Sunday, July 13, 2008

Day 3 (Monday)

We woke on this Monday to some pretty stiff winds, so any plans for a serious snorkeling excursion were quickly scuttled. The kids took a swim in the pool while my wife and I tried to organize our things in the villa a bit. We spent part of this morning talking to some of the local residents on a whole range of issues. Politics and the upcoming elections have really captured everyone’s attention. The nightly rallies and speeches are apparently well-attended and everyone has an opinion on what the speakers had to say. We are surprised to learn that some of the speakers are Carriacou natives who have left the island for the States or the UK, only to return to lobby for their preferred candidate. These folks take their politics seriously! Health care and standard of living seem high on the list of concerns, although everyone has a different view on how to fix what they believe is broken.

There is a lot of talk about extending the airport runway and building a new terminal, both with the capacity to accept flights from the region’s large turboprop, Dash-8, planes. Many believe that bringing more tourists to the island is the answer, and compare Carriacou to other similarly sized islands, such as Canaoun, who have embraced tourism as an industry. Everyone is quick to point out the relative wealth of these other islands, but what nobody seems to be talking about is what kind of financial and social difficulties occur when the local economy relies so heavily on tourism. The people do recognize that there are problems on neighboring islands that have a negative influence on Carriacou, such as drug and alcohol addiction, teen pregnancy and organized gang activity. They are also familiar with the similar problems that the native population has in countries like Jamaica and the Bahamas. However, many residents on the island seem to believe that somehow, Carriacou would be immune to such trouble.

We decided that we have had enough talk of politics and round-up the kids to make a quick trip to Henrietta’s Bakery in L’Esterre. The enticing aroma of expertly baked goods greets us upon arrival, and we are warmly welcomed as we enter the store. Our family must have appeared to be starved, or just gluttons (which I guess we are in some respects), as we selected several items from just about everything that the bakery had to offer on this day. The absence of ‘real’ bakeries back in the States makes us miss this experience that we fondly remember from our childhood. We leave with bags full of different kinds of fresh bread, coconut drops, mini meat pies, and more. Some of it will never make the trip back to the villa. Yum!

The Caribbean’s variety of beautiful plants always capture our attention. There are several species that we are not familiar with, which makes for another item to place on the to-do list; learn the different plant species of the Caribbean. The flowering plants in particular are quite stunning as the brightly colored blooms contrast with the various shades of green and blue provided by the plants and sea. There is a large flowering tree in the school yard in Harvey Vale that we particularly enjoy visiting. Its size and beauty is difficult to match. We decided that a detour to Harvey Vale was in order to check on this tree, to help reassure us that everything was right with the world. We spotted the tree from some distance away and stopped in the school yard to take photos and admire its beauty.

Our tour extends past Harvey Vale to continue along the coast road to see what all is new along the southeast side of Carriacou. We saw several new homes and more being built in this area; some looming quite magnificent in size. The local residents explained that many of the new homes are being constructed by Carriacou natives who left the island for the UK just before open emigration ended with the island’s independence. These people are now reaching retirement age and are investing some of their lifetime earnings into a home for their own use on family-owned land. Apparently, most use their homes while on holiday and few are available for rent to the pubic.

We also get answers to a couple of questions from the prior day. The stadium has made such progress because the project has a new manager. It seems that the first manager “Didant know a ting bout buildin no stadium!”, and that the Chinese financiers sent their own project manager and construction crew from China about a year ago to finish the work (which explains the Chinese-made heavy equipment at the construction site). They apparently work with little rest, putting in seven-day weeks to get the job completed. However, the cases of Heineken beer stacked near their bunk house suggest that they also enjoy their down time too. We also learned that the property with the very tall security wall between L’Esterre and Tyrrel Bay is a gravel yard. Different grades of stone are imported to the island and stored at this location for use in various construction projects. The tall security wall helps to make certain that none of the stone leaves the facility unnoticed.

The afternoon was quite sunny, but still windy. We lounged on the veranda and enjoyed the sun’s warmth and the beautiful scenery. We noticed a large boat (about 60 to 70 feet long) arrive in the area between Sandy Island and Paradise Beach, accompanied by two smaller boats (about 15 feet long). At first we are uncertain what the function of the boat was, as the smaller boats would come and go from their mother ship. We had never seen this type of vessel before, so our curiosity was piqued.

As the day wound down, we took a stroll along Paradise Beach and visited with some of the local residents. In the distance we heard the start of the various political rallies, and we noticed many people working their way to the events to hear the evening’s speeches. We stayed on the beach and watched the birds, boats and waves. There were two kite surfers working the wind off Sandy Island. It looked like great fun, but a little too much action for me. After finding a few interesting shells before the sun set, we trekked back to the villa for the night.

Once it was dark, we noticed that the large boat anchored between Sandy Island and Paradise Beach had turned on very large work lights and the smaller boats continued to come to and fro. Maybe fishing boats? We would have to ask someone tomorrow. For now there was a large jigsaw puzzle waiting for our attention. I just can’t go to sleep knowing that a jigsaw puzzle has been started and is not complete. I needed to get to work.