The not-so-good things about paradise

Okay I did a flip side of this post prior to writing it so please don’t read this first and automatically think I’m miserable.  I’m not.  I’m just now writing things that I don’t like or that I’ve missed by moving here.

  • Mosquito season.  Oh wait.  It’s always mosquito season.
  • It is always hot.  ALWAYS. Which brings us to…
  • Swamp ass.  If you have to ask what this is, consider yourself lucky.  It’s that uncomfortable feeling you get in places not spoken of in polite society after sitting around in a wet bathing suit all day.  Or just plan sweating all day.
  • Roosters crowing at 0300 right outside your bedroom window are annoying as hell.  They’re also annoying when they do it at midnight…0100…0200…0400…  Actually they don’t have a time setting so they’re likely to do it any old time they feel like it.
  • People that don’t know where they live.  Really?  Learn your street address!
  • Tourists that don’t know how to use roundabouts.  Granted it took me a bit to figure out how they work and switching lanes and such, but I hate getting behind cars with white tags when I’m in a roundabout.  White tagged cars are rental cars.
  • I don’t really complain about the cost of living here or the fact that things are much more expensive than what I would pay for in the states because I EXPECT it to cost more.  So when people bitch and complain about the cost of things, especially when they’ve been here for a while… get over it.  90% of the people I’ve heard complain are those who chose to move here.

Things that I miss include:

  • My family, of course
  • My friends
  • One of the big things that has stuck out lately is that I miss the work interaction with the police/paramedics/firefighters that I was/am friends with.  I miss joking around with or hassling my favorite medics when they would call in for times on a call.  I miss officers calling in and saying “That person is flat out bat shit crazy” or being filled in on what happened on the scene of an incident.  We don’t have that here.
  • Chickfila.  I miss Chickfila.
  • And I can’t forget my dogs.  I’m having to resubmit the boy’s application.  The picture made him kind of look like a pit mix so I’m figuring I can wait a few weeks and then resubmit it.  He may have to be under an alias name, but I think he can live with that.

As you can see overall there aren’t too awful many negatives about living here.  And with 15 months left on my contract, I have about 9 months until I have to decide on whether or not to request a renewal.  A lot can happen in that time frame so we will see how it goes.

Cheers

Tori

9 months down – Things I like

I’m shy of being 9 months into a two year contract dispatching in the Caymans and am feeling much more comfortable here.

Has it been an easy nine months?  No.  I’ve had a fair amount of homesickness and frustration, but I’m mentally in a much better place these days.  June has been a good month thus far and I’m hoping that it just gets better.

So far I’ve had several friends and family members come and visit – Craig and then the sibling duo of Ryanne and Jeff Skalberg – as well as my parents.  I like showing people around the island.  All of the beautiful places remind me of what originally drew me here.  It is so easy to forget the good parts of the island when I am take calls from people having some sort of crisis.  As I write this, I’m also on the count down for my next visitor, Lisa.  After she leaves, my niece Reba will come for a few days.

It’s just shy of 0300 right now and I was thinking about the things I find enjoyable about living here, other than clear blue water and white sandy beaches.  I’m also including some other fun tidbits of information on this list.

  • Salutations.  “Good Day/Morning” “Good Afternoon” and “Good Night” are all correct ways to greet people, depending on the time of day of course.  The first two were not a change for me, however, being greeted with “Good Night” threw me off for weeks.  Back at home, I’m used to using that as a farewell of sorts but I’ve grown accustomed to it.  These greetings are also the general preface of any phone call you receive.
  • Entering a room.  If you are the person who enters a room that has others in it, then YOU are the person who should offer the salutation first.  If you walk into a room and do not greet the people in there yet later attempt to have a conversation with the occupants, you’re going to be looked at like you’re crazy.  This includes being in an elevator with someone.
  • Much like the south, it is customary to use Ms. or Mr. when speaking to someone or when you refer to someone, especially if they’re older.
  • Instead of being addressed with sugar, honey, sweetie, or darlin’, here you will hear Madam, My Love, My Dear.
  • Most SUVs are commonly referred to as Jeeps.
  • June may be my favorite time of the year – MANGOS
  • I still giggle internally when I hear that someone has “licked” someone.  Lick being the term for hit.  As in: “I licked the back of his car in the roundabout” or “‘e got licked with a machete” – By the way, don’t pronounce it with a long E at the end.  The person you’re talking to will just get exasperated and think you’re talking about something else entirely.
  • Casual clothes – every day.  I basically live in a running skirt, tank top and flipflops when I’m not at work or the beach.  On the rare occasion that I go out, I tend to just throw on a sundress or capris.
  • No make up most days. On days I work, I *MAY* throw on some eyeshadow, and mascara and if I go out at night then I’ll include eyeliner but  I haven’t touched foundation or anything else since I have been here.  It’s too hot.  I don’t care what sort of base you have underneath it but foundation or regular powder is gonna run and then it’ll be a huge mess and no one wants to see you looking like that.  Not that I really wear make up anywhere else…  It’s just not me.
  • Fresh fruit, right from the tree.  There is nothing like going outside and picking your own mango, rinsing it off and then biting into it.  No, don’t worry about peeling it or cutting it up… Okay you may have to cut the skin of it slightly to get into it, but use your hands and teeth.  Sure, it’s messy but it is delightful.  I’m looking forward to going and eating one while standing in the ocean to get the taste combo of sea salt and mango sweetness.  Apparently it’s a pretty popular thing with the locals so I’ve gotta do it.

Hunting for Land Crabs

I was fortunate enough to grow up in coastal Georgia where seafood was plentiful and catching my own for supper was always exciting.  Especially when it comes to crabbing.  The method that I first remember was going out in the boat, tying a chicken neck to a weighted rope and dropping it into the water in the creek.  The trick was to keep a light touch on the rope so you could feel the crabs on the line.  Then you would slowly pull up the line while someone dipped a net in the water to scoop up the crabs.  We didn’t always catch every single one, but it was still great fun.

When my parents built their house on a tidal creek, we built a dock and originally started catching crabs in this manner, however once we discovered crab nets….  Well let’s just say we became more efficient crabbers.  To this day, I love going home and sitting out on the dock and crabbing.  It’s a very lazy activity but it’s always entertaining for the participants.  One of my favorite recent memories was last summer when my dearest friends Jenni and Jill and I crabbed one evening and the trio of us 30+ year old women were more excited about it than Jenni’s young boys.

Prior to moving to Grand Cayman, I read as much as I could about the area and one thing that kept coming up in my reading was information about Land Crabs.  When I started working here, I asked about the creatures and what was actually done with them, and I was told – “They come out after the rainy season and we hunt them during the night then later cook them”…

Awesome.

A bit about our prey from Wikipedia…

Gecarcinus ruricola is a species of terrestrial crab. It is the most terrestrial of the Caribbean land crabs, and is found from western Cuba across the Antilles as far east as Barbados. Common names for G. ruricola include the purple land crab, black land crab, red land crab, and zombie crab.

Four colour morphs exist within the species: black, red, yellow and green.  The carapace of G. ruricola grows in width at a rate of about 1 inch (25 mm) per year, with the crabs reaching maturity after 5 years, and living for up to 10 years in total.  G. ruricola have a number of adaptations to terrestrial life, mostly regarding water conservation. They are nocturnal, to prevent the hot sun from drying them out. They also have a “nephritic pad”, onto which urine is released, in order to be cleaned by microbes before the water is then reabsorbed.

The rainy season is upon us now and has been for a few days.  I saw my first land crab a few days ago on my drive home.  The next day at work, I excitedly told my supervisor about it and asked when we were going hunting.  She told me that it was now the season and she’d let me know.  A few days later she gave me the news – “Wednesday night, we’re going.  Be ready.”  We were to meet up at Chelsea’s house with the group that was heading out.  As Candi was working and her cousin, Apple, is in town I decided to bring her with me.  We opted to take my car as there was a large group of people and this proved to be a wise decision as one group had to join with us when their car started overheating.

We loaded up and headed to South Church Street.  Apple and I were introduced to the rest of the people with us, all police officers that I had been talking to for months but hadn’t met in person.  All of them were super nice and very friendly.  At first our hunting was going rather slowly.  No crabs were seen.  We walked along the roadway, shining lights into the bushes and listening for them.  So we walked along and talked about moving to a new location until there was a great cry of excitement – “I see one!  I seen one!  Bring me a stick!”  *The stick the grabber tool that is commonly used for trash collection on the side of the roadways and/or by people with limited mobility who need to retrieve things.*

IMG_6459

Success!  And it turns out that the stick wasn’t needed at all.  Naddine simply held the crab down with her foot then reached down and picked it up by the rear legs.  Of course, at this point we didn’t have a bucket with us (those guys hadn’t shown up yet) so we used an upside down traffic cone as a container.  Next thing you know, everyone had gone into the bush and all we kept hearing was “Here’s one!”  “Bring me a stick!” “Bucket!  Bucket!  Bucket!”

After the success in this area, we decided to move east.  Three of the guys with us had to move to my car because their vehicle was overheating.  It’s a good thing I have an SUV because my car also became the transportation for our haul.  We had one large garbage can and two smaller buckets.  As we drove along, we could hear the crabs scratching at the sides of the trash can and Apple did not care for the noise.  Said that she was scared by it.  I assured her that everything would be okay because if they managed to escape the can, they’d have to go through three grown men to get to her.

We stopped at a few more places as we headed east, but nothing was really panning out until we reached the area of Barefoot Beach.  There were crabs in the road, crabs on the side of the road, crabs in the bushes.  White crabs, red crabs, black crabs… Crabs everywhere.  Some people picked them up with sticks, some people just reached down and grabbed them.  I was taking pictures along the way but held one down so that Naddine could retrieve it.  It was great, great fun.  I have no clue how many were caught.

The group we went with divided the catch up amongst themselves.  The next steps will be to purge the crabs before they cook and eat them.  This is because land crabs are omnivorous scavengers and will eat anything.  So they’ll be kept in a cage or something and will be fed clean vegetation to clean them out.  I’m also told this makes the meat sweeter.

And while there were no crabs for me to help cook and clean this time, we’re planning another hunting trip with a much smaller group.  A few days later, after they’re purged, then we will have a party and feast.  And I am looking forward to that very, very much.

Tropical greetings!

Tori

December 2015

Have coffee.  Can blog.

Of course, I’m doing this from work so there won’t be any photos attached right now (unless I rip them from my Facebook page) but I can tell you all the tale of December.

The first week of December was spent slowly decorating for Christmas and getting the house ready for my first visitor, Craig.  He arrived December 7th or 8th and stayed until the 19th.  Or 20th.  This coffee has not kicked in yet.

The visit was lovely.  We spent a lot of time in the ocean snorkeling and exploring.  We frequently saw the same turtle at Spotts Bay and nicknamed her Lucy.  We found a pretty little isolated beach with a small cave that we explored.  Except I don’t know if you would really call it exploring because it was very small.  There were a few winged occupants, but I wasn’t worried as Cayman is a rabies free country.

For my birthday, we hosted a party at my house (although Candi was promoting it to my friends/coworkers as it being her idea).  I kind of outdid myself on the food spread and we had leftovers for days, but it was a good time.  We danced, we sang, we ate delicious rum cake (that Candi DID pick out).

The next day, Craig treated me to a sailing trip to Rum Point.  I had heard that Red Sail Sports was an excellent company and their trips were well worth the money.  We departed their dock at a little after 8am and headed to Stingray City on a gorgeous catamaran.  While underway, we chatted with this couple from Chicago who were on vacation.  Turns out, the woman and I had the same birthday.  We stopped at the sandbar at Stingray City and checked out some of the locals.  It was quite pleasant until all of the other tourist boats showed up.  Some of these vessels held at least 50 people.  The waters were soon crowded and then it was time to load up and head to Rum Point.

Part of our package included lunch at Rum Point, but first, we had some time to kill so we went for a bit of a swim to check out some of the coral heads in the area.  The current was a bit strong at the end of the pier, but luckily we had started far enough and we were able to drift by the majority of the coral with little difficulty.  Afterwards we had lunch and enjoyed a brief rain shower.  We hit the water for one more snorkel and then loaded back up on the boat.  It was a beautiful sail back to the dock which we enjoyed with Rum Runners and Caybrew while relaxing in the netted area of the catamaran.  Turning 34 was an excellent experience and I am glad that Craig was able to come down for a visit.  He stayed for a few more days so we were able to snorkel and check out the Christmas light displays on the island.

The rest of December was mediocre for the first most part.  There were some good points like finding a car to purchase!  However, Christmas was hard.  It wasn’t my first Christmas away from home but it was my first Christmas without finding what felt like family.  However, after cooking steak for both Candi and myself, one of our friends showed up with leftover traditional Christmas dinner for us.  It was quite the nice surprise.

I wrapped up December by ushering out the not-so-fabulous ’15 by attending the NYE party at Camana Bay (although I did act like a responsible adult and leave early to avoid horrendous traffic) but was able to watch a delightful fireworks show from my back porch.

So far, Sweet ’16 is a much better year.

5 Month Check In

Good Day!

I say Day because it’s just after 0130 on Saturday, Feb 6th, 2016.  So, let’s see what has been happening since I last checked in back in, wow, November.

In chronological order:

I had my first visitor to the island.  I found where the sea turtles make common appearances.  I got a Go-Pro. I turned 34.  I went on what was pretty much an all day sailing trip with a stop at Stingray City. I had my first Christmas where I was basically completely alone.  I experienced New Years at Camana Bay. I got to visit our version of the emergency room.  I bought a car. I had repairs made to said car within 48 hours. I decided to find out what it will take to have bariatric surgery.  I helped throw a going away party at work for my boss.  I am now in the process of having more repairs made to my car and it will all be completed Monday.

Hopefully.

Whew.  Okay.  Let me break all of that down into a couple of posts.  Right now I need a coffee refill in order for my brain to function better.  Glad it’s my Friday.

Cost of living – Groceries and Gas

I’ve done an amazing job of not going out to eat constantly since moving here.  The last shift I was on also had an awesome idea for “Salad Night” when we worked our two night shifts.  Now, granted I pretty much have at least one salad per day, it was kind of awesome having salad with the whole gang.  I bought the items, prepped everything, and brought it in.  We split the cost between the 5 of us and it generally ended up being $10 CI per person for two nights worth of salad.  The salads I would make normally consisted of:

Romaine Lettuce

Tomato Slices

Cucumber

Onion

Cheese

Bell Pepper (multiple colors)

Blueberries or Strawberries

Cashews

Cheese

Ham/Turkey slices

Boiled Eggs

and then anything else I found on sale that looked good.  And split between 5 people, it made for an excellent meal.

Now, tonight I just did a SMALL shopping trip.  I didn’t get a lot because I’m going on vacation very, very soon and I have salad stuff at the house.

So, just a look at what things cost from this small trip. And this was going with the least expensive options of each thing I selected…  A fair amount of store brand items…

1 dozen eggs – CI $3.79 – $4.58 US

AJAX dishwashing soap – medium size bottle – CI $2.93 – $3.54 US

Kitchen Trash Bags – 25 count – CI $4.09 – $4.95 US

Peanut Butter – standard size – CI $6.29 – $7.61 US

Natures Own loaf of wheat bread – CI $2.69 – $3.25

Pam cooking spray- standard size – CI $4.19 – $5.07

Hillshire Sliced Roast Beef  – 7 OZ – CI $6.49 – $7.85 USD

Cajun Turkey 8 OZ sliced (store markdown because it expires in two days) CI $6.59 – $7.97 US

Toilet Paper – Scott Brand (12 pack) – CI $10.29 – $12.45 US

Oh, and I forgot to bring my reusable bags, so it was $0.05 per bag

That was just tonights purchases.

Normally I get:

Lettuce (romaine) @ CI $2.99/bundle of two

Tomato @ CI $3.41/pound

Cucumber @ CI $1.98 each

Onion @ CI $0.78 each

Almond Milk @ CI $5.99

Rotisserie Chicken @ CI $7.99

I eat a lot of salad with chicken… And drink a lot of almond milk protein shakes.  I have to go shopping every few days.

Just a bit of a break down of some of the common costs.  OH!  One more thing…

Gasoline…

The least expensive I’ve seen it recently (today) was CI $4.17/imperial gallon.

Thats US $5.04 per 1.2 gallons.

It’s a good thing the island isn’t that big…

A bit more settled in…

Greetings all!

I’ve gotten a bit more settled in since my last post.  In this post, I think I’ll give more of an idea of the cost of living and such.  Oh, and share pictures of my gorgeous new home.

First, things first.  I’ve found a new place to live.  And I’m currently sitting at the kitchen table and writing this.  And sweating.  Why am I sweating?  Because I haven’t turned on the AC as of yet.  We’ll see how long that lasts…  With the heat index of 93 at 9pm, I may be turning it on before I leave on vacation.  But I’m going to try not to.  With the number of fans we have in this house, it’s not too awful inside.  Until the breeze stops.  But I’ve only been in this place for 24 hours.  I’m hoping that I adjust soon.  Or the “winter months” will prove to have cooler temps.  However!  Those that are planning on visiting me have no fear!  I’ll turn on the AC for your stay.

A bit of a back story on how I found this place…

I was sitting in my old room at Roberta’s when there was a knock on the door.  One of my co-worker’s, Chelsea, showed up at the house and wanted to take Candi and I house hunting.  I had tried earlier that day to get in touch with some rental agents to no avail and so she figured we could ride about and see what there was to see.  We loaded up into her Tahoe and headed east on the East-West Arterial Bypass towards the Savannah area.  *Did I find it amusing that I could possibly live near Savannah?  Yes, yes I did.

As Chelsea escorted us through the better residential areas, she pointed out areas where some of our co-workers live as well as police officers.  We drove through one area that so reminded me of my old neighborhood (due to the number of public safety personnel living there) and found a duplex that was owned by an officer and being renovated.  It was nice but was a bit out of my price range, even with a roommate.  So we continued to drive around and look for ‘For Rent’ signs.  We found a few but nothing really piqued my interest.

We decided to head towards the area where Chelsea lives, Savannah, close to Lower Valley, right outside of Bodden Town.  We drove through her neighborhood and stopped at her house for a bit of a break.  She has a truly lovely home.  Tray ceilings, granite counter tops, and huge bedrooms.  Oh, and a closet that would make Carrie from Sex and the City jealous.  After we departed, we got back on Shamrock Drive and headed east.  A mere moment later, Chelsea remembered that she didn’t lock her back door, so she pulled down Woodland Drive to find a place to turn around so we could head back to her house.  While driving down the road, she got a phone call and just kept driving towards the end of the road.  I spotted a ‘For Rent’ sign in front of a house and called the number.  I didn’t think it would be in my price range, however, I thought I should check just in case….  The call was answered on the first ring.  I asked how much the rent for the house was and he said $1200CI a month. I told the man who answered that I had just passed the residence and saw the sign and asked if it would be possible to see the house.  He told me that it would be fine, he would walk over from next door.  The only issue was that there was no electricity in the house. Not a problem.

We pulled up in front of the house and exited the vehicle.  There were several people across the street having a small get together, so I thought one of those people would be whom I spoke with.  Then this man walked over from the house next door and introduced himself as Herbert.  Candi and I introduced ourselves as Chelsea was still on a phone call in the car, and followed him into the residence.  Even without electricity, the sheer number of windows let in an abundance of light, even close to dusk which was a huge change from where we were residing at the time.  As we walked through the house, we were admiring the furniture and overall upkeep.  Chelsea joined us after a brief amount of time and was constantly mouthing to me “YOU NEED TO GET THIS PLACE!”.  I then asked if dogs were allowed and Mr. Herbert just looked at me.

At that point, my heart dropped and I didn’t believe I would get the place…

He informed me that he would check with the owners and get back with me as soon as he could.

We finished checking out the residence and with each step, I fell for it a bit more.  I imagined how convenient it would be for visitors to stay with me.  The rooms are also spread far enough apart that I would not mind having a roommate.  That was when Candi said she wouldn’t mind staying with me.  Perfect.  The place was in my price range and I could have a roommate to help with expenses.  AND she wouldn’t have to worry about finding a place on her own.  Now, all  that had to happen was acceptance of my furry compadres.

About 2 hours after returning home, Mr. Herbert called me to let me know he had spoken to one of the home owners and she sounded a bit leery of having dogs in the house, but she would call her sister and check with her.  Mr. Herbert and his wife, Marissa, have four dogs so they understand the love a dog owner can have for their pets.

48 hours later, I got the phone call that I could bring both of my dogs and we confirmed the cost of the rent at 1200 CI per month.  I asked if I could come look at the place one more time before deciding and he said that would be fine.  I could come out as soon as it was convenient and check it out again.  I was able to come out two days later.  Mr. Herbert and I checked out the place, and he let me know his experience as a landlord/property manager as well as information about the area.  We went through all of the cabinets seeing what kinds of cook-wear there was in the house.  We went through all of the closets checking out the linen and such.  The place was just as wonderful as I remembered.  Then we sat at the kitchen table and just chatted some.  He told me he’s been in property management for 38 years and has lived on this street for 30 years.  He house next door has several trees including mango and citrus.  He also has AT LEAST 30 orchid plants hanging from various trees and the walkway up to his house.  I told him that I loved plants and orchids and he told me I was more than welcome to come over and help out with things.  He then looked at me and said:

“Miss Victoria,  I think you will really like it here.  It is a community.  We look out for each other.  You have several mango trees on your property, other people have breadfruit trees and citrus trees.  We share.  We trade.  We are a community.”

Yeah, that kind of sealed the deal for me.

Move in date was slated for November 6th.  I came out on the October 31st to sign the contract and just wander through the house again.  I also paid my first month rent and the first portion of my deposit.  That kind of hit hard since I’m also going on vacation soon.  But, that’s part of being a grown up and making your own way in the world.

I came over on November 5th to start moving things in since it was my first day off.  The power was on, the fans were on, it was magnificent.  I left the house at 230pm to go collect a few more things and since Candi was awake, I brought her out again to check out the house.  We arrived and the power was off.  Nothing worked.  We checked each appliance and light switch.  Then we looked in the breaker box and nothing appeared to be tripped. I was devastated and irked because I JUST paid the deposit.  So I called my landlord to see if he had any insight.  He rushed over and did the same thing we had just did.  He was getting ready to go back to his house to call CUC (Cayman Utility Company) and I said I had the service number already in my phone and could call them.  I left two messages back to back and then received a return call.

As I was speaking with the customer service person, I was informed that the power had been shut off.  I was inquiring as to why when Mr. Herbert asked to take the phone.  He was so tactful speaking with the company and stressing that he had followed instructions and requested the power to be turned on before my move in date.  He is one of those people that has a gift in making other people feel inadequate without showing any anger or frustration.  Apparently, the power had been shut off – yes, after it was cut on – because someone noticed my move in date wasn’t until the next day.  Mr. Herbert had them check their information and they found his permission to turn on the power early.  Then we heard the power click on as they admitted they were sorry.  We heard it click on, yet there was nothing on inside of the house.  So Mr. Herbert called his electrician who arrived in about 10 minutes.  Apparently, there was a problem with one of the physical breaker switches, but it fixed right away.  It’s nice to have someone that immediately fixes problems.  I’m very grateful for my landlord.  And the beautiful place I call home.

I apologize for the wonky order these pictures uploaded.  But here is the place I now call home.

My Bathroom
My Bathroom
Guest Bathroom
Guest Bathroom
Candi's Room
Candi’s Room
Kitchen
Kitchen
Utility Room
Utility Room
My bedroom
My bedroom
Front of the house at 134
Front of the house at 134
Informal living room
Informal living room
Eating Area
Eating Area
Porch
Porch
From the porch to the livingroom
From the porch to the livingroom
Formal Livingroom
Formal Livingroom
Guest Bedroom
Guest Bedroom