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

Scavenger Hunt

Another catch up blog…

One of the required work activities for new hires is a Scavenger Hunt.  I don’t know who came up with this list, but they are devious, wicked and they were probably snickering when they heard we had our hunt day.

So a bit about Grand Cayman.  It is comprised of five districts.  George Town, which is the main city and the area which most tourists are familiar with, West Bay – which is another pretty well known location due to Hell and the Turtle Farm being in that area.  Bodden Town lies just east of George Town, beyond that is East End.  Last is North Side, also familiar to some tourists due to the Rum Point club being located there.

Armed with maps, guide books, a radio, cell phones and our lists of places to find, Candi and I loaded up and headed out to find things like The Liar’s Tree, Spott’s Jetty, Mostyn’s Esso, the South Sound Rugby Club, Welly’s Cool Spot and Wreck of the Ten Sails Monument (just to name a few).  Some of the places would be easy to find, The Turtle Farm, different police substations, Pedro St. James…  Then there were some places that even locals had never heard of.

Off to hunt!

Off to hunt!

So off we went.  We decided to start in the West Bay district.  We would work our way south from there, then to the east and hit the northern district last.  There was a distinct reason for this.  I wanted to be on the north side of the island with a clear view of the west to get pictures of the sunset while relaxing in a hammock.  My plan, however, had to be altered.  More on that later.

West Bay isn’t that big of an area.  Downtown Brunswick is larger.  However when you aren’t familiar with the area, it is possible to spend 2 hours trying to find obscure landmarks.  The rule of the scavenger hunt was that we had to talk to locals for directions and take pictures at each location.  I won’t post every picture, but I’ll give a decent showing of some of the places we went.  I only wish I had also gotten a picture of Junior, the very nice crackhead who gave us directions to the Liar’s Tree.

Hell with Candi the Devil

Hell with Candi the Devil

Turtle Farm Hell

George Town was the only district that we missed a location and that was due to road construction.  We also had to return to George Town after going to the North Side because we were originally missing two places from our first run through.  Our savior for that area was Denise Bodden, a lady who works in the Visitor Bureau.

Welly's Cool Spot

Bodden Town was easy to locate our places from because we had already ridden through the area the weekend prior to the hunt.  We just didn’t know at that time what we would eventually be looking for.

Candi at the Police Station

Candi at the Police Station

Pedro St. James is undergoing some restoration and I didn't want to scale the wall to get a closer shot.

Pedro St. James is undergoing some restoration and I didn’t want to scale the wall to get a closer shot.

If I could chose any district on the island to live in, it would be East End.  It’s gorgeous, things are more spread apart.  It’s not a terrible ride and the commute wouldn’t be terrible for the hours I will be working on shift.  I’m trying to find something in that neck of the woods.  Thanks to a helpful person and Google, we were able to locate everything.  Oh!  And we found the prettiest beach on the island.  I can see myself spending a lot of time there.

Wreck of 10 Sails Monument

Wreck of 10 Sails Monument

Gorgeous East End beach that I'll be spending a lot of time at.

Gorgeous East End beach that I’ll be spending a lot of time at.

At Ocean Frontiers

At Ocean Frontiers

I plan on exploring the North Side a bit more tomorrow as I will be going to the Botanic Garden to do some photography and walking about.  This will also be a good place to bring visitors when y’all come see me.

At Rum Point

At Rum Point

I just wanted to take a nap in a hammock

I just wanted to take a nap in a hammock

We had to circle back around and hit a few more spots, but this was another favorite place of mine, Spott’s Jetty.

Worth the drive.

Worth the drive.

And after 8 hours we managed to locate all but one place.  8 hours on a 22 mile long island.  It was a very long but fun day.

Tropical Regards,

Tori

Moving Day

Moving Day – Catch up blog #1

I’ve made it through the first two weeks here. There have been ups and downs during the short amount of time I’ve been here. Brutal honesty here at victoriainvictorialand. I’ve been tempted to return to Brunswick a few times since I’ve made this move. Not that I know what I would do. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be welcomed back to the 911 center and I don’t think I could bring myself to go back there. But I do miss the familiarity of home. I miss my family and other various loved ones. I made this commitment though and I am going to stick with it.

Let’s go through a run down of things that have occurred over the past two weeks. I’m going to break them down into different posts, however.

I moved out of the comfort of the hotel into a house in which I’m renting a room from a co-worker, Roberta. It’s nice. Three bedrooms, two baths. Roberta, Candi and I live here. Candi is renting the other spare room that Roberta had available. The day that we moved in was a bit…challenging… We arrived at the house and it was 92 degrees because the air was off, so we turned on the AC and waited. And waited. And waited. It took about 12 hours for the temperature to drop to 84 degrees. The air had been off because Roberta was out of the country for several weeks. She’d only been in the house for a day before she left on vacation and was returning the evening we moved into the house. During her absence, the landlord had the water turned off and locked because someone was stealing it from the outside hose. So we had no water for around 24 hours. Thankfully Erika, another co-worker who had been helping us out with moving and such went and picked up some bottled water for us. Oh, and since it was Sunday when we moved, I wasn’t even able to go to a grocery store since they’re closed on Sundays. I was hot, sweaty, unable to shower AND I had the hangries.

So, long story short, moving day was brutal.

We have a pool!

We have a pool!

The path to the back

The path to the back

My room

My room

Roberta's car that we are renting.

Roberta’s car that we are renting.

Livingroom

Livingroom

Kitchen

Kitchen

Policies and Ministries and where I fall in the scheme of things

Good evening, lovely readers!

After the completion of my full second day of work (granted it’s only the introductory part) I feel better prepared to write about things.  So allow me to explain where I fall in the grand scheme of things in government line…

The Cayman Islands are a British Overseas Territory and it is composed of three islands.  Grand Cayman, which is where I work and live, Cayman Brac, and Little Cayman.  The government is a parliamentary dependency under constitutional monarchy.  The current Governor is Her Excellency Helen Kilpatrick.  The Deputy Governor is Franz Manderson.  The Chief Officer of the Ministry of Home Affairs, which is the “umbrella” over the Department of Public Safety Communications, is Eric Bush and I got the chance to meet him today.  So far, he’s pretty much been the only person who didn’t look at me like I was insane when I told him I worked in Antarctica for a while.  Under him is Deputy Chief Officer Wes Howell, whom I also met today. And the other DCO is Katherine Dinspel-Powell.  I didn’t get to meet her.  My Director, Mr. Brent Finster, falls right under Wes Howell.

*Other disciplines that fall under the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) are the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service (RCIPS), Department of Immigration, Her Majesty’s Prison Service, Her Majesty’s Fire Service, Department of Community Rehabilitation, Hazard Management Cayman Islands, and the Department of Computer Services

In the 911 center, we have a director, two assistant directors, Leslie “Lennox” Vernon and Julian Lewis.  Lennox is over training and day to day operations of the 911 center and Julian is over the electronic monitoring system and CCTV access over the island.  The next step down is comprised of four communication supervisors.  Then there are 12 telecommunicators or dispatchers.  Whichever we feel more comfortable being called.  I’m either number 11 or 12.  Not sure which one I technically am.  But I’m at the bottom of the totem pole.  I’m okay with this.

The first two days of work have entailed of getting familiar with the building in which we’re located and going over SOGs – Standard Operating Guidelines.  Let me tell you.  These people have it together.  I can’t go into details about work stuff due to signing a non-disclosure agreement, but I can share the vision statement of the department with you all:

Vision – Provide the highest level of service possible which could be favorably compared with any public safety communications centre and electronic monitoring operation anywhere in the world.

Easy enough.

Having read a fair number of the SOGs now, and having seen the training outline and being in the program… I can say that this place has high expectations for their employees.  They set the bar high and they expect you to meet every one of there standards.  They invest time into you with the attention to detail in training as well as getting to know you.  However, not only do they have these high expectations and a strenuous training program, they want you to enjoy the job.  When management comes in at the start of business hours, they come in and say hello to everyone and see if anything is needed.  At the end of the day, they tell everyone goodnight and ask if they need to take care of anything before it is time to go.  They’re willing to come out and work the consoles if needed.

Not only is the management an absolute dream, the people working there have been so amazingly nice.  I posted it on my Facebook page, but I know not all of my readers are on my Facebook, one of them has not only offered to rent a room of her apartment to me for a while, she’s also offered to let me rent her car for a few months.  Another co-worker has offered to take me around on one of her days off to help me set up my bank account and complete other errands.  She’s also getting people together to meet Candy, my new co-worker who started with me, and I Friday night.  We’ve been given advice on what areas are good to rent places to stay (as well as warned what areas to avoid), we’ve been told the best place to locate automobiles when it is time to obtain our own if we choose.  They haven’t been completely sugary sweet though, there has been some good natured picking at each other which helps me feel more at home.

The department is comprised of about 50% Caymanian people and 50% outsiders and I am not the only one from Georgia!  My fellow southerner, much like myself, has little to no southern accent but loves the Braves (no matter how craptastic they play).  We have a few ladies from Jamaica, a few from Canada, one from the Turks and Caicos, and I’m not sure where the rest are from because I haven’t met them yet.

So, that’s a bit about my work.  And will probably be the only thing about work that I actually write about.  I don’t want to get in trouble because now that I’ve actually driven some, I think I’ll manage to survive here.

Tropical Regards.

Tori