Sunday, August 31, 2014

Never Never Land

It's been 3 weeks since our arrival on Grand Cayman. 3 weeks is longer than most peops vacation, so I feel like I'm officially past "vacation" stage of the move. To be honest though, it's never felt like a vacation since we were immediately thrown into survival mode, attempting to settle in to living here as quickly as possible.

I'm certainly not an expert at navigating island life after 3 short weeks, but I do have some observations - things that I've noticed after 3 weeks of island living. These observations could definitely be way off - perhaps I'll change my tune after a few more weeks, but here's a list of things I've noticed after living and working on the island for less than a month:

1) No, I didn't mean to turn on my windshield wipers!
It's tough enough navigating the streets of Cayman on the left side of the road, but you have to understand that, as a driver, you are situated on the right side of the car. In addition, the signal lights are on the right side of the steering wheel (where typically in North America, your windshield wiper controls are). I cannot even count how many times I've gone to signal a turn and immediately heard the 'swish swish' of my wipers. NO!!! it's sunny and 110 degrees outside. I just know that people are passing me, laughing, and pointing, "Foreigner!!" haha.

2) Dear Ms. Lindsay, your email skills are atrocious!
I've come to realize that while greeting co-workers, it is customary to refer to each other as Ms. or Mr. followed by your first name. For example, when I meet up with a teacher, she will call me "Ms. Kirstie" until I instruct her to "please call me Kirstie." Even the little kiddos are taught to address us very formally. When my little kindergartener (called "Reception" here) stood all proper, hands behind his back in his little uniform, stating, "Yes ma'am." I had to hold myself back from saying, "No worries! At ease little buddy!" But this is how it is done. Got it. I wasn't aware; however, that a similar formality existed with emailing. The other day, I went to send an email to one of my co-workers. In typical casual Kirstie register, the email read something like this: "Hey there! Just checking in to see if I can assess the following children on Monday. Thanks! Take care, Kirstie." I thought nothing of my email until I began receiving emails from other co-workers throughout the day. My heart pounded as I realized there is an email formula here. A formal email formula that I was not aware of. Each and every email I received began, "Dear Ms. Lindsay, blah blah blah, I wish you a good day, Sincerely, Ms. so-and-so." Damn. I was most definitely too casual in my email exchange. Lesson Learned. It's become a joke amongst my new friends - all new recruits on the island. At happy hour the other day, we all lamented, "I am sick and tired of learning lessons!!! Haha

Note to self: no more smiley faces inserted within emails and most definitely do NOT attach a link to your favorite you-tube video (In case you're wondering, my favorite you-tube vid is "hey cat") Pure awesomeness.

3) The beauty of sand and sweat
You are always sweating here. It is inevitable. You sweat while you brush your teeth, you sweat while you are eating, you sweat while you are chewing gum. It is hot. You will sweat. You then have the shock of entering a building where the air conditioning blasts, creating meat locker conditions. Your sweat then becomes cold; hence the term " a cold sweat." It takes some getting used to. In addition, if you frequent the beach (we've been trying for a few beach sunsets a week), you will find sand everywhere. Sand in your car, sand in your hair, and sand in places you didn't know sand could find. I'm going to embrace that sand is a joyous side effect of island life and think of it as "full body exfoliation."

I'm still in the honeymoon phase of tropical island living. The beauty of my surroundings do not go unnoticed. As a colleague and I drove to the East End to check out one of my schools, I was in awe by the turquoise waters and palm trees that lined the highway all the way to my school. "What a beautiful drive!" I exclaimed. "Ya, I guess it is, " answered my co-worker (who is awesome, by the way), "After a while, you kinda stop noticing," he continued. I understand how that happens. I hope that doesn't happen to me. It's exhilarating to take in a stunning postcard scene and think, "I live here! I am so lucky to live here!" My goal is to hang on to that for as long as I can.

Still can't get over the sunsets!

4) Critters
With the heat comes tons of insects and marine life that I've never seen before. Some are endearing - (love the little crabs that shuttle sideways after sunset), some are slightly terrifying (Was that iguana bigger than a German Shepherd?), and some are annoying (ANTS!) The Ants are a problem. In the office where I work, it is very very important that you do not leave any food out for more than 30 seconds, or the ants will carry off your lunch. I'm not even joking. I actually witnessed hundreds of ants carrying away someone's pork chop. I fear that if I sit stagnant at my desk for too long, those resourceful little buggers will carry me off to their Queen.
These guys pinch Dundee's nose on walks. 

5) Peter Pan and Never Never Land
In our 3 short weeks here, we've managed to meet quite a few expats who've moved here from various countries around the world. People who choose to pick up and move to a tropical island all seem to have something in common - these peops are adventurous. They are not afraid. They do not feel obligated to follow the "rules." For some, there was a major life event that made them rethink their life plan - perhaps it was a health scare, a broken relationship, or a significant career change. For others, they simply weren't content with where they were. Instead of saying, "I've always wanted to live in Australia," you hear, "Maybe my next move will be to Australia." In any case, I've noticed that "keeping up with the Jones'" mentality seems to be null and void. Status symbols, such as expensive homes and fancy cars are taken out of the equation. Although the people we've met have fabulous jobs and likely have incredible salaries, most rent their apartment. Vehicles are simply a mode of transportation. Expensive shoes and clothing doesn't seem to be an issue - you wear shorts and flip-flops. Perhaps I've just lucked out and met down-to-earth people and I will eventually change my tune, but presently, I don't feel that sense at all. I like that aspect a lot. I'm not going to lie, there have been moments where I've missed my beautiful jacuzzi tub or my granite countertops. But, the tradeoff seems to be worth it. It feels good. Simpler, I guess. Instead of discussing your race up the corporate ladder or the material things you've acquired, people discuss activities that they want to partake in once the work day is over. "You like diving? Let's go Friday!" "I have no clue if you're an accountant or a janitor but wanna learn to kite surf? I know a guy!"

One guy described it perfectly to Evan, "You work hard, but you play harder. The grown-up things just aren't important here. It's kinda like Never Never Land. People come here to be Peter Pan." Makes sense on an island where the word "tax" is not in the dictionary. Hmmm...I can handle that for a few years.
I thought this starfish was staged. It's actually real at Starfish Point. Super cool!
Dundee loves sunsets too!

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