Friday, January 18, 2013

Make it fast and make it expensive

"Welcome to Grand Cayman," said the airline representative. "You made it in on the last flight before the hurricane." My husband gasped. "There's a hurricane coming? We had no idea!" I kicked Jay's leg and smiled at the shocked rep apologetically. "Yes, we know about Hurricane Paloma," I said. "We're staying with locals."

It was my 30th birthday and Jay and I had taken up my friend Sunny's offer to stay with her for a week on Grand Cayman. We had already booked our flights and time off work when Hurricane Paloma materialized and began making her way toward the Cayman Islands. In an uncharacteristic moment of recklessness, we hopped on the plane anyway, beating Paloma to the island by one day.

When we arrived at Sunny's tiny one-room apartment, she told us we would be moving inland to her boyfriend's house for the next two days while the hurricane blew through. Eyeing the very open concept apartment complex, we tried to hide our relief at the thought of experiencing our first tropical hurricane from behind heavy-duty shutters, rather than dorm-room-style windows.

The next afternoon as the wind picked up, we helped Sunny pack up for the move inland. "We need to pick up supplies though," Sunny said. Speeding out of the parking lot, she shook her head. "I hope the stores are still open."

The view on the way to the store

As we drove past closed stores, we spotted an owner turning to lock the door to his small convenience store. Sunny careened into the parking lot and bounced out of the car with a huge smile. She had once gotten us into a club by smacking a bouncer's ass, doing a shimmy and yelling, "Five dolla make ya holla!" I had faith. As expected, the owner held the door open and as we ran in, he growled, "Make it fast and make it expensive!" We did:

You can't see the alcohol, which was the expensive part
 
As we drove inland, we saw large groups of cars parked seemingly at random on plots of grass. Sunny explained that whenever a hurricane came in, everyone drove their cars to the centre of the island to keep them as safe as possible. We were lucky and Paloma only grazed Grand Cayman. Where we live in Canada, there is very little extreme weather, so I was still surprised at the extent of destruction from such a glancing blow. This tree fortunately fell away from the house, which shook to an unnerving degree all night despite the thick metal shutters covering it:


I was also surprised at how quickly the weather shifted. Two days later we were snorkeling and swimming with stingrays in serene blue waters. The boat staff assured us that the stingrays were placid and comfortable with people, so we didn't need to worry about a Steve Irwin-style mishap. "Just shuffle your feet along the bottom so you don't surprise the stingrays," they said. "You don't want to step directly on one from above. I shuffled dutifully through the chest-high water and was just starting to relax when a small wave lifted me off the ocean floor, and then slammed me back down, my feet stomping into the sand. "ARGH!!" I shrieked, frantically curling my feet back underneath me and treading water as I tried to avoid touching the bottom again. Turns out the shuffling was a little harder than it sounded, but somehow I survived.
 
This is not what my shuffling looked like
 
We had a great time in Grand Cayman. A free-range parrot landed on Jay's shirt, ripped off one of his buttons and then hopped over to a nearby cage to eat it:


I dressed up in a gorilla suit - don't ask:


Sunny and her friends took us out for my birthday dinner at a very nice steakhouse, and I got to dress up for real:


And the best part of the trip - lazing on a beach in November, Canada's cold, dreary days forgotten:


I feel a little sad when I see these pictures. The four years since they were taken have brought thirty extra pounds, a lot of grey hair and the beginnings of those angry lines between the eyes, along with two precious children. Next year is our 10-year wedding anniversary and 20 years since we first started dating. I would have liked to celebrate with a trip somewhere warm, but I'm not sure it's going to happen given our heavy daycare costs. I'm glad that at least I have memories of a more carefree time, and I can only hope someday we'll be able to go on a trip like this again. Minus the hurricane.

Thanks Kate and Janine for another great prompt at Finish the Sentence Fridays: "The last time I went on vacation, I..." 

Finish the Sentence Friday

49 comments:

  1. what an adventure! i LOVE that you guys still went despite the approaching storm! gah! that is so cool! i have never been ANYWHERE. seriously. it's a bit depressing. thank you for sharing the pics--- look at that tan girl! dang!

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    1. Thanks! My friend minimized the danger and now I think, "wow, that was a little crazy." But I'm glad we went...who knows when we'll be able to do something like that again?

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  2. "And the best part of the trip - lazing on a beach in November, Canada's cold, dreary days forgotten"
    Whoa, whoa, whoa! I thought you said there was drinking involved...?

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    1. The beach we were at in that picture is actually called Rum Point. Haha! Sun + alcohol = paradise.

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    2. Well...yo ho ho and a bottle of rum. Sign me up.
      You can keep the sixteen men on a dead man's chest, though.

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  3. This was great. I know it's a little weird but I totally want to go on that kind of vacation, hurricane and all. And awesome pictures! How cute are you guys?!

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    1. It made for great bragging rights when we got back: "We celebrated my 30th birthday in a hurricane!" We were lucky that the island wasn't hit head on or it would have been a lot less fun.

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  4. Looks like an exciting trip! And it made for a great blog post, so it was worth it.

    Happy Sharefest. I hope you have a lovely weekend.

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  5. Wow. I love your pic of the shopping! What better way to make it through a hurricane than with crisps, coke, booze and the ever-do-decadent Ferrero Rocher (by the look of it)

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    1. A lot of people found that picture hilarious at the time. One of my friends asked where the vegetables were and I was like, "do you know me at all?"

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  6. Great pics and a nice description of your trip! Like it! (FTSF)

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  7. I am so glad the store owner let you shop.

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  8. Happy SITS day! Your story was amazing!
    Laurie @ PrideinPhotos

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  9. The jumping up and treading water part cracked me up! I would totally do the exact same thing! I'd be freaking out - and have - usually off the coast of Maryland where you can't see your feet and I'm convinced I've stepped on a crab (as opposed to a rock). We had a family reunion in 2006 (I think) in FL and it was during a hurricane. It passed by with no damage, but was still kind of scary (we were on the beach) and it rained almost the whole time.

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    1. The hurricane part was surprisingly short-lived. But I wouldn't try it again!

      I've found I don't really enjoy being in the ocean. Whenever there's a shadow, I'm whipping around like, "Jaws??"

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  10. What a great adventure! And look at you all dressed up in those heels! I can't walk in shoes like that. I'm too lame.

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    1. I can't walk in them very well anymore either, which I find extremely disheartening. Ever since I had kids, my feet hurt a lot in most kinds of pretty shoes. So cruel...

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  11. Azara, thanks for linking up and I am with you on hoping to get another tropical vacation in before I am too old and gray!! Hope to see you back next week :)

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  12. Surviving a hurricane sounds so scary, but the rest of the vacation sounds like so much fun!

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    1. The hurricane was fun too, mainly because we got such a weak version of it. Obviously something more intense would have been really scary.

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  13. Wow, what a trip! I hope you find yourself somewhere warm and beautiful in 2013.

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  14. Brave or crazy, either way, what a trip!I would have flipped, too, in the stingray situation.

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    1. I was completely paranoid the rest of the time that I was going to crash right into one by accident. I was more scared of the stingrays than the hurricane.

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  15. What a great story. I so related to your panic about losing contact with the ocean floor and being paranoid about putting your feet back down. Awesome! :)
    Love the photo of you sitting on the tree!

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    1. I like that picture too, because it puts in perspective just how big that tree was. There were trees uprooted like that all over the place.

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  16. Great pictures. I came over to say hello and realized you linked up with FTSF! Yea - me too :) Anyway, I've been in a few hurricanes myself. Fun and scary all in one!

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    1. This was my first and hopefully last hurricane. I don't think I'd do it now!

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  17. That was so much fun to read! Thinking back on trips like that is really bittersweet for me, as I feel like a different person now in some ways. I LOVE Grand Cayman, and the snorkeling there is definitely beautiful, but I have a tendency to freak out at some point during snorkeling and need to get out immediately. Weird. Thanks for sharing pictures with this one!

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    1. I've realized I just don't like snorkeling. I've only gone in Hawaii and in Grand Cayman, and both times I felt completely paranoid the whole time that a shark was going to sneak up on me. Whenever the fish would swim away, I'd be like, "OMG! It's behind me, isn't it??"

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  18. I really loved reading that, thanks for sharing! That tree photo is amazing! Doesn't time just fly! Great legs and gorilla suit BTW! Emily :)

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  19. Sounds perfect! Fun in the sun, and fun getting dressed up and being silly, I love it! Exactly what holidays are meant to be. Popped in here from FTSF - Janine and Kate this week. :)

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    1. We had a great time - we're overdue for a vacation like that again!

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  20. Great Photos! Love the gorilla suit Xx

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    1. It looked hilarious, but it was really hot. I can't imagine wearing it for more than 15 minutes.

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  21. Isn't it funny how extreme weather can seem so foreign if you aren't accustomed to it? I live in southern California, and a hurricane sounds so exotic and scary, while an earthquake is no big deal, we have at least a couple a year and they barely rattle the window frames.
    In any case, this sounded like a ton of fun, and a grand adventure!

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    1. Yes, and I think that's why we weren't more scared. My friend was very casual about it. But looking back, I kind of think, "yikes!"

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  22. Looks like you guys had an awesome time regardless of the weather. I've always wanted to go to Grand Cayman (the Caribbean in general) but living in South Africa means that everything that isn't Northbound (ie Europe or UK) is 12000 miles and 2 days away - which translates as very expensive, so a lot of preparation should be done in terms of finances and trying to see more than one place/country - to get your moneys worth.

    Anyways, if you ever decide to come to SA, I'd be happy to accomodate you guys and take you around :)

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    1. I've always wanted to go to Australia, but it's the same thing you're describing - a pricey 24-hour flight and I'm not sure if I'll ever go. Plus there are the tarantulas when you get there...

      Thanks for the offer of hospitality! It would be a fun adventure, but sadly I don't see it happening anytime soon. Sigh.

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  23. I love how you can so fondly look back on a vacation that included a hurricane. We are so resilient and care-free before kids. The shuffling through the water part reminded me of a book I read called Eyewall. I live on the east coast of NC so we have to worry about hurricane season. Since I read that book, now I am REALLY scared of them.

    Making my FTSF rounds still.

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    1. I'll have to check out that book - thanks for the tip! I was strangely disappointed that the hurricane wasn't more scary (yes, I know this is sick and twisted). Of course now I would never take a risk like that with my children's mother :)

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  24. Love that you went on vacation even with the impending hurricane. It is totally something that I would have done. Now, post Hurricane Sandy I think I would stay as far away as I could from a potential massive storm, but there is something so awesome about jumping on a plane, carefree and happy.

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    1. When I saw all the coverage of Hurricane Sandy, I thought of this trip right away. We were lucky we didn't end up stranded on the island with no power as happens in many hurricanes.

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Lend me some sugar!