Sunday, October 8, 2017

A Peek Behind the Curtain - Cricket, the Prime Minister and A Roasted Iguana

Goodies from Wesley!
Ahhh what a delightful night. We slept well in calm, cool comfort here in this little bay in Cumberland, St. Vincent. All of our anxiety was washed away… the crease between my eyebrows is relaxed… Life is good here. I took my first fresh breath of the morning before the sun made its way high enough to top the mountains… A cool breeze blows in through the aft window with the boat tied bow West… Perfect for sleeping. 

We are in no hurry. It’s Sunday and we have allotted ourselves no chores other than to attend the Cricket game ashore, but that doesn’t start getting going until after 10 am. What a happy place this is.  There is a father frolicking with his children in the gentle waves just off our starboard side. Their laughter is sweet. The swell outside barely makes it into this basin… only the most minimal gentle rocking. The sun is coming up and there are tufts of cloud once again nestled in the valleys to the East. The scene is indescribably beautiful.

Once we finished our coffee and got busy dropping the dinghy, Wesley paddled back out to see us with a basket brimming with goodies for us. I had asked him to bring onion, tomato, avocado, baby spinach and grapefruit. He brought all of that and threw in some passionfruit, a pomegranate, carrots, sweet peppers and some other sort of thing he said was like a bitter squash… Oh, and Coconut Cakes! He also brought freshly roasted breadfruit with instructions to slice it thin and fry it. I told him we wouldn’t eat the passionfruit because I don’t like things with seeds.. he told me how to then boil the fruit in water, then add sugar and let it sit overnight to make juice. Maybe I’ll try that… but not today.

There was more dock... before the last storm.
Today we are going ashore.

Wesley met up with us when we reached what was left of their main dock after hurricane Maria came through. He helped us get the dinghy secured with a stern anchor in deep water, then tied to the dock where the swell wouldn’t push it onto the jagged edges of the dock.
You can see where the boards were ripped from the pilings on the dock.  

Looking right...

Looking left

Bay Central
Like visiting Royalty, we were solicitously let up to Bay Central and introduce to Althea, the proprietress. Wesley’s (and the guide book’s) promise of wifi in the anchorage went unmet as Althea explained that the router had been rendered useless by lightning the day we arrived. Just our luck… Paradise has no internet…

Walking along the Cumberland River
We followed Wesley out onto the “street”, brown sand with scattered holes full of camel-brown muddy water. Bruce asked him for a primer on the game, Cricket, we were about to see… while I took in our surroundings. We walked along between the newly constructed Cricket field and the Cumberland River which was running high with all of the recent rain.
People watching the game from outside!

Collection for Dominica Hurricane Relief. 
At the gate we presented our donations to the Dominica Relief effort to a uniformed guard. He was agreeable to having his picture taken but a smile wasn’t happening… The bag of donations was sparse this early in the day but would overflow by afternoon when the professional players were scheduled to play. 

That's our mast behind the field.
Wesley left us and we went up into the stands to take a seat. I guess I had pictured this to be a little more substantial than it was… The field was huge with lengths of sturdy rope creating the boundaries of the game. The concrete stand was sparsely filled this early in the day so we had no trouble finding good seats. Let the people-watching begin!

So much of the time while traveling in these islands, we are the only pale faces in the crowd. The people of the island flow around us as if we are invisible mostly… some may toss us a glance, but the majority of our time is spent as if inside an invisible bubble… Until today.  

Today we were allowed to peek behind the curtain of life on St. Vincent. And it started with a Rasta and one small girl lifting the curtain to beckon us inside.

Me and my coconut popsicle... and my Rasta neighbour!
The man on my right, the Rasta, had the familiar Jamaican-colored knitted “sock” covering his impressive dreadlocks. I began asking him questions about the game and which team we should root for. He smiled and opened up with a steady stream of explanation. Bruce was absorbing the game studiously while I dabbled in trying to get a good action shot from a distance. 

On our way in, we had purchased two cold waters to drink… We were shocked at the price: 5 EC each! That’s what we get for buying in a sporting venue… That’s about $1.85 each and exactly twice the price we had been paying on St. Lucia… but then, maybe prices are different here…

Bruce went down to make sure we had peanut oatmeal... it had an L on top...
I saw a vendor selling something in bottles that looked chocolate-milky… I waved him over and asked what he had. Peanut and Oatmeal, Linseed and Passionfruit juice… Feeling adventurous, but not TOO adventurous… I asked for the Peanut and Oatmeal. Another 5EC… The drink was completely frozen but it didn’t take long for it to begin thawing enough for us to drink it while it was still cold. It was DELICIOUS!!! Sweet and nutty, slightly creamy… mmmm….

We watched the game and started to figure it out… Soon it began to look like rain was coming… A blue tarp and two yellow ones were brought from the sidelines to cover the field! A line of men ran out with the leading edges and positioned the huge tarps over the dirt playing area and some of the grassy area… I guess they’re used to these brief showers interrupting their game!

The players left the field, music began to play and everyone just hung out waiting for the rain to pass… It got windy enough to blow rain into the lower seats of the stadium. I passed our umbrella to Rasta and pointed down to a couple of ladies who needed it. He nodded his head and smiled. We felt a part of the crowd!

Just then, an umbrella appeared over OUR heads. I turned to see the young girl with a shy smile sharing her umbrella with us. Our hearts swelled and we laughed as the rain and wind blew and the people just patiently waited for it to end…

Soon the skies cleared, the men peeled back the tarps and the game was finished. Between games, the field had to be repaired by rolling a heavy flattener over the divots… All of this to the accompaniment of loud music with a rousing beat! Another game began…

A man came up into the stands carrying a small cooler… full of POPSICLES! The people behind us bought some, including our young girl, Emaline. We purchased two of the coconut flavoured popsicles… for 1EC… that’s 37¢ for two… And they were DELICIOUS! Some home made creamy, coconut concoction frozen inside a thin plastic tube-shaped bag, tied at the open end. I had to ask our young friend how to eat them! Just tear the closed end with your teeth and suck out the frosty goodness… She must think we’re idiots! Who doesn’t know how to eat a popsicle???

Here they come again!
The rain started again and the playing stopped The tarps came back out and the music began again!

There was a man wandering around through the crowd… He shook hands and touched people like a politician. Guess what? I asked Rasta who the man was… The Prime Minister! That like our President, but I guess a bit smaller being the Prime Minister of these much smaller Island Countries… but STILL! We watched him as he schmoozed the people. He hugged children, shook hands and walked with his arm thrown across the shoulders of one and all… The people smiled at him and he chatted with them, genuinely interested in them… How cool is that?

Bruce shaking hands with the Prime Minister of SVG

Bruce inviting the Prime Minister of SVG to come to America and be OUR PRESIDENT!

The Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines
He stopped and took a bag of peanuts from the Peanut Man on the front row. He passed the peanuts to a tiny boy… then he began counting out bags of peanuts and passing/throwing them out to anyone who wanted one… including US!!! I probably wouldn’t have bought any, but really should have.. They were locally grown and probably the best tasting roasted peanuts I’ve ever eaten! Sweet and nutty!

Tossing the peanuts!
I had fun with Emaline as she instructed me on how to open them… She set a bag for the shells between us and asked if I wanted her to open them for me… I told her that I was OCD and had to open them inside my bag to keep them from making a mess. She smiled at me like I was dumb but harmless… Bruce made enough mess out of his bag for the both of us and she kept prompting me to put his shells into the bag.

There was some security, including a guy watching the PM's every move... 

Peanut Man

She moved down to set beside Bruce...
She has taken us under her wing and accepted us into the fold. For some hours we sat and watched life unfold here on this tiny spec in the Caribbean. We felt welcomed and safe and our hearts warmed even more on this cool, rainy day.

I gave Emaline the rest of my peanuts and shared my water bottle with her. Eventually she asked if she could have it… she seemed to be passing empty bottles to her mom… like they’re saving them. Maybe making more Peanut drink?

Bruce bought her a Peanut drink of her own and got another big bright smile! By this time she had moved down to sit next to Bruce… and asked me to take her picture! But what about the Cricket match???

Well, it had been raining for some time… The professional players were due to play at 2pm and it was past that now. We sat and bobbed to the lively music while watching the people begin to fill the stadium, line the edges of the field and even set up shade tents along the ridge outside the fence. We could tell that the next teams to take the field must be something special… the energy was building.

Finally the rain lingered no more and the men removed the tarps for the last time. The Prime Minister accompanied the Cumberland team out onto the field while the Northern Leewards team organised themselves… The team had their photo taken with the PM and he left the field… it was time to play!

This time there was an actual announcer over the PA system. From the moment the first ball was thrown we could tell that these were professional level players. Wow what energy the crowd exuded when something good happened out there.
A professional team player came up into the stands...

The crowds continued to grow and Bruce and I decided it was time for us to make room for more of the citizens of this country who had a higher interest in the game. We’d had our fun and it was time to go home.

Already standing-room-only

Passing the food vendors thinking we would come back if we saw something that piqued our interest, we ended up just stopping back at the tiny bar near the dock, Bay Central.

The only thing they had to offer today between mealtimes was chicken wings. We ordered some and settled in to wait. I’ll have to find another bar drink here in St. Vincent as the Strongbows I had grown to love weren’t sold here.

The only thing like a wine cooler they had was tiny bottle of Magnum Tonic Wine. WTF is Tonic wine??? I’ve had one and still don’t know! It comes from Jamaica and boasts of vitamins and energy production… in a wine based drink with 16.5% alcohol by volume!!! Well I could only get half of it down by pouring it over ice and adding water… Must be an acquired taste…

Speaking of acquired tastes… breadfruit seems to be the accompaniment to everything here. No ground provisions here… just straight roasted breadfruit. Actually we like it roasted a little bit better than boiled like in St. Lucia… And it’s growing on us! The wings were basted in a delicious sauce… if we could have had a bowl of that for dipping the unseasoned breadfruit, life would have been grand… but we didn’t ask.

So we’re sitting there eating our wings and breadfruit when my eyes came to rest on a guy roasting breadfruits off in the corner of the yard. He was turning them over on the fire until they were completely black on the outside and looked like bowling balls from my vantage point. When he was done, another man came to take them away to the restaurant…

Next time I glanced over there… the man had hold of an iguana and was positioning it on the fire… OMG remember what I said about feeling that we were a part of this life… that we had a peek behind the curtain…? Well at this moment that curtain came crashing to the stage and we were once again firmly on the outside of it… I was horrified that this dude was nonchalantly roasting a giant lizard!!! How does one roast a lizard you might ask? Well evidently the process of turing the reptile over the coals was to loosen the scales from the skin.

After positioning the beast so that every side… including his tush… had sufficient proximity to the fires of lizard hell… the man took the thing off the fire and began to scrape the scales off of it. I snapped photo after photo… I couldn’t resist. It was like a train wreck, I had to watch. And I couldn’t help giggling about it! Even looking at the photos to choose for this blog post I’m giggling! It’s so preposterous!

The bar man saw me taking pictures and laughed with me… He said they were serving Iguana soup here for dinner! Of course the answer to the question: What does it taste like… was CHICKEN!

Evidently you have to roast it to get the scales to come off easily...  Wonder if that little tidbit will ever come in handy in a Trivia game...
I'm not sure why you need to scale the tail if you're just going to cut it off!

The man with the lizard finished his ministrations and took the thing off to the water’s edge. The yard dog followed at a discreet distance. We finished our lunch… I’m surprised I could eat knowing that this restaurant cooks LIZZARD in the same kitchen that my food was prepared! But I’m pushing that out of my mind. Some things you just can’t let your mind dwell upon…
Joseph the Rasta...

I am blessed because I do NOT have to eat lizards...

This is highly interesting to dogs...
On our way to the dinghy, a glance told us the rest of the story… The head and tail were removed. The dog waited in hopes of a handout. We returned to the safe normalcy of our floating home. It’s good that we have a place when Cruising life gets too real… When we need to go back to our world where things are familiar and nobody eats lizards.

My escape to peace...
Today was an adventure. We mingled with the people of a Caribbean Island and made some friends. We chatted with their Prime Minister and saw them play a game that is so much more civilised than our American Football… In many ways these people seem to have things figured out better than we do in the US. But then all Countries have their problems.

Tomorrow… when I’ve recovered from the Iguana Incident… perhaps we will take another peek behind the curtain.

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