2012 - Island Teacher

Thankfulness

While I wrote about American and Cayman Thanksgivings in my last blog, I have just felt such an overwhelming sense of thankfulness this week that I feel the need to bring up the topic again. Here is a short list of things that I am especially thankful for this week:

  • My savior Jesus Christ
  • My husband...and seeing him happier than he has been in a long time and his ability to enjoy more of life, have free time at the beach and play soccer again!
  • My sweet vivacious 4 year old and how well she has adjusted to life in Cayman.
  • The health of our immediate and extended family
  • The blessing of good jobs and financial stability...even though I complain sometimes ;)
  • A new job opportunity for me which will allow me to tutor a great group of kiddos several days a week
  • The blessing of living in such a beautiful place
  • Magic Jack...which allows us to easily keep in touch with the US and Peru!
  • New friends in Cayman
  • Friends back home
  • A great church
  • That our first electric bill received this week was "reasonable" :)

Things AG is thankful for this week:
  • God, Jesus and angels...she actually listed the toys first, but I figured this was most appropriate first :)
  • My toys and dress up clothes
  • My pops and mommy
  • My hair
  • Yogurt
  • Christmas trees
  • Turtles and sting rays, but "definitely not jelly fish. Well, I am thankful for their colors, but not their tentacles" ha!
 While reflecting on thankfulness this week, I was further reminded of the many material blessings I have after my brother posted a video on facebook. My brother, A, has been working as a missionary in Peru since 2009. He has been given a heart to serve and care for those who have very little. While he and his wife, P, (E's sister in case you don't know the story of our intertwined families) live on faith themselves that God will provide for their family, they seek to love and care for those in greater need.

This past week, a college friend of A's traveled to Peru to help create a video about a current project they are working on. They want to provide a home for a family for Christmas. Without rewriting the whole story, you can check out the video here. It will allow you to have a glimpse of life in a third world country. While I am making sure I have my reservation for Teddy Bear Tea at the Ritz Carlton, there are many in Peru (and, of course, other places too) who need their basic needs met this Christmas. Yep, this is pretty much a slap in the face! We can so easily get caught up in ourselves that it's good to have a reality check every now and then.

This isn't just another group looking for money at Christmas....this is my family who is directly being used to help with a Christmas miracle of building a home while sharing the love of Jesus. As of last night they had raised $400 towards their goal of building Jhonny a house for Christmas! Please pray for Jhonny and his family and help raise awareness by sharing the video on your facebook, blogs, mass emails, etc.

I am thankful for those serving in ministry!
 
"I led them with cords of human kindness, with ties of love, I lifted the yoke from their neck and bent down to feed them." Hosea 11:4

 Happy Sunday Everyone!!! 
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Happy (Cayman) Thanksgiving!

Apparently, I'm not so hot at keeping an updated blog since it has been well over a month since my last post. Life has been busy, busy! We've finally moved into our apartment. We live in a nice little row of townhomes in an area called Snug Harbour that is made up of mainly expats. We are super close to work for E and our new place is convenient to really anywhere we want to go. We have a nice pool and we're right next to a park/playground/tennis area. There are several other families with young children, so AG has had fun getting to know people already.

So this week is Thanksgiving take 2, as we celebrate Caymanian Thanksgiving. We had a fun school-wide lunch today and I ate just as much as I did last Thursday for the American celebration. We welcomed our first island visitor last week! My mom spent Thanksgiving with us and we all had a great time.


Work is still going well for both of us. E is getting busy as "season" is now beginning. AG and I have settled in nicely at school. It's hard to believe that Christmas is coming as it never really "feels" like Christmas here. Cayman does do a GREAT job with holiday events though and we are looking forward to the next month! There are lights everywhere and this weekend is the Parade of Lights where boats get all decked out in decorations and "parade" through the harbour. AG and I will also be attending our first tea at the Ritz when we go to Teddy Bear Tea in a couple of weekends. :)

We will have a packed schedule of visitors from the end of December to mid February as we will play hosts to my parents, sister, brother-in-law, baby B and then E's parents.

Thank you all so much for keeping up with us and for your prayers. Please continue to specifically pray for E's car to sell. :)
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Passing the one month mark...

Last Monday was the one month mark of our move. We've gotten to do some fun things the past couple of weeks. We visited the turtle farm and saw giant sea turtles and birds. AG and I also went for a glass bottom kayak ride one afternoon. Of course, we've been spending lots of time at the beach. Last night we had a great dinner out at Calypso Grill with a couple who work with E. They are Peruvian and have been on the island for several years, so he had hit it off with them and they had recommended the restaurant. Yum, yum...we both had the fresh catch of the day (mahi and tuna) and it was probably the best fish meal I've ever had!

We FINALLY get to move into our apartment next week. It will be great to unpack and really settle in. There is a newly formed tropical storm just to the south of us, but right now it is projected to hit Jamaica and stay to the east of us. We were already feeling some of the whipping winds today though and we are supposed to get some heavy rain. Even though we were in Florida for several rough hurricane seasons, there is just something about being on an island that makes the whole situation seem scarier!

In happier news, my mom is coming in a little over 3 weeks! Hurray! AG will be so excited to see her. We are looking forward to lining up visitors since we'll have an extra room, so feel free to come for a visit. :)

Here's a picture from the Turtle Farm:


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Week 3 updates

While E has been settling into his job now for 3 weeks, I just began work this past week. We are working on developing a routine, which will be easier when we move into our own place...3 more weeks to go! E's company has done an overwhelming job of making AG feel so special. If you haven't followed my facebook posts, the summary of it all includes a pet fish (until we leave the hotel anyway) and special gifts and notes from about 10 different departments in the hotel.

Week 1 of work went well for me. There are definite challenges...mainly due to the fact that the kids haven't had to do much in terms of Spanish. While they have taken Spanish for years, not too much has been expected. This, of course, will change and will be met with resistance, but I'm hoping for a great outcome. I have a very supportive principal, so this helps tremendously! I am trying to juggle Spanish classes for 1st grade all the way to 10th grade, so this is another challenge. It's been a good 7 years since I've taught elementary age, so this requires some adjusting too. :)

We have been attending a church here on island that we really like. We've met some nice people already and feel like it's a good place for us. I'm excited to get more connected with people and the church, so I'm really looking forward to finding our place there!


E and I absolutely love eating out. Cayman provides endless opportunity to do just that, but at quite a price! We found a restaurant that offers a deal on Sunday nights where you can pay $1 for a meal if it's an identical meal to one being ordered. We visited here tonight, ate on the outdoor balcony, had 2 yummy snapper dinners and a great sunset!


Additionally, something to pray for...my health has not been great since we arrived. I "think" it's allergy related, but even after a trip to see a nice Dutch doctor here in Cayman, a diagnosis of an upper respiratory infection and a round of antibiotics, nasal spray, cough medicine and gargling aspirin (yeah, this is weird??) I'm still struggling to get rid of it. Today has been the first day that I've started to feel more normal again. Also, pray for AG as she is (just today) starting to get the runny nose crud.

All in all life is great!


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Week 2 Updates :)

The biggest update of the week is that we have a signed lease on a place to live. We...rather I...looked at many, many places to live. I must have looked at 20 different apartments/townhomes/houses. A downfall to living on such a beautiful, tax free island is that everything (especially housing) is very expensive. While I was able to find a lot to look at that fit our budget, options that I actually liked very pretty limited. Ultimately, we settled on this particular apartment because of the location and the 3rd bedroom. We are in a community/area called Snug Harbor. It's filled with expats and super close E's job (convenient because we are living with 1 car for now). We have a roomy 3 bedroom/2 bath townhome with a nice screened porch. I had to give up living within walking distance from the beach, but we did get a really nice pool. :) The home doesn't become available until the end of October, though. Luckily, we are able to extend our stay at the hotel until then. Even though it is great here, and I am by no means complaining, it will be nice to not live out of a suitcase and actually move into our own space when the time comes.

AG finishes up her first full week at school tomorrow. She is really enjoying it and I'm super proud of how well she is adjusting. I spent the week taking care of lots of details related to the move and E spent the week working and getting used to his new job. I start work on Monday. All in all things are great! Here are some pics from the week:

View from the hotel of the cruise ships in port for the day!

Playing in the crystal clear water..

Fountain Fun at Camana Bay

Chickens roam Cayman like cows roam India...
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The first few days....

Our first few days in Cayman have flown by! They have been packed with details of setting up on the island. Here's a summary:

Saturday: We left Atlanta with our 13 bags and boxes! Everything made it through the change of planes and Miami and arrived in GC safely. Coming through immigration and customs was relatively easy. AG was only allowed entry for 1 week because I need to get a letter from her school...this still needs to be cleared up so that our poor baby doesn't get deported Saturday! We cleared customs without have to pay any duty taxes (woot, woot!) which is something they could have charged. We arrived at the hotel and were surprised to see that we had a one bedroom residential unit with a full kitchen and washer/dryer!

Sunday: This was E's only day off before starting, so we spent most off the day enjoying the beach. We looked at several cars, which the owners brought to the hotel for us to check out. After contemplating, we decided that a 2000 Kia Sportage best fit our budget and needs. It is basic beach transportation that will get us where we need to go. :)

Monday: E started work and AG and I began errands. First stop was getting to the DMV and getting a driver's license. I was told to be prepared to wait awhile, but I was in and out with a new license in less than 30 minutes. We had an appointment with a realtor to look at apartments, so we began our search. Overall, it is difficult to find what we want in a budget we can afford. Prices range from 1000 CI to 10,000++ CI/month. The conversion is 1 CI to 1.25 USD. Everything is rented in Cayman Island dollars (CI$). US dollars are accepted everywhere, but you get a slightly better exchange rate if you pay in CI$. This gets a bit confusing...especially since E will be paid in USD and I will be paid in CI$. There are tons of places that fit the budget, but I find that I'll probably have to give up my updated kitchen and a bedroom (2 instead of 3) if I want to be on the water. OR if I want an updated place then I will have to drive to the beach. We looked at about 10 places total on Monday with a couple of different realtors. Some ok options, but nothing just right. Also on Monday, we stopped by the school where I will be working and AG will be attending. We got to meet some of the staff including AG's teacher.

Tuesday: We spent the majority of the morning getting insurance for the car and then transferring the title...another trip to the DMV. I then experienced opposite side of the road driving for the first time! Not too bad, although the roundabouts scare me! Afterwards, we went grocery shopping. Uh, sticker shock! I had done quite a bit of research before we moved, but nothing quite prepares you for a 6.00CI (7.50 USD) gallon of milk. Oh, and the small package of strawberries I wanted quickly went back on the shelf as I refused to pay 9.00CI (11.25 USD). Pretty much, you just have to shop "smartly" :) I won't buy everything I may want when I want it...I don't do this in the states either though, so it will be ok. I'm a sale shopper and this will have to continue here! We looked at a couple more apartments in the afternoon and then went to Camana Bay when E got off work. This is a super cool shopping, dining, business, and even residential area with the awesome interactive fountains which kids can play in and the only theater on the island. I even found a reasonably priced cupcake store. While it will not replace Gigi's Cupcakes, it was pretty good!

Wednesday (today): Not too much planned...which is good because we have been pretty busy and haven't even been to the beach since Sunday! We will definitely do that and probably view more apartments. :)

Please pray for AG as she works to adjust. There have been some attitude issues and a few behaviors that are not typical which have surfaced the past few days. I know it's tough for her and I want to be compassionate while keeping consistent. She will start going to school half day probably tomorrow.  Also pray that we find the right place for our family to live.




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Sunday Updates and Housing Thoughts

So on Friday (the day after I had FedExed the work permit papers) E gets an email from his new job saying that the current processing time for full work permits (what we had applied for) is 12 weeks. They decided that they do not want to wait that long (duh!), so they will be processing a temporary one for now and then a full one at a later date. The temporary processing time is only 2-3 weeks! Yikes! So, it's back to FedEx tomorrow to send in the temporary permit application. Realistically, this still probably puts us close to October by the time the application arrives in Cayman, is submitted by his job, is approved by immigration, etc. etc. Since I have a teaching job down there now, I will be going with Eddie instead of the original plan of waiting until December.

In other news, I have sold my entire house (well, what we are selling anyway) of furniture to one person! Woot! Woot! Still need to get rid of the cars.

The Ritz-Carlton Grand Cayman
Since we are really just waiting now and finished with paperwork until I need to apply for my work permit, I have been scouring ecay trade for housing options. This is like the Cayman Islands version of Craigslist. From here, you can then find different realtor websites for even more options to look at. There is a lot of rentals available and negotiating prices on rentals is normal, so hopefully we'll be able to get all (or at least most) of what we are looking for at a price we can afford. We will be allowed to stay at the Ritz for 2-3 weeks until we find a place where we want to live. Not a bad deal, huh?

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Papers Submitted...the wait begins....

Today we finally finished up the necessary paperwork and all has been Fed-Exed to begin processing with Cayman Immigration. We had a slight issue with the medical paperwork, due to the fact that my lungs have some abnormalities that appeared on the X-rays, but, hopefully nothing immigration cares about. They are specifically checking for tuberculosis, and, since I don't have TB, I should be good to go. A big public shout out to my friend, L, and hubby, Dr. Will. You guys rock and we truly appreciate all the help! Once the paperwork makes it to immigration next week, the wait of anywhere from 3-8 weeks begins. In the meantime, we need to sell, sell, sell! Still 2 cars to get rid of, a living room set, dining room set, bedroom set, futon, full bed, changing table (used as a shelf for the past 2 years), toys and various household odds and ends. :)
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Who does this?? Starting a job and interviewing for another...

First an update on last week's progress:

  • We confirmed our move out date with the rental company: September 30...this will be much easier than moving out at the end of this month.
  • We had our medical reports done (just waiting on test results)
  • My car is currently listed for sale on Craigslist...Eddie's is to be listed this week. :)
  • I have planned and am "mostly" prepared for my classes to start tomorrow.
Now, for the "who does this?" segment. As mentioned, I start my new job tomorrow. Well, additionally, I will be interviewing for a new teaching position. I found out about a part time Spanish position at a private Christian school on GC thru a fabulous friend of a friend connection. I blasted off my resume immediately, got a response that same day, and have a phone interview scheduled for tomorrow!  I do not believe in coincidences. :) We will see where this may lead.

UPDATE 8/13: so, I got the job! yeah, this is crazy!I'm really just so overwhelmed I don't have much to say...God is good and I'm very thankful.
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Checklist for the week of 8/5

I need lists! If I think about about that has to be done I get seriously overwhelmed. I have to take it day by day.

1. Finish syllabi and plan for first week of classes next week.
2. Call the company relocation number that we've been given to get more info about our benefits in this area and how we ship the belongings that we will take.
3. Schedule doctor's appointments for myself and E to get our medical paperwork filled out.
4. Confirm move out date with rental company. We just finished our year lease where we currently live. We have to give 30 days notice to move out. Because I let them know on the 3rd and not the 1st, apparently we are obligated for rent until the of September (they don't do partial months). They are supposed to check with the homeowner and, if approved, we may be out of this house and in with my parents at the end of August! We could save quite a bit of money this way, but that would mean that I need to get started on the selling of things ASAP! Update in case you don't know: we have tenants living in the house we own that have a lease until the end of next June, so that's one area we don't have to worry about right now.
5. Figure out how to sell and list our cars. This is a HUGE prayer request. We are both upside down in what we owe and what they are worth. Please pray that we can get rid of our cars and lose as little money as possible.

One day at a time, one day at a time! I love seeing E so excited thinking about the future. This will be awesome!

Jeremiah 29:11- For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you hope and a future.

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Geography Lesson :)

Another frequently asked question...where are the Cayman Islands? In case you aren't up on your geography skills, here's a visual! They are a group of 3 islands to the south of Cuba. We will be on the largest island of the 3, Grand Cayman. It's a pretty popular tourist destination. Grand Cayman is home to the Seven Mile Beach, which is considered to be one of the best beaches in the world. Lots of cruise ships stop in Grand Cayman and the diving and snorkeling is great. It's less than a 3 hour flight from Atlanta...news my family was happy to hear! We will definitely be welcoming visitors.


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Let the adventure begin...

Where do I even start? As some may know, E began casually searching for new job opportunities about 4 months ago. He's had several interviews, several talks with places, but nothing had really panned out...until NOW. He decided to go out on a limb and apply for the job that neither one of us actually thought he would get. He has been at his current job (well, same company) for almost 6 years. He has known for awhile that it was time for a change. We had pretty much decided we were staying put until the school year began and ended. I had just accepted a position about a month ago teaching ESL at a university and we had enrolled AG in a new Montessori school that we are super excited about. Then, an opportunity came along!  If you know us, you know that we are always up for an adventure....I mean, we decided 5 years ago to buy property and build a beach house in Peru, that's not exactly "normal". So, you can probably guess by the title of the blog where we are heading! E has accepted a job in Grand Cayman. I have decided to start a blog because I have found myself searching for and reading lots of websites and blogs over the past month about moving to and living in the Cayman Islands. This will be an adventure for sure and I'm excited to share the process!  To answer a couple of questions from people we have told in "real life" about our adventure:

Q: When are you moving?
A: Not right away. The work permit approval process for E takes about 6-8 weeks. Even if we get all of the papers together this next week then he is still looking at October. The process is crazy...granted, not like trying to get a work permit for the US, but still lots of paperwork. We have to get medical exams for all of us, blood work and x-rays. We have to request E's college transcripts and make sure we have notarized copies of birth certificates and our marriage license.We also have to decide on a school on the island for AG because an acceptance letter from a private school has to accompany his work permit application...expat children are not allowed to use the public schools. I guess they want to make sure we have a plan. :)

Q: Um, what about your new job that you are supposed to start next week?
A: I am starting as planned! AG will start school as planned too. Actually, AG and I will probably stay in the US until the end of the semester (first week in December) to finalize everything here in the states. We will be moving in with my parents in the interim between E leaving and us leaving. This is an amazing opportunity for E and our family and I will put my dream job on hold for now. Plus I have a totally understanding, amazing boss who will allow me to teach for as much of, or as little of the semester as I need to. :)

Q: What about your stuff?
A: Nearly everything in the Cayman Islands is rented fully furnished and equipped. We will not need to take much except warm weather clothing. We don't have much furniture that we are attached to (most has been around since we were married 8 years ago), so we will be selling nearly everything...including CARS. If you are close by and in the market for furniture, household items, a Nissan Rogue or an Audi A4, please let us know!
 


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