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In the last week of August, Terry and I were able to go back to Calgary for five whirlwind days, thanks to my mum and some luck with scheduling. I’ve written in my own “bullet journal” about our time already, but thanks to circumstances in the last thirty days (including two hurricane scares and a friend visiting), I wasn’t able to put up a blog post yet. So here it is, with excerpts from my Leuchtturm.

Arriving back home presented me with two conflicting feelings. First, it felt like I’d never even left Calgary, like our flight out of YYC at three in the morning in March had been just a dream. Second, it felt like I was seeing the city for the first time. Leaving home – not just for a weekend, not for two weeks overseas, but actually living somewhere different for six months gave me an entirely new perspective. Yes, I felt like I belonged in Calgary – more than I belong in Nassau, for sure – but also, like I was a stranger, a traveler, smarter, wiser, more aware of just how much I took for granted. That’s saying something, because Nassau really is a city in the modern age. Just not the modern age I’m used to.

Paradise?

I live on a beach – and it’s paradise. Always hot and humid, no shortage of sun and summer storms, chairs and umbrellas and soft white sand. But that’s not all “paradise” is. As any other expat or retiree could tell you about the Bahamas, paradise is also paying $8.00USD for your milk. Paradise is not being able to deposit cash into your account, even when you’re standing at the till with your debit card. Paradise is waiting three months for a license plate for your car. Paradise is a monthly $150.00 electric bill. Paradise is storing your sugar, cereal, cookies, and chips in your fridge because the ants are relentless. Paradise is hurricane shutters and filling your tubs with water in preparation for a storm that could knock out power for weeks. Paradise is being told you’re getting new windows, but there’s no time frame, because “it’s the Bahamas.” Paradise is being told not to go to certain parts of town. Paradise is trying to explain the northern concept of “island life” to someone who was born and raised here. How awkward.

I’ve lost track of the number of times a sarcastic laugh and the words “this place” have escaped us after a bizarre experience. But in the end, this is an adventure, something Terry and I consider a key part of our relationship. And I didn’t realise the value of that until we landed back in Calgary and actually spent time exploring the city I was born and raised in, the city we spent our first five and a half years together in.

Home

What surprised me the most was how I took it so much less seriously. Part of that might just be growing up, but the change that took place in only half a year really was astounding. Many insecurities that plagued me since junior high seemed to fade away. I threw out my foundation. Stopped shaving my thighs. Stopped having second thoughts about wearing denim shorts and tank tops. I wasn’t white as paper anymore. I had freckles I didn’t know were possible. And then, Calgary surprised me – how it felt to look at the mountains, even though they were bare from snow. Seeing my cat again. Hugging my mum, and dad, and family. Grocery stores that have everything you need in one trip. Liquor stores open past 9pm. Being able to walk around at night without worry. Our favourite food, like Taste of Quebec’s poutine, Hayden Block’s barbeque, and Dragon’s dim sum. From the poplar trees of Midnapore to the outdoor patios on 17th avenue, home, which had become so old and familiar, was a breath of fresh air.

There are things I don’t miss, like asthma (I practically live inside a humidifier now), cold toes, and stress in general, which I never seemed to escape. But now, I’ve realised just how accountable I am to myself. The trip home reminded me that this is real. I’m here! I could waste away on a beach for two years and have nothing to show for it, or I could learn a language or two, elbow my way into the scary world of freelancing, write two novels in two Novembers, learn to cook, do yoga, and take the ultimate advantage of being a 23 to 25 year old on a beach with nothing better to do than learn and grow.

In our excitement to live and visit other countries and cities, I think it’s safe to say that moving to Nassau first was being dropped in the deep end. Great when it’s snorkeling. A little scarier when the boat isn’t nearby and you’re far from the usual friends and support. If you’ll excuse the metaphors, we’re not just floating aimlessly on our backs in the waves – we’ve learned to tread water here at the very least. And if we can do that here, we can do it again, and again, and again. At least, that’s the plan.

Life, as they say, has its ups and downs. At times, the waves may taunt you, tossing you in their swells. But take heart. It’s hard to stick with it and make it on your own. But even a couple of losers can survive most things if they’re together. – My Neighbors the Yamadas

 

 

 

I know, I know. It’s been written about before. I’m positive I’ve scrolled past a million articles about it before from sources all over, and I’m no professional – just someone with her own experiences. It’s surprising, since I never thought it would apply to me. While I’ve never considered myself a perfectionist, and I don’t know that I ever will, there are aspects of perfectionism that I just can’t escape from. I always end up having the same back and forth arguments in my mind: It’s not that I’m picky – I just like how I do things. I’m not distrusting, I just have high standards. I’m not narcissistic, I’m just doing others a favor by doing this on my own.

My last year of school was a big learning experience for me in regards to delegation, leadership, and professionalism. I ended up with too much on my plate and stress that kept me up at night, took my breath away (literally), and made me, you know, kind of hate myself. But it wasn’t my first slow dance with depression – no, I’ve learned to recognize the symptoms for a while now. Not wanting to get out of bed, not eating at all or (more likely) eating too much, a general lack of motivation, and then, of course, just being in a downright pissy mood.

What I didn’t realise is that even when all my usual stresses are taken away, when I have nothing but time, that it wouldn’t change. I suppose I’m just one of the many people who expected their outlook and personal doubts to stay back at home when they moved overseas. Unfortunately that isn’t the case. This shit is just part of us. The same symptoms followed me here, and they waited until the honeymoon period was over, quietly biding their time in the back of my mind. 

It has to be a writers dream to be living on a beach. I can sit next to a floor-to-ceiling glass window and stare out at the Caribbean waters, pour myself a coke and lime or an ice cold beer, and have nothing but basic chores to take up my time. So why haven’t I finished a novel by now? I can write over 10,000 words in a day if I put my mind to it – I’m sure anyone can if they want to, even if they’re sacrificing coherency. But the point remains. Why do I only have three posts on my blog? What have I been doing?

A healthy dose of this, at least.

It’s embarrassing to pick Terry up after a day at work and hear “What have you been up to?” only to answer “The same” or “Nothing much,” especially considering he’s just finished a fifteen hour workday in a kitchen. He’s a professional chef. I’m a travel graduate with one (1) marketable skill: writing. We all have fast-learner and optimistic on our resumes, but let’s be real; life is about what you can create, and I thank the god I don’t believe in that I can at least make something. So it feels like, if I’m not using it, I’m taking this for granted. This being the beach, the apartment, the support of my family and friends – and most of all, Terry.

 

I’ve struggled with what to write about. I’ve struggled with what to do. I started a Let’s Play channel for video games, which I’m quite passionate about. I run a fandom Tumblr that garnered over 2,000 followers in just over three months thanks to, funny enough, my writing. I started studying Japanese again. And then, of course, I have this blog, the one I paid for. But in my struggles to wonder what I should be doing, or how I should start, I end up doing nothing. Paralyzed. I clean, I surf the web, I watch shows, write some requests off of the Tumblr blog. Maybe take a nap. The worst part is that it hasn’t been sunny lately, so I haven’t even been able to escape to the beach.

I know. It’s a real sob-story.

I watched a few movies to try and make myself feel more motivated. Spirited Away is one I’ve seen countless times and will always rewatch. Then Jeff, Who Lives Alone, which wasn’t as funny as I was hoping but succeeded in making me cry, so I guess that’s something. The Way Way Back reminded me that I’m stronger now than I was as an awkward teenager. Eddie The Eagle guilt-tripped me about not trying my best even in the threat of failure. And lastly Chef, because it’s just delightful.

None of those did as much as hearing one sentence from my mum. I was telling her some stories from Terry and I adventuring in Nassau this past weekend, and she made me promise to write a little bit every day, so I don’t forget. And then I realised something else – if I’m not writing for everyone else, then I could at least write for myself, to have something to look back on. Whether or not it’s successful isn’t as important. Well, it’s why I made this blog in the first place, but if I’m not doing anything with it anyways, what’s the point? I have to start somewhere. So here we go. Stay tuned.

June. Already.

It feels like just yesterday I was walking through -20 Celsius to get to work at the Calgary airport. It would seem my adult life is just beginning, even though I’m already 23 and have had about five years of “adulting” already under my belt. But really, I only moved away from home under a year ago. Millennials, right?

When I last posted, we’d been here for a whole three days, and I was staring in awe at the clearest, bluest waters I’ve seen in my life, dining all-inclusive, and basking in a sun far hotter than necessary for my pale ass to tan. That is to say, I burned.

A few things have changed. The apartment we moved into on Love Beach wasn’t what we wanted, but we received help from our contact here to find a new (and much better) location. Not only that, our previous landlord was good enough to let us leave our lease early. All I can say is, lesson learned, and we got lucky. Lucky enough that if I turn my head to the right, I can watch the azure waters of Cable Beach moving like grass in a soft breeze.

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It’s summer, and the waters are calm. When the sun hits, it’s as clear as a pool, and from three floors up I can watch fish and rays meander along the seaside.

We upped our budget, found an apartment with a wide balcony and an ocean view, and I feel like Templeton at the fair. I hit the beach every day, as long as it’s sunny. On weekdays, I usually get the beach to myself. Soak up some sun, dip in and cool off, search for some fish in the surf, and then rinse off in the outdoor shower. My burns have faded and I’m beginning to become, well, not tan, but at least a little less white. Suffice to say this mountain girl is adapting quickly to island life.

We’ve had to roll with the punches to get here, though. Before we were able to check out at Melia and move into our Love Beach apartment, we were told short notice that we had to check out – like, within the next two hours, check out – and they would move us to Baha Mar, Terry’s workplace, which is pretty well next door. The behemoth of a resort wasn’t open at the time, but I was able to tag along for staff provided food.

The pool and the beach weren’t open yet either, but as soon as their soft opening day hit, I had an opportunity to enjoy the pool area almost to myself for a day. The entire area is gorgeous, and the promenade leading out to the pier is cute and fun, complete with daiquiri and conch shacks. I can’t speak for the conch, since it wasn’t open yet, but the daiquiri was fantastic. This little mini-adventure remains one of my favourite days since arriving in Nassau. Baha Mar really is something to behold, and it’s not even complete yet!

We overstayed our welcome there while we waited to get a car, another item that was unexpectedly on our ‘need’ list. While we were still at Melia, we had spent one night in Love Beach to take some luggage down and get internet set up, and we realised one thing very fast: we could not rely on the buses. Maybe you only wait ten minutes, maybe you wait an hour… island time, right? Well, island time might work for me, but not for a chef who needs to get to work.

There’s no need to get into detail as to why we left Love Beach. It really was a combination of issues that just made it into a poor match. I was high strung the entire time there, and that’s no way to spend your time on a tropical island. Also, the beach wasn’t convenient, but I got used to the ocean view, something that we hadn’t looked for the first time around but quickly became a priority in searching for our new place. I assure you, Cable Beach definitely delivers.

There’s a lot about Nassau that has taken some getting used to. We’ve gone to the bank about three times now to get an account set up but have to wait 7-10 days for a card. The conversation afterwards went a bit like this:

Juls: “So, are they gonna e-mail you when the card comes in?”
Terry: “I don’t know, actually. I don’t think they have my e-mail.”
Juls: “They have your phone number though, right?”
Terry: “Maybe? I can’t remember. Maybe it was in the paperwork I did last week.”
Juls: “So you – okay. So we’re just going to go in two weeks and ask them if it’s in yet?”
Terry: “I guess so?”

It’s not his fault. It’s easy to relax and put your worries aside when everyone else is doing the same. As a Calgary local, there are those that go-with-the-flow and aren’t pressed for time, and they tend to have the opposite effect: they stress everyone else out. It was hard to get out of that mindset when we got here. And I’m perfectly aware that the family islands are even more laid back, even though it’s hard for me to imagine.

After the chaos of dealing with banks both at home and here, figuring out rent payments with landlords overseas, learning to drive on the left and getting to know roundabouts far better than I ever imagined, and dealing with the price of $8.00 for some maple bacon just to remind me of home, I’m finally beginning to understand the island life. Only one thing is for certain: there is still much I need to learn.

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Is that a cliché blog title? I feel like it is.

The entire flight here didn’t feel real. The Calgary airport is so familiar to me that sitting at Starbucks waiting to board with Terry just felt like I was… on a fifteen minute break. It felt wrong being there in street clothes. Where was my garish red blazer and name tag?

Everything from that point on moved faster and faster. In fact, the last twenty days have felt like the universe has been propelling me forward and it’s all I can do to keep on my feet.

The flight was just under 5 hours long, which was better than expected. It was smooth, and around hour 4 we could see the ocean, bright and blue, and becoming more and more azure the further south we came. Terry had the window seat, but I managed to film our landing. Once we came down from the clouds I could see what I figured was Baha Mar, but we had our doubts at first that the behemoth taking over the skyline was in fact Terry’s new workplace – but sure enough. I’d done enough research on google maps that I knew the northwest edge of Nassau a little too well for someone who had never been there. Yes, Baha Mar is a giant, towering over the Meliá next door where we would be staying. I also saw the colourful Compass Pointe, a resort a few minute walk away from our soon-to-be apartment. This came along with the realisation that our new home will be directly under a flight path.

Cool for me – I love planes. But I’m a bit nervous how loud it’s going to be. I’m counting on the beach and the view to make up for it.

It took us about forty minutes to get through customs. Two long line-ups filled the stanchions, but the room was spacious, and I could see palm trees and birds outside. A little after 4pm. Sunny. Customs let us into baggage, but then they were hesitant to let us out.

“What’s that big box?”

“A computer. And a monitor, and keyboard.”

“When are you taking that back out?”

“Maybe two years, eventually-”

“What do you mean eventually?”

A few explanations and a brief admiration of Terry’s fish skeleton tattoo, and we were on our way. Our driver was an employee for Baha Mar named Ryan, who was kind enough to point out a variety of important locations during our ride to the resort. We stopped at a stand that supposedly has some of the best conch salad on the island, but then continued to the resort and he told us to call him in a couple hours so he could take us down to the Fish Fry. Talk about a good welcome!

After some snapper and conch fritters, Ryan was good enough to tour us around downtown Nassau briefly before bringing us back. Safe to say our first three hours were overwhelming. Not to mention, neither of us knew for sure that our stay in Meliá would be all-inclusive, but it was confirmed for us at check-in that this was the case, and we even had a few extra perks. Besides the whole “moving to Nassau” thing, the fact that I now had two weeks to myself at an all-inclusive was even more for me to wrap my head around. I haven’t been to a beach or a resort since I was five years old in Cuba. Just the idea of unlimited alcohol and coca-cola is enough to cheer me up.

The two of us spent our first day soaking up some sun, a little bit of swimming, and a lot of alcohol. …maybe too much. Then, we promptly fell asleep for a majority of the afternoon. My first day alone was less exciting – a mixture of tiredness and anxiety kept me in my room all day. Despite sleeping in until eleven, today was better, and I headed out to the beach for a couple hours, listening to some music and writing a messy entry in my bullet journal. Freckles that have been hiding for a couple years are starting to pop out again, but I have to be careful. A quick glance around the beach at any given time reminds me that I’m one of the palest people here. I can’t just sit in the sun for two hours like some of them can. Hopefully I’ll get there within a few months.

PS: The resort is home to at least ten stray cats, who I’m assuming live off of dropped food and mice. They’re pretty friendly but lose interest fast. I don’t know what some resort-stayers think of them, but for me, it’s a bonus.

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And some videos for the cat lovers:

 

 

You’ve heard of The Five Year Engagement – now get ready for its thrilling sequel! Or alternatively, “How My Mother’s Blood Pressure Skyrocketed to New Heights.”

Terrence and I are both the sort of people that like to be prepared. We like to have things set-up and done and squared away so we don’t have to worry about it, so you can imagine that having to move to the Bahamas within three weeks was a bit of a shock to our systems. Because I really wasn’t interested in being deported, I wanted to know for sure that a girlfriend could piggyback on his work permit, but as Terry so eloquently put, when he asked Human Resources about that, they replied with “…piggyback? What?”

Okay. So that wasn’t ever really a Thing after all. I did my own research and amidst a variety of expat forums and the Bahamas Immigration website, I discovered the inevitable. In order for me to live there legally with him without a work permit – since I don’t have any professional skills, nor the time to search for a career there – I would have to be a spouse.

We talked briefly about this possibility but it was over several plates of dim sum on the first of March that we realised it was something that actually had to be done. We would find a Justice of the Peace, use my mother’s living room, and have five people there max. Basically, just our parents. The whole thing would take an hour. But if you’ve ever helped set up a wedding or gotten married, I have a feeling you know what I’m talking about when I say that these things, well… they snowball. We simply didn’t get a choice in the matter.

In the end, our wedding was booked for noon on a Sunday (which just seems wrong) and about twenty people attended. My mum brought in a coworker to act as photographer, and a student at her school her sang In My Life while dad walked me out to the living room (albeit a little late). It started at 11:30 in the morning and everyone was gone two hours later. Phew.

Thankfully, Terrence and I have been together for over five years. We didn’t have to feel rushed or unsure. It felt natural, practical, and marked the next step in our adventure. We used to think that when we’d move, we’d move to Victoria, maybe Montreal… and then we thought bigger. We thought outside of Canada. That the Bahamas happened feels like clarity, a yes, you can sort of message from the universe that has left me – as usual – hitting the ground running. But I’ve grown to like it that way. A travel graduate and a chef shouldn’t be confined to urban North America. There’s a world to explore, and we plan to do it together. In truth, I’m lucky. I spend a little bit of time every day thinking about how lucky I am, and it’s not the meditational type where I sit myself down and focus on my gratitude. It happens spontaneously while I’m driving home, doing chores, or even scrolling mindlessly through social media feeds.

I’ve considered myself lucky for five years with Terrence. I am constantly blown away by how consistently warm he is, how delicious his cooking is, how inspiring his work ethic is, and how well he treats me and how comfortable he makes me feel. I will never stop saying “thank-you,” even when he responds “that’s what I’m here for.” I will always fall more and more in love with him and I will always be grateful, and try to show that gratefulness in more than just words. Because it’s more than I can say anyways.