Tag Archives: Trinidad

Switching Blogs

Hi friends! As you may have realized, I’ve been absent off of this blog for quite some time. This is because I have switched over to a blog that I am writing with my pen name. I’m still blogging about life in the Caribbean, but I’m also sharing how my writing and online publishing escapades are progressing.

Come with me as I make the switch to my blog as Juliana Rose! Hope to see you there!

Those inspiring posts about moving to another country and finding a job are all lies

AKA things I wish my past self had known some before starting that would make my present self much less frustrated.

I’m not saying that the inspirational stories about living and working abroad are all wrong, but I do think that many of them sugar coat some things. Admittedly, I only have experience with one country so far, so maybe it’s less difficult in other places. I could rant about all the difficulties that have come up before I’ve even submitted a work visa application (like the fact that the form is supposed to be available online but it’s not, and when I called the office no one answered, and many attempts later the 10th number I called finally picked up, I got transferred three times, and then they told me that they don’t have the answer and to call the first number I called), but then this would just be a long an angry post.

I also don’t want to bash the idea of going out on a limb to live in another country. Even though there have been many headaches, and I’m sure there will be many more, I’m still not sorry to be here. I imagine that God is just having a good laugh at all of the times (daily!) that He’s calling me to be more patient.

If I could go back in time, though, I would have given myself a couple of pieces of advice regarding the whole work visa thing.

The first suggestion to myself would have been to do anything I could before leaving. I glanced at the process to apply before I left, but I didn’t notice that part of my application has to be a certificate of good standing from my government. Instead of just having that done ahead of time, I now have to mail them some forms, wait for them to do whatever it is they need to do, and then wait for the forms to be mailed back to me. Keep in mind that this process is lengthened by the fact that it takes a lot longer for mail to get here (though I’ll at least mail it priority on my end to expedite things).

My second suggestion to my past self is something that would have been more difficult to avoid. In summary, it turns out that it doesn’t matter that I have to wait a long time for a certificate of character from my country because I can’t apply for a work visa yet anyway. The reason is that once I apply, I can’t leave the country until it’s approved. Since I’m going to Barbados and Guadeloupe for my scholarship, I have to wait until I return to apply for the work visa. Had I known that, I *may* have planned those trips to be earlier in my scholarship window, and then I wouldn’t have the no-scholarship no-job interim that I now cannot avoid.

I’m sure that once this part is all taken care of, I’ll completely forget how frustrating it all was. That’ll be a nice day.

Until then, please pray for my sanity . . .

Highlights of Trinidad Living

The best thing for me about living in Trinidad is getting to see Kevan every day. I am realizing that I have swapped one problem (being far from Kevan) for another (working here and getting a work visa, currently), but it is so worth it. The frustrations of figuring out the paperwork/hoop jumping also feel less significant when I get to do cool new things!

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The more I look at this picture the funnier my face looks. Tan face, white neck, and I’ve somehow achieved a Zorro mask sunglasses tan. Kevan, of course, looks handsome as ever in his outdoor adventure hat. The was taken aboard the “Island Prince.”

A couple of weeks ago Kevan and I participated in a beach cleanup, which was the reason for the boat ride above. Ocean currents cause floating trash to end up on the island of Chacachacare, which is one of the islands off of the northwestern tip of Trinidad.

At the actual beach cleanup, where Kevan was excited that the volunteer in the background fit perfectly into the little container.
At the actual beach cleanup, where Kevan was excited that the volunteer in the background fit perfectly into the little container.

Kevan and I also did a marriage preparation weekend retreat at Mount Saint Benedict. We attended sessions where married couples spoke about their own experiences, and then together Kevan and I went through questions and topics about our future. They were mostly things we had talked about before, but it was nice to have the chance to discuss things intentionally.

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One of the views from where we stayed at the monastery. It was worth braving the mosquitoes to sit outside there for a bit.
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The volunteer who took our picture said, “Pretend you just got married!” which is why I am making that face.

That same weekend we went on a short hike up Mount Tabor. There was once a fire there which wiped out all of the forest, causing potential for a huge landslide. It was reforested with fir trees, which aren’t native to Trinidad. It’s pretty much the only place in Trinidad you can find fir trees, and when you’re walking along there’s a very clear line of deciduous trees ending and fir trees starting.

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It felt a little like being in the U.S. because of the trees 🙂

Last Saturday Kevan’s parents and grandparents threw an engagement party for us. Kevan gave a little speech and did a really great job. He told a short version of our story, which I thought was cute. I was also quite glad that I didn’t have to speak!

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This picture with Kevan’s dad is my favorite from the evening. Also, a lot of people brought us wine, which was a happy surprise.
Most of the guests were the parents' friends, but I met a few new friends of Kevan's as well.
Most of the guests were the parents’ friends, but I met a few new friends of Kevan’s as well.
A nice picture, in case anyone wants to see :)
Here is a nice picture for posterity!

Those have been the big events of the past few weeks. As I think about it, it’s not the big things that are different, just the details. An engagement party can happen anywhere, it’s just that this one had lots of LLB and rum cake. A beach cleanup here is like a highway cleanup somewhere else. You can hike anywhere in the world, the scenery is just different. Despite this, Trinidad feels different to me. The weather, roads, food, people, customs, and many other things are quite different from what I’m used to. Perhaps I’ll try to write about that in the future, too.

 

 

 

 

I got to . . .

. . . ride in a speedboat on the ocean! Boy I am lucky 🙂

Here’s how that happened.

At the suggestion of the nursery owners I met with a couple of weeks, ago I got in touch with the owner of Peter Richard’s landscaping. Interestingly enough, the owner is named Brendan. He bought the company several years ago and kept the name the name for reputation reasons. The company does landscape work, event rentals, and retail (they have a nursery and sell plants). I’ve been going there one or two days a week to visit some of their projects and learn more of the plants used here.

On Wednesday we were at a site and Brendan got a call about some construction work that was happening at his house “down d islands.” I got to tag along. I know that the house on the island is the big deal, and it was cool to see the house, but the boat ride was by far the coolest. I loved the feeling of bouncing over the waves and the wind blowing my ponytail straight back because we were going so fast.

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Not many of these pictures have flat horizons since they were taken from a swiftly moving boat. Brendan’s dad, who was driving the boat, said that if you went 90 miles straight through this channel (called the first boca) you would reach Grenada.
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This island is used as a prison. Kevan says they need fences because people try to swim it. The area water to have sharks, but they got fished out.
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A view back towards the shore. The mountains you see are part of the Northern Range, which run along the north coast, basically. The central part of Trinidad is actually pretty flat.
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One of the least crooked shots. The clear sky makes the water really pretty. These houses are only accessible by boat.
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This picture was taken solely to show the garbage in the water. During the boat ride there were a lot of things floating around, especially empty bottles and styrofoam boxes. It’s tempting to post only about the good things, but many things are imperfect here, just like everywhere else.

Caribbean House Tour

I live up the hill from Kevan with his grandmother and grandfather, but I spend most of the time with his grandmother. She is called Apo, which means “grandmother” in a Chinese dialect called Hakka. Apo was born in Jamaica but studied in Hong Kong when she was younger, so she speaks Hakka.

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Here’s the front of the house. On the left you can see a piece of the gate where you come in, and on the right is a retaining wall. The whole property is fenced in.
Here you can see the kitchen and dining area. You can see how you come into the kitchen from the car park. Apo let's me cook and use anything in the kitchen, so that's great.
Here you can see the kitchen and dining area. You can see how you come into the kitchen from the car park. Apo let’s me cook and use anything in the kitchen, so that’s great.
The living room is next to the dining room and also leads into the TV room, which is on the right. The bedrooms are down the hallway on the left.
The living room is next to the dining room and also leads into the TV room, which is on the right. The bedrooms are down the hallway on the left.

 

This is my room! I tried to get it mostly clean for the picture. The fan is positioned to keep mosquitoes off of me at night, and you can see on the nightstand a little white box that burns mosquito-repelling tablets.
This is my room! I tried to get it mostly clean for the picture. The fan is positioned to keep mosquitoes off of me at night, and you can see on the nightstand a little white box that burns mosquito-repelling tablets.
It's hard to get a picture, but here is an idea of my bathroom anyway. I should put the hair dryer in the closet since it is too hot to use it most of the time.
It’s hard to get a picture, but here is an idea of my bathroom anyway. I should put the hair dryer in the closet since it is too hot to use it most of the time.
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Finally, this is the yard. I get to swim anytime I want, and it’s also nice to sit out on the porch (if I’m wearing lots of bug spray and the fan is on!).

 

Moving In

My first few days of settling in have been busy. I am living at Kevan’s grandma’s house – I have my own room, and essentially my own bathroom too. I’m really lucky. The last of my stuff got unpacked today, and most everything has a place now. I forgot how many things I left here on previous visits and how much I sent with Kevan when he visited me. For all my thoughts about living simply and not having too many material things, I probably have more clothes here than Kevan.

Kevan had a phone set up for me when I got here. It’s his old phone and he says it stinks, but I’m finding that it works better than my previous phone. Opens things right away, downloads apps, et cetera. It even (gasp) has a front-facing camera! (I had an iPhone 3, so naturally it was getting slow in its old age.) I’ve connected with some of my friends on WhatsApp, which is great, and I’ve been using my phone to call people with whom I want to meet for my scholarship and for job-seeking purposes. Exciting.

On Saturday I went with Kevan and one of his scout friends to cut bamboo for a booth that the scouts are having this week. I only had my phone, and Kevan was not lying when he said the camera was bad. It has a lot of focus issues. The front-facing camera focuses great, but of course I can’t quite see the picture I’m taking. Anyway, bamboo-cutting was cool. I helped a little. Nothing says “Caribbean jungle island woman” like hacking at bamboo with a machete, right?

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I’ve driven a few times since arriving. I think that remembering to stay on the left side of the road is a lesser problem, and that getting used to narrow roads and driving etiquette here are going to be the tough part. Kevan says I have to learn how to honk. Some honks mean thank you, some mean “hey I know you,”  and angry honks are angry. There are also huge potholes around, and I accidentally drove through one and splashed a guy. I feel really bad about that.

This already feels different from the other times I’ve been here. Having my own room and space, my own phone, my own key, and practicing driving all are starting to make it feel like I live in Trinidad.

 

Long Distance Wedding Planning

A big percentage of my travel preparation is wedding planning. Since the wedding will be in Illinois, and will take place 8 whole months after I move to Trinidad, I’m scrambling to get the big things booked before I leave.

I guess I’m working on the small things too.

And the medium things.

And also working full time and still cleaning up my thesis to submit before the extremely soon deadline of 4 days from now.

From the movie Ponyo

It is much easier to get items shipped in the U.S. rather than sending them to Trinidad, and since the wedding is here it seems counter-productive to plan to get things there just to bring them back here. For these reasons, in addition to thinking about the venue and the photographer and everything else that is supposed to go in the 8-10 months before the wedding time slot, I’m also attempting to order bridesmaids gifts and make name tags and get everyone’s address so that all of the invitations (which I already have) can be addressed and stamped and ready in order to limit my wonderful Maid of Honor’s responsibilities to simply dropping them in the mail in five months. (Not that she wouldn’t gladly write addresses for me, but she’s already doing a ridiculous amount of work for this wedding for me out of the goodness of her heart.)

To be fair, I am enjoying brainstorming details like (inexpensive yet cute) centerpieces so early, and this past weekend I had a blast wedding dress shopping with my mom and three of my very best friends.

Something I am excited for that is lacking, though, is Kevan’s involvement. It’s more than a little depressing to go meet with the priest to discuss wedding details by yourself. In terms of some of the major decisions, there’s only so much that can be communicated through pictures and explanations, and he’s kind of just trusting me to do an alright job.

In 39 days I will go to Trinidad. You’d think after 3 years of long distance, just over a month wouldn’t feel too bad. Yet here I am, complaining to Kevan over Skype every few days that I am tired of being apart and I do not want to be apart anymore, and when we are together I never again want to be apart for more than, say, two weeks if it’s really necessary, but of course less than that if at all possible. Honestly, I think if Kevan lived nearby but happened to not be able to come meet the photographer, I wouldn’t care. It’s just that him not being here for things like that are another reminder that he’s far away. Still.

Oh, well. It’s probably edifying me somehow, right? Redemptive suffering. I’m hopeful that when we’re finally together for good it’ll be that much sweeter.

 

A one-way flight to the Caribbean

This is the point in my life where I begin looking for a one-way flight to Trinidad. Who knew.

This is the dream that a lot of people dream about. Many blog posts and articles pop up on facebook that have titles like, “How I quit my job to travel the world!” or “I sold everything I own and moved to <random cool location> and found a job there.” And it’s exciting, and you think to yourself, why don’t I just do that? But you don’t, and I don’t, and it’s probably because the idea sounds great, but the reality is that it will cost a lot of money, and travel bloggers are thing but it’s maybe not your thing, and you’re not sure you could even get a job if you go to this place, and what about all the paperwork you’ll have to do to live and work somewhere else assuming you do find a job, and there’s the fact that you don’t know anybody there, plus how long are you going to stay and how many family gatherings and weddings (or – as much as you might not want to think about it – funerals) are you going to miss?

One of these fears has already been taken care of for me. I’m not moving to Trinidad on a whim, I’m moving there to be with Kevan, who conveniently has a very full network of family and friends and family-friends who are all fun and welcoming and supportive. On that same note, I have a place to stay: I’ll be living with Kevan’s grandmother to start off (who lives just up the road from Kevan – also convenient), and although I’m going to give her money for rent, it’ll be much less than if I were to actually rent an apartment there. Kevan tells me that she is excited to have me and has been telling him about the food she’s going to cook for me.

While this knowledge is extremely comforting, the rest of my fears are quite present.
What if I can’t get a job that pays enough to support myself and also to work to pay back my student loans? Average salaries there are much less than the U.S., but the cost of living is comparable.
What about traveling back to see friends and family? All the people close to me are scattered around the country, so with one trip per year I’d likely only see a few people, and that’s if it’s really well planned.

While I do not have a job, my first two months there will be spent traveling and working on a project for a scholarship that I won. That’s another thing that has fallen into place really well, because I can job search while doing that, and it’ll be easier to job search from there than from here. I am also fortunate that I’ll have Kevan’s family and friends looking for a job for me too.

I thought my fears rant was going to be much longer. I actually typed a few and then deleted them because it felt silly. One was weddings – I have four close friends whose weddings I really, really want to attend. However, none of them are engaged yet, and based off of the current state of things they’ll likely get married far apart from each other, so it won’t be unreasonable to attend all of them. Another is paperwork, but ultimately that will be just a pain and not a showstopper.

Overall, I’m pumped for this adventure. I’m grateful that I have this opportunity, and that so many things are falling into place for this to happen. I know that I have a lot of surprises ahead of me. I’ll have many opportunities to learn and overcome challenges. There will be times when I’ll be frustrated or confused, but I’m hopeful that those moments will be greatly outnumbered by the happy and fulfilling moments. I’m excited to see how everything plays out.