Tales and thoughts from the founder of NormSoft (maker of Pocket Tunes), working and living in St. Croix, USVI

Thursday, August 25, 2005

My Bike Arrived!

I shipped my bicycle through the US Postal Service parcel post on Friday 8/5.  It just arrived yesterday, 19 days later!  I am eager to go for a ride.

I spoke with Jamie at the bike shop, who is the mechanic there and apparently does really well in the local races.  The biking on St. Croix is supposedly very good.  There are lots of local road races and triathalons.  The terrain is mountainous in areas and flat in others.  I went for a quick spin near my house and found that the hills are quite steep.  I should get back into shape pretty quick!  I'm hoping to start riding every morning before it gets warm and before the traffic gets bad.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Shipping warning

If you ship something to us down here, go way overboard on the packing protection, please.  USPS Priority mail is the fastest way to get stuff here, but they are exceptionally rough with the packages.

We just received a gift today that included very well-wrapped and packed margarita glasses.  Unfortunately, 6 out of the 8 had broken stems, and a heavy duty 3-4mm thick plastic serving tray was completely smashed.  Amazing!

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Cheap cigarettes

Without taxes, cigarettes are amazingly cheap in St. Croix.  At Cost-U-Less, the local warehouse store, a carton (10-pack) of Marlboro's is $16.  A carton of Pall Mall's is $7!  When we were in Massachusetts, a carton costs around $50 or $60 because of state taxes.  Unfortunately, this doesn't help people who want to quit...

And no, we're not taking orders!

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Electricity is fun

So we're in the midst of our first power outage on the island.  Supposedly these are fairly frequent, but luckily our house came equipped with a 21kW generator powerful enough to run the whole house.  It's got a 500 gallon oil tank, good for a month or more.  It's a bit noisy, but it's nice to have the power on!

Visit us in St. Croix

We'd love to have our friends and family visit us in St. Croix.  I've set up a web-based calendar where you can book your time.  Email me for the web address and login info.

The Conclusion

Everyone's been emailing me, asking how the story ends.  Sorry for keeping you in suspense.

The next morning, I drove down to the service station, and they had a receipt hanging by the cash register.  "Oh yeah, here it is," he said.  And I gave him my credit card, and we were good.  Simple!

So how did we get money?  Well, the ATMs were still not working, so we went over to the Cormorant Beach Club hotel, where we've stayed on both trips to St. Croix.  We had been eating there almost every day this time because we hadn't gotten any food in our house yet.  So the lovely manager of the hotel told us she acts as "banker" for a lot of the local regular diners, and she'd be happy to cash a check.  So there you go!  We still haven't been to an ATM that works!

We had dinner with our realtor Honnie (www.honnie.com) a few nights ago.  She planned a dinner with some of her staff and 3 couples who had recently purchased homes on St. Croix.  We had a lovely dinner and made some good friends.  We took one couple to our favorite island restaurant, Savant, last night.  Its cuisine is a mixture of Thai (coconut-based curries), Mexican (fajitas, etc.), and Caribbean (fresh fish, Caribbean spices, etc.).  It's always fantastic, and their bartender Cheryl makes incredible rumritas.  The yellowfin tuna is fresh off the boat, same day, from local waters and is perfect ordered rare.

Speaking of rum, it's cheap here!  The Cruzan rum distillery is on the island, and there is no duty charged on any alcohol.  All the grocery stores have the Cruzan dark and light rum for about $4 a bottle (750ml), and I've heard you can often get it for as cheap as $2.  They also have a great selection of flavored rums that are really tasty, and a key component in the raspberry or pineapple rumrita.  Since Coca-Cola is sometimes over $2 per bottle and some imported juices are really expensive, you can imagine that the bartenders here tend to overpour the liquor in the mixed drinks!

I'm working on putting up a calendar web page so friends and family can reserve the guest house.  I'll send out an email when it's ready.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Island Living

Everyone is so laid back on the island that it's sometimes quite surprising!

A few days ago we spent our last cash, thinking that we'd just go to the ATM to get some more.  Well, 4 ATMs later, and 2 of them were out of service, and the other 2 said, "Could not process transaction.  Temporary error.  Try again later."  So okay we'll use our credit cards.

On the way home from dinner, we stopped to buy some gas.  "Do you take credit cards?"  "Nope."  Hmm, okay.  Next station.  No credit cards.  Next station, "No, but go down the road to Everybody's Service Station.  They take cards."  Woo hoo!

So out of the car to fill up the tank and get some cigarettes for Gerald.  "Do you take credit cards?"  "Sure!  Visa and Mastercard."  Great!  So we started filling up.  After about 11 gallons, suddenly all the lights went out and the pumps went dead.  We'd been hit by one of WAPA's infamous power outages.  WAPA is the Water and Power Authority on the Island, and everyone complains about their inefficiencies and frequent outages.

So now we're thinking, "Okay, we don't have any cash.  Our checks are back at home, and the power's out, so we can't pay with a credit card.  Uh oh!"  "Do you have a generator?"  "Yeah, but it's busted."  Okay, we'll just wait for the power to come back on.

5 minutes later, and no power.  The service station owner finally said, "Well it's probably not going to come back on, so I'm just going to close up.  Come back tomorrow and pay me.  Here's a pack of cigarettes; I'll add it to your bill."  "We can go get you a check."  "No, don't bother.  Just come back tomorrow."  Stunned, we said, "Okay...", then introduced ourselves, shook hands, and off we went.

Stay tuned for the exciting conclusion to find out how we eventually got some cash!

The view from our new home.

We're mostly moved in now. We've had some interesting adventures, which I'll share soon.

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Monday, August 08, 2005

One of my carryon bags had 20 PDAs, MP3 players, and cell phones. They didn't say a peep when it went through the X-ray machine. I have to wonder what the X-ray tech was thinking. 'Oh another bag o' Palms...'

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As some of you know, Gerald and I are moving to St. Croix (US Virgin Islands) this winter to work from paradise. I'm going to try to write regular updates in my blog about our trials and tribulations.

Today was our flight from Boston to St. Croix. We're in the San Juan airport now waiting on our layover.

When we unloaded our 10 bags at the curb, we needed a porter. I asked someone rolling a cart and he quickly emptied it and said, 'See that long line over there? That's for this luggage service. But stick with me and I'll take care of you.'

He loads our 6 bags and says, 'You know you only get 2 bags per person.' Gerald said, 'No, AA told us that we get 2 bags per seat, and we purchased 3 seats.' 'Okay I'll go check.'

Turns out he was right. So he says, 'Play along... You're very upset because you were told incorrect information. I can get you to the front of the line, but you'll have to pay for the bags anyway.'

With some guilt, we skipped ahead of the dozens of people in line while he demanded a manager on our behalf and got our tickets in just a few minutes. We gave him a good tip!

Two of our carryons are our cats. Going through security, they said, 'Take the cats out and walk through.' Ack! It was hard getting them in those carriers. Luckily the drugs had kicked in and 2 groggy kitties put up no fight getting back in their carriers.

Temperature: 88F in San Juan, PR. Sunny and humid. Calm.

More later...

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