It shouldn’t surprise anyone that we have had film crews in the Cayman Islands to shoot movies and reality shows.  Life in this beautiful paradise, without the need for masks or fear of the pandemic that is raging elsewhere, certainly feels like a movie – too good to be real.

It strikes me as surreal that we go about our daily business with no masks; hugging, shaking hands, and gathering. Boy, do we gather! Everywhere we go there are people, and not only that, they are well dressed. They are singing and dancing and behaving as if everything is normal, but with more enthusiasm than ever, as if to say,  “We must savour this because we can! It might not last. We can’t go anywhere, but man, we can live life to the fullest right here in Paradise.” I’ve even had a couple of spa days, courtesy of a generous gift from Santa Claus, and I get regular haircuts!

In contrast, our weekly Zoom sessions with friends and family are an eye opener. They are updates on the newest lockdowns, rising case numbers, delays in vaccine distribution, tighter lockdowns and now even fines for non-essential travel. One friend recently reported that most of her extended family was sick or recovering from Covid, a result of multigenerational living and jointly running a family restaurant. Another friend was isolating because her nephew may have exposed her to Covid. A teacher friend has been infected by an asymptomatic student and fortunately only had mild flu like symptoms. Our adult children had to cancel a long planned mini-vacation to see each other, as they live in different provinces and travel is restricted. With everyone tired of winter and the latest snowfall, just in time for the May long weekend, it’s a sad and grumpy group sometimes. Still, everyone is doing their best, following the rules and putting one foot in front of the other. Most of us have forgotten time, because all the events to mark the occasions have been cancelled. We have taken to calling it the “lost year”, in spite of 2020 being very eventful.

Fortunately, there are mumblings of this coming to an end in places where the vaccine “rollout” has been successful.

That world of daily Covid rate counts and vaccination stumbling blocks is so easy to forget from our bubble in Paradise, and why wouldn’t we want to forget about it? We would love to travel, but we can’t plan anything because we have no idea how long these restrictions will last. We don’t know when commercial flights might return here. We’d love to see our family, but even if we could get to Canada, would we be allowed to visit? Our families alone are over the numbers permitted to gather, even outdoors. We’re now playing the waiting game to see when we can plan to see our loved ones.

While we wait for those days when we can travel again, we carry on here as if everything is normal. Even without tourists on the islands, the bars and restaurants seem to be full again, but only on weekends, because, if they’re lucky, most people here have to work. The traffic is congested again during “rush hour”, and yes, we have a rush hour. This was always a very social place to live, but there was a bit of a lull post lockdown. Now, those who were reticent to go out among the crowds have probably been vaccinated.  People are out listening to live music, participating in walks and runs for charity and meeting friends in clubs, pubs, and restaurants.

Another similarity to a movie set is the number of beautiful, well dressed people we see out and about. On a Thursday evening in Camana Bay or at a beach side restaurant, there are large groups of people out together celebrating various occasions, or maybe just celebrating being able to go out in a large group. They are wearing pretty dresses and new shoes and I ask myself, where do they shop?

I recently read that during lockdown, many people have stopped caring what they wear or about buying new clothes. They see their closets full of unnecessary work clothes, because they’re working from home. I don’t see that here. While the state of my wardrobe deteriorates and my shoes become worn out, I am desperate to shop somewhere with a little variety, and with my size. Not everyone seems to be having those problems. They look fantastic and seem to be doing their utmost to support the retail industry. Like I said, where do they shop? Don’t tell me it’s online shopping. I’ve tried that. I think the phrase “Not available in your region” originated here. The hoops people will jump through to get merchandise delivered here doesn’t seem worth it, but I may change my mind when my last threadbare bathing suit falls apart.

My source of sandals that fit my orthotic insoles include two stores in Calgary. With the situation in Canada as it is, I will be surprised if both those stores have survived.

The economic situation is not all wonderful here, in the paradise bubble. Without tourists there are people suffering. Sure, most expats living here have work, many in service jobs or the financial industry. There was a great addition to life here during lockdown. Food delivery service is here to stay! The dive operators and hotels are doing their best, courting the local business and offering resident deals, but without those hundreds of thousands of tourists, things have been tough for many. There is a push to open the borders, but the vaccination rate is still not at the target level. People have misconceptions about the vaccine, don’t understand the science, and are afraid to take the chance. I guess they are too young to remember polio.

I can’t complain about the tropical paradise bubble. It has been, well, Paradise. I wish I could have brought all my loved ones here to live with the freedom we have, and to have such easy access to the vaccine. That’s it in a nutshell. My loved ones, apart from my husband, are not here and I haven’t seen them in over 14 months.  We will carry on in this bubble, our movie set, until we can re-enter the real world safely. We’ll come out of this dream world and feel things again, like fear, annoyance and irritation, and also the flip side; joy, passion, anticipation, hope.

Hope. Anticipation. I like it here in paradise, but I’m a traveller at heart and it’s time to travel again. First stop, any place there is family. Next, let me travel the world and see things I’ve never seen and feel hope and fear, anticipation and dread, comfort and anxiety.

We may have some adjustments to make in the real world. Most of us haven’t worn a mask in months, except in clinics, testing facilities, the airport and a few other locations. We don’t really seem to get the concept of social distancing anymore. We may have had a hard lockdown, but it was short, so many of those precautions never became habits.

We are lucky here, but for the record, unlike everyone I know back in Canada, I haven’t had a chance to do the big reorganization of my closets or tackle any projects that I have tucked away. I had more free time for such things before the pandemic.  I’ve been too busy living life for those who can’t: volunteering at school, dancing, attending live concerts, eating out with friends, taking a day out on a boat, playing trivia in the pub. I’m not as well dressed as some of the beautiful people, and I haven’t run into any film crews, but I’m out there living my best island life. In addition to that, we keep up with regular online chats with family and friends. Zoom has become a priority!

The reality is that our surreal life has been our reality for almost a year, and it’s going to be an adjustment to adapt to the other reality that the rest of the world is living. I think I’m ready to try.

 

 

 

 

Written By:

Gail M

Current Rock of Residence:

Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands

Island Girl Since:

2014

Originally Hails From:

Calgary, Canada

Gail is a retired dietitian, sometime writer, and mom of two wonderful grown-ups. She and her husband of 27 years moved to Grand Cayman in late December of 2014. After years of visiting their condo and quietly moving their household belongings in suitcases, they put their plan to permanently escape cold weather into motion, leaving their children homeless.

Gail spends her time pinching herself and acting as amateur part time travel agent. She would love to spend more time on what her friends call “Gail’s Island,” but few members of the family visit, so she and her husband have to go see them in Canada. So much for avoiding the cold weather! When people do visit, Gail is in her element, visiting stingrays, diving, snorkeling, and playing tourist along with her guests.

Her days revolve around studying languages, swimming, yoga, and food. She and her husband love music and travel, and they love to eat, cook, sample wine, and watch tennis and soccer (or football, as they say on the island). Sometimes they are able to combine all of these in one trip, but they are always thrilled to come home to their little patch of paradise, clean the iguana poo off the deck, and enjoy island life.

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