Let’s be clear here. I am not typically a spontaneous, go-with-the-flow kind of person. Or at least I haven’t been historically. Moving to a different country, a tiny island in the middle of the ocean, is not a life move I am taking lightly. 24 years of residing in the ever dependable Mid-western states of Wisconsin and Minnesota have instilled within me a certain penchant for stability and predictability. Yes, the Midwest. Where the items that fluctuate most are which weekend in July we are going to spend at our cabin and whether or not we are still going to be dealing with that GD snow in April. To be certain, I am not in any way cutting down this style of living…I actually thrive on it. I am simply providing some context on what this move represents for me. I have already moved from Reedsburg to St. Cloud and then from St. Cloud to Minneapolis…so the most logical next step would obviously be Minneapolis to Grand Cayman. Duh!
You may be thinking…What? Huh? Why? Wow, lucky. How millennial of you. Are your parents okay? Before I go full-send, let’s back up a bit. It all began with a book. A book? Yes, a book…while kind of. Last summer, the (very) tentative 5 year plan that Bryan and I had devised virtually dissolved. We were left with a wide-open playing field and some very interesting decisions to make in a not so very long amount of time. Enter “the book.” This book that I speak of was none other than “The Firm,” by John Grisham…a book I borrowed from my brother, didn’t return (sorry Chase), and then later lent to Bryan. It was also made into a movie starring Tom Cruise in his prime (swoon). I loved this book so much that I insisted Bryan read it…which he did. Bryan loved the book too. His interest was piqued not only because of Grisham’s enticing story-telling abilities, but also because of the setting of the novel — the Cayman Islands. Most people who are excited by the idea of a tropical paradise fulfill their interest by looking at vacation options or watching an episode of “Caribbean Life” on HGTV. As you may have already guessed, Bryan and I aren’t most people. Well…Bryan definitely isn’t. He is markedly unique. Rather than turning to TripAdvisor, he turned to “Employment Opportunities.” Low and behold, there was a position open at an accounting firm in Grand Cayman that matched his qualifications. He applied. He interviewed. He got the job!
So…now what? As I mentioned earlier, I am not a spontaneous person. I am not a spur-of-the-moment, let’s-pack-up-and-move kind person. We learned about this opportunity in July and Bryan’s job started the beginning of October. However, I was due back teaching in Somerset, a job I really loved, at the end of August. I had nothing secured in Cayman and at first glance, many teaching positions there required at least 2 years of experience. I only had one. In hindsight, I know we could have made it work. I would have found something. But change is hard, and I couldn’t bring myself to leave my job and my home of 24 years on such short notice. Plus, my parents would have had a conniption. So, Bryan and I made the difficult decision to pursue our careers long-distance for what we had planned to be about 8 months with some visits built in. Bryan would get us set up in Cayman with an apartment and a vehicle. I would continue teaching at SHS and line-up a teaching job on island for Fall 2020. Then, sometime in May, I would officially move to Grand Cayman and Bryan and I would be reunited! Yay! Perfect plan, right? Actually, it was going quite well. Aside from long-distance being difficult, Bryan was able to settle in, I was able to visit the island twice and also find a job that I am really excited about for Fall 2020 (more to come on that later). Bryan and I were on the home-stretch of being long-distance, planning to see each other once more in April followed by my move just a month or so later. Oh yeah…things were running as smooth as the Caribbean beaches. Until… GLOBAL PANDEMIC! Literally. I mean, you can’t make this stuff up people. COVID19 stepped on the scene swiftly and violently and all of a sudden not even the Mid-westerners were safe.
So…now what? Well, on a more serious note I would like to acknowledge that what is most important right now is that after a rough and uncertain couple of months amidst real, virus-related concerns, both Bryan and I, as well as our families are safe and healthy which we are so thankful for. However, Bryan and I are unfortunately still separated for a couple of reasons. We were hoping to be reunited by the end of May but at this time it is hard to say when our reunion will be exactly. We are awaiting the arrival of my work permit approval while also jumping through the hoops of international travel restrictions. What a time to try to move abroad! Just the same as many people all over the world, COVID19 has thrown a wrench in our plans and made things very complicated but we remain positive as we know we are strong enough to survive the on-going distance and uncertainty.
I can’t speak to what the next few months will look like, but I will surely keep everyone up to date! What I can report after having visited twice this year, is that the island is beautiful…if that wasn’t obvious already. Grand Cayman is the largest of the three Cayman Islands which are an overseas territory of the United Kingdom in the Caribbean sea. Grand Cayman has a population of roughly 60,000. It is located 150 miles south of Cuba and 480 miles southwest of Miami. (Look it up on a map and see if you can find it!) Grand Cayman is 22 miles long with an average width of 4 miles only. Truly tiny. Over 135 different nationalities are represented in Cayman. A little over half of the population is Caymanian followed by Jamaican, British, American, Canadian, Filipino a mix of Latin American, and many more! Bryan being Spanish and Cuban and myself being a Midwestern American…well, I suppose we fit right in!
Bryan has been in Cayman since October and secured us a cozy 1-bedroom apartment (yes, cozy means small) which is located 10 minutes from Georgetown and is a 3 minute walk to a beach. You can see the ocean from our patio! It even comes with a pool and some fun little pets! — A large crab that has learned how to climb up the stairs, along with many lizards and some boisterous chickens. Bryan also purchased a baby-blue Fiat 500 that we must drive on the left side of the road per Caymanian custom! As far as teaching, I signed on for a year-long maternity leave position at a Montessori Elementary School — literally called “Montessori by the Sea” and will be taking over Phy Ed classes and possibly piloting a Spanish program. While not exactly the position I had originally envisioned, it just kind of found me and now I could not be more excited to work with young kids again and spend the majority of my day outside (by the sea) being active! Sunscreen is about to take on a whole new meaning in my life.
There is certainly a lot to look forward to and we know it is just on the horizon. While it may take longer than originally anticipated, Bryan and I are staying positive and cannot wait to be together again! Cayman is full of unique and exciting things to do (when not fighting against a pandemic). You can try out snorkeling, scuba-diving, watersports, or one of the many amazing bars and restaurants on the island, just to name a few day-to-day opportunities. During my visits, I definitely got a taste of the island-life, but I am so excited to return and report to you all on what it is like to truly live in the Caribbean. Thank you for reading my first installment of Island Diaries! I am so excited for you to join us on this adventure and I will be sure to report back as soon as we have news to share! (I think we could all use some good news!) Stay tuned!