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.
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.)
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…
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.
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.
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
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
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.