The consequence for working for pay as a foreigner in St. Maarten is immediate deportation. However, I can apparently work online through American-based employers. While a two-year vacation on a Caribbean islands sounds lovely, a two-year vacation on a Caribbean island with a job to pay some of the bills sounds even better.
I hoped to get a full-time job this summer, but somehow or other nothing I tried worked out. I think it was by the grace of God, actually. It’s been lovely to spend these days with Ben, since it’s the last time we’ll be able to spend quantity time together for what seems like forever. Also, we’ve had a lot of moving preparations to do. We’ve actually been blessed with quite a lot of paid work, anyway. We drive two awesome kids home from camp a couple times each week. I babysit two or three times a week, and sometimes Ben comes with me. Ben has a job as a tutor, also. We get to housesit twice this summer. The biggest blessing, though, is the work that will last during our time in St. Maarten. Ben suggested that I try freelance illustrating again. I did it a little before and during college, but he thought I could try to work into a full-time job. So, I bought Adobe Illustrator and started a Cafepress store and put myself out there on a few websites. I was discouraged at first, but not long after we prayed for a design job for me, I got an offer for a part-time job with a printing company. So, I am working for a printing company designing T-shirts. I just finished my first batch of sixty-four and my client loved them. Praise God! Looks like we’ll have a little income while we’re on the island.
We are officially set to move to St. Maarten! We have plane tickets for August 18, Ben’s medical tests are done, our letters of good standing are filed away with the school, and all the little checklist items have been completed. Our move itself is relatively inexpensive. Our total cost for two one-way tickets is under $500. Since we can’t take a moving van with us, we won’t have that expense, and we decided to leave our car here rather than take it with us. We get to bring two 50-lb suitcases each, so anything we want will have to fit in those and in our carry-ons and personal items.
The last two or three weeks have been filled with sorting, planning, purchasing and preparing. We only owned one large suitcase, so we went to Goodwill (actually, four Goodwills) and bought three more. Our total was about $45 for all three, and they are strong and in good shape. I love second-hand stores.
Our first course of action in preparing to leave our apartment was to declutter it entirely. Don’t you hate moving and sorting through unused junk at the same time? I thought I had decluttered my stuff when we got married and moved in to this apartment a year ago. Turns out I was wrong. Apparently, I have saved every single bank receipt since I was seven–and categorized them by month in envelopes. Same with pay stubs since I started a regular job as a college freshman. I also saved and organized all my college notes, assignments, and syllabuses by class and semester. By the time I went through all of that and all the random papers stuffed in between books on the bookshelf, our trash and shred piles were enormous. We managed to condense our giant accordion folder into one and a half tiny ones. Fortunately, we also found some long-lost important paperwork that we needed.
After we went through our papers, we went through the rest of our random stuff- you know, the kind of stuff that ends up being shifted from the bookshelf to the table to under the bed to the closet and back to the bookshelf? That stuff you can’t do anything with but can’t get rid of? As it turns out, we actually could get rid of most of it. It’s amazing how much stuff I thought I needed until I started planning to move overseas. We also wrote down everything that was left and decided what we would do with it– sell it, give it or donate it, store it at my parents’ house, or take it with us. The list of what we’ll actually need to take is quite short. It mostly consists of books and clothing. The stuff we’re storing is the stuff we can’t take, but will use to set up house again when we return to the States, such as our dishes, bedding, and that kind of thing, as well as things we got as wedding gifts that are too big or too heavy to take with us.
Speaking of books, we also went through those. My books are my friends, so it was hard to say goodbye to so many of them (but not nearly as hard as it will be to say goodbye to our human friends). We packed up about half our books to sell or give away (I kid you not- half of our books). I think I also still have a nice collection of Bible commentaries at my parents’ house, but I don’t count that because it hasn’t been in our apartment. Besides, Ben has Logos software, which contains most of the best scholarly Bible study materials anyway, so print books aren’t really necessary. They’re too heavy to move, and an iPad isn’t (I hate to write that– I’m still a supporter of pages. I love pages far more than screens). Perhaps there also comes a point when a book may be good, but if I’m really not going to read it again, and probably won’t loan it to anyone because it’s not quite that good, then I really don’t need it anymore. Share the love; sell it and let someone else enjoy it. Maybe that’s my attitude because I know I really don’t have a choice at this point; maybe I’ll be a book hoarder again when (if) we settle down and stay somewhere for a long while someday.
I had already gone through my clothing once, so I had (for the first time ever!) fewer clothes than Ben did. I had already sold or donated about 1/3 of my clothes, and I think that yesterday we probably got rid of half of what was left between his clothes and mine. We stuffed them all in a giant laundry bag, which Ben says weighs more than I do. According to minimalist websites and my own findings, all you really need for clothing is seven T-shirts, five nice shirts, a handful of dresses (unless you’re a guy… switch this for button-ups), a blazer and business skirt/dress pants, a sets of workout shorts, a pair of denim shorts, a pair of denim capris (or your favorite substitute), two pairs of jeans (one dark pair for dressing nice and one work pair), a few skirts if you’re a girl, one or two jackets, some warm things for cold climates (not sure what that entails, because I live in Phoenix) and enough socks and underwear to last a week or two. I actually kept a few more skirts and dresses than I need because I like them and they fit in the suitcase. In reality, what one REALLY needs for clothing looks nothing like this. You can survive on a lot less clothing, and most people in the world do.
If you are not interested in cutting down your wardrobe, come to our garage sale in July and take some of those clothes off our hands at a great price…
We packed our clothing suitcases yesterday, just to see what we could fit. All our clothes, plus shoes, cosmetics, and nail polish, fit into two suitcases weighing exactly 49 pounds each. Now we have two remaining suitcases, two carry-on bags, and two personal items to fill. We’re taking about 20-25 books, including some of Ben’s science textbooks, and I suppose we’ll decide later what things are most important to fill the last the space in our luggage.
Thanks for reading this long post! Maybe I’ve inspired some of you to take a weekend or two and declutter a bit. It’s amazing what we keep in our closets, bookshelves, and bedrooms that we really don’t need. Cleaning out the clutter is making our home more peaceful and our lives more simple. That is a great reward. Oh, and did I mention that we found almost $100 in the process? Now, if that doesn’t motivate you…
Three weeks ago we got the news… Ben was accepted to medical school at American University of the Caribbean! AUC is located on the Dutch side of St. Maarten, a tiny island in the Caribbean. It’s beautiful.
The past couple of the weeks have been a flurry of activity. Ben’s teaching job ended a week ago, and immediately after we flew to Indiana for our friends’ wedding. Since we’ve been back, we have spent the last four days doing almost nothing but prepare for the trip. We have a small one-bedroom apartment, but the amount the random needless stuff we have found so far is enough to furnish a mansion! At least that’s what it feels like as we take our nightly trip to the dumpster. This morning, it looked like a wild chimpanzee broke in and had a disco party in our living room. After we get rid of all the trash, we still have to sort through the stuff to store, sell, and pack. It looks like we won’t be able to take much; whatever we bring will have to fit into two suitcases each. Fortunately, I’ve read that the island has just about anything you can find on the mainland, just not much variety.
We found a place to live today, a one-bedroom in an apartment that is a short walk from campus and just a few minutes to the beach. I can’t complain– I’ll have Ben home for lunch every day and the ocean within sight! The only downside is that it is going to cost us $1,100 per month, plus utilities. Believe it or not, that is actually in the inexpensive side for island living! Despite the cost, it will be nice to have a little more space and the ability to walk where we need to go.
As an aside, I started a CafePress shop this week! My products are inspired by the third culture and cultures around the world. Come see my artwork and designs: http://www.cafepress.com/thirdculture
Keep us in your prayers as we make this transition… it still hasn’t completely sunk in yet that we’re leaving, but it’s coming soon.