My job search had been exhausting and had gone on for several months. On a lark I applied for a position on St. Croix. Within a few weeks of applying I was offered the position and decided to accept. I had about 6 weeks to get here. I arrived on St. Croix on August 11, 2004.
The responses from family and friends when they found out where we were moving were interesting to say the least. Many were excited and began planning their upcoming visits. Some responded with criticism as if we were crazy, and maybe we are. Most had absolutely no idea where the Virgin Islands were, and may not still. Virtually no one knew St. Croix was a part of the US, at least in some ways.
We began reading the discussion forum for guidance and decided to begin purging our belongings. It was cleansing, especially since we didn’t have anything of real value and only a few things which hold sentimental value. We started mailing the “necessities” via the USPS. Most were received within the 3-5 weeks promised. Some items were broken, but it was our fault for not wrapping them adequately. The more bubble wrap and biodegradable peanuts used the better! I made arrangements for an apartment, car insurance (much more expensive than I was used to – $950/year), and a mailbox through Mail Boxes, Etc. from the States. I opened a local checking account a few days after arriving, but I had no problems with using my debit card or out of town checks most places. My debit card worked for withdrawals of up to $500 a day with no fees at First Bank. I needed my passport as well as my Driver’s License to open the account. Count on checks from the States taking a long time to clear.
The people with whom I work recommended an apartment in a great area that has a sea view and is convenient to work. It is fully furnished, including silverware, dishes, etc. There is no AC, but there is a good breeze most of the time. I have to admit, I would love AC at home. My rent includes electric, water, basic cable, extermination, trash pick up, and laundry facilities. I pay $700 per month. They have a back up generator for when the power goes out, which has been relatively rare. Storm shutters kept out most of the water during the tropical storm. Most importantly, my two cats were welcomed. The two dogs will arrive in the “winter”.
Upon arriving, a few hours late from San Juan as is the norm, I was met by the folks at Centerline Car Rental. They took me to my car and gave me directions to the general area where I live. When I drove in at my new home my landlord was amazed that I was able to find the place. I had no problems thanks to all the info. I had read on the discussion board and in the newcomer’s handbook about following addresses.
Getting my car here was a nightmare. I made arrangements for my car to be driven to Florida by a family member and shipped via Tropical Shipping. I have a lien on my car which complicated matters significantly. I had made arrangements for a broker to handle the licensure of the vehicle in St. Croix. I needed additional insurance for the lien holder that I was told would be provided when the car arrived at the dock. Unfortunately this was bad information. The car was refused when it was delivered to the dock. The insurance could be purchased without the company seeing the car. While they were not very helpful, except that they brought the car to St. Croix through a hurricane, Tropical does have contact information for the insurance provider. It actually took me about a month of haggling over the telephone for information about getting the car to St. Croix. This is after about a month when I thought all arrangements were made. When my car finally arrived unscathed, the broker had all of the licensing completed and put on the plates for me. From what I hear it was worth the fee I paid (about $150). I was also able to load the car to the windows with stuff. Everything that was in the car was fine (no breakage).
I got out and about to get to know my way around the island right away. Driving at night was a little rough at first, but I’ve adjusted completely now. Although I do still push my shopping carts down the right lane at the grocery stores.
There are many things that hit me in the face and tell me living here is a unique opportunity:
- I don’t take undue risks, but most people are generally friendly and helpful. I say Good Day to everyone I meet and they respond.
- I don’t try to accomplish things in a hurry.
- It’s hard to find good quality sheets and towels, among other things. With the heat I really wanted 100% cotton sheets. I couldn’t find them, so I ordered them on the net.
- I was taken aback by the food and some restaurant prices at first, but the sticker shock has worn off.
- The cost of getting here and living here is high. Don’t kid yourself. The newcomers that I’ve met who are unhappy generally haven’t planned for the significant costs, or really committed to living here.
- A car is essential. It can be a difficult transition to such a unique place. Complicating the change by making tasks like grocery shopping more difficult by not having a car can sound the death knell for any enthusiasm about living here.
- Manicured lawns and well-maintained roads are not a priority here.
- Since Medicaid and SSI are not provided for people with disabilities the service system is minimal here.
- Mildew is a problem. Buy damp rid when it’s available.
- I don’t recognize many of the fruits in the grocery stores. I’m gradually trying them all.
- I think I’m going to avoid routine health care here in the future. Even with good insurance, the services I’ve received have not inspired confidence in me.
- Expect “down times” when you miss the familiar. Plan for working through them.
All that said, the sunsets are incredible! It’s too early to tell, but this may be home for me. I’m definitely happy I’m here now. Life’s a beach!