Another Day on St. Kitts

August 25, 2010

Things I liked about St. Kitts

Soaker tub

Water that doesn’t taste weird

Soft beds

Huge TV with US channels

Balcony

Fridge

Coffee Maker

Air Conditioning

Wings @ pool bar

Fruit water in lobby

Pools

Beach

Clean

Steady 110-volt current with Americanized outlets

Within walking distance of coffee shop with free wifi

Today was an interesting day. I finally went to bed at 5:00ish and slept until 9:30 or so.  I could have slept for days but I wanted to get things going right today.  Dad had gone on a tour of the hotel while I was sleeping, so he wanted to show Mom and me around.   We went down to one of the many gift shops so that Dad could get some matches and a lighter and realized that until we get in touch with either Lime or Digicel, we’d need a way to contact people other than the hotel’s $1/min fee for local charges (!), so we got a phone card.

Next we still had the issue with the missing rental car.  We decided that Dad should be the one to call the Thrifty people at the airport.  He got a voicemail that said they were closed on Sunday.  Great.  We collectively decided that we didn’t want to spend another day at the hotel.  Mom suggested a cab, we instantly vetoed that based on the $12 USD fare each way to town.  Dad mentioned he had noticed that there was a Hertz desk in the hotel’s business center, so we tried them.  After a 20-minute wait, we were informed that the man in front of us had taken the last car.  Crap.  What next?

The Hertz lady suggested that we go to the concierge, that they rented cars too.  We got to the Concierge desk at 11:50, only to find out that Avis, the other major rental company was open from 8:00-11:00, so we were temporarily crestfallen and feeling helplessly stranded until the lady asked us why we didn’t rent with Thrifty.  We explained our situation, that we had planned to but no one was at the airport and then they were closed today, but she told us they were open from 12:00-7:00.  We celebrated and decided to go back to the room for a few minutes until Thrifty was open, when the concierge agreed that she would call them for us and have them pick us up at the hotel.

Thrifty arrived soon after noon in a white, 4-door Yaris in front of the hotel.  The man drove us to the airport, where we met Mr. Herbert, the primary clerk at Thrifty.  He was really nice and gave us maps of the island and said that if we’d just call him before we went to catch a ferry to Nevis, that he’d arrange for Thrifty people from the other island to have a car waiting for us at the port.  We were rented a white Suzuki Swift which was waiting for us in front of the airport when we exited.  The steering wheel was on the normal side, but the speedometer was in kph only.  It was actually bigger than we expected and I think Dad actually liked it.

I thought driving on the left side of the road was going to be an issue.  It was decided that I would sit in the passenger’s seat up front with Dad to remind him of the driving rules while Mom “navigated” from the back seat.  Dad wanted to make sure that we’d be able to get back to the hotel, so that was our first destination.  Initially there were some “stay on the left side of the road” scares, particularly with the roundabouts and when to yield, but Dad got the hang of driving quickly. We made it back to the road that went back to the hotel, but decided that instead of getting back home so quickly, we wanted to go exploring.

We made it to the main road and went into Basseterre.  It was really creepy coming into town because everyone lives in these tiny, generally poorly maintained shacks.  My parents likened it to Mexico.  Also, it is Sunday, so most of the little neighborhood stores were closed up.  For some strange reason, the Kittians elect to park in the opposite direction of traffic, so we had trouble maneuvering around cars that were parked facing us in our lane when the roads only had two lanes to begin with.  We passed the Lime offices and the Subway, which made me feel a little bit better.  On the other side of town by the port, we were passing a large building and I noticed that it said Best Buy on the side.  I remembered this from the forums as a good grocery store, so since we wanted some sundries for the room, we stopped.

Finally my parents got a taste of shopping for groceries on St. Kitts and Nevis.  The grocery store smelled like wet dog and contained an interesting mixture of expired and non-expired goods.  The frozen food section was pretty impressive, but we noticed that all the prices were in ECs.  It was jarring to see things like milk with $20-something EC prices on them, but after my parents got out the calculator and started figuring the prices in USD, they finally figured out why I was so focused on sending plenty of food from the US.  We bought Bugles, water, Crackers, Wine, Sprite, Diet Coke, Bagels and Cream Cheese and it was $96 EC.  We paid $40 USD and were given change in ECs.

When getting back in the car, we noticed that there was an even larger building behind us—it was Caribbean Cinemas—are you kidding?!  They have movie theaters here?!  And…wait…it gets better…right next to the movie theater was a Dominos!  Oh my goodness, civilization is available!  After a second pass by the movie theater, I noticed that the movies were only a couple weeks behind those in the US—they had Salt, Inception, Dinner for Schmucks, and the admission was only $15 EC!

We decided to keep driving, to see more of the island.  We passed Ross and another school and got all the way to a part of the island called Challengers before we decided it looked like it was going to storm and perhaps we should go back.  We started back and realized that we still didn’t know where the ferries departed from, so we went back through Basseterre on the streets closer to the water.  We found a KFC, a Super Foods, and a Ram’s store close to the pier, as well as where to park and catch a ferry.  It was very hopeful for me, knowing that I would be just a ferry away from civilization.

We kept driving through Basseterre and decided we’d try to locate the bank on our way back to the hotel.  We passed the RBC and the Bank of the Caribbean but weren’t able to find a Scotia Bank branch.  We decided we’d ask at the concierge tomorrow.  (The consensus was that tomorrow we would go to Scotia Bank and Lime and try to get the bank account and cell phone set up since both services [we think] are available on St. Kitts in addition to Nevis)

On the road back to the hotel, Dad noticed there was a cute café and wanted to go inside.  More importantly, I noticed there was a small Ram’s Express a couple of storefronts over from the café, so we went there first, looking for sunscreen for Mom (the sunscreen at the hotel was $15 USD—price gouge much?).  It was much nicer than the Best Buy and the prices seemed more reasonable.  Actually they had US Beef in the fridge!

Next we walked into the café and saw at least 2 laptops and decided that they probably had free wifi (in contrast to our hotel who charges $14.95 USD/day).  Before snacking, we went back to the hotel and got our computers and dropped off the groceries.  Upon our return, we found out that they did have free wifi and this place was frequented by med students of some school.  I’m thinking it’s UMHS, because they don’t have dorms and stay at the hotel across the street, the Royal St. Kitts, but oddly enough, I didn’t see UMHS anywhere during our tour.  Odd.  I finally got to try Ting at the café (delish, kinda like Fresca).  Mom and I split a bacon cheeseburger which had an odd taste—all I could think was of UK and goat.  Dad had a Boca Burger and left dissatisfied with the service and the burger.

We took a trip down the road by our hotel to try and see where the Sea Bridge left St. Kitts for Nevis.  We drove for what seemed like miles on a really horrible road that had loads of potholes.  We never did find where the Sea Bridge was (my parents decided it wasn’t worth the trip, that I should definitely take the ferry into Basseterre) but we got as far as the Red Lion Bar at Reggae Beach.  I have a feeling it wasn’t much further but I was outvoted.

We came back to the hotel and Dad was still hungry after his burger, so he convinced me to go down to the Pizza Shack with him to get some pizza.  We got there and the line was horrible, so we continued on to the pool bar.  We had tropical/BBQ wings and Carib draft.  There was a nice breeze off of the ocean and it was really pretty watching the sun set.  Afterwards, we stopped back by the Pizza Shack to bring back some pizza to the room for Mom and discovered a Whirlpool while we were waiting.  We brought back 2 individual Maui pizzas.  We were able to catch most of Big Brother, then Mom took a bath in the soaker tub while waiting for the Design Star finale to come on.  We watched Design Star and then all conked out.

In St. Kitts

August 22, 2010

It is 3:15 in the morning and I’m here in St. Kitts at the Marriott, room 413, sitting on the balcony with a horrible case of insomnia.  But other than that—I’m in paradise.

Finally had my suitcases the way I wanted them at 4:00 yesterday morning and went to bed.  Woke up at 6:30 in the middle of a REM cycle and not wanting to crawl out of my bed, but had to shower and get ready to go.  Had concerns about luggage issues, so after showering, conferred with parents and decided to take some pressure off of our 49.7 lb bags and bulging carry-ons by preparing a 4th bag to check so that overweight bags wouldn’t be an issue for us.  You see, the airline industry has this horrible gimmick set up where it costs $23 to check one bag, and then $32 to check another online, in advance, if you know that you’re going to have an extra bag to check, but if you wait until you get to the airport, the first bag is $25 and the second is $35 or something like that…BUT if you chance it with one bag and that bag is over 50 lbs, the charge for an “overweight” bag (between 51 and 69 lbs) is $50 in addition to the $25.  Better safe than sorry, right?  Maybe not for everyone.  I  met another first semester student (who was going to Ross’s vet school here on St. Kitts) who had 2 checked bags that were evidently 51 lbs each, but was charged the $50 for just the 1 lb over.  So your scale is miscalculated and it costs you $100?  Ouch.

So after we got the 4th bag ready, we headed off for the airport.  I drove, Dad rode in the back, and Mom sat up front.  We stopped, one last time, in Icard for breakfast at McDonalds.  I had one last chicken biscuit and was thinking the whole time how it’d be another 4 months until I would have another.  It was tasty.  We got to the airport with 2 hours to spare before our flight left.  We flagged down a porter with a cart to help take our luggage in, who volunteered to help us check in.  Since we’d checked in online and printed out our boarding passes, the only thing to do was check in the extra bag and print the baggage tickets.  We checked the 4 bags and then waited for Dad to park the car in long-term parking and shuttle back to the terminal.  When he met us, we started through security.  Passport and boarding pass at the ready, we went through the x-ray machines.  For some silly, reason, I was in front and my parents decided not to follow me through my line, so I was by myself.  I took out my laptop, took off my shoes, took out my quart-sized bag of liquids, and put my book bag all in one box, then put my carry-on on the conveyor, but was informed loudly that my book bag should go by itself and my computer would have to be in its own box to go through the x-ray machine.  I complied and walked on through the metal detector.  No beeps per usual.  I went to the other side to wait for my various boxes and bags to come through the machine and noticed that the attendant was alarmed about something.  She motioned for another attendant to come to the screen and then he reached for my carry-on.  He took it over to a searching table and I was instantly relieved that I had lightened the load in my carry-on and straightened my packing.  He opened it up while I was still getting my shoes on and picked up Dad’s container of cappuccino mix, looked at it, asked me if it was coffee, and I said yes.  That was it.  Whew.  So I took my bag and went to wait in the retail area of the terminal, then promptly started laughing.  Mom and Dad I guess had forgotten about having to walk through the metal detector, and left their watches and rings and bracelets on.  Mom realized her mistake, took them off, went back through and was fine.  Dad still couldn’t figure it out, failed the walk-through 3 times, and then was wanded.  First it was his nicotine patch.  But then something in his pants was setting off the wand.  I was about to die from laughter at this point.  Apparently, in a moment of brilliance, Dad had put his usual money clip in his money belt and had forgotten about it.  Until the TSA guy figured this out, Dad was patted down, had to raise his shirt up and roll his pants down.  Wow.  ROFL.

So after we all got through security we went down to the B concourse.  Our gate was supposed to be B1 but was moved to B3.  There was a moderate amount of people there by the time we arrived, but we didn’t have a problem finding 3 seats together.  We took our turns having one last bathroom break, then Dad, who had refused food at McDonalds, decided he was suddenly hungry and went looking for food in the retail shops.  Meanwhile Mom and I played our favorite mean girls game, Oh My Gosh What Is That Person Wearing?.  There was a lady behind us from Jamaica who had moved to St. Kitts with her husband, a practicing anesthesiologist who trained at UWI.  She was visiting family in the states.  She was loudly talking to a catholic couple from upstate New York who was coming to visit their kid in a later semester of med school down here somewhere.  They were asking about where Nevis was relative to St. Kitts and Antigua and the Jamaican lady totally had her geography mixed up and told the couple something wrong that even Mom caught and shook her head at.  We didn’t say anything, just listened to their conversation until Dad got back.  He elected not to get anything because it was so overpriced.

We boarded an unusual Pittsburgh Steelers US Airways plane with Zone 3 after families with small children, first class, and Zone 2.  Seats 16A-C were surprisingly cramped.  I realize you don’t have a lot of room in coach traditionally, but I can’t seem to recall feeling that boxed in.  I had the window seat, Mom was in the middle, and Dad had the aisle.  Taxi and take-off was pretty uneventful.  Apparently there is some new rule that when you’re sitting down you’re required to have your seatbelt on all the time.  That was crap.  I took mine off.  Mom and I read all the magazines they provided while Dad watched Star Trek on his iPad.  When the food cart came by, Dad bought a Turkey Pastrami sandwich and got Mom a Fruit plate.  He offered to get me anything I wanted but overpriced airplane food really isn’t my thing, so I stuck with a Coke Zero.  Mom decided she wanted to watch a DVD she’d brought on my laptop, so I sat the laptop on my tray table while she ate.  When they finished we all went for a bathroom break, then started filling out customs forms.  Apparently this was hard for Dad and Mom thought it was hilarious.

About 15 minutes before we landed, I looked out the window and saw land: beautiful islands in the ocean.  I took a couple pictures.  We landed on St. Kitts and were easily the biggest plane.  It was nice not having to sit on the runway and wait to deplane.  We just pulled up to the building, walked down some stairs that were driven up to the plane, and walked right into Customs and Immigration.  Even though we got off the plane in the middle, somehow we ended up at the back of the Customs line.  There were 3 lines: tourists, immigration, and nationals/residents.  I went into the immigration line and Mom and Dad went into the tourist line.  It turned out that the tourist and immigration lines were the same.  Mom and Dad got out way earlier than I did, so they went down to get the luggage.  When I got to the window, I was asked for my immigration paper, passport, and acceptance letter.  Huge sigh of relief there—I had just remembered to pack the letter that morning—and technically it wasn’t even my acceptance letter, but the letter that said that it’d be ok for me to defer my admission from May to September.  It worked.  I was granted a 31-day visa—my assumption is that MUA covers immigration at orientation and that’s when you get your student visa.

Downstairs, I met Mom and Dad who were standing with a man with a trolley of our luggage and a customs official, in light-hearted conversation.  She said hello and have a good day.  Apparently that was our customs experience.  I didn’t say anything until we got outside, but she hadn’t gone through anything once she found out that I was a student and my parents were just escorting me to the island.  (All around us on the way outside were families having to open their suitcases, etc.)

When we got outside, there was a lady holding a sign with my name on it.  Huh?  I had emailed my itinerary to MUA days before, told them I was flying into St. Kitts and staying at the Marriott but that we were planning on getting a rental car and they pretty much said “ok, you’re on your own” or so I thought.  But they had sent someone named Daisy who ran her own Taxi service to come pick me up.  My parents were surprised—said it was like something out of a movie.  Daisy took us to the Marriott after we found out that the Thrifty car rental people had gone home for the day and not left us a key for our car.

The drive to the Marriott was interesting.  It made me nervous about driving on the left side of the road.  There aren’t stop signs, rather many roundabouts, and it’s difficult to flip things in your mind and figure out who has the right of way.  We shared Daisy’s taxi with a 2nd semester MUA student from Chicago who was coming back from Atlanta with his wife (?)/girlfriend (?).  My parents talked to them on the way back while Daisy talked my ear off.  Apparently he had taken a 12-year break between undergrad and now, and had come down to MUA and done premed 1 and 2 and Med 1 already.  He said it was tough and his best advice was to bring a tape recorder to class until you can understand what the teachers are trying to say under their thick accents, and also when they tell you in anatomy that you don’t have to know something (like the origins and insertions of muscles), not to listen to them and know it any way (or else the motions wouldn’t make sense).  He said that living in the dorms the first semester would be easier and his friend said that the spouses of students club on campus was very active and awesome.  Guess she’s not biased? 😉  They hadn’t had any luck finding a car on Nevis, but were renting a 1 bedroom close to Rawlins.  They were taking the Sea Bridge ferry over.  I found out via a magazine on the flight that there are the regular ferries in Basseterre that take passengers to Charlestown, BUT there’s also the Sea Bridge which takes passengers and cars from a town a little further up from the Marriott down to a place on Nevis called Cades Bay.  This was exciting news because it means that if I find a car on St. Kitts that I want, it can be brought to Nevis relatively easily, and also that if I have a car on Nevis, I can drive it over to St. Kitts for the weekend relatively easily, should I wish to spend a weekend here at the Marriott every now and then.  Also, the Sea Bridge only costs $6 USD each way vs. the regular ferries which are $10.  And finally, Charlestown is literally on the other side of the island from the school—we were looking at the map and it’d be a toss-up whether or not you went along the upper half of the island or the lower half of the island to get to the school.  Cades Bay, on the other hand, is North of Charlestown, so that it provides a quick route to the school.  The couple did caution, however, that there aren’t taxis waiting at Cades Bay—you need to make arrangements for someone to pick you up if you don’t have a car.  Hmmm, interesting.

So at the hotel, we were met with some tasty fruit-juice based concoction at the door, which was delicious because we were all drenched in sweat.  I had on jeans and a T-shirt and thought I was dying and would have to have someone peel them off my heat-stroked body.  A porter collected our bags for us and Mom and Dad went to check in.  We ended up on the 4th floor with a view of the town.  The hotel is open to air in the middle and at the top, but still has a roof, it’s confusing.  So we walked for what seemed like forever in this stifling heat, until we came to our room, opened up the door, and felt a rush of air conditioning.  Heaven set at 70 degrees.  The room is really nice.  The floors are marble, there’s a mini fridge, coffee maker, hair dryer, soaking tub, balcony, desk, and even a bidet.  There’s crown moulding, a tray ceiling, and gorgeous valences.  All this for $90 a night?  Oh and did I forget the HUGE LG flat screen tv with US channels?  Yeah, I think I will be taking breaks here.

We watched some TV and cooled down.  Mom and Dad unpacked their carry-ons and we decided to go downstairs to the poolside bar for happy hour since we had no rental car.  We suddenly figured out how they made their money: their definition of happy hour was 3 drinks that were half price.  Carib draft beer was $1.50, and shots of Bacardi white rum and Smirnoff Vodka were half price.  Everything else was full price and expensive!  Nachos were $11, a fruit plate was $8, a side salad was $8, and tropical wings (which were very tasty) were $10.  Dad got a strawberry daiquiri which was $8 (and tasty and pretty) and Mom got a margarita which was also $8 but NASTY! Our bill was $60 for bar food and a drink a piece!  There was this cute kitten sleeping at the bar, which woke up and begged for food from us.  Precious.

After we finished, we walked on the beach and marveled at the blue water.  It looked like it might rain, so we walked past the condos, back up to the room.  We were all hot, sweaty, salty, and tired.  We couldn’t believe it was only 7:00 but one by one, we all changed into our PJs and went to bed watching HGTV—House Hunters in Asheville!  Mom had her own bed but I had to share with Dad.  They both snore terribly and I don’t think I ever slept more than 30 minutes.  I really wished I’d brought my Benadryl and deluded believed for a minute that I did.  But then I remembered it was at home.  This could be a problem.

I tried until 2:00 to sleep, but then finally gave up and went outside.  I tried to fall back asleep on the lounge on the balcony but could not.  So I came back in here and tried out the wireless.  No free networks.  Ethernet is $15 for 24 hours.  A rip but it might be necessary later on.  I listened to my iPod and played hearts for quite a while, sitting here in front of the sink with the bathroom light on.  My feet kept falling asleep so I went outside on the balcony.  The mosquitoes started eating me alive, so now I’m back in the floor in front of the sink.  Mom was awake when I came in, but now it sounds like they’re both back asleep.  It’s 4:25 so it’ll be at least another half hour or so before they wake up.  I don’t know what I’ll do today, I know I’ll need sleep but what’s there to do?  I should be absolutely exhausted.  I only slept 2 hours yesterday.  Oh well.  I’m assuming Dad will make arrangements to get a rental car today, but other than driving around St. Kitts, there’s not much to do.  We can’t spend very long at the hotel because everything here except the room is crazy expensive.  Both Mom and Dad gave me crap about bringing energy bars and snacks but after last night, we’ve decided that we can really only afford to eat out one meal a day and we’ll probably make it supper.

Until tomorrow, then.

The Last Book is Here

August 12, 2010

My last textbook arrived today!  I waited until the last minute (literally some of my books had until the 23rd to arrive–I leave on the 21st–that would not work) but now they’re all here and thankfully can be packed in my suitcase to go down to the islands and never come back!  There were so many mixed opinions on which books should be bought…it was hard to make up my mind.  According to the MUA bookstore link, these are the books:

Cell Bio/Histology:

Color Atlas of Histology
by Gartner
ISBN: 0781788722
ISBN-13: 9780781788724
Edition: 5
Required

ISBN: 0781772214
ISBN-13: 9780781772211
Edition: 5
Required

ISBN: 0071402888
ISBN-13: 9780071402880
Edition: 3
Recommended

ISBN: 0781770572
ISBN-13: 9780781770576
Edition: 11
Recommended

ISBN: 0071630201
ISBN-13: 9780071630207
Edition: 12
Recommended
Embryology:
ISBN: 1416037063
ISBN-13: 9781416037064
Edition: 8
Required

ISBN: 0781790697
ISBN-13: 9780781790697
Edition: 11
Recommended
Gross Anatomy:

ISBN: 160406062X
ISBN-13: 9781604060621
Edition: 1
Required

ISBN: 0781799155
ISBN-13: 9780781799157
Edition: 4
Required

by Tank
ISBN: 0781774314
ISBN-13: 9780781774314
Edition: 14
Required

ISBN: 1416059512
ISBN-13: 9781416059516
Edition: 5
Recommended

ISBN: 0781771749
ISBN-13: 9780781771740
Edition: 6
Recommended
Informatics & Evidence-Based Medicine:
ISBN: 007159034X
ISBN-13: 9780071590341
Edition: 2
Required
A lot of books, eh?  Just buying the required books from the bookstore would run you $420.97 plus shipping.  Add the recommended books and you’re up to a whopping $768.01!  As with everything else related to attending a Caribbean Med School, I researched the forums on all these textbooks and go figure, they’re not all necessary.  In fact, there were several comments that said that all of the lessons are given off of powerpoints and no books are technically required in any class.  If it was just one comment, I would have been concerned but still at least bought the required books, but there were many people that said the same thing.  There were a lot of people that said to completely disregard the book list and buy BRS (Board Review Series) for all of the subjects except IEBM (because there isn’t a BRS book for this class).  I decided to buy based on a mixture of the 2 top suggestions, here are the books I decided to get–
Gross Anatomy:
Cell Biology/Histology:
Embryology:
Misc:
I went ahead and got BRS for each of the subjects, but then for anatomy…since it’s so important…I decided to get the recommended books too.   Obviously I got older editions of almost everything–typically I’m all for getting the latest edition, treating my books nicely, and then reselling them used on Amazon for extra book funds for the upcoming semester, but transporting books back and forth from Nevis, where it would literally cost an arm and a leg to ship books to people in the US if they bought them, it’s just not worth it.   The editions from yesteryear can be bought for pennies and kept/destroyed/potentially sold to incoming students without thinking another thing about them.
Also there were a lot of people on the forums, a lot of senior people who are working on their clinicals or who are even in residency, who said that if they had one thing to change about school, it would have been to start reviewing for the Step 1 earlier.  They all said not to panic about it, but that it would be a good idea to pick up a copy of First Aid (the year doesn’t matter) to review right before final exams and throughout basic sciences so that you are not caught off-guard when you start your fifth semester of solid review for the Step 1.  The other two books were out of personal curiosity and a lingering feeling that I’m forgetting something major.  I hope I’m not, but I think they cover all of the issues that may or may not pertain to semi-civilized life on Nevis.
The only potential complication with the extra books is that for them to be most effective, I should probably read them before I leave, and if I have many more days like today, that won’t be possible.  I spent my day going around Burke county, running errands for my parents, then Dad came home and wanted me to go to the fairgrounds and help him with prepping them for the upcoming Drexel Community Fair next week.  It was obviously hot outside so I did my best to prepare for the weather and the on-coming sweat storm–shorts, t-shirt, hair up, hair band.  For 3 hours we scrubbed the exhibit hall, cleaned/de-wasped the ticket booths, moved heavy benches, and de-tangled the hoses.  And came home dripping in sweat.  Eeew it was so gross.  Soaked gouchos, soaked shirt, soaked everything.  And the burny feeling when sweat drips in your eyes.  Now I’m just exhausted.  And Dad informs me that at least he has to go back tomorrow night.  Ugh.  So tired.  Taking Advil and going to bed.  Will pack the books later.

Back Home

August 10, 2010

The beach was…interesting…as most would imagine any trip with 3 significantly older women would be.   I’m happy to be home.  And what a pleasant surprise–my books are starting to trickle in and were sitting on the kitchen table, still in their wrapping, just waiting for me to find out which ones had arrived.  Thus spawns a tangent:

I received a book in the mail today from a seller who is obviously a major corporation, called T****** C*** Books.  It’s important to look at a seller’s rating when buying books on Amazon because, especially in my case, you want a seller with a good reputation who will sell you a used book with an accurate description and will ship it IN A TIMELY MANNER.  In most cases, you pay them an extra $4 on top of the purchase price to package it and ship it to you within a couple weeks, and in most cases they use a USPS service called Media Mail which ends up landing them extra profit because it’s a dirt cheap service and definitely doesn’t cost $4. So I chose this company because they had a great rating in the high 90s, had sold thousands of books, and advertised “next day” shipping.  I ordered the book on the 3rd, and it got here on the 10th, via Media Mail.  The issue was that this was a rather thick PAPERBACK anatomy book, so instead of springing for an extra $0.50 to get a padded mailer and cutting into their additional profit out of the $4, they put it in a regular, thin, plastic envelope with no padding, so by the time it arrived at my house, there were huge holes in the package and had it not been taped, it would have ripped open.  I frowned at it, opened it up all the way to make sure my book wasn’t damaged (it wasn’t), and started flipping through it.  Also in the package was an industrially printed mailing label receipt and a bookmark asking me to rate the transaction.  I thought I would oblige.  I logged on to Amazon and went to rate the transaction.  I gave all of my other transactions 5 stars because they arrived within a week, they were carefully packaged and the books were as they had been described.  I gave this particular transaction 3 stars because the shipping was not “next day” as described and the packaging was so poor.  Almost instantaneously I received a form email from this corporation wanting me to email them and tell them exactly what was wrong with the transaction that made me give them (1 or 2 or 3) stars instead of 4 or 5.  Had they actually read the comments, I told them exactly what they needed to know, that the packaging was shoddy and had it been a rainy day, my book would have been ruined because of the gaping holes.  I read further in the email and they said that if I didn’t want to contact them, then for me to log on to Amazon and remove my rating, where they then proceeded to give me the instructions on receiving feedback.  I promptly deleted the email.  I was almost annoyed enough to log back on and change my rating from a 3 star to just 1 star.  I think in the future I will stick with the Mom and Pop sellers with good ratings, who I know will put my book in a decent mailer and not give me a guilt trip about having an opinion.  What a joke.

I still have 9 hours of Big Brother After Dark to catch up on, but I’ve got two new leisure reads on attending Caribbean Medical Schools and preparing that require my attention before next Friday.  And Dad warns that duties with the fair will pick up soon.  So I suppose I’ll just read the Big Brother spoilers and hit the books.

Beach

August 5, 2010

Getting ready to go to the beach for my last domestic vacation before the big move.  I’m excited, though nervous as well because I’ll be the youngest person on the trip by at least 30 years.  I’m going with my grandma, her friend, and her friend’s sister, all of whom are in at least their 50s with my grandma the eldest at 76, though you’d never know it by looking at her–she moisturizes.  I have a carry-on with clothes, toiletries, full size hairdryer (Have you seen my hair? This is a necessity.), sleep sack, compressed pillow, and beach accessories.  Alas, there is no room for my laptop and no guarantee by the hotel’s website that free wi-fi is available so I might be incommunicado for a while.  I’m bringing my touch to break the awkward silences, so if I do manage to find internet I’ll be able to check in with it.  There is a car for sale on the forums that I’ve emailed interest about, thank you Blackberry in advance for telling me if this seller emails me back.  Normally cars on the island cost from $3-6k, but someone has listed a [real junker?] 1993 AUTOMATIC for sale for $1100 obo.  I really hope it pans out–how cool would it be to have a car first semester?!

And so it begins…

August 2, 2010

Today, in theory, I am supposed to ship my 3 approximately 100 lb. shipping containers to Nevis which contain, approximately, my life and most things to make me comfortable while on the island.  I say ‘in theory’ because originally the trucking company (who is bringing the boxes from Valdese down to Tropical’s shipping port in Miami) was supposed to come pick up the boxes at 10:00 this morning.  I got a call at 9:15 from Tropical wanting to know what my email address was so that they could send me the bill of lading, oh and by the way, when did you want the truck to come this afternoon? Rather than digressing and letting the unsuspecting Tropical employee know that I am stuck in a third shift schedule and have been awake since 3:00 yesterday afternoon and don’t really care to be awake for a full 24 hours until the truck comes 5 hours later than originally scheduled, I answered ‘as soon as possible, thank you, have a nice day, bye.’

This is precisely the crappy aspect of having to rely so heavily on other people to do your bidding–if I was anything other than polite and patient, there’s a strong likelihood that my containers could end up lost between here and Miami or worse, on some other boat in some other island nation.  Unfortunately, from what I’ve read, this is just the start of  learning to get things accomplished on “island time” (aka whenever they feel like it).  There are many frustrated cautions on the forums of people who have needed something urgently and have ended up getting royally screwed over because the island people are taking their time.  A particularly sucky example, which I’m grateful to have foreknowledge of, is that classes are from 8-3:30 (at the earliest, usually 5ish) Monday-Friday, however the local bank in town (25 minutes’ ride away) is open 8-3ish, with a lunch break where they’re closed.  So…my only interaction with the bank (after I get my account set up) is going to be through weekend ATM trips.  Great.

But back to the subject at hand, the boxes: Box 1 is definitely the heaviest and consists mainly of food items (non-perishables).  Box 2 has fluff and technology, pillows and printer, among other common household goods like coffee cups, ant killer, and detergent.  Finally Box 3, what feels like the lightest of the boxes, has more household goods but most importantly, kitchen appliances, a la rice cooker, hot plate, water filter pitcher, ooh and clothes steamer since I’m going anti-$8/load washer and dryer.  I took pictures to show off my hard work and mad taping/labeling skills. 😉

A Lengthy Break

August 1, 2010

A week after I’m officially done with work, I’m chilled enough to blog and catch up.  Admittedly, my long hiatus was due to the fact that I knew that I had a reader, possibly more, and the creepiness of watching him read what I had written.  Who watches the watchers?  Creepy.

When I finally figured out how brief my remaining time at work was going to be, I was initially sad, not to leave the job, of course, but to be leaving my work friends.  Even though I took weeks off in the interim time between work weeks, when I spent multiple 12-hour shifts with people, I did a considerable amount of bonding–especially– in the humbling kind of work that I was in.  When it’s just you and a nurse standing over someone with a tube going into/coming out of every orifice, you earnestly try and think of anything other than what you’re staring at to discuss and consequently end up learning a lot about each other.

I would call them more, but the way the schedule changes, I don’t want to interrupt them during their precious down time.  When you work 12-hour shifts, your family dynamics change dramatically.  At least in my case, on work days all I did was work and sleep; had a had a husband or kids [like most of the people I worked with], I would not have had the energy to socialize and therefore would have spent my days off catching up [as I assume they do].  Most days I woke up at 4:45, showered, got ready, then left at 6:00 to drive to the hospital [most people have at least a 30 minute commute because no one can afford to live in Chapel Hill proper].  I worked from 7:00 (pm)-7:30 (am) [usually later], and typically made it back to my car by 8:15.  If going straight back to Ila’s, the drive was 30-45 minutes then it was changing out of gross work clothes, washing up, and resetting the alarm–I was lucky to be asleep by 9:30.  That gave me a little over 7 hours of sleep until I woke up and started it all over again.                                                                         But then there are the extras.  Depending on who you worked with, it was rude to leave and go to your car without certain people or at least you should generously check in on them and make sure there’s nothing you can do to help them before you leave.  Obviously, some people are perpetually stuck there late, catching up on charting, but then there are some veterans who are never late leaving, but every now and then get one of those 5 or 6:00 train wrecks that requires either leaving the on-coming nurse with a mess or a couple hours of supplemental charting to get everything back in order.                                                                                                                              I found out, through unfortunate trial and error, that I need at least 4 hours of sleep to be coherent and not a whiny baby during the next night, so that’s how breakfasts and morning activities are possible.

Other than missing my peeps, life has been lackluster.  My exit from UNC hospitals employment was uneventful.  Management didn’t really give me a proper good-bye–who could see that coming?  Finally was shut out of email on Thursday, though unfortunately before my pay stub was emailed to me…sucks.  Tropical is supposed to come and pick up the shipping containers on Monday, so the ‘rents are panicking even though they’ve been packed, inventoried, and labeled for weeks now.  We’re supposed to go to Lenoir today to pick up a birthday present, and too, Mom’s obligated herself to go help clean out my dead grandpa’s trailer.  I should probably go help, but I’ll most likely sleep today instead.  I could have taken something to go to bed earlier, but what’s the point?  I get 2 hours of grumpy parents, then to go run errands I’m not really enthused about…I pick sleep.  That’s not to say I haven’t been productive today, though.  I planned 2 weeks of meals and went to the grocery store today, then tonight when I was up by myself, I unpacked, edited, and repacked the first of the three full-size <50 lb. suitcases.  It’s mostly school supplies.  I had a bunch of crap in there that I thought would be good for school supplies 6 months ago, but now I’m thinning out to what will really be useful and what the forums suggest.  Somehow, I only had a 1.5 inch binder in there, along with the clipboard that will get nasty and be used in anatomy.  I bought 3 3″ binders because that’s what the forum suggested, and too, if I follow-through with my plan of printing out the powerpoints and taking written notes on them in class, I’m going to end up with a lot of notes.  Oddly enough, though, I still don’t have an adequate 3-hole puncher, which seems somewhat essential.

Currently, I’m watching Big Brother After Dark (sort of–it’s pretty superficial), staring at my suitcase and thinking about whether or not there is something else I should bring or try to pack.  I can’t shake this lingering feeling that my shipping containers could be more appropriately packed.  I keep wanting to re-pack them but then when you actually try to move them, or open up the lid and see the organized chaos within, the feeling goes away long enough for you to close the lid and sit back down.

I’m supposed to go to the beach this Thursday with my grandma, her friend, and her friend’s sister.  I’m trying my damnedest to get my mom to come along.  I haven’t been with my grandma on a vacation since we went to the beach before I was in grade school…um 20ish years or so?  Sure I’ll have fun, but I’m so apprehensive.  That’s a long car ride.

It sounds like someone upstairs is awake.  I should go.  It’s almost bedtime anyway.