Tuesday, February 23, 2010

It's a celebration

I almost died of boredom this weekend while Jon was studying for exams (again), so when he finished his last test yesterday I decided we were going out. We’ve passed a restaurant called Ocean View Terrace every time we’ve gone to the beach, and I always gaze at it longingly. But the menu posted outside advertised ridiculously expensive prices, so we always walked on by to the tune of my dragging feet and a sad melody (think of Charlie Brown, or George Michael Bluth). But wait! Our friends mentioned having gone there for Valentine’s Day and spending just over 20 dollars total! How is this possible?? Well as it turns out, the menu outside only advertised meal prices in GUILDERS. We mixed up dollars and guilders! What a rookie mistake! Lucky for us, the Netherlands Antilles guilder is worth nearly half of an American dollar. And while that means that each time we pay for groceries in dollars we get three pounds of guilder coins back for change, it also meant that we could go to the Ocean View Terrace to celebrate the end of Jon’s exams. Hooray!

We headed down early so we could explore old Fort Oranje and watch the sunset before the restaurant opened. PHOTO OVERLOAD:

This is Statia’s claim to fame (aside from once being one of the busiest ports in the Caribbean). When America first declared independence, they sent a ship out to notify the Caribbean islands. Apparently there was some sort of code, using cannon blasts, and St Eustatius was the first island to fire back in a salute showing their support of American independence. Then during the Revolutionary War, Statia was key in providing ammunition and weaponry to the colonies. Yay Statia-America ties! Some of the locals would do well to remember our longstanding friendly history before nearly running American pedestrians over with their cars.

Stupid power lines!!

The restaurant. Don’t let the red Christmas lights fool you. The food was AMAZING. We both got snapper. I’m drooling.

In conclusion, I have the cutest niece ever.

Thursday, February 18, 2010


They have kestrels in the US too, but here they call them "Killy-killy kestrels" which A) is more adorable, and B) I chant whenever given the opportunity.

Monday, February 15, 2010


We’ve been hearing about this so-called Chicken Day with increasing frequency over the past couple months. I was wary at first, because I’m always wary when it comes to meat on this island. US food standards do not apply here; we’ve basically become vegetarians in the past six months. (SIX MONTHS?? Has it been that long?) We were tipped off early on that some of the local grocers turn their fridges and freezers off at night to save on their electricity bill. Not all, but some. Just one of those differences between Statia and the US. Something else we had to get used to, like how we’ve trained ourselves to sleep despite frenzied barking from all the dogs in the neighborhood at three in the morning. Our house doesn’t help – somehow it has better acoustics than Carnegie Hall, meaning that when a hen is constructing a nest in the foliage along our fence in the morning it sounds like someone is trying to murder you by crinkling a plastic bag inside your eardrum. And it turns out that roosters like hanging around hens. Once they start crowing right outside the window, it’s all over. You can train yourself to sleep through dogs barking, but you can never learn to block out the noise of a rooster crowing ten feet away from your head. A couple of weeks back I stumbled outside in a sleep-deprived delirium and actually threw a rock at an overzealous rooster. (Sorry, Annie. I missed, if it helps you feel any better. But I was aiming to shut him up FOREVER.)

Anyway, Chicken Day, CHICKEN Day. It happens every Saturday in a local family’s yard. They live about as far away from our house as you could get on the island, which is one of the reasons why it took us so long to give it a try. That, combined with the fact that my brother-in-law Kyle almost died of salmonella two years ago. Okay, exaggeration, but he later told me his symptoms and I think it’s safe to say that he WISHED he was dead at some points. I’ve been scared of poultry ever since. But this barbeque is a hit among the students, and so far none have had any Chicken Day related illnesses. SO WE WENT, and ohhhh myyyy goshhhh. Delectable. Saucy. Delicious. Chicken. Delectable.

Jon got ribs. Who gets ribs on Chicken Day??

It was a long walk to that side of the town so we decided to make the most of it and hit up Dr. Hazel’s (more about that later), but we were delayed by an angry cow. We’re not sure how the whole commotion started but by the time we happened along some local men were attempting to tug her across the street. She wanted blood.

No one was gored. We had to wait for a few minutes while they wrestled with her, though, because this all took place right in front of Hazel’s.

It’s the best place we’ve found on the island to get produce. He grows most of it in his yard – tomatoes, bananas, avocados, coconuts, plantains, cucumbers, etc. Plus he keeps some rabbits (hence “pet shop” on the sign). Sort of weird. We love it.

There you go. Also, I took this picture the other night. I could make it a separate post, but why?

Monday, February 08, 2010

Graveyard Rock

First, you know that gap in a door near the hinges where a child’s finger or perhaps a large gecko could get squished? A large gecko got squished in that gap in our bedroom door. We didn’t discover it until we’d been smelling death for two days. Jon made the grisly discovery after being inspired to check the hinges. I wasn’t present for the removal, but I heard all about it later. Apparently it rolled down the door jamb once he dislodged it, leaving a gooey death trail as it went. Jon twitched for hours.

Second, Friday was so much fun. We spent a couple of hours at the beach and then on our way home were excited to see that our favorite fair-weather bakery was open. Usually it’s not, but that doesn’t stop me from hoping each time we walk past. We snacked on warm rolls on the bakery’s front porch for a minute before heading in to the graveyard to collect some fruit. The mango tree in there is the biggest I’ve seen on the island, but the ripe ones had already been claimed by the wildlife. Still, it was fun to poke around. Pictures!

First jellyfish sting! It slightly burned and prickled for a minute or two. Half an hour later you would have never known. Borrrring.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Performance Anxiety

Music seems to run in the family. My grandfather, Max Dalby, was very highly regarded in the Utah music circle. He spent his life conducting and composing, and served as head of the music department at Utah State University for eight years. All of his nine children are musical as well, two of which became conductors themselves, and one who sings in the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. As far as immediate family goes, Corinne and Annie both easily exceeded my natural ability (and my dedication to lessons and practice), but at one point I was pretty effing good at the clarinet. Music festivals, Honor Band, you name it.

But this post is not about how awesome of a clarinetist I was (and how I once won a trophy for being the most talented band student out of 176), because my mom has taught piano for as long as I can remember, and though I never had structured lessons from her (my choice, not hers) I was always a part of the semi-annual recitals she put on to give her students experience performing. And THAT’S where the good stories are.

My life as a mediocre pianist has been filled with happy hours of self-teaching and playing by ear, punctuated by panic-stricken performances at these recitals, which I would stress over for weeks FOR NO GOOD REASON because it seemed that no matter how hard I practiced, my nerves would just foul things up anyway.

One year Corinne and I ended up with a duet called “When the Saints Go Rockin’ In”, a brainless little tune even worse than its terrible title suggests, each line concluded by a few jazzy chords. If you were to sing along, the words would go something like, “Oh when the saintsBA-DA BA, BA, BA! Go marching rockin' inBA-DA BA, BA, BA!” And so on, and so forth. About four measures into the performance, Corinne and I became irreversibly off-beat, and that combined with our sudden audience-induced awareness of the ridiculous tune set us dissolving into uncontrollable giggling and elbow-jabbing. A year later I ruined “The Pink Panther”, snorting through the whole thing again, only this time it must have just looked sad, because I was up there messing things up all by myself. And snorting.

Then along came Ianni, my mom’s prized pupil. He was destined to be great, considering his name shared the same pronunciation as one Yanni Hrysomallis.

Ianni eventually advanced so far in his musical career that my mom had to, with a heavy heart, make the ultimate sacrifice and pass him off to a more skilled instructor. But before it came to that, there was a recital he had to perform in, and not just any old recital, either. A duet recital. As a distant second in musical ability among the group, I was tasked with performing with the Golden Child. My mom dug up some showy number called Valencia, assigned me the slightly easier part (primo), and I practiced until my fingers bled. Not really. But still. Messing up “While the Saints Go Rockin’ In” would be nothing compared to embarrassing the King of Keys in front of his parents, so I practiced. Though the nerves didn’t completely set in until I showed up at the chapel for the recital to discover half the pews full of Ianni’s family and friends. And THEN, oh my gosh, the terror - I saw his father setting up a video camera on a tripod just a couple of feet away from the piano bench. My mom saw my face and explained that she had permitted it so that the remainder of Ianni’s extended family (in Italy, I presume) could admire his greatness. But miracle of miracles, I don’t think I screwed the performance up too badly. At least I don’t remember trying to discreetly slide off the bench mid-performance and roll for the door, which I’m sure I would have done had it gone horrifically awry.

This post doesn’t have a happy ending, though, because I tried to repeat the success several years later with my mom at a family talent show, and oh dear. The entire thing was a disaster, and what was supposed to be the grand finale of an emotional showpiece was reduced to an unfortunate, loud, plodding repetition of “PLINK-UH-DINK-UH-PLINK-UH” while I struggled to make my fingers cooperate.

......I sat as First Chair clarinet for four consecutive years.

Monday, February 01, 2010


If you were to take everything in this world that is virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy and mash it all together in the form of one person, the end result would be Christa Keele. I was a gawky friendless transplant to Gardnerville, Nevada when we became friends, and she’s been one of my absolute favorite people ever since. We went to EFY (and every single stake dance within 60 miles) together, walked together at graduation, and drove over an hour to attend the grand re-opening of King’s Chinese Buffet after it had been closed down due to health-code violations. Currently she’s serving a mission in Peru, so I’ve got a collection of letters from her, excerpts from which you will thank me for sharing with you. I’ve also included some tidbits from some of my letters to her, because sometimes I say funny things, too.

Did you get a companion assignment right away? Is she crazy? Did she offer you a foot rub? Per your request, I prayed that she wouldn’t. Is the food delicious? Are you guys allowed outside at all? Are there….public showers? Can we give everyone nicknames like at EFY, even though I’m not there?

I have indeed nicknamed everyone in my district and here are my favorites: Helen Hunt (she’s a dead ringer!), and Mr. Incredible. Somehow I WILL get you a picture, but he must be the grandson of some Pixar guru because they definitely used him as the model for Mr. Incredible. Even a teacher asked him if he’d ever been told that. Everyone was embarrassed. But it’s okay because then he asked the teacher if anyone had told HIM that he had a receding hairline! Oh the harmony here at the MTC!

My companion is okay. She’s a Navajo from Sanders, AZ. Do you know her? I thought you might, seeing as how you’re both from Arizona and all. Anyway, we spend a lot of time explaining things to each other. Somehow she never learned some things in life, like what a c-section is, what Music and the Spoken Word is, what 2-a-days in football are, and what the Office is…so I’ve been filling her in on all that, and she’s been filling me in on things like, “When people have three red fingers on the reservation it means they’ve been eating fire-flavored Cheetos.”

You may or may not have been with me for this discussion back in 2001-2002. Jared Whitaker was telling a group of people about this one time he was passing the sacrament. Some old guy took the cup and decided to try to crinkle it AS he drank the water, but his timing was off and he doused his entire front in holy sacrament water. For some reason, I cannot think of that story without snickering to myself. I love it. WHOA, here comes another sacrament story. My parents were out of town one week so the Crossmans invited us to sit with them. After the bread went past us, Lianna leaned across me to Annie and rebuked her in a loud whisper: “Annie!!! I SAW that!!” So of course Annie is thrown off guard and is like, uhh, you saw what? And Lianna proceeds to pantomime taking an entire handful of bread off the sacrament tray, mashing it into a ball, and putting it in her pocket to eat in small increments throughout the day. That’s about the hardest I’ve ever laughed at an inappropriate time.

Here’s a story I think you will appreciate. The other day I was walking through the cafeteria when an Elder, out of nowhere, THRUST his hands out to stretch as he was sitting down, right when I was walking by, and PUNCHED ME IN THE CROTCH! Straight to the baby maker! He was pretty chagrinned, as was I, and I can almost guarantee he was on a plane home within hours of the incident.

So get this, they have a MAKE-UP class here at the MTC! I wanted to go so bad solely to write you about their “tips”, but I missed the sign-up!! If I sneak my way in I’ll definitely let you know how we can be more attractive.

I learned to say something I probably shouldn’t have in the MTC. It’s ‘cabeza de mierda’ and it’s what my grandma called me from the ages of 9-17. Use at your leisure.

OH MY GOSH, funniest story ever. So, Corinne was having this irritated uterus thing with her pregnancy, which means her uterus was cramping, but she wasn’t emitting the labor hormone. Anyway, she ended up at the hospital a couple of weeks ago (everything is fine, they just gave her a shot to stop it from contracting) and the doctor was checking to see if she had dilated at all. So she goes to do the exam, and for some reason it was excruciatingly painful for Corinne (they found out she also has a UTI, so that probably explains why). So she asked the lady to stop. So the doctor was like, “Um, okay, I guess I’ll have to do it manually” and Corinne was like, “Is that something you have to do often?” and the doctor was like “…well….I’ve done it twice”. So Corinne says “What were the circumstances?” and the doctor hesitates a moment, then says “Uh, they were both disabled”. HAHAHahAHAhHAHA!!!! When Corinne told me, she’s like “I HAVE THE PAIN TOLERANCE OF A RETARDED PERSON!!” and we laughed for an hour.

So my first Saturday I’m wandering around, wondering how I ended up in Peru, when I witnessed a rat get beaten to death with a bucket! We were walking down the street and saw a slight commotion ahead of us. All of a sudden there was a giant RAT running toward us. Don’t you worry about our welfare though, because before I knew what was happening, a man with a bucket came running up and started beating the rat! It was making noises I didn’t know animals could make. So then it dies (I’m assuming – it quit screeching anyway) and everyone goes about their business as usual.

I’m still working on the Spanish. I’d like to share two stories with you to illustrate that point. 1) We went to dinner at the house of some converts. It was me, my companion, two Elders, the converts, and another family from our ward. Well I can’t handle awkward silence so I, being the LEAST qualified person to do so, decided to make conversation. There was a volleyball tournament going on in our ward and the convert and member lady were both playing in it. So I said, “So…I hear you are both really good ---“ At this point I thought I said “at volleyball”. Now I don’t know what actually came out of my mouth, but it was met with looks of shock and horror and then riotous laughter on the part of the Elders. Afterward I was informed I’d just called them whores. 2) Some people were asking me about Easter traditions in the US, so I was explaining about the Easter Bunny and Easter baskets and obviously my favorite Easter candies. Well I was attempting to explain those little chocolate eggs that have a candy shell and are so delicious. Somehow I ended up describing male anatomy…I’m not going to go into more detail. I’m sure you’ve got it figured out, but it’s safe to say I left those people more than a little curious about how we Americans celebrate the Resurrection of Christ.

The end. And FYI, I emailed Corinne ahead of time for permission to broadcast her pelvic exam story online. She wrote back, "It should be shared".