Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The Island Car!

Hello again, readers! The past week has been really busy, with a lot of different things having to be addressed. One of the biggest things i've had to be dealing with is transportation. I decided not to ship my car down from the mainland, since I figured the cost and added depreciation didn't make much economic sense. When I got here, I rented a car, and set about looking for something to last me for the duration of my contract. I didn't want to spend a lot of money on a vehicle, but I wanted something I could at least recoup some of my money from when I leave the islands. After finding out about a mechanic who does work for several court employees, I ended up buying a 1997 Jeep Wrangler. Apparently these vehicles sell quickly on the island, it's easy to find parts for them, and they do have 4 wheel drive, which may come in handy during hurricane season. Yesterday I paid for it (thanks to the Post Office for having money orders) and went to the DMV, which was an interesting experience to say the least. The fact I was able to get the car bought, insured, and the title transferred in 4 hours is apparently considered quick. There are still some minor things that need to be done to it (new rear tires, the interior light bulbs need replacing, rear view mirror has to be glued back onto the windshield, new cover getting shipped in from the mainland, etc.), but I hope to have all that taken care of by Friday, and all in all I think the jeep should do the job:

I will hopefully be showing you photos of my new apartment soon as well. I finally was able to work out a lease, and I think the place I settled on is a good choice. Haggling seems to be the name of the game down here, but I feel pretty good about the deals i've gotten so far. Throughout this whole experience, the most valuable thing i've learned is to not let stress and anxiety overwhelm you. There are many things that are hard to deal with when coming from a faster paced, more results-oriented environment, but the flipside of that is that the pressure is off in situations where I would usually be under stress. Anyway, more soon!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Days 7-17

Sorry for the long delay, readers! This has been a rather interesting week on the island, mostly because I have barely been able to get 3G service on my phone. Since I haven't finalized a permanent apartment, either, I don't have wifi, so sometimes updating can be a challenge to say the least!

In any case, the past 10 days since my last post have been interesting. I have found what amounts to probably the best Sunday brunch spot on the island, The Palms. It's about 5 minutes from where i'm staying right now, and the prices can't really be beat for what you get. I will say that the cost of eating out is generally higher than what it is in the south, though not nearly as much as people seem to imply on the message boards. For example, brunch dishes here usually run about $10-15. However, you do get some fringe benefits for your dollar, like this view from the table (yes, I was eating when I took this):

Meanwhile, back at work, i'm finding legal research to be a unique task. While I do have access to the normal 'tools of the trade,' such as Westlaw, the old fashioned digest tends to be the most effective resource I have, along with our Court Rules book. Even our digest comes in Carribbean Blue :-):

Lunchtime at the court continues to be dominated by the vegetarian truck. I never have been a vegetarian, but I think the vegetarian options on the island would make it pretty easy to pull off. On Friday, I had vegetarian lasagna, which I thought was surprisingly good:

One great thing about here is that there is always some new and exciting vista to see. A few mornings ago, while doing my morning exercise, I was able to snap this sunrise photo:

On Sunday, I decided to seek out a few new places to look at. My final destination was Point Udall, which is the easternmost point in American territory. The point offers spectacular vistas of the Caribbean, and one really feels like he's at the end of the world/country/etc. when visiting. Here's a photo of the actual end of the island:

The drive to Point Udall wasn't too bad, but it had its rugged moments. I've been impressed that my little Toyota rental car has done so well with the driving so far. The flipside to the narrow roads and questionable pavement is that you get some pretty amazing views from your car. This is actually at Point Udall, but shows the route I took to get there:

All in all, every day here (so far) brings about a new discovery and adventure. The panorama function on the iPhone has never been so valuable. This next week should bring some interesting posts, as i'm (fingers crossed) finalizing a car and apartment here on the island. Haggling is the name of the game, which is an experience in itself, so stay tuned. In the meantime, here's a parting panorama of Point Udall:



Friday, February 8, 2013

Days 4-6

Well, readers, my adventures continue down here in the USVI! Work keeps going at a pleasant pace. So far, I find the legal work both challenging and interesting, without the negatives generally associated with the profession (stress, poor relations between colleagues, etc.) Perhaps the one thing that's been most challenging so far is convincing people that the USVI is, in fact, in America! I thought i'd take a photo of the flag pole in front of our courthouse to prove that the USVI continues to be part of the United States:

Note the Stars and Stripes, right by our USVI territorial flag, which includes the eagle from the U.S. seal. I will say, however, that while the USVI is politically part of the United States, culturally it is much more a part of the West Indies. There do seem to be many advantages to that, though. All the people here have been among the friendliest and most welcoming i've ever met. I've had complete strangers walk up to me, welcome me, and shake my hand. Individuals on the court staff have even dropped by my office to see how I was doing and if I was enjoying myself.

I believe that a little respect for Virgin Islanders and their beautiful home really does go a long way. Local Crucians (as St. Croix natives are called) greet one another depending on the time of day (Good Morning, Good Afternoon, Good Day, Good Night). I have learned that one is expected to extend this greeting to literally everyone he passes. The hardest part of this is getting used to using "Good Night" as a greeting, but hopefully i'll get there.

The food down here has definitely surprised me. I'm definitely not a vegetarian. However, about the best food i've found near my office comes from a vegetarian food truck. I think it's vegetarian to cater to the local Rastafarian community; nonetheless, even though I don't expect to be growing dreadlocks any time soon, the vegetarian dishes are pretty awesome (see below.)

The food truck in question is within sight of the courthouse where I work. While my own office doesn't have a view, our suite does. I can definitely say the view is amazing and unique:

Still on the topic of food, I also tried a local pastry called a pate (pronounced like the french word). Basically, it reminds me of a large version of the curry puff pastry, which was popular in Singapore, another tropical island I lived on about a decade ago. Basically, it seems to be a puff pastry filled with some sort of meaty filling. I tried both the beef and the conch fillings. I have to admit I didn't really like the conch very much, and I think these are pretty oily, so they will probably be eaten sparingly. The beef, though, was pretty solid:

In any case, my days here continue to be pleasant and interesting. I tentatively believe that moving here was a great decision.



Monday, February 4, 2013

Days 1 to 3

Greetings from the USVI! Because of issues with wifi (or a lack thereof) I am currently using my iPhone for just about everything. Hopefully I will be able to get that issue resolved soon! In any case, I thought I would begin with a short recap of my trip so far.

I arrived here on Saturday night, which went smoother than I imagined it would. I was met at the airport by my rental car company, who then drove me to their office, which is ironically just down the road from where I am working. I was met there by the guy I'm renting from, who has proven very helpful to me so far. Pretty much at the end of the day I was done, so I promptly went to bed. I can't say too much about what I saw then because it was dark and I was exhausted.

Sunday morning brought some interesting experiences, though. I woke up to the view from my condo (see photo above). The view made it all worthwhile. Later in the day the landlord took me out to a Super Bowl party where I met a bunch of great people, most of whom were transplants to the island.

I also went to the grocery store. Things are definitely more expensive here, and the quality of food available in the stores is not quite as high as what we're used to on the mainland. Nonetheless, it wasn't as bad as I anticipated. I also have found out that there are good options for local produce and meat on the island if one knows where to look.

Day 3 was my first day at work. Everyone has been friendly so far, and I really can't complain. I have a new office, and I experienced my first local food at the chicken shack. My boss did tell me that it's easy to put on weight here, so I'll have to be vigilant and keep the visits to the chicken shack to a minimum.

All in all I like the island so far. Everyone seems really nice. I am having to learn to accept things moving according to "island time," which requires a bit of patience. However, waking up in the tropics with a sea view is a pretty awesome benefit in itself.



Friday, February 1, 2013

Preparing for the Journey

I should premise this post by saying i'm a terrible packer. I've truly never been good at it. When I lived in Singapore, I would literally pack in the hours just prior to my flight, and I wouldn't be back for 4-5 months! This time i'm trying to be a little better about it, though.

I am flying down to the USVI with three checked bags. I am trying to get to as close to my 150 lb limit as possible. Since this will be all i'm bringing beyond a few minor items being shipped (mainly my diplomas), it really isn't excessive. Interestingly, because of the checked baggage fees, it is actually cheaper for me to fly down First Class instead of Economy (i'm sure it will be brutal haha). Nevertheless, packing for a total move is a little crazy.

My main fear right now really doesn't have to do with packing, though. Rather, it's driving on the left hand side of the road. When I was living in Singapore, I drove a few times on the other side of the road. However, in the USVI, the driving is done in American-built cars with left hand drive. When you drive in the UK, Singapore, or most places, the driver side is on the right, instead of the left. To me, at least, it makes driving on the left a lot easier, because your turns feel more like their right-drive counterparts. I will definitely be driving cautiously the first few weeks!

The other thing I sadly have yet to figure out is where the courthouse i'll be working in is. The condo manager i'm renting from should be showing me where it is on Sunday. I will be bringing along my GPS to tag the location as a favorite, so at the very least I can use that to get there (I just dropped $20 on a USVI Garmin map, go figure!)

Beyond the technical aspects of moving down, there is a significant emotional impact to all this as well. I'm deeply grateful for the opportunity to be working in the USVI. As a newly-minted attorney, job options are limited right now throughout the United States. To get paid to live in the tropics as one's first non-contract legal position is quite the break. Nonetheless, this job means leaving my family (including my dog) back on the mainland, at least until they come and visit. I hope that my new job will give me some great career experience, and hopefully there'll be some fun thrown in the mix as well. At the very least, I expect some visitors.

Now, in less than 48 hours, i'll be touching down in the USVI. Quite the transition from even 3 weeks ago, when I didn't know what i'd be doing right now.