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.

 

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!

A Moving experience, part 1: stuff to forget

When I say moving I’m actually talking about household effects.

We moved here using suitcases over the course of three years from a home where we’d lived for 21 years. Our old house had lots of storage. Lots and lots of storage. We had so much storage that we lost track of what we were storing.

When we married many years ago, we merged the contents of my apartment and my husband’s condo into his two bedroom condo. It was a small space, but big enough for two of us. We didn’t have much stuff.  When I became pregnant with our first child we started looking more seriously at houses. We moved into our four bedroom house just a few months before our daughter was born.

Life was very busy from the moment we became parents until we moved out of our house six months ago. We both come from large families and we have many nieces and nephews. We didn’t have to buy anything for our daughter. Well, we bought diapers, and eventually food. We were given so many gifts and hand-me-downs that she was outfitted until the day she said “I’m not really a fan of that colour” or “that style”.  It was the same for our son, although there weren’t as many boy cousins and their clothes were more likely to be worn out before they made it to our house.

For awhile I was able to stay on top of the inventory, or so I thought. Then more stuff started to enter our house. Toys, books, school supplies, crafts, clothing, movies and music all made their way in, with very little purging of the old. Sure, I very often had a bag or four or five to give the numerous charities that called regularly looking for “gently used clothing and household goods” but I also had lots of storage space.  You can see where this is going. If you’ve ever moved from a place you’ve been that long, or cleaned out a house after a parent or grandparent passed, you know where this is going.

For over a year, I carefully went through every box and bag and closet. I gave away several bags and boxes each week filled with clothing, linens, books and movies. It hardly made a dent. I persisted. We had a garage sale. We gave stuff to our children. We gave away more stuff. We sold stuff online. Still, we had a storage room full of boxes and closets full of clothing. Every time we came to our place on the island, we filled suitcases with carefully packed pictures and plates and mugs that had special meaning.

When we finally moved we only brought things that either had special meaning or that were incredibly useful and hard to replace. For example, our garlic press didn’t take much space and we hadn’t found one we liked here, so we brought it.

The move from the old house was not a pretty sight. At first it was fun to read old letters and cards, and to look at old photos and our kids’ homework. I had sorted through them, making piles to shred, scan or save.  The scan pile was never completely scanned. Those things were thrown away. Our photo albums, filled with travel and family photos from pre-digital camera days, are still in a parent’s basement. Lovely items given to us as gifts were deemed too large to pack. I don’t remember where they went.

When we finally moved here permanently, we had already moved a lot of our favourite things. It wasn’t the huge and overwhelming task that we would have faced if we’d put everything into a shipping container and had it delivered all at once. We still hadn’t found places for everything, though. We are determined to avoid mistakes of the past and store things that “might be useful” someday. We don’t have much storage space, so what we do have is being used for Christmas and seasonal storage, and to store “winter” clothes for travel.

Once in awhile I’ll think of something that I gave away, or may have given away, and I wonder why I didn’t keep it. Or I’ll wonder where it went. For the first month or so, I’d feel a stab of pain and I’d be close to tears for something as random as being in a kitchen store and not seeing a single thing I liked as much as what I’ve given away. Regrets, I’ve had a few…. Those feelings are thankfully hitting me less often. I don’t like to compare it with Post Traumatic Stress or grieving, but the triggers have become less potent over time in the same way. Just this morning I wondered what we did with our ice cream and yogurt makers. The last few days of packing really are a blur, so I really don’t remember.

Sometimes I’ll have a stab of guilt over selling the only home our kids have ever known. They are students and as such they don’t have a permanent address. Our son visited recently and referred to our place here as a “home away from home”, which was some consolation, but our daughter hasn’t been to this place since 2012. She is less emotional about the loss of her childhood home, however, having left years ago and spending very little time there even on summer holidays.

There is a silver lining to all this. We gave away a lot of our things to friends and family, offering first dibs to our children. On a recent visit to my daughter, it felt like my “home away from home” with the artwork and pictures and even cooking utensils and bed sheets we’d passed along. My sister has my fine china. She uses it every day. That makes me happy, especially when we have dinner at her place. Once our son has his own place, he’ll be using dishes and linens that we donated from our house. There is no need to store things anymore. They are being used. That also makes me happy.

What I’m trying to say, is that you shouldn’t get too attached to stuff, but if something gives you good memories or has a sentimental attachment, keep it, use it, and cherish it,  or share it with someone who will. Don’t store too much stuff. Get it out and give it away, or use it. There isn’t much that actually becomes more valuable with time, no matter what the collectors tell you. I sold hundreds of dollars worth of collector plates for the equivalent of lunch money, or I gave them away. I enjoyed them while I had them, but I couldn’t bring them all with me.

I probably enjoy my the photos and pictures we’ve hung on our walls more than I ever did. In this smaller space, I see them more often. Every item we kept was carefully selected, wrapped and delivered here personally. What I didn’t bring, I hope others are enjoying as much, if not more, than we did. Sometimes I even get to see it.

 

Happy Father’s Day!

Yesterday was Father’s Day in my world. Father’s Day has been a hit or miss holiday for the past few years. I always call my dad, and my husband calls his, but my husband is often away. Our children probably got out of the habit of celebrating the day, but they both called with love and best wishes…eventually.

Father’s Day here seems to be all about brunch, or lunch, or maybe an extended brunch. We decided that just in case Eden Rock is going to be ruined forever by the addition of a massive cruise ship dock, we should snorkel there while we can. It was beautiful! Fantastic! It was all we’ve come to expect of a snorkel at Eden Rock, except for one thing. We were only in for 30 minutes. We entered from the stairs near the Paradise Grill, which, to me, makes it remarkably easy. We swam out to the main part of the reef, enjoying the Parrot Fish, Blue Tangs, Needlefish, Tarpon and finally the incredible maze of coral from which we often see divers emerging. There was a loud roar from the sky and I thought, “There goes the WestJet flight!”. I looked up and the sky was growing darker to the east. We heard another roar, which this time was definitely thunder. We decided to head back in.

It wasn’t all disappointing. We saw more in five minutes than we often see in a half hour. On our way back we saw a huge school of reef squid.download

I think they are beautiful, but they are often quite shy and I’ve never seen more that about a dozen at a time. This time there were dozens, probably sixty, and they were not at all skittish. We admired them for a moment, until we heard another thunder clap, and we hurried back in to shore.

After we dried off we enjoyed a leisurely lunch at the Paradise Grill, one of my favourite places to get conch fritters. It was leisurely out of necessity rather than choice. We often stop there before or after a snorkel or museum visit, but usually the crowd is mainly fellow sight seers and swimmers. We are usually the locals among the tourists. It’s a great spot because you can look out over the harbour and watch the huge tarpon that hang out near the steps, while enjoying the breeze off the water.

Yesterday, we were definitely candidates for the “worst dressed” of the clientele, as well dressed families, probably straight from church, gathered to celebrate with their fathers. This time, we looked like the tourists among the locals. The place was the busiest I’ve ever seen, so the food took a little longer than usual. It didn’t matter because we were enjoying a leisurely Father’s Day lunch.

When we came home I was very happy that both our children found a way to wish their dad a happy Father’s Day. I hope they continue the tradition for many years.

How to truly retire and not become a full time volunteer

The island’s first ever International Film Festival is going to be on in a week! I was so excited when I first heard of this event! We have our passes and we are studying the schedule to maximize our time and enjoyment!

When I first heard about this I wanted to help. It seemed like a natural; I have time, I love film, I’m not allowed to have a paying job here, and everyone needs volunteers.

I emailed the organizers and voila! they asked me if I’d be interested in coordinating the volunteers. Now that seems like it would be a pretty daunting task for someone who had just moved to the island and hadn’t even volunteered here before. Not to me it wasn’t! Well, maybe a tiny bit. At risk of giving away my secret identity, I’d have to say that event planning and volunteer coordinating were my super powers. I’ve been involved in the planning and coordinating of several national level competitions, hosting athletes from all over Canada at some of them, and from all over Western Canada at others. This involved arranging the venue, organizing the necessary officials and all support volunteers, booking hotel accommodation for visiting officials and for the higher level competitions, planning receptions and awards ceremonies. We sent out notices to participating clubs with all the necessary information and processed the entries and seeding. We planned the food for volunteers and officials and ensured there was emergency medical staff in attendance.  The list goes on. It took a team to organize this level of an event, but I do know a few things about volunteers.

I went to meet the organizers, having just returned from a vacation and finding our car in urgent need of a service, in a bit of a flustered state. Our internet wasn’t working when I arrived at home and I was making daily trips to the coffee shop to check my email in a car that I was more than a little concerned about. I must have made a really bad impression. In retrospect, I wondered if I was expected to bring a resume or references, or go over my past experience. That hadn’t occurred to me because it was for a VOLUNTEER position. I have never felt the need to sell myself on a volunteer job before. On the contrary, it took me and my co-planning/organizing superwoman partner a couple of years  to train people to replace us.

When I say partner I mean that strictly in the sense that we worked together on several events! She was amazing with the small details of planning and contacting the outside support people, and with coordinating our committee. I coordinated, contacted and confirmed all the volunteers, and knew where and for how long they’d be needed, who had the skills for certain positions, and how many “back up” people we should have, and how we would keep them hydrated and fed.

So at this film festival meeting, it’s quite possible that my own reservations about taking on the job gave them reservations about trusting me to take on the job. I don’t exude confidence, especially after a harrowing trip across the island in a car that is trembling. Perhaps I had a moment of  “Can I do this without my superwoman partner who is so good with the details?” So after I thought about the job for a couple of days and contacted them, offering to do it, I understood their decision to hire an event planning company instead of having little old unknown me do it for free. I was probably secretly relieved, even though I’d been drawing up sample spreadsheets of the various screening locations and positions that would need to be filled.

As much as I understood the “rejection” of my services, which they had asked for in the first place, and as much as I’ve enjoyed some time to settle in without the added stress of being part of a major event involving hundreds of volunteers, I couldn’t help feeling a little bit like I’d lost my mojo.  I hope I responded graciously although I thought,”It’s your loss because I would have done a fantastic job even if it killed me!”. I was just a little disappointed that I hadn’t even been asked to be a worker-bee volunteer. Apparently this island has a phenomenal volunteer force and they didn’t even need me to be an usher or take tickets or clean up garbage after the shows. Maybe I made a really bad impression!

Wait, who am I kidding? I was once again relieved that I hadn’t been called upon to volunteer. My enthusiasm for the project had come from a sincere desire to work with the organizers. You see, they made a very good impression on me! I would have done this major project if it killed me and in truth, it probably would have killed me! In retrospect, I realize that my favourite volunteer moments have come doing the small jobs that use my technical skills; the jobs I can go in and do well and go home later and forget. I only became a volunteer coordinator extraordinaire out of necessity.

Then I got an email, presumably from someone at the event planning company, asking for volunteers. She didn’t say what the volunteers would be doing, but the shifts were during festival screenings. I had to say no. I’ve been available since April, and I’m available almost all week, but once the screenings begin, I’m no longer available. We have our festival passes and we’ve been studying the schedule. There are a lot of films to see and it’s going to take some serious planning and organization to maximize our time and enjoyment!

You could say that I’ve discovered a new super power; being able to say “No”.

 

 

Catching a little Cayman Culture

I took my own advice this rainy weekend and my Husband and I went to the National Museum. We’ve been a few times over the years, but the most recent was almost a year ago. The permanent exhibits are worth a visit, and we’re happy to take any interested visitors there. I’ve also recommended it to anyone interested in the history of the Cayman Islands. There is no charge for residents on the first Saturday of the month.

On this visit we only had time to see the current exhibit, Towards 2050, Living in a Sustainable Cayman, and to browse a little in the gift shop. I learned a little bit about the Blue Iguana, or the Blue Dragon as they call it. The Blue Iguana recovery program has a sponsorship or “adopt a blue dragon” program. I thought it would be pretty cool to adopt a blue iguana until I saw the price tag of $500 per year. I could name one for $1000, but what would I call it?

The Blue Iguana lives almost exclusively in protected areas. It is threatened by rats and feral cats, which eat the eggs, and feral dogs. They grow much larger than the common or green iguana and there are some distinguishing features to help recognize which is which. The blue iguana does not have black rings on the tail. They have no spines on the dewlap, the flap under the chin, and they never have the large circular scale on the cheek. Those features would all indicate a green iguana.

The population of the Blue Iguana was at one time estimated to be fewer than 50! It is the most endangered iguana on earth.

As for the green iguanas, I’m sure there are at least 50 living in this area right around our building and pool right now. I chased a very large green iguana away from the pool today. It was so big it could hardly squeeze itself through the fence, but it sure could move quickly. I’ve seen several smaller ones scurrying off through the shrubbery when I walk by.

The sustainability exhibit also mentioned the idea that Cayman culture is being replaced with the cultures of the many nationalities moving here. I see a very strong Jamaican influence, but North Americans are making their mark. There is a new “Thanksgiving” holiday to mark the end of hurricane season. The long standing Sunday “rest” day is currently under review to allow the opening of certain stores.

What really interested me was the promotion of and growth in the tourist industry. One flyer, describing the couple who had saved up for a vacation on their dream island, encouraged locals to give them a smile. You’ll find that friendly Caymanian attitude to this day! You don’t find people pushing you to buy things on every corner. The staff in the services operated nationally, such as the museum, Pedro St. James and the Queen Elizabeth Botanic Garden, are unfailingly polite and friendly.

I can’t help comparing Caymanian culture with the Blue Iguana. Both are fascinating and unique, like something time forgot, and both are struggling to survive on an island that is striving to accommodate thousands of visitors daily.