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our family adventure continues

Sickness and Stingrays and Visas, oh my

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Hey there. Long time no post. Last week was a busy week. Mom was here so there were a few extra trips to the beach, a trip to Stingray City, several delicious lunches at the Sunshine Grill, and my four-hour stint at the  Cayman Immigration office. On top of all that excitement I’ve had sinusitis since last weekend and Thomas has been waking in the middle of the night frequently. Ugh.

First, let’s talk about my immigration status which, up until two weeks ago, I would have said was “good”. I know this is naïve (or arrogant?) but really, I’m law-abiding, I’m spending money here, I like it in Cayman, so don’t worry, I do not wish to ‘migrate’ anytime soon. The company who handles SMU’s student visas emailed me two weeks ago to say that our visas had been denied. The good news was that they simply overlooked some paperwork in our file. The bad news was that I neglected to have our visitors stamps renewed while our visas were being processed and the kids and I were now in Cayman “ILLEGALLY!” [emphasis by the immigrations officer I spoke with on the phone]. Alright, so maybe I’m not always law-abiding. I was told to go to the immigration office immediately to have all of our passports re-stamped. Guess how much I dreaded that trip.

The waiting room at Cayman Immigration is not very large. I grabbed a ticket, G45, and a seat. There were all sorts of numbers being called- B, G, F, etc…- by an automated voice so it took some concentration to keep up with the G’s. I was nervous about facing a disgruntled immigration officer with my 60-day overdue visitors stamp so I decided to calm my nerves by reading a book on my Kindle reader. An hour and forty-five minutes and several plot twists later I heard “G46” called. I hustled over to the stern-looking security guard, who doubles as the receptionist, and like a big dummy I asked if my number had been called. He looked genuinely sorry for me as he punched the machine and it spit out a new number for me, “G56”. Four solid hours in the waiting room of Cayman Immigration, one book read, 15% battery life left on my IPhone, two tickets, one kind & understanding immigrations officer, and four new visitors extension stamps.

How apt that within 24 hours of my escape from the immigration shark tank, Mom decided that top priority on her “to do” this trip was a tour of Stingray City. We settled on Captain Marvin tours because their office and the trip’s launching point are so close to our house. The tour includes a trip to the sandbar where the stingrays hang out and wait to be fed (our guides were feeding them squid), a trip to the Barrier Reef, and to Corral Gardens, all on the North side of the island.

We had beautiful weather, but the wind was strong and the water was really choppy. Dropping my kids off the back of the boat looked a little treacherous; I had a feeling that we were in for something akin to the “Spin-Out” carnival ride. There were at least 5 other boats parked on the sandbar and we could see dozens of rays swimming all around. I wish I had a picture of Nora Ruth dressed in all of her gear, mask in place, snorkel in her mouth, flippers on, while the guides attempted for 5 minutes to park the boat in the right spot.

At first the girls were intimidated by the stingrays, who would swim right by and brush our legs with their flaps or even swim to the top of the water and raise a flap right up over our shoulders. The rough water was really not ideal for ‘getting to know one another’ and Alliene, who doesn’t yet know how to use her snorkel, was getting slapped in the face by the big waves. Mom was Nora Ruth’s snorkel “buddy” and I think they really enjoyed the scenery, in spite of the waves.

“Beautiful” is not an adequate word to describe the stingrays. They are so graceful and they move so purposefully. Unlike the fish we see in the reefs that dart and swerve, a stingray in motion is both strong and fast, but also calm and deliberate. In Cayman they say that to kiss a stingray brings good luck. Mom and I both got up close and personal and I was hoping that the girls would, too, but our guide had chosen us to go first. I guess he thought we were some bawdy lookin’ women who wouldn’t mind showing the rest of the folks how its done! By the end of our swim, the girls were feeling much more comfortable around the stingrays and were reaching for them and swimming towards them. We had a good laugh at Nora Ruth who was swimming next to Mom when a stingray passed by and Mom rubbed its underside with her hand. Mom looked at me and said, “Whoa! These guys have teeth!”. Nora Ruth was snorkeling and seemingly in her own world, but she must have heard the word “teeth” loud and clear because she jumped out of the water and wrapped her legs and arms around YiaYia like a monkey headed up a tree.

Finally, I need to complain for a sec about the plague that is being passed around my house right now. It started with Alliene coughing about 4 weeks ago. Then Thomas caught it and coughed and had a runny nose for a week. Then I caught it last week and blamed it on my sinuses, but now I’m not so sure. Nora Ruth caught it this weekend, just as I was recovering, and she’s had the cough and nasty nose worse than anyone else. Now Alliene has the cough again and Clif is coming down with a sore throat, congestion, and cough. All of this sickness just doesn’t jive with the illusion that I am on vacation here in Cayman. And I can’t help but wonder if we all won’t stay sick more often because our immune systems are new to Cayman, too. I welcome your comments and feedback here, people. Good news and optimism only, please.

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