So Long, Farewell, Grenada…

What can I say, it’s been real, Grenada.  We’ve had our ups and downs that’s for sure, but I appreciate the experience.

When Matt and I moved to Grenada in January of 2010, we had just got engaged a few weeks earlier.

December 22, 2009

It was such an exciting time for us, with Matt starting medical school, and the beginning of planning our wedding.  Sometimes I can’t believe that two years flew by so fast, but then I stop and think about all that’s happened since we first got to Grenada, and then I can believe it’s been that long.

As we say our final farewell’s to Grenada tomorrow, I thought I’d leave you with…

Ten Things I’ve Learned Over The Last 2 Years While Living Abroad in Grenada

1.)  I learned how to cook! 

It’s kind of funny because prior to getting engaged, I had maybe cooked Matt a real dinner one or two times.  I know, it’s kind of crazy considering we dated for about 2.5 years before getting engaged!  I guess I never needed to learn, we lived with his parents, and his mom cooked delicious meals every night!  Why learn?  It was kind of a rude awakening when we landed in Grenada, and Matt looked at me to fill the shoes of his mom’s cooking (and trust me, those aren’t easy shoes to fill!), but I tried my best, and somewhere along the way I learned a thing or two.  Here I am now, whipping up all kinds of different meals, like chicken parmesan, lasagna, chili, chicken fajitas, an array of fish dishes, roasted whole chickens, homemade banana bread, pumpkin pies, meatloaf, minestrone soup, etc.  (P.S.  I just got really hungry talking about all of those foods.)

2.)  You never want to get sick in 3rd world country.

Matt and I learned this the hard way.  Matt got e coli the first semester we were down here, and it was not a good situation, to say the very least.  We ended up at St. George’s General Hospital in the city of St. George’s, and let me just tell you, it was the stuff nightmares are made out of…cockroaches on hospital beds, extremely UN-urgent medical care, dirty equipment lying around, and generally stuff that you might see residing in Dr. Giggles’ office…Let’s put it this way, I wouldn’t want to get a head injury, or anything extremely serious like that in Grenada.  Get my drift?

3.)  I’m not a very outdoorsy.

I’m pretty sure that I mentioned this already in a post, but here it is again; I don’t like nature.  Okay, that’s not exactly it, I love nature, I just prefer to not be thrust out into it.  Instead, I prefer to observe it from afar, and not be involved in activities such as, getting my make-up/hair messed up, getting sweaty/and or dirty, anything requiring me to trudge through rain or dirt, or any activities involving the ocean (other than lying on the beach and also observing it from afar.)

Exhibit A.

After looking everywhere for me at the Kauai Coffee Plantation on our honeymoon, Matt found me in the tiny section in the gift shop where they sell soaps and perfumes. It goes without saying, that I was not very interested in the coffee beans, but very engaged in the pretty things. P.S. He took this picture without me knowing.

4.)  You might have to bond with a local in order to understand the culture in Grenada.

It’s kind of ironic, that the first time I really started to understand the Grenadian culture was just about a week ago.  Matt and I have had a taxi driver named Bernard for nearly two years now, and he drives us around on the rare occasions that we go out to dinner. Bernard has lived in Grenada his entire life, and has never left the island.  EVER.  Recently on a trip to the Immigration office, it was just me and B-nard (as I fondly like to call him), and we had quite a nice little chat.

Before I get into that, let me explain that Bernard and I often have awkward encounters when it comes time to pay him for the rides.  Usually he says something like, “Just give me whateva you tink (tink is “think” in Grenadian), Saaaaaaaahhhh-rah.”  This inevitably confuses me, and I have no idea how to respond to it, so I usually say something like, “Well, I have no idea, Bernard!  You have to tell me how much!”  Then, we go back and forth, until I get flustered to the point where I throw money at him (not literally), probably over paying him.

So, on our trip to the Immigration Office, we were chattering away, and Bernard revealed to me that he has no intention to ever go to America.  When I asked why, he said it simply.  “In America you don’t get nothin’ for free.  If yer hungry in Grenada, someone will give you some callaloo (a vegetable) for free if you need to eat.  You have to pay for everyting in America.”

So, there you have it.  I finally understood why Bernard and I had all of those miscommunications about paying him for his services.  Perhaps if I had offered him some callaloo a time or two, we may have understood one another a long time ago…

Me, Bernard, the fam, and the infamous taxi van.

Matt and Bernard's child, Jerome. He loved Matt, as all children do.

5.)  You should never go to a foreign country and expect it to be like America. (I learned this one the hard way.)

If I could pass on these words of wisdom to any American traveling abroad, this would be it.  I had a quite the eye opener when I got to Grenada.

Me:  “Wait, there’s no milk for two weeks straight?  Or eggs?  Or chicken?  And this is normal?! Waaaaaahhhhh!! <– (Snookie style.)

Especially when we first got down here, I found all of these things very frustrating.  I didn’t expect Grenada to have the same abundant supermarkets as in America, but I at least thought they would have the essentials.  The lack of food options has been one of the hardest parts about living here for me.  I’ve had to really let go of a lot of my expectations of what I think is normal, and try to improvise more with our meals.  I think if I would have come to Grenada free of expectations, than I might have been pleasantly surprised. Instead, I thought it was going to be something it wasn’t, and it made it that much harder to adjust.

And other non-American things to adapt to in Grenada…

No hot water (or no water at all for that matter, for days at a time), laundry shut down due to water droughts for weeks on end, humongous spiders, centipedes, lizards, and frogs (yes frogs!) in your apartment from time to time.  Ick.

6.)  To be patient.

Okay, so this is probably a blatant lie, but I wish I had learned to be more patient while living down here.  In my defense, I think I’ve definitely had a few break-through moments, in the patience department, but for the most part my New Yorker self (I can call myself a New Yorker since I’ve been living there over 10 years) was astonished at how slow it can take to do a simple task.  I’d be lying to you if I told you that it didn’t frustrate the hell out of me, but I think this also goes along with what I said earlier about expectations.  On a side note, one time fire alarms were going off on campus, and the fire department came two hours later after the students had already put it out themselves!  Now do you see what I mean?!

7.)  How to KIT

Prior to moving to Grenada, I’ll admit that I wasn’t always the best about keeping in touch.  I was always working, working, working, and it was typical for me to not see or speak to my girlfriends for weeks, or even months, at a time.  I’ve always made a point to call my parents every day, but I didn’t always go that extra mile for my friends.  So sorry friends!

When I arrived in Grenada, I realized how much I needed those people in my life, though.  I began working harder to bridge those gaps, and found that it was essential for me to do so.  Thankfully I had Skype, to stay connected with family and friends for the entire two years we’ve been in Grenada, and I also utilized Facebook to send little messages here and there, or an email just to say hello, a postcard, or a phone call.  I really do think that all of these things help you to stay grounded when you are so far away from home, and I would recommend it to anyone traveling abroad.

8.)  To not be alarmed if you cross paths with a cow…or goat…and one time, a bull.

Yeah, I just stand in fields in wedges and mini's while bulls are a few feet away. <--Not so much. This photo was taken by a good friend and photographer named Ashley Willis, somewhere in upcountry Grenada. P.S. Yes, that's a bull. When he started charging me, I ran like wild banshee away from that sucker it as fast as I could.

When we first got to Grenada, seeing random cows crossing the road, alarmed me.  I was sure the bus drivers were going to hit them, and each time, I would clench my eyes closed and pray I wouldn’t hear a thud.  Poor cow-ies.  Instead, I never heard anything, but I did feel my head jolt forward, as the driver swerved to maneuver the bus around the huge cattle.  Cows, and array of other animals crossing busy roads, are as common as deer running out in front of you on a highway in the dead of winter in Michigan.  It took me at least three months to get used to it, but when I finally did, I had a peaceful bus ride.

9.)  It’s totally normal to see machete’s.

People walk around wielding machete’s like they’re Rambo here!  It’s kind of rad, actually.

Oh you know, just a little ol' machete...

The first time I saw a Grenadian man with a machete, I was out for a run.  I totally thought I was about to murdered, but when I saw him happily chopping down some kind of pickery bush, and paying no mind to me whatsoever.  I realized then, that he was not interested in killing me at all, so I let out a huge sigh of relief.  I blame all of the shows like Disappeared, Dateline, and 48 Hours Mystery, for my hysteria.

10.)  How to Write!

It all started with a little blog called “Sarah Smiles Awhile…and sometimes not so much.”  (By the way, I recently asked Matt if I should change the name of my blog, and he said, “Well the ‘and sometimes not so much’ part sounds a little bit like you’re depressed.”  I thought that was so freaking funny, and brutally honest, that he would say such a thing!  Then, I explained to him that the ‘and sometimes not so much’ part is supposed to communicate my sassiness to the reader, to which Matt replied, “Well, you are quite a sassy little broad.”  Bwaaahahaha!  Love him.)

Anyway, I learned to write, by writing on this blog…and taking two novel writing classes in one semester (<–P.S. What was I thinking?!)  I really, truly don’t think I would have ever started writing if it hadn’t been for Grenada.  Like I said, before living here, I rarely ever stopped to smell the roses.  Grenada gave me the opportunity to discover new hobbies and ambitions.  (Hint, hint: More to come on that later…)

I think my entire experience in Grenada can be summed up in these lyrics to the Paul Simon song…

“You Can Call Me Al”

A man walks down the street
It’s a street in a strange world
Maybe it’s the Third World
Maybe it’s his first time around
He doesn’t speak the language
He holds no currency
He is a foreign man
He is surrounded by the sound
The sound
Cattle in the marketplace
Scatterlings and orphanages
He looks around, around
He sees angels in the architecture
Spinning in infinity
He says Amen and Hallelujah!

Have a listen…23 You Can Call Me Al

So, Grenada…

Here we are.

What can I say?  It’s been real.

We’ve broken up and gotten back together quite a few times.

But I’m sure at some point, somewhere…

I might even miss you a little bit.

xo

Sarah

~The End

The Road to Hana = The Road to Hell…

Hey, did I ever tell you guys about the time Matt and I almost died on our honeymoon?  No, that’s right I never did, because we vowed afterward to never tell a soul.  However, I now have permission from the hubby to openly talk about the time we almost went kaput.

P.S.  You might want to grab some snacks because this could be a long one…

It all started on the sunny island of Maui…beautiful white sandy beaches, double rainbows, endless sunshine, and friendly locals.  We were having a wonderful time beaching, eating like there was no tomorrow (can you feel the foreshadowing?), and taking in authentic luau’s.

Nothing could go wrong, right? I mean, we even match.

So, on the fourth day of our trip we decided to take a day to do the Road to Hana.  For those of you who aren’t familiar with it, the Road to Hana is a stretch of winding highway with over 59 narrow bridges, 46 of which are only one-lane bridges. There are about 620 curves, and almost all of it is through lush tropical rainforests.  It takes about 3 hours to get to the end of the Road to Hana, and once you get to the end, it takes about 3 hours to get back to where you started.  Along the way, there are beautiful waterfalls to see, hidden secret pools to swim in, and lush botanical gardens to feast your eyes upon.  You don’t see any of these things by simply driving along the road, you have to pull over (basically on the side of a mountain with no railing) and find somewhere to park.  The thing is, everybody has the same idea, and there is virtually nowhere to park, so you find a small little nook anywhere, and pray your car won’t topple over a cliff.

I thought I’d give you a highlight reel of all the sights we saw before we almost died.

(If you don’t care, feel free to skip over this part…)

Road to Hana = Road to Hell

A botanical garden within the Garden of Eden.

We hiked a short trail to find this waterfall

Changs Pond. This is a hidden pool of water, that only the craziest locals jump into. Why? Because there is only a tiny patch of water where you can jump that is deep enough. If you miss the mark, then you are dunzo. Matt and I just happened to be there when this man made the jump. He was accompanied by his mother (as pictured) and three young daughters who were all screaming, "Please don't die, Dad," as he was jumping.

We drove along the highway took lots of pictures, and were having a great time.  We probably started the trip around 9 in the morning, and had every intention of being back at our hotel by 4 in the afternoon.  However, because we went on our honeymoon in July, which is one of the busiest times of the year for tourists, there were immense amounts of traffic.

The Road to Hana was packed, and it was taking much longer than we expected.  It was nearly 4 o’clock already, and we hadn’t even made it to the end, nor started the trip to get back.  The one thing we agreed on before this excursion even began, was that we didn’t want to be driving the Road to Hana at night under any circumstances.  However, we really wanted to get to the end of Hana, because there were still a few more things that we were dying to see.

For example…

The beautiful and infamous Black Sand Beach

A trail led to this cave on the Black Sand Beach

To be honest, even now I think we are really happy we decided to see the Black Sand Beach, because it was one of our favorite things about the Road to Hana.

So, back to the story…

We were forced to decide whether we should forgo the Black Sand Beach and other sights still left, or just turn around right then, and make it home before dark.  As we were discussing our options, we happened to notice that our trusty GPS said there was another way to get back, that didn’t require us to turn back around and follow the highway all the way back to where we started.  This route would also take half of the time, than the standard way we had planned on.  Too good to be true?

Well, we weren’t convinced, yet.  So, we pulled over and investigated the route in further depth, and even took a look at one of the maps provided in our guide book.  Sure enough there was a trail.  It looked like lots of tight turns, but what was the worst that could happen?  We had been driving along winding, narrow roads already all day.

This is pretty accurate...

We had no idea what we were getting ourselves into.  (Insert a DUN DUN DUNNNNNNN right about here.)

Silly tourists…

But we carried on as normal, took our time and saw the rest of what there was to see along the Road to Hana.  Soon enough we made it to the end, and the part where you normally would turn back around to where you came from.

Matt asked me one last time, “So, are you sure you wanna do this?”

“YES!” I agreed enthusiastically.  Anything to get me back to the hotel sooner…I was starving, and I had to pee really bad.

So, off we went…

As we started driving, we noticed that we didn’t see any other cars around.  Hmmm…that was odd.

All of the sudden the paved road turned into a gravel road, but we were still okay.  We had a Wrangler, and that kind of car should be able to handle gravel roads, right?

We kept driving, and I started getting really nervous, because as I looked behind me and in front of me, there still weren’t any other cars on the road…

We started to make our way on the gravel road up a mountain, with no railing may I add, and the road got narrower and narrower.  My heart was beating out of my chest, because the road had tapered off so much, that our car barely fit on this road.  We kept climbing up the mountain, getting further into danger, and where there was no room for error.  The slightest mistake would have sent us tumbling off a cliff.  When Matt started to panic, I knew that I should be worried, and when he said, “I think we better find a way to turn around,” I was downright terrified.

We kept driving for about three more minutes, all the while breaking no more than 3 miles per hour.  We came upon a tiny place in the road where we thought there might be enough room to turn the car around.  He started to make a three-point turn, but soon realized there wasn’t enough room.  We were almost hanging off the edge.  He quickly turned the car back around, and we were forced to keep going.

So, we did what we had to do, and kept forging ahead.  In silence.  We were both too scared to speak.  I looked at my phone to see if I had any service.  There was no service.  This made me panic even more, but I didn’t say a word.  As we continued, we got further and further up a mountain, and that was when I heard a crashing.  I couldn’t help it, I had to look over the edge.  There was water, lots of it, crashing up to heights I’ve never seen before.  Water was splashing into our car.

Holy hell, this might not be okay…

I started to think about what would happen if our car went over the edge.  Would we be able to escape the car, if we even survived the crash?  Or would the violent waves keep knocking us into the sharp side of the rocky mountain?  I worried that our families would never know what happened to us, and I worried that no one would ever find us.  I prayed over and over that we would make it home okay.

I noticed along the way that the only signs we saw said “Service Road.”  Well, that wasn’t right.  These were not roads that you were suppose to travel on, but how were we suppose to know?  The GPS led us that way.

Eventually the road wound back down and we were on solid land, but it was only temporary.

Here are a few shots from what we saw when we were briefly on solid ground…

Solid ground but only for a moment. Now imagine this road getting narrower and narrower, and turning into the side of a cliff. Scary right?

Just a cool shot

Me and the Wrangler...

The road kept winding back up cliffs, and then winding back down to solid ground.  Eventually it got dark out, and that was probably the scariest part.  We simply drove slowly, took our time driving no more than about 6 miles per hour, and the whole process beginning to end took about 6 hours to complete.  Thankfully we also gassed up before starting the ride back, or else we would have ran out of gas…and that would have been worse.

Through our entire drive we never saw another soul on the road.

I was proud of Matt for staying so calm, and proud of myself for navigating us through the ordeal.  Even though it makes me extremely nauseous to read while riding in a car, I was able to read a map through all the twists and turns of the road.

I obviously don’t have pictures of the scariest parts of the trip, because we were both concentrating too much on not dying.  Though, I kind of wish I had a few to look back on now…

For the next two days of our honeymoon, we stayed on flat land, ate flavored ices on the beach, and thanked our lucky stars that we lived.

Ah, relief!

On the last day of our trip, we stopped in a jewelry store.  I wanted to open up an oyster to see if I would get a pearl.  I’ve always wanted to do that.

So, the saleswoman got out a big bucket, and she told me to pick one.  I selected one from the top.  She pried it open with a special tool, and it cracked open.

Inside of it, was not one, but two light pink pearls.  Besides the fact that my favorite color is pink, the saleswoman told us that pale pink pearls mean Protection, Life, and Love.

And how ironic that there should be two?  One for me, and one for Matt.

And two for Protection, Life, and Love.  Enough for the both of us.

~The End.

Photo by Bluntcard.

It’s Just Me, Myself, and I…

Living in Grenada has made me realize some major realities about myself…

1.)  I’m high maintenance…Like, really high maintenance.  Like, even more high maintenance than even I was aware of prior to living here.  I’ve always liked to think of myself as somewhat adventurous, however it has become clear to me that I am anything but.  I see a lot of the other significant others (who are also living here as their hubby’s go through med school) going about their days hiking, snorkeling, and basically participating in all things outdoorsy, and I think to myself, “Wow, that sounds like tons of fun!”  However then I remember that I hate getting dirty, and I’m afraid of anything that could potentially include getting bruised or blemished in any way, shape, or form.  Thus, concluding my very high maintenance status.

Yes, I basically heart anything that doesn't involved getting dirty...

2.)  I am not a natural at the whole housewife thing.  Although, I do try really really hard at it, and Matt has reassured me that I’m a great housewife.  However, I still somehow feel like I’m lacking in that department.  For instance, I love things to be clean, but I loathe cleaning.  I really heart clean laundry, but I hate the process of doing it.  I actually do love love love cooking, but I hate cleaning everything up afterwards.  Let me add, that I do indeed carry out on all the above tasks, it’s just that I wish I was more enthusiastic about it.  Maybe I will find new devotion to it once we actually have an apartment that is bigger than this one teeny room. <–married housing.  Here’s hoping…

This is pretty accurate...

3.)  I am definitely a city girl.  I used to daydream with friend from my old job in the city, about how we would leave our stressful lives and move to a tropical island and just braid hair all day long.  AHHH WHAT?!  Like, seriously what the h was I thinking when I said this??!!  The reality is that island life is gorgeous, with beautiful weather and breathtaking beaches…but it’s an extremely slow-paced life here, with difficulties completing some of the simplest chores.  There is simply no rush to get anything done, which is fine and dandy for this culture, but for me, it drives me to loony-ville, and has made me realize that I thrive in a much faster paced lifestyle.  Just sayin’….

4.)  I reeeeally heart reality tv.  Grenada has brought about a new appreciation for all things reality for me…from Sister Wives, to Jersey Shore, can’t forget the whole Housewife gang, oh yeah, and Bachelor/Bachelor Pad, American Idol, and the list could really go on and on.  I know, I know, it sounds like all I watch is mindless television, right?  Well, you are right, but isn’t all television sort of mindless anyway? <–I’m totally just finding a way to excuse my trashy television taste….but you probably could already tell that.

And Last…

5.)  I really enjoy my time with just me, myself, and I.  I’ve always been someone who marches to the beat of my own drum, and this experience has only magnified it.  I’m not saying I don’t like to hang out with my friends, or to get out and do fun things, because I do.  What I am saying, is that I really love my alone time, and have found that it’s essential for me to prosper.  I love to read, write, listen to music, exercise, etc.  Most of these things I do solo, and I love it.  Call me a loner, if you will, but I disagree.  I just happen to really love the time I have to think, reflect, get my school work done, and to

basically…

The End~