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..."