Thursday, October 4, 2012

Moving To La Hacienda

After recently moving from the U.S. to St. Kitts, I thought that last week's St. Kitts move from Horizons in Frigate Bay to our new apartment in Bird Rock would be incredibly easy. But things are always easier said than done, and this move has kept me as busy a beaver patching holes in his dam.

courtesy: http://www.turtletrack.org/Issues01/Co06302001/CO_06302001_Beaver_flea.htm
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Julie and I have been gratefully living in a house that Ross University School of Veterinarian Medicine provides for new faculty for one month. The house came fully furnished with towels and cookware supplied and utilities provided. We quickly became spoiled, running our air conditioning without having to worry about the electric bill!
All Inclusive Pink Ross House We'll Miss You
As any St. Kitts resident knows, electricity in the federation is very expensive. While much of the world has grown accustomed to inexpensive electricity generated by fossil fuels such as coal or natural gas, in St. Kitts electricity is made using huge generators powered by diesel fuel, the price of which has skyrocketed in the past decade. Unfortunately St. Kitts isn't a great place to have pricey electric, given that the average temperature in September is 89 degrees farenheit (32 Celsius) and the average low is 79 degrees farenheit (26 Celsius). And according to most Kittitians, this has been an exceptionally hot year.

Average High, Low, and Precipitation for St. Kitts and Nevis Courtesy: http://www.virginholidays.co.uk/brochures/caribbean/holidays/caribbean/st_kitts/
So weeks ago, after finding our car "Dawg Pound," we set out looking for an apartment. We only looked at a few apartments before we came across a really nice two bedroom second story apartment in the Bird Rock area, just south of Basseterre.

The apartment had originally been a three bedroom, but after the last three tenants had a falling out, the landlady decided to have it broken into a one bedroom and a two bedroom. The construction workers hadn't quite finished with it, but she said it should be ready around the last week of September. This was fine with us because it corresponded well with when we had to move out of the "Ross" house.

Check out that View in the new house
Of course the apartment selection was just the beginning; we still had a process to go through before we could move into the place that would be our home for the next year.

Because Ross University has ramped up its overall security in the past few years, housing and security wanted to do a walk-through before we could move into the new apartment. They checked that the house had upgraded security items such as security bars on all the windows, either solid steel doors or steel screen doors with deadbolts and barrel locks, fire alarms, and adequate outside lighting.

Steel Security Door: Note the two barrel locks.


Even though Ross can't force landlords to install such measures and can’t require students to live in housing that meets higher security standards, they do make strong recommendations. Thankfully most of the students tend to migrate toward apartments that have better security, which in turn behooves landlords to continue to maintain more secure properties.
Security Bars leading to the upper patio.
After the apartment passed its security check, we got the call from the Ross housing director early last week telling us that we could meet our landlady the next day to get our keys. Frankly, we weren’t quite prepared to move yet, but we were told that a new faculty member would be moving into our Horizons apartment.

Unfortunately this meant that while Julie was at work, the Domestic Commander would have to procure funds and keys, clean the old apartment and the new apartment, and move our belongings--with one exception. Our beloved kitty Kermit got to stay at the old apartment until Julie got back from work to move him, since he's more comfortable with her. Kermit is bit of an anxious kitty, especially after we packed up all “his” household belongings last month, stuffed him in an airline-approved bag, took him through three strange airports, shoved him under a airplane seat for 7 hours, and introduced him to a new country and home.

Kermit stalking a pair of Doves at the Ross House
Everything would have gone off without a hitch if we weren't moving to a closed-up second story apartment with a shingled roof in St. Kitts in the hottest month of the year. When I opened the new apartment up it smelled and felt like an attic in summer, musty and hot.
Steamy in our new place
When my first plan of opening all the windows to cool the place down failed, I decided to blast all four of the air conditioning units, regardless of what electricity might cost. However, much to my discontent, the remotes were all missing batteries. After a trip to buy batteries, I got the a/c working and was much happier.  I even stopped second guessing the wisdom of renting a second story apartment in the tropics.

Meanwhile, Julie checked the old house for forgotten items after betting that I would forget at least one of our belongings during the move. However, the Domestic Commander had pulled it off without forgetting anything at the old place! Julie then captured Kermit, who already knew something amiss. He howled for the entire 5 minute car ride. Once he was released into his new apartment and did his usual perimeter check of the place, he happily approved and this time didn’t even hide under furniture for days. 

With a few minor improvements and cleaning, we have settled in our new apartment well. The view is amazing from the top of Bird Rock Hill. We overlook Basseterre and Port Zante  from the southwest corner and can even see the airport off to our northeast. We found that having two bedrooms is awesome because one is significantly cooler than the other, and now that the house isn't closed up, we seldom even have to run our a/c.
 
The apartment is quite spacious, and Julie said that with the security bars, thick concrete walls and floors, and huge veranda the place looked like a Colombian drug lord’s hacienda. Hence we've nicknamed it “La Hacienda.” The only part of the house that wouldn’t classify as a bunker is the exposed wooden roof beams and cathedral ceiling, which I think gives it a cabin-like appearance.
Can you say hurricane proof?
Check out the wooden cathedral ceilings
There is also a lot of room in the yard for gardening and an abandoned lot beside us, which I am going to try to commandeer for an even larger garden space. We have a huge troop of monkeys that come to visit, including the largest male monkey I’ve seen on the island so far. We have a huge mango tree in our back yard, one of the reasons Julie was so excited to rent this apartment. We also have trees producing cherries, bananas, soursop, and sour oranges. In other words, we just moved in to a tropical grocery store!

Yep, this is what a mango tree looks like.



Banana Tree in the back yard
In short, all is well in Bird Rock. And now that we’re settled in after our second move, I should be able to deliver more frequent posts to entertain you, so stay tuned!