Ziploc bags are not considered a bare essential for most, but finding these babies are like pure gold on my island. The Ziploc brand simply doesn’t exist here. There is only this cheap local brand whose zippers stick and don’t seal properly. Flimsy and quick to tear, they are a major disappointment when you’re used to the real thing. After making the mistake the first time, I no longer bother buying the local brand. Whenever I return from the States, my suitcases are always filled with boxes and boxes of various sizes of Ziploc baggies. Who would have ever thought a box of Ziploc gallon-sized bags would make the best gift for my mother-in-law?

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Ziploc bags symbolize all that is totally right and, at the same time, totally wrong with the US. In the US, Ziplocs are so so cheap, right? A box of 12 gallon-sized runs you under $2. You can find them everywhere – Walmart, Target, Rite Aid, Walgreens, CVS, heck – I think I may even be able to find them at The Dollar Store or Dollar Tree! Because they are so plentiful and relatively inexpensive, people tend to use and toss these ridiculously durable, inorganic little baggies after only one use. Forget about biodegradability. That’s the point of them, right? To not degrade and keep sauces/foods from slipping out. Ziploc bags are a perfect fit with the Western mentality – they are easily found, inexpensive, tough, and replaceable.

But not on the rock. In Cyprus, as on most other remote islands I’ve ever been to, we islanders save our bags. And not just bags, we save nearly everything because we know the replacement cost is not as easy as it is in the US. It’s not even the exact cost on the box that we respect. Beyond the fact that we tend to live closer to the earth on an island and thus tend to be (hopefully) a bit more eco-minded, it’s availability of goods here that really sticks with us. Some days Ziploc bags (or their very cheap equivalent) will line the shelves at the local grocer. Other days, they will have simply run out. And no one quite knows when they will return. If ever.

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So I save my American Ziploc bags. I use them, and unless they are holding raw meat/chicken/fish (in which case, I will gladly throw them out), I wash them, flip them inside out, hang them to dry, and reuse. I know it sounds ridiculously cheap, but I love these transparent WWII-era bags with their famous blue zipper. It’s the little things like Ziplocs that make me realize how much I miss America, aka the Land of Plenty. But in my years on the rock, they also have given me a newfound appreciation for all that I once considered “replaceable”. And I think I’m definitely better for it.

Has island life made you less wasteful too? What do you hoard on your rock (besides Ziplocs, of course)?

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Born a typical Type A stress-basket, Claudia followed all the rules until she spent her final college summer internship working at an import-export firm in Cyprus, which she dutifully quit after a couple of weeks and took up a job as a barmaid at a kick-ass bar in a yacht harbor. It was during that fateful summer (more years ago than she likes to admit) she met her future husband. A dozen years and a couple kids later, the dimpled Adonis convinced Claudia to quit her grueling corporate America finance job and head for the Med. Ah hell, who was she kidding? With fanciful thoughts of being bohemian and breastfeeding naked on the beach, the diaper bags were already packed.

After realizing her two options for a social life on the rock were either drunk tourists and retired expats (looking for a quick lay, endless sunshine, and cheap beer) OR the local Cypriot community (with their shiny cars dotting dusty dirt roads and perfectly manicured brows), Claudia followed the eyebrows and stilettos. And she has never looked back. With their warm culture and pop-in-anytime policy, Claudia finally relaxed and learned to live like an island girl.

If she’s not stepping over lizards and tarantulas in her home, scuba diving with sea turtles, or teaching drama to kids, Claudia loves catching up with friends over multiple glasses of large, chilled wine on her balcony. She spends her days writing her blog Live Like a Goddess and broadcasting her radio show “The Morning Show with Claudia.”

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