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Honest People

I’ve met a few honest people; I’d like to think that most of my business associates were honest. They attempted to be truthful and honorable in all their dealings with family, friends, and strangers too. But were they perfectly so? My wife and I were robbed in Denmark … Denmark, a nation where we assume it is crime free! Nope. So I was surprised when we went to the nation or at least the island that has perfected honesty.

Is it the United States? No way! Even forgiving all the politicians, attorneys, razor-grinders, and gypsies, we still do not approach the level of scrupulous honesty that I found. I found people who upon finding a penny in the street, take up the joy of finding its owner.

Well I’ve been to such a place. A place where locks are put on doors for visitors to feel safe but not because the locals are thieves!

Where in the world could we find such a place?

The Island of Cayman Brac. 

“Cayman Brac is an island that lies about 143 km northeast of Grand Cayman in the Caribbean Sea. It is about 19 km long, with an average width of 2 km, meaning that the total area is approximately 38 square km (14.7 square miles).[1] Its terrain is the most prominent of the three Cayman Islands. "The Bluff", a large central limestone outcrop, rises steadily along the length of the island up to 43 m (140 feet) above the sea at the eastern end. The island is named after this prominent feature, as "brac" is a Gaelic name for a bluff. The population of the island was estimated at 1,822 in 1999.” (Link)

Where it proves its honesty with both words and deeds.

Kristopher, Carolyn and I came to the Brac to dive its crystal clear waters, the phenomenally beautiful Bloody Bay Wall.

“Little Cayman is famous for its scuba diving. The most famous dive site areas, Bloody Bay and Jackson's Bight, are both located on the north side of the island, just west of its midpoint. Bloody Bay is consistently ranked as one of the world's top wall dives with the ocean floor, which was purportedly based on a claim made by the late Phillipe Cousteau[citation needed]. At its shallowest point in Bloody Bay, the drop-off goes a depth of 18 feet (Three Fathom Wall) to approximately 1000 feet (314m)[1], in what is a near-vertical topology at recreational depths.” Link

“This remarkable formation begins at a shallow depth of 22 to 30 feet, and falls away to the abyssal depth of 1,000 feet. This wall is so vertical that you feel like a skydiver hanging in space. The visibility is so clear that you can see the wall 200 feet to the left, to right and directly below. It is the most amazing undersea panorama that you can imagine. You feel so small in the vastness of this towering cliff face.”  Link

Water so clear that when you cross over the edge of the Wall the depth drops off so fast and so clear that you imagine that you are suspended from a wire off the Empire State Building looking straight to street below.

We came to the Brac to dive and that means we brought a lot of expensive stuff stashed in bags. The island is not huge but a rental car; even if it means driving on the left or in middle as I did can be useful. But we brought a lot and the little rental was not designed for three adults and a ton of equipment. No problem the rental car lady said it would be delivered free of charge, the driver knew where the house was. It was a leap of faith but we cautiously agreed; besides where could a thief go on such a small island.

We needn’t have worried; in fact it was insulting to even express concern. So began our lessons in a truly honest people. The airport seemed to be run by one lady who arranged it all and oh yes her grandfather had rented us the house. He was off island so the driver that brought the luggage would show us around. “and the keys?”

“We keep everything locked up but only to make you feel comfortable there are no thieves here.”

Right … we were skeptical. We knew that Grand Cayman the larger and more populated island was rife with anti-tourist crime. There was no pristine reputation to be sullied there.

But we gave up our short ton of gear and followed the truck and driver in our car. We wound our way past some very nice homes and came presently to a nice beachfront one-story house. Nothing fancy; but it was homey and the AC worked. We had contracted the home based on the number of bedrooms we would need. We needed two. Our guide helped us unload …..

“ Here’s a key but only foreigners lock their houses. We don’t.”

“Well we don’t lock up either except at night and then again maybe some nasty foreigners are visiting here too!”

He showed us the washing machine and I noticed there was no dryer; there was a line outside and a hot sunny breeze.

“There’s a dryer next door; if you need it just go use it.”

“Won’t they mind?”

“No No They’re gone for a few weeks.”

“ Do we need a key?”

“Oh no the door’s open.”

I should have known before I asked.

Patiently it was explained to us.

“If you drop your wallet three things can happened here.”

 

“ One … It will still be there when you return; maybe moved out of the road and laid in plain view.”

“ Two .... It will be taken to the island’s one under worked policeman who will easily find the time to call to tell you where to pick it up.”

“Three … And this will be the most likely; the finder will find you and return it; it’s a very small island. “

“ And you will get all of your money; but whatever you do .... Don’t look in it!! It will insult the finder.”

We had been told to expect an island with a difference; it was different. We expected to pay for our lodging; but the manager, an elderly former sailor was off the island and would return in a few days to settle up. Our guide departed. We settled in trying to figure out supper. I looked in the refrigerator and there was supper or breakfast waiting for us. It is common to not only leave all of your left over staple foods and but enough so that the first night the next arrivee can also eat and relax without searching out a store.

We shouldn’t have been too concerned about food. The phone rang.

“This is the Jones’. We just heard you’ve arrived on the island; we are playing OGNIB tonight and you are invited. Bring a dish of something and a gag gift times three.”

“ Absolutely we will be there… but what is OGNIB?”

“OGNIB is Bingo but since it is against the law to play Bingo we play OGNIB for useful and ordinary household prizes. Like extra toilet paper!!”

“We’ll be there.”

My first thought was how the hell did they know we arrived and how could they be sure we were “the right sort”.

We showered; found our least wrinkled dive vacation clothes and three household gag gifts and off we went looking for our hosts. We found their house back a mile or so down the beach. We were welcomed as lost cousins.

Later in the evening after eating, drinking, and enjoying the expatriate community of Americans, Canadians, South Africans, and an odd Scotsman or two I asked how it was determined that we were fit company for their august body … ?

“ We know who comes to the island and it is a small friendly island.”

Friendly and Honest and this third example will prove my point.

Diving for some strange reason seems to be a sport that must begin at 7:00 AM, well truth be told, there are reasons. To maximize the number of dives the first boat leaves early and a diver can get two good dives before noon. Come back in and get lunch and de-gas and do two more in the afternoon, de-gas, and do a night dive without maxing his computer out.

Diving in the Brac starts early so we stopped at “the” store on the island it was 7:01A.M. I wasn’t the first customer to arrive but there wasn’t many. I grabbed a sleeve of cookies for “mid-morning between dives snacks”. Now in Cayman the two currencies were close and you could pay in either and they adjusted for the difference. I paid an American dollar for a Cayman dollar’s worth of cookies. The change would have been a Cayman dime.

There was no one at the two registers.

“Here’s a dollar, the boat is leaving!”

A tiny wisp of a young lady replied from behind a stack of cartons that almost completely hid her.

“We haven’t got our change boxes out yet! Wait! I owe you a dime!”

“No thanks I’m late now.”

I was happy to get the cookies and off we went. The diving was excellent. Blood Bay Wall is petrifying as you cruise under water and then with nearly unlimited visibility sail over the wall and look a thousand feet down to a black bottomless ocean.

That evening Carolyn and Kris made a night dive while I went after supper supplies to make some goulash that filled us up and kept us out of the high priced restaurants. Almost 12 hours to the minute I returned to the little store; dressed not in the dive gear and t-shirt but in shorts and sandals with a real shirt and a nice Dallas Cowboy cap. I didn’t look the same as the hurried diver of the morning.

I bought some ground meat, pasta, sauce, and bread … the essentials plus milk for the tea and DP, Coke and beer. I piled it up on the counter. The place wasn’t packed but there were a lot of people in the three-aisle store. A lady about my age checked me out. I paid and picked up my sacks and headed for the door when a voice was heard over the tumult.

“ Grandma, give that man a dime!!”

“ What?” Came a reply. Me I thought?

“I owed him a dime from this morning when are boxes were still in the safe.”

Two thoughts, she worked some long 12 hour days and finally a safe on this island??

“Oh I forgot about the dime.” I casually remarked as to make decent light of the situation and as if to say that it was not worth mentioning.

But her reply was pure Cayman Brac.

“But on this island we don’t forget. Give the man his dime Grandma.”

I took the dime.

I graciously learned a valuable lesson; a reputation is hard won and harder kept. But on Cayman Brac it is earned and rewarded everyday.

Kent Herrick

2010

              

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