The Cayman Islands came up in conversation today when the famously staunchly Christian overseas British territory legalized same-sex marriage. To cut a long story short, I used to live in the Cayman Islands, and when I first came to China in 2006, apparently I would reference that I used to live here quite a lot (at the time I had much fewer stories than I have now). So the joke goes, if the Cayman Islands ever comes up on the news, my mate sends a link and says “didn’t you used to live there?” Megalolz, as he knows I did. Today he asked as I’m such a prolific blogger if I had ever written about my time living in the Caymans; turned out I hadn’t. So here’s the story of how I ended up living in the Cayman Islands.
Back in the late 90s and early noughties it would be fair to say I wasn’t doing all that much with my life. At 18 I’d decided not to go to university – or rather my family had decided they wouldn’t pay for it – so I continued doing what I had since I was 16: living with my mates and doing pretty much anything I could to earn a buck. Jobs during this period including selling double glazing, franking labels, roses, gas, electric, and even frozen fish. As for ‘travelling”, it was a fully-fledged 1-week package holiday per year with my girlfriend of the time; Spain, Greece, Tunisia, that kind of thing. Writing about this stage of my life bores the hell out of me.
On one of my package holidays to Tunisia I was getting down and dirty with some karaoke, singing that old classic “Cotton Eyed Joe”. An older scouse couple I met on the trip told me their son was living and working in the Cayman Islands and that I should give it a shot. They wrote his name and address on a beer mat, said beer mat then went into my wallet, and that’s exactly where it stayed, for a long long time.
The next year, having just broken up from said girlfriend, I had what can only be described as moment of clarity. I’d just left a club drunk, and realized my life was going nowhere and I’d had enough of England. The next day I wrote the date of September 27th 2001 (about 5 months away) into the calendar and told everyone that on that date, I would leave for the Cayman Islands. Pretty much no one believed me bar my girlfriend of the time, who agreed to save money and come on the adventure.
Money was saved, tickets were booked, and there was but a mere one-month delay, to October 27th 2001. The last month was an absolute blur of selling my shit and having going-away parties, before our 12 hour flight landed in Georgetown, Grand Cayman, and I was having my first sweet cigarette in my new home. Except it wasn’t my new home – I had been given a 2-week stamp and had limited funds. Two weeks into living in paradise neither of us had found a job, so we extended another two weeks. My girlfriend found a job as a swimming teacher. Me, with only 3 days left before being kicked out, was starting to feel the heat. One of the Jamaican workers at my guesthouse called Ken then said he would pray for me to get a job – not my usual MO, but I thought it couldn’t hurt. He prayed and 30 minutes later a guy walked into our guesthouse to say he knew of a new bar looking for a bartender. I interviewed two hours later and had the job. Kudos to God.
We were then informed that we had arrived as tourists, so we had to leave as tourists whilst our visas were applied for. Problem was we had very little money. This is where my Jamaican buddy Ken stepped in and said we could go stay with his family.
So, we flew to Jamaica and the next thing you know, we were the only white guys in a village in the mountains of Jamaica. Culture shock does not do this experience justice.
Five days later our visas were issued, we said goodbye to Joehut, Mandeville Jamaica, and went back to Grand Cayman.
I then spent the next two and a half years living in the Cayman Islands, as my roommate can confirm.
End of part 1!