I love the name of my new neighborhood in Aruba: Tanki Flip. The two words just seem to complement one another in a happy-go-lucky way. All kinds of sunbeam images come to mind. A friend of mine mentioned tanki top flip-flop when I told everyone where I would be living; both items are useful when living near the beach. Basically, you picture blue water and acrobatic type action when you hear the name. Tanki Flip just sounds like someone is inviting you to jump off the high dive into a swimming pool on a sunny day. The actual origin of the word is more grim and gloomy. It is a haunting story of sorts. A tragedy really, albeit a tragedy that takes place in paradise. One story tells about a man, Flip Kelly, who was dejected by his girlfriend and plummeted to his death by jumping into a tank of water. Another story tells us that Flip’s death was accidental, not a suicide. Rather he was riding his horse when the poor creature took a tumble in the mud, plunging head-on into the water. Poor Flip was all tangled up and drowned in the water alongside his horse. Regardless of which story you adhere to, Flip flipped into a tank of water and drowned to death. Hence the name Tanki Flip. So much for sunshine, cool breeze, and blue water.
I just moved into my house here in Tanki Flip and am slowly settling in as a resident on the island of Aruba. I love my neighborhood and the mix of people living in it. My next door neighbors are Dutch on one side, and the neighbors on the other side just moved here from Venezuela. The neighbors across the way speak Papiamento, the native island tongue. They had a wild fiesta the first night I slept here. That was the same night all the electricity went out for no apparent reason, which I am told happens all the time around here.
Then there is the gatekeeper for our tiny cul-de-sac who confirmed for me that there really is a tank of water in the neighborhood of Tanki Flip. I call him a gatekeeper because he lives off the main road in front of our cluster of houses behind his. None of these roads have names. We all take the name Tanki Flip as our address. There are no street addresses in Aruba, and all of the resident numbers are clustered together haphazardly. He claims his family once owned the land where my house stands. He is a collector of sorts and collects all kinds of stuff which he proudly displays all around his house. He also collects the stories of the land and people in Tanki Flip. He seems to have the background story on all who reside in this area. He was very pleased when I knocked on his door and introduced myself, admitting he had wondered about me and what I was doing here as if a spaceship dropped an alien into his village.
So there are some immediate adjustments that one must make when moving into any new home. There are things you instantly love about your new place and other things that present pesky inconveniences. I love the Dutch door that opens off my kitchen into the backyard and the windows that invite all of the light and island breezes inside, but maybe not all of the lizard, scorpions, and snakes that find their way through those windows and door.
All of this is accentuated when you move overseas. And even more so for me because I didn’t get one of those all-inclusive packages, the furnished place with electricity, water and such. I didn’t move furniture from home because it would not have been cost-effective. Instead, I edited an entire life of contents to fit into six suitcases, which I checked at baggage, spending more than the price of my plane ticket. Still, that was way less expensive than shipping even a few small boxes. Therefore, I spent my first few weeks here finding my way around to places like WEB, Aruban water utilities; Elmar, Aruban electricity; Setar, Aruban telecommunications; and Cas di Max, a furniture store where I bought a bed.
Eventually, I discovered arubadeal.com which is the equivalent of a Craigslist here. It is a great site for buying furniture since you can pay a fortune here to buy furniture of very low quality. I just got a great price on a 2,000 dollar sofa from a very sweet family who just moved here from Curacao. It is also very expensive to get many household and personal items so you learn early to live with only what is essential. Are zip lock bags really necessary? How much plastic do I really need to live my life? I feel like I am truly living the tenets of reduce and reuse.
Everything at home is so cheap and plentiful; American consumption is not a myth. Things here are super expensive so you have to prioritize your shopping list to include only the things that you absolutely need. Services are expensive as well, and everyone on the island is resourceful with the use of airco, or air conditioning. Many houses only have airco in one room. Everyone here opens their windows to use the constant trade winds as air conditioning. Still, it really isn’t very cool because it is always hot outside, even by Texas standards, so you have to learn ways to deal with the heat. I’m learning to drink a lot of cold water, which is very easy to do here because it is clean and delicious right out of the faucet. Desalination of seawater provides the island with its only source of water. No more lugging bottles of water to and from Whole Foods.
Ironically, the best way to beat the heat is just to get out in it because there is always a beach involved in just about any activity you take part in on the island. My favorite beach so far is Baby Beach. We went snorkeling there the weekend before last. It is located at the southernmost point of the island, St. Nicholas, where the goats and donkeys roam free. After Baby Beach, we went to eat dinner at Zeerovers where the fisherman dock and deliver the catch of the day. Dinner in Aruba usually takes place outside so you can watch the sunset. There is so much nature to take in all around the island. I can’t wait to go to Arikok. Unfortunately, I can’t seem to find any new friends who share my enthusiasm for the Donkey Sanctuary or the Aruba Butterfly Farm, so perhaps I will save those excursions to take when friends and family from home visit. I have a long list of places to explore and document along the way.
Basically, every step you take outside is an adventure. Even running errands is fun. I have some errands to run right now: I am on a quest to find blinds and curtains.