OK, I need to get off the work discussion for awhile and return to the purpose of this blog – to help people understand how to adjust and make your way in a new country, as a resident, not a tourist. But first, I have a car!
It’s not much of a car, an older Impala. The radiator has a leak, the power steering seems to not be working, the air conditioner doesn’t work and the power windows are a trip. But it provides me mobility. Which brings me to comparing my current experience with my time in Costa Rica, instead of Batam, or even Croatia or Sicily. I lived a comfortable, non-local life in Batam, at Smiling Hill, where my laundry was picked up twice a day and delivered the next day cleaned and pressed; where all my meals were taken at Batam’s best western foods restaurant; where all my utilities were taken care, and I had premium cable TV and air conditioning.
Costa Rica was much more basic and much more like my current situation, with the difference being I will have more income here. Food is a good bit more expensive here but my rent is taken care of, unlike Jaco (Costa Rica). My apartment here is about three times the size of the one in Jaco and I live in a duplex in a neighborhood, not a 60-unit condo complex like in Jaco. I like the fact I’m living among the population, unlike in Batam, where I was isolated from the locals except those who worked at Smiling Hill, or those I met at the bars. In Jaco, I washed my clothes in a large, outside sink; here, I have a washing machine. In Jaco, I walked everywhere; here I have a car.
So, if you compare apples to apples (Jaco vs. Nevis), I definitely have a bigger, juicier apple here. And if the fishing turns out to be good, all the better.
This afternoon (Saturday), Julio picked me up to take me to the police station – to get a driver’s license. I suspect the boss told him he would have to give up the Impala because I need transportation to do my job. It was very easy. A big ol’ policeman behind a small table took my Florida license (good until 2018 – I renewed it before I left the U.S. in 2010), asked me how long I wanted the license for (I chose a year for $40), filled out a small form, had me sign the form, gave me a few instructions on do’s and don’ts, and that was it.
We then went back to the office, where the Impala was parked, and then I followed Julio to the local furniture/appliance store, Court’s, where I found a coffeemaker and also met my first expat. Good story.
He was looking at something or other with a large black woman (turned out to be his wife, Denise) and I noticed his shoes. No one but me, I thought, wears Adidas Superstar sneakers anymore. But he did. So I made a crack: “With those shoes, you must be American.” “How did you know that?” he replied. “Because only Americans wear them.”
That opened up a long conversation. His name is Steve Rose, from Massachusetts and he’s a photographer. Small world. He’s been here 16 years. He and his wife run a small school. He kept asking me what happened to my predecessor and kept warning me that this is a tough place to live. I tried to convince him I was not a rookie to basic, overseas living but he kept at it. Petty crime can be a problem, but it’s safe, although expensive. I told him I had backup income and planned to stay awhile.
We exchanged contact info and might meet tonight for some pool at a place called Double Deuce. I sure have a hard time meeting new people in new places.
Back to my shopping: the coffeemaker, a 10-cupper, cost $30. I then went to the department store next door where I had shopped two days earlier, and found a number of smaller items I found I needed. I’ve reported on this before (some time ago) but I’ve found that you need $300-400 seed money in a new location to fill out all the little things you can’t carry around the world with you – plastic containers for sugar, rice, etc., a cutting board; steak knives; in this case, a new frying pan (Teflon coated because I doubt I will find an iron skillet here); floor mats; towels; drinking glasses; tape; small tools; cleaning supplies; even clothespins. You would be amazed at what you need when you don’t travel with the kitchen sink.
I then went to the supermarket next door where I had also been two days before, to complete (I hope) my initial food shopping. My restocking binge of the last three days cost about $400; much of that will remain here when I leave. It’s the cost of what I do.
Tonight, I plan to reward myself with a small t-bone, hoping it’s better than the hamburger I had for lunch, which had a lot of gristle.
And one final bit of information: The Jack Daniels and Jim Beam here costs about $10 a liter less than in Indonesia and even less than in the U.S. I will actually be saving money on alcohol, offsetting some the higher cost of food. And with no women to spend my money on, I should be able to save a lot for some travel. (Note to anyone who cares: I hope the lady situation isn’t so bleak and Steve tells me it’s not.)
LATE UPDATE: Decided instead of taking a late nap I would “get out of my box”, try out my “new” car and look for a beach to fish. Looked at a map and headed past the office, next intersection was Craddock Road, which sounded familiar. Bad road with low income homes alongside, ending up at an intersection, one way to downtown and the other to Pinney’s Beach and the bar area, where Steve told me was the Double Deuce, with a pool table. Might as well check it out.
Found the bar, and another named Lime that I had heard about, and just past them was the north end of the beach. Saturday afternoon, 4:30, and almost a ghost town. Of course, as soon as I started fishing, the kids came running. Then the adults. One told me he sees schools of big fish pass by the beach. Sounds familiar. With no bait, I started throwing the last Kastmaster I had. Broke off on the 7th cast. Tied on the only other lure I have, a silver and red thing, and after a few casts snagged a very small blue runner. Sounds familiar. Saved him for cut bait, and the kids had a ball watching it flip around on the fine-sand beach. Later, a very small lizard fish took the lure, and now I had enough to fish with bait.
No luck with the bait but it sure was good to be fishing on a warm-water, fine-sand beach like my days in Florida. The sun was setting, so I decided to head home, bait in hand for fishing at another beach in the morning. When I arrived, my neighbor yelled out if I liked Carib beer. She and her mother, Huggens, have a very small shack in front of their house where they sell various items, including beer and sodas. Since I was hot and thirsty, and had been thinking about a cold beer all the way from the beach. I said yes, of course. Cost of a Carib, $1.75, ice cold, with a short conversation with Huggens. I’m sure the money was well appreciated, and now I know where to go on a hot day when only a cold beer will do. Carib is pretty good, BTW.