Sunday, October 31, 2010

(Almost) Back to the "Real World"

Well, our two weeks of "settling in" are up. We turned in our rental car tonight, and Brent starts work tomorrow. Unfortunately we need to extend our stay in the hotel for at least one more night. We put an offer on that one bedroom Thursday, but the realtors have not been able to get a hold of the owner. We walked around Lime Tree Bay again this evening and decided we are determined to get in there. We actually found another one bedroom listed that we are going to see tomorrow evening, and talked to a very nice tenant who said there might be others opening up soon. So while it stinks to foot the bill for more hotel time, maybe it's again a God thing to get us something better than what we originally wanted.

Friday night we went for a sunset stroll on Seven Mile Beach. Ah, this is good for my soul.

Brent's face when I pull out my camera:

Doesn't this look nice? Just watching the sun set over the ocean with a book and a beer. Dad, this will be you when you come visit!

Why, hello perfect sunset

We ended up at a restaurant called Alfresco for dinner and had the BEST time. It's a casual candlelit deck overlooking the ocean. It was dark by the time we got there, but you could still hear the crashing waves. Isn't this charming?

If you are visiting the island, we very well might take you here. So far it's been the most reasonably priced sit down dinner we've had. And the portions were HUGE! We both ended up with leftovers for lunch. We were starving by the time the food came, but I made Brent patiently wait as I snapped some pictures for your viewing pleasure :)

Brent's Lobster Ravioli with Pumpkin Cream Sauce (I kind of made Brent order this because it sounded amazing, but I've already ordered lobster at the last two places we've been.)

Chicken Parmesan - the chicken was the size of my head!

Saturday we participated in a beach volleyball tournament with Brent's work. I'll let him write the post on that one. But let's just say it was a HOT five hours in the sun!

Today was an uneventful Halloween. No trick-or-treaters at the hotel. But we did get to Skype with the Greenville clan and see the girls in their princess costumes. I didn't see the birthday boy...maybe he was all partied out. But we were thinking of you today, Kru!

Love to all!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Turtle Park Birthday

Monday was my 26th birthday, so Brent and I decided to celebrate island style. At breakfast I looked through all our tourist books and made a list of possibilities. After a little research, we decided to head to West Bay and check out the Turtle Farm and Tortuga Rum Cake Factory. (Parasailing was also on the list, but for some reason Brent does not think this sounds fun. So if any guests want to do it with me when they get here, let me know!)

I was pretty excited about the turtle farm, but it turned out to be even more fun that I expected! We got there just in time for the 11:00 turtle feeding. Basically there is this big swimming area with hundreds of HUGE green sea turtles. These are all the mature breeding turtles (12 years and up). They typically weigh 350-500 pounds - the biggest is a a female named "Sparky" weighing 575 pounds!

Cute little turtle faces

Big shell!

They throw big bags of kibble in there and it's gone in minutes. They all pile on each other to get to it. It was incredible! When they eat, they take a huge bite and then push the water out their nose. This is what allows them to eat in water.

Brent watching the feeding

In another area there are all these small pools which have turtles separated by their age. You can just reach your hand in and scoop them right up! It's not a guided tour, but one of the caregivers named Benny pretty much stayed by our side the whole time. He answered all our questions and knew so much about the turtles - I was really glad he liked us!

Us with 11 month old turtles

Waving "hi!"

I love holding turtles!

It rained for a couple minutes so we ducked inside the education center/hatchery. Benny brought out these tiny turtles that were just a couple weeks old! We learned that the best way to calm down any age turtle is to stroke the underside of its neck. The little one Brent held was just like a puppy dog - stretching out his neck and closing his eyes when Brent stroked him. They were best buds!

There's also a predator tank at the farm with sharks and barracuda. Reef sharks on top and and nurse sharks on bottom:

Then there's a colorful bird aviary. I forget what this one was called, but it looked like a mini flamingo!

Brent bonding with the wildlife (a second later he was bit by this green parrot)

We had lunch at the farm's open air restaurant, Schooner's Bar and Grill.

I had a yummy mango chicken sandwich and Brent ordered turtle soup! Isn't that appalling?! Benny said that people need to hunt and eat turtles to keep the population down, but even still...

After lunch I wanted to stop by the younger turtle tank one more time. I just love these little guys!

The Tortuga Rum Cake Factory is right across the street so we went there next, but it was closed! I was sad because not only do you get to watch the cake being made, but you also get to taste samples. I peeked in the window and saw some of the flavors: original golden, chocolate, banana, coconut, key lime, blue mountain coffee, cinnamon raisin, and orange. There might have been others too, but I forget. Tortuga is derived from the original name given the Cayman Islands, Las Tortugas (the Turtles). Tortuga rum is a combination of Jamaican and Barbados rum specially blended for the Cayman Islands. Pretty authentic, right? Having some of this cake is definitely on my island bucket list.

For dinner we walked to Prime, the Brazilian Churrascaria Steakhouse by our hotel. I picked this restaurant because I knew Brent would love it, and I felt really bad that his actual birthday was lost in the packing/moving chaos. After that we walked to Cost U Less and picked out two pints of Häagen-Dazs (his and hers) and headed back to the hotel. I got to chat with my mom and dad for the first time on Skype (thank you Joy for helping us out!). As soon as I answered, Mom, Dad, and Joy all started singing happy birthday to me. It was the perfect ending to my day.

Thanks to everyone who wrote b-day emails or facebook messages (and Amy for the e-card!). I'm using Brent's new blackberry on the island (he's using the old one, isn't' that nice?), and we have it set up so it dings whenever I get a facebook message. It was buzzing off the hook all day, which was so, so fun. I'm glad I was remembered even an ocean away! I miss you all, but thank you for taking the time to make me feel close to home on my birthday. Love love love!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Itsy Bitsy, Teeny Weeny, Yellow Polka Dot Bikini

Saturday was another beautiful day at the beach. Perfect weather to bust out the itsy bitsy, teeny weeny, yellow polks dot bikini (don't worry, it's not as itsy bitsy as the song implies). I love Brent's new colorful swim trunks too! Brent calls my bathing suit collection my new work uniform...not a bad idea if I can drag my desktop outside...

We've been having so much fun in the sun, it's hard to remember that it's supposed to be fall! And I was going to proudly report that we haven't gotten any sunburns, but then I got a little red yesterday. Boo to that. I need to be even better with sunscreen once the sun really heats up in couple months!

Saturday started out as a nice leisurely beach trip, but then Brent was twisting his wedding band in the water and it slipped right off! He looked back at me all panicked and said "My ring just fell off!" I wasn't as far out so I quickly swam over to help look (only slightly annoyed that I had to get my hair wet). But it was a lost cause. I'm sure it sank pretty quickly, and then currents blew sand over it. Brent even went next door to the Ritz to borrow snorkeling gear, but nothing turned up. So sad. I bet there are tons of lost rings in that ocean.

Today was probably my least favorite day on the island so far. It involved a lot of errands and stress. We started out the morning meeting a guy to see a car, and we ended up buying it right there! Sorry, Jack, it's not the Land Rover Defender (the guy never emailed us back). But it is a cute teal Honda CR-V. The inside is in great shape, and I really like it. I took this picture with my phone:

After coming to a deal in the parking lot, we went to some office (Cay-Brit maybe?) to get insurance. Then we went back to the the licensing department to get the car license switched to our name. There was a big stressful ordeal there because yesterday my license had my maiden name istead of married name (they go with the passport, not US license). So today we brought the marriage certificate and then it was printed with our hotel address. We wanted it blank since we don't yet have an apartment, but they said they couldn't do that. When we showed them that they did that yesterday on Brent's, they took his and reprinted it with the hotel address too! Ugh.

After this long process, I had to drive the new car back to the hotel and Brent drove the rental. This was the first time I needed to drive on the island and I was freaking out. Driving on the left side of the road put me totally out of my element. The wheel is on the right too, which mixes up the blinkers and windshield wipers. Then there are these crazy "roundabouts" which make me especially nervous. Just nothing about driving here feels natural. I had white knuckles gripping that wheel! I was following Brent and he tried to take us a longer route with less roundabouts, but there was a detour so he got lost. At one point we were going the wrong direction on a one way road! So awful. My legs felt shaky when I finally got out of that death trap. Brent said I did good (how sweet) and that I will get used to it soon. This may sound silly, but learning to drive in the States was so hard for me that I really don't want to get used to everything backwards here. I would rather avoid driving in general on this tricky island...

We also saw an apartment today and put in an offer! It's the only one bedroom we've seen so far, and it's pretty small. But it's in Lime Tree Bay, which is the complex we REALLY wanted, and it's a very reasonable price. It's funny because before leaving we were sure we were going to get a one bedroom to save money, but then there weren't too many available. Now going back to a one bedroom feels like a compromise, but it's really what we intended to get all along. It's hard because when shopping for apartments/cars, you say so often, "that would be great for when guests come." But I have to remember that I can't base my decision on that because 90% of the time it will just be me and Brent.

Back to the complex - we found Lime Tree Bay on Century 21 while still in Cincinnati. When we got here, we found another site called ecaytrade which is basically the CI craigslist. It's has a lot more apartments listed, so we primarily use that as our resource. We really wanted to check out Lime Tree Bay, but there was only a 3 bedroom available. It was absolutely gorgeous but listed at CI$2500/month. We tried to put in a lowball offer and though they did come down some, it wasn't enough. We searched and searched for another place in Lime Tree Bay, but there were none available. We called the office and asked if any would open up soon, and then we called ones that were listed as "for sale" and asked if they would rent instead. Nothing. Then last night Brent checked Century 21 again and there was a one bedroom there that has been vacant for months, and the price was just reduced last week! It's like God had it tucked away waiting for us! Even as a one bedroom, it meets all our criteria - on-site gym, pool, dock for jet ski, and a four minute walk to Seven Mile Beach (and a three minute walk to TCBY as we timed today :). So the offers in, and we'll see what happens.

I took a long nap this afternoon while Brent worked out (I haven't used our two week complimentary gym membership ONCE since we've gotten here, haha). Now he's at some new hire dinner and I'm catching up a little. Next post - my Turtle Farm birthday!

One last picture - Brent's 3 lb box of Cheezits from Cost U Less. You should have seen the look on his face when we walked by the display. I think he's going to be all right on this little island :)

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Smith's Cove and Ristorante Pappagallo

For the most part, Brent and I have been sticking around the Seven Mile Beach area of Grand Cayman. We're feeling pretty good about recognizing things and getting around this area (well, Brent's feeling pretty good and I'm playing along). This is where our hotel is, and also where we've been searching for apartments.

On Friday we decided to explore some other parts of the island. We drove through Georgetown (the downtown area where Brent will work), and kept going south to South Sound.

We really had no destination in mind, so we were very happy to stumble across Smith Barcadere (aka Smith's Cove). Besides Seven Mile, a lot of the oceanfront areas are considered "natural" beaches (may be rocky or have turtle grass on the shore so you can't just walk in). But this little cove was such a nice spot. There were kids swimming and a large Filipino family gathering with karoke. We even saw a bride and groom coming to get pictures taken. The rocks here are so beautiful, especially contrasted with those gorgeous blue green waters.

Last known shot of Brent's wedding ring - more in next post

Some shots of the rental - jealous much? (Brent insisted I write that.)

After Smith Barcadere we headed far north to West Bay. Another lovely area to explore, lots of great dive sites. But like the rest of Grand Cayman, street signs are few and far between. Needless to say we got a little lost, but when you're not really going anywhere, who cares?

Aimlessly riding around is a good opportunity to mess around with the camera:

That evening we went back to West Bay with Jenn and Nate to eat at Ristorante Pappagallo. The food was delicious and the ambiance of the place was really lovely. I highly recommend. I was so glad J&N wanted to order dessert because Brent always skips that part. And the desserts, well let me tell you, they were worth every calorie. And I can testify to that because I had some of each! Jenn's trio of creme brulee (coffee, vanilla, and mango), Nate's chocolate peanut butter pie, and my chocolate lave cake (Brent split this with me).

Here we are with the restaurant bird, Humphrey Bogart. Jenn wrote a really nice post about the evening on her blog too. So glad to already have such great friends!

False Alarm

I owe you several posts with pictures, but first I wanted to share a funny story that just happened. You may have heard from Brent that we bought a 1995 Toyota RAV4 on Monday.

We saw it Saturday and called the couple on Monday to say we wanted it. The guy said he would hold it for us, but that they needed it until Thursday. So the plan for today was to get our passports stamped as residents (Brent's work visa didn't start till today, so we couldn't get the stamp at airport customs), get our driver licenses, and then meet with the couple to get the car license switched to our name. While we were waiting in line at customs, Brent got a text from the girl saying she just sold it to someone else who paid in cash. She said she didn't want to risk us backing out last minute since they are leaving the island for good tomorrow. We were so shocked! Then we were sitting at another office to finish the license process, and we heard someone behind us saying "I just didn't want to risk them backing out." Brent said, "Is that the girl who sold us the car?" I turned around, and sure enough, it was! So funny. We obviously wouldn't have backed out since we were sitting in the exact office where we were supposed to meet. Oh well. We agreed on the way home that maybe it was God protecting us or having something better in store. Maybe that car would have broken down on the way home or maybe the A/C would have been really expensive to fix. "The heart of a man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps" - Prov 16:9

Back to the hunt!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Finally Some Beach Pictures

It's almost the end of day 6 on the island. I can hardly believe it. I'm definitely enjoying our time here. I love the temperature and newness. And it's awesome having Brent to myself all day long. Everything is on "island time" - it's such a relaxing vibe. But, to be fair, it's not all peaches and cream. Contrary to popular belief, moving to the Caymans is not an escape from all your troubles. Brent and I still get in the same silly disagreements we always have. There are still headaches and short tempers and stress. I told people all the time in Cincinnati - moving here was not the easy thing to do. The easy thing would have been to stay in our house, keep our jobs, and join the numerous friends who have already entered the parenthood club. But of course I don't expect sympathy, because across the street, there's this:

(click to see images larger)

And a lot of this:

These beach pictures were taken Friday. We've had some gorgeous sunny days, with just a little rain here and there. It's funny - we think the water is so clear and calm, but the islanders keep saying how choppy and cloudy it is from the storms. I can't imagine what this place will be like in peak season.

Those who have vacationed with me know I typically prefer the pool to the beach. I don't like feeling sticky and sandy. Waves make me nervous that I'll get swept away or knocked over. And I'm too afraid of fishes brushing up against me to get in the water (let's call it "fear of the unknown"). But as soon as I stepped on these sandy shores, I fell in LOVE with Seven Mile Beach. I wanted to get in the water right away. You can look down and see your toes, and there's no crashing washes. I was actually surprised to taste the salty water on my lips because it felt just like a pool. Heaven on Earth - I can't get enough of it.

Sunset pictures outside our hotel

We had dinner at Chicken! Chicken! (yes, the name has two exclamation points in it). Pretty much the only thing on the menu is - you guessed it, chicken.

After dinner we went to Camana Bay. We planned on seeing a movie there, but Brent couldn't stomach the idea of spending $30 for the two of us (especially not for the chick flick I wanted to see). So we walked around the shops and watched a live band for a bit. We went in one shop called the Island Company which has the most adorable bathing suits. But the tops and bottoms were around CI$60 (USD$72) each. The lady there asked if I would be interested in a job, and I was pretty tempted. Just pay me in cute island clothes!

When we got back Nate and Jenn asked if we wanted to go to TCBY. We ended up talking for hours in the hotel. It is so fun hanging out with them. I'm amazed with all we have in common. Our easy friendship is definitely a God-thing.

In other news, I had my first good hair day today. The secret: lots and lots of hair product. Also, it looks like my pesky heat rash is resurfacing...this time on my forehead. Brent says he thinks it's just bug bites, but I don't buy it. Guess I'll have to get a dermatologist here.

I have more pictures and updates from Saturday and Sunday, but I'll save them for another post. The weekend ended with Brent and I watching Pretty Woman curled up in bed, then taking a night walk on the beach. Sigh. Good things are definitely happening here.