attending grad school full-time during my first year of teaching art and our first year of marriage; and Charlie, now and ever since he began the whole med-school experience last August).

. . . learned that we can survive pretty much anything together!

Happy anniversary to my amazing,  handsome husband.  Thanks for being so sweet and for always supporting me and making me laugh!

Wedding Day in Chincoteague

Honeymoon in France

Enjoying an evening out after completing our first semester here on the Rock

Today Charlie is studying and I am laying low, but we’ll be celebrating tomorrow with an afternoon at the beach and a delicious dinner at Red Rock, one of the tastiest restaurants on the island.  Cheers!


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Our Crib

We’ve lived in our new apartment (right across the street from our old place — talk about a convenient move!) since May and I’m embarrassed that it’s taken me several months to gather up some photos of our new place.  Perks that we love about our new, two room apartment: our fabulous porch and view (we eat dinner on the porch every single night!), cheaper rent, better layout in the living room/kitchen, and hot water in the kitchen sink.  Really all a girl could ask for, right? Haha.  The rat scare had us ready to move, but since the rat is long gone, we’ve decided to stay.  We even negotiated a lower rent price with our landlord (shhh…. don’t tell!).

Charlie and I  brought back a few things over break to make the apartment feel a little more like home: inexpensive floor and table lamps (exposed fluorescent bulbs start to wear on you after a while!); a few yard of Ikea fabric, blackout liner and curtain rings to make some ghetto-rigged curtains to replace our hideous burgundy and forest green striped curtains (Frannie helped me rig up the new curtains during her visit); a few colorful throw rugs; a fun solar powered lantern that hangs in our kitchen; brightly colored cloth shower curtains to cover our heinous “sofa” and chair; and porch hammock.  Marge got crafty and made us the cute floral pillows on our couch.  I also scored a fun new blue and white lattice tray and some pretty floral sheets from friends’ “leaving the island” sales.  And let’s not forget the posters from my college dorm room that Mom discovered in the attic… woo hoo!   So, here’s where we spend our days:

 

living room / kitchen / dining room

{ living room / kitchen / dining room }

{ kitchen / dining room & view from our kitchen / front door }

{ our fabulous porch where we relax, eat meals, and watch the sun set }

{ bedroom and view from our bedroom door }

{ charlie's study area in our bedroom & the view from our bedroom windows + our fort knox security bars }

{ bedroom storage }

{ bathroom }

Now you know where we live… and it’s currently a rat-free zone.  Good stuff!

Nesting Season

In case you aren’t addicted to Facebook like I am, here’s what you missed this week:

our apartment = rat central

Apparently it is nesting season around here.  A rat chewed through our screen window in our kitchen and climbed on in.  That little punk gnawed through a banana and roamed all over our apartment, pooping on everything: kitchen counters, kitchen table, sofa, bathmat… you name it.  We were pretty grossed out, especially since we’ve been hearing horror stories about all the diseases that rats carry around here.  So, I spent the following day disinfecting our entire apartment.  A special thank you that that bi-atch of a rat for making me re-wash all of my clean dishes that were drying in the drying rack… you suck!  Really, the worst part was not knowing if the rat was still in our apartment.  Had Splinter nested in suitcases?  Dresser drawers?  Kitchen cabinets?  You may think I’m being a bit dramatic.  But this was a RAT.  Mice, I could handle.  But the rats here are nasty and filthy and disease-y.  Yikes.  We searched the apartment and found no rat.  I even bought and set up some scary metal mouse traps and left those out with cheese and crackers on them for a few days, just in case… but no rat.  Lucky for us, the rat is out, and the windows are closed for good.  (Bad news: being the in the kitchen without the windows open feels like death).  Unfortunately, the rat visited my neighbor and chewed through her screens the following night… ewwww.  Enough with the rats!

If you know me, you know that I love my family and friends, and I love Richmond, but I’m really not one to be homesick.  This rat, however, has made Charlie and I both really miss home.  Family, friends, homes without rats… we miss you all!  {Please know that even though sometimes we’re both really bad at keeping in touch, we still love ya and think of ya often!}

Since I’ve been a little homesick, I’ve been doing some nesting of my own, dreaming of the future, of our someday one-day home, of quality design, artful homes, fun colors, cozy beds, “real” furniture, dishwashers, non-fluorescent non-exposed-bulb overhead lighting, dream kitchens, fluffy pillows, washing machines, clean sheets, soft towels, comfy sofas…  My fabulous friend Emily taught me how to use a fun photo editing program called Picnik, so I’ve been “window shopping” online and making some collages, trying to beef up my pretty pathetic graphic design-ish skills.  Here are some collages I made of favorite things I’m coveting from far away places like Anthropologie and West Elm…

What we do all day…

Contrary to popular belief, I do not sit around and pick my nose or eat bon bons all day long (only for a small part of the day).  I am actually really busy most days, as is Charlie, who rarely has a chance to enjoy the beach, or much of anything, for that matter.  After tests and exams, however, we both look forward to a fun afternoon and evening together.  Until then, however, here is what a normal day here is like…

I get up between 8 and 10, put away the dishes that dried overnight, and do whatever dishes were left in the sink from the day before.  Then make coffee or tea and have breakfast (usually fruit, oatmeal, or eggs) outside, if the porch isn’t swarmed with the remains of dead bugs (in which case I avoid going outside for as long as possible so I can put off sweeping them up.  It’s pretty sick.  Currently the porch is covered with the inch-long wings of these crazy rain-fly termite things.  ICK!).  If Charlie is media-siting (watching class lectures online) that day then we’ll have breakfast together, if I’m up early.  If he’s going to class, he’s gone by 8.  After breakfast I do the breakfast dishes.  Then I make the bed, clean up our apartment, put away clothes or laundry.

bug covered porch... good stuff.

If it’s a busy day, I’m up early for an RSO meeting, an assembly at CALLS, a day trip with friends.  If it’s a low-key day,  I will check emails, write a blog post, catch up on news and blogs, read about re-finishing furniture and other how-tos which I will bookmark for use in several years when we have a real home.  I’ll peruse the food blogs and book mark recipes with minimal and/or tropical ingredients for current use, and ones with fancy shmancy ingredients or luxuries not available here like berries, buttermilk, and arugula for later use (again, in several years, when I can also break out those DIY home projects, like making an upholstered headboard!).  If I’m feeling energized (which usually I’m not), I’ll walk to the gym and get in a nice air-conditioned work out, or I’ll visit my friend Brandi and play with her 4 week old kittens.  At noon, Charlie will come home for lunch or I’ll make him lunch and bring it to him at school.  We’ll sit outside under a tree by the library if the weather is nice.  I’ll head home after lunch and do some more dishes.  Then I’ll relax and watch some TV shows on my computer… The Wire, Big Love, Mad Men, Weeds.

lunch with Charlie at Pagua Bay after exams

If I’m feeling brave, I’ll do some laundry.  Here’s how this goes down without a washer or dryer: I’ll turn on our hot water heater (which we rarely do these days, as cold showers are the only way to go when it’s just as hot or often hotter inside our apartment than it is outside), put a bucket in the shower, add a scoop of detergent to the bucket, fill it up with hot water, throw in some clothes, and swish them around for a little while with a clean plunger.  Then I’ll rinse the clothes and wring them out in the shower.  Then I’ll go on the porch and rig up a clothes line and hang up the clothes to dry.  I’ll do this for about an hour and if I’m lucky, the clothes will smell nice when they’re dry.  Sometimes, they still smell sweaty once they’re dry, and I lose my gumption and send my stiff, sweaty, horribly hand washed and line dried clothes out and pay someone and deal with them effectively.

After the laundry nightmare I’ll read for a little while and figure out and google some recipes to help figure out what to make for dinner.  I give myself extra gold stars if the meal requires little to-no oven time.  Here’s why: 1. Our oven sucks.  When you bake anything, the oven handle gets so hot that when you touch it your burn your hand.  2.  Our oven really sucks.  In our last apartment, the baking temperatures were in degrees Celsius.  That I could handle, I just made a conversion chart on a post-it and stuck it to the fridge.  Boom.  In our new apartment, however, our oven is the worst.  Seriously, THE ABSOLUTE WORST.  There are no temperatures.  Yes, you read that correctly.  No temperatures.  Just a knob that says “1 2 3 4 5.”  (I really wish I were making that up.)  So, I just guess on baking temperatures.  You can imagine how that turns out… burnt everything, all the time.

every baker's dream

Good stuff.  Anyways, I figure out what to make for dinner.  Usually it’s something vegetarian because sometimes the meat here is scary and/or hard to find, or just really expensive.  I wish I could say that I bought and cooked fish all the time, but I don’t.  I’ve bought it once.  Buying fish requires walking for 20 minutes down to the waterfront when you hear someone blow a conch shell.  The problem is that where I live, you can’t hear anyone blow a conch shell, so then you trek down to the water and loiter and act sketchy and wait for several hours until you actually see someone blow a conch shell, and well, that is really not my idea of fun.  Then you trek 20 minutes home with a plastic grocery bag full of fresh fish.  I need to figure out a better system for this, because the fish is amazing.  It’s literally fresh out of the ocean, and is usually tuna or mahi mahi, for $7 a pound.  I made the best fish tacos with the tuna I bought last semester.  Note to self: figure out the fish situation, ASAP.

If it’s a Tuesday, I help my friend Emily teach a sewing class at a local Women’s Center.  (Actually, I provide moral support and do a kid-friendly fabric project with the women’s children, while Emily teaches the sewing class, since I literally cannot sew a stitch).

me with my little friends at the women's club... aren't they precious?

If it’s a Thursday, I tutor at CALLS, the local alternative high school that gives at-risk students a second chance.

me with some of the amazing girls I've gotten to know at CALLS

If it’s a Friday, I spend the afternoon at the park in Portsmouth with friends and local children at In.Light.In, an after school program and ministry, where we play with the kids, do a craft project, and then feed them a meal.

some of my favorite sassy ladies at in.light.in

Some days I’ll spend a few hours at the pool with friends, read a book on our porch or in the hammock if it’s not excruciatingly hot out, go to yoga in the early evenings, walk to the grocery story (not an option until a few months ago!), go on a hike or take a trip with friends, or meet friends for coffee at Rituals, the fabulously air-conditioned coffee shop.

after a hike and swim at Bense Pool

Charlie and I have dinner together almost every night around 7.  Usually I cook and he either comes home for dinner on the porch or I bring him a meal at school.  Then, he hits the book again until midnight.  After dinner, I do some more dishes, tidy up the apartment, and either enjoy a cold shower and some TV or a movie in our air-conditioned bed room (we have AC in our bedroom only and only turn it on for a little while before we go to bed since electricity is pricey here.  We have don’t have AC in living room/kitchen (they are the same room) which is brutal this time of year!), or a meet friends for game night, drinks, a night swim at the pool, a cookout, or a Friday night movie on campus.

By the time the day is over, I’m usually exhausted.  Between the heat, the walking/carrying everything everywhere all the time, and all the cooking and dish washing (I am the dishwasher), I am out like a light by bed time.  Charlie conks out, too, exhausted from the heat, the walking, and mostly the studying.  That, my friends, is how we spend out days!

Charlie, victoriously posing with 7 weeks of material, after Mini 2

Second semester, going strong!


I know I’ve been a stranger, but with exams last semester, moving to a new apartment, our trip home, my extra time in the U.S. to attend Frannie’s college graduation (you go, girl!), Frannie’s visit to Dominica, and my trip with Frannie to St. Maarten, it has taken me a little while to get settled back in to life here on the island.

Charlie has been working hard to master neuroanatomy (my worst nightmare!) and is studying night and day in preparation for Mini 1, the first huge test of the semester. He has also gotten to do a little bit of work outside of the classroom, diagnosing a standardized patient, and playing dominoes with the older generation of Dominicans at a local senior citizens center. I think it was a nice break to step out of the classroom for a little while! As always, he is working and studying like I have never seen. His dedication is amazing, and I know it will pay off!

The kittens, just a few days old. Please focus on them and not my grungy, sweaty appearance, which sadly is inevitable in this insane heat... We're talking boiling heat with 70% humidity. I was so hot and flustered the other day on my walk home that I choked on my own spit and almost passed out on the road. No joke. It's so hot you can't even breathe properly!

I have been busy volunteering with CALLS (the alternative high school) and In.Light.In (a ministry working with local kids on Friday afternoons), serving on RSO’s (Ross Spouses Organization) board helping with fundraising, and mainly just trying to stay cool. It has been unbelievably (unbearably) hot lately, so just trying to maintain a functional body temperature has been a task in and of itself! I’ve also spent lots of time with friends, mostly hiking, swimming, having game nights, and hanging out in the air conditioned coffee shop. My friend Brandi’s cat just had 7 kittens, so I spend as much time as I can watching those little cuties (I actually saw the mama cat give birth to 2 of them… CRAZY!). And I am looking forward to a fun day with Charlie after his test next week!!!

Contrary to popular belief, this is NOT how Charlie spends his days. (Only after a big test!)

This, however, is how I do spend mine!

Sisters at Frannie's graduation from Sewanee

Enjoying a hike and swim during Fran's visit

Our fabulous porch view!

P.S. — I apologize if this post has the lame sound of a holiday Christmas letter, updating you a little too chipperley on our fabulous life and the many accomplishments of our 4 amazing children (all on the honor roll!) and their little league championships.  (As I proofread this myself, that’s the vibe I got.)  Luckily, I spared you from having to read about the accomplishments of our 4 amazing children since we have none.