But Tori, Why South Africa?

If you’re reading this post, hopefully you have read the one I posted prior to this stating that I am embarking on a two week vacation in South Africa next month.  I know I post big news events before I make a life change by moving somewhere new, but rest assured this is just a vacation.

Alright, so top five reasons for this trip are:

  • Cage diving with Great White Sharks
  • Exploring several of the national parks including Kruger, Hluhluwe-Imfolozi, Mount Zebra, Karoo…
  • Seeing South African Penguins
  • The various vineyards
  • BECAUSE I HAVEN’T BEEN THERE YET

For those of you who are interested, here is the itinerary for our two weeks of exploring.

South Africa Itinerary:

15 May – Arrive at approximately 0830 at JNB (airport in Johannesburg).  After grabbing some coffee and SIM cards so that we’re able to give updates from the road, we will pick up our rental car and head to our first place of interest – Kruger National Park.  The first night there, we will be staying in the Lower Sabie Rest Camp.

16 May – We will get up to explore the area between Lower Sabie and our next rest camp – Satara – during the day.  Head to Satara to set up camp and possibly catch a nap before our first game drive of the trip, a sunset drive in Satara.

17 May – Exploring the area of Kruger between Satara and Pretoriuskop rest camp where we will spend our last night and have our first night game drive of the trip.

18 May – We depart Kruger pretty early to head to our next National Park – Hluhluwe-Imfolozi.  We will be staying at the unfenced Mpila camp and taking another night game drive.  This is the night I’m not expecting to sleep much.  There is one fence that is meant to keep elephants out of the camp but everything else can get in.  Lions.  Hyenas.  Zebras.

19 May – After getting up and exploring Hluhluwe a bit, we will drive to our next destination – the Drakensberg Mountains and the KwaZulu-Natal Park.  We will be staying at one of the lodges since the higher elevation may make it a bit chilly for camping.

20 May – Hiking around in the Drakensberg Mountains for a bit and then off we go to Golden Gate Highlands National Park where will explore and camp for the night.

21 May – Wake up, make some coffee and off we go to Mount Zebra National Park.  We will spend a few days exploring here and taking in a night game drive as well as a morning session of Cheetah Tracking!

23 May – After spending time at Mt. Zebra, it’s off to Karoo National Park for some more sightseeing and exploring. We will be camping in the Karoo and hopefully I’ll get some good astrophotography shots since light pollution should be very low.

24 May – Checking out the Karoo for a bit and then it’s off on our final long drive to Simon’s Town!  We are renting a lovely cottage in the area.  This will be our home base for our visits with the African Penguins at Boulders Beach, two scheduled cage dives with African Shark Eco Charters (www.ultimate-animals.com) and our day on the Vinehopper checking out several vineyards.

29 May – Flying from Cape Town to Jo’burg to pick up a car and head out on the road one last time to visit the Cradle of Humankind at Maropeng.  After checking out the site of our ancestors, we will head back to the airport for the long flight back to the states.

Whew.

Upcoming Adventure Notice

Greetings all!

For those of you who may be wondering, life in Cayman is still good.  Hot and humid but good.  I’ve put in my request to extend my contract for another two years.  My current 2 year contract will be complete in September, so fingers crossed that I get an extension.  I enjoy the slower pace of life here and, of course, the beaches.  The job is still great and the benefits are amazing.  One of my favorite benefits is the vacation time.  In my old place of employment in the states, one accrued vacation hours monthly and could only take time off when they had accrued enough hours.  Here, you are allowed use of all of your vacation time starting at the beginning of the year.  You don’t have to wait MONTHS in order to use the time that you’ll gain.  It’s wonderful.  And thanks to our 4 days on, 4 days off schedule, one is able to take a mighty long vacation at a time.

SO!  With that being said, I’m getting ready to take the trip of a lifetime next month.

Hang on to your hats:

I’m going to South Africa for two weeks!

Just a fair warning, the next several posts will be all about the trip.

Cheers!

Tori

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.