OISK (only in St. Kitts)

I was reading a fellow missionary’s blog this morning, and she discussed numerous bits of life in Cambodia. It got me thinking about those little things about living here that make this experience so unique, so unlike America, so unlike anything we’ve experienced before, and thought I’d share in a few to give you a little more of a glimpse of life on de island.

BUGS. Lots of them, and everywhere. There are these little tiny sugar ants, and they cover most surfaces. As I’m sitting typing this, I’ve already removed one from my arm. They no longer gross me out and barely bother me, they’re just a part of life. Centipedes, however… that’s a different story. SPAWN. OF. SATAN. Not only is their appearance terrifying, they’re also poisonous. They seem to have made home in our bathtub drains right now… YUCK (and scary). Also, lizards! You’ll frequently catch them out of the corner of your eye scurrying high up on the wall or across the floor. Lizards are our friends, because they eat the mosquitos, so we just leave them be. We find lots of dead baby geckos… also frequently in the bath tub! Our kids love catching them!

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Horrific, huh?!

FOOD. We are able to find most things we frequently bought in America, which is nice, but they cost a lot more in most instances. A box of generic cereal costs $4.45. A gallon of milk is $6.30. A small individual container of yogurt is $1.50 for one. Coffee? ugh. For a 12 oz. bag of dunkin donuts, it costs $16 US DOLLARS. (Thus the reason we have everyone bring coffee when they come. And whole bean coffee doesn’t exist here!!!). For the most part, though, we are able to eat most of our favorite foods, and the changes we have made in our weekly eating have been for our better— more whole foods, fresh ingredients, less processed junk. Here, it is actually cheaper to eat healthy, very contrary to America. However, we are limited to what’s in season and what is grown here.

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Asher loves the local mangos! (And honestly… you haven’t had a mango until you’ve eaten one on island!)

We have locals in our house weekly, and it’s been really fun to watch them experience American food. Last week, we had a group of 10 college aged students here, and I made a taco bar with ground beef and chicken and all the taco toppings you could ever want. Of the group, only 3 had ever had tacos. They LOVED it! They raved about it, and ALL of the food got eaten. :) I was really glad!!! I’ve also made baked ziti, which had never been had and was dubbed ‘the best food ever eaten’ by Tishan, so that was great. Others have found our American food too heavy and too rich.  We really love the local Caribbean food– lots of rice and beans and chicken, fresh tropical fruit, macaroni pie, the sweetest juice you’ve ever tasted. :)

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Also, there’s not really fast food. We have a couple of american chains- kentucky fried chicken, chesters chicken, dominoes pizza!- but it’s not really FAST food, if you catch my drift. :) Mostly, there are street side stands and big grills where people will buy a quick lunch, and that food is GOOD. :)

CUSTOMER SERVICE. Oh, this was a difficult one to adjust to, but we’ve come to learn that it’s just different. We have to view the island through a different lens, not just compared to America. It’s hard because it’s been very Americanized in certain spots and you expect typical American service, but that’s just not how it goes. The customer is not always right, and is often an inconvenience— on first appearance. We have found though, that just being friendly, making conversation, asking about their day, etc. can make a WORLD of difference. We’ve become familiar faces at the grocery store and are greeted weekly with questions about our kiddos and what I’m cooking with these American ingredients and how homeschooling is going- I’m thankful for those relationship that have developed!

DRIVING. Well, for starters, you drive on the other side of the road. THAT takes getting used to. Then throw in pot holes to dodge, cars pulling over without warning to just chat with some passerby, and cars parked lining the already very-narrow streets, it was very intimidating for me to jump in. Our van is a Honda Odyssey, but the steering wheel is on the right side of the van, there are no sliding doors, and basically the whole roof is a giant sun roof! (Perfect for baking people with the Caribbean sun.) We love it, though, and are so thankful for it!! Once, Jordan hit a monkey crossing the street with the van!!

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I followed this truck the other day… Those water bottles were not strapped down at all, and would lean when the (very slow moving) truck would turn!

LANGUAGE. Thankfully, this island is an english-speaking one, though sometimes, you question whether or not they’re actually speaking the same language that we do. Accents are thick (think Cool Runnings!), dialect is different, slang is very new to us. My favorite is, “Me Ahm!” which is ‘me arm’ which is ‘my arm’ which is like saying, “Oh dang!”. :) I love listening to the locals talk to each other and think it’s really beautiful. I have found that as often as I have to say, “what?” to them, the same is true of them to us. WE can be difficult to understand, which surprised me. Except instead of saying ‘what’ to me, they’ll often say, “Hello?” when they don’t catch what I’m saying.

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translation: stop here and call, no come in. (Also, a fun fact, instead of just knocking, people will stop at the door and yell through the window, “inside!”)

CULTURE. I love love love love the friendliness and politeness of this culture. You are greeted with a ‘hello’ or ‘good afternoon’ by most you encounter on the street, and by everyone who enters the door of a building. When you ask ‘how are you?’ the response is often, “I am giving thanks”. I love that. Our family is somewhat of a spectacle when we’re all out together, and we are regularly asked if they’re all ours, if Jordan is the father of them all, and are told that we’re very fruitful. The younger kids will frequently come up and start rubbing our hair. Last week at the children’s home, I had a handful of girls surrounding me and platting my hair, saying that it felt just like dolly hair.

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We have seen a little bit of stereotyping because we are Americans. Because we are white, we must be wealthy. (Don’t get me wrong– compared to many, we do have SO MUCH.) But because of that, there seems to be a freedom to just ask for our stuff, ask us to buy their groceries while we ourselves are checking out, etc. Often, the children are sent to ask us to do so. That’s been a tricky thing in my heart– vacillating between feeling heartbroken at the need and being frustrated at the assumptions. A new territory for us. Also, as many have already heard, we have been targeted for theft. We got robbed again this week— Corban’s new bike (that we just had brought down to us from America) was stolen, as well as Jordan’s soccer cleats. We are definitely being closely watched/regularly checked– the first time the bike was stolen, it was the only night we had ever left the bike out over night. This week, we had gone into town to the park and had taken the bikes, and had left them in the back of the church van over night. The first time we had ever done so. We live on the very top of a hill, on a dead end street. There is zero foot traffic up here, and our cars are parked far off the street anyway– there’s no way that it was just seen on accident. Not a crime of opportunity– we are being checked. Very unsettling and unnerving and frustrating, you know? Again, thankful it’s just stuff, no one hurt and harmed, but the third time in five months is pretty discouraging. Anyway, moving on!! :)

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CHILDREARING. Again, something very different from America. If I’m out with Asher and it’s sunny, I’ll be told he needs a hat or I need an umbrella to shield him from the sun. If it’s rainy or cloudy, he needs socks and pants (despite the 85 degree temps!). If I’m cradling him, I need to support his bottom. If you’re holding him on your hip, it’s bad for his legs, etc. etc. etc. At first, I’ll be honest- I was offended! How dare they critique my every parenting move?! I’m a fourth time mom, I got this! :) ha! But, the longer we are here, the more I see their hearts in it— the mentality of this island is very much, “it takes a village”. While the ins and outs of raising a child look different in so many ways, their heart, as a whole, is to look after the children. I had been taken aback by the freedoms kids so young are given, walking to Kids Club by themselves at age 3 or 4, wandering through downtown, I couldn’t figure it out. But we had an experience that was eye-opening and painted a very clear picture for us. We were dropping off a little boy, Shackaun, and his sister, Kameesha, who hang out with us every Sunday. They were going to hop out of the car and cross the street to get to their home. We told them to wait, but the little girl started to go, and a bus (15 passenger van) was coming and slammed on his breaks. He immediately was angry and swearing at us, and then concluded, “Mon, you gotta look out for the kids! You ALWAYS look out for the children!” and then drove off. Truly, that is the mindset here, the clearest picture of ‘It takes a village’ that I’ve ever seen.

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Anyway, we thought it would be fun to share in a little bit of island life with you! We’ve got some exciting things coming up on our calendar: This Sunday, we will be attending the church that our new friends go to for ‘non-nationals Sunday’! We are excited to get to see and experience their church! Then on next Thursday, Olivia will arrive, and we are all SO excited for that. And then the Thursday after that, I, Kristen, will be heading to America for 9 days to work– I’ve got two weddings and currently 10 photo sessions on the calendar. I’m REALLY excited about all things about this trip, except for the fact that Jordan and the kids won’t be with me. Anyway, in between there, we’ve got some fun ministry things happening as well- Jordan continues to meet with some men and really develop relationships and have the opportunity to really pour and train! It’s an exciting time for us here in St. Kitts.

Enjoy your weekend!!!

Comments

  1. Susan Hutson says:

    Very interesting. Thanks for sharing. Really enjoyed reading this. :0)

  2. This was an awesome post to read!! The language thing cracks me up. :-) you are so amazing— and so faithful to following Gods call for your family. Thank you for what you are doing. Keep it up!

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