Holy crap it's fabulous to live on a tropical island during Carnival time! (I'm saying as it's all just beginning.)
At work, the plant manager announced that there would be no overtime Friday and Monday would be a half day (Tuesday/Christmas and Wednesday/Boxing Day we have off already) to a crowd full of cheers. I had been sick this week and still had a headache and stuffy nose, so I took some meds and a nap in order to get ready to go out. I awoke still a bit sick, but partying made all of it disappear. For real- I think it's the best medicine.
We started at Fat Tuesday because it was early, and headed over to the terminal. "The terminal" is the bus/ferry terminal, which happens to be lined with dozens of tiny stands all selling the same beers, snacks, and sodas. Friday night, a dj gets the music going, and everybody is just liming, having a good time. The music was mostly reggae (the clubs here tend to play more soca), but a lot of it was upbeat enough to dance to, and some had a more latin beat. [Quick music primer: Reggae tends to be a bit slower or more calm music that often has a religious/moral/political message. Some songs can still be danced to, but others are for chilling. Soca is very upbeat fast-paced dancing music that tends to be mostly about partying, carnival, bacchanal, jouvert morning, etc. This is what we work out to at the gym I go to. I love dancing to this the way I love dancing to reggeton more than pop back home. Calypso is also popular here, although it is not really good dance music. It is very political and the revolutionary/humanist/moralist/socialist/anarchist in me thinks it's about the greatest thing since sliced bread.] If you're a tourist who just wants to go talk to locals and chill with them, maybe dance a little on a Friday night, the terminal is probably the right place to start. (Later, the strip might be better.) It's cool even for females- the guys were pretty respectful and not creepy, although some of that could be that it was still early and there were still a few kids around.
Next, we headed to Party Central. During Carnival time, one of the streets in town is blocked off and becomes a huge street party. They have a dj or bands there every night and people are just having a ball in the middle of the street. (During the day, it's just a blocked off street.) It was early and the party hadn't started so much, so we went to Potential, where Grandmasters were playing. Throughout the night, I met a few dozen friends of one of my friends. Every 5 steps and she was introducing me to somebody else. I felt like I was at home with Lisa! The funny thing was that I was acquiring "nicknames" every few seconds. Some of them were not so cute (whitey, although that's not meant as any sort of insult), some cute (butterscotch), and some bland (Washington, because everybody wanted to know that I was from DC). About the first two- yes, I'm frequently about the only white person at most of the places we go. It has never been an issue though (with me or anybody else). I think that in the US, we overanalyze things and have different perceptions than people in St. Kitts. For example, in St. Kitts, when people are talking about each other, they might say something like "the fat one," "the lady with a man-head," or something else that we'd take as an insult in the US. In St. Kitts, those types of descriptions are judgement-free. That somebody is fat is not bad or good it just is. That somebody is white or "clear" or black isn't bad, it just is. That being said, there are still plenty of guys who give this amazed "she can dance" comment to me or my friends after we dance, and I've been led to believe it's because of the stereotype that white people can't dance. Back to the story- we left Potential for Party Central to see Small Axe. I had a blast! I'm going to admit that some of the excitement is that I knew people. It probably wouldn't have been as much fun as just a pair or few people, but I knew enough people to keep moving around the crowd and got to dance with a lot of different friends. The party just kept going. I have to admit, that I'm amazed at how big the party still was at 4:30am, when I decided to call it quits. I had energy to keep going, but we were into "repeat mode." The bands here have a few songs that everybody really loves, so like a top 40 radio station, they tend to repeat them every hour.
Woke up in the (almost afternoon) feeling like P. Diddy. Grabbed my (sun)glasses, I'm out the door, I'm gonna hit this city... I got "breakfast" at El Fredo's, a restaurant on the Bay Road between Basseterre and Bird Rock that I've always wanted to try, but it's only open for lunch and I work most of the days it's open. The food was authentic food, but in a sit-down setting. It's got a "view" of the main road, and a beat-up neighborhood, but the place it pretty covered in vines and greenery so that you feel like you're in a little oasis. The food wasn't anything special, but it wasn't bad and was actually authentic. I grabbed some golden apple juice at Redi Chicken. (Golden apple isn't an apple, but a fruit more similar to a mango.) Eh. Next, I hit town to try to pick up my jouvert package. Jouvert morning is the biggest carnival even on the island. All the music talks about it and I've heard it said that Kittitians are either at jouvert morning, or waiting for the next one. The music here certainly supports that statement. On jouvert morning, people in troops all dress in the same costumes and go dancing in the streets. Each troop has a band/dj and a sponsor who get together to organize it all. I had to stop by the digicell (sponsor) tent to pick up my package that contained all of the items for my "costume" for jouvert. On that errand, I also picked up some strawberry cheesecake ice cream from the pink-and-white-striped ice cream place on Fort Street. (I'd always wanted to go there, but it's always closed.) That was easily the best ice cream I've had on the island. I highly recommend it. I also went to get some gifts for some cousins I'm going to see soon. Since it's not a cruise ship day, a minimal amount of stores are open in Port Zante and the Amina Craftmarket isn't open either. I did see a new art gallery on the other side of the National Museum building, and one of the artists was there to show off his work. The stuff there is very nice, but out of my price range for what I was looking for. I got into a debate with one of the shop owners in Port Zante. He's seen me a bunch of times, which is helpful in that I get a "locals discount" which basically means he'll take the time to let me bargain instead of giving me the listed price for tourists. I was looking for stuff that was actually made in St. Kitts, and not just handmade elsewhere with a beach theme and sold in St. Kitts. His comment: you can tell them it was made in St. Kitts and they won't know. He only had a few items actually made in St. Kitts, which I find a bit sad, but he does recommend the Amina Craft market as those items are actually made here. Some of the materials come from elsewhere (example, they buy his jewelry, break it, and use the beads to create their own), but most of the stuff there actually has island labor in it. I'm not a jewelry connoisseur, but I can't tell the difference in the jewelry. That being said, I'd rather buy from them (or someplace like Caribelle Batik) that uses actual island labor to create something unique, than a shop that sells some generic item that happens to say St. Kitts when sold here, but says the name of any other island or beach when sold there. I think it says something about commercialism and how the tourism industry has caused places to lose their character. If the tourists all wanted locally-made items to remember their unique St. Kitts (or wherever) experience, that would be what the stores stocked. Instead, the tourists all buy the same crap everywhere (generic t-shirts with offensive slogans, half-mugs that tout how expensive the vacation was so that only half a mug was affordable, plastic mass-manufactured magnets, imprinted plastic lighters, light up keychains with "your name" on it). I'm not saying I've never bought that stuff or that I have anything against it as a gift for somebody who wasn't on the vacation. However, I do generally at least try to get something that is made wherever I go instead, and the ratio of generic foreign-manufactured stuff to unique stuff is pretty high.