A Travellerspoint blog

May 2012

Green Valley Festival

This weekend was a long weekend, so I wasn't too worried about sleep- yet. Sunday, I got invited to a beach party with some friends. They go to the beach to find a spot in the woods to lime. Nobody went in/near the water. In the woods, they set up a fire to cook a pot of chicken and rice; a truck running 120 to a full stereo system, amp, mic and all; a table to play dominoes on; and a tarp to nap on. When I got there in the afternoon, nobody was napping. Most people were just chilling or playing dominoes, which I partook in. It was a pretty calm party, but I met some cool people. After, I grabbed a quick nap, and then was off to the real fun. Around 10:30 pm, I headed over to the Cayon area and met up with one of my girl friends. As she introduced me to her friends I felt like I was in a St. Kitts version of Snow White. She was the only other female with a crew of 7 guys, each of whom had dwarf a name like Smiley, Funky, or Dude. We went to the Green Valley Pub, which is where the action was at. The Pub is not at all what I think of when I think of a pub. There is a little room out front, about 10ft by 15 ft that reminds me of a pub, but with seating for 4. The rest of the place is definitely a night club. Ironically, they had a DJ there until about 2am, and not a lot of people were dancing. the few who were, weren't really on the dance floor. Some of what the DJ was playing was "regular music," some was US pop music, and some was some weird stuff. Most of it was good for dancing, so I didn't really understand. At about 2, the band came on. At that point, everybody hit the floor. The band is local- the Grandmasters- and they're pretty good. I danced with my friends literally all night and into the morning. The sun came up and everybody was still dancing. At this point, I was both exhausted and excited. Whit Monday is jouvert day (here, pronounced joo-vay). I had a friend get me into his troupe, meaning I got a t-shirt, got to get all painted up, and got drinks at the troupe's tent. Basically, there is a big tractor that drags around a 2-story "float" that carries the band, just like there was on May Day/Labour Day. The band blasts music all morning as they are dragged around town in a big square. (This band knew about 5 songs and kept playing them over and over.) Everybody comes out into the street and jams. For a block ahead and behind of the band float, the streets are crammed with people dancing. It's a little difficult to move, so the whole procession moves at a pace of around 20 feet per minute. We spent hours going up the hill, over, down the hill, across the ocean side of town, back up the hill and repeat. It was so much fun. Everybody was in a great mood. To the extent that some people were drunk and rowdy, there were cops in the mashup of people to put an end to it right away. Most of the wilder people were in front of the float, which is where I was most of the morning. A lot of families with small kids were towards the back of the float. I got to dance with a lot of ladies from work, a lot of random people, and a bunch of my friends. However, the non-stop dancing since the night before did start to wear on me. At some point a little before noon, my legs were ready to give way. I was dehydrated even though I had gone through a couple bottles of water and had splashed some water from the fountains on myself. I threw in the towel before the wet I was promised. Supposedly, some time after I left, the fire department turns on water and sprays (nicely) the whole crowd. Actually, the reason I have no pictures of my own is that I didn't want to ruin my camera in the water. As soon as I got home, I passed out for a good 2 hours. After the nap and a shower (where I apparently didn't even get all of the paint washed off) I debated going back for the afternoon parade, but knew that if I went, I'd be partying all night again with my friends. I wasn't sure that my sore legs could take it and I didn't think that work on Tuesday would be so easy after 2 nights of partying and no sleep. Plus, the sun had taken a toll on me as well. I regret not going back, at least for a little, but I also probably made the right decision for my health.

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The start of a holiday weekend

Friday night, I saw MIB3 in 3D in the theater here. It was the first show I'd seen there. Honestly, it's like a regular movie theater in the states. There were average-type seats, a regular-sized screen, and a normal sound system. It was nicely air conditioned- I was glad I wore pants, I wouldn't have been upset to be wearing long sleeves. After the movie, we got soft-serve ice cream at the place right next to the theater. It was very watered down and didn't have a strong flavor.

Next, we ended up driving the road that goes around the island. Technically, we were trying to get to black rocks and passed it because it's hard to find in the dark. Regardless of our intentions, I was running low on gas by the time we got back. Fortunately, there is at least one gas station that is open late. After 11pm, you get to pump yourself, which is something I miss, so I was happy about that. Also, this one appeared to take credit cards, which none of the others I've been to do. (Caution- I didn't actually try a card because I was already prepared with cash, but they did have a sign for it.)

Finally, we ended up by the strip, just chilling. I got home pretty late, which seems to be the standard way to do Friday night/ Saturday mornings here.

Of course, that didn't help me want to get up and go to water aerobics on Saturday, but I did. It was fun, but I really liked the pool for what we're doing than the ocean.

Despite being tired after not getting a lot of sleep and also working out, I didn't nap. I showered and met a friend downtown who took me over to Mission. The church in Mission was having a food-fest and Whit Monday event. I was absolutely starving, so I got some Johnny Cakes (basically deep-fried white bread dough) and conkee (you'll have to excuse my spelling). The conkee reminded me of a tamale in that it was a whole bunch of things mixed up, wrapped in an almond leaf, and steamed. I'm not totally sure what was in there, but it was good, whatever it was. It was also pretty filling. On the menu, I noticed monkey. Yes, they eat the monkeys here, just like people in the states eat deer. I didn't get that. Later, I got boiled peanuts (had the same texture as kidney beans, but the ones I got were so salty I couldn't really taste a lot of the flavor), and sand-dried peanuts (they cook them in the sand somehow, and they come out with a very popcorn-ey flavor). In addition to food, they had entertainment. There was a Maypole that some kids danced around and wove different patterns with the ribbons. There were carnival-style dancers accompanied by a drummer and a guy playing what appeared to be a glass soda bottle, but sounded like a flute. They also had a "drag show," followed by a band. The drag show was really just guys in dresses on a stage. There wasn't the glamour I usually associate with a drag show. Also, as this was a church function, the guys were mostly wearing church dresses and not anything too risque. It was a ton of fun to hoot and holler at them though. When the band was playing, and even earlier, when they just had a CD playing, there was a guy dancing to the music. He was very alone and acting a bit odd. At first I thought he was drunk, but the people I was with told me that he's crazy. Based on some of his behavior, I wonder if he was autistic. It really makes me wonder if people here recognize the signs and know what to do about it. In the US there is a big fight for acceptance and understanding right now, and I'm not sure if that is a big enough issue in St. Kitts to even make the radar at this point. What did make the radar is "men," which I found amusing. There are a lot of groups fighting for opportunities and rights for women, but not a lot focused on men. One guy had a shirt on (that I also later saw on somebody else a different day) that said "Save our men. Children need fathers too." It was definitely thought-provoking. Overall, I feel like I got a dose of culture today. I'm not quite sure how somebody who was just visiting and didn't know anybody would get find out about a festival like this, but if you're ever visiting and get invited- go.

Maypole dancers

Maypole dancers


Church Drag Show

Church Drag Show

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Another week in paradise

This week was pretty rainy. I missed the gym a little because of it.

One night, I was not only too lazy to gym it, but also to cook. It was rough day at work AND my internet was pretty intermittent. So, I headed over to Rituals Sushi in Frigate Bay because I hadn't been there. I asked to make sure they had wifi before I sat down, and they just said that I could use Rituals Coffee's wifi, so they sat me at a table at that end of the restaurant. The food was unremarkable, but the service was fast. This is the only time I've ever thought that the food in St. Kitts came too fast. I wasn't done with my appetizer and I already had my meal. I ate and got stuff done. At the end, they mentioned to me that they're not supposed to let people bring laptops in because they're a "dining" restaurant. Okaaay. Maybe the exception was because they were empty, I was sitting outside on a wet night (although no rain was falling at this time), or maybe they always make that exception but they have to say that. I don't know, but I do know that next time my internet is down and I'm hungry, I'll just go to Rituals Coffee or someplace else.

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Life's a beach when you live by the ocean

Last week was pretty uneventful. I finally stopped by the park in my neighborhood. It's small and nice.

Again, a relatively standard week, although it rained a lot more than it usually does. The ladies at work did keep bringing me tropical foods. I got to try jujubes and a monkey cherry, finally made my mango chili, and was introduced to cocoplum. I still haven't been able to break open the stinking toe I was given the other week. I've banged on it with big pots and it just won't break. I need a hammer.

This Friday, I went liming with a friend from work. We started out at Cloud 9 in Port Zante. For some reason, they had a 10EC cover charge. While that's super-cheap compared to the US cover charges, I'm not sure why they had it. It could be because there was a band playing- I don't know. The band was fun and the dancing was fun, but at some point we wanted to check out the band playing at a bar on The Strip. On our way out of Cloud 9, we ran into another friend from work who was going to head over to The Strip as well.

When we got there, a little after midnight, Patsy's was relatively empty. There were a few people there, including a coworker's son (who is about my age). The kitchen smelled great, and my friend got a burger. The band was having a great time, and the energy was starting to infuse the small crowd. When the band started playing a Caribbean version of "Born to be Wild," one of the girls started doing somersaults on the floor. When our friend who had started celebrating at Port Zante showed up, she got right up in the band and danced there- right in the middle of them. For a while, she was even dancing with the guitarist. I think she might have been quite toasty, as she had a super-sized mug from Fat Tuesday, that had been refilled many times that night. I don't know if she was celebrating that she just got a promotion at work that day or if this is how she parties, but the beer kept coming. However, at no point in the night did she do anything that a stereotypical drunk US college girl would do. She never got to the point where she was stumbling, slurring, stripping, puking, or doing anything super-embarrassing. As the bar filled up, more and more people my friends knew showed up. A couple of them seemed surprised that I could dance, asking "who taught you to dance like that?" I find this question, which I got asked a couple of times when I previously went dancing, hilarious. St. Kitts "dancing" is not too much more than wagging your tushie and moving your hips. Nobody expects you to find something to do with your arms/hands, or even really move your feet. It's so much more laid back than going clubbing in the US, Europe, or other places I've been.

I was having a good time, when the band suddenly stopped at 3am. The party was over, but it was pouring, so nobody was leaving and everybody was still hanging out. Eventually, the rain let up enough for us to run to my car without getting completely drenched. We decided to swing by another place that a different friend of mine is always telling me to go. He is always telling me that it's open later than every place else and that we should stop by after we're done elsewhere. It was closed. There was no music and everybody was leaving. I drove my friend back to Port Zante, where she had left her car, and it was pouring again. When I say pouring, I mean that she would have been drenched like she jumped into a pool getting from my car to her car, which was 5 feet away. We had a nice chat while waiting for the rain to let up again, and even got to hear it thunder and see some lightning. By the time I got home, it was 4:30 am.

I had decided just to stay up the extra hour and a half between when I got home and when the Saturday market opened, pick up some food, and then go to bed for the night. Haha. I passed out as soon as I got home.

I missed the Saturday market entirely. I barely woke up in time to go to water aerobics. What didn't help was my run-in with the weevils. I was scrambling to grab breakfast, so I finished off one box of cereal and was going to go open another, when I noticed the box was a little eaten up and there were tiny holes in the bag. Weevils had gotten into my cereal, which sucks because cereal here isn't cheap. What also sucks is that I store all of my dry goods in big tupperware containers so that the weevils can't get in, because I was forewarned about them. My infested cereal was in the same bin as some pasta, flour, crackers, and other goods that I now have to throw out. I hate wasting all that food, but I'm not willing to take chances and want my big rubbermaid container to be nice and clean so that future food doesn't get infested. Grrrr.

My water aerobics class has now been moved from the pool at Sugar Bay to the ocean by Timothy Beach. The class was very different in the ocean, as the water was pushing me around a lot, there were rocks in the sand at the bottom, the bottom was pocked with holes so that the water depth was unpredictable, and the salt kept me floating a lot more. It was different, but not necessarily better or worse. I'll have to make a better analysis when I get used to it and can be more impartial.

Afterward, I was tired and hungry, so I stopped by Bobsy's. Bobsy's is a stand in Frigate Bay that specialized in chicken wings and Caribbean soups. They also have (unspectacular pre-frozen) fries and (unspectacular) barbecue sauce. After that, I napped most of the afternoon. When I got up for dinner, I was too lazy to cook and didn't have a lot of food as I had dealt with a lot this morning. I picked up dinner from Formosa Garden Restaurant in the Fortlands area of Basseterre. The price was reasonable for the US, which is to say great for St. Kitts. The restaurant looks very fancy, but I just showed up for takeout. The food was ok. It was better than the Chinese food at most other places on the island, but not as good as a lot of places in the US. I'd probably get food from there again, partly because it's close to my house.

Sunday, I dove with Kenneth's Dive Center again. This time, Vijai was the divemaster. He was really good. We were diving with a bunch of Ross students who had just been certified and hadn't done any dives since. Vijai asked us to stay really close to each other. Honestly, it was a little too close for my taste. But, he must have had this experience before. 2 of the Ross students were irresponsible and ran out of air. One of them even said that when they went diving before he ran out and used the one girl's air, as if it was standard and he planned on running out. It was really good that the guys who ran out were near other people at the time. Fortunately, I was partnered with a tourist who had dove before and neither of us had any issues on either dive.

We dove Challenger's Beach and Camps Reef, both reef dives. As usual, the reef was very cool, filled with nice bright corals and fish which my crappy underwater camera doesn't capture very well. We saw a few stingrays under the sand. We saw a field of garden eels. They were very cool because they just looked like seaweed until we got close. As we got near, they ducked into their burrows and hid. We saw a very cool blowfish, nice and up close. There were a couple of other rare species that we saw, and Vijai had a nice little underwater slate which he used to identify them, but I'm not really a fish person and don't remember what they were. We also saw quite a few lionfish, which are an invasive species. Because they're messing with the ecosystem, people are encouraged to remove them from the ocean if seen in these waters. Both Vijai and one of the Ross students were prepared. They had little spears and a bag to put them in. Some of the Ross students were talking about frying the lion fish up for dinner. I'm not sure they got quite enough fish for that, but I guess they could try. Overall, it was a very nice morning of diving. I hope to dive with Vijai again soon.

In the afternoon, I met up with a friend in Independence Square. He took me around the west side of the island. It was fun to just lime at a street bar. I met some of his cousins and friends, and enjoyed the scenery. For those who haven't seen the street bars, it's basically a little bar/convenience store, but it doesn't have room for more than about 2-3 people to sit, so everybody brings the party outside. There were people playing a card game, people drinking, and just generally hanging out on the street nearby, enjoying the music. There was one girl who was making a bit of a spectacle of herself. She was wagging her tushie and jumping on the car with the exact same expression as one of my close friends from home (not mentioning names, LSR). She definitely made me miss her. I was also extremely amused when a certain pickup truck pulled up. In the back, they had put some wooden slats to act as a sofa. The family (including two little girls of about 2 and 6) pulled up waving. They reminded me of people 'bashing in Terre Haute. After we were done hanging out at the street bar, I got taken on a wonderful culinary tour. It seems that the reason they don't sell certain foods at the market is because everybody grows them in their yards. We stopped by a friend's house and just pulled 2 jellies (young coconuts, so the meat doesn't harden all of the way) off the tree. If we didn't they weren't really going to as they had enough. We stopped by a different friend's place and got a soursop. Again, he had an excess and was letting some go to rot as he couldn't possibly eat them all. It reminds me of zucchini season in the states when everybody has so much that they can't even give them away for free. All of the yards we visited were these gardens full of mangoes, monkey cherries (aka cashew nuts), dasheen (aka taro), peanuts, coconuts, and other exotic (and edible) tropical flora. In the end, I had enough fruits and veggies to last quite a while.

Tropical Fruits

Tropical Fruits


Picking "jellies"

Picking "jellies"


Fortlands park

Fortlands park

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Labor Day March

Today was May Day or Labor Day so I didn't have to work. Because there's a Labour party, they tend to try to politicize the holiday. They have a march and supporters wears red, the Labour party colors. I had been told by my Antiguan bookstore friends that the days isn't supposed to be about one party, but about the workers and that a lot of people would intentionally not wearing political colors to show that they support all workers, regardless of political party. So, I wore grey.

A lady from work invited me to come see the festivities with her though, and I gladly went. Of course, today had to be the day that my sunglasses broke. Nothing was open, not even Port Zante, which is ALWAYS open. Finally, we found a shop that wasn't quite open, but was open enough that they guy was willing to sell me new sunglasses. I say “wasn't really open” because they were open for drinks, just not stuff. My friend and I chilled there, playing beginners dominoes with some friends of hers and drinking sodas. We were having a good time with that, listening to the radio cover the march.

As the march came closer to us, we left the shop and watched the march. The “parade” consisted of a bunch of cheerleaders, some construction and farm vehicles pulling “floats” playing loud local music, and lots and lots of people marching in red. They had t-shirts saying everything from just the party name, to statements of how great the prime minister is. In the whole march I only saw one guy wearing yellow or carrying anything negative about the PM. Nobody was heckling him or treating him any different than anybody else. Later, there were a few signs on the side insulting the PM ("he belongs in prison," "he's a crook," etc). Oh, I did see the PM himself at the head of the parade. The march was a lot of fun, but not planned out so well. Some of the “floats” were too tall to go under the wires in certain places, and they had to lift them over with sticks or tear some of the non-essential wires down. They wandered around town a bit, and then headed back up to the school right by my apartment. By the time we got to the school, the rain had started. There weren't enough tents and other cover for everybody, and some people were just jammin in the rain. My friend and I went for cover though. Unfortunately, we ended up standing right on an ant home. In the US, we mostly don't have ants that bite, other than red fire ants. In St. Kitts, the regular black ants are ferocious. After a minute, my feet were stinging all over and I was desperately trying to get them off me. At least one of them got on my hand as well. Unfortunately, I have a bad reaction to the ant bites. They swell up so that I have a little lump under the skin, which is pretty gross. I didn't think about that, and we just moved to another shelter. Eventually though, I looked down and decided that it was probably best if I head home and pop some benadryl. I did my best to reduce the swelling, but that was it for me for the day. Between the ants and the regular feedings I give the mosquitoes here, I give up.

Bus of old marchers

Bus of old marchers


Cheerleaders

Cheerleaders


Using kids to make a point

Using kids to make a point


Rasta man with horse marching

Rasta man with horse marching


tractor in march

tractor in march

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