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Gordon Barlow

Columnists > Gordon Barlow

Gordon Barlow

Making Friends As An Expat

Posted by: Carole on Sunday August 19, 2012 (20:29:03)   (1830 Reads)
Gordon Barlow
I’m always surprised to read and hear grumbles from expats about the temporary nature of friendships they make in their temporary homes. “We no sooner get friendly with people than we or they up-sticks and head off to somewhere else!” Especially in these days of easy worldwide communications, that kind of thinking doesn’t make sense. Surely people who say that – or even think it – are a tiny minority. One must hope.

My wife and I tend to keep our friends – whether couples or individuals. Of course it’s possible that we’ve just been lucky all our lives, but I don’t think so. Some friends have dropped away, and that’s natural. We regret the dropouts, but there are many others who have lasted the distance. I wonder if most readers of this column will identify with our experiences.

David was one of my cabin-mates on the boat to England in 1963, and we shared a flat (with four others) in Earl’s Court that winter.    more ...


Columnists > Gordon Barlow

Gordon Barlow

Newcomers to Cayman

Posted by: Carole on Thursday July 19, 2012 (12:06:33)   (2392 Reads)
Gordon Barlow
New middle-class expats in Cayman often arrive with stars in their eyes, expecting a perfect tropical paradise. The facilities are excellent, the wages are high (which means that savings are high by home standards), and the sun, sea and sand are indeed as per the brochures. The social life is whatever you want it to be. There are more burglaries and robberies than one expects in a community of 50,000, but you have to be unlucky to be personally affected. Just remember to lock your doors and windows.

However... Like all paradises, ours has a venomous serpent – and it feeds on expatriates. I call it the Immigration Monster. It’s an all-powerful beast that controls the lives of all Cayman residents to an extent that America’s Homeland Security bureaucracy can only dream of. It comprises our government’s Immigration Department – the largest state agency, stuffed with native Caymanian xenophobes – and several related executive committees of political cronies who are also mostly xenophobes.    more ...


Columnists > Gordon Barlow

Gordon Barlow

Mixed Marriages In The Cayman Islands

Posted by: Carole on Sunday June 17, 2012 (02:08:55)   (1722 Reads)
Gordon Barlow
Mixed marriages in the Cayman Islands are not the same as the mixed marriages of my youth. My parents had a mixed marriage, beginning in 1938 in Dad’s mother’s home town of Toowoomba, Australia. It was always an embarrassment to his mother and her side of the family, and her friends. Dad’s cousin and boyhood chum strongly disapproved, and refused at the last moment to be the Best Man at the wedding. Twenty years after the wedding, a visiting bishop stopped Grandma after a church service and asked, “Is your son still living with that woman?” That woman never forgave the Catholic Church for the disdain that some of its prominent members displayed towards her and her Protestant children.

Later in my life, I learned that the term “mixed marriage” also described unions of light-skinned persons and dark-skinned ones. In other places, ancestry was more important than colour or religion. In the USA, a mixed marriage was between a person whose ancestry was (as far as was known) 100% Caucasian and one whose ancestry was not.    more ...


Columnists > Gordon Barlow

Gordon Barlow

The Native Caymanians

Posted by: Carole on Tuesday May 15, 2012 (01:54:06)   (2236 Reads)
Gordon Barlow
In last month's column (my first) I mentioned the tendency of expats of all classes and origins to feel an affinity with one another. We share a contempt for the anti-immigrant policies and attitudes of what I call The Immigration Monster – the Civil Service Immigration Department, the Committees and Boards packed with political cronies, the MLAs (elected Members of the Legislative Assembly, our parish parliament) and of course the solid minority bloc of native-Caymanian voters who keep the policies and practices in place.

It was not always thus. Until recent decades, Caymanians welcomed immigrants. The very first settlers probably landed around the time of the English navy’s capture of Jamaica from Spanish soldiers in 1655. There were no indigenous people in Cayman, and it was a natural refuge for escaped African slaves and English indentured servants, and deserters from the English and Spanish armies and navies. (Spanish troops and planters had occupied Jamaica for six or seven generations before the English capture – enslaving and exterminating the local Arawak natives.)    more ...


Columnists > Gordon Barlow

Gordon Barlow

Cayman’s Expats – 57 Varieties, And Counting

Posted by: Carole on Friday April 13, 2012 (00:14:28)   (4318 Reads)
Gordon Barlow
One of the most thrilling things about being an expat is mixing with foreigners in one’s everyday life – people whose customs and cultures and national histories are different from our own. My small island (50,000 people, 80 square miles) is home to at least 50 nationalities – or 60, or 70, or more; the number changes all the time. Altogether, expats outnumber natives by two to one.

Until fifty years ago the word “expat” barely existed here. There were virtually no transient workers. Strangers who came by, for one reason or another, usually stayed. Men (it was mostly men) married native-borns, or didn’t marry them, and became part of the native community. For 300 years after the first settlements, by drifters and vagabonds in the 17th Century when there was no Law closer than Jamaica, Caymanian fishermen from time to time set up second-homes (and sometimes second-families...) elsewhere in the region. Gulf Coast towns in the US, Cuba’s lesser islands, Jamaica, and the Caribbean coast of Central America – all of those places have citizens who can trace ancestors to Cayman.    more ...