The last year was certainly an unusual one, and I don’t think I’m alone in hoping we don’t see one that like again anytime soon. I think it’s one of those years that’s best viewed in retrospect, with the hazy glow of nostalgia smoothing out the less-appealing spots.
2020 was a year of milestones for us, some intentional and some not. We surpassed 10,000 nm sailed and have now visited nine countries apart from the US: Cuba, the Bahamas, the Turks and Caicos, Puerto Rico (yes, it’s an unincorporated US territory but it is most definitely its own country!), the US Virgin Islands (ditto), the British Virgin Islands, St. Barthelemy, Antigua, and Grenada. We have been in Grenada for a mind-boggling seven months, a situation about as far from our usual travelling style as possible. I became a certified SCUBA diver, and the Captain now has both a Grenadian ham radio operator’s license and a temporary Grenadian driver’s license.
We’ve lived abroad for the entire year, having arrived in Bimini, Bahamas, on December 31, 2019. We enjoy the novelty of living in different countries, even though it’s easy to miss some of the foods and comforts of the US. There are definitely some quirks to get used to when living abroad:
The most important date in your life? Forget birthdays, anniversaries, or any other sentimental occasion. The date your visa expires is the one circled in red on the calendar. Woe to those who forget to extend.
On a related note, learn the local public holidays or risk showing up to a closed shop. Here in Grenada, nobody cares about Christmas Eve, but Boxing Day is a national holiday. Ever heard of Whit Monday? Yeah, me neither.
I have learned to curse the American system of measurement, because you know who else uses it? No one. Damn you, feet, pounds, and degrees Fahrenheit! Why on earth don’t we use the metric system like everyone else?
I don’t recognize any of the brands in the market, which gives me a certain freedom in what I buy. Alternately, the “luxury” imported brands that would cost a fortune in the States are just the everyday brands here, so I get to feel that little charge of buying the “fancy stuff.”
There are always some really unusual products on the shelves. Nerve tonic, anyone? How about carbolic soap? How about a refreshing glass of Glup Orange Drink Mix; yes, you read that right, and yes, they should fire the ad agency that came up with that product name.
Buying eggs, vegetables, fish, fruits, juice, or prepared food from some random person on the street seems legit. I can’t imagine buying food out of some guy’s trunk in the States, but for some reason I don’t hesitate anywhere else. Flies crawling all over it? Gross, but just wave them off and chow down.
We have been fortunate enough to stay in an apartment during our haul, which means we get to use appliances that we don’t normally use. The only catch? None of the labelling is in English. Even Google Translate can’t figure some of it out, so I just wing it. I haven’t shredded the clothes or burned the food yet, and since the only button I can figure out on the microwave is “30 seconds,” I just press that multiple times to get the time I need. It works.
There is the same issue with cars; here, the vehicles are imported directly from Japan. That means that everything inside the car is in Japanese. Fortunately our rental car is about the size and complexity of a roller skate, so there’s not a lot of complicated gadgets to figure out. Our biggest challenge is trying to get in the car on the correct side; the Captain is always forgetting and starting to get in on the left side of the car, which here is the passenger side.
Here’s to hoping that 2021 is perhaps a little less interesting, and best wishes to everyone reading.