Sunday, August 31, 2008

Brilliant Blog Award


I have been awarded the Brilliant Weblog award by Det-Res. I am proud that this doctor is my friend. She is intelligent, humble and will make you think. Thank you, Det-Res.



The Brilliant Weblog Award’s is given to sites and blogs that are smart and brilliant both in their content and their design. The purpose of the prize is to promote as many blogs as possible in the blog sphere.

The rules to be followed are:

1. When you receive the prize you must write a post showing it, together with the name of who has given it to you, and link back to them.
2. Choose a minimum of 7 blogs (or even more) that you find brilliant in content or design.
3. Show their names and links and leave them a comment informing them that they have been awarded with the ‘Brilliant Weblog’ award.
4. Show a picture of those who awarded you and those you give the prize to (optional).


---

Thank you, Det Res. And now I get to pay it forward.


AT HOME DADDY
He's a stay at home dad that is totally comfortable with his wife being the boss and in a good way! When I first started reading his blog, I thought...I could do this. And here I am two years later.

MIGHTY AFRODITEE
She's a feisty no-nonsense gyal. I've been an avid fan of her writing since before I moved to Cayman.

ME NO BIG CHIEF
Not only do I love the Native Indian saying quoted on his blog, I love his passion for politics and the environment.

THE LITTLE TORTOISE
A woman with two children, one of whom has PDD-NOS, she inspires me with her patience and strength and more importantly her courage to share and indeed show that life can be fun and normal when dealing with a special needs child.

TRIVIAL MATTERS
His passion for the underdogs of India and for the simple pleasures of life is vividly portrayed on his blog with his breathtaking photography.

TWISTED DNA
His posts are few and far in between but they never fail to make me laugh, which just goes to show, quality over quantity is better any day.

ZEN DENIZEN
Here's another feisty blogger, funny, equally ambitious and all too aware of what it's like as a brown woman in corporate America.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Hurricane Gustav

Saturday, 10:30 AM
We're up and Gustav has passed with minor incident. Some parts of Cayman lost power and got some flooding, particularly the East side. I'm really surprised that there wasn't as much rain as I thought there would be and that our electricity held up. It's a bright day here, albeit a little windy. But the worst has passed. Now here's hoping that TS Hanna stays where she is and doesn't cause much problem for us.

Saturday, 4:04AM
Just a few minutes ago I peeked outside and actually saw a dog, looking like it was confused before dashing off beyond my view. I'm hoping it ran off to its owner, because even though Cayman has its fair share of stray dogs, I don't think this was one of them. And I was so tempted to go out there to try and find it, but I know better and besides Hubby would have a fit. I just checked the online sources and even though it's still windy here, Gustav looks like it's moved AWAY from Cayman. Whoo hoo! Unfortunately for those in Cuba & the US, Gustav went from a Category 1 to a Category 3 in the span of such a short time. I hate to think of the damage it's going to cause, hopefully no more loss of life. I think we here in Cayman really lucked out. Thank goodness!

Saturday, 3:30AM
My fellow blogger is up as well and blogging. Something tells me that it's just us women who are up, doing the night watch while the men are snoring away the storm. And why is it that the American media always exaggerates to the nines? Unless the American networks have a Cayman correspondent here, they should not report of things they know nothing of. Of course the entire island is not out of power, because I would not be up blogging. And I am sure no sooner than I post this the power will go out. Bloody Murphy! All I hear right now is strong winds with something rattling outside, which is mighty annoying. I wonder which fool forgot to secure whatever it is that's causing all that noise. Cuba & the Gulf of Mexico, I feel for you because what's coming your way is at least a Category 3, and on the Labour Day long weekend, that's gotta blow.


Saturday, 1:30AM
This is Gustav right now at 1:30am Cayman time. Yes I'm still up. We've still got power and I hope it continues to stay that way. I don't want to jinx anything but I shall post a follow up on how Gustav has been impacting us. But if this picture here is any indication of how fortunate we are, then I don't know what is. Thank the Lord that the hurricane is passing us right in between Grand Cayman & the sister islands. So, far we've not had as much rain as we did during Tropical Storm Dolly which occurred last month, but the night is still young.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Going back to 1932

So we've got Gustav coming our way and are every so often glued to the set to find out its path. We're prepared - tub filled with water, windows taped up, sandbags ready (just in case), phones charged, stocked up on food & supplies - the works. Technology is unbelievable in today's world, where hurricane predictions are able to warn us before hand, much before hand, so we can prepare, evacuate, do what we need to do. Which brings to mind, what did people do in the olden days when there was no form of mass communication, no satellite images to aid meteorologists in their hurricane and tropical storm predictions and no forewarnings. While we were talking about this very same thing yesterday with friends they asked if we had heard of the Storm of '32. I looked it up further today and what I read complied with what they told me was so sad and unfortunate.

The 1932 Cuba Hurricane was apparently the worst that the Caribbean has seen in the 20th Century. It was responsible for over 3,000 deaths in Cuba and 69 in Cayman Brac. The storm path can be seen here. In the days before shelters existed, many seeked in caves. One such story about Rebecca's Cave and why it's called just that, can be read here. I was told that because there was no way to track a hurricane back in those days, no one knew when a hurricane had completely passed. While the eye of the hurricane hovered over the island, there was dead calm, blue skies and the sun blazing. Not knowing that it was just the eye that was passing over, and the latter half of the hurricane was about to pass by, many thought the hurricane had completed wreaking its havoc and that it was time to leave the caves and go to what was left of their homes. It was when the eye began to leave, bringing with it the latter half of the hurricane, that people we caught in the storm and sadly perished.

Today we have infinite technology at our resources, tracking mechanisms that are able to tell us when exactly the hurricane is bound to pass over and when it's finally safe to come out. How fortunate are we to be able to take advantage of such resources and prepare accordingly. Yes, we have to deal with hurricanes but at least we're better prepared now than anyone in previous history.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

The calm before

OK here we go...Gustav is due to arrive right smack over Grand Cayman tomorrow. Of course in preparation, there are those that are driving around town like they're on crack, paying no mind to the rules of the road, unable to focus because they're panicking on inside. Everyone's been flocking the grocery store and the construction workers are working at super sonic speed to cover up the roofs that have not yet been completed. I feel for them, working faster than usual in this heat. Oh yeah, it's such a beautiful sunny hot day here in Grand Cayman that you wouldn't think a hurricane is around the corner. I am going to try and get some pictures today because, according to one of my friends, the beach is the most beautiful and the calmest the day before the storm. Stay tuned and for the rest of you in Cayman, stay safe.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Gus

While I wouldn't say that we here on Cayman are on pins and needles waiting to see how Gustav plays out, there is a certain apprehension abound. The big question is whether we evacuate and while most stay here on the island, some companies with offices in other parts of the world (mostly in America) tend to evacuate their employees to work in those locations, so business can run smoothly without any interruption. I've heard that prior to Hurricane Ivan (2004) hitting, most people pooh poohed the idea of evacuating not know that the wrath that Ivan was about to unleash would be the worst hurricane damage this island had yet to see. Ivan was devastating and so much so that four years later, I still see remnants of Ivan around the island. Houses that were literally demolished to the ground, where all you can see is the tile flooring, is one such evidence that lays scattered sporadically around these parts. Ivan was also a hurricane that changed its mind and course at the last possible moment, making a bee line for Grand Cayman, instead of originally hitting Cayman Brac & Little Cayman. It was from Ivan that was learnt how unpredictable a hurricane can really be.

For now, Gustav has been downgraded to a Tropical Storm and I hope it stays that way. Maybe I'll shorten its name to Gus, in light of its temporary deflation.
It's at times like these I wish I had a crystal ball. For now we are glued to the Internet, to the tube, to the radio to hear how it will develop. It's much like watching out for a winter blizzard storm in Toronto, where all anyone can talk about is the weather and the impending blow that's going to hit us. Here in Cayman, my thoughts always move to the fish underwater. Do they know a storm's a coming?

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

In action

Here are a few of my favourite close up videos from my snorkel session on Sunday. Gosh these fish sure are pretty and you realise just how much once you see them in action. This is what I love about the underwater world, so very different and pleasing to the eye than the one up above. And there's nothing like seeing it for yourself. Please excuse the pixulated look if that's how the videos look to you. Something about the way blogger processes them makes it look pixulated because the original version I have is absolutely perfect. So, here goes...

This first video features a Multicoloured and a Stoplight Parrotfish along with a few Blue Tangs. That snap crackle and pop sound you hear, is the fish munching down on the coral.

video

The second video you see here is all about the Blue Tangs, with a Sergeant Major thrown in for good measure.
video


And the third short one, is of the Stoplight Parrotfish featured in the last photo of my previous post. It was a good thing I snapped up a pic of it, before it got away.

video




Monday, August 25, 2008

Snorkeling in Cayman

Snorkeling in Cayman is very different than in Bermuda. There aren't as many shallow spots here in Cayman even if the fish are plenty. We went snorkeling today for the first time here in Cayman, with a couple of friends. They lent me their flippers and boy, did that make all the difference in staying afloat in water that was at least 20 feet deep. I got some awesome shots and even spotted a turtle but stupidly did not have my camera with me at that particular time. It was my first turtle sighting too, and this one was a big turtle. Well, there's always next time, especially since Cayman's waters are abundant with turtles. Of the pictures I did take, here are some that came out quite nice. Even though the water was quite deep (by my standards), it was clear and I managed to get some shots of fish that I did not get to in Bermuda. So here goes.

The BLUE TANG. There were so many of these guys and they are so used to people that I was able to get close enough and hover. They did not seem to mind one bit. Juvenille Tangs are bright yellow in colour (of which I saw one in Bermuda), which they tend to lose for the bright blue you see here.



Here are a couple of Blue Tangs with a multicoloured Parrotfish. I am so pleased with the way this shot came out and you can see why. Aren't they just gorgeous?




At one point I felt the current push me towards the rocks that were littered with sea urchins. To brace myself I reached out and ended up touching a wall of Brain Coral. It was a squishy feeling, like how touching brains is supposed to feel...not good. It was then that I noticed this Hermit Crab tucked in this bed of Brain Coral. I snapped away. It didn't like it but I didn't care. And I know they say you're not supposed to touch the coral but this was by total accident. I swear! Anyway, here it is. I've zoomed in while editing, for maximum viewing pleasure.


And finall
y, these guys were everywhere. You're looking at a couple of Stoplight Parrotfish. At one point I was hovering over four of them. They're obviously quite used to people because believe me, I was really close when I got these shots. I love this one. It looks like this one is smiling and greeting me with a: Hey, where have you been? Long time no see!



My last shot of the evening and it came out quite well, especially considering my proximity. It's awesome, in fact. This one looks scary like it's about to bite me, but really it was just getting ready to munch on some coral. I've written about Parrotfish before and if you'd like to learn more, especially about their sex changes, then please click here. (Bet I've got your attention now!).


I've also got loads of videos. In fact I was so thrilled that I couldn't decide if I should take pictures or videos. Stay tuned for those.

*Note: All pictures have been taken with the Olympus Stylus 850 Underwater Camera. All images are copyrighted.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Who are you wearing?

I have resolved to go snorkelling this weekend and am almost ready. All I've got to do is arm myself with a pair of flippers & a beach umbrella. Looks like I'll be going shopping this Saturday, which is pretty much the only day one can get out and run errands, including grocery shopping. The islands here literally shut down on Sunday.

And if I thought Bermuda came to a total standstill on Sunday, welcome to Cayman where this island takes the Sabbath ever more seriously. Of course stores and businesses are closed on Sunday, but Cayman goes one step further and has all clubs stop playing their music by 11:59pm on Saturday night. There's no dancing at the clubs here past midnight on Sunday, which is why Friday is the big day to go out clubbing here on the island. And Caymanians do this in style. They take their clubbing very seriously. Piglet (my local friend) will never wear an outfit twice and absolutely has to go shopping for a new outfit every time she goes clubbing. A repeat outfit is such the faux pas. Why? Well, apparently those websites (BLACK & COKE in Bermuda and PARTY SURFERS in Cayman) that go around taking pictures of party people to post them online for all the community to see is quite the hotspot to check out (on Monday morning) who was out where, when and with whom and most importantly wearing what (or who). Piglet said there's no way she'll be caught on that website wearing a repeat outfit. Why? 'Because Cayman is so small, Yo. And everyone knows everyone. You do not understand.' Those were her exact words, in her delightful Caymanian accent. Actually I think I do understand, Piglet. I think I do…

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Highway robbery

I was just taking a peek at Bermuda's E-moo website at their apartment rentals section, and I have but one word...HIGHWAY ROBBERY! Well that's two words but hey, it's unbelievable. The price of a studio apartment in Bermuda is now USD $2,000/ mth. Who are these people kidding? I'd love for someone to make mention of that it's the expats that are driving up the rent prices in Bermuda because boy, I'd just redirect them to the greedy landlords. Half of the stuff they are passing off as new is not even nearly as good as what's available here in Cayman. Can we say highway robbery again?

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Ship shape

It has been recently reported that Grand Cayman's population is now sitting at about 60,000 people. Not that that's any cause for concern. This island is plenty big to house more than 60,000 of us, unlike Bermuda where at 66,000 the island is busting at the seams, which makes sense given that it's only 21 sq miles. It is because of this, that on any given day three is the maximum number of cruise ships that dock in Hamilton, Bermuda. Some of these ships eventually make their way to Dockyard, the West side of the island or they move onto the Bahamas. But for the few days that the ships are docked in town, Hamilton is busting with cruise ship tourists and it's quite difficult during lunch hour trying to get errands done while manouvering through the droves of tourists.

What is interesting about Cayman, is that cruise ships are not allowed to dock close to the harbour, probably because of the shallow waters combined with corals that deem it an unsafe and impractical place to dock. On any given day, one can see about five cruise ships (during peak tourist season) docked way yonder. So, how do the tourists get to town from their ships? Get this: by little boats. There are no ramps that let you walk right off the ships onto the dock. There are just little boats that take you from ship to shore. But imagine this, with five cruise ships docked, and the tourists that make their way onto the island, its population is literally increased by one half just one given day. That's a lot of people. Luckily it's just temporary, because those ships and the tourists that come along with it have got to leave sometime.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Bee aware

Here's a Bermuda bee hard at work, pollinating a banana flower. If you love bananas, heck if you love food, love to eat, you'd want the bees to stick around. Remember my previous posts on the plight and disappearance of the bees and how detrimental this is to our survival as a species. Well, scientists have finally figured out what has been causing the global disappearance of bees (which has now spread to Europe), why they are dying off in the field and why their numbers are dwindling in epic proportions. They have figured out the origins of the virus that seems to be killing off the bees in the field. Not surprisingly, this virus originated from greenhouse bees and has spread to the wild bees. You can bet those greenhouse bees caught something not so nice either from that enclosed greenhouse environment or from the pesticides used on the crops they have been pollinating. Not surprising at all. We continue to mess with Mother Nature, and then continue to scratch our heads wondering why she retaliates. When are we ever going to learn not to mess with nature, not to mess with things that are meant to be? When are we ever going to learn to leave well enough alone? Are we paying attention? I hope those scientists have figured out how to fix this, because time is running out for the bees and for us.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Driving Ms Cute Pants

The car market is quite different here in Cayman than in Bermuda. For one there aren't any restrictions on how many cars one can own (local or expat). But the second hand car market is ruthless here, in the sense that dealers & private owners can get away with charging prices on cars that are at least eight years old - that is one would charge for a two year car in Bermuda. However, registration fees are a lot cheaper here in Cayman than in Bermuda, and cars here are not categorised by classes unlike in Bermuda where it's bigger the car, more the registration fee and insurance premium.

Many here in Cayman go the route of buying their cars in the US and getting them shipped down here. Even with the exorbitant duty and shipping charges, for most it works out cheaper. The downside to this is the waiting time (which is generally at least a couple of months and that the car you get is a left hand drive. Not much fun to drive that on the left hand side of the road here in Cayman. I used to think this would be the most logical thing to do but I now better. I went from driving a left hand drive rental yesterday to a right hand drive car today and although I have to re adjust, it's so much easier.

And I love the fact that Cayman, unlike Bermuda, has more than a hundred radio stations. Plenty of genres of music to choose from. Plenty! After being out of the loop for three years in terms of what's new on the radio, I am catching up quite nicely.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Paradise - Take 2




Don'tcha wish your island was hot like mine?


Don'tcha?

Monday, August 11, 2008

An even tan

One of the things I will have to get used to here in Cayman is my perpetual tan that is deemed to follow me year round, which is not so much of a problem, except it is. The tan lines, that is. It gets worse when you’re three different shades all over. At least in Bermuda I had a bit of a reprieve during the winter, since it was too cold to swim and of course snorkel, it was naturally too cold to get a tan. Besides the winter sun in Bermuda was not nearly as strong as in the summer.

Which brings me back to Cayman. Because I love snorkeling I am afraid my back will never lose it’s uneven tan. We all know how sunblock is only ever effective in keeping the harmful UVA-B rays off our skin, but not that tan (although one of my friends seems to think otherwise). To which I have to say that North America markets products that give you tan that one so desperately wants. There is much demand for this. Why would they create a product that blocks out any sort of tan? There's no market for that kind of product in North America. For that she’ll have to go to India where bleaching lotions are all the rage now. Anyway, getting back to my tan line of a problem. How do I fix this? I think I just may have my answer. Enter the diver's suit, or the top half of a diver's suit anyway. I’m going to invest in one and don it on every time I’m out snorkeling and in a few months time, I shall let you know how I made out. Tan lines, they're about to be begone!

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Counting cars

Of course Cayman is more open and tolerant of foreigners/expats than Bermuda is. If one were to take out Cayman's expat population you'd only be left with 30,000+ local people on this island. 30,000? That's a small number. If one were to take out Bermuda's expat population (8,000 out of 66,000), that would barely make a dent. Yet it's the expats in Bermuda that get blamed for the recent rise in the number of cars on the road (never mind that I've heard of some local landlords keeping the assessment numbers of their rental properties for themselves, so they can have up to FIVE cars. True story!). Which makes me think, if that were the case and given that each household restricted to just one car, just how many cars do expats really have, especially when they're getting blamed for the rise? Sounds like an ugly math problem, doesn't it?

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

The skinny on the work permit

Bermuda's immigration laws are restrictive when it comes to foreign workers & work permits. As a work permit holder, you can only have two employers in your first five years and a third employer in your sixth year. If you are a key employee then you may stay here longer than the six years, but with the same employer. Most expats have no choice but to leave after their sixth year if they feel like they have to change employers. There's nowhere to go but back home or to another island.

The most logical island would be Cayman, I suppose, although many move to Guernsey (Channel Islands) or to the Bahamas or even Singapore or Ireland. The choices when you are in the Fund industry are limitless. If you do move to Cayman you will find that as a foreign worker there are fewer restrictions than Bermuda. While Cayman does have the term limit, it's a limit of seven years, after which as a key employee one can stay on and continue to work. Once you pass your eighth year you are eligible to apply for residency - a route that many expats take, if they are key employees. This is not an option available in Bermuda which no longer allows persons to apply for residency unless they are married to a Bermudian for more than 10 years. And while Cayman may have no restrictions on the number of employers like Bermuda does, it still frowns on a foreigner changing employers too often. Which basically means I have no idea what number the government likes. I guess we have to pick one!

Monday, August 04, 2008

The Cayman Parrot

Parrots are one thing I know about. Growing up we always had a Senegal Parrot around (very popular in India), and later in Dubai even added on two African Greys (the smartest parrots) on the face of the planet! In Toronto, my parents now have a Green Cheek Conure (native to Brazil and Venezuela) - and boy does he give you a run for your money. Anyway, when I do come across a parrot I've noticed how they instinctively let me run their neck - a sign that they trust you. They must smell the parrot on me! It's like dogs, right? Other dogs just know you are a dog person/owner.

While at the Turtle Farm, we got to see these three Cayman Parrots in an enclosed aviary
. And even though I am a parrot person, I was a bit wary of these guys. We were advised not to use the flash while taking pictures, as this tends to irritate them. And since we were already in an enclosed space with them, I didn't want to take my chances. But pose all three of them did as you can see, and we did get to feed them which was really neat for Hubby, as he didn't grow up around pet parrots. And while they were quite calm you can see from the pictures how wary they themselves are looking at us wondering what our next move was. I was almost sorry to leave them. The sign outside their enclosure read as follows:

ROSE-THROATED (CAYMAN) PARROT
National Bird of the Cayman Islands


RANGE: Grand Cayman, Cayman Brac
STATUS: Endangered (limited geographical range)

There are 2 endemic sub-species of the Rose-throated Amazon Parrot in the Cayman Islands. The Cayman parrot is a protected species and was declared the National bird in 1997. The population of approximately +/- 2000 parrots on Grand Cayman was significantly reduced after Hurricane Ivan in 2004, but numbers seem to be recovering. The Cayman Brac population seems to be holding steady at approximately +/- 400 birds.

The 3 male birds in this cage are friendly and will usually pose for photographs. Our national bird displays all the colours of the Cayman Islands flag when in flight. Note the hidden colours in the folded wings and tails.