E-mail Update - 2006-12-26

A Cayman Christmas Celebration

Hey Everyone,

First off Merry Christmas, Happy Boxing Day (what is this holiday for anyway?), Happy New Year & most importantly Happy Birthday to all you December kids (we are the coolest!). I hope that you all have a great 2007 & enjoy this time of the year with all your friends & family.

I have had quite a busy holiday season. After about 2 months of being home, celebrating Christmas & my birthday early with my family I was off again. As you know from a previous note this time it is the Cayman Islands. I work for Divers Down & Cayman Diving College in Georgetown, on Grand Cayman Island. The way it works is that there are 2 divisions of the same company. Cayman Diving College teaches people how to dive, where as Divers Down offers trips for already certified divers. There is crossover & we both use the same boats, vans & everything, but each runs its own operation. I worked my first day for Divers Down, but have been with Cayman Diving College ever since. They said that I will ultimately work wherever I find my niche, but right now Cayman Diving College has needed me more. I think I would enjoy being a floater who can work both areas, so that I don't get set into too much of a routine, but I don't know that it works that way.

Here is how a typical work day goes as it stands now:
1) Wake up at 6:15am, leaving the apartment at 6:35am (I am staying with 2 of the other workers & one of their boy friends)
2) Get to work around 6:45 by riding my bicycle (which is a really nice practically new Trek that cost me $250 USD)
3) Start work by 7am, learning what is planned for my day (which changes sometimes later)
4) Clean the shop, vehicles, move tanks, basically do physical labor for about 2 hours getting things ready for the day
5) By 9am most of the shop work is done & I will be either going to a resort to show people how to use scuba equipment or teaching a class in the shop
6) By noon or 1pm be ready for the afternoon dives which are typically Discover Scuba Diving or Open Water students
7) Typically finish up by around 4:30-5pm, then do any extra paperwork needed
8) Head over for a drink at the bar next door with people from work
9) Be home by 6-7pm, get my first sit down meal of the day, try to do a few things to get ready for the next day or talk with my roommates
10) By 10pm I am in bed, although a lot of nights there are parties different places so bed time can be around 1-2 pm as well.

I am not trying to complain, but it is really tiring here. It is hot here & that has been quite an adjustment, especially given the amount of work I have been doing. For another thing we don't really get a lunch break or any break for that matter. I learned after the first day that I needed to pack a lunch that was something I could eat in about 2 minutes. So I am taking a pb&j and/or ham sandwich, with a few pieces of fruit that I can eat when I get a chance. A lot of time I eat a little fruit around 9 on the way to the resorts, then after I get done with work at 5pm. Plus the work is very physical. I think I will be in pretty good shape again rather soon.

Things are really expensive here, a typical meal would be around $12 USD. Most meals are more than that, but that gets a chicken sandwich with fries. We do get a discount at the few places I have been to which helps, but it is only around 10-20%. Drinks are pretty expensive & the people I work with enjoy going out, that is pretty obvious. The first night I was here I got off the plane, Ash (my boss) showed me around all the places I would work & introduced me to the staff, then we went out for a Christmas party. I didn't get home until around 1am that night, which was the first time I opened my luggage. The pace has been about like that every since. There seems to be a party of some sort almost every night, but it is that time of year so that might die down a little soon.

The people I work with have went out of their way to make me feel comfortable & include me in things which has been great. Also Emily & Rosalie (the 2 co-workers I am living with) have been really nice & always try to help me so that I know what I am doing. I have been a little slower on the uptake than I would like for some things that are easy, but which I have just never done before. I think working from a total lack of sleep has made it a little tougher as well. When I worked in Thailand I never realized how much of the work was really done for us. Here we drive the boats & do everything to make the operation go. That is a difference, in a third world country there would be numerous locals doing a lot of the work I am doing now. I do enjoy learning and there has been a lot of that to do. Ash said that I am doing really well. He also said that he has basically just thrown me into everything without training (which is mostly true), but I came for the busiest time of the year so it just works out that way. Christmas was my first day off & is the only day during the year that the shop is closed. Typically I will work 6 days & get one day off. I have been doing lots of different courses ranging from people have never dived before (called a resort or DSD course), teaching people how to dive (open water), teaching a rescue diver course to taking certified divers on underwater tours. I got my first full certification from doing DSD dives (it takes 5) & got my first 2 open water certifications on Sunday (Dec 24).

The water here is really nice & warm (81F/27C). I would guess the air temperature here during the day is typically around 85, at night cools off a little. It rains a little during the day every 3-4 days but the clouds seem to pass really quick & it gets nice after that again. The diving here is really good in reality, but I am spoiled by the other phenomenal sites I have been to & in comparison it is not as nice. Since I was diving in Koh Phi Phi so long I tend to compare it to there. By comparison the coral is not as colorful here, also there are less fish here. Fish that we saw there on practically every dive there, we are happy to see once a day here. I think there was more wildlife diversity there as well. I think that for a normal diver this place would be stunning, it is just that I have been diving so many different places in the world & I tend to compare them. The other thing to note is that this part of the island is over dived. From what I am told the diving on the smaller islands (Cayman Brac & Little Cayman) is world class diving. I will have to check that out at some point, but for now I just have to go with what I am told.

For Christmas eve I went to my bosses house along with the other people from work. It was nice but I was so tired I actually slept on the coach for a few hours. That was ok though, because I was the designated driver, so they just drank more while I slept :) For Christmas I used MSN for some voice conversation including talking to my mom & dad for over 2 hours. Then I went to this place where everyone was celebrating for a few hours, before coming home to take a nap. It is interesting to celebrate Christmas here, there are a lot of people with lights up & people made a big deal about it. It is different for me, because for me I already celebrated it on December 10, with my immediate family so it seems like Christmas was a long time ago.

Well that is a quick update. Also I attached some pictures to make you jealous ;) The first one is flying onto the islands. The next one is of the Palm trees at the airport. Next is the shop I have been working at since last Thursday. Last is the dock that we do most of the dives from, which is right behind the shop. The dive site that is there is called the Wreck of the Callie, which is a nice shore dive.

About 3 weeks behind in email, but I hope to catch up soon!

Love & Peace ;)