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St Kitts/Nevis

Another pirate run

Saturday was pretty relaxing. I mostly just chilled until it was time for the Hash House Harriers run. This week, we were over by Cayon. In order to get to the run, we had to drive down this dirt road in the middle of a field of very tall plants. Then, we ran by the railroad tracks, but also through some field and forest. I got a bit scratched up, but it was worth it. There were a couple of great views, plus the great company, of course.

On Sunday, I attempted to buy light bulbs. Hah! One thing I forgot is that half of everything is closed on Sunday. When I gave up on the bulbs, I went searching for food, which was also not easy. I ended up at Sunset Cafe by Timothy's (at The Strip). The vegetable crepe was basically some sort of Indian potatoes in a roti wrap. It was unimpressive, but edible.

In the afternoon, The Strip is actually quite calm, quiet, and pleasant. I read on the beach for a while before I decided to head back.

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The end of piracy?

This week, I spent several of the evenings at the gym again. I definitely felt settled into island life and was enjoying myself, except for the mosquitoes. (I even wore long pants to work one day to try to prevent new bites, but they found a way into the bottom of my pants anyway. Grrrrr.)

I visited another restaurant- Serendipity- that was touristy, but had really elegant food and a very international menu. I went to the Shiggidy Shack on Thursday to see the bonfire and guy that performs with fire, but that was cancelled, so we just ate instead. Here, I had a typical "island time" adventure. I ordered something that was on their menu. About 15 minutes later, when I was expecting food, the waitress came back and said that they were out of that. I'm not sure why it took so long to determine that, but ok. So, I asked for something else, which she was able to tell me they were out of within only a couple of minutes- at least this time it was faster to know they didn't have my dish. Finally, I ordered pasta, which came out in a normal time period. Overall though, it did take a looooong time from when we sat down to when food actually arrived. If I had known that the pasta would have plantains in it, I would have ordered it in the first place. (I know, who would've thought pasta with plantains would be so great?)

Friday, after work, I headed to Fort St. Everybody from work told me that Fort St. was where everybody would be that evening, "liming" (hanging out) because carnival was beginning there. I did run into several people I knew from work, which was cute. A guy from work had told me that I had to try Jamaican patties, so when I saw some, I grabbed one and ate it as I walked around. I watched the various bands play on the different stages. There were tons of street vendors, performers, and spectators all around. Some of the street vendors sold very typical things- souvenirs, jewelry, grilled food, ripped-off DVDs. Other street vendors sold everything from deodorant to shoes. I'm not sure I'd really want to buy pharmacy items off a make-shift table on the corner of a street, but they must sell something or else they wouldn't be in business. Overall, it had a very nice vibe to it, despite being extremely crowded. Finally, Saturday arrived and it was time to go back to the states. I ran to Port Zante to do a little last-minute shopping and also to grab lunch. Because there was no cruise ship in port, Zante was extremely quiet. Some things were shut down, but there were still plenty of places to get stuff for people. The Chinese restaurant had food that was reasonably decent (although it was not US-style Chinese food), but the whole place was full of flies, and they didn't even bother to hide the huge buckets of MSG. (Seriously, they had 5-gallon tubs labeled MSG just sitting right out for everyone to see.) Also, I don't think the lady understood my US accent because when I asked to be charged in EC, she charged in USD anyway. I wasn't super impressed. The airport was extremely crowded with Ross students. Apparently, the semester just ended and everybody was headed home for break or to move on to the next stage in their education. I had thought that getting to such a small airport 2 hours before the flight would be too much, but with the huge crowd, it was just enough. One note- if you're flying back and have a connection, don't get anything at the duty-free that won't fit in your luggage. I forgot about the whole having to go through customs and then re-do security thing, so in Puerto Rico I ended up struggling to fit some rum into my already overpacked suitcase. However, it's totally worth it as the rum I brought back can't be found anywhere I know of in the states.

At this point, we don't know if this is the end of my time working like a pirate in St. Kitts, or if I'll be back. (I'm hoping for the latter.)

Fort Street

Fort Street


Carnival Band

Carnival Band


Street vendors

Street vendors

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Ariel's view

One of the things I had heard from a colleague who had lives on St. Kitts for several years was that Kenneth's Diving Center was the place to go for dives. I had also heard that Dive St. Kitts had a bit of a shady reputation. So, it was a good thing that I had booked with Kenneth's for my dive. They showed up at the hotel to pick me up, and took me right to the boat. The crew and dive instructor, Wendy, were getting things ready when I arrived. I chatted with the other couple who were going to do the morning dive with me for a bit, and then we boarded the boat and left. The couple were from the cruise ship in port, and apparently they had a lot of dive experience. I, on the other hand, have a lot less experience. Wendy more than made up for that. Every time that I was so in awe of the scene around me and forgot to adjust my buoyancy, she helped remind me. She took us through the coral (first dive) and the River Taw (second dive), pointing out all of the really cool fish, lobsters, and even an octopus, that I would ever have noticed on my own. She stayed close enough to see us and take care of an emergency, should it arise, but wasn't all on top of us, so we were able to do a good amount of exploring. Honestly, these were some of the best dives I've done, and not just because I felt like I was in The Little Mermaid when exploring the River Taw. (Seriously though, I had <u>Under the Sea </u>stuck in my head the whole time. Exploring the sunken ship was too cool!) From a technical standpoint, Wendy knows her stuff. She had just the right touches- like spraying the mouthpieces with listerine before the dive, that turned a generic dive into a dive where I could feel the good service.

With such a great start to the day, I was very motivated to see more of the stuff I wanted to see. I started with Port Zante. Port Zante is where all of the cruise ships land. It is very much a tourist shopping spot, most of which is pretty generic. At Port Zante, they have all of the standard duty-free jewelry stores that exist at all of the other Caribbean (and Alaskan) cruise ship destinations. The souvenir shops sell all of the same made-in-China souvenirs that all of the other islands have (of course, these say St. Kitts on them, but they're the same other than that text.) I wasn't too impressed with that part. The place to get unique items is the Amina craft market. The craft market sits on the back edge of Port Zante, furthest from the ships, but it is the best part. The stalls mostly have the same stuff as each other, so shop around for prices, but the items are unique and clearly made on St. Kitts, for the most part. In some areas, you can even watch the artisans creating the painted coconut shell bowls or other items. Also at the edge of the Port Zante area is the St. Kitts museum. The museum is cute. It isn't Smithsonian-fancy, but the displays are informative and share Kittitian culture. It's worth the cheap entry price. I do have to admit that one of the things that excited me most was when I went in to buy my museum ticket. In that little area they had a give-a-book-take-a-book library. The selection wasn't great, but if I'm ever desperate for something to read while here, I could go there and make a trade.

Sea scape

Sea scape


Through a porthole

Through a porthole


Through a porthole

Through a porthole


River Taw

River Taw

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Landlubber legs

The first thing to do on a Saturday is the Saturday market, I was told. Despite going to bed early, I was still not getting up with enough time to get there by 6, which is what was recommended. I did get there by 8 though, and it was still happening. The market is in Basseterre, relatively near to the ferry dock. There were people with outdoor stands as well as an enclosed, roofed area that had indoor stands. The enclosed area had plenty of extra tables that weren't being used. At both the indoor and outdoor stands, there were a ton of flies. It was a typical market. The various vendors had all sorts of fruits and vegetables, many of which are pretty standard everywhere- peppers, onions, garlic from China. Some people had fruits that were a little more obscure, like breadfruit, and the biggest papayas I've ever seen. The only new food I saw was this red fruit that looked like a little flower. When I asked the locals what to do with it, they said that you make a drink with it. I almost bought some, but I didn't really know how to pick the right ones and am not that big into drinks. I figured that I'd look it up, figure it out, and come back to find some later. [Turns out, it is called sorrel or Roselle, and it is a type of hibiscus.] In general, the produce didn't look like it was of great quality. I did get some nice, firm Asian eggplants, as well as some spring onions. For some reason, spring onions were all tied up in bunches with thyme. I didn't really need the thyme, but whatever. In my opinion, the prices I was being told were reasonable, but not great. So, I investigated a bit. I overheard a vendor telling a lady that ginger was 3 EC per pound, but she didn't know I heard. When I went to ask her how much it was, suddenly it was 6 EC per pound. Ok, I'm getting ripped off. But, I did find that everybody was ripping me off equally because they were very consistent in the 6 EC reply (except one lady who said it was 7). Either way, it was fun to walk around the market, seeing the vendors with their old-fashioned scales and corroded metal weights. It poured rain most of the rest of the morning, so I didn't get a lot of sightseeing in. I was a bit concerned about the run I had signed up to participate in, but by the time of the run, the weather had dried up quite a bit. I found the Hash House Harriers on facebook before the trip, and figured it would be nice to go for a run or walk with a group. This was one of the best decisions I made. The group itself was made up of a wide variety of people. Some families had kids, there were a bunch of students, locals, and some older ladies as well. Some of the group did the run, while others walked. I walked because it was my first time, and I had some great conversations with the people I was walking with. Everybody was so friendly and more than willing to take me under their wings and share their island experiences with me. In addition to the people being great, the location was great as well. We started at Garvey's Estate, a nice chunk of land by the shore with an old estate house on it that is being fixed up into some sort of accommodations. We walked a trail that went up a hill from there, and then back down. Because it was the Christmas run, it was followed not only by beverages (of the adult variety as well as sodas), but a “cookup” as well. The food was decent, but the company was better. I met a lot of interesting people, including one who had a good blog about things to do on the island if you're living there. I got to hear some interesting perspectives about St. Kitts as a whole.

Roselle

Roselle


Saturday market

Saturday market

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Do pirates like pretty things?

On Fridays, the plant closes early. I once heard that it was so people could go cash their paychecks before the bank closes, but I don't know if that still applies in this modern age of direct deposit and 24 hours ATMs. One thing that I did notice was that the leaders were walking around, handing out the envelopes instead of having them sent home in the mail. I guess it saves money and people get their stuff sooner- pretty smart. Because the plant closed early, I made it out with some daylight left. I headed up to Caribelle Batik at Romney manor. The manor itself is down a long, one-lane, dirt road that you would not even think was a road if it weren't for the big “Caribelle Batik” sign. The manor is up on a hill, so as you are driving to it, you are amidst the tops of the trees that are growing on the part of the hill lower than you are. The views from the road and from the manor are beautiful. At the actual manor, there is a lookout platform where you can see right over the tops of the trees and out to the sea. In addition to the views from the manor, the view of the manor are gorgeous. The manor is well kept up. The house is painted in bright colors and is surrounded by some well-manicured lawns and gardens. Because there were no cruise ship tours going on, the solitude and beauty of the gardens was extremely calming. However, the area is small enough that I have no idea how they fit busses of tourists in there. Because there were no cruise ship tours going on, I didn't get the full demonstration that they usually give of how the batiks are made. I think that a detailed demonstration would have really added to the experience. However, they did have some examples on the walls of batiks in various stages, so you can get a good idea of the process, even without the tour. There was a lady working on one while I was there, so I got to see some of the process, just not all of it. The batiks themselves are gorgeous! I got most of my souvenirs for people there. While the prices reflected the artistry and hand-made nature of the items, I felt that it was worth it. The items I bought were mostly useful- bags, eyeglass cases- and were beautiful representations of something truly Kittitian that you just won't get anywhere else. On my way back from Caribelle Batik, I finally caught Kalabash while it was open. Kalabash is in Basseterre on the main road that runs across town, so it's relatively easy to find. I think that Kalabash might be one of my new favorite restaurants.

At first glance, it appears to be a bit of a hole-in-the wall, but upon entering, ok, it's a hole-in-the wall. However, it is a very inspiring hole-in-the-wall. The walls are decorated with National Geographic and other posters depicting history, news, and politics. There are bumper stickers and pictures, all of which say something about the Rasta way of life. I can say that I learned something new from the walls of a restaurant for the first time. Even the place mats contained detailed articles on how to eat healthily. The pride of the owners shone through in the d&eacute;cor.

There's more to the restaurant than the pride on the walls though. This was the first place in St. Kitts where I was able to obtain something I hadn't tasted before. I had a soursop drink! Soursop isn't really in season, but it seems like the owner makes juices (soursop and other fruits as well) and then freezes them for later. I apparently got the last soursop, but I'm glad I did. I like soursop. It is a bit sour, but also sweet. It tastes a bit like a mixture of other fruits. In addition to the truly local beverage, I got some sort of peanut-sauced vegetable dish that I was pretty happy with. I would definitely recommend Kalabash to anybody visiting. After that win, I was pretty satisfied with my day. I went to bed pleased with my discoveries, and ok that it was early, because I had plans to get up early the next day.

Romney Manor House

Romney Manor House


Caribelle Batik

Caribelle Batik


Romney Manor gardens

Romney Manor gardens


Kalabash

Kalabash

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