General life update

Some of you might be wondering that the “SB and MB” bars are on the left side of the blog.  There’s a common saying here on Kwaj; you arrive to the island with two empty buckets, one a money bucket and the other a sh*t bucket.  When one of the buckets is full, it’s time to go.   As you can tell, our SB is full at the moment.   We really haven’t been enjoying life here on the island too terribly much.  We’re both used to having a tight knit circle of family and friends nearby to support us, and we just don’t have that here.  For some reason we’ve had a really hard time making friends.  I’m not trying to speak ill of anyone who lives here, but there seems to be a hierarchy here on the island that just rubs me the wrong way.  If you don’t happen to be one of the chosen few or if you don’t belong to a clique, you don’t fit in.  I’ve never been one to blindly fall into a group of people just to belong, so I really only have one person I can call a friend here.  I think a big part of it is that Luke and I are much younger than most of the people here on island, especially the couples here that have families.  Being a married couple, we tend not to fit in with the single people, either.

All of that has kind of soured us on Kwaj, and more likely than not we’ll be leaving at the end of our 2 years here unless something changes drastically.  We originally came here to save money and pay off some debts, but it’s just not worth it if we aren’t enjoying our lives.  As much as we love the island itself, I just don’t think that this small of a community is a match for our family.

Everything moves

Before we came out to Kwaj, our sponsor told us that if you looked at the ground long enough, you’d see something moving. It’s totally true, too. Because it never gets cold out here, there are bugs, especially ants and flies, EVERYWHERE. It’s especially bad at the beaches because everyone gathers there so the trash attracts the flies. They also like out hang out on the palm fronds which are plentiful everywhere. We constantly battle ants and mosquitoes, but I think we finally have that pest problem under control. The mosquitoes aren’t terrible right now because it’s the dry season, but the ants are out in full force because they’re trying to come in to find water.

With an abundance of bugs comes an abundance of lizards and geckos. They’re always around the trashcans because that’s where the bugs are. A few live in our house; they’re kind of like miniature housecats :). They eat all of the pests, so they are a welcome sight most of the time… not so much when one runs across your foot in the dark, but still.

A friend told us that you can attract hermit crabs if you pour bacon grease on a tree in your yard, so the next time we have bacon I think we’re going to try it. We have a big tree in our side yard, so I think we’re going to stage our experiment out there. Not that you have to search for hermit crabs, they’re all over the beaches, especially on Coral Sand. We found a HUGE hermit crab a few weeks ago and Audrey made the mistake of picking one up and got pinched, I think she’s leery of picking up shells now. You can also see a ton of fiddler crabs on the rocks during low tide, especially at night and before the sun comes up.

All of this is a small price to pay for living in a year round tropical paradise.

Windy Season

Looks like the Windy Season is back again.  My apologies for the lack of updates.  Not a whole lot happens here ;)  .. well, in our personal life that is.  I would be a bad blogger if I posted everyday saying “Weather is the same, went to the beach, watched the sunset.”

It is very interesting though.  The first time in my life that I’ve spent Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas in 88 degree weather.  The only thing that gets to me so far is how long it takes to receive Mail.  It seems that when you REALLY want a package, it takes a month to get here.  Amazon is pretty quick though.  It usually takes about a week to get here.

It looks like our Residential Internet has hit a snag.  I hope it gets implemented soon.  This Dial-Up internet is the pits!  You know something is wrong when NASA can get 622mbps of bandwidth to the Moon, and we can’t get past 56k.

I think it’s pretty funny though.  A lot of people have the impression that we live on Island time and just lay at the beach all day.  That’s not the case at all.  I’m super busy at work.  What’s really cool is that I love it.  There’s always something to do too.  You work hard, and play hard ;)

I’ve been slacking on mowing the Lawn.  What’s worse is that my yard is seen by everyone, and it doesn’t look very good :P  After taking a look at the grass in the front of the house (I usually enter/leave from the back patio), I was pretty embarrassed :P  Lawn mower is to be delivered tomorrow.  Woohoo!

Everyday I ride home on a dirt road that follows the Lagoon all around the island.  And everyday, I take a mental picture of it.. because it’s so beautiful.  I know that later on in life, I will look back to these moments and wish I was here again….especially when we goto Coral Sands Beach and we sit under the shade tree that is on the beach, and watch the kids play in the sand and water.  It’s a moment that a picture can’t even express.   I know I have it good, and it can’t get much better than this.  I guess that’s why I step back and enjoy the scenery.  One of these days, I’ll take a picture of a certain part of the Lagoon that has all of these different color of Blue that is just absolutely amazing.

Doldrum Winds

Well, the doldrum winds are still here.  The winds are now coming from the southwest instead of the East.  We got a good bit of rain last week.. in 1 day haha.  It was a torrential downpour for about an hour, and then normal rain for the next 4 hours.  I think around November or December is when we change over to the dry season.

During the dry season, we get about 20 inches of rain over a period of 6 months (November to May).  In the wet season (June-November), we get an average of 80 inches of rain.  Normally, we get most of the rain at night.  If it rains in the daytime, it’s usually a downpour for about 30mins and it’s done.  Also.. during the dry season, the winds go back to a westerly flow, and constant 15+mph of wind.

This wind cuts down on the humidity and makes it much better to cool off in the shade ;)

 

We experienced a power outage last week.  It affected the entire housing area.  Wondering if power at my workplace was affected(I would have to be there anyways if it was), I hopped on my bike to check it out.

It was a feeling that I never experienced before.  We live in the center of the island, so I can’t hear the waves crashing into the reef.  I walked outside and heard… Nothing.  And when I say nothing, I really meant it.  I didn’t hear our Generators, Cars, Birds, Wind or Waves.  There was nobody on the streets.  The island looked deserted.  The only thing I could hear were my bicycle tires in our sandy alleyway.  I stopped for a moment and just listened to the complete silence.  I started thinking about how we are here.. 7,000 miles away from the USA, on an island with beautiful water and coconut palm trees, and… no man-made noises around… at all.  This feeling reminded me of the first episodes of The Walking Dead TV series where Rick was walking around and not seeing ANYONE in sight, and complete silence.

Anyways.. I thought it was interesting and wanted to share it.  It does put things into perspective when you think about it, though.

Things are changing!

Hi All!

I haven’t posted on here much because I’ve been super busy with my work, and Courtney has been busy with the kids, such as taking them to Emon Beach and/or Playground nearby and the likes.  Our recent mission is now over (I like to delay postings like this for obvious reasons)  Check it out:

http://www.defense.gov/news/newsarticle.aspx?id=120744

Back on the topic of things changing.  The doldrum winds are a big pain in my butt!  Usually the winds flow from east to west, and riding home is a pain in the butt with 25mph winds!  Well….. The winds keep changing!  I was on my way home for lunch the other day, and the wind was gusting as  usual from east to west.  Toughing it out on my bike, I made it home and ate lunch.  Afterwards, I biked back to work.  This time, the winds changed to a North-East wind gusts, which made biking to work a pain.  My legs were very tired :P  Biking WITH the wind, I can get 15-20mph.  AGAINST the wind, 5-10mph and that’s when you’re “huffing” it.

I’d like to say…There are some things here that can be aggrivating.  I guess I’m becoming accustomed to island life so much, that little changes are a BIG deal for us.  Such as:

The mail gets delayed sometimes.  We only get (and send) mail twice a week.  When we’re waiting on a package, and mail gets delayed for 3 days, it sucks!  lol.  It wouldn’t be so bad in the states, but it takes about a week to get stuff out here, so waiting 3 more days seems like forever :P

One time, Subway’s credit card machine broke.  Unfortunately, they had to fly someone out here to fix it.  Their machine was down for a little over a week before it was fixed.  Even though we do have an ATM here, I try not to use it often because I spend the cash as fast as I get it in hand :P

And yes, Courtney is correct on the Orange juice.  One time, all of our stores were without Paper towels for a month!  We finally got tired of using party napkins and ordered a huge box of paper towels (which was actually cheaper than buying them here).  As soon as that package arrived, we had paper towels on the island again :P

Our team (I won’t say I did it all because that would be a lie) installed WiFi at the Youth Center here.  Our telephone guys connected the DSL signal, and I placed the Access Point in the building.  The strategic placement of this beacon allowed us to get a WiFi signal at Emon Beach :)  So now we can lounge at the beach with our Ipads or Kindles and read a book there, or just surf facebook while watching the waves crash in.

Anyways, that’s all I have for now.  We took some pictures, so we’ll probably upload a bunch of them soon!

Not much to blog about

I think we’ve hit a wall as far as exploring Kwaj goes.  We’re stuck in a bit of a rut, doing the same monotonous things day in and day out.  We don’t have a babysitter that we trust, so we haven’t been able to do the things on island that we’d really like to do, like go snorkeling or sailing or deep sea fishing.  we’re waiting on the girl’s shot records to be faxed over to the hospital here; hopefully that will happen soon so we can get Maddie in preschool.  Once she’s used to it, we’ll either get a nanny or put Audrey in daycare too so I can get a job and have some adult interaction.  Hopefully that will help us with getting the girls used to being around people other than us and we find a babysitter or nanny to watch them every once in a while on the weekends so Luke and I can have some quality time together, doing things on island that we can’t do with kids in tow.

 

Sunsets have been spectacular lately because it’s been relatively dry and there haven’t been many clouds to interfere with watching the sun go down over the horizon.

Sunset at Emon

Sunset at Emon

The best view I've captured so far since we've been here.

The best view I’ve captured so far since we’ve been here.

 

 

We’ve been taking the girls to the park close to sundown lately because it’s just so hot during the day.  There hasn’t been much of a breeze lately, so sitting in the sun is almost stifling unless you’re in the water.

Happy swinging Maddie

Happy swinging Maddie

And happy swinging Audrey

And happy swinging Audrey

 

We already have a slide at the house, but I think we’re going to get them some swings and a water table and a few other fun outdoor toys so they can have fun at home without having to go to the park.  Anyway, that’s all I have to report for no, hopefully something fun and eventful happens soon so I’ll actually have something to write about.

 

Adventures in Gastronomy, Kwaj Edition

Long before we made the decision to move our family to Kwaj, we did a lot of research on island life. The most useful info we found were people’s personal blogs who live/have lived on Kwaj.  We were so excited about living on a tropical island, but we wanted to make sure that we were prepared for both the good and the bad that could come from living in such a secluded corner of the world.  One thing that I noticed on almost every blog that I read was that the island grocery stocked the basic kitchen essentials, but that was about it.  Being someone who loves to cook and bake and create new things in the kitchen, this was somewhat of a let down.  However, it wasn’t a big enough deterrent to keep us from moving out here.  My first trip to the grocery store was surprising; they had a lot more than I was expecting.  There was plenty of meat, dairy, produce and pantry items to stock my kitchen well.  Then I started noticing shortages.  One week they would be out of bacon, or lunch meat, or orange juice.  It may not sound that bad to the outsider, but coming from someone who loves to meal plan and make most of our meals from scratch, having the grocery store not stocked with things that are considered common fare back in the states is a bit of a challenge.  Needless to say, I don’t go to the grocery store with a shopping list in hand anymore.  Rather, I go a few times a week to see what they have and make do from there.

That said, we definitely haven’t been starving out here :).  With a little extra planning and creativity (and some supplemental takeout pizza and Subway), we’ve been eating a pretty healthy diet since we’ve been here.  The grocery store is stocked on Tuesdays and Thursdays, but they’re closed on Thursdays.  All of the fresh produce for the week comes in on Tuesdays and is usually stocked in the afternoon, so the small grocery store is always packed with people trying to get the “rare” produce that you see out here.  The first to go are usually the more perishable items like peaches, plums, kiwis, zucchini, and the “good” tomatoes.  Since I really don’t feel like fighting hordes of people for a bag of apples, I usually wait to go to Surfway on Wednesdays.  Most of the produce is still there, and I stock up for the week.  Most of the other specialty items (how sad is it that in 3 short months, I’ve come to think of sour cream and deli turkey as specialty items?) come in on Thursdays, but since the store is closed, I go on Fridays for our dairy and meat and whatever other fun items I can find.

Another thing that has been incredibly helpful is that our packout finally arrived!  No more hospitality pots and pans, I have my amazing cookware and knives!  Not to mention all of my awesome kitchen appliances and knickknacks.  This past year for Christmas, my sister in law Shelley bought me a really cool countertop ice cream/frozen yogurt maker.  I worked at an ice cream shop through high school and college and I LOVE to make ice cream.  We busted it out the other day and the girls and I undertook making our first batch of frozen yogurt; banana chocolate chunk!   My fridge and pantry actually decided what flavor we were going to make as I had a container of yogurt that was going to expire soon and some bananas that weren’t going to make it much longer and were too mushy for the kids to want to eat.  As for the chocolate chunk part… well, we all know everything is better with a little chocolate.

Ingredients ready to go into the machine!

Ingredients ready to go into the machine!

Since we’re on the topic of bananas, there seem to be two types of bananas that arrive in Kwaj.  The normal bananas that go from green to ripe yellow, then the type that go from unripe green to rotten green; they never turn yellow.  These usually stay on the shelves and are offered at 50% off… then 75% off, then they’re a pile of mush.  This latest batch was the weird never turn yellow variety, so they were turned into ice cream.

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The bananas in question. Oh well, they make good ice cream and banana nut bread.

I let the girls help me mush the bananas, but didn’t get a picture of that because having two toddlers help with anything in the kitchen is usually a recipe for disaster.

Mmm, chocolate.

Mmm, chocolate.

After chopping up a few squares of semi sweet chocolate (which the girls were stealing bites of the entire time), we poured the mixture into the machine.

Go ice cream go!

Go ice cream go!

After about an hour, it was finally done.  I think it turned out really well and the girls loved it!

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One awesome thing for foodies thinking of moving to Kwaj; the altitude here is extremely low, so baking is great!  I’ve been baking a ton (and giving most of it away to neighbors and making Luke take it to work so I don’t eat it all) and everything turns out beautifully, especially yeast breads.  I love to bake bread, and the whole family loves warm bread fresh out of the oven and it rises and bakes so, so well here.

Mmm, bread.  And homemade lemon poppyseed muffins.

Mmm, bread. And homemade lemon poppyseed muffins.

I’ve also made a few birthday “cakes”, this one was actually a huge pan of delicious fudgey brownies I made for one of Luke’s coworkers.  Seriously, make these.  Tell me if you want the recipe and I’ll write it up.

I said I could bake, not that I can decorate cakes.

I said I could bake, not that I can decorate cakes.

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They’re also AMAZING with a light, fluffy peanut butter frosting.

 

And I’m kind of proud of this dessert I made since I tend to not be very artistic at all and I think this turned out really well.

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As most of you guys already know, there really aren’t any restaurants here.  Sure, you can go to Subway or Anthony’s for a pizza, but there aren’t any sit down restaurants where you can sit and relax and have someone else cook, serve, and clean up your meal.  We used to go out to eat fairly often on date nights, but that’s not something we can do here.  So, I decided that we were going to have a date night at home once the kids were asleep.  The people who used to live across the street from us recently moved back to the states and gave us their patio table and chairs.  I bought some citronella candles to keep the bugs at bay and we had homemade chocolate covered strawberries and wine on the back porch :).

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For awesome homemade chocolate covered strawberries, wash and dry them and let them come to room temperature.  While they’re warming up, melt 8 tablespoons of chocolate (we like semi sweet chocolate chips) and 2 tablespoons of butter in a double boiler.

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My double boiler disappeared in one of our moves, so now I just use a metal bowl over a pot of simmering water.

Once nice and melted, put each strawberry on a toothpick and dip into the chocolate.  I like to stick them into a block of Styrofoam to keep them from sticking to anything or each other.  Plus, they’re prettier like that.

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And yes, we do also eat real food, but I only seem to take pictures of the desserts.  But, here’s a picture of the kids eating carrots to nullify all of the sugar going on above :)

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