Shaking hands with Grand Cayman Island

July 4th, 2011. 29ºC, feels like 41. Partly sunny. 11:54am (Eastern Time Zone UTC-GMT -5).Welcome to Grand Cayman Island!

I got off the plane and landed foot on a hot and humid land. The sweater that protected me against the horrible air conditioning of the airports is no longer needed. I stepped in line at immigration behind tourists  thirsty for a relaxing and sunny vacation. At the end of the line, I was standing alone with my work permit photocopy, my 2 suitcases and lost amongst emotions.

There it was: the moment to grow up. With no chaperon, no companion, no mentor. Just myself to do it all  alone. I land in a foreign country with no one by my side, no one waiting for me. This is me facing reality and having to be strong with judgment, vigilance and positiveness to be able to accomplish this experience I gave myself. Yes, I feel lonely, but I need to take this opportunity to build myself stronger and leave this coconut shell that people and I built around me.

After looking for a currency exchange stand for a while, I realized there was none at the airport. Good thing I got American dollars! (If you go to Cayman, exchange your Canadian currency before leaving the country. You can use US dollars here, but their exchange rate at the restaurants and stores is way higher).

Now, time for a cab. I walked to a pre-paid taxi stand. The rate is humongous: US$20 for a 10min ride to  Treasure Island! Luckily, the lady standing behind me offered we split the taxi and the fare, since she was going to the same location. So on we go.(Careful, if you split a ride, you need to advise the pre-paid stand, as they most likely charge you double the fare. As we didn’t, we got into a nice argument with our lady driver but managed to stick with our initial fare).

I decided to stay at Treasure Island Resort for my first month. It was said to be a good and fairly cheap place, only CI$1,000/mth, or CAN$1,200 all inclusive…I know, it is very expensive for my single wallet, but compared to the average accommodation here, it is alright. Plus, I have access to the gym, 2 pools, a small open air restaurant and bar and a private beach. The room is fine: double bed, sofa bed, kitchenette, bathroom, cable and telephone. I also have a balcony only it is facing the parking lot, so I keep my curtains shut off. I am also on the second floor so I should be fine in case of hurricane. It is definitely a convenient starter housing for my stay on the island.

I showered and left my bags packed. I grabbed a map and made my way to work. Easy: only one main street goes around the island. So I walked North, spotting Subway, pharmacy, fruit bar, coffee shop, grocery and liquor store. 45 minutes and 2 miles later, I arrived to the restaurants. Good timing: the whole staff is in meeting getting introduced to a new menu. Sticked around for the information, then grabbed a glass of wine at the bar, chat with my new coworkers and made my way back to my new pad. Work starts tomorrow at 4.

 A Week Goes By…

Eats Cafe, Legendz Bar and Yoshi Sushi are 3 businesses owned by a Canadian couple. Eats is a popular diner with an eclectic decor, a bit like the Brasserie of Whistler. Legendz is a sports bar that attracts tourists and regulars. And Yoshi is, well, a place for sushi! Similar to the last business I worked at back in Whistler, the kitchen is shared within the restaurants. I will work my time at Legendz Bar.

Work is busy! With the Westin Hotel standing just in front and the regulars making daily appearances, we keep ourselves more than occupied. Work 6 days a week, 9 or 10 hours a day, mostly splits. Wow, welcome to the Caribbean work ethic! I am exhausted and tired and only had time to spend a couple hours by the ocean. My fridge is still empty, my bags are still packed and I still haven’t got time to hit the pool. But on the other hand, I socialize with great staff, make helpful contacts with locals and get practical tips on the Island life.

As walking 2 miles under a heavy heat everyday would probably kill me, I decided to invest in taking the bus. Quite pricy for its short ride (CI$2 a ride), the buses here are small private minivans and run when they want. You wave, they honk, they stop. Unfortunately for me, they all decide to stop running after 9 or 10 at night. So my only option after work is walk, which is no more recommended due to the higher level of crimes these days, or take a cab, which is absolutely ridiculously pricy, or catch a ride with a member of the staff. The last option is the most appealing, but it seems that everybody lives North. I live South. But I have generous coworkers and so far so good.

Tuesday will be my first day off since I got on the island. Kendra (coworker) and I are planning on going swimming with the sting rays. It will be good to explore the island a bit more, as I only been between my home and work.

It has only been a week. The first days were a bit painful as I miss my friends, my dog and my life back home. Loneliness is still there but I am making new friends and slowly finding my way around the island.

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