Through a Caymanian expatriate’s eyes
A book by a Caymanian who has lived in England for the past 20 years recalls fond memories of days growing up in the district of Bodden Town.
On a recent trip back to Grand Cayman, Donna Evangeline Grech-Baxendale, 63, better known by friends and family as “Sally,” paints a picture of living overseas with its changing weather, urban and countryside scenery and bustling communities and compares it to the care-free way of life growing up in the Cayman Islands. Her book is titled, “My Days Growing Up in the Cayman Islands.”
Mrs. Grech-Baxendale has also written a book on her humble beginnings and traditions so that readers can get a glimpse of how Caymanians lived, made a living, worked hard and enjoyed a simpler way of life.
Outside of the book, Sally paints a picture of what it is like living in another country.
She left Cayman in 1983 with a boyfriend after going through a rough patch with her children’s father. While overseas, she got the opportunity to visit many states in America and Africa before settling in Manchester, England. Since then, she has made frequent trips back home to visit friends and family.
“We don’t know our destiny and what will happen in the future, or where we will die, so I just leave that in the hands of the Lord, but I do not have any intentions of returning to spend the rest of my life in the Cayman Islands,” she says. “I built a life in England, I have my home, friends and even a burial spot there, but I will always cherish Cayman, and the family and friends I have left behind.”
She has always been interested in writing a book about her childhood, and she got the opportunity to put it together after visiting the Bodden Town Mission House to learn more about two favorite great aunts on a trip home in 2012.
A look back
Sally’s book touches on the type of education she received growing up.
“I left school without high qualifications but still learned to read, write, spell and gain a trade. Today the children are very fortunate – they have access to all the new technology and should grab every opportunity offered to them,” she said.
“Even the games played today are different. Back in the day, we enjoyed the beach, skipped rope, climbed trees, played hopscotch and caught wild birds. We explored caves, forged the Mission Pond for little ducks and hickatees and collected broken glass to make ‘moonshine babies.’ It’s such a shame that some of these attractions we enjoyed as children are now enclosed.”
She adds, “Crime is making Cayman look bad. I just got back from the Brac, which reminded me of what Cayman used to be like back in the day – laid back and carefree. We had little crime those days…When I read the newspapers today, I see all that is changing.
Life in England
Living in Manchester, Sally misses her friends, but most of all her two daughters.
“In Manchester, the scenery is out of this world, and the people are lovely. I have no problem. It’s like a home away from home. People in Manchester ask if I am descendant of Scottish or Irish because of the accent, but when I tell them Cayman, it makes me feel proud to be a Caymanian.”
For those Caymanians who want to live abroad, Sally says, “Follow your dreams.
“From a young child growing up, I saw it as my destiny.”
Sally’s book can be found at the Cayman Islands National Museum, Hurley’s and Books & Books.