Ecstatic about the IGA!!!

Today was miraculous.  Picard was buzzing, people were gathering in hoards, throngs, and masses, flocking towards the new green building.  Never in my life have I seen people so excited (myself included) over something like this.  WE JUST GOT A REAL GROCERY STORE!  It’s an I.G.A., and it is fabulous.  Fresh meat, produce, deli, bakery, wine, oh my!  After months and months of slow building and rumors about when it would open (originally a few a semester ago), the I.G.A. here in Picard opened this evening at 6.  My friends and I were there at 6:20.  No more long, crazy Saturdays spent grocery shopping, riding in transports for an hour each way to Roseau where would then lug our groceries (only as much as we could carry) all over town.  No more involuntary vegetarianism because we’re out of meat and I’m unable to go on the Saturday grocery trip.  No more hiring drivers to take us to Roseau to pick up groceries from each store.  Now we have a real, live grocery store, here, in the flesh, and boy is it exciting!!!  Treats I got tonight: asparagus, baked potatoes, 5 grain bread, cantaloupe, jalapenos, granny smith apples, and cookies and cream ice cream.  I’m on cloud nine!

This thread of comments between girls on the island that I just saw on Facebook will give you a glimpse of the frenzied excitement about the new I.G.A. here. (I copied and pasted from Facebook, so please pardon any wonkiness.)

Jamie

Can I just say that IGA is WONDERFUL!!!!!!!! I hope it’s always this way! A girl can dream right?
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  • Michelle likes this.
    • Kendraim sad i didnt get to go!

      Like
    • CrystalWas it better than the one in Roseau?

      Like
    • RebeccaYES, CRYSTAL!!!!

      Like
    • Megan It was AMAZING!!!

      Like
    • JamieCrystal it was FAR better than the one in Roseau!!!

      Like
    • CrystalSweet! I can’t wait to go check it out!

      Like ·  1 person
    • MichelleIt had EVERYTHING (except chocolate chips… except maybe I passed over them) and things seem very decently priced too. Wahoo!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      Like ·  1 person
    • JackiThe manager in the front told me that they’re still getting lots more things, including FRESH MILK, so just be a little patient!!! 🙂

      Like ·  2 people
    • MichelleMichelle- I couldn’t find chocolate chips either.

      Like
    • JamieI guess if that’s our only complaint we’re doing good!!

      Like ·  1 person
    • ClareIt was so fantastic, I went 4 hours ago and am still excited!

      Like ·  2 people
    • CassiSo sad that I didn’t get to go but so happy for you ladies! How much easier will life be on this island now!?

      Like ·  1 person

Culinary Creations

OMG, I just made creme brulee.  I’m not gonna lie — I’m pretty proud of myself right now.  I’ve been on a cooking streak and have tried out dozens of new recipes in the past few weeks, most of which have been pretty darn delicious.  Take dinner tonight, for instance: Chicken en Papillote (actually, in foil because where or where is parchment?  You’ve got me…) with garlic, onions, basil, and tomatoes over lentil pilaf.  With rosemary scones.  Yes, you heard me correctly.  I made rosemary scones and they are delicious.  So good I am having a hard time saving one for Charlie!

And for dessert, creme brulee.  Which I am going to try momentarily.  After I finish bragging.  For the chicken I used my quarter of a chicken from Bernard, the local chicken man I met at the market on Saturday.  The chicken was delicious, although I did have quite a time hacking it apart with a knife; it was fun to play butcher for a few minutes.   I hacked through some chicken bones and everything. Quite an experience.  I’ll have to ask Bernard for some tips next weekend.

Earlier this week I made braised and roasted chicken thighs with leeks… another WOW recipe.  I suggest trying all of these, because not only were they as good as meals from your favorite gourmet restaurant, but they were actually really easy, which I always appreciate.  Then there were the oatmeal cranberry muffins I made — my new favorite breakfast.  You should make those too.

Okay, now I am eating the creme brulee and it is insane.  I caramelized the brown sugar on the top of it by sticking the whole darn thing in the toaster oven and broiling it for a few minutes until it looked dark and bubbly… and it turned out perfectly!  I just cracked it with my spoon (I agree with Amelie, it’s so fun) and boy was it exciting.

It is fun to have time to make anything I want… And with a free bus to Roseau (the capital city, an hour away) on the weekends, I can go to the good grocery store there (Save a Lot) and stock up on basics that are more expensive here in Picard and get treats that are not available anywhere else — like asparagus, portobello mushrooms, cream cheese, cottage cheese, ricotta, cream, yogurt, real milk, and meat.  I usually pick up a few random treats from the list above and then spend the next few weeks figuring out what tasty treats and meals I can make with them, using my pantry items and fresh market produce.  It is a good challenge, and I know Charlie appreciates the good food.

Last night I made enchiladas and they were yummy.  You should try them.

Spinach, Green Chile, Black Bean and Cream Cheese Enchiladas

These are my own adaption of AKPB’s turkey enchiladas she used to cook up on the Boulie and on Hanover… minus the turkey and enchilada sauce + green chiles for fun.

Ingredients:

  • tortillas, flour or corn, whichever you fancy or have handy (or make your own if you’re an overachiever — I’m not.)
  • black beans
  • 1 package of cream cheese
  • 1 package of chopped frozen spinach
  • 1 can of diced green chiles (not a big deal if you don’t have them or like them, just a fun addition)
  • green onions, sliced
  • salsa
  • enchilada sauce (optional)

Cook a package chopped frozen spinach.  I did it in the microwave because it involved not lighting burners with flames, but the stove top works too.  It’s frozen spinach, there’s no trick.  Once the spinach is cooked add a block of cream cheese and stir, so that the spinach melts in the hot pan, and you get a good cream cheesey spinachy mixture.  Add a can of chopped, dice green chiles with their juice and stir in.  Stir in some cooked, drained black beans or a can of black beans, drained.  Mix it all together, careful not to smash the beans.

Spoon mixture into some tortillas, flour or corn.  I used corn tortillas last night because I had them, but flour tortillas work too.  Fold tortillas in half and place in a baking dish.  (Here is the part where you can pour some enchilada sauce on top of them.  I searched the island for enchilada sauce and none could be found.  I prepared myself to make some from scratch, but the only chili powder I could find in town had bugs crawling on it.  So we passed on the enchilada sauce.  I supposed you could also add some cheddar cheese, but with all the cream cheese inside, I think it sounds a little excessive.  But hey, tomorrow’s Valentine’s Day, so just follow your heart).

Stick the casserole dish in your heated oven.  My oven is crazy and confusing and in degrees Celcius, so I just make stuff up — last night I turned it to 200 (whatever that means) and cooked them for about 10 minutes, until the torillas got slightly brown and crispy on the outside.  When they look good, remove from the oven.  I am always too ravenous to let anything cool, so if you’re like me, grab your spatula and plop a few of those suckers on your plate.  Top with salsa and sliced green onions.  YUM!

If you are in a cooking rut and need some new recipes or just feel like making something delicious, I also highly recommend the recipes below.

Chicken en Papillote with onions, tomatoes, garlic and basil. Serve over rice or lentils.

Chicken en Papillote with Basil and Tomatoes — I didn’t have cherry tomatoes so I just used regular heirloom tomatoes.

Rosemary Scones — make. these. now!

Creme Brulee — make the day before, they must chill overnight.  Ceramic ramekins probably work best, but you can also use a shallow pan, or I found some little metal, heart baking dishes which worked great.

Pan Roasted Chicken and Leeks — YOWZERS, this was good!

Beets with Toasted Walnuts and Grapefruit over Watercress — I used pink grapefruit because the regular ones make me gag.  I also just used some store-bought balsamic vinaigrette and added a little honey to it instead of making my own because 1) I was lazy and 2) I didn’t have any straight up balsamic vinegar.  Do what you like!

Portobello Mushroom and Red Pepper Pizza on Homemade Thin Pizza Crust*  I am obsessed with basil and like to add so much of it to everything that you could probably overdose on it.  SOMEHOW I forgot to add the basil to this (what!?!).  It was delicious without it.  But probably would have been extra delicious with it.  So don’t stress if you don’t have basil…

*If you have never tried the pizza dough from Trader Joe’s, you must ASAP.  In their refrigerated section, by the hummus and deli meat, they have bags of fresh pizza dough (wheat, white, and herb) for 99 cents (I think) that you take home and roll out and cook yourself… it makes ridiculously good pizza.  If we had a Trader Joe’s here in Dominica, first I would die, and then I would just buy that dough.

Oatmeal Muffins — I think these are fairly healthy, as far as muffins go!  I loved them and Charlie did, too.  I added chopped walnuts and some dried fruit mixture from Trader Joe’s (shipped in our barrel).

P.S. — I have become totally hooked on some of the fabulous food blogs that are out there, and find that I am finding most of my recipes these days from them.  I am also a huge fan of some of the easier recipes from Food & Wine Magazine, which are always insanely delicious, provided they aren’t too complicated and the ingredient lists don’t get too wacky.

Food blogs I love:

Bon appetit!

Saturday, Market Day

market in Portsmouth

Most of you probably know that I am hardly a morning person.  I come from a family of infamous sleepers who have been known to sleep for 16 hours straight through hours alarms, ringing phones, and blinding daylight.  (I wish I were kidding!)  We hate, hate, hate mornings.  Even here, where I get tons of sleep, I have a hard time waking up early on weekday mornings.  But somehow, I love getting up early on Saturday mornings to go to the market.  Okay, maybe I don’t love the getting up early part, but I do love going to the market.  It is exciting and full of color, and is truly an experience in itself, not to mention that you leave with bags full of goodies.

Dominica has the most incredible fresh produce.  The tropical climate and volcanic soil make the fruits and vegetables fluorish, resulting in a fabulous bounty at the Saturday morning market.  The market is open air with a covered section as well.  Vendors sell their bounty at tables or out of the backs of  trucks.  It begins around 5 am and lasts until everything is gone, probably around noon or so.  Everyone says you must get there early, like 5 am, to get the good stuff, so I was initially overwhelmed and intimidated, since I have rarely been known to get up before 7 am unless it involved a redeye flight.  The first week here I set my alarm for 6 and finally erected my zombie-like self from bed around 6:45, throwing on clothes, and running down the road to catch a bus, worrying that everything good would already be snatched up.  Five weeks in to life here, I realize that this is ridiculous.  Yes, maybe the most perfect tomato or best pineapple will be someone’s first pick, but there is so much delicious, fresh food that you can arrive at 8:30 and still get more than enough tasty stuff.

what I got at the market this morning

This morning I set my alarm for 6:00 am.  I am not sure if it even went off… but eventually I woke up at 7:45 and headed to the market around 8.  I still got everything I wanted and more: green peppers, lettuce, eggs, tomatoes, scallions, basil, pink grapefruit, mangos, cabbage, christophene (jicama), green beans, carrots…  I also bought a beautiful bunch of flowers (birds of paradise and anthurium) from my favorite lady who I buy my fruit from (she reminds me of Whoopi Goldberg) for 5 EC ($1.85)!  AND I discovered Bernard, who sells local chicken fresh from his farm, so I snagged some of that, too.  So wonderful!  Eveyone is friendyl, although some of the vendors can be downright pushy trying to sell their veggies, but you learn to keep walking, be friendly, and pick what you want from wherever it looks the best.  Many of the vendors love to chat and will tell you what unfamilair things are and how to prepare them.

A friend of mine had a hilarious conversation at the market last week.  She touched a strange looking fruit (?) and the Dominican lady behind the table looked at her and said, “You not like that.  You not Chinese.”*

“Okay, well what is it?”

“You not like it.  Don’t touch.  You not Chinese.”

“I know I’m not Chinese.  I just want to know what it is.”

“I don’t know name.  Only Chinese people like it.  Not for you.  Don’t touch.”

Alrighty, then…

(*There are Chinese all over the place in Dominica.  The Chinese government gave Dominica aid money to help build roads all over the island and sent Chinese workers to complete the project… so everywhere you go, there are a million Chinese restaurant, construction vehicles and backhoes marked with Chinese writing… And apparently the market carries special items, for the Chinese only.)

The market is colorful, lively, and bustling, and although I hate mornings, the market makes them worthwhile. Other market items that are usually available are bananas, plantains, sweet potatoes, potatoes, onions, celery, spinach, ginger, pumpkin, paw paw (papaya), okra, beets, bok choy, radishes, sugar cane…  Seasonal items include guava, passion fruit, oranges, pineapples, avocados (HUGE ones!), sorrel, watermelon, squash.  The market in Roseau has an herb man and last week I bought dill, rosemary, basil, leeks, and watercress from him.  You can also get small bags of spices.

My eyes still look a little squinty from my morning excursion, but all is well!

The grocery stores here don’t have any fresh produce — they only have shelf items — canned and packaged goods, bags of flour, sugar, etc. — so if you want to eat anything fresh, you really have to go to the market.  If you miss it, there is a lady on campus who sells fresh produce, but it is much cheaper if you go to the market and get it yourself.  I have been doing lots of delicious, healthy cooking for us here, and we are eating vegetarian meals a few nights a week, substituting eggs, beans, and lentils for protein.  I pride myself on being a good cook, but am a novice baker… so I have also been working on my baking as well and making some good progress: I made pizza with homemade dough (made from scratch), plus peanut butter cookies, shortbread cookies, and pound cake for a bake sale.  It all turned out pretty well.  After 16 months here, I expect to be an excellent baker!

In short: we are having fabulous adventures — culinary, scientific/intellectual, and otherwise!

P.S. - How cool looking is the inside of this watermelon????

Island Idiosyncrasies

Here are some island idiosyncrasies that will explain some of the things that are interesting about Dominica and our life here.

Water. I think I’ve explained this one lots already, but in case you missed here, here’s the recap:  When it rains lots, the water first gets cloudy and brown (ewww).  If it keeps raining, the water cuts off because the water table gets too high, and the water can get contaminated with extra dirt.  I imagine this is especially fun during the rainy season.  During the first few days, our windows for showers were really limited.  It has been much better lately.  Something cool: our hot water is solar powered.  Something not cool:  hot water is available in the shower only, and is only available when it has been sunny long enough to heat the water.  Also not cool: always washing hands and dishes with cold water.  Something really, really not cool, which I have fortunately only had to do once:  Playing “Little House on the Prairie.”  Translation: Complicated bathing which involves turning on the propane tank and lighting the gas stove, then pouring bottled water into a pot and heating it until it is warm, then stripping down in the shower and “bathing” with a washcloth and bar of soap, using only the water in the pot because the water has not been working for days.  The result was a quasi-clean, still quite greasy me.  This was the only day so far that I really had a hard time.  After I dried off and my hair still looked like I’d washed it with bacon grease, I poured some baby powder in my hair to absorb some of the excess grease.  Nice.

Propane Tanks. I hate them.  I hate turning them on (mainly because it involves opening our cabinets under the sink which are housing a serious mildew colony, which in turn invokes an uncontrollable gag and an urgent, violent scrubbing of my hands) and I hate lighting them.  I am okay with lighting it, but am mostly freaked out by Charlie’s lack of faith in my propane-stove-lighting skills.  So I am confident until his fear invokes my fear.  He is fairly convinced that I am going to blow something up one day.  Scary.  What is really scary, though, is lighting the oven.  Lighting the oven requires opening the cabinet doors, turning on the tank, opening the valve, turning on the propane in the oven, opening the oven, sticking a match/lighter/flame-starter into a hole in the oven, which then ignites.  The scary thing about this is that there are horror stories of students/spouses on the island who have turned on the gas and then waited too long to light the gas… their ovens fill with gas and then when they go to light it, the oven blows up.  This horrifies me. So I sprint to open the oven and light the gas immediately after I turn the oven on.  I also just try not to use the oven; we have a toaster oven, which is practically my best friend in Dominica.

Power Meters and Outlets and Switches. You pre-pay for your gas at a number of stories, including the handy, dandy Dominican 7-11 down the street.  You do something with a code on your power box and then type in another code, which if entered correctly,   plays a happy song and makes a happy face appear on the screen.  When you are low on power, the power box emits an annoying beep until you reload the electricity.  They also have different electrical outlets here on the island: 220 volts (which may or may not be the European kind? I’ve never payed attention…).  Luckily our apartment has 110 volts (American) and 220.  Dominican appliances require the 220, and American appliances from home require the 110.  Not all apartments have both, which means they require converters, which also freak me out.  We also have switches that look like little light switches on the 220 volt outlets to physically turn the outlets on and off.  I guess this is because electricity is insanely expensive on the island.

Shelf Milk. Finding “regular milk” (milk you drink at home, in real life) is an anomaly here.  We have been drinking soy milk thus far, but recently ventured out and purchased a case of “shelf milk” which is milk that is not refrigerated and sits on grocery store shelves in soy milk-like containers.  (They may also drink this in Europe?  Frannie says she has had it on one of her Spanish-Speaking adventures.)  We bought “Belle Hollandaise: Lait Ecreme” which is made in the Netherlands, and have yet to try it.  At the Save-a-Lot, the fabulous grocery store in Roseau  that carries regular things, I snagged and half gallon of 2% milk and felt like I had won the lottery.  Charlie and I have been savoring it and drinking it like it’s liquid gold.  We’re easy to please.  While on the topic of Save-a-Lot, it is the BEST grocery store ever (for Dominica).  It is small — maybe the size of a large 7-11 (the real kind), but has “real milk” from time to time, as well as other exciting items if you are lucky: I went on Monday and was ecstatic to find mozzarella cheese, cottage cheese, ricotta cheese, and the previously mentioned refrigerated 2% milk.  SCORE.  It is also the best place to buy meat on the entire island.  Here it is the standard for stores to  sell ziplock bags full of frozen, freezer-burned pieces of UFO meat parts; I wish I were kidding.  Hence, I felt like I’d hit the jackpot when I found meat galore in properly wrapped and labeled styrofoam containers: our freezer is now stocked with ribeye steaks, ground beef, ground pork, pork chops (boneless and bone-in), chicken breasts and thighs, bacon, and breakfast sausage.

EC. East Caribbean Currency.  The bills come in 5, 10, 20, 50, and 100s.  The coins are 2, 5, 10, 25 cents and $1 coins.  The 2 cents and the 5 cents look alike, as do the 25 cent coins and the $1 coins.  The conversion is difficult to do (in my brain at least): 2.7 EC equals about 1 U.S. dollar, so 5 EC = $1.8, 10 EC = $3,70, 30 EC = $11.11, 100 EC = $37.04.  I had to make myself a chart.  Overall, stuff here is pretty inexpensive.

The Shacks. Food “shacks” on the edge of campus featuring about 20 different shacks which each serve and sell their own food and drink.  There are 2 juice shacks which sell fresh squeezed fruit juice in almost any flavor you can imagine: orange, grapefruit, passion fruit, mango, sorrel… all the juices are seasonal, so they change depending on what is available.  My favorite it passion fruit!  Some of the juice shacks also sell smoothies and fruit.  Other shacks sell all sorts of food — wraps, sandwiches, burgers, kabobs, curry, local dishes.  There are always grills fired up, searing yummy smelling caribbean spiced meats.  I like the chicken kabobs which come with jerk chicken and seasonal veggies (onions, peppers, plantains, potatoes), and sides of lentils and curries potatoes.  YUM.

Fresh Fruit and Juice. All of it here is amazing, and super inexpensive.  We don’t buy any juice from the store, we just get it fresh from the shacks.  I crave it constantly.  There are mango trees everywhere — 2 next door and one in our back yard.  The mangoes are just beginning to ripen, and I have found a few that have fallen from the tree in the road each morning; I plan on snagging some in the next few days.  The same goes for grapefruits and oranges.  Charlie and I have both brought home fresh fruit that had fallen from the trees on separate occasions — it is so freaking delicious.  The fruit it cheap, too.  At the market on Saturday, I got a bag of 6 huge grapefruits for a measly 2 EC (74 cents).  We have been eating them every morning for breakfast, and they are so delicious.

Fresh Vegetables. They are abundant here (I think they thrive with the volcanic soil and constant sun and rain), and are available in multitudes at the huge outdoor market on Saturday mornings.  I went last Saturday and was told that I had to get there early (like crazy early, we’re talking 5 am).  It was about all I could do to get myself out of bed around 7 and down to the market by 7:30 and there were still fruits and veggies out the wazzoo.  I came home with a backpack and market bag CHOCK FULL of goodies: carrots, beets, onions, basil, eggplant, tomatoes, lettuce, spinach, bok choy, avocado, cabbage, plantains, grapefruit, bell peppers, sugar cane juice, and eggs, all for around 40 EC (about $15).  I think the stuff that goes really early must be the really good stuff like pineapples, because I didn’t see any of those, but had gotten a delicious one the week before.  Needless to say, we have been eating really well and really healthily.  It has been so much fun cooking with such yummy, fresh ingredients!  The tomatoes here are especially tasty.

Sugar Cane Juice. A local drink, made from sugar cane.  There is a sugar cane man at the shacks who sells his local juice; it’s pretty tasty.

Okay, Alright. This is a common greeting that locals use often.  I think it the equivalent to saying “hi, how are you.”  Okay, alright.

Umbrellas. An umbrella or a lightweight rain jacket must be carried at all times, as it rains a million times every day.  We brought 2 umbrellas and one has already died.  I bought a second one on my trip to Roseau, and the experience of buying the umbrella went something like this.  First, I saw a sign advertising “heavy duty, windproof, golf umbrellas on sale for 24 EC.”  Perfect, I thought.  This is just what we (Charlie especially) needed, since our other umbrella broke, and since you walk around everywhere here, regardless of weather.  A good umbrella is crucial since 75% of the time Charlie has his laptop with him in his backpack.  I notice that all of the umbrellas in the stand are exactly the same, and are actually marked with price of 19 EC.  I think to myself that this is funny that the sale price is actually higher than the regular price of the umbrella, but don’t think too much of it, because that sounds like typical Dominica (I had a similar experience buying a fan earlier that day).  I grab the umbrella and give it a quick once over, noticing its weird faux-leather cane-like hook handle, and the Chinese writing on the bag that the big umbrella is in, but, again, don’t think too much of it, because A) Charlie really needs a big umbrella, and B) this is Dominica.  I purchase the umbrella and head home.  Later that day I remove the umbrella from its plastic sleeve and notice that it is made of a weird material; something in between a cheap sun parasol and an actual umbrella.  I begin to doubt whether this was actually even the advertised umbrella when I open it and decide that it actually feels like rice paper and I can actually see where rain would probably drip through the umbrella during even a minor storm.  I reevaluate the faux-leather handle and decide that it is actually really, really weird and probably a really terrible umbrella.  Charlie gets home from studying and I give him his new, weird umbrella.  He too, is skeptical, but embraces it and hopes that it will do the trick most of the time.  He leaves in the rain, and takes his new umbrella with him.

When he returns hours later, he enters our apartment, brushes off his wet-self and announces with a devilish grin that his new accessory is an “Odd Job” umbrella.   For those of you who, like myself, are not obsessed with James Bond, are not a man, or do not insist on watching hours upon hours of James Bond movies during Spike TV’s annual Thanksgiving and Christmas Bond movie marathons (aka “Bondathons”), let me fill you in on Odd Job with his character bio, courtesy of Wikipedia: “Oddjob acts as Goldfinger’s personal chauffeur, bodyguard and golf caddy. He wears what appears to be a bowler lined with a metal razor disk in the rim, using it as a lethal flying disc of sorts (this is a bowler hat in the novel, and as such, would have had a round top). It is very powerful, capable of decapitating a stone statue. He later uses it to kill Tilly Masterton by breaking her neck.”

Okay, now back to real life:  So Charlie announces that he is the proud owner of an “Odd Job umbrella.”  He opens the umbrella and shows me the cuff link button which one presses to open the umbrella.  Seriously, there really is a black and silver cuff link button.  At this point I am rolling on the ground laughing.  Those crazy Chinese.  Then he informs me that the “leather” handle pulls out, doubling as a sword and sword sheath.  The umbrella is so ridiculous that it takes me a minute to realize that he is only joking about this part.  So yes, that is the umbrella.  I am still laughing, several days later.  In fact, Charlie is out with his Odd Job umbrella as I type.  So amazing.

The Bread Lady. She sells eggs and freshly backed bread in a shack in between campus and our apartment.  Very convenient and delicious.

Roaming Farm Animals. These include, but are not limited to, goats, cows, and chickens.  They wander freely, often stopping traffic.  Roosters crow constantly, and hens and their fluffy chicks cluck around.  There are at least 6 goats that I know of in a 20 foot radius from our apartment.  2 live down the hill, 2 live across the street, and 2 live up the hill.  1 cow lives across the street.  The adult goats are tied up with long ropes, and the babies wander freely and awkwardly.  There are favorite hangout spots around here are rock piles.  The kids love to play on the rock piles.  The purpose of goats is twofold: lawn mowers and once they are big enough, meat.  The same goes with the cows.  They are not for milk or cheese, which I think is a real bummer.  I love me some goat cheese.

Laundry. Because electricity is insanely costly here, apartments rarely have a washer and dryer.  You have to send your laundry out to a laundry service, and there are numerous laundry ladies in the area.  Out of convenience, we take our laundry to Hannah’s which is right next door.  She washes our clothes and hangs them on a clothesline to dry (old school) and returns them, smelling fresh and perfectly folded, for about 15 EC per load (~$5.50).  Most apartments also have a cleaning lady (included in the price of your rent) who comes to clean 2 mornings a week.  This is especially nice since mold grows like crazy with all the humidity, and all the rain makes for lots of muddy shoes, and the tile-floored apartments get really dirty really quickly.  I love help keeping our floors clean and I love not having to clean our bathroom ever.

TV. We have an amazing assortment of television channels including Puerto Rican NBC, US Virgin Island ABC, CBS, FOX, CW and PBS, along with the usual cable channels like TNT, TBS, AMC (Mad Men!!!!), HGTV plus some premium channels like HBO, Cinemax, and 2 Starz channels.  We also get some really bizarre local channels, a bunch of sports and news channels, and tons of wacky religious stations.  The word on the street is that we all have pirated cable, because the channels go in and out often, and they are always changing to different numbered channels.  Weird, but also a very awesome selection for our viewing pleasure.

Ross Spouses Organization. Also known as RSO, this is a group of all the wives, husbands, and significant others who are here, like me, to support our students spouses.  This is a fun group who always have events and activities planned to keep us busy and happy.  I have made some great friends already and am exciting about the fun we will have in the upcoming weeks, months, and semesters.  Yay for friends!

The view of the area from our rooftop.

I am adjusting well — better than most of the spouses, I think.  Charlie is doing well, too.  I actually love it here, minus a few frustrations every now and then.  I think that life in the Bahamas helped prepare me, as I am already used to having things be different than at home, like expensive electricity and the inability to easily obtain groceries.  It is beautiful here, much prettier than Freeport, and I am constantly in awe of all the natural beauty and bright colors surrounding me.  Last weekend we went whale watching and saw 4 gigantic sperm whales and also traveled from end to end of the island.  Our apartment building is unfinished, and there are stairs leading to the roof which provide an incredible aerial view of the area — I have been drawing up there, and tonight, I surprised Charlie with a rooftop birthday dinner at sunset.  He loved it, and minus all the studying he has been doing all day, said it was the perfect birthday.  Now, I’m off to enjoy my fabulous selection of TV shows: specifically, Modern Family.  Okay, alright!