SOS from TCI

So, it’s been a while since I’ve published any of my random babbling…a long while. It was tough to find time for blogging last year. 2017 was, shall we say, a challenging year for our little family.

It started, quite literally, the first week of January when we dropped $1,500 on our beloved Princess Lucy Love who needed a mast cell tumor removed and biopsied (not to worry- it was a grade 1 and she’s doing fine), and ended with a record-setting Category 5 hurricane sweeping across our little chunk of limestone, leaving us temporarily homeless and still without internet in our new home.

I could tell you about all the stuff that happened in between, but you would probably think I was making it up and quite honestly, I just don’t want to relive any of it. Plus, I’m continually striving to live “in the moment” and just be happy with “being”. But, let it suffice to say that 2017 included four different home addresses for us inside of one zip code, a seven-week stay in a hotel room following Hurricane Irma, retaining the services of  a lawyer to resolve an ongoing matter with a former landlord, and being stuck in some kind of gridlock with the homeowner’s insurance at our current residence that is preventing us from getting a much-needed new roof and keeping the four of us cramped in a one-bedroom home.

But, back to living in the moment…

The lack of internet at home is what brings us to this moment. The boys and I are, as we speak, camped out at our favorite coffee shop using their internet, which is where you can find us a couple days every week doing schoolwork and writing the random web content assignment.

My little web content writing business has dwindled a bit since September 7. Funny how that happens when you’re not connected to the…um…web. Thank goodness for my local client. He keeps me moderately busy. He’s from the Ukraine and has a sexy name and an even sexier accent and sometimes he wears this cowboy hat and…wait, what was I talking about?

…oh yeah… something about the moment and grim living arrangements…

To top it all off, it has been an exceptionally gray, wet and icky January by TCI standards- in fact, it is raining at this precise moment- pouring actually.

However, when I am able to focus on the moment, I know there are plenty of things to be grateful for. We are all together and healthy. And when the weather is nice, oh man is it nice! Caribbean winters are the reason you endure Caribbean summers.

So, what do you do “in the moment” on a little island when you have no cable or internet at home, you can’t travel because you have too many irons in the fire on-island, and you can’t exactly invite anyone to visit you because you simply don’t have space to put them yet?

There are always the beaches, which have recovered quite nicely since September. Thank goodness for the pool, that my kids are highly entertaining at times, and for the Nikon Randy gave me last Christmas. I’m always finding something

 

interesting to snap a picture of and having that camera has taught me to appreciate the small things.

No, really, I literally mean the small things. Lizards, the resident cats, a new colorful bloom in the garden. Even the tiny (looking) flamingos I can see at a distance from the deck every morning. Having the ability to capture those images- those moments I want to immortalize- helps me look for and recognize the beauty in each moment.

It always there. Sometimes you just have to look harder than you do other times.

 

“Everything will be okay in the end. If it’s not okay, it’s not the end.”  -John Lennon

 

 

 

 

 

Living the Dream

As is fairly typical for me, inspiration this morning was found up on the roof and near the bottom of my first cup of coffee. Or maybe not inspiration as much as it was realization- the realization that it has been a very long time since I’ve written anything for fun. And it’s not due to a lack of creativity. My head is usually swimming with ideas and this rock, and its residents, certainly provide some great material. It’s not even due to a lack of motivation, I always want to, it’s just hard to make the time. 

You all know exactly what I’m talking about. The daily grind is…well, a grind. You get so busy doing the stuff that you struggle to make time to document the stuff, much less enjoy the stuff. We dream about it, we plan it, but sometimes it’s hard to do it. Hence the explanation for why the memory book of my youngest son is noticeably less complete that that of my oldest son. That does happen to everybody, right?!

Well, anyway, this was a good week for me. The voices in my head were all reading from the same script so I was able to give the outward appearance of having my shit together. And I didn’t just do the stuff, I enjoyed the doing. I even found moments of gratification in the doing.

One such moment occurred while paying the bills, which is usually an exhausting, teeth-gnashing endeavor here because when there is no mail service, you must show up in person to pay the bills- some being more tedious than others. But what was especially surprising this past week was that my absolute least favorite errand- paying the cable bill- provided one of the most enlightening moments.

The line at Digicel is always long, no matter what day of the week it is or what time of day you go. And the trick is- as it is everywhere here- no matter how long you have been waiting in line, when your number comes up, you slap a ridiculous smile on your face and greet the person behind the counter as if you were the freaking ambassador of Blue Hills. I’ve found that goes a long way toward getting things done.

But on this particular day, the most pleasant part of the chore was, ironically, the waiting in line. Speakers were funneling music into the room- satellite radio tuned to a station with local flare, which I’ve grown quite fond of- a mix of classic and contemporary reggae.

Anyway, after a song by one of the more contemporary artists had finished, Bob Marley’s ‘One Love’ began to play. It’s one of my favorites, so I just instinctively started to hum along. After only a few bars I realized that I wasn’t the only one…at least two people in front of me were humming as well, and the lady behind me began to sing along quietly. 

It was a surreal 2 minutes and 46 seconds where a handful of complete strangers, all from different countries stood- quite literally- united. 

I don’t know if anyone else felt it, and I’m not sure it matters because for me it created a warm, fuzzy feeling that made the rest of the wait a little less agonizing and reminded me of why we do this. Not just the Gatlins, not the living on an island part, but all of us… everyone…living…together on this planet. All of us doing our own stuff every day, believing that we are all so very different when maybe, deep down, we have more in common than we think.  

For that short 2 minutes and 46 seconds, at least, nothing else mattered but those lyrics and that tune. A tune that people who outwardly seem so different, all knew by heart. It wasn’t an American thing, a Bahamian thing, a Filipino thing, a Canadian thing, or a Haitian thing- it wasn’t even an islander thing. It was a human thing. And for that brief moment, those of us standing in that line, humming along with Bob Marley were living the dream.20151111_180139

 

Island Nightlife

In all my years, I’ve never known a darkness so absolute and impenetrable as the darkness that envelopes our little rock when the sun goes down. And because most nights are cloudless, we have seen more stars than we ever imagined exist, and been witnesses to some pretty phenomenal meteor showers.

Last night, however, was an exception to both of these familiar conditions. The waxing, nearly-full moon bathed Provo in her pure, white light, obscuring  even the brightest stars. Because I had enjoyed my ritualistic nightly glass of wine up on the sundeck, I also knew that a steady breeze was carrying some low, thin clouds swiftly through the night sky- escorting them from one side of the island to the other and then out to sea as quickly as they could crop up.

One benefit to the relentless heat of the day here is that most nights I fall asleep readily after hitting the pillow and sleep well through the night, sometimes in spite of the incessant barking of Potcakes in the distance.

Last night, or rather, this morning, was an exception to that custom, as well.

When the moon is nearing her fullest phase, the position of our house allows the ethereal light to shine fully in through the largest window in the master bedroom, which also doubles as our king-size headboard. By 2 a.m. she is low enough on the horizon to shine right in through the 4 or 5 inches of space  given between the window sill and the lowest point of the blinds. (Although the blinds are twisted shut for privacy, they are also raised a few inches at the bottom to allow the breeze to blow through without causing the whole apparatus to clang intolerably in the window frame.)

What woke me up this morning was not the moonlight on my face, but rather the sudden absence of it. I opened my eyes just as one lone dark cloud veiled the light and poured rain- steadily, but for only a moment. Gone as quickly as it had come, the little cloud, full of rain summoned a chorus of frogs, all chirping and trilling happily. No doubt, thankful for the relief- albeit minimal- from the hot, dry day.

I rolled onto my stomach so I could watch as the cloud moved away from my moon and on out to sea somewhere, and as the pillows on our bed were once again bathed in moonlight, I watched Randy swat, in his sleep, at the stream of light across his eyes as if it were a mosquito or some other pest.

He had no luck shewing off the nuisance and returned to his dreams, and I smiled to myself as I turned my attention back to the window. Now the moonlight had returned to its full glory and perfectly silhouetted a few remaining raindrops that lingered on the tips of the Christmas palm fronds that screen the over-sized window.

The next gust of breeze through the screen was scented with rain and was deliciously cooler than it had been before. It also carried the sounds of both my wooden wind chimes from the back porch and the glass ones on the front- another benefit to the position of our bedroom. Now there was no more barking in the distance, as the sudden shower had sent all the Potcakes scurrying for cover in the brush- just the breeze in my wind chimes and the rain dripping from the palms.

I laid back on the pillow and stared at the ceiling for a short time. As my eyes grew heavy, I barely heard the voices of the Potcakes as they once again took their place in the night and I, mine. 15130024772_e0d38ce1a2_b

 

We’re not Having Chicken Casserole Tonight

I know you’ve all been wondering when it would happen- the installment when my blog wouldn’t depict a warm, fuzzy, feel-good story about how awesome life is in the Caribbean, or how beautiful the sunset is, or how I’ve finally found “my place” after 42 and a half years. And before I go any further, I want to state for the record that I still believe all those things to be true. There are, however, some drawbacks to living on a tiny chunk of limestone nearly 600 miles from the nearest major American seaport…some big, sucky, seriously aggravating-as-hell drawbacks.

For the meantime we’re still operating with just one vehicle, so I got up early today and drove Randy to work, so I could keep the car and run errands. Among those errands was my least favorite-procuring the family’s food supply for the next few days.

I found grocery shopping to be a painful and tedious task stateside where the stores were numerous and the shelves were seemingly bottomless. But here, with a rotating inventory of brand names and products, grocery shopping is an all-out crap shoot. You literally never know what you will or will not find in stock.

Generally, I consider myself pretty flexible, so swapping brands is no big deal, and I can usually alter the menu if needed to match my demand to IGA’s supply. But something today really threw me for a loop and turned me into public enemy number one- no boneless, skinless chicken breasts. In fact, no fresh chicken breasts at all. Absolutely no chicken, for that matter, except bony bits and mystery pieces. And this isn’t the first time it’s happened.

I’m not touching that stuff, and even if I did, my city mice kids would never eat it. Besides, my family’s favorite chicken casserole recipe calls for shredded, boneless, skinless chicken breasts.

As I stared into the meat case confused and frustrated, hoping desperately that I’d just overlooked the chicken breasts and wishing I’d bought extra last week, the prophetic words of my father echoed in my head, “A bird in the hand Em, a bird in the hand.” You don’t even know the half of it Daddy.

“Why didn’t you buy two packs LAST week?” I berated myself. “Because,” I wailed, “I didn’t know they would be out of chicken THIS week!” And judging by the looks on the faces of my grocery shopping comrades, this exchange didn’t just take place inside my head, but was perhaps actually articulated.

Dejected, I steered the shopping cart toward the candy aisle for some quiet contemplation. It appears we will have to deploy plan B for supper tonight, perhaps burgers or a fairly decent take-n-bake pizza from the deli.

I can imagine that right about now you’re thinking this is a relatively easy problem to solve- just stock up. And I will…next time. But extra chicken in the freezer doesn’t make for a very good story right now, does it? Father’s advice heeded. Lesson learned.

Or, there is always that house in our neighborhood with chickens. I hear the rooster every morning at 5 a.m.

Maybe it’s time to meet more neighbors…

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100 Days

Earlier this week we reached another milestone- 100 days on our little rock. It is significant only because someone told us it should be. Honestly, except for being payday, it seemed just like any other day to me.

It is not easy, nor is it cheap, for the company to interview, hire, and move a manager to the island. So during those early weeks, out of vested interest- and I like to think genuine interest and concern- the general manger at the resort would often ask Randy how the boys and I were doing. “Great,” Randy would reply, “settling in nicely.”

Mr. D would beseech more details. “Settling in,” he asked, “exactly what does that mean?” Randy would elaborate, declaring that the boys and I were establishing a school and work routine, resuming some of our favorite hobbies, and navigating the grocery store and other errands without incident.

Assured by Randy’s response, Mr. D- an expatriated Canadian and 30-year veteran of the Caribbean-continued by informing Randy that if we could make it 100 days, we were meant for this lifestyle.

Upon hearing that, I promptly removed the calendar from the fridge and tallied the boxes until I reached this newly infamous date. We were rapidly closing in on it. Were we meant for this life?  Were we truly settling in?

I took a quick survey of the room. Randy was perched at the bar immersed in his laptop, the boys were squabbling over the X-Box, various dogs were lying around on the floor under my feet- some belonging to us, others not. OK, seems pretty “settled” to me.

Each of us is content, our hair getting lighter, our skin getting darker, and gracious at the weight we’ve all lost after three months with no fast food! We don’t look like people who are living outside our comfort zone at all.

Maybe that’s because we’re not.

While I am certainly no expert on life in the Caribbean yet, I have learned enough to say this- there are two very distinct types of people; those who are cut out for this life and those who are decidedly not. Those who are not, will be painfully aware.

If you like your large, air-conditioned shopping centers where you are pretty much always guaranteed to find what you want, you are NOT meant for this life.

If you are accustomed to things happening on any kind of time table other than that dictated by the lunar phase or personal whim, you are NOT meant for this life.

I am proud to say that I have embraced the antithesis of the American way in this respect. I’m learning to “adapt”- a Caribbean euphemism for doing without some of your favorite creature comforts, and I don’t stress (not much anyway) when my agenda goes unfulfilled.

What does it say about us, about me, that I feel so comfortable in a place where I am most assuredly a minority. Last week, when I had the picture made for my National Health Insurance card, the lady had to turn the lights off, plunging the entire waiting room into darkness in an effort to reduce the glare coming from my face. The camera settings are programmed for non-blonde, non-ultra Caucasian individuals. If that doesn’t make you feel out of place, I don’t know what will. My picture turned out fine, although a bit dark and I’ve been immortalized sporting the goofy smirk of a suppressed laugh.

So, are we meant for life in the Caribbean? I’d hesitate to swear to it after only 100+ days. We’re definitely settled. Sure we still have some tasks to conquer, but then don’t you always?!

I can say some things for certain. Even though I’m becoming accustomed to it, nothing about island life has gotten old yet. I’m still mesmerized by the breeze through the palms and my burgeoning collection of wind chimes. The glimpses of turquoise from the Leeward Highway when I’m running errands still take my breath. The time the four of us spend together now in our new laid-back lifestyle is priceless, and I can’t imagine a day when I’m not captivated by the beauty of the sun rising and setting around my new home.

 

We’re not in Kansas Anymore…

Never in a million years would I have ever thought I’d be pulling weeds on Thanksgiving. But that’s what I did- in shorts and a bikini top, no less.

Randy worked his usual day, the boys helped me finish up the front yard after Jacob completed his schoolwork, and we met friends for dinner later in the evening.

Yes, I made my son do schoolwork on Thanksgiving. That’s what happens when you fall behind. I’m pretty sure I caught him Googling the phone number of the local American Embassy. He’s quite the drama queen.

Other than Randy working, nothing about yesterday was normal. I’m used to Randy working holidays. But that’s just it…it didn’t feel like a holiday.

In Alabama, you have seasonal clues- the days get shorter, the nights get colder, the leaves begin to fall- it all heralds the holiday season.  When you live in perpetual warmth, you don’t have those indicators.

Oh, the days are short here during the winter, but mostly I just find that really annoying because it FEELS like summer, so I’m amazed every day when the sun sets at six o’clock.

Randy and I have started to figure out this whole “island time” thing has a lot to do with the fact that it is always warm. When you live in a temperate zone, the activities of your days are very much dictated by the weather of the season. You clean out flower beds and plant when it gets warm. You tend your garden, you mow, and water when necessary. Then you rake leaves and winterize your home and yard…all because it’s going to get cold eventually. Right?!

But living under a perennial summer sun, you don’t even do half of that stuff. The growing season never ends. It’s always warm, the days just start to run together, and before you know it, you’ve lost all sense of urgency. Voila…island time.

It’s a slippery slope, and we have already fallen victim.

The passing of the days is hardly noticed, time seems to have slowed. It feels like we’ve been here forever.

Randy came up with the best way to describe life here, he calls it “one big never-ending summer camp for grown ups.” And it really kind of is. Days are distinguished only by what sort of activities are planned. There are fish fries and art shows, fundraisers and wine tastings, with beach days sprinkled in. And that’s all before we get the boys involved in stuff.

Don’t get me wrong, real life happens too. Randy has stresses at work, I’m balancing writing and not strangling our home schooled kids. So, there’s that. But I’m beginning to understand why everyone looks so much younger than they are…no worries mon. Everyone works hard and plays hard, but nobody ever gets too anxious about anything.

It just is what it is. I really think they’re on to something.

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Northside Market. Near our house and owned by a belonger couple, you can get an ice-cold Coke and a Snickers bar for $2.
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The Do It Center. A combination of Home Depot and Target (minus the groceries). It sits much lower than the highway and you can see the ocean behind it.
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Fortis. The power company of TCI.
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The open door belongs to the place of business where we got a flat tire repaired the other day. We’re pretty sure the family also lives there. Upstairs used to be a disco until it burned several months ago.
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Lanthe Pratt primary school where the belonger children attend.
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A common sight here. There are probably hundreds of unfinished buildings like this all over the island. Construction was booming before the housing market collapse. Afterward, many ex-pats left or found other work because their construction businesses failed.
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One of very few familiar sights…a Shell service station.
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A typical home here. Concrete block with a lively-colored stucco exterior. Some are much more posh, many are not this nice. I like the way this one sits up off the road.
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A strip mall on the Leeward Highway. That’s a shoe store having the sale 😉
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Not the greatest shot, but a typical intersection here.They are all round-abouts. There are no lights just “Give Way” signs and a few “Stop” signs which only mean stop if you’re in imminent danger of being hit.

I had a request for more pictures. Since the beaches are all beautiful and the sunsets are always epic, I decided to include more pictures of “real life.”

Assimilation Mode

Well, here we are! Our twenty-fifth day of residency in the Turks and Caicos Islands.  Which we have been pronouncing wrong all this time, by the way. It’s supposed to come out more like Turks and Caicus, not a hard ‘o’ sound- letting it roll out much faster than we’ve been saying it. Imagine that…the southern family was drawing out that last syllable too long!

Anyway, that’s probably been our biggest hurdle so far- understanding everyone else’s version of English. The Belongers speak it with a Jamaican inflection. Their cadence is a little faster and they emphasize different syllables, which can make a familiar word sound very different.

But you can tell the difference between the Belongers and the Jamaicans…strange. Then there are the Haitians. With their unique blend of broken English and Creole-style French, they are much more difficult to communicate with.

Then there are the Filipinos, the French-speaking Canadians, the English-speaking Canadians, Brits, Scots, the girls from Trinidad I met on the beach the other day, and the lady from Boleslav, Czech Republic who sold us an armoire this weekend. (Her friend who helped Randy load it onto the truck pegged us as being from Georgia…close!)

One common thread we’ve found so far is friendliness. Everyone is so nice! The lady at the checkout might not be the first to speak, but if you smile and ask her about her day, you’ll have her chatting away in no time. I don’t always understand every word, but I’m sure I’ll get better.

The other collective quality is that everyone works hard. And because they work so hard, they also play hard. We have a front-row seat every Sunday afternoon to a wildly-spirited Dominoes game at Big Mike’s house across the street. Apparently, that is THE game of the Caribbean.

There is so much to get used to, though. Every single facet of our lives is different here. Things are said differently, cooked differently, and just generally handled differently. Banks close their doors at 3:00 in the afternoon and other businesses close by 4:00, which has made it challenging getting phone and cable services. It took us three visits to get a checking account started. And even then they allowed us to proceed only after Randy promised to drop another document by the office before closing.

Driving on the left-hand side of the road (although Randy has done it far more than I have) seems pretty familiar now. We’re loving no sales tax. The guards at the grocery store and Do It Centre took a little getting used to. And the prices on some items, my word!

But our little house is starting to feel more like home. Probably because we brought the most important parts with us. All six of us, under the same roof, all going through the same transitions- that’s what makes it feel like home.

This past weekend, some new colleagues of Randy’s took us out for drinks at an exquisite bar on the beach. And I have to say, after a long- at times frustrating- week of trying to assimilate to your new life, it’s incredibly validating to talk to new friends who know exactly what you’re going through because they’ve all done it. And they’re all still here. Two years, 3 years, 8 years later, they’re still here because this place can provide them a life more extraordinary than their home countries- more money, better opportunities, and did I mention the beach?!

That’s all Randy and I want- an extraordinary life- for us, for the boys- something unique and challenging and scary and awesome. I know everyday won’t be rum ‘Pain Killers’ and crab cakes while listening to the waves crash on the beach. But it’s definitely a part of our new life, and I’ll take it.

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A sweet neighborhood Potcake. I’ve named him Coby 🙂
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I guess this sign says “Divided Highway, no right turn” ?!?
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Those sunsets though. EVERY. SINGLE. NIGHT.
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No sales tax. Evah!

A One-way Flight- part 2

It takes a lot to make Randy mad, but the procrastination of the TCI Animal Services office had done it.

As we drove back to the house, I placed a call to Anita. She is the office manager at our vet’s office and had been a huge help during the vaccination process. She knew exactly what I was talking about when I mentioned the section that needed the USDA stamp, but warned me the office was in Montgomery and their part had a typical turn around time of 24 hours. She gave me the phone number and wished me luck.

I dialed the number and reached a recording informing me that usual business hours were 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The message also apologized for being closed- it was ten minutes before 4:00 p.m. WTH?!

Randy placed a call to his mom, asking her to call her veterinarian to see if they could help. The number they gave us was not a working number, but it did give us a clue about which office to Google.

At approximately one minute after four o’clock, Randy dialed the USDA office in Montgomery and reached the assistant of the nicest man in the world. Leaving for the day, with his hand on the doorknob and one foot out the door, Dr. Robert E. Harris, Jr. decided to come back into his office and take our  phone call.

Randy explained the problem. Dr. Harris was sympathetic to our situation and told Randy to email our IHC to him. As he looked over it, he found several mistakes our vet had made while filling it out. He went on to tell us that he actually taught a class to veterinarians on how to fill out these types of forms. But most importantly, he promised to help us.

In the meantime, I emailed Animal Services to tell them they would have the completed IHC early Friday morning, and begged them to issue us a permit for Saturday.

At 9:00 a.m. on Friday morning- just a little more than 24 hours before our flight- Randy was at Dr. Harris’s office in Montgomery. He had reviewed the forms we had emailed to him, and it still took him an hour to amend and successfully complete our health certificate. A few minutes after ten o’clock, Dr. Harris emailed them to me and I forwarded them to TCI Animal Services.

As I continued to pack for Randy and the boys, I was mindful to hold out some of my own items believing wholeheartedly that only three-sixths of the Gatlins would be flying on Saturday.

Every email notification from my phone that day sent my heart racing. Finally, around 3:30 in the afternoon the notification we had been waiting on came in- the elusive importation permit. We would all be traveling together.

It only took one extended cab pickup and an SUV to get us, the dogs, twelve suitcases, one large box, and two dog crates to the Nashville airport. For the first time in months, everything went as planned. We arrived at the airport at 10:00 a.m., filled up two large luggage trolleys and made our way to the check-in counter.

My nerves took over as we entered the airport, and by the time we got to the counter, my hands were visibly shaking. There were still a few hurdles to clear with the dogs: 1) they, and their crates, had to weigh exactly what we had projected to meet American’s cumulative cargo point total of 20 or less, 2) the agent had to confirm suitable temperatures in Miami and Provo, and 3) due to limited space, we needed to be the only ones on our flight wanting to check pets.

It took a little over an hour for our entire check-in process, but we did it! With the help of some very nice American employees, Randy’s dad, mom and step-dad, we did it. We said some long good-byes then headed toward security.

We sailed through security- no alarms, no pat-downs.

The rest of the day went just as smoothly. Comfortable flights, a successful connection, and a flurry of last-minute texts and phone calls to loved ones from Miami before leaving the U.S.

We landed a little early in Provo, and got to use the ‘belonger/resident’ line where the agent welcomed us home. We were greeted out front by Malcolm and his family and taken to the resort  for a hard-earned night’s sleep.

It wasn’t until the next day that I noticed the stickers on the dog kennels, indicating their ‘point’ values- 19 and 3. American Airlines had let us slide through two points over our limit.

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A One-way Flight- part 1

To keep this particular post from getting too long and too confusing, I’ll preface the story with these facts: 1) An International Health Certificate is only valid for pet travel within ten days of being signed, 2) All of our recent vet visits had been scheduled thinking we might fly out on Monday 19th, and 3) Randy has a perfectly good job waiting for him on Provo and they are anxious for his arrival. 

We wanted a flight that put Buddy and Lucy in their kennels for the shortest possible amount of time. For that reason, we chose an American Airlines flight out of Nashville at 12:50 with a connecting flight in Miami that would land us in Provo at 8:10 that evening.

Another reason we liked that flight was that local temperatures would be on the decline from their daytime highs. Airlines will not fly domestic pets as cargo if the forecast temperature is 85 degrees or higher at your flight’s scheduled time of arrival or departure.

With all this in mind, we made an early-morning drive to Florence on Friday 9th, so the dogs could get their remaining vaccines and our vet could sign the IHC, which is also needed for the application to import process. Unfortunately, some of the vaccines we needed are not necessarily standard procedure in the southern United States, so we drove back to Meridianville without having the IHC completed.

We made some frantic phone calls and secured the vaccines for the morning of the 12th at two different veterinary offices- one in Sheffield and again at our vet in Florence. We were worried we would be cutting the application process close, but Animal Services had assured us they only needed a 48-hour turnaround time and the whole process would be via email. So we relaxed a little and planned another trip to Florence on Monday.

We got the shots as scheduled, and felt confident our IHC was filled out properly. On Monday, the Turks and Caicos islands celebrated a National Day of Heritage, so all government offices were closed. We assembled all the papers for our application, which included the past two rabies certificates for each dog, a completed IHC, and a completed application to import. We scanned and emailed each document to the appropriate office late that evening, ready for an animal services officer to review first thing Tuesday morning.

On Tuesday, with our application on island, we felt bold enough to buy four one-way tickets to Provo. However, when we went to book the flight, American had already implemented some changes that we heard were coming- the Monday flight we wanted was now only available Wednesday through Saturday. If we waited until Wednesday 20th, we would have to acquire a brand new International Health Certificate, which entailed additional trips to the vet, and repeat vaccines. Driven by our blind confidence and a desire to get this new stage of our lives started, we picked out four seats on the Saturday 17th flight.

We had not heard anything from TCI Animal Services by mid-morning Thursday 15th, so Randy placed a call. A woman there told him our application had been approved and our permit would be issued shortly. Heaving an enormous sigh of relief, Randy and I enjoyed our errand running that day with a sense of calm and peace.

Not long after noon, however, that peace was disrupted when an Animal Services officer began emailing me with blank forms attached and a message that said only, “complete and return.” We were confused because the forms he was requesting were the forms we had already emailed to him. I expressed my confusion, but re-sent our completed forms to him from my phone.

This continued back and forth a few times until about 3:30 that afternoon. We were at the teller’s counter withdrawing cash for the trip when a phone call from the island completely shattered the calm and peace we had been enjoying.

We and our vet, who maybe- probably- should have known better, missed an integral part of a completed IHC- the section where it gets a stamp of approval from your state’s USDA office.

Settling into Purgatory

After a slower than usual drive to Huntsville with the UHaul, our little caravan arrived at the storage unit around 4:00 a.m. Wednesday morning. Fortunately, a rain shower was just finishing up in north Huntsville.

Unfortunately, my co-pilot had been sound asleep for quite some time. This is the same child who can fall asleep at the drop of a hat, and is about as pleasant as an unripe persimmon when you wake him before he’s ready. Hoping to deal with as little additional unpleasantness as possible on this morning, we just let him snooze. Randy, Matthew, and I commenced with the unloading.

To be so sleep-deprived, we did (I think) an excellent job adjusting furniture and boxes to fit everything in as efficiently as possible. Matty was awesome, unloading, lifting, and stacking like a beast.  And while he was awake, so was Jacob. We could never have done it without them.

When it was all said and done, the remainder of our belongings fit neatly into a 10′ by 15′ climate-controlled storage room. We let the boys keep all of their stuff. It didn’t seem fair to ask them, as teenagers, to make the same ‘final’ decisions Randy and I were struggling with. Other than our bedroom suite, family photos, and a few boxes of winter clothes, Randy and I kept hardly anything.

The sun was rising on a gorgeous late summer day as we pulled into the driveway at Randy’s folk’s house. We had 4 and a half hours to unload the car, get cleaned up, and make the hour and a half drive back to Florence for the closing.

With no time to get any useful rest, I opted for a cool shower and a big cup of coffee. Promising to be back in time for supper, and running on pure adrenaline, Randy and I headed back west.

We had to leave early enough to stop by Atlanta Street because, yep, you guessed it, there were still some things at the house! Not much- Randy’s golf clubs, Matthew’s small aquarium, a few miscellaneous items. Things that just didn’t make the priority cut the night before.

We showed up at closing resembling the Beverly Hillbillies in their infamous move- Randy, me, and Scampi, Matthew’s tank-cleaning shrimp and the only remaining living aquarium resident. It was 10:30 a.m. Wednesday, July 29. At this point, we had been awake for approximately 28 hours.

The closing was not without a few hiccups, but by 11:00 a.m., Randy and I had signed our part, handed over keys and garage door openers and were headed to the credit union with the largest check either of us had ever held.

We were free. We owned no home, no cars, nothing. Our plan of moving to the Caribbean debt-free was unfolding before us. It was just going to unfold very slowly.

We made it back to Meridianville for supper and passed out in the guest room around 10:00 p.m. after a 40-hour moving day. Sadly, Scampi succumbed to the stress and was laid to rest that evening.

As I am writing this now, we have been with Randy’s parents for ten weeks. Four adults, two teenage boys, and three dogs all sharing a 3-bedroom home. And no matter how great the hospitality is, there is nothing like having a space of your own. But the nine of us make the best of it.

The boys do their schooling online, I continue to do my web content writing, and Randy does some miscellaneous landscape work to stay busy.

We’ve used the time here to visit with family and friends and do everything ‘one last time,’ all while preparing for our new life on Provo.

We’ve begun sorting and packing our things, being careful to heed the advice of those with experience. Along with our warm-weather clothes and personal electronics, we’re taking a water purifier and several months-worth of our favorite toiletry items.

We’re especially glad to have solved our biggest dilemma- finding a home. We have secured a furnished 3-bedroom, 2-bathroom cottage on the west side of the island, complete with a fenced yard for the pups, a sun deck, and lots of palm trees.

Dog travel crates are standing by and our temporary residency visas arrived yesterday. All that’s left is to settle on a date…

P1000518
Home sweet home.
back yard
A safe place for Buddy and Lucy.
#9 Corronize
No grass to mow…no leaves to rake…
blu hills sun deck
We’ve been told you can see the ocean from up there.