A few days ago, some friends invited us over for an early dinner at their apartment pool. The pool is a pretty lil' thing (especially by Grenada standards), and we had it all to ourselves! Tory and Dallin made pizza dough and we grilled it on their little grill, adding toppings afterward. I didn't pull out the camera until we had finished eating, so I don't have many pictures. Here are a few that I did snap though! Baby Mila (green diaper) took her first little steps during this get-together, so that was fun.
^^We figured that if there were ever an appropriate time to wear matching Hawaiian shirts, a poolside barbecue would be it.
Grilled Pizza

There are lots of times in Grenada when things come up that I would normally take care of pretty quickly, but because I am stranded here with few resources, must put off until we return to the States. Below I have listed a few such things.

// Engagement ring adjustments. Normally the only "adjustment" I make to my engagement ring is to take it in for a nice cleaning every few months. However, three or four days ago my engagement ring inexplicably cracked. Yes, cracked. This is especially strange, since it is only ever on my finger or on my jewelry box. It cracked right along the line where it was fitted down a size right before we got married. Maybe it's a temperature thing? Who knows, man. Surprisingly (haha, not), there's no legit place to get this fixed on the island, so it will have to wait a few months. In the meantime, I have some replacement rings I can wear around.
^^You can kind of see the crack at the bottom of the ring.
^^I love these layering rings that I picked up from Forever XXI over the summer. They're real cheap though and stain my fingers green, so I only wear them occasionally.
^^This beautiful pearl heirloom was given to me by my mom just before I graduated from high school, and it was given to her by her mom, and actually, I don't know the full story behind it. It's really special to me though, so I think I'll wear it on Sundays until my engagement ring's fixed.
^^I'll miss wearing this thing around. Also noteworthy, I did not paint my nails just for these pictures. It just so happened that the one time all year I decided to be adventurous with my nails was the exact day my ring cracked on me. Go figure.

// Babies. Oh, babies. If we were living in the States, we'd probably be trying for a baby by now. We're pretty baby hungry, plus Jared's kind of getting to be an old fart (kidding! he's only 27). The fact is, if we were to have a baby during our time in Grenada, I'd have to pick between having it natural (no epidurals here) in a third-world hospital room with very little help and no NICU, or else flying home to have it in the States and having Jared Skype in from the island for the birth (assuming I didn't go into labor during one of his many long tests), and then missing out on the first few months of baby's life. I have lots of friends here who have done one of the above and it worked out for them, but I am not ready to make that kind of decision at this point, and neither is Jared. Oh well--babies can wait a bit longer!

// Storing my toothbrush by the sink. I could do that here, but our bathroom remains at a constant state of 90% humidity, and that kind of grosses me out. Other things that gross me out include ants in my toothbrush and cockroaches on my toothbrush, both of which would be likely to happen if I left my toothbrush by the bathroom sink.

// Good snacks. The snacks available to us in Grenada are either really expensive (we're talking a US dollar an apple), or else kind of unsatisfying and completely unhealthy. We've made a habit of waiting until we can make a trip to America, and then loading up our suitcases with hundreds of dollars worth of snacks from Costco and Walmart. Worth it. Every time. Bless you, Costco.

// Doctor visits. Dentist visits, too. Have any sort of non-generic doctor need? Need to have a strange lump on your scalp looked at or get your bladder checked out or see a food allergist (all of which have happened to me since moving here)? There's a specialist for that! Just not in Grenada. (Actually, there are probably several specialists who teach at the med school, but they're inaccessible and/or not covered by my insurance.) Medical urgencies can wait.

// Road trips. I take that back--we went on a road trip here once. It lasted two hours and took us in a complete circle back to where we started. And yet somehow, tons of the locals here have never seen the opposite side of the island. It's a weird thing when the only big world you've ever known is some 22 miles long and 12 miles wide, and you've only ever explored a small section of it. It's a mind-boggling thing to see the world as these people see it. Maybe I'll do a full post on that sometime. But for now, spontaneous drive-for-hours road trips can wait.

// Broiling cinnamon toast. Broiling anything, really. Broiling is not an option in the island ovens, but that's ok! I'll make up for lost time wherever we end up next and make cinnamon toasts and patty melts three times a day. Broiling, my friends, can wait.

// Exercise. Exercise doesn't have to wait. But it can. And it will. I used to go for a nice long run every morning, but that kind of started to destroy my knees, so I'm going to give them a few years off. Jared and I really want to get into biking, but alas, bikes here are used and expensive and we'd have to sell them in a few months, plus the roads here are turrible for biking. Biking can wait.

// Other things that can wait: retail therapy, fast food, comfortable furniture, eating meat that is not chicken, getting a puppy, camping trips, and wearing my hair down.
Things that Can Wait

Tonight was one of those magic evenings when I stopped for a minute and enjoyed living in the here and now.  It's so easy on this path that Jared and I have chosen to get swept along in the mindset of "Okay, we're halfway done with Grenada, which means we're a fourth of the way done with med school, which means we're an eighth of the way to being able to settle down somewhere, which means we're a sixteenth of the way to paying off our student loans and living our lives how we want to." Sometimes it's hard to remember that this is our life. This island right here. Sure it's a stepping stone, but first and foremost, it's our life. And although it's really easy for the weeks and days to blur together (really--every week here feels like Sunday, a big mush of days in-between, Sunday again, repeat), it's refreshing to slow down once in a while and have those moments of, "Hey, this is life, and it's pretty good."

I'm not very good at setting boundaries for each aspect of my life. I used to be awesome at it, but then I graduated from college and had to structure my days around something other than classes and grades. I don't have times set aside for exercising, cleaning, preparing meals, working, relaxing, or anything else. I kind of just rotate between all of those categories from the moment I wake until the moment I sleep. Jared's schedule is different every day, so I can't set my heart on a particular dinner time or date time or bedtime, either. It's great to have lots of flexibility, but I also find that I don't get as much done overall as I did when I had every hour of my day meticulously planned out ahead of time. I also find that I live with a constant feeling of I-should-be-working-on-something, which makes the time I do spend relaxing less, well, relaxing.

Everything I have written up to this point has been a tangent. Oops. Oh well, I'm not going to delete it because the tangents are what I enjoy reading back on most.

Anyway, getting to the actual post. Tonight I made chicken shawarma for dinner. It was really tasty and made our kitchen smell like a dream. After we finished eating and doing the dishes, I had this insatiable desire to bake something pumpkiny. Perhaps it was the smell of nutmeg and cloves and cinnamon lingering in the air from our dinner. In any event, whenever I have an urge to bake, I seize it, because normally I detest baking. I always burn myself, my baked goods rarely turn out right, and I usually feel sick afterward because I have a sensitive stomach that frowns upon gorging itself with fantastic desserts. Such a shame. So although I had plenty of work to do when Jared retired to his study room after dinner, I thought, "What the heck. It's family night, and all the great family nights end with a treat, and I want to bake. I'm making pumpkin bars." Never one to do something halfway, I cranked up the AC, changed into my flannel PJ pants, plugged in our one little string of Christmas light, turned on Michael Buble's holiday album, and set out to bake some pumpkin chocolate chip bars.

It was awesome. I would highly recommend incorporating Christmas into August to anyone. Especially if you live far from home in a place where the seasons go "Summer, Summer, Extra-Hot Summer, Summer" instead of "Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall." Halfway through my baking endeavor it occurred to me that I summoned Christmas in August last year, too, but the circumstances were much less ideal then. We had only been here a week or two, we didn't have Internet so we couldn't talk to our families, no car, no normal oven, limited space, and I was terrified of my kitchen so I never left my bedroom. Those were dark times indeed. This August is awesome. I have plenty to do with my days so it's not quite so hard for me to give my husband up to his schooling, we have Internet and can talk to our families, we have a really cozy apartment, and I'm not afraid to use my own oven. Seriously. This is the life. Wow, this post could just keep going all day. It's always a bad sign when by the time you finish writing your blog post, you can't see the top of where you started writing without scrolling up. I'm leaving now. You're welcome.
Oh, and p.s., do yourself a favor and make these pumpkin chocolate chip bars right now. They are the best. You're double welcome.

A Monday Evening

^^A nice picture that has nothing to do with the rest of this post.

This past week I've had a bit of trouble falling asleep. A few nights ago I lay awake way past our bedtime, staring up at the ceiling and trying to empty my mind while Jared breathed deeply next to me. He'd probably been asleep for over an hour, and I was anxious to join him.

Just as I was finally beginning to drift away, Jared pulled me in close to him. I thought he was being cute and going in for a hug (he does that in his sleep sometimes), but then he grabbed my head in both of his hands, shifted it around a bit until it was right where he wanted it to be, and then he put his pillow over my face and promptly and forcefully lay his head down on top of it. After a few confused seconds of not breathing, I moved my head out from under the pillow to get some air. Not missing a beat, a sleeping Jared grabbed my head again, adjusted it to his liking some more, then fluffed his pillow on top of my face and lay back down on it. Uh?? Trying not to laugh, I pushed him away and moved as far away from the mad man as possible so that I could try again for the type of sleep that doesn't come from being smothered to death.

The next morning, Jared had no recollection of trying to smother me in my sleep. As funny as it was, I think I prefer Jared's sleep giggling phase--for its general lack of danger and presence of foreign accents.
Killed in my Sleep

One of the things I miss most about living in Utah is the delicious and elaborate Sunday dinners we would have with family. As far back as I can remember, half of my Sunday dinners were spent with my immediate family. My mom would spend the afternoon preparing dinner, and my dad would set the table with one of Mom's sets of fine china and silverware. Only now that I cook our own dinners every night do I appreciate the spread of dishes that was always on the Haines family Sunday dinner table. It was not uncommon to see roast, mashed potatoes, roasted vegetables, homemade rolls, a salad, fruit, fancy whipped jello (always jello!), and any number of other delicacies all on the same table. Even when Mom had had a busy Sunday and wanted to "throw together" an "easy" meal, she would always make homemade waffles with poached eggs and a variety of other delicious toppings. The Mormon Tabernacle Choir or some other Sunday-appropriate CD (often classical music) would play in the background as we ate and talked. After dinner we'd enjoy a dessert and Dad would try to wrangle up a few of my brothers to help him wash the china dishes by hand in the sink.

Holy cow, Mom and Dad. You guys really outdid yourselves. I've got some large shoes to fill when we have kids of our own some day. The only person that can out-do my mom when it comes to Sunday dinner is my grandma. (And even then, it's a close call.)

The other half of our Sunday dinners were spent with extended family on my mom's side, and most of these dinners were at Grandma Roper's house. These dinners were equally elaborate and delicious and eaten on some of the loveliest china I've seen, but with the added benefit of uncles and aunts and cousins all sitting around the table, telling stories and laughing (or making bodily noises and laughing, if you were luckily enough to sit at the kids' table). My favorite Sunday dinners were eaten at Grandma's house on her back patio/lawn in the summer. After dinner, the kids would often bust out a game of croquet or badminton or steal the flag. Grandma Roper is a master gardener and has the most perfect backyard for gatherings (including our wedding reception). There would always be something delicious for dessert at Grandma's, too.

This is all to say that our Sunday dinners in Grenada have always felt somewhat . . . lacking. Partially because it's usually just the two of us, and partially because I can't bring myself to make more than one main dish and maybe some vegetables on the side, if I'm feeling fancy. Food here is expensive, and also I'd rather spend my Sunday afternoons taking advantage of having Jared all to myself than cooking up a storm.

I think we've finally found a good Sunday dinner tradition of our own though. This last Sunday, we went for a little drive up to Le Phare Bleu. We recently discovered that there are some fancy houses and normal roads up there, and we wanted to check out that action. I whipped up some basil chicken pasta (#fancy), put it in a tupperware (#doublefancy), and off we went to have a Sunday picnic dinner at Le Phare Bleu (I think the official town name is actually "Egmont"). We drove around the area for a bit, which is beautiful because it's tucked into the picturesque bay with a pretty bridge and a nice view of some private islands. We found a secluded patch of grass to put our picnic blanket down on and eat. After eating, we spied on the private Calivigny Island Resort through our binoculars, and then drove back home to talk to our families. I think we'll make this a once-monthly Sunday tradition of our own. It was nice to be in a nice neighborhood with a nice view, eating Sunday dinner together without feeling rushed or distracted. Also, spying on rich people with binoculars is always an appropriate Sunday activity.
Sunday Picnic

Last night I spent quite a bit of time reading back through my blog archives--from a little over a year ago when we were just planning to move to Grenada, up to today. It was so good to read through my posts about the first few months here, not only to relive some fun experiences, but also to see how far I've come. Although I was never overwhelmingly depressing in any of those posts, reading through the lines I can see that the culture shock was real for me then, and that in comparison, I'm really thriving now. I wish that Laura could see this Laura. She'd be so much less anxious and fearful if she knew how well she'd adjust. Oh well, at least this Laura can see that Laura and be grateful for her perseverance, and grateful for where she's at now. (Deep stuff there, guys.) Being 1/8 of the way done with this doctorhood journey is waaaaay better than being 1/800 of the way done with the doctorhood journey.

I also read through my two new years' resolutions for 2015, one of which was to blog much more regularly (oops). So in an effort to get back on track with that goal, and with some much-needed encouragement from my sweet grandmother, I'm going to bring you up-to-date in a few short sentences and then start blogging about everyday things from here on out. I know this adventure will go by quickly (it already has been!), and I don't want to look back on this time with any regrets about not recording the big things and the little things. 

So just briefly, Jared recently finished his third term of medical school. It was six weeks of what felt like normal, get-to-see-my-husband-sometimes life. Bliss. His schedule was easy so we were able to do quite a bit of exploring and hanging out. As per usual, Jared did great in his classes and came out with an A grade. (There was technically only one class on his third-term transcript--behavioral sciences--but lots of mini classes went into it.) Fourth term started a week ago. It's going to be the worst term of them all. In the past, he's had four hours of class each day and then spent 9+ hours of studying. This term he'll be in classes and labs for 9 hours a day, and then he'll have to cram all his studying in when he finally gets home after 6:00 each evening. Gross. Jared's eating it up though. He must be cut out for this path, because the tougher the schedule, the more excited he gets to become a doctor.

Ok, now I want to post some pictures of another favorite Grenadian fruit. Who am I kidding, I love all the Grenadian fruits! This one is called sugar apple, and I think it's only in season for a few more months. The sugar apple looks green and black and scaley on the outside. When Jared's mom saw a picture of me holding one, she commented that it looked like I was holding a snake. If you press your thumbs into a sugar apple, you can pry it open (as long as it's ripe). Inside, it's filled with lots of black seeds encased in delicious white fruit. To eat the fruit, you pop a seed in your mouth, suck the fruit off, and spit the seed out. It tastes like an unusually sweet mango to me, unless you get an overripe one. Then it just tastes dry and fermented. I'm sure this isn't the last post you'll see that features the sugar apple. I can't get enough of them, and this may be my last chance ever to enjoy them!

Sugar Apple

Here are a few more pictures of my beautiful Brinley puppy. Sorry if pictures of dogs aren't your thing (but if you don't like pictures of puppies in the snow then you have no soul). My mom's really into these pictures though, and let's be honest, this blog is mostly for my mom. (Hi Mom! I'll send you the originals over dropbox tomorrow. Love you!)

Pup in the Snow

Over the summer, my family's dog was put down. Brinley was getting old and had lots of health problems (tumors, strokes, etc.), so it was definitely time. But even though she'd lived a long, full doggy life, it was difficult for everyone to let her go. She was my snuggle buddy on Friday nights in junior high and high school, when I'd stay in and study instead of hanging out with my friends (who were probably all home studying too, because we were all NERDS). She was my walking buddy when I wanted to walk around and see the lights around Christmastime, but was too scared to go out after dark on my own. She was my hiking and exploring buddy throughout college, and I took her with me on dozens and dozens of hikes up Dry Canyon. She was the only witness when Jared got down on one knee and asked me to marry him one afternoon during a trail run.

When Jared and I visited Utah this last Christmas, we knew that Brinley probably didn't have more than a few months left in her, so we took her up Dry Canyon and snapped a few pictures. My mom's been waiting months for me to post these. Sorry it took me so long!

Pup in the Mountains

Today marks exactly one year since we stepped off a little plane onto the runway of Grenada's international airport. We've been through a lot in that one year. Like, A LOT a lot. More than I can begin to put into a blog post, especially with seven minutes until midnight and Jared trying to get some sleep next to me (yesterday was his first day of fourth term--FOURTH). So instead, I will make a brief list of some things I experienced and saw in Grenada today, just to give you a taste of what normal life is like here:

(1) As I drove some new friends downtown, we saw a man sprawled out in the middle of the road. At first I thought he must've passed out drunk (yesterday was Grenada's biggest national holiday/party: Carnival). But then there was blood all over his face, so...we were pretty sure he was dead. I pulled over so we could maybe help, or at least call someone. After a minute or so, he gained some consciousness, moved his arms a bit, and then stood up at the sound of an approaching ambulence. We still have no idea how he got there.

(2) There's been a rotten smell lingering in the air around our house over the past few days. We think it's seaweed rotting on the coasts, but whatever it is, it smells like the most rank rotten eggs you could ever imagine. It's enough to keep me inside, avoiding my evening walks and dusk veranda sessions.

(3) Rats eating rats. We get to enjoy this scene when we drive late at night.

(4) I left the door open for 30 seconds this afternoon. Mosquitos have been munching on me ever since.

(5) Dinner was a delightful stir fry of ramen, local cabbage, and canned chicken (made by Jared--I'm the luckiest). It was pretty good, but we eat more college-y here than we ever did in actual college, since the food prices are astronomical.
(6) A lunch of tropical sugar apples--something I may never taste again in my life after Grenada.

(7) A smoothie binge followed by a wave of lethargy and a lengthy mid-afternoon nap.

(8) The most gorgeous sunset seen from our backyard. Although I miss Utah's vibrant sunsets over the mountains, the mellow sunsets here are an entirely different kind of beautiful.

(9) A double date at the quaint Excel Plaza theater--beloved for its air conditioning, cheap popcorn, and Grenadians who treat the theater like their living room and make hilarious comments throughout the movie.

(10) After our date, we came home to a sky full of bright, beautiful stars. The kind  only visible on a cloudless night on a beautiful tropical island.



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