Day 1 – I arrived last night, well after sunset (between 6 – 7 PM here, year-round) with 6 oversized suitcases. I had to lug them all through customs after a bit of an interrogation by immigration. The marimba players in baggage claim really helped soothe my frayed nerves. I met Richi, owner of Richi Rentals, who was holding a homemade sign that read Tiffany Lewis. He promptly asked, “Can you drive a standard?” Apparently, that was all he had left to rent. Business must be good at Richi Rentals. I passed his little test drive in the parking lot and was on my way, shot out behind the wheel of a jerky stick shift onto the roads of a dark island with no visible landmarks and multiple detours due to road construction along the main highway. Welcome to Aruba.
This morning was equally as rough because I didn’t find coffee until around 9:30. Driving a standard without coffee is about as much fun as driving one in a foreign country in the dark. I made it to Superfood, had a hefty Dutch breakfast, and then went to check in on the house I’m renting with the leasing place, Aruba Happy Rentals. Mostly I just needed to pick up authorization forms so that I could set up utilities since I am not a citizen of this country. Then I was off to a luncheon with new teachers on the waterside. We shared the surf and turf platter. Both teachers just arrived yesterday: one from the Netherlands and the other from Egypt. After lunch, we went to the Aruba Bank where I quickly cashed a check for my relocation allowance. On the way inside, I witnessed a stray dog hunt iguana in the parking lot for lunch. I have never seen a dog with such a high spring in his steps as that dog when he pranced away from the bushes with an iguana wringing about in his jaws.
To end the day, I drove to the south side of the island to visit WEB (water utilities in Aruba) and set up water at the new place, Tanki Flip. After connecting the water, I got lost in Tanki Flip trying to find said new place. There are no street names in Aruba and the house numbers are not in any kind of order. Tanki Flip is not like any neighborhood I have ever seen, almost like another planet. I finally found the house and realized I’m going to have to give up my 2 mile walk twice a week, at least in my new neighborhood, due to the fact that there are too many stray dogs,donkeys and goats all over this island. I will walk along the beach instead I suppose; the iguanas seem harmless.
Day 2 – I still need to solve the coffee in the morning situation. Mornings are rough. I’ve made my way to Superfood each morning to start the day with breakfast and one strong cup of coffee. Today, connecting electricity and buying a bed were the big boxes to check off on my very long list of things to do. I mapped out my routes online and stashed Aruban Florins away in my wallet.
On my way to Elmar (electric company) I missed a turn on to the main street, which was a fabulous mistake because I got to dodge hundreds of jars of Jiffy peanut butter that flew off the back of a flatbed truck in front of Hooters. Some of the peanut butter jars busted open and there was peanut butter smeared all over the street pavement. I think my tires may have even made peanut butter tracks. Once I was finally on the main road, I soon ventured off what had been my anchor to driving in Aruba to find Elmar inland. That took me into another world altogether.
The streets became very narrow and congested with tiny Hyundais and Kias that frenetically zip up and down and out from nowhere. I think speed is how the natives distinguish themselves from the tourist. My periphery vision is overworked, because not only are you having to contend with all the Speed Racer native islanders, but you also have to look out for pedestrians who constantly cross the road (no crosswalks) and all kinds of stray animals and bicycles and other unexpected things like peanut butter.Things are constantly coming at you from all directions. To make things extra chaotic, all the radio stations are in Papiamento, which is this amalgamation of African, Dutch, Spanish and Native American. Driving has been the toughest part so far.
The utility companies have been an unexpected pleasure. Everyone told me it would be a nightmare, but I really think the Dutch aesthetic of all government and business buildings helps me to relax and enjoy it all. The interior design is beautiful and the buildings don’t feel like you are going to jail, as it can sometimes feel in the States. Everything went very smoothly for the most part, but then I decided to swing by my school for directions to the furniture store because I was suspicious of how easily everything was coming together.
I was lucky to just come across Elmar because I was really very lost when it appeared. Mapping out my route online proved to be pointless. There are no road signs here so everyone gives directions by landmarks (turn right at the big tree) and roundabouts (all intersections in Aruba are roundabouts). I have to give myself an extra 30 minutes to get anywhere because I will inevitably take a wrong turn or miss something along the way. Because of all of this, I knew it would be helpful to just have a friend at work draw me another map of circles and tall trees.
The furniture store was near my school and had signs posted to help me find my way. Cas di Max is what it is called. I heard I could get a good deal on a mattress there, which I believe to be my most important purchase because I so enjoy my sleep. Paul, the sales guy and owner, was very helpful. His sales pitch went something like this: I always tell people that buying a mattress is a lot like buying a bra. I spent way more money on the mattress than I wanted, so I guess his sales pitch worked.
After that, I decided to go to Arashi beach and reward myself for tackling both items on my agenda before 1 PM, even after the late start due to the coffee debacle. The beach was just amazing. It’s the most beautiful beach I have ever seen. I haven’t found the words yet to describe it. Then I met up with a teacher friend who just arrived from Florence. She lives in the complex where I am staying until my house is ready. We walked across the street to Bingo for a Heineken and snack platter of strange Dutch meaty morsels, including Bitterballen (I’m still not sure what’s stuffed in these balls?) Then we took her to get a new mountain bike, which turned out to be too far away for her to ride it back, so I suggested that she ask the sales man to force fit it in the back of my Hyundai as part of the deal. He miraculously was able to do so, but then we had to drive back home like a clown car at the circus.
Anyway, I just got home and the sun is about to set. That is all I have to report now. I will write more later.