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:
Bell Pepper (multiple colors)
Blueberries or Strawberries
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…
The least expensive I’ve seen it recently (today) was CI $4.17/imperial gallon.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
We had to circle back around and hit a few more spots, but this was another favorite place of mine, Spott’s Jetty.
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.
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.
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.
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.
More specifically, from George Town, and even more specifically from the Sunshine Suites off of Esterly Tibbetts Highway.
Upon awakening this morning at 0500, I promptly got dressed, went downstairs to my parents living room and laid right back down on the couch for a nap. I was up late last night chatting with my Dad. I knew that I was going to have to be up early as Mom and I were planning on being on the road at 0630 for my 0900 flight. It was a price I was willing to pay. After some coffee and giving my Dad a hug, we were off to the airport.
As we traveled down the road, I managed to maintain my composure while mom and I chatted. As soon as we turned onto the road to the airport, I started crying. I should come with a warning label “Will burst into tears if made to say goodbye”. I think I need a shirt that has that on the front and it shall become my official travel shirt. And it should have pockets for tissues for crying. Mom knew it was coming, it’s not the first time she’s experienced my tearful farewell. I made the decision to just be dropped off at the departure curb for American Airlines rather than have Mom come in with me. I figured I’d be able to regain composure more quickly that way. Thankfully, she was much more together this morning than I was, because I almost left my computer and camera bag in the car. After a few more hugs and retrieving my backpack, I went to check in.
I made this trip with four suitcases. We managed to get all of them under the 50 lb. weight to avoid excess weight baggage fees. The first two bags together equaled $65. My third suitcase was $150 and the fourth was $200. Ridiculous. But… Now I know. It’s just something I wish I would have known beforehand. Oh well. The way I see it is that there are some things I brought with me that can’t be replaced. They had to come. And it is cheaper to bring them down than to buy them here.
Thankfully both of my flights went as scheduled. For the first flight, I managed to get an exit row seat and on my second flight, I was pretty lucky because the middle seat was unoccupied in our row of three seats. I slept the majority of both flights. The first flight had a bit of turbulence at landing, but nothing awful. I was very blessed with my traveling today.
Upon arriving in Grand Cayman, it was hot and humid. Just what I expected. So, future visitors, when you come to see me, there is a pretty lengthy line for our small airport but thankfully the process hasn’t taken too long either time I’ve come to the island. This time, however, I checked in and got my two year resident stamp. Now I get to use the resident line when I go back and forth, and both times I’ve seen it, it’s been much much shorter than any of the other lines. I then collected my luggage, went through customs and ventured off to find my chariot to take me to my temporary home.
Hotels here do not have shuttles to transport you to and from the airport. There is a flat rate of $23 USD from the airport to the various hotels in Seven Mile Beach. I met a lovely Caymanian lady named Ellie. When she looked at my luggage she said “Oh you must be here for a wedding?” I replied that I was relocating to the island, and she proceeded to give me a hug and welcome me. She is both a taxi driver and a school bus driver, so she was able to impart words of wisdom regarding traversing the roads on the island. “Be patient and don’t count on people to use their indicators”.
I checked in to the hotel without any problem and was assisted to my room by one of the hotel porters. Alphonso made sure I was satisfied with my accommodations and then left. Shortly after, I received a call from the front desk to inquire if everything was to my satisfaction. At that point, I had not been able to connect my phone to the hotel wifi and mentioned that issue to her. I was, however, able to get online on my computer, which would be fine. However, the IT person showed up at my door about three minutes later to attempt to fix my problem. I guess the wifi gods like him because as soon as he showed up, I was able to connect with both my phone and computer. He kept apologizing profusely though, despite my assurances that it was okay and I had only been concerned because I needed to let my loved ones at home know I had arrived. As he walked out, still apologizing, he turned and gave me a huge smile and said “Welcome Home to Cayman!”. As I was closing the door, I heard something hitting one of the windows of my room and realized that a downpour had started. I chatted briefly with a few folks at home and then opted for a nap.
After waking up and feeling the great urge to brush my teeth, I remembered that I had to toss my toothpaste when going through airport security in Jax. Luckily, there is a minimart right around the corner, so I headed there for a few necessities. I then treated myself to what will probably be my most expensive meal until I return home. The hotel has a pretty good restaurant called the Sunshine Grill and they make amazing fish tacos. I also treated myself to their specialty drink – The Painkiller. It was ridiculously overpriced, but after everything I’ve gone through over the past month, I deserved it.
The rest of the evening has brought rain off and on. I finally got in touch with Candy, the other girl starting with me, and we’re catching a cab to the centre tomorrow. Then we’ll pick up Roberta’s SUV and have our own set of wheels. And then we’ll commence with my driving lessons! HAHAHA!
I’ve felt like a kid getting ready for the first day of school this afternoon. I have my work bag ready with pens, pencils and notebooks. I have my clothes set out and ready for tomorrow. I just hope I’m able to sleep well tonight.
One of the best things about going somewhere is the planning stage. I loved planning out the routes when I have traveled cross country, even though most of the time, I took a different path. For the past several months I have been perusing property rental websites and the Cayman version of Craigslist for options on vehicles.
The Cayman dollar (KYD or CI) is worth about $1.20 USD. Rental properties start at around CI$1000 and not every place is pet friendly. In fact, I find it somewhat amusing that not all places are children friendly either. On several of the listings it will have the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, central AC or window units, and then clearly states “No children”. Like every other city, there are also places that should be avoided if possible for various reasons and luckily I’ll be working at the perfect place to figure out where those areas are located. My biggest problem right now is actually getting a response to the emails I send to different rental companies. I know it will be easier to look for places in person. I’m also incredibly fortunate that one of my future co-workers has offered one of her spare bedrooms to me to rent for a period of up to three months.
On another good note, about 90% of the places for rent in Grand Cayman are fully furnished and include linens, dishes and such. This means I only have to bring a couple of suitcases with clothes (I’m going to need more island friendly attire), my camera and various lenses and my computer. I’m going to be as minimalistic as possible. I don’t need things. Things just cause a headache in the long run. Except for camera lenses. I can always make room for more camera accessories.
I will also be able to rent Roberta’s spare vehicle while I am looking for one of my own. Vehicle shopping is also something that will have to be done in person. Most of the vehicles I’ve seen listed on the ecaytrade website appear to range between CI $5000-7000 for a decent used vehicle. Maintenance and general upkeep up vehicles is incredibly important there due to the salty air. Also, it’s important to make sure that any iguana poop is rinsed off of the vehicle as soon as possible due to its caustic nature.
Speaking of iguanas. There are two types of iguanas on Grand Cayman. There are the indigenous blue iguana and the invasive green iguana. The blue iguana is endangered but efforts to assist in conservation and repopulation have been quite successful and the population numbers are on the ride. They’re shy creatures that are found in the Queen Elizabeth Botanic Garden as well as the Blue Iguana Nature Reserve.
The green iguana began its takeover of the island in the 1980s when they were brought over as pets. They are everywhere. When I went down for my interview, we had 4 run out into traffic in front of us, and there were several others that I spotted all over the place. They’re a nuisance. Efforts are being made to prevent them from migrating over to the sister islands, Cayman Brac and Little Cayman.
Within my first week of arriving, I’ll have to accomplish several things. I will need to get my Cayman Drivers License, which is one of the things that I’m most nervous about. The one time I’ve driven on the opposite side of the road was in Scotland…at night…in the drizzling rain… and it was the longest mile of my life… I’ll also need to open a banking account, find my way back and forth to work and get a general lay of the land. A lot of things to do in the very near future. I’m excited and scared to death all at the same time. But I know it will be okay.