I’m pretty good at finding myself in places I never thought I would be. Not because I have extremely ambitious, unachievable dreams but because I just kind of, go places. Two weeks ago I came to Grand Cayman and now here I am.
It happened quite fast and was a bit of a shock to the system. One minute I was unemployed, living on a friends couch, waiting for a Visa to Australia to be approved and the next minute I was on a Caribbean island–still homeless, technically, but working!
Last year at this time I was on Utila, Honduras, celebrating being a brand new PADI instructor. I spent 5 months on Utila and although I knew Cayman would be very different I didn’t quite realize how vast the differences would be. Both islands have a history of English colonialism, pirates, buccaneers, reptilian cuisine and oddball local customs. They also share the experience of a growing tourism industry and being busy scuba destinations. Despite their similarities the two islands have become completely different places, both culturally and economically.
While Utila and the Bay Islands became part of Honduras the 3 islands that make up the Cayman Islands became an almost independent but still kind of tied to the crown country. Then they built a bunch of banks, fancy hotels and jewelry stores and I’m sure you know how the rest turned out! For a tiny island nation with almost no natural resources they’ve done pretty well for themselves–I say this through teary eyes as I watch my Canadian dollars dissolve through my fingers. I knew the Cayman dollar was good and that things would be expensive here but I didn’t know looking at the total on my grocery receipt would make me feel physically ill. It’s been an adjustment. For sure.
Last spring I found myself on a very expensive, very shiny private yacht–alone with Bob, the old guy that lived on it. It was strange at the time because I had gone from a busy dive centre on an island full of backpackers to this silent floating hotel. Being the clueless numpty I am, I had to learn how air conditioning worked among other things. Well I’ve found myself in another one of those peculiar situations. No yacht and no Bob this time. Instead I’ve been living in the top floor of a very nice house that should be occupied by my new boss. I went from a room upstairs in a family friend’s house in my hometown to this empty island home on a beautiful tropical canal. The bossman, he’s unfortunately in the hospital with a mysterious ailment that forces him to watch Dexter and eat gourmet food all day. (No but really, hurry up and get better!) So here I am, mastering a new aircon and wondering what I’m allowed to touch/eat.
As someone who moves every few months I’m getting quite comfortable in other people’s spaces but I must confess, I do spend a lot of time wondering whether or not they will notice if I eat that thing. And did they want that particular thing to be that particular way even though it seems particularly dumb.
Cayman is a hotspot for cruise shippers and business types with questionable morals, in other words, people I can’t relate to at all. However, it has also been described as “the best diving in the Caribbean!” So there’s also a few divers kickin’ around, and those people I can relate to. Having not seen the entire Caribbean, I can’t say yet if this is the best it has to offer but it does have some interesting attributes. For me the most intriguing is the deep deep walls. Where there is 8000ft of ocean depth there must be sea monsters! The island is surrounded by some visually pleasing rock formations and they seem to have done a good job protecting many of the larger fish. I’ve seen more big snappers and groupers than I saw on Utila, but there is a distinct lack of small things and I’m not sure why. There does seem to be a decent number of turtles though!
My many turtle sightings might be in some part thanks to the turtle meat farm on the island, they apparently release many of the young turts they grow there. Yes I know, those of us who didn’t grow up eating turtle cringe at the thought of it, but I think it’s probably better to farm them than slaughter all of the wild ones! It serves a purpose and satisfies a local demand–unlike the captive dolphin pens but I won’t get into that now.
Today someone asked me where I will be in the next 6-12 months and I had to reply, “I have no idea.” Two months ago I didn’t think I would be sitting here on Grand Cayman watching the sun sink down behind the mangroves but here I am! As usual, I’m pining for the prolific marine life in Browning Pass but enjoying the sunshine and tropical fishies.
One more thing though, there’s an underwater statue of a mermaid off of Powell River in BC. Divers go camp over there every year and do the mermaid dive. I’ve never seen it. Her sister lives here on Cayman and is at one of the two shore diving sites I’ve done so far. Ha. Powell River always seemed to far to go for a shore dive, so I came all the way back to the Caribbean.