Eden Rock, My Underwater Paradise

 

I eased myself from the steps into the sea and I was immediately treated to the sight of blue Tangs, tarpon, sargent majors and dozens of gently waving yellow sea fans. The water enveloped me in its gentle warmth. This is my paradise! This is my place of worship. From that point on I lost all track of time. The sky was clear, the visibility was great and there was no where else I needed or wanted to be.

Some people spend their Sundays on the beach. Some people wouldn’t consider missing church. If I’d stayed in Canada, I might be a hiker or cross country ski in the winter. Here, I show my appreciation for what the Universe provides by going underwater.

Eden Rock is my favourite place to snorkel from shore. We find a parking spot, take our gear and go straight to the Marine Park entrance adjacent to the Paradise Grill. It has to be one of the easiest entry points anywhere. There are steps into the water! I put the Sea Drops into my mask and rub it around, then rinse it in the sea. I don’t have to worry about getting sand in the mask. I don’t have to find a smooth spot on the ironshore to enter. I don’t have to balance while I get my fins on. The entry is smooth concrete. The biggest problem is that it gets hot in the sun. We put our flip flops onto the ironshore beside the sidewalk and tuck the Sea Drops under our towel.

It was the perfect day to snorkel. The sky was blue and the sea was calm. There was hardly anyone downtown in George Town.

The blue Tangs were not the vivid blue that we often see, but a paler shade, almost lavender. The  Stoplight parrot fish were huge. At one point my husband mimed playing a trumpet, then pointed to a spot a few feet away. After a moment I saw it, camouflaged against the coral, a trumpet fish.

We swam lazily, almost drifting around, among the juvenile chubbs and French Angel fish. We hovered over the tunnels in the reef, watching the tarpon below. We spotted a triggerfish, a needlefish, and several squirrel fish. There were purple and yellow sea sponges, finger coral, pencil coral, brain coral and purple sea rods.

Sometimes we see divers below, their bubbles rising to meet us as we share the beauty of the reef on separate levels. Every visit to Eden Rock is different. Today, we saw no divers and no reef squid, but we also saw no thunder clouds threatening.  We had all day, if we wanted, to explore as far as we ever have. There was no one near us!

We were heading slowly into shore when my husband stopped and turned to get my attention. In the distance, between us and the shore, was a shark. It was no threat to us. It was swimming in the other direction, away from our entry point, parallel to the shore, but even from a distance we could see that it was huge! We later identified it as a lemon shark.

We continued our leisurely return to the shore, stopping to study the tarpon in the shade of the mini-trampoline and to admire the sea fans once again. When we finally climbed the steps to where we’d entered, which is also the easiest exit ever, we felt as if we’d finally done full justice to the Eden Rock snorkel.

 

 

Okay, I’ve had enough Alone Time. You can come home now

My husband was only gone for two weeks, but I hardly know anyone on this island and they are all as busy as I was in my old life. Not only was he away, he was off the grid, so to speak, in a cabin in the mountains. He had no internet and he only has the prohibitively expensive Cayman mobile for the occasional text message. Before you ask, he was with a group of buddies, so he was happily cut off from civilization. I, on the other hand, found myself going to the store just so I could talk to a human being! Thank heaven for friendly neighbours, but they are usually coming and going when I see them.

Alone time keeps me sane. Before this retirement business, I had a busy, fulfilling life with lots of alone time. I woke up early each morning and made breakfast, packed a lunch for my kids while they still lived at home, went for my walk or did yoga, all before my husband left for work.  I spent my days shopping for groceries, cooking and cleaning, and when I had time, writing. I enjoyed the volunteering I found myself doing quite often.

Life got a bit crazy during the kids’ high school years with their events and my volunteer activities, but I was the one in control of how I managed my time, and I still had the “alone time” I needed. I also had friends I saw for lunch occasionally.

Anyone who has been through the adjustment of retirement, whether your own or that of a spouse, will know of the initial challenges. The newly retired person is looking for ways to spend their time and share with their spouse. They try to ease in at their own pace until they realize that perhaps they are encroaching just a little bit on their partner’s space and routine. The partner, especially if they have already retired or have always worked at home, feels as if there is a constant presence looming over and around them every time they take a step.

In our case the adjustment took place over a huge move and several small vacations. We are both new to the set up here, so we found our spaces and our rhythm to life together. We gradually started “living” here rather than “vacationing” here, which means a slower, gentler pace. He still has work to do and I still have writing, sewing and craft projects. The only problem, which is not usually a problem, is that those are all solitary activities.

I have yet to find  new dive buddy or to make a friend outside of our apartment building. I appreciate the people here and feel as if our good luck with neighbours has carried over with us. Unfortunately, they all have to work and their week nights are pretty much how mine used to be when we all had jobs and school and evening activities.

I can’t lie and say I don’t love the alone time. This stretch of time has given me the opportunity to accomplish a massive project which I can’t imagine attempting with another person in the house. In fact, I have a few other similar projects on my list and I don’t know when I’m going to finish them. Sometimes, however, I would love to have a friend over for coffee or call friends to go out for lunch and find out what the rest of the world is up to. For now, though, I’m happy to have my husband home again.

 

Maybe ’cause it’s Monday….

I’m having a “blue Monday”. I’m generally a happy person and I love living here, but sometimes I just get tired of the sh*t everywhere. Yes, it’s been a “crappy” weekend and I mean that literally.

Saturday morning I woke up late. I’d been keeping late hours working on a sewing project and it was the first time all week I’d actually slept in. I also woke up with a brutal sinus headache and nausea. I thought a swim would help me work out the morning stiffness and help me feel better.

I looked at the pool and realized that either someone had been throwing clots of mud in during the night, or several iguanas had managed to relieve themselves in the earlier morning hours. We don’t have a lot of mud here. The soil is pretty sandy. On close inspection it was obvious that the second option was true. So that’s what is meant by a sh*t show!

I got out the net and started cleaning out as much as I could. The pool isn’t very big, about 8 metres by 6 metres, and the bottom was absolutely covered in poop. By the time I felt like a person could reasonably go into the pool without stepping in it, my headache and nausea was such that I didn’t want to swim anymore.

There were many people using the pool all weekend, which deters the little beasties. There is a pump and filter and the water is treated, so it was much less disgusting after a few hours. Sunday I was up earlier and used the pool early but before that I managed to catch a couple of very large, ugly iguanas attempting to repeat the poop party. I chased them away and kept a close watch all day. After a few months of having our own deck free of iguanas I also caught a couple of them trying to sneak on. They clearly hadn’t “got the memo”. By the end of the day I was feeling overrun. It’s the new generation of iguanas that have multiplied the problem, probably by about forty times.

That brings me to today,  Monday. I only saw one iguana this morning while enjoying a leisurely breakfast on our deck. As soon as I stood up it ran away into the mangroves. However, sometime while I was out getting groceries, another culprit managed to foul the pool deck, or as they see it, the poop deck. The sidewalk alongside our building was covered in poop. It’s an exercise in agility to walk out to the pool.  I decided that Friday, when the cleaning guy comes, can’t come soon enough. I’d wanted to give my car a  good rinse so I got the hose out and sprayed off the sidewalk on the way to my car.

Okay, so I’ve cleaned the sidewalk, rinsed my car and scooped debris out of the pool that must have blown in during the rain storm. I’m hot and sweaty and in my bathing suit and shorts. I would go cool off in the pool for 5 minutes before coming in to make supper.

For some reason it smells like an outhouse outside. Yes an outhouse, as in an outdoor toilet without flushing abilities, a port-a-potty, a latrine, a privy, an outbuilding. This is not exactly conducive to a relaxing cool-off in the pool. Now, not only am I surrounded by excrement, but the entire pool area smells like it.

In most places it smells fresh after a rain and I usually love it here after a good rainfall. In fact, from up on our deck, it does smell fresh! Why does the pool smell like an outhouse?

Three possibilities come to mind. The breeze from the dump, aka “Mount Trashmore”, although it’s not that close, is just at the right angle to hit the pool area. Second possibility, people are using the empty lot not only as a dumping ground, but as a camping area and leaving their “waste” behind. This seems unlikely, but who knows? Third possibility is that our septic system is backing up and somehow  we can smell it in the pool area, but not from the deck. This would be very odd because our deck overlooks the pool and you would think the odor would rise. This makes the dump scenario more likely because as with storms, the deck is protected from the prevailing winds.

Whatever the reason, it was a bad day to happen. Yes, I love my home in Paradise. It’s always warm here and I love being near the sea. I’m happy to have indoor plumbing and electricity and air conditioning.  I’m glad I don’t live in a country where the aroma of sewage is the norm. I know I’m lucky to have the life I have. Today, though, I just got tired of being surrounded by feces.

 

Guarding Paradise

I returned from a vacation off island to a brand new generation of iguanas. Yes, the green iguanas that lurk around our pool had become parents; over and over and over again! Now we have large green iguanas, a new generation of juvenile iguanas, and another hatch of babies. They are making it very difficult for me to relax on the deck.

The green iguanas are a nuisance and they are pests. I don’t like them and they carry Salmonella, so I work very hard to keep them from pooping in the pool. Other than that, at least they aren’t dangerous. They may have a dangerous predator now, though.

There is a pack of dogs that has been running around on the island. They seem to hang out in this neighbourhood, although I haven’t seen them for a few days. There was a stretch of time where I saw three or four dogs every day. They left me alone, even to the point of heading in a different direction if they saw me near the pool. One day I was closely studied by one passing by, but he went on his way, satisfied the the goggle-wearing creature was indeed human. I am now intrigued by feral dogs and pack behaviour, so I started doing a little research. They will hunt smaller animals, but if they hear a high pitched sound in the heat of the hunt, they will often attack the source. That could be a human trying to come to the rescue of a pet, or it could be a small child. The dog pack will also pursue animals or children that are running away, confusing them with prey. Otherwise it’s not normal for dogs to attack people.

My curiosity about the dog pack was piqued recently when something happened to one of the pack members right near our home. We aren’t sure if the dog was hit by a car, or hurt in a dog fight. There was an injured dog near our building and just a few feet away was another dog, growling at anyone coming near. Was it the protector dog? A little later another dog came and sat even farther away, but still near the two dogs. About an hour later, the rest of the pack came along and the injured dog got up and limped away with them.

These packs  of dogs are scaring people, especially those who walk their own dogs every day. They threaten the dogs and if the owner intervenes they threaten the owner. The governor was attacked when she tried to rescue her cat from a pack of dogs. I am concerned about the young children living nearby.

I haven’t been for many walks lately. I used to walk in Canada where there are lots of walking paths and sidewalks, and the weather is a little more bearable. Here I find it a little hot and humid this time of year. The beach is a good place to walk, but in our neighbourhood we have to walk along the side of the road. These days I would have to worry not only about the drivers who go too fast, but also about the feral dogs who might be less predictable than domestic dogs. If I feel the need for a walk when the weather cools off, I have a sturdy walking stick to take with me.

These dogs seem to hunt iguanas. If the dogs run past the pool, any iguanas that have ventured out of the bushes and escaped my notice will scurry right back into the thick mangroves. Most of the dogs are quite large, but sometimes they’ll have a smaller terrier in the pack and they can go into the bushes and flush out the iguana. I don’t know if they eat them, but they shake them and kill them.

I’ve been to other places where feral dogs are an issue. Twenty five years ago, in Bali, Indonesia, the dogs all had the same look, as if their characteristics had been accidentally bred into them for several generations. They were very unattractive, squat, white mutts that ate the food left out as “sacrifices” to the evil gods. The dogs in places like Cayman and the Turks and Caicos seem to be a more recent phenomenon, so that as cross breeds, they are still distinct from one another. In Rarotonga the feral dogs appear to belong to everyone. They roam freely, but they are liked by everyone and fed by the locals.

The dog pack that I often see here includes large dogs, mostly brown, but otherwise not alike. There is a German Shepard cross, a labrador like dog, a very dark chocolate brown dog that I can’t identify, and a few other distinct looking dogs. The stray that wanders on it’s own is a black and white dog that looks like part pit bull. Ironically, it’s a sweet old dog that hangs around on its own.

Where do these dogs come from and why are they wandering around freely? I’m not sure, but they could be the offspring of locally owned dogs that are not spayed and neutered, and are not confined. They could be dogs that aren’t confined or restrained by their owners and began to meet up with other dogs. Are dogs like teenagers in that if you don’t give them boundaries and structure they end up seeking it elsewhere? Is the dog pack the same as a gang, providing a social order and leadership, albeit of a sketchy nature?

Whatever the cause, this is a problem that needs an immediate solution. The potential is there for someone to get hurt. The governor has already been attacked. Let’s hope it doesn’t take another unfortunate incident to spur stronger action.

The sad conclusion to the story of the injured dog is that it hasn’t concluded. The authorities were called by two different residents, but it took almost an hour for someone to show up. When he arrived he was ill-equipped to deal with the dogs, especially after the rest of the pack showed up. For whatever reason, no action was taken. We waited over a week for humane traps to be placed and so far there is one trap and still no dog.

I am curious about what will happen if they do trap a dog from the pack. What will the other dogs do? I hate to say it, but I’m not holding my breath for a successful catch.

 

 

Landline lament

We are moving closer to a society free of landlines. Is this a good thing? In my humble opinion, no, it is not. I live on an island with two choices of mobile phone servers. When I travel, I sometimes have a prepaid cell phone for the US, but it isn’t as easy to obtain such a service in Canada. Instead, I opt for a travel plan on my Cayman cell phone. I intend to get a prepaid sim card the next time I’m in Canada, but my visits are usually very quick and full of activities and visiting.

The problem with using my Cayman cell phone in Canada, even if I have an international plan, is that it costs for people to call me. It costs me about 3 or 4 dollars per minute to call a Canadian number! That means that even calling a cab or calling my mother- in-law to ask if we can come over can use up all my phone credit! I’ve tried to set up an international plan that includes 100 minutes, but so far I’m still being charged for calls and I’m watching my phone credit drop in half every time I attempt a phone call.

I was recently a guest at the second landline-free home on this trip. That’s not a problem in Victoria, where I can text the only people I know. In some places it’s a problem. My in-laws don’t text. I can’t book a taxi with a text message. My prepaid US phone with almost $100 in credit doesn’t work in Canada.

I think fondly of my landline in Canada, back when I lived there about 8 months ago. Long distance calls were so inexpensive that I thought nothing of calling my husband when he was in the Cayman Islands, or calling my children in Victoria or my parents in Saskatoon. Now I’m told that there is no point in having a landline. No point? Tell me that again when you can’t call your family without making a phone top up every few days, or they can’t call you for some inexplicable reason involving your postpaid mobile phone account.

Having said all that, even when I stayed with my parents, who have a landline,  I made all my plans using email and text messages. I guess we can adapt to anything.