Lazy Sunday in Cayman

When you retire in a place such as Grand Cayman,  the way you approach each day differs from when you’re on vacation. After we bought our condo and started to visit more often,  I started to notice the subtle transition from vacation mode to living mode. We now seem to be approaching full-blown retirement mode.

When you’re on vacation, you want to do as much as you can each day; dive or snorkel almost every day, try out all the restaurants, fit in a couple of beach days. Now that we live here, we spend more time at home on our own deck, watching the world go by. I swim in our pool, snorkel in our backyard, and think about diving some day soon. I’m more likely to dive when my husband is away. We go to movies at the theatre. We go for groceries and cook meals at home. We shop for household necessities. We rent dvds from the local video store, something we’d been sorely missing in Calgary.

We are trying more and more to absorb local culture. We are more likely to check out the Island Living show than go to Stingray City. We try to get to the Wednesday market before all the good produce is gone, rather than trying to get to Sunshine Grill before all the outdoor tables are gone. We go to the National Museum on the first Saturday of the month because it’s free for residents. Part of local culture we were more likely to take part in as tourists, is the Sunday Beach Day.

Traditionally, stores and businesses are closed on Sundays. Caymanians spend the day at the beach. It’s their tradition. As more and more tourists come for longer stays, and with many flights arriving on Sundays, that tradition is being challenged. To those in the know, there are places to shop for liquor on Sundays, and our local video store just happens to have limited Sunday hours. Someone needs to work at the car rental outlets on Sundays. If Caymanians aren’t willing to work Sundays, it limits their job opportunities in the tourism industry.

I have mixed feelings about the potential changes to Sunday shopping hours. I grew up in a small town and lived part of my life in the former Temperance colony now known as Saskatoon. Sunday shopping is something I saw introduced as an adult, but that I now take for granted. How much more convenient it is to be able to run out for a bottle of wine or for some forgotten grocery item on a Sunday, than to try and plan ahead on Saturday?

A part of me likes the idea that Sunday comes and this is it. If we don’t have anything to cook we go out to dinner. If we feel like a drink, and on the rare occasion that our wine rack is empty, we can go enjoy a drink on a seaside deck at one of our favourite restaurants. I like the idea that Sunday is not for running errands, it’s for relaxing. I think it’s a reminder to me of what it was like to vacation here, and why we decided to live here.

I like that if someone flies in or out on Sunday, the trip to the airport is quick and free of traffic congestion. (I talk about the traffic here but my big city friends laugh at me. I know it’s not Los Angeles, but the limited number of roads make the traffic unreasonable for a place this size.)

Don’t get me wrong. Some Sundays I spend cleaning bathrooms, doing laundry or baking. This past Sunday I did none of those. I did’t go to the beach, but I had a lazy Sunday. I enjoyed a morning swim. I sat on our deck at home, reading and using the internet to keep in touch with friends in Canada. We Skyped with our son. I kept a watch for iguanas.

I will admit that I wasn’t as lazy as I would have liked. The iguanas were very active and I had to make several trips down to the pool to chase them away. That was probably healthier for me than sitting around all day, but it was pretty time consuming.

The funny thing about my lazy Sunday is how quickly it went. I thought of suggesting a trip to Eden Rock to snorkel, but the day was already half gone. It was a restful and stress free day.

So now that I’ve had a lazy Sunday, I need to have a productive week. The laundry pile is getting bigger and the bathrooms won’t clean themselves. I’m not on vacation.  That can wait for next Sunday.


Diary of a green iguana

Editors note: I often complain about the green iguanas around our place, but I thought it would be fun to chronicle events from their point of view.

Today: Great news! I have discovered a new toilet! It is very easy to access because it is surrounded by a flat, smooth rock. I have to be careful when going near it because it is close to the Great Nest of Hostiles. I was resting in a shrub after doing my business and one of the Hostiles came and tried to attack me with a weapon.

The Hostiles like to clean out the toilet. They are very selfish about it because they always chase us away, but they don’t actually use the toilet themselves. Today some of them went into the toilet and got out again. They seem to be teaching a juvenile, using their loud form of communication.

Today: Today I am a proud mother. My young began to climb the surfaces of the Great Nest of Hostiles. When a Hostile approached, they were quick enough to run into the shrubbery where they couldn’t be seen.


Today: I almost used the toilet! I went in for a swim. The Hostiles had left a large plaything in the toilet. While I was in there, one of them entered and perhaps didn’t see me because of the plaything. I was quite terrified of being discovered. I couldn’t relieve myself while I was so terrified. The Hostile swam back and forth in the water, paying no heed to me or the plaything. I was afraid to leave the toilet in case it should see me. I found a pocket of air where I remained and this also helped to hide me from the Hostile.

Today: The Hostiles are very protective of their Great Nest. They patrol one of the alcoves quite regularly, which gives them a view of our activities. Gronk was resting on the same patch of shrubbery where I was attacked. A Hostile began throwing things at him. He hid in the shrubs, but another Hostile started to poke the weapon into the shrubs. Gronk made a narrow escape without any blows to the back of the neck.

We suspect the Hostiles are protecting a nest of young. A large group of them gathered in the toilet one day, taking their hatchlings into it very carefully. Their hatchlings are quite helpless. They are unable to do anything without the help of the adult Hostiles. We haven’t seen any sign of the young Hostiles since that day. They gathered for some time, but after the rain started they all retreated into the Great Nest.

Today: Today we saw juvenile Hostiles with their parent. They are very agile and quick, but they remain in the nest, only leaving with adult Hostiles. They seem to make great use of the toilet, but they don’t use it as we do. They, too, like to immerse themselves, but they don’t relieve themselves. They seem to use it as a source of entertainment. We have seen no sign that they ever relieve themselves. Perhaps they use the sea as some other creatures do. We have seen Hostiles entering the sea.

After the juveniles left the area, we attempted to use the toilet. An adult Hostile once again attacked us with the weapon. Selfish!

Today: Some of the Hostiles enjoy sunning themselves, as we do, but they don’t like to share their rocks. Today I looked at the toilet and saw no one there. I decided to enjoy the flat rock beside it and perhaps to relieve myself. An adult Hostile was very quiet and had camouflaged itself very well. It was sunning itself on a thin, raised rock, but as soon as I made my way closer, it jumped off up to its usual erect, 2 limbed stature and startled me. I scampered over to the rocks by the sea as fast as my 4 limbs would carry me.  I spotted Grommet, who had just come down from the tree and was also startled. The Hostiles are lucky that they are big and have weapons. The adults are slow.

Today: Today some of us moved along to a new area. This area has no Great Nest and no smooth, flat surfaces. It does have lots of trees and shrubbery. Hostiles come here sometimes, but they don’t see us or even look for us. Some of them go onto the rocks by the sea, so we stay back in the trees. They are trying to catch the creatures that live in the sea, the fish, and they don’t seem to care about us. We may stay here until the food is gone.

Today: Today was not a good day. We weren’t even out of our hiding places yet when a gang of four-legged creatures came running around, sniffing us out. They are the creatures that associate with Hostiles, but they are much faster and they are able to catch us. I still shudder to think of the death of poor Zort, who was captured in the mouth of one of those creatures.  Some of us made it up into the trees, some out onto the rocks. I don’t know where we’ll go now.

Today: We have come back to the Great Nest. I think it’s a mistake. We only made it as far as the large flat rock that surrounds the toilet, when a Hostile began circling quickly with the weapon. It was very persistent, stabbing into the shrubs with the weapon and following all of us beyond our usual hiding places. We are only safe in the trees. The Hostiles cannot climb.

Today: I have been observing the Hostiles from a tall tree. I don’t think they can see me. This seems to be a large nest but we don’t see very many Hostiles. I thought maybe they prefer the dark phase, like the rats and mice, but sometimes we do see them sunning on the flat rock.

They are fragile creatures. They cover themselves and can’t walk on their uncovered feet on the sea rocks.

The hatchlings, as I previously observed, are helpless, but the juveniles seem more suited to this world than the adults. Not only are they fast and agile, they can swim and they don’t need coverings on their body or feet. They do have a very noisy form of communication, though.  This is fortunate for us, as it gives us ample warning when Hostiles are near. The juveniles are seldom without the adults.

Some Hostiles go into the sea. They can swim. Other Hostiles need to go to sea in a vessel.  Hostiles use another vessel for traveling on the roads. Those are dangerous to us. I have seen many of my kind that get killed on the roads by the Hostile vessels.

Today: The atmosphere has become more hostile than ever. Several Hostiles came and cut tree limbs and used very loud tools to shave the grass and blow leaves around. They are doing whatever they can to make this home unpleasant for us. The noise lasted for half of the warm sunshine phase.

Today: We have moved on again. It was very difficult but we were able to come out of the trees when the Hostiles were gone. When we thought we were safe, they were back, chasing us away from the toilet so they could go into it themselves. We have decided to relocate, somewhere with more trees and fewer Hostiles.

My young have stayed behind to start their own families at the old Great Nest. Before we leave I would like to make one last visit to the toilet.

Today: We have found a new home and it has an even bigger toilet! There are trees and water and even though there are Truly Great Nests, there are no Hostiles!

Sometimes we see Hostiles who come and clean our toilet, but they don’t immerse themselves. We stay in the trees out of their way and wait until they leave before we go to relieve ourselves. Their noisy communication gives us plenty of warning.

Today: The Truly Great Nests are truly wonderful. It seems that the larger the nest, the fewer Hostiles we see, and the less they care about chasing us away.

Today: The Hostiles are very friendly at this Truly Great Nest. They like us! I thought perhaps it was because they were getting to know me, as some Hostiles do become friends with our species. However, on close inspection, these Hostiles are possibly a different species. I think they are called Tourists.

I’m sure they’ll love it when my latest nest of eggs begins to hatch. The more the merrier!






Powerless: Friday when the lights went out in Cayman

It happened again! I woke up and looked at the ceiling fan. It wasn’t moving. This has happened before. We had no power.

No power, no problem. We’ll make do. No air conditioning, no problem. We’ll cool off in the pool. No wifi, no problem. I can read on the deck. No coffee; now we have a problem.

The last time this happened to us here, we were here on vacation. We didn’t think the power outage would last long. We ate a cold breakfast. I cooled off in the pool. I talked to our neighbour and we lamented the inability to make coffee without power. We had no power that day for several hours.

That was a couple of years ago. We now have the barbecue, which could be fired up to boil water for the French Press coffee, or to use the perk, or even to make stovetop espresso. My husband says we’ll wait until we’re desperate.

That day a couple of years ago, I was getting desperate and I spoke with several desperate women. No one could get coffee. I used the leftover coffee in the thermal press to make iced coffee.My neighbour had coffee. Her husband came home and made coffee for her using the hurricane kit.

Today, the desperation hasn’t hit…yet. My husband went for a walk and I considered Coke, the drink, not the drug. It has caffeine. I don’t usually drink it; I really only like it occasionally with rum and lime. It’s a bit early for that, but maybe with a twist of lime?

So we have no power, which also means no wifi.  Here are the positives. We have our cell phones and we have service. We have daylight, for now! We have water. We have running water, a pool full of water and we have hurricane contingency bottled water. If the power doesn’t come on in time for supper, we have a beach within walking distance and they do a mean fish fry there on Fridays.

The biggest positive is that the power failure wasn’t caused by a hurricane. Then it would be dark in here, because we’d have all the shutters closed. We would be without power for an indefinite length of time and the propane and water available for coffee making would be very limited. Yet, based on my survey during the last outage, coffee is a priority.

When this happened before, we drove out of West Bay to see if we could find power. There were people at Camana Bay, but they were all sitting outside, so they probably had no power inside. I wonder if they had coffee.

We got all the way to Grand Harbour, where there used to be a wonderful pizza place called The Brick House. They used wood fired ovens for cooking, so we had a great pizza lunch there. They had no coffee.  The Brick House is gone now. I wonder who else might have wood fired ovens.

Something I’ve observed about this island; when there is no power to operate traffic lights, the police are very efficient at directing traffic. Fortunately, there aren’t many traffic lights, which is another reason to be thankful for traffic circles. Imagine if all the police were busy directing traffic during a power failure.

While I was sitting here this time,  looking forward to taking advantage of the excuse to sit by the pool with my “virgin Cuba Libre”, I heard the distinct click of the air conditioning starting up. The fan is going and the printer is on. Welcome to the Caribbean!

Powerless no longer! Time to brew some coffee.

Update: The power in West Bay was back on before noon, but some parts of the island didn’t have their power back until late afternoon. The grocery stores have back up generators and the longest queues on the island? Any place that was serving coffee.

Pet Peeves, Not Available in the Cayman Islands

Okay, that has become my number one pet peeve. I see that a book I want to read is offered on Kobo, my eReader from Canada. Maybe it’s a book that’s just come to my attention. Maybe it’s the next novel in a favourite series. Most recently it was a new book by one of my favourite authors, Louise Penny. She’s a Canadian author and I love her Inspector Gamache and Three Pines mysteries.

I was quite willing to purchase the book, so I entered the title, tapped “Buy now” and I got the dreaded message, “This book is not available in the Cayman Islands”. Okay, I’m sure I’ve purchased an actual book by Louise Penny here before. I also read the last one while in California after taking it out of the public library. So why can’t I get it in epub on my Kobo in the Cayman Islands? I could use the secure VPN line and appear to be in Canada, but my address on my account is here and my credit card is linked to my address here. Unfortunately, the same thing has happened when I’ve tried to purchase several different Kobo books.

A close relative to this pet peeve is when I try to watch an online video and get the message “This content is not available in your geographic region.”

I have other pet peeves since deciding to live here. We’ll be watching a movie or tv show and any time there is shady money business, with people trying to hide or launder money, it’s inevitable.  They have a bank account in -wait for it – the Cayman Islands! (Or the “Caymans” as many people call it, much to the locals’ dismay! Cayman or the Cayman Islands is preferred.)

These movie and tv writers have clearly never tried to open a bank account in the Cayman Islands. This requires a letter of reference from your home bank and full disclosure statements on the source of your income. Things may have been different twenty years ago. Canadian residents are not even allowed to hold interest bearing accounts here. My message to Hollywood; do your research!

Another pet peeve; trying to make a phone call to a Cayman number, such as to our bank, from the US and receiving a message that this number is not available from your calling area.  Seriously, I’m willing to pay for the call or use up as much credit on my prepaid phone as necessary to get through to this number, but for some reason they can’t complete the call? Does no one in the US make phone calls outside North America? We even have the same international dial code of 1! What is the problem here?

Another pet peeve: the way politicians use the “us vs. them” tactic to get public (voter) support. In a country of over 50,000 people, fewer than 20,000 have the right to vote. I accept that. I gave up my home country and my right to vote and I haven’t yet earned it here. However, there are thousands of residents contributing to the economy and prosperity of the islands, and they are written off by those in power. We’ve made friends with  native Caymanians, those who have earned Caymanian status, and expats on work permits. They all have the best interests of Cayman at heart. There should be no “us vs. them” in such a small place.

I will stop listing pet peeves now. The rest are just “peeves”. I just found out that Books and Books will carry the book in August, so I can always buy it in hardcover and add to my overcrowded book shelves!

An Ode to an Empty Lot

I heard they’ve sold the empty lot next door. I haven’t heard if the new owners plan to build right away. Worst case scenario would be a huge hotel, unless they had a great restaurant. Best case scenario, someone builds a modest house that doesn’t completely block our view of sunset in summer. Or that could be a worst case scenario if it turned into a crack house. Okay, I admit that I don’t know what would be best case scenario.

One thing I know for sure is that it won’t be nearly as entertaining as it has been for the past four years if something gets built on that lot. When we sit out on our deck, morning, afternoon or evening, something interesting happens next door. Sometimes there is an element of mystery; sometimes danger. There are some poignant moments, too.

Every morning someone stops their car, pulls over onto the lot and walks out to the ironshore to look at the water. Sometimes they fish from shore. In the winter, when the sunset from this side was visible over the water, every day a guy would drive up in the lot  as far as he could without going over the edge, open a beer and watch the sunset.

One of our visits here, before the permanent move, there were a few days when some men would come and use the lot to access the water. There is a little cut in the ironshore with a sandy bottom where they were looking very intently for something small. They said they were looking for sea glass for art work. I don’t want to know any more than that.

One evening at sunset I was out on our deck when a young woman drove onto the lot. She had a single rose in her hand when she got out of her car. She walked to the water’s edge and waited a moment before throwing the rose into the sea. She watched it for awhile, quietly, then got back into her car and drove away.

The morning after Valentine’s Day another car pulled up in the same empty lot. This time a man and a woman got out of the car and stood in an embrace for a very long time. They simply held each other. After what seemed like forever, they both got back in the car and drove away.

Fortunately, there is something I won’t miss and it hasn’t happened for a long time. I was using the pool one Friday late afternoon and there were three cars in the lot next door. I could hear a woman screaming and berating someone, using language that would make a trucker blush.(Or a sailor? No offense to either profession.) My first thought was relief that the neighbours were not home with their young children. My next thought was that if they didn’t leave soon I would call the police.

The lot is used as a dumping ground. I thought they were pouring cement next door, but I later realized that the cement mixer truck was just dumping some refuse. People drop their garbage there. One evening while swimming, I heard a horrible wail and tires screech. When I went out to look at the road, it was clear that someone had hit a dog and it was dying right there on the road. There were lots of people and cars stopped and it was rush hour.  (Yes, we do have rush hour!) There was nothing I could do and they seemed to have the matter in hand. The poor creature died and while waiting for the owners, (and yes there were owners) some people decided to move the dog to the empty lot.

When the owners came it seemed that they moved the dog further away from the road, but when they realized that people were watching,(me to be specific,) they called someone to help them move the dog somewhere in a truck. In the meantime, someone else must have called the Humane Society and their van showed up and helped remove the dead dog.

Our neighbours have told us about loud parties being held in the lot. People in our building often use the lot for “guest parking” when they have a large crowd over.

I’ve heard funny stories about the lot next door, but they aren’t my stories to share. Yes, I’ll miss the poignant moments and the never ending mysterious visitors. The local fishermen will miss the easy access to the water.

What we won’t miss are the parties, the drug deals, the domestic disputes and the unchecked dumping of pretty much anything people don’t want in their own back yard.

Who knows, the new owners may provide us with new forms of entertainment. I just hope it’s not the unpleasant kind of entertainment because this time they won’t be driving away.


Constitution Day Fireworks; Soon Come

On our first visit to this beautiful, lovable island, we went to a fun sort of community beach day and jet-ski races in East End.  We had heard of “Soon come..” the Caribbean equivalent of “mañana“, but we lived it that day. I recall that we had a wonderful time on the beach, tasted local foods, listened to music and got a free beach ball from one of the local radio stations. We didn’t, however, see a single jet ski race. I’m sure they started eventually, but our kids were young and we were all tired and had enough sun when we decided to head back to our temporary home.

Things have changed since then. I haven’t been to many events that didn’t start pretty close to the scheduled time, with the possible exception of a boat race. Generally the festivities start on time.

Tonight we thought it was another case of “soon come” when we went to Camana Bay for the Constitution Day fireworks. I had no reason to believe there wouldn’t be fireworks. Last year I enjoyed the fireworks immensely! Having missed the recent Canada Day and July 4 fireworks, you could say I’d been saving myself for the Constitution Day fireworks.

I looked up the times for the anticipated occasion and with some difficulty, on a local moms’ website, I found the time of 8 pm. I’d also seen on the Calendar of Events that the fireworks would again be in Camana Bay. Somehow, I never clued in that the Camana Bay website had made no mention of fireworks.

We went down to Camana Bay early, so we could sit in a good spot. We found chairs, quite far from the main area, but hey, the fireworks would be in the air, right? There are no bad seats if you’re beside the water!

We waited patiently, chatting and watching the people and boats coming and going. 8 pm came and went. We started to think “soon come”, surprising as that would be in a place as well run as Camana Bay. Another half hour and we started to wonder if there was a problem with the wind. I have to admit, it was lovely sitting by the water with the breeze to keep us cool and to keep the bugs away!

Eventually, the wind changed. The distinct odor of the dump wafted over us while we (much less patiently now) waited for the fireworks. We noticed fewer people over in the main viewing area. Our bums were getting numb and we’d already stood up several times to stretch. It was 9 pm.

We walked over to the central area by the fountains. There were still people at the outdoor restaurants, but there were definitely fewer people seated around the harbour. We decided to leave, thinking that if the fireworks started, we’d still see them. We returned to our car and drove home, checked the internet and realized that almost everyone BUT Camana Bay expected Camana Bay to stage the fireworks. I don’t know why they didn’t do it this year, but they just didn’t.

On a much more positive note, when we parked our car at Camana Bay and started walking, we saw two Cayman parrots. I was thrilled! I usually only see them on the east or north side or in the Queen Elizabeth Botanic Garden. We stayed to watch them and I even had my camera for photos. It was a moment of serendipity that more than made up for the absentee fireworks.

It was also a lovely evening in Camana Bay. We don’t often sit outside at night as I seem to be a bug magnet, but with the breeze over the water, it was a perfect evening, with or without fireworks.


Stuff to remember: If I’d known then what I know now

If I had known then what I know now: if I’d known how difficult and expensive it would be to buy baking supplies, I would have tried to bring more with me. Today I spent fifty dollars on cake pans. I thought I’d be able to get a cheap but decent cake pan like the many cake pans I had in Calgary, but nothing here is cheap.  I went to three stores to eventually find an angel cake pan.

When you take years to accumulate things and only occasionally add to your inventory, you forget the cost of these things. Some things weren’t priorities when we moved. I didn’t really believe I’d be doing much baking here. Then my husband’s birthday loomed on the horizon.

I would like to make a cake for my husband’s birthday, but the lack of a cake pan was a problem. Sure, I have layer cake pans, but I thought I might like to make an angel cake, or a 9 x 13 cake. I used to have pans for that.

I also thought cupcakes would be nice, but I gave away all my muffin tins. Who knew replacing them would cost about $20 for a tray to make a dozen muffins?  I’m happy that our friends and family have great muffin tins, but what am I supposed to use?

There are so many things we take for granted, like a good spatula, a decent icing spreader, a good non-stick cake pan, a pie plate or a pastry blender. I remembered many items to save from our old household, but my husband isn’t a baker and he doesn’t have the same appreciation for the specialized tools. Sure, you can buy these things here, but I didn’t go out and buy all those things at once the first time around. Some of them I had long before we were married.

This makes me appreciate even more the items I did move here, some with a little difficulty, such as my marble rolling pin, a mortar and pestle, a waffle maker, and my super powerful electric mixer.

I know these are first world problems, and sometimes a quest for an item can be fun. I am still able to find joy and satisfaction in making a tender and flaky pie crust, or a delicious cake or batch of cookies. Besides, a person could successfully move all their utensils or replace them all with top of the line stuff from A.L. Thompson or Bon Vivant, and your favourite recipes still need to be adjusted for the different oven, the differences in the flour and the altitude change. I don’t expect perfection the first time I bake something here, but I look forward to the day when I can make whatever I want without a three store shopping trip!


Canada Day!

Today we celebrate the country of my birth and citizenship! Today is Canada Day. I was asked what Canada Day represented. As I am in the middle of reading a book about the US revolutionary war, I had to think for a moment. We don’t have “Independence Day”  as our American friends have. We didn’t go to war to become a country, but we do celebrate the Confederation of our provinces.

In 1867, the first provinces united to form Canada and signed a constitution. Some provinces joined confederation later, but we still celebrate Canada’s birthday as a country on July 1. The day was first known as Dominion Day, until 1982 when it  became known as Canada Day.

To me Canada Day marks the start of summer and is celebrated with barbecues, picnics in the park surrounded by other Canadians, red and white desserts and waving of our flag, the Maple Leaf. To me, it is a reminder of who I am and where I come from, and that regardless of where I have chosen to live, I am still a proud Canadian. In fact, living in another country has reinforced those feelings in me every day and shown me that at my very core I will always be Canadian.

To my fellow Canadians, Happy Canada Day!