unpacking


Now that we've been in our condo for almost four weeks and have had a chance to unpack all 15 of our boxes, I want to review a few of the things we brought along. Hindsight is 20/20, so I can clearly see which belongings were worth bringing and which ones should have been left behind.

>> Kitchen supplies: Most apartments/houses in Grand Cayman are advertised as "fully furnished", which is supposed to include virtually all necessary kitchen items. However, depending on how many Pampered Chef parties you've been to, it's impossible to expect that your entire kitchen from home will be replicated here in Cayman. Here are some kitchen items I brought:

----- Kitchenaid blender and food processor. The condo came with neither. We make fruit smoothies several times a week, so a blender is irreplaceable. I use my food processor on a regular basis also, so these were two winners.

----- J.A. Henckels knife block, since even a chef as casual as myself needs a proper set of knives. The condo included a Ginsu set, so now I have Japanese and German knifes to choose from. Although not 100% necessary, I don't regret bringing mine.

----- Mini-chopper. Mine is electric, and the condo included a non-electric. I use mine frequently, so I'm glad I brought it, but it probably would have been a cheap purchase had I not.

----- Cutting boards. I'm always running out of clean ones, and they don't take up much room in a box. Worth bringing.

----- Hand mixer. I never had the big Kitchenaid stand mixer that everyone swears by, and I'm not sure I'll ever feel like giving up that much counter space, so a hand mixer is essential. Our condo actually included one, but KK's didn't, so I'm spreading the wealth.

----- Popsicle molds. I know this seems ludicrous and so not necessary! This is why they made the cut: I had been pining away for popsicle molds every summer for years, and I had finally splurged and purchased a couple sets to make yogurt/fruit popsicles during New Jersey's hot months. We then turned around and decided to move to Grand Cayman, where it's hot year-round. Leave them behind? I think not!

----- A few small kitchen utensils like measuring spoons and a pan scraper. Again, they take up hardly any room, so they're worth bringing, if even to provide extra sets. Oddly, the condo had no dry measuring cups to speak of. My theory is that the last tenant was European and measured dry ingredients by weight rather than volume. I promptly bought a set of measuring cups and measuring spoons at Cost-U-Less for $7 which I'm quite pleased with, as the cups include odd sizes like 1 3/4 cups, and the spoons go all the way down to 1/32 teaspoon! A literal "pinch"!

----- Ralph. In NJ, we had a single-floor apartment, so he cleaned more than just the kitchen, but he's an islander now and is taking it easy by sticking to the kitchen and occasionally the living room. I wouldn't have dreamed of leaving one of my two "kids" (the other one being my DSLR) behind, and Ralph was worth every cubic shipping foot.

>> Linens and towels: Again, fully furnished apartments should include all that's necessary, but I was a bit grossed out thinking about using someone else's used bedding. Here's what made the trip with me:

----- Two queen-sized bedding sets. This would have been genius - I know many expat friends purchased new bedding within a week of moving in - except our master bed is a king. I don't think I like kings. They just take up too much space, and we're not very wide people. The bedding I brought can, however, be used on the guest bed, the sofa bed, and the air mattress. The condo came with several sheet sets, some of which I've decided won't get used, and one of which seemed like a brand new set of white sheets for the master bed. I was happy bleaching them and using them. Our first guests also gifted us with new set of 400-ct CK sheets that I adore. Thanks a million M&G!!

----- Our queen-sized comforter. This should have stayed home. It's too warm here for extra layers at night! Both of our beds just have sheets sets on them - no blankets whatsoever - and are quite comfortable as such. The comforter did get used by our first guests as a buffer layer between the air mattress and the sheet, but other than that, I think it's going to be a waste of space here.

----- Four towels, three hand towels, and several wash clothes. These were worth bringing - once house guests are around, extra towels become a luxury. The towels I brought are wedding originals, so I have a feeling that by the time we leave the island, they'll be toast. Less to travel with on our return trip.

----- A few beach towels. The condo came stocked with several, but again, the more the merrier when it comes to towels.

>> Electronics: An apartment's listing will usually list whether or not it comes with a TV, DVD player, etc. The apartments in our price range generally didn't include top-of-the-line LCDs or anything, and since NS is a bit of an IT junkie, we wrestled with bringing our own 52-inch TV from home. The trip probably wouldn't have been healthy for it, so it's happily living in Pennsylvania where a pretty exciting Super Bowl party is being planned surrounding its presence. Here is what we did bring:

----- Blu-ray DVD player. Our condo included a 37-inch tube TV and a small TV/VCR/DVD combo in the master bedroom. NS quickly bought a 42-inch LCD as a replacement for the living room and hooked the Blu-Ray up there. (We also moved the small TV out of the master into the guest bedroom, as we are not TV-in-bed people.) Since the Blu-Ray is less than a year old (courtesy of a Christmas gift from my in-laws last year), I think it would have been silly to leave it at home to collect dust until we returned. (Although who am I kidding; my brother would have probably snatched that up in a heartbeat also.)

----- X-Box 360. This is all NS' baby. The only time I enjoy (?) the X-Box is when he is playing a game that has interesting background music. I have a feeling he won't have time to play it much here because of all the outdoor activities we can do year-round now, but I do know a coworker that just purchased a PS3 on island, so if you're going to want a gaming system, I figure it's cheaper to bring the one you already own.

----- Printer, laptop, monitor, internet router, various desk supplies (pens, paper clips, etc.) Again, hard to live without most of these, and why pay a premium for new on the island? If you don't own a printer, though, or are hesitant to pay for shipping, something like that can be picked up on www.ecaytrade.com pretty easily.

>> Decorations: I left about 98% of what I own at home. It's next to impossible to know what your Cayman apartment will look like before arriving, so trying to coordinate throw pillows with an imaginary couch is pointless. The only things I brought were:

----- A few picture frames, just to personalize the place a bit. I haven't hung more than one thing, though, as the last resident left all her nails (and sinkers) in the walls and they're all WAY too high for the pictures frames I brought. Plus these walls feel like concrete... ugh, a job for the boy.

----- Our welcome mat for the front door. I know this is such an odd thing to bring! However, we (I) had just purchased a new one right before accepting our Cayman positions, and really, a welcome mat is the first thing visitors will see, so it should be properly inviting.

>> Outdoor gear: It goes without saying that there are many outdoor activities on the island that can be enjoyed year-round. Our boxes included:

----- A camping tent and a sleeping bag. We had such great visions of camping on the beach - probably the only style of camping that truly appeals to me! After arriving, however, we learned that legal camping on Cayman beaches is only allowed once a year - on Easter. So I'm not sure if bringing that gear was worth it or not. We'll see how Easter goes before passing judgement.

----- Air mattress. Frankly, this will get used (and already has been used) indoors when we have visitors much more often than it will be used outdoors to camp.

----- Snorkels, masks, and fins. Diving and snorkeling are quite popular in the Cayman islands, so if you own anything related to these activities, they are worth shipping. Used items can be found on www.ecaytrade.com as well.

>> Toiletries: Many brands and varieties typical to the States can be found here on island, but in general, you will pay a premium. Also, I haven't found the selection in any of the three grocery stores or one drug store that I've visited to be equivalent to, say, a CVS back home (let alone a Target). I tend to be very brand loyal, so I'm going to have to put my Miss Flexible hat on when shopping for a fresh tube of mascara or a new bottle of body wash. Oh well. At least I came well-stocked with extras I had on hand. Honestly, any time someone goes back to the States, I can guarantee you their suitcase returns to Cayman with a few spare bottles of shampoo, deodorant, makeup, etc.

>> Clothing:

----- Warm weather: Of course, we brought every thread of summer clothes we owned. Shopping on island is possible, but the selection is limited and the prices are eye-popping [so I've been told. So far I've limited my shopping to flip flops and food.] Even Caymanians will tell you that in order to properly shop for clothes, you must fly to Miami. Bring as much as you can with you on island. Oh, and everything you ship must be used and more than six months old, or they will charge you a duty. (Read: cut the tags off EVERYTHING.) I know this duty concept seems completely unreasonable (and probably is in part), but remember, there are no income taxes here, so this is one of the ways the government pays for awesome fireworks displays. Get over it.

----- Cold weather: Without having lived in a place that is warm year-round, it's hard to accept that you don't need some sort of coat or sweatshirt or scarf or something. As a result, we both brought a bit more in this category than we should have. When we were staying in the hotel for five weeks not paying for utilities, NS was quite liberal with the A/C, so having a few pairs of sweats on hand served me well. Now that we are grown-ups (again) and have utilities to worry about, the condo temperature has been hovering around 82 degrees most of the time. No sweatshirts needed here! We may send a few extra items back with family when they visit for Christmas. I want a to hang on to a few things for the unforeseen cool day, or if there if a hurricane. *shudder*

----- Shoes: Flip-flops are the go-to shoe here. Even the partner from my accounting firm who picked us up at the airport was flip-flop-clad. Bring as many as possible, and don't hesitate to buy more after arriving! 

Hopefully now you understand why we had to bring 15 boxes. Clearly, we couldn't have done it any other way! Besides, I still am wildly entertained by the shocked/disgusted/concerned look people display when I tell them how much I dragged along with me. I believe most of it was completely justified, due to the reasons outlined above, as well as the shipping allowance given by NS' accounting firm that we barely maxed out. So for all you Cayman expats reading this, you know who to call when you need an extra extension cord or a spare beach towel. I'm an American; I just bring Wal-Mart with me.





4 comments:

  1. oh my - awesome post! could you have written this six weeks earlier???

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  2. Great advice Jenn - consider handing it out to the firms to put in their new hire packet ;)

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  3. I know this was written several years ago but I can't tell you how grateful I am for it! My husband and I are moving to Grand Cayman the end of this year and its almost impossible without talking to someone who lives on the island to find out what to bring. My husband has his Cayman status and lived there as a child but things have changed so much. This post is terrific! Thanks for taking the time so long ago to write it out.

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    1. Glad to help! Good luck with the upcoming move!

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