Island-Blind

I have writer’s block.

Or, at least this is what I’m telling myself. Because the alternative is admitting that I’ve completely accepted the oddities of island life. In turn, this means that I no longer think of things like cannibalistic chickens eating KFC or handsome, disappointingly gay Norwegians wandering the supermarket in Speedos as “huh, that’s strange”.

More KFC please...

More KFC please…

I wasn’t even jolted back to this realization the other day, didn’t even think twice, by a sight that would typically have made me stop in my tracks:

I was peacefully making a racket filling SCUBA tanks when I saw a forklift driving full kilt up the wrong side of the street. Backwards. Turned completely around in his seat, driving with one hand on the wheel, the driver was, technically I guess, driving the correct way on the left hand side, like we’re supposed to. Just in reverse. And I didn’t really question it.

Until now, several months later. I woke up on my day off, sat down with a cup of coffee, and leisurely thought about making myself an egg for breakfast. I had just about decided how delicious a nice sunny-side up egg would be with maybe a piece of toast and cheese on the side and a second cup of fresh coffee, maybe even with an ice cube or two in the blender in vain hopes of making an “ice coffee”, when the power went out.

Ok, fine. I’ll distract my stomach.

I will… do laundry! Oh wait, no – that requires electricity.

I will… research online sunscreen products for a report I need to turn in. No power, no wifi. Face-slap.

I will… sit here on the sofa and stare at my toes. Which could maybe use a new coat of paint.

But I should thank the noisy power truck outside, really. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have begun to consider my island-blindness. The image of the reverse tractor returned to me, inspiring me to write away my hunger and growling stomach. Maybe, I mused over my un-iced and unblended coffee, the driver couldn’t see through his curtain of dreadlocks. Maybe all gears except reverse were stuck, a debilitating transmission disorder that many local cars suffer from. Or maybe he just felt like honing his forklift reversing skills, all the way down the street, at full speed. I don’t really care why. I just wish I had hopped in my car and followed him to see what the hurry was. (Assuming my car could have hit the speed he was going at of course; while reverse works, my car has a severe case of the “shakes” at speeds over 29.3 mph.)

*click for image credit

This incident makes me wonder what else I’ve become island-blind to. So I’ve recently made an effort to pay closer attention to the glaring subtleties that I encounter every day on my rock, good and bad. Some are at the expense of others not wise enough to listen to an island veteran, and some are beautiful moments of “wow, we’re bored”:

  • Realizing the true danger of frigate birds. Don’t look up with your mouth open, we tell people. You’re standing in the danger zone, we warn them. Do they listen? No.
  • Non-human island inhabitants. My hiatus is partially due to some bossy lettuce and tomato plants, which require attention all day long for caterpillar removal, curly tail relocation programs, and picking off stray leaves for a friend’s chicken. More problematic are the rare mentions that our lettuces have come with inhabitants – frogs, specifically. And the thought of a frog jumping out at someone from their seemingly appetizing salad dinner is either raucously funny or terrible for business. You decide.
  • Lobbying that the mosquito truck hasn’t been doing its full route properly. Imagine an entire BBQ scene, complete with food and blankets, a football or two, and a stunning sunset. But no one is there – it’s a ghost BBQ. Because everyone has retreated to their cars for the 30 minutes the mosquitoes are out, and woe be the people (like my fiancé and I) who have open jeeps. Remember to bring your cocktail with you to continue the party inside the car (keep games inside just in case); however, it’s imperative that you remember to pee just prior to the mosquito curfew, since if you leave the car, you won’t be let back in.

*click for image credit

  • The deafening roar three times a week of the departing jet across the street doesn’t wake me up anymore; but the mere tinkle of a glass in the kitchen sink keeps me awake for hours worrying there’s a rat that’s climbed up the kitchen pipe again and is wandering amok in my home, possibly staring at my neglected toes with the chipping polish.
  • I recently spent a solid 15 minutes watching a local with a forklift nudging cinder blocks around in circles, eventually landing them in a pond. Rather than questioning this (if you knew said local you wouldn’t question this either), I idly wondered what was going to happen in summertime when the pond dried up? Will they nudge the blocks back out and recycle them elsewhere on the island?
  • The local Department of Environment held a town meeting to announce their plans for establishing the new marine park. As expected, there was a complete uproar from the locals, regardless of whether or not the marine park would affect them personally. The best, however, was one of the older members of the community (who I’m not sure can even hold a fishing rod anymore) who spent 20 minutes rambling about turtle bans and something about blood pressure pills. Neither of which hold any importance for marine parks; but that’s irrelevant.

In the end, it was something very simple that reminded me that I live on a remote, tiny island, barely a mile wide.

While I was cooking dinner, my old neighbor from Little Cayman called up. He was visiting Grand Cayman on an iguana project, and had visited the local hardware store to get some supplies. When checking out, the cashier asked for his phone number, so he gave it. His number has the same first 6 digits as mine; in fact, his old roommate’s number was also the same first 6 digits. If that doesn’t indicate that you live on a tiny island, I’m not sure what else possibly could.

So the cashier stopped midway through the number, glanced at him, and asked, “Roxane?”

To make things even better, apparently the hardware store has saved my name as “Roxanne, Roxanne”. Which I’m sure gets people singing all the time. And keeps my old neighbor laughing all the way home.

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Roxane Boonstra

About Roxane Boonstra

Approaching three years on the Sister Islands of the Cayman Islands (nearly two on Little Cayman and one on Cayman Brac), Roxane is rapidly approaching the point of no return to reality. While thankful to not be on Grand Cayman, where cruise ships spill out tidal waves of tourists and KFC’s get held up by machete-wielding locals demanding buckets of chicken, she has found that the Sister Islands function on a completely different level of quirky. Although she has a Master’s degree in marine biology (despite Murphy’s Law of power outages), she spends her working time doing SCUBA instruction or divemastering, chasing people and fish with her cameras, killing and cooking lionfish, and filling in as “dive shop girl”. When not working, she is likely still diving and chasing fish with cameras or spears, but, for good measure, has a few other hobbies such as: coming up with sarcastic answers to dumb tourist questions, creatively cursing her persistently failing internet service, denying that her red hair is getting blonder, desperately coveting her dwindling stash of chocolate croissants, and gathering inspiration from her longtime boyfriend, who is fond of delightfully hare-brained concepts like strapping SCUBA tanks to a tricycle to propel himself underwater (it failed, but bandaids were on hand, just in case).

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8 thoughts on “Island-Blind

  1. Here’s mine from a few months ago:
    “Dominica: where the guy parking his sheep in your backyard strikes up a conversation with you, as you pour your first cup of coffee, still in boxers and tanktop, thru the back door, which you may have left open all night – and you’ve become island enough that you think nothing of it, till hours later. ‪#‎islandlife‬”

  2. …..me too. Hate a power cut most when it goes off at 9am…uh, oh, scheduled! (Back on at 1pm). Always hope there’s a dishpan of water in the sink, as that’s off too.

  3. We have not left our rock in 4 years…..Yes, Island Blindness has set in for both of us…..If not for the tourist we wouldn’t notice many of the entertaining events that pass through our lives each and everyday……Thank you for this article…..I’m going to begin to look closely again…..If nothing else for entertainment value….. We simply cannot make this stuff up…..Oh, by the way your forklift driver must have a brother who drives the backhoe on our rock…. 😉

  4. We finally got a home line with a local number but it became a problem when I started getting phone calls asking for chickens. The number one belonged to someone who had chickens for sale (plucked and ready for cooking) and loned out a truck by the hour for a fee. I spent many times trying to convince people that it was not me but nobody believed me. Finally, I would ask locals what I looked like and they would reply black, hot as hell and down for anything. I would list them know I am whites, skinny and trying to find chickens for myself. They still insisted that I was the chicken lady.

  5. Actually I have seen the same kind of forklift and backhoe driving on the streets of Nassau. I have driven a forklift while working for Pepsi and they drive it backwards for long distance for better control while speeding.

  6. Too true. I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently how after five years here, it’s all normal. It also gets me thinking about the word normal and how it doesn’t have the same meaning anymore.

  7. Very cute ==and real!

    These “get-used-to’s) happen on a “bigger island, too. (I think ours might be 8 miles long and 2 wide at the most)”Cows, goats and chickens walking on any road.yachts with helicopters on top and enormous red slides that run down to the sea…we could all go on and on.Thank you!

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