A Travellerspoint blog

March 2012

Hanging around

I've been trying to get to all the restaurants on the island, one at a time. Recently, I went to Star Chinese, downtown Basseterre. The food was ok, but it was not what I'm used to in the US.

It's not quite a restaurant, but it is a food truck. Queen's Ice Cream truck is usually parked in Independence Square. I asked the guy serving ice cream what his favorite is, and he said "sorrel." I'm thinking sorrel as in the green herb and thinking that it's not going to be that great. In St. Kitts, what they call sorrel is roselle (hibiscus) elsewhere. It still didn't taste great, but it wasn't as bad as I expected. This week was a short week. I worked, got the house together, and went to the gym, which is moving from Sugar Bay to somewhere in Silver Reef. I also got to stop by Mrs. Richardson's, one of the other lunch places by work. This one has some seating, both table and bar, and has a restaurant-style kitchen where the food is made. It is also identifiable from the road as a food establishment, unlike Roy's. I got about the same amount of food for about the same price as I did at Roy's, which is to say that it is a good deal. I got more variety in the takeout container- rice and beans, lettuce salad, radish salad, mashed potatoes and roasted veggies, but it was mostly beans and rice. It wasn't bad, but I think I like the food at Roy's better. Since I went to Island Bakeries for breakfast (they have good breads popovers), I have now been to all 3 places up the block from work.

This week, I also learned a bit about the Kittitian concept of "open." I had been told that the place in town to go get a blank CD was Karibhanas, by the circle. I tried one day after work, but they weren't open. They close at 5, which in my mind, means they're open until 5. The next day, I went back at 4:45. They were already closed and there was a guy locking the door. I pleaded with the guy at the door to let me buy just that one thing. I'm pretty sure he only let me in because I knew what I wanted, it was at the front, and it was only one thing.

I'm also facing that with the book store. I went to a tiny store, that is better described as a stationery store, by Pelican mall. They sold less than a dozen different books. There is a place more towards the main road that is an actual book store. I have yet to catch it when it is open. I can't figure out what their hours are as they aren't posted on the door. They seem to be closed every day when I get off of work, and are more certainly closed on Sundays when I'm wandering around town.

There are some "businesses" that are open a lot. For one, there are always guys selling bags of sugar cane off the main road by the central bank. For 5EC, you can get a bag with a few stick of cane in them. One of my colleagues and I split a bag. Fresh sugar cane is pretty good. It's a little difficult to get the liquid out of as you have to chew it without getting all of the fibrous part too, but it's good.

Another thing that is "always open" are the trees. There are trees full of all sorts of tropical fruits all over the island. Many of the trees are free for the picking. One lady from work showed me where there are tamarind trees by one of the circles near Frigate Bay. She showed me how to tell which pods were ripe for picking and which ones weren't. It was very cool to be able to just walk up to a tree and get a fruit.

Queen's Ice Cream

Queen's Ice Cream

Posted by spsadventures 16:00 Archived in St Kitts/Nevis Comments (0)

Swimming the distance

Today was the date of the annual St. Kitts/Nevis swim. This year, they were swimming to Nevis, against the current, which is different (and harder than) previous years. A friend and I went to watch.

We started out on the St. Kitts peninsula, and arrived just in time to see people in the water for the race. There were some small boats that were taking spectators to Nevis, but by the time we reached them, they had all left. We spent a little time hanging out at Reggae Beach. There is a business there that rents kayaks, sailboats, and other similar craft, and the friend I was with knew the owner (as he knows all the expats on the island). I got to see her pet monkeys ride her pet goat like a person riding a horse. I also got to see the HUGE pig/boar animal she has there. This thing is probably 6 feet long and and fatter than any person I've ever seen, even on those tv shows. The pig-thing was just sleeping under some boats on a rack. It wasn't chained, penned, or otherwise limited as to where it could go, although I'm not sure what you'd use to pen something like that in anyway. We hung out a while, but then we left to make it to the “Sea Bridge” in time to cross and see the end of the race. The Sea Bridge consists of 2 boats that ferry back and forth between the St. Kitts peninsula and Nevis. They don't run them both at the same time, but there are 2 boats. The boats have room for about 15 cars each, and the cars were already lined up by the time we got there. It was hilarious watching them load the cars though. There was a drag race in Nevis that afternoon, and a bunch of the cars were trying to make the Sea Bridge. They were so low though, that they had issues going up the ramp onto the ferry. One of the ferry attendants was trying to manually lift the car (or at least the bumper) so that they cars would go on. Also, they were putting down planks to try to raise the car, but they were holding the planks in place with their feet. Every time they moved their feet out of the way, (just a moment before they would have been run over) the boards would shift. Plus, the racecars were designed to go forward and not backwards. They didn't really have a lot of power in that direction. Between the issues with the racecars and the fact that there were more cars in line that could fit, they spent a lot of time loading (and unloading, and reloading) all of the cars. Eventually, we were on our way. The ride itself is pretty short, and we were soon on the other side. The friend I was with seems to know everybody who lives in St. Kitts. He was able to get a ride for us from the Sea Bridge dock over to Oualie Beach, which is where the swimmers were arriving. We missed the first few, but were able to see plenty still coming in. After the race, there was a bit of a party going on. I got introduced to about half the people there as my friend knew them all. When things calmed down on Oualie beach, we rode one of the boats back to St. Kitts and grabbed lunch at Reggae beach. I've written before about “island time,” and Reggae Beach bar is no exception. In fact, they have t-shirt advertising Island Time as “slow down and rush.” We ate a leisurely lunch with some people I had been introduced to earlier, one of whom had completed the swim in the morning. The food was decent for a beach bar- not impressive, but not bad either. We must have been there for hours though, and I was definitely getting fidgety, as the whole “relaxing” thing isn't really my cup of tea. We then moved over to Spice Mill, where they had a Cuban bongo band (for lack of a better description) was playing. The music was generally nice, and the atmosphere was very chill.

After a while though, I really had to get back home to get stuff done.

Finish Line at Oualie Beach

Finish Line at Oualie Beach


Loading the Sea Bridge

Loading the Sea Bridge


View from Sea Bridge

View from Sea Bridge

Posted by spsadventures 16:00 Archived in St Kitts/Nevis Comments (0)

In the water

I started my day by going to the “water aerobics” class at my gym (Sugar Bay). It wasn't really aerobics- my heart rate never really got up there, but it was good muscle work and it was fun. The instructor did a good job of using the water as resistance (for increased muscle work) and using it as a flotation aid (for jumping-type moves that are difficult on land). It was cute that she kept trying to motivate us by telling us that we need to work hard to get a body like Michelle Obama. Apparently, she is the standard of fitness that everybody here wants to achieve. After class, I hung out at the pool with a couple of the other ladies and even got a few laps in.

On my way home, I tried to stop in town to pick up some things I needed. Because it was Saturday and there were no cruise ships in, a lot of the shops were closed. The bookstore I've been trying to get to was closed, the souvenir shop with the jams was closed, even most of Port Zante was closed.

There was a little hole-in-the-wall bakery, Fancy loaf, that was open. I stopped in because I was pretty famished. I asked the guy behind the counter what is favorite pastry from the display case was, and he pointed to something with cherries on top that looked delicious. I was excited until he called it a danish, as I'm not really a big fan of danishes because they're usually too dry for me. I got it anyway and eh even heated it up for me. Yum! It reminded me more of a cinnabun than a danish in that it was moist, had just he right chewy/fluffy texture, and was the right level of sweet. I was very happy with my choice and would recommend it to anybody. I didn't really see that much today, but I did get a good workout and a lot of sun, so I took a nice afternoon nap. I went to be relatively early because I had to get up early the next morning to meet a friend and go to Nevis.

Fancy Loaf Bakery

Fancy Loaf Bakery

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Party like a pirate

One day this week, I didn't get a chance to pack my lunch. I know that a lot of the factory workers go someplace to pick up food, so I asked about it. Apparently, there are about 3 places up the block from the factory where they go. One of them, Roy's, was most highly recommended. Roy's is not easy to find unless you know exactly what you're looking for. It is a home bathroom-sized room in a larger pink building. The only sign out front is a write-on board titled “Menu” that didn't have anything written on it the day I went. There was a picnic table or two out front, but no other seating, as Roy's is aimed at people working at the nearby factories who are all coming for takeout. The day I went, there was a painting crew covered in pain sitting on the tables. I ignored their shouts of how much they loved me, and went in. (Side note- please don't get the impression that all island guys say obnoxious things whenever a woman walks by. There are most certainly many who do, but most of the guys I've met aren't like that.) Inside is a small buffet counter. They had dumplings, sweet potatoes, pasta, some meats, and a couple kinds of rice. I asked for something vegetarian and was handed a large take-out container with a small section of salad, a small section of mashed sweet potatoes with some other veggies, and a large section of vegetable pasta. I think at Wegman's, my meal would have been about $15. At Roy's it was 10 EC, which is under $4. For comparison, a regular jar of peanut butter on St. Kitts is about 12-20 EC. For the amount of food I got, Roy's was a great deal. It wasn't bad, either. It most certainly wasn't gourmet, but it was tasty and homey. The quality was about the same as if I had packed my own lunch (although the quantity was more). I would go there again.

The ladies at work are very honest and straightforward. Apparently my pants were a little tight in some places today, and they had a whole conversation about my weight. Thanks guys. While most people in the US would be offended, and I think that conversation would only be had by people wanting to offend, I get the impression that the topic is standard acceptable fare here, at least based on how they talk with/about each other. The benefit of having this conversation was that it led one of the ladies to offer to take me out on Friday night. Here, they call it “liming.” She told me to “get dressed up all sexy” and meet her at Port Zante. We started at Mapau, which is a casino where Friday night is Bingo night. Unlike in the US, Bingo here is played by people of all ages. I hadn't played bingo, except in elementary school, so I was surprised at how much concentration and focus it took. For each round, we had 6 boards, and had to dot in the called numbers in a certain pattern. It took less effort to dot all of the numbers, even if they were irrelevant, but then that made the pattern harder to identify. Just marking the relevant numbers took more up-front concentration, but then it was easy to see when you were getting close to winning. Neither of us won anything, but it was fun. Next stop, was the casino downstairs, which had slot machines. The machines only take dollars, not EC, but there is a counter where you can trade if you don't have USD. Apparently, you are entitled to a free drink if you're playing slots. My friend was going through her money, looking for a waitress to bring her a drink, but only the casino security and mechanic people were around for the longest time. Finally, she got her drink (something pineappley) and got me a drink. Then, she started winning. At one point, she was up $20, and decided to cash out. Of course, the machine ran out of tokens in the middle of the cash out. We hit the service button and waited. Now, there were waitresses everywhere, but the service guys were nowhere to be found. Eventually one came and took care of the machine for her and we finished at the casino. We wandered over to Fat Tuesday, an outdoor bar, also in Port Zante. That night was post-finals, or spring break, or something because they were throwing a big party for the college students. They had a large tent up and a DJ was playing hits from the USA. They weren't current hits, and they weren't good dance music. They were mostly the songs that might get played intermittently at a wedding or bar-mitzvah so that people can get on the floor and sing together because everybody knows all of the words. Despite the music choice, the students were bopping away. A couple who looked like they had taken ballroom dancing lessons together were even pulling lift moves. It made us a little nervous to see a drunk guy lifting a drunk girl over his head, but hey, it's a college party. The locals (and I) were standing at the edge, watching. A student came to invite us all to dance, but I think that it really was a party just for the college students. When we were ready to dance, we headed over to Cloud 9. Cloud 9 is a nightclub upstairs that I've passed in the day and never noticed before. They have several different rooms with several different Caribbean types of music. We went to a few different rooms and ran into more people from work. Ultimately, we ended up spending most of the night in the Reggae room. Overall I had a good time, but there was a funny incident. I was tapped on the arm buy a guy who then immediately left. I'm almost always willing to dance with anybody for one song, so when he came back and actually asked to dance, I danced with him. Several songs later, after having thanked him and headed back to dance with my friend, I found myself still dancing with him as he just wasn't getting the message. The whole time, he had been trying to talk with me, which was humorous on it's own. I couldn't really hear over the music, it was difficult to figure out his accent, and despite my constant reply of “what?” to everything he said, he still kept trying. I'm pretty sure he was telling me that his family is from St. Maarten and that he owns land. I'm not quite sure why he was telling me that, maybe that's a pickup line in St. Kitts. In any case, my friend and I left the room for a while. When we came back into the reggae room, he tried to start dancing with me again, but I didn't even let him hold my hand because we were done. So, he sent his friend over to ask me. My friend saw that, and advised me not to dance with him to avoid a repeat situation, so I didn't. He didn't take it well. He put his middle finger up at my friend, which I promptly reached over and put down. How rude! Later, a guy with dreads who had a stereotypical odor to him came over to dance, and I danced with him for a while. Unlike the other guys,he was very polite, left some space, and the only time he talked was to ask if I was having a good time and to tell me that he was. While we were dancing, the middle-finger guy tried to also dance with me. Upon (polite, even when I probably shouldn't have been) rejection, he and his friend (the first guy) started yelling at my friend “why you give her to the rastaman?” as if I was something to give away and as if they hadn't been totally rude while the other guy was very polite. She was just laughing at them, but we did duck out for a bit because the yelling was getting annoying. The club closes at 2, at which point people head over to The Strip, but we headed home instead. It was a fun night and I had more energy, but my friend's husband had looked tired for quite a while and I didn't want to press it with him. Also, I'm not sure that there is a diner open when the clubs let out.

Mapau

Mapau

Posted by spsadventures 16:00 Archived in St Kitts/Nevis Comments (0)

Back to a Pirate's life

I was in the US a while, and now I'm back in St. Kitts. I'm in the factory, working, during the day. Afterwards, I generally go to the gym at Sugar Bay and/or do errands. The trainer at Sugar Bay hasn't gotten that much better, but he's still hilarious and keeps me motivated. I can say that if you're looking to have a good time and get in a workout, the gym at Sugar Bay is a pretty good deal.

I've noticed a few differences between now and my previous trip. First, I am not being bit by mosquitoes as much. At first, I was chalking it up to the mosquito soap I bought and have been using. Then, I realized that the ladies at the gym weren't dousing themselves in Off, like they were during my last trip. I think that (for some unknown reason) the mosquitoes aren't as bad now as they were then. Don't get me wrong- I still have some bites, but they're not all over everywhere all the time. Second, there's a new song on the radio with the chorus "yo ho ho and a bottle of rum." Every time I hear it, I crack up.

Tonight, I started my weekend by finally getting back to the beach and taking a short walk in the sand. I was on the wrong side of the island to see the good sunset, but it was still very pleasant and calming- a great start.

I was too lazy to cook, so I picked up food at Ciao Italian Restaurant in Frigate Bay, not really expecting much out of an Italian restaurant in St. Kitts. I should have. The gorgonzola sauce was good, but nothing special. However, their homemade gnocchi is to die for. They are soft, melt-in-your-mouth pillows of potatoey goodness. Seriously- they rank amongst the best gnocchi I've ever had, even better than some of the gnocchi I've had handmade by Italian grandmothers. Also, I got very quick service, especially for St. Kitts. I have to say that this is definitely some place I will be back to.

I'm staying in Basseterre now, so it's a bit of a different neighborhood, but at least where I am can't be that dangerous. At 9 pm on Friday night there were a bunch of kids being noisy outside. I looked, and there were about 20 teenagers doing aerobics, abs, and other exercises outside on the lawn by one of my windows. It was actually pretty cool to see them spend their Friday night that way. If I didn't feel so old, I might have tried to go join them.

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