I’ve been a bit of a terrible writer in 2017 – I haven’t written an entry since before Christmas and it’s now the summer holidays! I’m currently sat on the floor of the lounge of my Mum’s house in Sandbach, pondering the fact that this time last year I was about to embark on the biggest adventure of my life.
There were so many unknown worries that seem silly to me now – would I be able to make friends? Would I like the job? What would my new favourite cocktail be?
When I first arrived in Cayman, for the first 4 months or so I was terribly unhappy. I was separated from my family and friends by not only thousands of miles but also a 6 hour time difference; I had a crap living situation to deal with; worst of all I was blowing through all the savings I had setting up my new life when I wasn’t even sure if I liked it there. The only thing that really got me through was the people I met – my lovely new work colleagues and friends who really looked out for me in the first term and regularly invited me out to parties and for drinks; the beach and its beautiful sunsets; and the “Caymankindness” I experienced from strangers day-to-day.
My new colleague James, who arrived in Cayman at the same time as me left the island in early November, unable to cope with the new way of life we both faced. I think this was a turning point for me – because his leaving opened up a new position at our company. Serendipitously, this position was to be filled by someone I already knew really well from home – Jon, an ex-university mate. The world is amazingly small and full of coincidences! So, communicating mainly through Skype and Facebook, Jon and I found a place to live together (meaning I could finally leave behind The Family I’d been living with – YAAAS!) and in January this year, we flew from Manchester together to the rock.
Jon was due to start a 6 month contract with the option to extend for an additional year if he wished. Apart from a few teething issues our house has been mostly fantastic and has now become my sanctuary – a far cry from the place I lived to begin with (I can’t bring myself to refer to that house as a home).
It would be impossible to sum up the last 6 months in just a few paragraphs and do them justice, but safe to say I am now so much happier. I now have a solid circle of friends on the island, have developed a regular, organised routine for work and am even starting to branch out into new hobbies – yoga and swimming in the main but I want to try out paddleboarding when I return in September!
Big highlights (which I may go into more detail in other posts) were the Taste of Cayman festival, fostering Mabel the cat from the Cayman Islands Humane Society, rejuvenating the Cayman National Orchestra, my friends Kat and Nick visiting and letting me show them the island I now call home, SO MANY Brunches and our Musicians Ltd Disney World trip with the Performing Arts class.
Also the food – Jon and I have eaten out SO much in 6 months and we’re trying to work our way through Cayman’s entire culinary scene. We’ve also taken to rating them according to how good the “free starters” are (ranging from artisan bread and butter to amuse bouches, salads and bruchetta) – The Westin Beach House is winning so far just for the sheer amount of free stuff they brought us – coupled with a 10% discount at the end of the meal for no apparent reason!
So as the start of my second year in Cayman draws closer, I’ll sum up my top 10 lessons I’ve learned after my first year.
- No matter how hot the Caribbean sun is, dress in layers. The A/C is a cruel mistress.
- You’re NOT on holiday, so put down the cocktails on a Monday/Tuesday/Wednesday/Thursday night, you animal. Work with a hangover in 30 degree heat isn’t fun.
- Happy Hours are compulsory Friday night entertainment.
- “Base tan” isn’t protection from the sun. Get hold of that suncream.
- Brunch is no longer just a meal – it’s a way of life.
- Don’t go to the supermarket on a Saturday night – just don’t.
- Never order starters at restaurants – see what you get for free!
- Island time is a real thing, and you’ll never get anything done on time again.
- When you visit anywhere “off island” – take an empty suitcase and lots of shopping money. Maybe 2 empty suitcases…
- And finally, DON’T live with a family that isn’t yours, no matter how cheap the rent or close to the beach they live.
But as a bonus #11 – on this island of expensive luxury, sunsets are always free and always beautiful.