A place to call home

It’s the most wonderful place.  And I’ve had an impossible time trying to determine how to describe this place to anyone, so probably this post won’t help.  A Google search of Little Cayman will tell you the basics, with the added bonus (and might I add, false advertising) photos of perfectly sculpted naked men roaming the beaches.

Here are those facts*:

  • Approximately 150 people live here; I’d wager that number is probably a lot smaller than your high school graduating class.
  • Electricity and paved roads are a relatively recent advent, developments that occurred in the last 20 or so years.
  • The highest elevation on the island is about 40 feet, or sometimes, Ed’s lunch plate.
  • It’s 10 miles long and 1 mile wide, 5 miles of Caribbean Sea separate us and our “sister” island, Cayman Brac.
  • The island was “discovered” by Christopher Columbus, who made note of the incredible number of turtles and appropriately named the island “Las Torgugas” or “The Turtles.”
  • The Cayman Islands later were named Las Caymanas, for debatable reasons that no one officially can agree upon.
  • The first settlement of Little Cayman was in the 17th century, by turtle hunters (turtle meat is still a delicacy in Caymanian culture).  Now, we still see turtles (hawksbill, loggerhead and green), but in no where near the numbers they were before humans settled here.
  • The island is surrounded by a 6000-foot drop off underwater, which starts about 1-2.5 miles off shore.  Off the Northwest coast of the island is the Bloody Bay Marine park, which is known for some of the best diving in the world.
  • The Booby Pond Nature Reserve here is a sanctuary for the largest red-footed booby population in the Caribbean, hosting over 2,500 active nests.
  • Little Cayman is the only remaining of the three Cayman Islands to support a bustling population of the critically endangered Lesser Caymans Iguana, who have gone virtually extinct on the other islands due to cats, dogs, and human encroachment of habitat.
  • There are four resorts on Little Cayman, catering to divers.
  • There is one restaurant / bar called the Hungry Iguana, or “the Iggy” for short, a general store, that closes at 6, a bank that opens twice a week, and a liquor store (I think).
  • We have an airport that has no runway lights, so the dingy planes can’t depart or arrive after dark.  It is only very recently that the grass runway was paved.  The airplane still crosses the main road on it’s way to where it parks, and this is the only caution sign around:

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Yes, that’s the airstrip behind it, and it only recently was changed from grass to gravel.

*I obtained most of this information from Wikipedia or heresy, which qualifies as scientific fact on this island. So.

Do you have an idea of this place now?  Probably not.  Well, imagine a rock in the middle of the ocean, one that just over a hundred people happen to live on.  There are far more iguanas than people, and there’s an actual “iguana hotline” for people to call when they spot an injured iguana.  The poster for the hotline has an iguana, looking at a cell phone laying in the brush. The island is an essential habitat for an incredible number of bird species, both migratory and resident.  And instead of sandy beaches, we mostly have this:

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Jagged, razor sharp edges that will destroy uncalloused feet in just a couple steps: the iron shore.  And don’t worry, I brought the surf board out there with the intention to surf, but promptly tucked my tail between my legs and didn’t.

We’ve got a sandy beach at the East end of the island called Point of Sand, but most other attempts at beach-entry adventures will leave you covered in iron-shore inflicted wounds.  And while I was kind of expecting the naked men provocatively roaming the beaches, I have been marginally disappointed to find that the only man strutting the beaches is my co-worker, whose job is to push a wheelbarrow and rake seagrass.  He occasionally winks at me.

Every afternoon, the sun beats down on my arms and neck as I cycle through a maze of hermit crabs, rolling into their shells at the last minute to render themselves invisible.  As I pass them, it looks like a bunch of wobbling shells on the road with hairy purple crab legs kind of hidden.  Evolution failed the little dudes here, because they simply have no idea that hiding under the blankets doesn’t mean the monster can’t see you.  It can still see you, and we humans have one up on the hermit crabs because we know that.  At least I do.  So I weave between the shells on the road, smiling wildly at each nondescript little critter just doing his thing, and hoping that a car doesn’t come and smash the poorly protected hermit crabs. 

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There is nothing on either side of me but trees, and the occasional grass clearing filled with arbitrary construction materials and rusted old trucks.  There are hardly any cars on this island, So if my bike breaks down, it’s more than likely that my 30 minute walk to wherever I’m going will be the better bet than waiting for a hitch.

One afternoon, I pulled my bike over to spend some time with the most majestic little crab I’ve ever seen, with bright red legs and a purple carapace, and was utterly enthralled by it’s loveliness.  As I knelt in the middle of the road beside my bicycle, a car approached behind me.  Instead of laying on his horn, swerving past me in a passive aggressive manner, or doing anything else that one might expect from a typical driver, the man behind the wheel pulled up slowly and peered out the window as he came to a complete stop.

“You like da crab, huh?”  he said, his thick island accent distinguishing him as a local.

“It’s so beautiful!”  I said, not considering for a moment the fact that my fascination with this creature had just effectively stopped this mans vehicle in the middle of the road.  Or that he wasn’t at all bothered by this.  Somehow, I didn’t expect it to be any other way.

He got out of the car and came over to the crab.  With swift movements he picked up the creature.  I squealed with delight, and outstretched my arm for a turn with the little alien.

It wasn’t until I bid him farewell, three minutes later, that it dawned on me what had just happened. I realized I was in a place unlike any I’ve ever been.  A place where the concept of time and expediency is irrelevant.  Being in someone’s way is not really a phenomenon.  Enchantment with nature is not seen as unreasonable, it’s actually celebrated.

Have I landed in another universe?  I remember when someone told me, “Lisa! Your head is in the clouds, and it’s a flaw.”  Well here, no one would say that, so I don’t have to worry about that.  Because the clouds are everywhere, and all of our heads are in them.

Little Cayman is an incredibly special place.  So it’s a place I’ve chosen to call home, for a bit; something I haven’t chosen in a very long time, but I have no doubts whatsoever.  I feel lucky to be one of the very few people whose life managed to find itself here.  My home is on Little Cayman, the British West Indies, Caribbean Sea, Planet Earth, Milky Way Galaxy, The Observable Universe.  And while it’s just a building that doesn’t exist on any map except the ones I draw on napkins for guests, it’s a tremendously significant place for me.  

The road I live on is called Albion Way.  I’m not too troubled by the fact that I’m announcing this on the internet, because if someone wanted to find me, they could.  The minute you step off the little toy airplane here and speak the name “Anoush” to any person loitering or walking about, you’d unquestionably be guided or delivered to my door anyway.  I don’t know of many places in the world where I could live safely and comfortably with that knowledge.  Are you catching on to a theme yet?

“I live on Albion Way.  It’s the road with the streetlight on the corner…no not the one with the shipping containers and building materials strewn about wildly just after the curve in the road, but the one right after that on the left.”  Describing it to friends is not much of a challenge.  No one gets lost trying to find it, and anyway there are only a handful of roads to get lost on.

It’s is a quiet digression from the bustling city known as Blossom Village, tucked away beneath mango trees and only a stones-throw away from the North coast: the most refreshing place for a tired backpacker to call home.

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My door is hidden by the bush on the right

A fifteen minute bike ride from work along the tranquil cross-island road, I am the perfect distance from the center of my observable universe.  And truly, that bike ride is a puppet of modern magic.  During the day, it’s my ride of  preparation and imperturbation.  Cycling to work each morning, I clear my head in anticipation for the day.  I spend some of the time running through all of the social cues I didn’t pick up on the day before, so that maybe this time I can respond less awkwardly to each person I interact with.  The other two-thirds of the ride is usually devoted to awe-struck oggling at the scene around me; it never gets old.  On the way home, it’s my cool down from the hard days work–my fifteen minutes of authorized daydreaming and fascination at the sweetness surrounding me.  And while I absolutely love my job, it has indeed become challenging to push myself six to ten days a week to be the cheery, energetic divemaster I have to be.  I’m exhausted–always–and that ride home is my generator recharging my mental battery.

Once I reach Albion Way, I pull my bike through the sandy carpark area up to my front porch.  My front porch, upon which my lovely little kitty is always waiting to greet me.  I wonder, sometimes, if she waits there all day, and if not, what does she do with all that time?  As soon as she sees me pull up, she stands up and does her anticipatory walkabout, emitting curiously toned wails and brushing up seductively against posts and my aloe plants.

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This is an animal who adopted me and not the other way around.  And as “Albion” is the oldest known name for Great Britain, where legendary knights once bravely joined the court at Camelot, I decided that the most valiant of names for this little knight of Albion Way would be Sir Lancelot.

The name suits her not at all.  For one, she’s a lady.  Second, she is in no way a brave and dashing knight in shining armor. When one of my friends first met her, she took a couple moments to sort out her feelings for the feline.  After a couple minutes of detached observation, she said with blunt certainty, “your cat has some serious special needs.”  So I gave her a name that will compensate for those areas of needed improvement.

Interestingly, Lancelot is uncharacteristically indifferent to the juncos that perch on my clothesline waiting to boldly steal her food, and her meow is something out of a horror film. It certainly doesn’t sound anything like a cat I’ve ever heard, but I think because she’s never heard another cat before she doesn’t know how to speak.  She is very specific about when she wants her petting, but once she’s decided it’s time, she makes it known by using her sandpaper tongue on my leg as a coercion tactic.  And did I mention, her voice is ridiculously unusual?  I believe she learned to scream from the geckos, which is why I can neither fall asleep at a reasonable hour nor lie in past 5 in the morning.  Such is life when a cat adopts you.  I’m in her castle now.

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When I leave the castle at night, I kiss her goodbye and promise my return.  And she walks away nonchalant like she doesn’t care.  But I know she does, because she’s always there waiting right outside my door when I return.

The place certainly feels like home.  The crabs, the kitty, the iron shore, and the birds.  I’ll admit, I’m still not sure that my existence on Little Cayman isn’t a dream, but it’s turning out to be quite a lucid one with amusingly creative details and an incredible feeling of content.

 

4 Responses to A place to call home

  1. Rachel Levitin

    “Have I landed in another universe? I remember when someone told me, “Lisa! Your head is in the clouds, and it’s a flaw.” Well here, no one would say that, so I don’t have to worry about that. Because the clouds are everywhere, and all of our heads are in them.” —> I love this.

    Enjoy your time in your new home and with Lancelot :)

  2. jeff t

    I very much enjoy your musings.
    Best wishes.

  3. Aram

    Beautiful. I love your voice. Alllove, Pop

  4. Jenna

    How do I get in touch with you??! I see myself adventuring soon

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