Monday, June 30, 2008

Underwater world at Bermuda's Tobacco Bay

Cayman is one of the best places to buy a digital camera. The duty free camera store here houses many deals, cheaper than what you'd pay for online, which is exactly the route I went. I have been hankering for a new camera and I was about to buy the Canon Powershot, but then I discovered the Olympus Stylus SW 850, completely shockproof, waterproof & freezer proof. What else can one want?

So, armed with my new camera, I made my way to Tobacco Bay (the best snorkel spot), while in Bermuda last week. The water was quite choppy, but I did manage to capture a few pictures and a couple of videos, which I have to say I am quite pleased about. So, it wasn't a total loss. Here goes...

A good fish to eat, Breems are plenty in Bermuda's waters and often travel in groups,
as seen here.

The Sandfish is an elusive creature, sometimes difficult to spot as it burrows itself in the sand. I've actually seen them do this and often times as I'm walking on the ocean floor, in the back of my mind I'm hoping I'm not stepping on one of them.

These two 'baby fish' on the right were just about adorable. You're looking at a Slippery Dick and right next to it, an Ocean Surgeonfish.

Sergeant Majors are just about common as the sand in Bermuda's waters. These were huddled in multitudes by a coral seeking shelter from the choppy waters that was stirring up just about anything around. Scroll down for a really cool video I got of these guys.

The Yellowtail Snapper or Silk Snapper, as they are called, are also abundant and a delicious fish to feast on.

This was a shot I could not pass up taking and I am so pleased it came out the way it did, considering how choppy the water was. I love the Digital Image Stabilization feature on my new camera.

This is by far my favourite shot in this group, mainly because of the effort required to attain it. Swimming against the flow of choppy waters was hard enough, but then having to deal with chasing these two, who were awfully quick to get away. But not before I snapped this. You're looking at a huge Stoplight Parrotfish with its friend, the equally large, Doctorfish, a close cousin of the Ocean Surgeonfish.

Although this didn't come out as clear as I'd have liked, it's still a pretty good picture. I love how the rays cut through the water. You can also see how choppy the water is on the surface. You're looking at an adult Puddingwife fish, cruising the waters, and being elusive as usual.

You're looking at an adult Slippery Dick. I love how this one came out, bright and colourful, appearing as it does to the naked eye.

Let me tell you a little something about this little guy here. You're looking at a Damselfish, but there's nothing damsel like about these guys. They are insanely territorial about their rocks and woe to you if you happen to encroach or even hover over them because they will come at you like a raging bull. When I first started snorkelling, I was a little wary when I'd come upon the Damselfish. Their charging attitude is quite effective and it doesn't matter how small they are either - as small as your thumbnail or as big as your palm. I would also like to direct your attention to the video, I took of the Damselfish. You can see how close it got to the camera, in an effort to scare it away and how many times it continued doing that same thing. You can also see how choppy the water was, I could barely hold the camera still. I am lucky to even get the above shots in such choppy waters. You can also hear me snickering at its antics.

I can't wait to hit Cayman's Stingray City with my new toy...

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Fishy business

I don't know what it is, but I have always been drawn to fish markets. Perhaps it all started way back when, as a child in Bombay, my paternal grandmother would take me to the Kalina fish market with her. It was not too far a walk from where we lived and I loved entering the market, ready to discover what was in 'stock' for the day. I remember the dim incandescent lighting, the blue crabs in weaver baskets (and my grandmother haggling for them), the many rows of and the smell of fish. This continued in Dubai as well, where we were not too far from the Sharjah fish market or the ocean. They say to involve your children in the grocery shopping process - I can see why because back then, a trip to the fish market was always exciting.

It's no surprise then that my very first on island picture of Cayman was the makeshift permanent fisherman's stall. Located by the harbour in Georgetown, this is the place to go if you want to get the freshest catch of the day. Unlike in Bermuda, where the fisherman sell their catch by the roadside all over the island, where you have to watch for signs, because they're not there everyday, Cayman has one designated spot. And this is it. Look at the size of those red snapper suckers!

And speaking of fish, if you're ever in Bombay you have to try the local fish, available ONLY in Bombay's waters, compared to the rest of India. It's called the Bombay Duck, or bombil and it's the tastiest fish you'll ever sample. Try it fried though - no other way is better. And if you're reading the article in the above link, pay no mind to what it says about the smell or odour of the fish. They exaggerate!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Scorpion king

What I have not been able to get used to in Cayman are the bugs. If you think Bermuda has bugs, well, then come on down to Cayman. I should mention here that Bermuda has no mosquitoes whatsoever. But it does have other mildly annoying bugs, and let's not forget the roaches.

Here in Cayman, I have not had to deal with the roaches, yet, but the other bugs are a different story. The ants are bigger - the red fire ants are the ones to watch out for - their bites stings for days, although, the smaller 'sugar ants' bite just as hard. Once night falls and you step out of your apartment, there are a whole slew of bugs to greet you - not all at once though - thank goodness. You will find beetles (that bite really hard - or so I've heard), which is weird because I never knew beetles bit humans. Then there are the odd ones, new for some but not entirely new for m
e - since I've seen some of these in India.

But here's one I have NEVER come across before. I was making my way home one night when I came upon this one bug. I had to do a double take because I thought my eyes were deceiving me. It was a bloody SCORPION. A scorpion! In Cayman! No one told me there were scorpions in Cayman. My neighbours (all five guys) killed it for me (not all five of them - just the one that happened to be home). He killed it with a book (I was not impressed - why use a book of all things). Anyway, I was told that while scorpions are not indegenious to Cayman, they have managed to sneak their way through here the via earth that Cayman imports from Cuba. A significant part of Cayman is (or started out as) swampland, and soil is brought in from Cuba to fill these areas up, making way as the base for construction buildings/houses. And just the other night I heard stomping outside my apartment, and figured one of the guys was killing something off. True enough, the next day I saw a scorpion just a foot away from my door squashed dead - with a book, no doubt. Thanks anyway, guys.

I'm almost used to the bugs by now. That feeling of something crawling up my arm, does not startle me like it used to. You should see me now when I find a bug on me - I'm all zen-like, as I look over and just kill it myself. I'm getting there, fighting the urge to freak out, one bug at a time. It is at times like these that I miss Toronto.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Back in Cayman

I'm back in Cayman. Funny thing - as I'm going thru US Immigration in Bermuda enroute to Miami, the Immigration Officer, after finding out I'm now a Cayman Islands resident, suprisingly whispers to me asking which island is better. Whispers!!! Is that because he already knows the answer...?

I'm back in Cayman after a long week of packing and loads of fun stuff.

I'm back in Cayman, but my luggage is not! There's always a first time, right?

Saturday, June 21, 2008


A tribute to my beloved maternal grandmother who passed away 10 years ago, this day.

Lenny P.
Nurse, Feminist, beloved Mother & Grandmother
Feb 9, 1924 - June 21, 1998

A woman with gumption, who could see right through anyone and was not afraid to tell you like it was. Word is that this is where Ms Cute Pants gets her sassiness from.

Loved hard boiled eggs and was often heard saying that she'd come
back from the dead just to eat one.

An ambitious woman, she was the first woman in her family to go out and work.

Caught my Grandfather's eye one morning as she was on her way to work. They were married shortly after in 1945.

A nurse who moved to Dubai in the mid 70's to work as an expat and was often sent into interior areas due to her Nursing skills. (Pictured here with a Lebanese baby she helped deliver back in the day).

Had the best bargaining/haggling skills you'd have ever seen. Ms Cute Pants has seen and learned.

Loved her grandchildren dearly and was not afraid to show it.

Was an occasional smoker and so in an effort to mimic her, as kids, my brother & I would buy candied cigarettes, pop 'em in our mouths and pretend to smoke, saying: "Grandma, look we're smoking too." It is perhaps for this reason that she eventually stopped smoking (at least I'd like to think it was).

An absolute no nonsense woman and a firm believer in the adage: Spare the rod, spoil the child.

Would watch many Hindi movies (each a standard 3 hours long), only to proclaim at the end of each one: ah bundle, no? Which basically translated into: 'What a load of crap!' This never varied, even if it was a movie she liked.

Had the funniest phrases ready to use at a moment's notice which I'd not dare repeat here. My mother would disown me. (But if you're really interested, email me).

The best mother-in-law there ever was (and we all know how rare that is).

Was always fun to hang around with.

Suffered a stroke while in her 60's but came back with a bang and better than ever, not surprising given the kind of woman she was.

I dedicate this song to her. She'd blast it on the boom box and sing it to me when I was a wee toddler, complete with hand motions always telling me: 'This is our song'.
It sure is Grandma, which is why I have it on my playlist & think of you every time I hear it.

A note from my Godmother:
That was a very beautiful tribute indeed to your grandmother. for your list i would like to add one more string of roses by telling you what a generous heart your grandma had. your mom who was (and is) my friend would tell her mom that I never liked the breakfast served in the convent, and I would go to school on an empty stomach. so your grandma would send additional toast cookies with butter for your mom to share it with me. your mom has inherited this noble quality. i do not know if your mom remembers it, BUT I DO. i never forget the kindness of people. we may not write often but your mom is always in my prayers.

Friday, June 20, 2008

A day behind

Why 'd I ever think it would only take us a week to pack & sell three years worth of stuff, especially when there are so very many distractions around - beach, friends, lunches, dinners...blogging. I need another day!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Wind it up

I am back in the land of narrower winding roads some with breathtaking views of the ocean, minimal bugs (unlike Cayman) and Michael Jackson mixes on the 5 'o' clock drive home. Bermuda is all these things. This week I realize how much I missed driving on those winding narrow roads as they dip and turn, going as fast as I dare to. For that I am my father's daughter - we're always talking about the curviest roads in Toronto that we like to drive on at super high speeds - like the DVP for one. Cheap thrills, that is, until someone gets pulled over for a speeding ticket. And speaking of my dad, I mean to post this on Father's Day, but as usual, I missed the deadline. So, here's me at the age of probably under a year or so, with my Dad in Bombay. I only post this picture because, once again you probably won't recognize me from looking at it.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Murphy sucks

Can we talk about Murphy's Law for a moment? For the first time in the three years that I've been here in Bermuda, and out of the many times I have visited Tobacco Bay, Monday was the one day it decides to unleash choppy waters - the one time I actually have an underwater digital camera. Seriously! Could it not have been calm? Could it not have behaved? Add to that I was told that North Shore and its beaches were inordinately calm. Oh, so unfair.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Las Tortugas

Label on a bottle of Cayman Islands' TORTUGA RUM:

The Cayman Islands...originally called Las Tortugas by Columbus, who first sighted them in 1503. His son wrote, "We were in sight of two very small and low islands full of tortoises as was the sea all about, insomuch that they looked like rocks." It is for this reason that the Cayman Islands were originally called LAS TORTUGAS meaning "The Turtles".

These islands became a popular haunt for men like Henry Morgan and Edward Teach, those infamous pirates of old, who undoubtedly were well stocked with kegs
of rum. Rum was the favourite and perhaps the only drink of those adventurers.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Which Queen?

The third weekend in June is designated as a statutory (public) holiday in celebration of the Queen's birthday. Much debate has taken place as to which Queen (Elizabeth II, Victoria) this may be, but no one seems to know the answer. Bermuda and Cayman both celebrate this holiday with at least a parade under their hat but honestly, no one really cares it's the Queen's birthday. They're just happy to have an extra day off that makes up another long weekend for the year. What's interesting is that England does not celebrate this particular day and neither does Canada, and people from both countries have remarked on that fact. But what does it matter? Pledging your allegiance to the Queen is one thing, but actually caring enough is another.

I am in Bermuda for this week and am seeing this island with different eyes, especially after being in Cayman for three months. At least I'm trying to. Stay tuned as I am now armed with my brand spanking new Olympus Stylus underwater digital camera, which I plan to use today at my favourite snorkel hot spot. I hope the fish are ready!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Caribbean meter

Bermuda can be very stiff upper lip with their customs and that sense of preserving British culture. When we first moved to Bermuda we awaited the wash of that Caribbean culture to overtake us, but that didn't happen. No sooner than we set foot, we were reminded that Bermuda was in no way a Caribbean island and so we were deigned to adjust our expectations.

Cayman, on the other hand is truly Caribbean.
The music, the food, the atmosphere. Just under an hour away from Cuba, and an hour away from Jamaica, this is what a Caribbean island is supposed to feel like. Don't let the Americanised pop culture/ fast food places fool you into thinking Cayman is anything but. That's just for the tourists. The American tourists. Well, someone's got to make them feel like they're at home away from home, right? (JOKE joke joke - please don't send me comments on how I should not be poking fun at the Americans). Anyway, to get a true sense of any place one has to venture out and meet with the locals, because that's just the way it should be, especially if it is going to be your temporary home.

I had the good fortune of befriending a local girl on my first weekend here on Grand Cayman. Let's call her Piglet from now on. We are now fast friends and I really do call her Piglet, in retaliation to the many names she has for me. Anyway, Piglet's ancestors were one of the first settlers on the island and that makes me feel truly connected to a Caymanian. And has she ever let me in on the big secrets of Cayman. I'm talking nitty gritty, shocking, heartwarming, gumption filled, funniest stories you'll ever hear about this island. I know, it's only been three months and already I've got the low down on Cayman, enough material to keep you wanting and coming back for more.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

In a nutshell

When I first said I was moving here to Cayman, some of my Bermudian friends failed to understand why. Some said Cayman is not as developed or nearly as sophisticated as Bermuda. Of course I expected them to be biased, but did not expect them to be so vehement about it. Some that had been down here to Cayman said they liked it, and others said they couldn't wait to get back to Bermuda. Some said Cayman was FLAT, like it was a bad thing (and at that point I had to suppress a laugh). Flat land is not such a bad thing, especially when one has to consider the slopes and dips that one has to manoeuvre on a bike or on foot in Bermuda. Balance with speed is required for the former, and stamina for the latter.

After having been here in Cayman for about three months, I will say this and it's as unbiased and objective as it comes: Cayman is WAY more developed and sophisticated than Bermuda. It is much more Americanised and has way more of a nightlife when the sun goes down (of course this depends on where on the island you are). And not to mention the roads here are much more wider and Cayman has highways (only here they refer to them as a BYPASS instead of a highway - and of which most are in the process of being converted into two lanes each way). Cayman is also much bigger than Bermuda, with its main island of Grand Cayman measuring at 76 square miles (largely uninhabited - but still large) compared to Bermuda's diminutive 21 square miles.

What Cayman is not is as beautiful as Bermuda. There is a certain beauty and charm to Bermuda's hills and dips, especially when it is consistently layered with flowers, trees and all sorts of tropical foliage. Not to mention the touch of colour the houses add to the island they appear to peek from the green that surrounds the island. Bermuda's various beaches are unparalleled in beauty and personality, and while Cayman does have beautiful stretches of beach, it lacks that certain personality that Bermuda seems to have. The thing I miss the most though, is the pink Bermuda sand. Cayman has none of that and that is quite unfortunate.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

A new address

It's been a near unanimous vote for mscutepants as the new blog address. Thank you to all those who voted via comments and emails. I am going to repost my orginal Cayman post here, to keep with the flow and for those who missed reading it the first time.

FEBRUARY 25th, 2008

Hello Y'all (just kidding) and welcome to my life here in the Cayman Islands - specifically Grand Cayman. As I bid goodbye to Bermuda, I prepare myself for a long journey ahead and another adventure. The natural transition for many expats is the Cayman Islands, if they're not ready to repatriate back to their home land. And naturally this is where we end up too. So sit back, relax and read on, on my first day en route to my new place of residence - The Cayman Islands.

The Bermuda to Miami flight was a long haul, only because I knew there was going to be a stop over in Miami for 2 hours. I slept through most of the flight but woke up in time to check out Miami and all i could think of was the show Burn Notice! Although I have been to Miami once it was not during the light of day and it certainly didn't look as pretty as this. Once I transited in Miami International, I totally caved in when I got to Miami and got Internet for a half hour, which makes me wonder what I did in the days before we had the 'Net'.

The fligh
t from Miami to Cayman was only about an hour but it was so pretty. I was wide awake at this point because there was no way I was going to miss the show down below. I saw some pretty islands which looked uninhabited to be Key West. You be the judge!

As we flew down further south we approached Cuba! I don't ever remember Cuba being so pretty from the air when we visited it back in Dec 2004 and it made me realise just how pretty the water can be elsewhere too.

Not too long after I spotted a couple of pretty islands...You're looking at the Southern most tip of Cuba. Very very pretty.

A half hour later we got to Grand Cayman and I didn't get too good a shot of the main island. I was on the wrong side of the plane for this one. It sure was hot when I got off the plane. We're talking 29 deg Celsius and it was February. Immigration and customs could not have been easier and nicer (so different from our initial Bermuda landing).
During the drive from the airport to my temporary accommodation, I was quite impressed by how much bigger the roads in Grand Cayman are. Along with the construction, buildings and fast food joints (yes that's right) reminds of me Florid
a. I feel like I'm in Florida. Not Miami, but somewhere like Boca Raton or West Palm Beach. You know this is going to a different experience from Bermuda, or perhaps the same in some ways and like my Bermuda blog, this too is going to be as objective as it comes - while I will continue to point out the good, the bad and the ugly and maybe make a few comparisions or two. Stay tuned...

Friday, June 06, 2008

Suggestion box

Bermuda or Cayman? Which is the better island to live on? I got asked this a lot and at the time I could not render an opinion. How could I have especially since, at the time I'd had never stepped foot on Cayman. Perhaps now I shall be able to and I aim to be objective about both places. But before I get into the specifics, I need your help. I need to decide: should have I have two separate blogs, like I do now (which would mean having to visit TWO separate blogs) or should I amalgamate them both (this would make life easier for everyone involved).

If I were to go with the latter, I'd have to rename the blog address. So for names the choices are:

Islas Bellas (Beautiful Islands) - as in

Islas Bonitas (Pretty Islands) -

but then it got me thinking that those would be a little hard to remember, unlike the current blog address. Perhaps I should just name the new blog:

So, do you guys think? Any other suggestions? Now's your chance to be a part of this madness.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008


They say Bermuda is an island swimming in money, an island where royals and celebrities reside. I'm not sure about the royals and celebrities bit, but this island sure is brimming with money. This article states how Bermuda's Butterfield Bank donated a total of USD $5 million to local charities on Monday. Oye! $5 million can go a long long way and it's good to see charities as the recipients of such large a sum. Here's hoping that $5 million is put to good use and not caught up in red tape or in corrupt hands (like it does in other countries). Toronto's charities would be lucky to get even half that from just one organization, let alone from a number of them.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

The cat's out...

May I just say this: To those that sent me Congratulatory & best wishes...Thank you. my previous post, when I said I was 'MIA in BDA', I meant the MIA to stand for 'Missing in Action'. My childhood friend FF, made a faux pas by assuming MIA stood for Miami and even though she promptly posted a follow up comment on realising her faux pas, I must have over looked it while approving comments. Well, everyone else who read her original comment, thought we were/are moving to Miami. Not so! FF, lookit what you gone and done, girl! (chuckle chuckle).

I wanted to keep y'all in suspense longer but then that would be too cruel. Many are surprised that we kept it quiet for so long and have even gone so far as to call me sneaky. Really! There's no need for name calling. No need at all. ;o) The reason why we didn't tell anyone is the sheer fact that Bermuda is such a small island. Word travels at lightning speed and since Hubby had not yet resigned, there was no need to say anything at all. Where's the fun if your employer knows you're going to quit, right? The other reason was to avoid the barrage of questions that we ourselves were not sure of the answers to. Questions like: How long are you planning on staying in Cayman? How long before Hubby joins you? Is it long term, short term? Have you (Hubby) started looking for work yet? Blah blah blah. The few people we did tell, did ask us a couple of times and well it was a little exasperating, especially when we ourselves were caught up in the waiting game. And while I was away, Hubby grew tired of the white lies he had to conjure up to explain my absence, of which some were hilarious, (I didn't know he had it in him), I had to remind him of the alternative: a few white lies today, the avoidance of a barrage of questions tomorrow. You think we're crazy? One of our expat friends told us that while her husband moved to Bermuda six months before she did, they pretended, for the sake of her work, that he was still in Toronto. Phone conversations at work took on a different spin altogether and their white lies were quite hilariously similar to ours. OK, so finally, where am I? Click here to find out.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Bye Bye Bermuda

It's been a fun run here on Bermuda and now we're moving on to other greener pastures. When we first started this adventure, we had no idea where it would take us next and that was part of the thrill and one we could not pass up. It's been a little over three years, but it has definitely been an adventure of sorts. I will still continue blogging about Bermuda, because there's so much more to tell and I'm not nearly done.

So, where are we moving to? Well, I actually made the move since March and have been loving it. Hubby was able to visit me during the Easter holidays and will be joining me in about a month's time, but before that I will be in Bermuda for about a week in the middle of June to wrap up things, bid my goodbyes to the folks that didn't know I was MIA in BDA for the past few months (which is pretty much everyone).
I will also be blogging about our new place of residence (of course) and will be amalgamating both blogs (or maybe not - I haven't decided yet). So stay tuned...