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Andre Gooden has spent his whole life in Grand Cayman. In his lifetime, he’s watched his island develop from a rural, quiet island to a bustling tourist destination that’s visited by millions of people each year.

“It was a good experience because you got the best of both worlds: the simple island life and the fast-paced city life,” Andre said.

Growing up, Andre said he never knew how to answer the age-old question “what do you want to be when you grow up?” He went to school, did what he was supposed to do, and found jobs that helped make ends meet. Eventually, he ended up working as an engineer for one of the island’s telecom companies. He liked the job for the most part—he made good money and was good at the job.

However, those feelings of not really knowing what he wanted to do lingered. He felt his life was missing that inner peace. After seven years at the telecoms company, he decided it was time to do something new, so he quit his job determined to find his passion.

Andre began dabbling in light subsistence farming by growing an assortment of vegetables like carrots and cabbage in his yard. He liked working with his hands and the satisfaction of watching his crops grow. This was the “new” he’d been looking for—he’d found his peace.

After doing a little bit of internet searching, Andre invested more time and energy into his garden eventually turning it into a small farm. He knew he could turn it into a business and in only six months, after a lot of hard work and social media advertising, Charlito’s Greenhouse was born.

At first, Charlito’s Greenhouse was only able to provide produce to a few people at a time, but Andre wasn’t going to stop there. While he didn’t have nearly enough to supply stores, his crop quickly outgrew his space so he moved to West Bay to get more. With more space came more crops like broccoli, peppers, kale, and a variety of fruits (his favorite things to grow).

Over the next couple of years, Charlito’s Greenhouse grew and Andre diversified his crop selection. With new crops came new challenges and Andre realized he needed structures to grow and store new plants. Never one to back down from a challenge, he taught himself carpentry and built his own greenhouses. He found a natural talent in woodworking, and his work quickly gained attention.

Today, Andre’s custom carpentry is the most popular part of his business (it’s what attracted us to him!), and he spends most of his time building custom decks, greenhouses, garden beds, and sheds. While his first love will always be the farm, he says the carpentry gives him a sense of satisfaction different than that of the plants.

“Plants will do exactly what they’re supposed to do and you know exactly what you’ll get,” Andre said. “With the carpentry and woodwork you can create something no one has ever seen, something new...it comes from your own experiences.”

In many ways, Andre is changing the landscape of food production on Grand Cayman. When he came on the scene a few years ago, commercial farming in Grand Cayman was virtually non-existent and many locals hadn’t adopted their own farming practices. For years, Caymanians have relied on imports from South America or the United States for food, but Andre wants to change that.

Almost as soon as his business was blooming, Andre was in the local schools teaching children about farming. He teaches the basics, giving the kids a chance to dig in the dirt, plant their seeds, and watch the fruits of their labor grow. He hopes this will help kids realize just how easy farming on their island is and eventually help the island become less dependent on outside imports.

“It’s about showing people what we can do on our own,” Andre said.


If you’re interested in learning more about Andre and Charlito’s Greenhouse, you can visit him on Facebook or check out his Instagram.

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Twenty years ago, Aaron Hunt wouldn’t have seen himself where he is now. Today he serves as an unlikely hero to some of the Cayman Islands’ most vulnerable animal species: coral. With a love of the sea and a lifetime of lessons under his belt, he is the founder of Eco Divers, a not-for-profit dive shop with a mission to reinvigorate the coral population.

We were recently able to sit down and chat with Aaron about his life and how he and Eco Divers are paving a new way for coral sustainability. 

Color Me Coral

Aaron grew up and spent much of his life in Sacramento, California, thousands of miles from any type of coral reef. He served in the Army from 1993 to 2001 as an M1A1 tank commander. After retiring from the military life, he studied computers in college, and eventually became a computer specialist and network systems administrator for a series of small businesses around the Sacramento area.

It was during this time that Aaron developed a fascination for coral—some might even call it an obsession. He built his own 500-gallon coral propagation system in his home. He lived with a beautiful, albeit small, coral reef in his living room, but he wanted to get even closer to the animals he had grown to love so much. The best way to do that? Scuba diving.

In 2006, Aaron took up scuba diving and began working as a part-time divemaster helping instructors teach classes at a local Sports Chalet, which is a sporting goods store found only in parts of the Western United States that went out of business a few years ago. (I took dive lessons at a Sports Chalet in Las Vegas when I was a kid.) Aaron watched the students he taught travel to exotic places for dive trips, and he wanted to do the same.

If you couldn’t tell already, Aaron isn’t the kind of guy to go halfway on anything. When he loves something—like the military, computers, or coral—he goes all in. His work with scuba wasn’t going to be any different. Not only did he want to travel to exotic places, he wanted to move to an exotic place, dive for a living, and work with coral.

“So I read every one of our travel guides,” Aaron said. “I knew I wanted to stay in the Caribbean, but one book seemed different than the others. It spoke of friendly people and quality of life, rich history of scuba, and a prosperous community.”

Where was this amazing place? You guessed it: Grand Cayman.

The Eco Divers Story

In 2009, Aaron made his move to Grand Cayman and began his new life. He became a dive instructor, able to teach classes on his own, and trained as a captain, all while remembering his love for coral.

In 2014, Aaron founded Eco Divers. Not your typical dive exploration group, Eco Divers is focused on “diving with a mission” to help the coral reefs around Grand Cayman.

Coral reefs are believed to be some of the most diverse ecosystems in the world, and the reefs around the Cayman Islands are no different. Coral reefs are home to hundreds of species of coral and other animals and are vulnerable to disease, bleaching, increases in ocean temperatures, and other threats. As a result, reefs in the Caribbean are suffering and a significant number of them are dying or already dead.

This is where the Eco Divers Reef Foundation team comes in. Over the past few years, they have been building spawning structures around Grand Cayman that help grow new coral species. These corals are then transplanted to existing reefs where they thrive and help redevelop the ecosystem.

The best part is: they’ve seen success—90 percent of their coral are surviving.

“In two years, we have seen an increase in coral abundance from three to seven every half kilometer to finding two hundred to two hundred and fifty,” Aaron said.

Get Involved

Anyone interested in helping the Eco Divers mission can do so when they visit Grand Cayman. They offer opportunities for individuals to see the coral spawn structures no matter what level of diver you are.

Beginners can participate in the Discovery Coral Diving program, a short lecture, and class that leads groups straight to one of the nursery sites. For more experienced divers, PADI offers a Coral Reef Renewal Distinctive Specialty course that is offered through Eco Divers. This enrolls divers in their volunteer effort and opens up new experiences for those wanting to help sustainable coral restoration.

If diving isn’t your thing, Eco Divers hosts fundraising events on a regular basis including pub quiz events.

Serving Others

Aaron Hunt has used his unique skills as a former soldier and network administrator to create a successful coral management foundation in Grand Cayman. In addition to helping the reefs, he is using his skills to give back to the community in other ways. Eco Divers is an active member of the Inspire Cayman project with a mission to help young Caymanians become leaders in Cayman’s dive industry.

“My experiences in the military, explaining computers to frustrated customers, growing and managing corals, and then working as an instructor have all formed into this unexpected, timely series of skills,” Aaron said. “I am truly blessed to live today with my lifetime of experiences. Instead, I get to apply all of these seemingly unconnected skills together and use them to return vitality to coral populations.”

If you’re interested in going on an Eco Divers dive exploration, visit their website, www.caymanecodivers.com or give them a call at 345-938-4904.

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Have you ever met someone who immediately makes you feel welcomed into their life? Someone who makes you feel like you matter? That’s how it feels to meet Nina Squires, owner of Beach Bubbles soap shop in Bodden Town (and the entire strip mall, but we’ll get to that in a second.)

When I met Nina on my first full day in Grand Cayman, I was, well, nervous. It was my first trip to the island and my first time working with CCC. As soon as I met her, my anxiety was gone. She reminded me of one of my biggest—albeit fictional—idols, Leslie Knope from Parks and Recreation. She had a sunny disposition, was a hard worker (she was prepping a massive order when I arrived), and was, above all, kind.

When I started asking about her business and her life, she answered my questions very matter of factly, seemingly unphased by the past and I was genuinely surprised by her coolness. Her story isn’t an easy one to tell, but she does it with a grace that is truly admirable.


Humble Beginnings to a Colorful Future

Nina was born in New York but grew up in Connecticut. Her family was in the hospitality industry and they came to Grand Cayman often; they even owned a home on the Northside of the island. At one point, Nina decided to stay for an extended time. She got a job at a local hotel and originally intended for six months...27 years later, she’s still here living the dream.

When asked what brought her to Grand Cayman, she nonchalantly says “God...and an airplane.”

Today, Beach Bubbles is one of Bodden Town’s most popular tourist stops. It’s famous for the unique, colorful, handcrafted soaps and other natural products, but it wasn’t always that way. Beach Bubbles was started out of, for lack of a better word, desperation.

Ten years ago, Nina co-owned a business with her best friend in Cayman, but the deal went south and Nina was left homeless, with half a million dollars stolen from her, and no best friend. She and her rabbit moved into a vacant shop offered by a friend (in the same building Beach Bubbles now lives). She knew she couldn’t sleep on the floor of a shop for long so she racked her brain for ideas. What would she do? Could she open a new business? What would it be?

She had been experimenting with soap making for awhile before this, but just as a hobby. When one of her friends suggested she turned her hobby into a business, she thought the idea was ridiculous, but she wasn’t in a position to say no. So, she did it. With the help of some friends, she started Beach Bubbles. She started mixing soaps, experimenting, and creating a product—a product that now attracts thousands of people every year, many of them repeat customers who stock up for the year.

But it didn’t happen overnight, and this is the part of the story when Nina replaced Leslie Knope as my biggest idol. For nearly seven years, while she built her business, Nina did everything she could to make ends meet.

She sold her car, slept on the floor of her business, and even hooked up a hose and showered in the back room where she made her soaps. It wasn’t an easy time, but Nina never gave up. About four years ago, Beach Bubbles took off. Nina was not just back on her feet, she was floating on air.

“I got up everyday, and I did what I could do,” Nina said. “After I let it go and said ‘you’re going to be grateful and that’s it,’ Tripadvisor stuff started to happen, all this good energy started to happen.”


Not only is the "Be Happy" soap pretty to look at, it's great advice to follow.


She's Got What You Neem

Nina contributes a lot of her success to the Neem, a tree that has been used in medicine in Eastern cultures for centuries. It has been used to treat everything from leprosy to malaria to liver problems.

She did her research, did some experimenting, and created an entire line of neem products. She started selling them in her store not knowing how popular they’d be, now people come to Beach Bubbles to stock up products made with this miracle plant.

“People would say ‘I’ve tried everything, I’ve tried every ointment, I’ve spent thousands of dollars, but this is what worked.’ It’s helped hundreds of people,” she said with a glimmer in her eye. “I just felt like God sent me that neem tree to help people, because He knew I would and I’m not charging more for it than I would for my other stuff.”

As she talked about her neem products, I have to admit, I was skeptical. I grew up watching cheesy infomercials with “miracle products” on TV and learned that most of the time, that stuff doesn’t work at all. But something about Nina made me trust her.

As soon as I walked into her shop she noticed the nearly dozen mosquito bites I had on my arms, legs, and face (yeah, that was annoying) and recognized that I have a heightened sensitivity to them. Since I was a kid, mosquitos follow me around like moths would a flame and their bites would swell, turn bright red, and itch for weeks longer than normal. I’ve tried everything in the past and had essentially given up on remedies because nothing worked. Nina gave me a bottle of her neem lotion and I tried it because I was too polite to express my doubts. To my surprise, it worked! My bites no longer itched and were virtually gone after a couple of days. Her “Bug Off” mosquito repellent lotion also kept me from getting any more bites the entire week I was on island.

As far as I’m concerned, Nina is a miracle worker.


"Never Give Up."

Four years ago, Nina bought a run-down beach house across the street from her store and has been fixing it up. For the first time in years, she had hot water and a real shower.

The real cherry on top of the sundae that is Nina’s life came last September when she was asked to purchase the building that houses Beach Bubbles. She now owns the entire plaza with the goal of creating a tourist destination in Bodden Town. She’s added an art shop featuring local artists and already has a tenant—Cayman Cigar Co. (we’ll learn more about them soon!). A coffee shop is currently under construction in the last suite in the building set to open sometime in 2020.

She’s living the dream.

“I got up and started my whole life over again,” Nina said with tears in her eyes. “I just fought and worked every single day, and I can tell you, to this day right now, the Lord is good.”


One of Nina's favorite pieces on display in the art shop.

My New Friend

While I visited with Nina, another customer came into the shop and I watched her interact with them. The customer had come in a few days prior to get a few things, but had returned because she needed to share the Beach Bubbles products with her friends back home. It was like she had known Nina for years. The two chatted about the soaps and lotions around the store, the customer raving to her mother that Nina’s “heart shows in every single product.”

At one point, the woman mentioned how she’d been visiting the island for years with her family and that her father had missed their trip last year because he was ill and passed away a few months later. She teared up, as anyone would, and Nina joined her in that pain—she’d lost her father a couple years before, too. The two went from raving about the products to hugging each other, sharing in the mutual pain of losing their fathers. I couldn’t help but tear up myself when Nina showed the woman the photo of her father she keeps at the register.

When the guest parted, she said “I love you, Nina” and Nina returned the sentiment.

After giving me a tour of the rest of HER plaza, we chatted for a little bit longer and she gave me tips for getting around the island (since I had no idea what I was doing) and told me to call her if I needed her because she understood how scary it was to be in a new country almost by myself and thought I might need a friend. She was right, of course. I didn’t end up needing to call her, but I did go by and visit my new friend before I left to thank her for her hospitality and show her how well the neem had worked for me. She was thrilled.

People visit Beach Bubbles for the first time to get colorful soaps for their friends, but they quickly find the shop has so much more to offer. Not only do people come back again and again because they fall in love with these special products, but they also come back because they fall in love with Nina’s kindness. I know I’ll be back again and again to visit my new friend.

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This is part two of Wenzil Burlington's story. You can jump back to part one here.

Marriage & Job on Island

In 1967, Wenzil Burlington's girlfriend Martha (who lived on island) told him she was ready to get married. After thirteen years of seafaring, Wenzil came home and the two married at the Church of God in West Bay. When asked how they originally met, he smiled and said, “She was my best friend’s little sister.” They all grew up three blocks from each other in the Mt. Pleasant neighborhood of West Bay. After the ceremony, Wenzil took a job in maintenance at the Caribbean Club so that he could stay at home in Cayman with his new bride while also working part time at the Pan Cayman House. The couple would go on to have two girls and one boy. Their first girl was an angel baby who tragically only lived a few days. After their loss they were blessed with a baby boy, Derren, in 1969, and then a baby girl, Magdalyn, in 1972.

Burlington Plumbing and Repair Company

Around 1969, the year Derren was born, Wenzil founded Burlington Plumbing and Repair Company. Through his company, he worked at just about every hotel and condominium in Cayman including Christopher Columbus Condos many many times. When asked point blank, he says he retired ten years ago, but during our conversation he had to take a call where I overheard him taking notes and telling the listener on the other end that he’d have someone call him. It was someone looking for a plumber. Wenzil then told me he still owns the company, but that he just doesn't go out on calls any longer.

Retirement & Undefeatable Joy

Retirement wasn't a choice Wenzil wanted to make, but his health forced him to stay inside due to sun strokes. “I couldn’t even stand to look at the sunshine.” For four years he had to stay inside during the day, and would wait until nightfall to run his errands. The only relief he could get was from taking cold showers. Physicians told him there was nothing he could do except stay in and try to keep cool. This went on until his wife implored his doctor to find something that would help. The doctor gave Wenzil a new prescription to try, and it helped. He was able to finally enjoy some daylight again, although he had to switch medicines along the way, and still has to take it easy in the heat to this day.

One would never know that Wenzil has endured such a painful and isolating illness—he has a palpable spirit of pure joy and gratitude. He went on to explain how much he loves living in Cayman with his family—he and his wife live directly next door to their son and grandson, and their daughter lives nearby as well. He says the whole neighborhood is “close,” too. “I like the peacefulness, the lovely people. This is a beautiful place.”

As we wrapped up the interview, we both decided it would be fun to go see his old schoolhouse. Wenzil said he has to go through the Burger King drive-thru to pick up some meat patties on the way home, and offered to get a couple for my husband and I. Back at the condos, I picked up my husband, and we followed Wenzil to his house so he could drop off a patty for his wife, and then continued on to the schoolhouse. When we arrived, we discovered it had unfortunately been torn down. Not wanting the adventure to end, Wenzil invited us to follow him to see an old wire lighthouse in West Bay. We parted ways at the lighthouse, but not before he gave my husband and I each a beef patty for the road. (Sidenote: these patties are really popular in Cayman, and similar to a hot pocket—only ten times better.)

True CaymanKindness

A few days later, I arrived home in the states and received a call from Wenzil. He wanted to check in and see if I’d made it home safely, and we both agreed we were thankful to have met one another and made a new friend. If that’s not CaymanKindness I don’t know what is! He said he probably forgot to tell me some things for the story, and I assured him it's not meant to be comprehensive. As I think about it, I'm amazed at the amount of stories I heard from him in such a short amount of time, and I am in complete awe of this man's epic life.



Thank you to Magdalyn Burlington for getting us the historical photos to add to this post. In our correspondence, I learned that Wenzil won several awards that he humbly forgot to mention during the interview. A couple that Magdalyn sent along were the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Cayman government for Commerce Business Development in 2003, and the Medal of Honour Commander from the Order of the Cayman Islands in 2010. Magdalyn also shared two poems that Wenzil wrote a couple decades ago that you can read here and here.

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Grocery Store Fosters Friendship

One of my favorite parts of visiting Cayman is the way CaymanKindness seems to radiate from every corner of the island, sometimes in the most unexpected places. I can never guess where I'll meet a new friend on the island, and the tale of how I met Wenzil Burlington is no different! On a quick trip to pick up groceries for our condo, I was looking for a stall to return my cart in the Foster's parking lot. I wasn't able to find one, so I started to push my way back to the store's entrance when I heard a sweet voice holler, “Just leave it, they will come and get it.”

“Anywhere?” I asked confused.

“Yeah, they will come get it,” Wenzil assured me with an island ease.

So I parked my cart by a palm tree, and we started talking. I asked Wenzil if he had always lived in Cayman, and he replied, “All my life, except for thirteen years at sea.” After hearing that amazing answer, I knew I had to hear more, so I talked him into meeting up later. He suggested we chat at Burger King the following Monday. 

On the day of our interview, Wenzil met me at the condos so I could follow him to Burger King. When we arrived, the inside was closed for remodeling, so we drove another couple of blocks down to Wendy’s on Wenzil's suggestion. I got us both a coffee, and we dove right in.

Growing up Caymanian in the 30s & 40s

Wenzil Ebanks was born in 1935 in Grand Cayman. He said the island was quiet at that time, and most families were very poor due to the lack of economic opportunities. To his memory, there were only seven cars in all of West Bay. Without formally organized recreational activities, the kids had to create their own fun. Wenzil fondly recalled playing with a “wheeler”—a bicycle wheel with the spokes removed, which the kids would then roll and chase down the road with a stick. He also made tops with a guava tree and a nail (they called them gigs). I could tell he was pretty proud of them, as he explained that he’d pop one up on his thumbnail, and it would stay spinning for what seemed like forever. He also remembered making kites and flying them in pastures. Made to whistle, you could hear the kites “singing” a mile away.

“When I was growing up, if you wanted a dinner of conch, we’d just go to Barker’s, roll the pants leg up, walk out to sea, and get as many as you want. And go at night with a flashlight and you could get all the lobsters you want.”

He attended school until sixteen, in both his own home and other small, local school houses with other children of various ages. He recalled two of his teachers, Miss Alice Yates & Miss Ridley Powey, who went to Jamaica to qualify as teachers. 

Turtling in the Miskito Cays

At sixteen, Wenzil went turtling in the Miskito Cays off the coast of Nicaragua. As he told stories of that time, I felt like I was immersed in a novel of epic tales. He narrated how they would set up huts on sandbars off the coast because the sand fleas were too much to bear ashore. “In those days the turtles were unbelievable. They’d swim right along side your boat. [There were] a lot of them.”

Wenzil explained the process of catching a turtle, which was far over my head, but it involved finding the perfect rock, anchoring your net, casting that net out, and then coming back the next day. On his last trip, he and his fellow crew members encountered a frightening "freak storm." Wenzil barely made it back in his catboat, and he sadly recalled a couple of boats sinking—losing three of his friends in the storm. As I listened to more of Wenzil’s stories, near-misses seemed to be intertwined in many of this seaman’s journeys.

Swan Islands

After the loss of his three friends, Wenzil decided it was time to change course in his life. He joined up with Caymanian captains Harry and Donald Glidden on Swan Islands—two very small islands between Cayman and Honduras. During WWII, these islands were used as a weather station by the American military and post-war there were still a few Americans stationed there. Wenzil described the Gliddens as the caretakers of the island. During his stay there, he picked, shelled, and sun-dried coconuts that were bound for Tampa, Florida, on a sea route that originated in Costa Rica. Wenzil also worked, under the guidance of two Caymanian chefs, for the Americans who were stationed with the weather bureau on the islands after the war. In total there were only about twenty-six people on the island. At first Wenzil liked the remoteness, but after a while he said he needed to get away.

Banana Boats & Diplomas

Seeking more opportunity to roam, Wenzil decided to work on a banana boat that ran a circuit from Costa Rica to Tampa, hauling bananas to the US marketplace. He worked his first banana boat for a little over a year, and had another run-in with a large storm. With great respect, he recalled the hurricane they encountered between Cuba and the Swan Islands that they had to fight for three long days.

Also while aboard his first banana boat, he earned diplomas for diesel and gasoline through a correspondence course. He received lessons and submitted his coursework to class's home base in Ohio. 

The next job he took was on a bigger banana boat. “That was a nice boat! It was a millionaire’s yacht, and they converted her into a banana boat.” They’d pass through the Panama Canal every week. He started out as a messman, and he laughed as he told me, “We had a cook that could really make a mess. He would use two pots just to boil one egg—just to give me work to do.”

On this boat, he advanced from Messman to Oiler, a position where he’d oil, clean, and check the temperature of the engine. Then he moved from Oiler to Second Engineer—jobs he received because of his diplomas. It was also around this time that Wenzil change his last name from "Ebanks" to "Burlington," which was originally his middle name. He said there were always mix-ups on the boats, especially with mail, because there were so many Ebanks at sea. He was tired of missing his letters, so he changed it on one of his stayovers at home.

While on a stayover in Tampa, waiting to board another banana boat, Wenzil experienced another traumatic event. While waiting, his visa was running short on time, and eventually he was told he had to leave the US, banana boat or no banana boat. The day he was supposed to catch a different ship out of the States, he went to get a haircut before boarding. While getting his trim, a man walked in and shot and killed the barber that was cutting his hair. Wenzil was so frightened that he jumped up out of the chair and ran as fast as he could all the way to the ship, with half a haircut and a towel still around his neck. (Another seafarer helped him straighten up his haircut later.) Eventually, he discovered the motive of the crime was infidelity, AND the banana boat he originally intended to catch sank near Trinidad. Two additional near-misses. As I was talking with Wenzil, I began to think it was somewhat of a miracle that he was sitting across from me!

Iron Ore Ships & Oil Tankers

Upon his return to Cayman, Wenzil got recruited to New York to work aboard a huge iron ore ship that ran back and forth between Venezuela and the east coast of the United States. This was during the 1960s, and “They were some of the biggest ships in the world.” He worked his way from Wiper, to Oiler Fireman, Junior Engineer, Junior III, and all the way up to Relief 1st. He studied fiercely on the ship for his next course, and passed his test for the 3rd engineer license in New York. When asked if he liked New York, Wenzil said he enjoyed it and would go to ball games to watch the Braves (when they were in town) if he had time in between ships.

After working the iron ore ships for some time, he moved on to working on oil tankers that went to the far east and middle east, including places like India, Pakistan, Aden, and Israel. He explained how they went through the Suez Canal in Egypt to get to everything in the far East. He sailed aboard many oil tankers throughout his career—at least seven or eight ships.

Wenzil then went from oil tankers to what he called Liberties, which hauled coal from the east coast of the US to Europe, including Germany, Holland, Spain. Before the age of thirty, he’d seen more of the world than most people see in a lifetime.

He got a green card in 1966, and went on to work on American ships through a mariner’s union. There was an opening for a pumpman, and a friend of his told him he’d only be asked three questions for the certification at the Coast Guard. He hadn’t studied for years, but decided to give it a shot. When he arrived, he ended up having to take a written exam with 180 questions—a far cry from the 3 he expected! But it turned out he underestimated himself, only missing 5 questions, and then getting 3 of the 5 he missed correct when verbally asked again later. The examiner was going to give him his 3rd Engineer License, but unfortunately those licenses were only given to American citizens. So instead he gave Wenzil the next best thing—a QMED Engineer license. Wenzil continued working at sea for another couple of years before settling at home in Cayman.

Want to know what brought Wenzil home to Cayman?

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If you’ve ever enjoyed the beautiful flora and fauna around Christopher Columbus Condos, you have our gardener, Brian, to thank! Brian is dedicated to keeping CCC beautiful by maintaining our trees, flower beds, and hedges. You may recognize him if you've done any early morning walks on our beach; he checks in on our stretch every day, raking the sand to make sure it's in tip-top shape for visitors.

Originally from Jamaica, Brian moved to Grand Cayman two years ago to make a better life for himself and his family. He has worked at CCC for those two years and says his favorite part about coming to work is meeting the guests and feeling welcomed by his coworkers every day.

When he’s not working, Brian enjoys going to the beach (who can blame him?) and playing football. He recommends guests make a trip to Stingray City to see the beautiful ocean and amazing animals.

Next time you’re visiting, take a moment to appreciate Brian’s hard work while taking a stroll on our property!


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One of my favorite things about visiting Cayman is the instant change of pace I feel as soon as I arrive. The moment I step off the plane, I feel calmed and welcomed by everything—the breeze, the scent of the ocean, and, of course, the people. The last time I visited, I didn’t even have to get off the plane to be welcomed by one of Cayman’s colorful residents.

I met Marc Thomas on my flight, and he started chatting with me as though I were an old friend. He told me everything I could have ever needed to know about his life, his kids, and his love for the island we were flying to. Initially, I was a little caught off guard by how friendly and open Marc was—I fly pretty frequently, and I don't always end up having in-depth conversations with my seat-mates. However, after chatting with him for just a few minutes, I couldn't wait to hear more of his story, so I asked him to lunch. We met up a few days later and became fast friends even though we’d only known each other for a few days.

Marc shared with me that he’s originally from London and first came to Grand Cayman in 1988 when he was visiting a friend he met while at university.

Immediately, he fell in love with the island’s beauty and easy pace.

“As soon as I stepped off the plane, I thought, ‘This is it,’” Marc told me.

He visited a few times after that, and in 1990, he moved to the island permanently.

When Marc first moved here, there was a population somewhere between 30,000 and 35,000, and Grand Cayman was a much different place. The island was relatively rural with no cinema, only a few restaurants, and limited services—in fact, services were so limited, it took six weeks to get the telephone installed in Marc’s first apartment! But he didn’t mind the delay; he was on island time now.

During his nearly 30 years on the island, Marc has lived quite the life. He’s a father of three, an avid scuba diver, and a world traveler, having visited about 40 or 50 countries! He also has an unexpected passion: theater.

Theater is a passion Marc discovered by accident. As he tells it, he experienced a mid-life crisis around age 50, and, while most guys would have fulfilled that with a fancy new sports car, Marc wanted a new hobby. Between his office and his home was the Prospect Theatre, which was advertising the first rehearsal for the annual Christmas show. He decided to drop in for a look and somehow ended up in the show. He’s been a part of the Cayman Drama Society ever since, and has been cast in plays like Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and Barefoot in the Park.

Even though it started with an impromptu audition, Marc says the theater has changed his life and given him more than something to do in his free time—it’s given him a community.

In 2017, Marc’s wife passed away, and his theater family was there to provide the support he and his family needed. What surprised Marc even more was the overwhelming support he and his family received from what felt like the entire island of Grand Cayman. People he didn’t even know were showing up at his door with food for his family and offering to assist in any way they could.

“You’d find it difficult to find somewhere more wholesome and friendly than here,” he said.

I can’t help but agree.

Seeing Marc perform is on the top of my list for my next trip to Cayman. Luckily, the Cayman Drama Society puts on a number of plays and musicals throughout the year, and the Prospect Playhouse is only 17 minutes away from CCC. Marc also suggests making a trip to The National Gallery, home to an array of beautiful art exhibits that allow visitors to immerse themselves in Cayman expression.

If you're an art lover, be sure to add both of these to your "must visit" list next time you're on island—you might even spot Marc on stage! 

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Davinoff’s Concrete Sculpture Garden consists of more than twenty super-sized concrete animals. Located on the north side of the island, this drive-up tourist attraction is a great place to take photos with the family—kids absolutely love it. We recently had the opportunity to chat with the man behind the park, David Quasius.

Originally from Sheboygan, Wisconsin, David and his wife Kathy began visiting the island about twenty years ago when they inherited a beach house. The Concrete Sculpture Garden started off as a personal project to keep David busy. He started creating a small sculpture for their garden each year for their personal enjoyment. In 2010, David and his friend Leo Verrett, an artist from Minnesota, decided to make a larger blue iguana sculpture named Ivana the Iguana for the front yard. Once that piece was completed, it started to gain some attention. “People started stopping and I’d go out to chat. I was hooked,” David says. Shortly thereafter, David moved all of the small pieces out into the yard and, as they say, the rest is history.

Since then, David has created a new piece to add to the park each year. Most of these sculptures are of animals that are native to Cayman. When asked about his inspiration, he said he wants to find Cayman animals that appeal to kids. David says that his biggest joy in creating the Sculpture Garden is the sounds of the children laughing in the park. He loves seeing parents and grandparents snapping pictures of the kids with his creations. “To have this happening in your front yard is very neat,” says David.



Today, the Sculpture Park has multiplied and is home to many large concrete sculptures. A few of the sculptures you will see are Finley the mahi-mahi, Henrietta the chicken, and Clawdette the crab (our favorite). David has created a haven for photo opportunities. For example, when he created his newest concrete shark, Sharkie III, he added a concrete inner tube as a prop for a more interesting picture. His goal is to make the park more interactive and a fun place for families to visit.

When asked about his training and how he learned to make these amazing sculptures, David explained that he is a self-taught artist. He says that he comes from an artistic family and they exposed him to making concrete sculptures. His sister is a professional artist, and he learned some of his techniques working on family art projects. Being such an amazing artist, we were surprised to find out that David is actually a retired CPA!

David enjoys the complexities of creating the sculptures. “Each one has its own problems to solve,” says David. For example, he had to figure out how to attach 400 suckers to his giant octopus. We tried to get him to choose his favorite sculpture, but he just couldn’t. He did say that if he could only take four back to Wisconsin with him, it would be the crab, octopus, blue iguana, and the crocodile. With so much work going into each piece, it must be hard to choose a favorite. 

Each sculpture that David creates takes anywhere from six to eight weeks to complete, and the process is fascinating. David starts building each sculpture with an armature made of metal rebar, which he then wraps in a metal mesh. This gives the sculpture its basic shape and acts as a skeleton. Designing the armature is the most important part of the sculpture since the concrete cannot take shape without an armature. When creating a sculpture, David says that most of his time is spent on this step. Once the armature has been completed, it is time to add the mortar and put the finishing touches on the sculpture. Two layers of mortar are added with an additional finishing coat. David even has tutorials on YouTube showing how he creates these masterpieces (here's one about the scorpion!).


Claudette in all her glory.

Since his first visit to Cayman 20 years ago, David says he's loved the whole island, but has an extra special place in his heart for the north side. He describes it as a place where everyone knows everyone, there is very little traffic, and no roundabouts. While the north side may not have all your typical tourist attractions, they do have a really cool sculpture park!

For his next project, David plans to create a sculpture of the national bird, the Cayman parrot. If you stop by to visit the park this winter, you might be able to catch up with David and his wife, Kathy. Since their house is on the property, David and Kathy usually step out to visit when they hear a car door slam or hear children laughing. They love meeting both locals and visitors to the island.

Davinoff’s Concrete Sculpture Garden is open to the public 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and it’s free! If you are looking for some really cool photo opportunities, stop by for a visit. You can find more information about David and the park on his website.

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Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park, located on the island’s north side, combines two of our very favorite things about Cayman—incredible natural beauty and rich history! John Lawrus is the General Manager of Botanic Park, and we recently had the honor of taking a tour of this incredible park with him.

John shared with us that Botanic Park, owned jointly by the Cayman Islands Government and The National Trust, is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. The park was opened by its namesake, Queen Elizabeth herself, in 1994. (John had the honor of meeting the Queen at the 2008 Chelsea Flower Show, where the park took home a Silver Medal!) When it first opened, the only completed attraction was the Woodland Trail.  Since then, the park has grown by leaps and bounds, encompassing 65 acres in total and boasting beautiful features like the Floral Colour Garden, the fascinating Heritage Garden, and award-winning orchids, plus it's home to the Blue Iguana Recovery Program through the National Trust. You can even spot some blues roaming throughout the park!

Originally from Canada, John moved to Cayman around 18 years ago to work in Botanic Park. He’s always had a passion for plants since childhood. Though he initially studied finance in school, the pull towards working with nature proved stronger than the pull towards numbers. He went back to school, attending the Niagara Parks Commission School of Horticulture, which is one of the most highly regarded educational tracks in the horticulture field. The coursework was intense, and John said that the students even had room inspections! But he knew the program provided unparalleled job opportunities in the field, so it was all worth it. After graduating, John worked at the UBC Botanical Garden in Vancouver before seeing a job opening in Cayman. From there, he's worked his way up from Garden Supervisor to Deputy General Manager to his current position as General Manager today.

John’s passion for preservation and his enthusiasm for the calming power of nature is contagious. As a bit of an “indoor girl” myself, I’m not usually drawn to learning about plant life on my own. But hearing John talk about the origin of certain trees, flowers, and uses for medicinal plants made me realize I've been missing out. I really enjoyed learning about which herbs can be used in teas to help with various ailments. John also told us the story of a particular tree that was knocked over by hurricane winds. The tree was able to withstand the damage and has continued growing, just in a new direction.

My personal favorite part of the park was the Heritage Garden, which pays homage to native plants that have played a huge role in Cayman’s history. (It's also the winner of the Silver Medal from the 2008 Chelsea Flower Show in London!) In addition to highlighting important species like the Silver Thatch Palm, it also includes fruit trees, a medicinal garden, plus an original Caymanian house, owned by the Rankine family circa 1900. John told us that eight members of the Rankine family lived in the cozy iron-wood home—it's a little hard to imagine today! Instead of having a lawn with grass, the home was surrounded by a sand yard, which has been replicated down to the white conch shells lining the pathway to the front door. There’s even a “caboose” kitchen, which is separate from the main house.

Silver Thatch Palm lines the roof of the Heritage House, which is decorated to match how it would have looked in the early 1900s.

As we walked through the park, John shared his favorite aspects of his job—getting to spend time in nature and the ability to provide a beautiful place for others to come and enjoy. He loves being able to work in a place that provides peace and relaxation for others. John says he especially loves the diversity of plant life in the park— beautifully landscaped areas located next to spots with a more “rugged” feel where the plants grow a little more freely.

Enjoy a stroll in the shade on the Woodland Trail. 

John is also incredibly proud of the work being done on the new Children’s Garden within the park. With much-appreciated support from all the Rotary Clubs across the island, construction on phase one began in December 2018, and the Garden Grow Zone was just recently completed. Once it’s finished, the Children's Garden will include awesome features like a sensory garden, splash pad, maze, observation tower, and more. As a father to a young daughter, John said he was very excited to help provide a place where kids can be kids—to play in the dirt, get a little sweaty, and just enjoy spending time outside. He said the design for the park kept children of all personalities in mind—from those who prefer to run around and crawl through tunnels to those who would rather take in their surroundings a little more quietly from a comfy seat. (If you're interested in keeping up with the Children's Park, follow Botanic Park on Facebook for more info!).

When he isn't taking care of the park, John enjoys spending time with his wife and daughter. He likes to relax by going fishing or spending any time around water (which, as we know, Cayman offers the best of all water-related activities!) He also lives on the north side of the island, and gave us a few hints on the best place to grab a bite in the area—he recommends Over the Edge Cafe and Kurt's Corner in Old Man Bay, which is "the truest pub on the island." He recommends even more highly that you get your lunch to-go and come eat it in the park.

A blue happily takes in some sun.

Next time you're on island, we can't recommend a visit to Botanic Park enough. John even says, it's "the most peaceful place on island," especially to take a walk, and who are we to argue with him? So pack yourself a picnic and come take it all in. And if you see John, be sure to ask him to show you his favorite plant in the park!

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If you’ve ever been to the Cayman Islands National Museum, you have seen the incredible exhibits and experienced the history of Cayman. Meet Brian Watler Jr, the man who is responsible for designing these amazing exhibits.

Brian Watler Jr. was born and raised in Cayman. His family has been living in Cayman for many generations spanning back to his great-great grandparents and beyond. Brian says his favorite thing about the island is the culture. When describing the culture, Brian stated, “We have a way of doing and saying things that is so unique. Every single district has its own ‘accent’; you can tell if someone grew up in North Side or George Town just by their accent. You can even tell if someone’s from Cayman Brac or Grand Cayman by their accent. For such a small island, the culture is extremely unique.” He has been able to turn his passion for the culture into a career working as a PR/Media and Design Specialist for the National Museum.

Brian describes the National Museum as the living connection to Cayman’s past. His view is that the museum allows current and future generations to experience the island’s unique cultural heritage. With a passion for both design and culture, Brian can think of no better fit for a career than the National Museum.

Brian’s journey with the National Museum began in 2015 when he interned for the museum to design their 25th Anniversary logo. They were so pleased with the design that they brought him on board to design the 25th Anniversary exhibition and publication. Since then, Brian has taken on his current role where he works to create press releases, update the museum’s social media and website, and other PR-related activities. However, his favorite part of the job is getting to use his design skills to create a cultural and historical experience for museum visitors. Brian says that while most people with a degree in graphic design get to design flyers and brochures, he gets to design exhibits!

Last year, the museum installed an exhibition titled, “Cayman Airways: Celebrating 50 Years of Our National Airline.” Designing this exhibition was extremely enjoyable for Brian. As a child, he always had dreams of becoming a pilot, and he still owns a collection of airplane models, a few of which are Cayman Airway custom-made models. Most of all, Brian enjoys the interactive nature of this exhibit. “What I really enjoy most about the exhibition is the exterior airplane fuselage—it’s as if you’re boarding the aircraft—then you enter the gallery and see this fascinating display of airplane models ‘flying’ in the case.” This exhibit gives an in-depth look into the history of Cayman aviation from its humble beginnings to now employing over 400 employees.

Not only does Brian design amazing exhibits for the museum, he also teaches Quadrille (Cayman’s traditional dance) to students at Edna M. Moyle Primary School. This is his second group that he has worked with to teach Quadrille. His first group of students won a Gold award at the National Children’s Festival of the Arts in 2012. In his free time, Brian is actively involved in helping out in his community and church. He loves to photograph the island and visit with the elders in his community to hear their stories. Brian’s passion for Cayman culture and his community is obvious. He is even going back to get his Master’s Degree in Marketing: Digital Marketing and Advertising since his work for the museum is so closely related to marketing.

With his passion and knowledge, we had to ask Brian what other activities were a must-do for Cayman visitors. He recommends Pedro St. James Castle, Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park, Cayman Crystal Caves and Cayman Turtle Centre. He believes all of these institutions are vital to understanding Cayman culture.

The next time you are on island, make sure to stop by the National Museum and learn more about the culture of Cayman and see some of Brian’s work!

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