Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Dolphins and Rays

Wed AM, coffee  overlooking the ocean,  then  we  were  off to  Dolphin Cove.  Connie  chose the  program  where people  stand on a  platform  in waist  deep  water  and  interact with  the  dolphins.   I went with a  group  in  flotation vests  out into  the  lagoon.   The animals  are  amazing,  they  give kisses  and   will  float on their  back and  let  you hand  on  while   they  tow  you.  The  handlers  had  them  chatter  and  jump  and  they  seemed  to  be  okay  with  it  all.   Before  we  started,  one  boy  was  jumping  up  out  of  the  water  onto  a  low  platform, rolling  around,  then  "falling"off  the edge  with  a  big  splash.  He  did  it  a  couple  times.  We  saw  them swim  and  jump  together.  The  handlers  said  it  takes  about a year  to  train  them,  they  use  whistles,  hand  signals  and  lots of  squid  treats.  Of  course it  seems  sort  of  commercial,  it's  $100.  plus  for  the  encounter  then  discs  of  your  pictures  are  on  sale  after  for  $99.

After  the  dolphins  I  got  on the  boat  to  go  back  to  Stingray  City.  Connie  came   back  to  the  hotel as  she  wasn't  interested  in  going again.  This  was  a bigger  boat  with  lots of  people,  many from  a Celebrity cruise  ship.  There  were  a  lot  of  other  boats  at  the  sand  bar, too.  But  our  guys  chummed  the  water  and  had  several  guys  in  the  water  to  hold  the  rays  and  let  people  see them.  I took  my  snorkel  and  mask   and  got  to  see  some  of  the  rays  swimming.  They  just  glide  around.  We  got  to  feed  some  ourselves  and  there  were  plenty  of rays  to  see  and  touch.  One  of  the  handles  caught  a  young  one,  maybe  as  big  as  the  palms  of  his  hand.  He  held  her  and  let  us  touch  but  protected  her  as  she  is  still not  so  used  to people.  Back  on  the  boat  and  more pictures  for  sale.  I  didn't  buy  any,  hoping  i got  some  good  shots   with  my  underwater  camera.    

Back  to  the  hotel,  bought  a  can of  almonds  and   went  to  see  Professor  Lover  Boy,  now  aka  Dr  No No  Polly  want  a  Ho Ho.  I  dropped  the  almonds  in  his  food  dish,  his  beak  and  his  claws are  pretty  sharp.  I  tried  to  get  him  to  talk  a  little  but  he  just  squawked   for  nuts.  He  picked  them  up  out  of  the  dish  with  his  left  claw,  hung  on  to  the  dish  with  the  right,  then  with  the  nut  between  his  ?talons?   he  ate away.  His  feathers  are  such   beautiful  colors  and  he  can  look  you right  in   the  eye  and  make  such  a  connection.

After  a  shower  and  a rest,  we  went  down  to  the beachside  restaurant  for  lobster  night.  The  sun  had  just  set  and  the  horizon  was  a  beautiful pink.  We  had  a  glass  of  bubbly,  lobster  spring  roll, bisque  with  a  small slice  of  a  grilled cheese  sandwich,  then  a  lobster  tail  with  mashed  tators  and  veggies.  We  also  got  to  taste  the  lobster thermidor  and  the  lobster  mac  and  cheese.   And  for  dessert.........key   lime  pie  and  sticky  toffee  cake.   The  portions  were  small,  except  for  the  lobster  tail,  and  we  didn't  eat  all of  everything,  but  still  were  stuffed.  Our  favorite waiter,  Walter,  was  there  and  we  got  European  cheek kisses  on  the  way  out. I  think  a  lot  of  people  treat  the  wait staff  here  like  robots, don't  talk  to  them  like  people.  Connie  and  I  like  to  talk  and  laugh  with  them.  The  service  here  has  been  top  notch,  people  go out  of   their way  to  do  things for   you.  If  you say  thank  you,  they always  say  you  are  very welcome  or  it  is  my  pleasure.

Well,  hate  to  say  it  but  we  have  to  get  ready  to  leave  tomorrow.  Not  looking  forward  to  getting  back  to  cold  weather,  but  will be  glad  to  see  my  puddie  tats.

A relaxing day

I'm back  on  the  balcony  with  my  morning  coffee,   watching   the  water.  This is  truely my idea  of  paradise.   I  feel  so  lucky   for  everything  in  my  life  that  has  led  up  to  my being  able  to  have  these  indulgences.  I  am happy   to live  modestly  most  the  time,  not  that  I   ever  lack for creature comforts,  but   I  don't   need   fancy  things   if  I   can   see  new  places   and  stay somewhere  like this occasionally.

Monday  night, after  our  drinks  hit us  kind  of  hard, we  just  ate cheese  and  crackers   in  the room  and  called it  a  night.  Tues   AM   I  returned   the  rental   car  and  we  went to  see  Davina,  the  German   concierge,   about swimming with  the  dolphins.  We  picked  a  company  that  will  take  us  back out  to  stingray   city   after the dolphins.    HaHaHaHa Got  that set  up   for   Wed   AM,  so  had  the  day  to  just  goof   around.   I had     the  most delicious massage   and  Connie  has  a  pedicure.  Olive   came by   and   invited us  to join  them for  dinner  at  Casanova,   one  of  the  better  places  on  the  island.

I  asked  Nealy,  the  doorman,  if  they  would  be  bringing   Herr  Professor  Dr  Dr  Rope  a  Dope  Lover  Boy out  some  time  that day.  Here's  the  Marriott  way......Nealy   called   Walem, who came  down and  out  came   a  gorgeous parrot.   Walem   has   been  his  handler   for  7  years  and  calls  him  Echo.  He   brought  nuts to  bribe  "Echo"  and he  let  me   hold   and   love  on   him.   It  was   pretty  cool.

The  rest of  the  day  we  hung  out  in  chairs  at  the  beach.   The  umbrella  guy  makes  his  rounds  and  repositions   the  umbrellas  as  the  sun moves.  We stayed  in the  shade  as  much  as  possible,  both  of  us  were   red  in  places   from  Monday's outing.  Besides I  think  that  with  the  water  and  sand   you can  get  enough  reflected  rays   to  get  burned  even under  cover.  Anyhow,   on  a  chair,  in  and  out of  the  water,  William   brought  us  drinks,   it  was  a  very  good  day.

We  cleaned  up  for  dinner  and  headed  over  to  John  and  Olive's  condo.   On  our  way  out  the  Marriott  drive   I  spotted  a turtle  headed   for  the  road.  I   stopped  and  picked   him  up,  carried  him  through  our  lobby  and  put  him  in  the  stream  with  his  brothers.  I  just  didn't   want  him   to get   squished.  John  and  olive live  on the  top  floor   of  a  3  story   building   with  a  screened  in  porch  that  looks  out  over  the  water.  The complex   has  it's  own  pool   and  their  unit  can  be  rented  when  they  are not  there.  (Probably  mucho  dinero).

They  drove  to  dinner,  Casanova   is  an  honest  to  god  Italian  restaurant,   all  painted  in  those  buttery  colors with  murals  of Italy  everywhere.  John  and  Olive   are  obviously regulars,  we  got  quite  a  welcome  with  European  kisses  all  around.  The  restaurant  is right  on  the  shore  and  the capacity expands  with the weather.  On  a  nice  night,  the  tables  are  set right  in the  sand,  as  close  to  the  water   as   they   can  go   and   down  the pier  all  the  way  to  a  big  dock.   We   sat out on  the  pier,  a  beautiful  night  with  water  and  stars  all  around.  The  food,  wine  and  service   were excellent.  I ate  a  parpadelle   with  chunks  of  tuna,  tomato,  olives  and  eggplant.  Delish.

Olive's   hair  is  all   gray  and  I  had  always  assumed   they  were   older  than  me.  Turns out  only  by a couple  years.   They  met  in Jr  High  in  Newcomer's   town  and  have  been together  forever.  They  are  both  MD's,  John  talked  about   college  at OSU, and  having  flown  planes  over  Vietnam.  He  worked  for  many  years   for the  FDA,  I  think  both  are  trained  in  dermatology.  Not  sure.   He  retired  from  the FDA,  now  consults  with  drug  companies  in  other countries, helping them  deal  with their  regulatory  agencies.

They  are  both  smart  and  funny  and  have  traveled  a  great  deal.  John  still  does  and  I lost  count of  how  many  languages  he  speaks.  Olive  manages  the  business  end  of  the  consulting  and  has  to  fly  to  the US for  a day  to two  every  so often   to  do  their  banking.   I  didn't  get  the  whole   story  but  somehow   because  they  are  not  Caymanian,  they  can't  have  bank  accounts  here.  An  attempt  to  discourage   money  laundering?     Anyhow   we  drank  2  bottles  of  wine  and  laughed and  talked.  For  all their  wealth  and  privelege  they  are  pretty  down  to  earth.  Their  son  gave  them  discs  of  Breaking Bad  for  Christmas so  we  talked  about  that   and  John's  new  fascination  with  Notan, a  Japanese   design  concept.  Looked  it   up  this  am  and  it  is  a  very  interesting  use  of  positive  and  negative  space.  John  is  learning  to  speak  Japanese  as  he  wil lbe  traveling  there  more.

After  dinner we  went  over  to  a  shallow  pool   by  some  other  tables  and  found  a  whole  group  of  tarpons  swimming in  this  little  shallow  area.  They  have  gotten  used  to  getting  food  scraps from  the  3  nearby  restaurants  and hang  out.  A couple  looked  to  be  4  feet long  or  larger.  The  wildlife  here  is  amazing.  That being said,  I'm  off to  join  the  dolphins  and  rays.  

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

just a few random thoughts for tues am

Went   to   fill   the  car  up  with   gas  so  it  could  be  returned.  We  had  a  Suzuki Swift  that  used  less than  2  gallons  of  gas   with   all the  driving  we  did  yesterday.  Good thing, too.  Gas  was  $5.61  Cayman  dollar   for  an  Imperial  gallon  which  is .8  of  a  US  gallon.  Yikes,  it  must  be  expensive  for the  boats  to  operate.

Stopped at the  desk  to  talk   to  Laura,  one  of  my  favorites.  She's  from Argentina, same  as Pablo, my  latest  new  gay boyfriend.   She  said  they  studied   hotel  management  together and  were   in the   Virgin Islands  for  a  couple  years.  Went back  to Argentina to further their education,  then got   jobs  here.  Imagine what  they   invested in  tuition  to   work  at  the  reception  desk.   Our  drinks  guy  last night  is  from   the  Phillipines  and the cleaning lady  on the  beach is  from jamaica.  It's a  little   United   Nations   here.

Stopped  to see  the  parrot on my  way  in.  He  wanted  to  play  tug  o  war  again  and  screeched   with  delight  when  he  won.   I  have  decided  to  call  him  Herr  Proffesor  Dr   Dr  Sleepy  Nie  Nie  Rope a  Dope  Lover Boy.   Nealie,  the door  man  says  they  do  take   him  out   everyday  and  let  him  interact   with  people  in  the  lobby  and  on  the  beach.

Lastly,  but  definitely   not  leastly.   I  need   a Tim  Gunn  intervention  here.  It's  one  thing for  the  young  boys   to  sag  their  britches,   sometimes  it's  funny  to  see  them   try  to  run  without  losing  their pants.  But  honestly,  who  ever  thought  that  it  was  a  good  idea  for  a  man  with  a  big  belly   to  fasten  his  pants,   shorts,  bathing  trunks,  whatever........low  under   the belly and  let  that   big  ol   thing   hang  out  for  the  world   to  see.   And if  they  are  hairy........don't  get me started.   "No"  said  Kane  and  Jix,  "that  is  a  very  bad  idea  indeed".

Monday, March 10, 2014

Kane and Jix great adventure

Kane  and  Jix were  a  couple  of  wild  women.   One  day  they  decided it  would  be  a  good idea  to  drive  around  an  island  where  everyone  drives on  the left  side  of  the  road.  "Yes",  they  said  "that  would  be  a very  good  idea."   So the  picked  an  island  that  has  very   few   stop  lights,  one  where  most   of the  intersections  are roundabouts.   "Yes",  they   said,  "roundabouts  are  an excellent  idea".   So  off they   went in  a  rented  car  with  the  steering  wheel   on the  right.   "Let's take  lots   of maps",  they  said.  So they did.

We   started  out  with a  short  jaunt   down   the  main  road   to  a  breakfast   spot  known  for  it's  hash.   On  the  way  out of  the   Marriott   driveway   someone  banged the  car  into   the  left side  curb hard  enough to  crack  the plastic  hubcap.   Luckily   they  had decided to splurge  on   the   "extra"  insurance  coverage.    We  got  to Cimbocco and  learned  they  only   have  hash  on  the weekends, so  we  had  fruit  and   french  toast.   Then  we  were  on  our  way   to  the  Queen Eliz  2  Botanical gardens  in the  middle   of the  island.   Finding our  way   from   the  west side  to  the   road  that  runs  along  the south  side of  the  island took some time  and  some  backtracking, but   we  made it.    Then  we   traveled  along  the  south  shore  for a  while   til   turning  north on  Frank   Sound Rd.   When  we  got  there we  learned   that  the  part  of  the  park  where you can  see   the  giant   blue iguanas and  learn about  the conservation   efforts  on their  behalf   was  closed.   The   rest  of  the  park  was  beautiful  with  all  sorts  of   different plants,  many  with  beautiful  flowers.  The  special orchid  area  was  disapointing  because  it  too late in  the  season  and most  had  finished   blooming.  We did  see  some  smaller iguanas, parrots,  butterflies,  dragon flies and  other water  birds.  

From there  we  decided to continue   north  to   the  north  shore  and   went  all  the way  out  on  the  western  point  to  Cayman Kai.   We stopped  at  a small   public  beach  access area  and   waded  a  bit.  It   was  interesting  to  see  different  parts  of  the island.  We saw  lots  of  places  for  rent and  for  sale.   Olive says  everything is for  sale in  the Caymans,  at the  right  price.   We  headed  back  along  the  north  shore and stopped  at a place  called  Over  the  Edge.  A simple  open air  restaurant with a  deck   that  is  built   literally over  the  edge   of  the  waterfront.   We had   spicy   peel  and  eat   shrimp   and  sandwiches.  Good food  with  pleasant  service.  So relaxing to sit   and   watch  the  water  while  you  eat.  No hurry.  In  fact we didn't  know  or  care  what  time  it  was  all day.  That's  a  real  luxury.   By  the   time  we  got  back   into  Georgetown,  we  could  tell  by  the  traffic  that  it  was  the  end  of  the  work  day.  We  stopped  at   Kirk supermarket,   way  nicer than   the  one  I  had gone  to   earlier  in  the  week.   Got  a  few   snacks  and  a jug  of water  and  headed   home.

The  driving  was   a  little  nerve  wracking  at  first,  especially  getting out  of  town  and  figuring  out  how   to  use  the  roundabouts.  But once  we  got  past  7 Mile  Beach  and  Georgetown, the  traffic  thinned  out and  it  wasn't  bad.    Had   a  drink   at  the  bar   then  a  little  rest.   We  are  looking  at  a  swim  with  the  dolphins   tomorrow  or  Wed.   It's  so  nice  here,  just wander around  in  shorts  and sandals,  so warm,  the  water  so  beautiful.  On  the  way  home  we  passed the  residence  hall  for St  Matthew's  University.  Looked it up   and  it's  a  combo medical/veterinary   school.   What  a  hoot.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Today.......I got the bear

7:15  wake  up call,   coffee,    muffin   and   banana.   Then  downstairs  to  wait  for  our  pick  up.  Olive  joined  us.  While  we  waited  I  visited  with  the  huge  parrot   that   lives  in  a  cage   out  front.  A  pretty  miserable  existence.  I think he  gets  out  once  a  week  when  the  hotel does  it's  pirate  themed dinner.  He   came  over   to  the  bars  so  I  could pet his  feathers  and  scratch  his  head.   He  has  some  random  things  hanging   in  the  cage  and  brought  me  the  edge  of  what  looked  like  a  little  wind  chime so  we  could  play  tug  of  war.

Captain  Marvin's  van  came,  the  founder of  the  company  is  still  alive  at  97  and  sometimes  makes  appearances,  but  not  today.  Got  shuttled  to  a  dock and  aboard  a  medium  size  boat,  not  packed in.   The channel we  used  to get  to  open  water  had   homes  on  either  side,  nice  homes,  expensive  homes.   We   rode  out  to  the  area   where  the  stingrays  come  and  there  were  only  about  4  other  boats  there.  We  got  our  instructions  and  could  see  the  rays   all  around.   The  water  was  only  about  waist  deep  and very  comfortable.  The  guides  gave  us  squids to  hold  and  the  rays  glided  over  our  hands  and  sucked  them  up.  They  are  naturally  bottom  feeders   so  the  amount  of  suction from  their  mouths was amazing.   They  just  swam  around  us,  seeming  to  glide  with  those  beautiful  wings.   They   didn't   seem  to  mind  being  touched,  their  tops  can  be  a  little  rough  and  bumpy  but  the  underneath  is   like  velvet.  They  stayed  as  long  as  we  had  food.  The  guides   spotted Orion,  an  older female  who they  have  seen  for  years.  They  know  her by  the pattern  of  the  white  age spots  on  her  back.  We  saw  a  few  with small wounds,  the  guides  said  it  happens  sometimes  from  other  animals  or  the  coral.  Orion  let   Eric, our  captain,  hold  her  and  he  let  us  hold  her  and  give  her  kisses.  I  was  in  seventh  heaven.  Olive  told  us  that  when Ivan  passed  through  in 2004  they  were  worried  about  the  stingrays,  whether  they  had  become  too dependent  on  human feeding  and  if  they  would  get  swept  out  to  deep  sea.  After  the hurricane  passed,  within  a couple  days   they  started  coming  back,  seemingly  no  worse  for  wear.

Back  on  the  boat  to  a  spot  we  could snorkel.  I didn't  see many  fishes  there  but  the  water  was  clear  and  the  coral beautiful.  We  moved  next  to the  Coral Gardens,  and  there  I  saw  lots of different fish.  I  tried to  use  one  of  the guides  to  identify  them  but couldn't figure  it  out.   That was  our last stop,  it  was  great  including  the  boat  ride.

We  grabbed   lunch from  the  deli at  the  hotel,  ate  and  had  a  nap.  The  sun  really   takes the  stuffing  out  of  you.  It  was  nice to  have  Olive along,  she  and  her  husband  have been  coming  here  for  years  and  now  live  here  part  of  each  year   so she  knows   what  to  see  and  do.   She  is a  very  pleasant  person  and I  enjoy  her  company.

In  case  you haven't  figured it  out,  I'm  having  trouble getting  pictures  on  this  thing  again.  Will continue  to   work  on   it.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

A good day to dive, or maybe not

Friday night  Connie  and  I ate  at  one of  the  hotel  restaurants. I  had  a  Cesaer salad  with  ultra  yummy  seared  tuna  on  it.   We   both  slept   well,   the  beds  here  are  so comfy  and  it is  quiet at  night.   Woke  up   and  did  one  of my  favorite   things,   drank coffee   on  the  balcony  watching  the  water.   It  was  noticeably  more windy  than  yesterday.   I   went  to the concierge  to check   on   how to   get   to    the   QE 2  Botanical  gardens.  The  blue  iguanas  live there   and  they  are having  an  orchid  show.   Maybe  do   that   Monday.   Connie's  friend  Olive came by   and is  going to go  with  us  to Stingray  City  tomorrow.  There is  a   shallow   spot   where  the  rays come,  you  can  get  in the  water  and  feed  them.   They  have been doing  it  a long  time  and the  rays  are  fairly  "tame".    We   sat   on the  beach  and   had a club  sandwich,  then  at  12  I  went to  wait for the  dive   shop to pick  me  up.  Mackenzie  said  the  water  at  their  usual  dock  was  a  little  choppy  so she took us  to an alternate  location.   It  was  just  me,   Chris  from  Alberta,  Mackenzie  and  the boat driver Marco.   We  got fitted  for  our  gear  and  boarded a  pontoon  boat  that  could  easily  have  accommodated  20  people.

We  went  to  a  dive buoy  at   a  spot  called   La  Mesa.  It  was  directly  across from the  Marriott,  altho  out in  the  water   quite  a  way. Mackenzie was  excited to be  there,  she  had  not  been   diving  there  in  several  weeks.   Some   environmental  entity   rotates  the  diving  buoys   so that  one  particular  spot  does  not  get  all   the  wear  and  tear of  us  tourists.   I  got  all   ready   and  took   that  giant   step  off the  back  of  the  boat,  popped   up  and  grabbed  the  rope  to  the  buoy.   I  made  my  way   along the   rope,  but was  having  trouble  getting  my  breath.   I  rested a  minute, then  felt okay  to  go below.   For  someone   as  buoyant  as  me,  the  easiest   way  is  to  go   hand  over  hand  down  the  buoy anchor  line.   My  mask  was  all  fogged  up   and  leaking,  My  eyes were  stinging  from  the  salt   water.  I  had  trouble  getting  the  pressure in  my  right  ear to  equalize  and  it  was   hurting.  I  came  off the  rope  and  was  trying  to   follow   Chris  and   Mackenzie,  but  having  a  devil  of  a time.  The  little  bit  I  could   see  of  the  coral   was   gorgeous,  but  my  visibility  was  very  limited.   I was  struggling to   keep  up.   At  one  point   Mackenzie  waited,  she  had  me  in  her  sights  the whole  time  and  had  signed to  ask if  I  was  okay  several times. I got close to  her  and  got disoriented  and  was  bumping into the  coral.   At  that  point,  I'm not  sure  how,  but  my  regulator  came  out  of  my  mouth  and  I  got  a  mouthful  of  sea  water.  I  got   my  regulator   back  in  but  was   so anxious  at  that point  I  pointed  up  and  Mackenzie   nodded.   We   weren't  far  from  the  anchor  rope  so she took me  over  and  watched  til I  got  to the  surface.  I  yelled for Marco,  who  was  very  kind, helped me  get  my  gear  off and  get  back  in  the  boat.   My  stomach  was  churning my  head  was  thumping  and  I  drank  some  water  and  lay  down  on  a  bench  in  the  shade.  In  due  time, Chris  and  Mackenzie  came  up,  I'm  glad   Chris  was  able to finish  her  dive.         They  moved the  boat  to   Fish  Pot   Reef  for the  second dive.  I  decided  to  pass.   Marco   went  with  Chris and  Mackenzie stayed  on  the  boat  with me.  Usually  the  movement  of  the   boats  does  not bother me, but  I  ended  up  feeding  my  club sandwich  to  the  fish.   Actually  felt  a  little  better  after  that.  Talked   to  Mackenzie  for  a  while.  She  grew up on  Long Island,  was  pre  med  at  the  University  of  Miami.  Decided against  being  a  doctor and  came  to the  Caymans  with a  friend.  They  were going to  stay  6  weeks  and  get  certified  to  teach  scuba.  She  met  a  man  from  North Carolina  in her  class,  they  both  got  hired  when  they  finished.  She's  been  here  6  months  now  and  just  found  a  new  apartment  that  she  and  the  boyfriend can  share.  (2 bedroom/2 bath  is  $1100.  CI  or  about  $1300.  US  per  month)  I asked  about   work  permits  for  people  who aren't from  the  British  Commonwealth.   She  told me  that  in  her  line  of  work  there  are  few  Caymanians  who want  to  teach  diving  so  she  has  been able to  get  work  permits.  But she  said  she  only  plans to  stay   through  the  summer   so  she  can  further  her  education.   She's  currently taking  a  course on line  on  Sustainability  of  Urban  Development  taught by a professor from Columbia  Univ.   They  way  she  described it  I  could  tell  that  she  is  passionate  about conservation.

Anyhoo,  Marco and  Chris  finished  their  dive and   they  brought me  back  to  the  hotel. They  said  that  the  currents  had  been  pretty  strong  and  it  may  have  been  the  struggle  that  winded me.  I  was  disappointed, but  lived  to  tell the  tale.  After  a  shower, tylenol,  club soda  and  a  nap,  I felt  human  again.  Went down  to  watch  the  sunset, but it  was  obscured  by  the  clouds.    We  ate  sushi  here  at the Marriott,  it  was  pretty good  with  a  glass of wine  and  a   lemon pudding cake/blueberry  compote  desert.       We've  set the  alarm for  our  8AM  pick  up  for Stingray  City.

Some  days  you  get  the  bear,  some  days  the  bear  gets  you.

Friday, March 7, 2014

The Caymans a slice of heaven

Our  flights  were  very easy .  We stepped  out  of the  plane  to 85  degrees, palm trees   and blue skies.  Got  to  the Marriott and had to  wait a  while   for  our room, we went  for  some  lunch where  we  could see the ocean and  relaxed.  The food  was  good and  we  finished the  rum punches   they  had  given us when  we  were in line at  the  front desk.  Grand  Cayman is everything  you  think  of  when you  imagine the  tropics.  With a  nice courtyard  with lots of plants and comfy  seats  scattered  around.  The  bromiliads  come  in all   sorts  of  styles  and  colors.   There's  an  artificial   stream   that  runs  along  the courtyard   with   turtles in it  and   an  ancient  bicycle on  one  side  all fixed  up  with   planters.

After  lunch   I took a nap (surprise),  woke  up  in time  to  walk   the  beach  just after sunset.   The stars  were  starting to come out   and I   could  see  the  lights   all  the   way  up 7  mile  beach.   The   Marriott  is  on the west  side  of  the  island  at  the  south  end  of   7  mile  beach.  Fine   white  sand  and  ocean   seem  to  go  on  forever.  After my  walk  I  made a s'more ,  the  resort  sets up a fire on  the  beach   every  night.   Then   decided  to  get some  provisions in  for breakfast.   The  local grocery  store was   fairly large   with  good selections.   The Cayman dollar  is  worth  about 20% more than   US   and  everything is  expensive.   I  wonder  where all the workers   live and shop.   They people  in the  grocery were   very nice  and called a cab  for me  when I  was done.   Cabs   are  plentiful  but  the  5  minute ride   back  from the  grocery  cost   $10.  US.

The cabs  from   the  airport  are  regulated  and  the  dispatcher  assigns  the  driver  and  sets  the  price.  Our  driver  Eric  was  chatty,  we  commented  on  driving on the left side  and  he  said  he'd  been  doing  it  a  couple  weeks. He was obviously kidding, so I said that it was amazing what you learned in prison these days. (A reference to La Cage).  He said, in fact, he had been in prison for 22 years.  Bazinga. The whole story was that he grew up in a small village outside Belize City and became a police officer.   He came to the Caymans on a one year contract, met a woman, got snagged and married. Had a couple of kids and went from police work to corrections officer.  He retired a few years ago and now drives a cab. This is one of the best parts of travel for me, meeting people and  hearing their stories.

I am thankful that Connie made all the arrangements for us to get here.  I was so crazed with La Cage that I just had enough brain power to grab my passport and a few clothes.  Today I have to find an ATM , get batteries for my camera and a  disposable underwater camera.  I'm learning that doing this stuff on the fly instead of planning for weeks can be liberating.  Expensive, but liberating.

After  the  grocery   I  went to  the  pool,  you've  got  to love the climate  where  you   can   go  to   the  pool  at 10PM.   The  stars  were gorgeous  and a  crescent  moon   was  hanging in the sky  like a  big soup  bowl.  The  water   was  a little  cool but I  got  used to it . I  was  thinking   about  the  hot  tub  but there  were 2 people already   in it and  it  looked  like  they  were getting  a bit  passionate.

Today I want to go see the farm where they raise the sea turtles and schedule my dives.  Then we'll have drinks with Connie's former neighbors who have a condo here.

We went down to the beach for a while,  it's  nice  but with  all the  Marriott guests squeezed onto their  little  patch of  beach, kind of crowded.   They  give  you  terry cloth  covers  for  the  chairs  and beach  towels.   Courtney  used his   big   drill  to  sink  an umbrella  for us  and   Evans  brought  us  drinks.   We  sat  for a while,  then  went out in  the  water.  So  beautiful  and clear.  The  Marriott  has sunk  dozens of  "reef  balls"  out  in the  water  to conserve the sand and  provide  habitats for  sea life.   They  are big, hollow  half balls of concrete  with holes in them like  giant  wiffle balls.   They take  pieces  of  broken  off  coral   and stick  it  on the  balls   and it  starts   to grow.   The coral   is  too  young  to  look   like much, but  there  are  fish all  around.

We  decided to  head out  to  the  Turtle  Farm.   We  stopped   at the   concierge  desk and  she gave  us  a  discount  card  for admission  and told us  how to catch  the  city  bus.  The  buses  are  really mini  vans that  drive  specified routes and  you can flag  them down  at  any point and  get  off  whenever  you  want.   They   only  cost  $2.50  US   one  way.  The Turtle   Farm  breeds,  hatches,  grows  and  releases   sea  turtles.  They  also  farm  a  certain  number for local  cuisine.  They  have  prevented the extinction of  the  turtles and  of course provide  education.  Lately, tho,  they  have  added  a  water park.   It  probably  brings in  revenue to support  the conservation,   but  it  gave  a sort  of   weird  vibe  to  the  place.    Anyhow,  we  went first to  the   breeding   pond,   a  big   area   with  plenty  of room for  the  turtles  to swim and  mingle  with  a  big   sandy   area for  the mommies  to lay  their  eggs.  The  farm   digs  up  the  nests   and   transfers  the eggs   to an  indoor  nursery to  keep   them   safe from predators.   We  saw  some   pretty   big  iguanas   roaming  around.     Then    there  are  tanks   with  the  juveniles,  they  keep   the  males  and  females  separate  till  they   reach   sexual maturity   (I  think  they  said  15 to 20  years). Lastly  we went to a  spot  that  had  young  ones,  about as  big  as  my  hand   that   you  could  touch.  You  could  even  wade in  the  tanks  with them.  I  was in  hog   heaven,  when I  tried to hold  them they  flapped  their  flippers  and were  amazingly  strong.  Reminded me of trying  to hold  a cat  to trim its  nails.

Rode   the  bus   back  and went into   Divers  Down,  talked  to  Spilios  about  a  dive for  tomorrow afternoon.  Got   back to the  room   and  had  a  snack.  I  decided  I'd  rather  rest  than   go   for   a  drink   so  agreed  to  meet  Connie   for   dinner.