It seems paradise is not only elusive, it is also controversial.
Recently, I contributed my first post to Back in a Bit. It was an introductory piece with the aim of establishing my voice as a contributor and giving a rough idea of my background as an Australian living in the Cayman Islands. Never had I imagined that it would be contentious. Never had I imagined that my normal life would be considered a hotbed of self-indulgence and conceit.
To clarify, the Caribbean is an incredibly diverse part of the world. There are thousands of Caribbean islands; some are fully developed while others are all but deserted. Each island has its own personality, history, and culture. It is a region that brims with colour and life and energy, where the people will welcome you into their homes without a second thought.
It is a region of Bob Marley, cricket, Castro, and sunshine. It is a region of contrasts, in which obscene luxury co-exists with extreme poverty, and luxury liners share the shore with weathered fishing dinghies.
Despite the many superlatives that apply to the Caribbean, each island has its own set of problems, and Cayman is not immune. From the slums of Cuba to the utter devastation of Haiti, the Caribbean has experienced, and continues to experience, human suffering at its absolute purest. This is a region that has survived colonialism, exploitation, natural disaster, dictatorships and hurricane after hurricane.
I have travelled to parts of the Caribbean (nowhere near as many islands as I would like) and it is a place that both confounds and delights me.
Cayman prides itself on having one of the highest standards of living in the Caribbean. As such, severe poverty, dictatorships and the like are not an element of day to day life. Yet, Cayman has its own set of issues that affect each and every person who lives on this wonderful island, such as gun-related violence and the growing dissent between expats and locals.
It is a multicultural society in every sense. There are more than 100 nationalities in Cayman, meaning that, in the course of one day, you can spend time with an American, a Jamaican, a Honduran, a Caymanian, a Kiwi, a Scotsman, a Canadian and a Czech (not necessarily in that order). There are people from all walks of life, from successful businesspeople to celebrities to normal people going about their day to day life. Living in Cayman is a bizarre, glorious, constantly changing experience.
With all this diversity surrounding me, I could, in no way, hope to represent the definitive Caribbean experience. Every expat, whether in Jamaica, St. Lucia, or Cayman, has a different encounter of the Caribbean lifestyle, full of both good and bad. Some people love it, some people loathe it. For some it is the proverbial paradise, for others it is hell. My words cannot do justice to those who experience enduring anguish and poverty. Nor can they do justice to those swimming Scrooge McDuck-style in huge pools of money. Simply, because I am not living these lives.
Every single experience is as varied as the person living it. That is the beauty of life and that is the beauty of travel.