Sunday, February 20, 2011

Life in SVG

So aside from the details about training sessions so much else has been going on.  I have been spending the weekends with my host family.  So far, my host sister has been taking me on a drive along the Windward HWY and the Leeward HWY.  We stopped at a few key spots along the way on each.
The first weekend, we drove along the coast on the Windward (east) HWY up to Owia to the Salt Ponds. We stopped at Black Point, a national park, where I got to see a black sand beach, an old tunnel used for sugar exportation, and some amazing views.  We continued north along the HWY, which is really nothing more than a narrow road, through Biabou, Georgetown, and Sandy Bay to Owia.  We passed the palm tree forest, crossed the Dry River, passed La Soufriere, the volcano, and on the way saw some really spectacular views of the coast and mountainous terrain.  We concluded at the Salt Ponds, which is a natural cove of water sheltered from the usually harsh winds/currents/waves on the east coast by volcanic rocks.
This weekend, I did some exploring with a fellow volunteer who lives fairly close to me, only about 20 minutes walk (hike).  We went for a walk along a nameless road (though technically called the Vigie HWY), through Yambou, to where the road met the Windward HWY.  Once we reached the HWY we wandered around until we stumbled upon Argyle Beach. It was pretty, but completely covered in trash, mostly plastics. We attempted to send a message in a bottle, but it didn’t quite work out.
On Sunday, my host sister, Allyson and her BF, Claude, took me for a drive along the Leeward HWY.  To get to the Leeward HWY we had to travel from Mespo to Kingstown and then up.  We stopped at the Layou Petroglyphs, continued north through Barrouallie, saw part of the largest coconut farm, to Wallilabou, the site for the filming of the Pirates of the Caribbean.  The Leeward side of the island is much more mountainous and cliffy. At some points along the coast the Pitons in St Lucia are visible.  The HWY must follow the mountains, as there is no way to go around them.  Consequently, the roads are even narrower than on the Windward side, and much more steep, with many hairpin turns.  It was a bit scary.  And by a bit, I mean really scary! It was worth it though because the views were absolutely breathtaking. We continued northward to Chateaubelair, and beyond where we stopped at Dark View Falls.  This was one of the most spectacular waterfalls I have ever seen.  To get to the falls we had to cross another nameless river, over a bamboo suspension bridge! It was the coolest bridge I have ever seen.  The bamboo here was HUGE.   After the falls, we continued north to Richmond, where La Soufriere was looming in the distance, where the road pretty much ended and we had to do some offroading.  We turned around shortly thereafter. 
SVG is beautiful, but really beautiful is an understatement. I wish I had the vocabulary and ability to accurately describe in words how amazingly beautiful this place truly is. But alas, I am no English major. Sorry, youll have to look at the pictures to get a sense, even though they don’t do it justice.  Everything is so vibrant, green, and lush.  Kingstown is a bit of a concrete jungle, but that is to be expected of any country’s capital, or major city.  Other than Kingstown everything is so green and full of life.  I have never seen so much foliage.  There are banana trees/crop, palm trees/coconut trees, mango trees, nutmeg trees, almond trees, breadfruit trees, sour sop bushes, I could go on if I knew the names but I don’t.
I actually live in Mesopotamia, however it is referred to as Mespo.  Which is kind of ironic since the undergrad materials science and engineering academic club at Drexel was called MESPO. Anyways, Mespo is in the Marriaqua Valley or the Mesopotamia Valley.  I am completely surrounded by Mountains and Rivers.  At the end of my street (which doesn’t have a name), I live on the main street that runs through Mespo and northward toward Richland Park, two rivers (which also have no name) unite.  Literally on either side of the road is a river.  There is a T junction, or a Y Junction. The T junction represents the streets, and the Y represents the Rivers, now place them on top of one another and that’s what the intersection looks like. The street is narrow, winding, and relatively flat, since I am at the bottom of the valley.  I can walk about 45 minutes to 1 hour and reach the Windward “HWY” and the ocean.  I have no sea views and it frequently rains. The rains are incredibly intense but only last a few minutes, usually.
My Host Family’s house is HUGE.  It is a 3 story building with a grocery store on the first floor, the main living area on the second which is accompanied by a huge veranda that wraps around half of the house. There are 4 bedrooms, a computer room/office, 4 bathrooms which all have large spa like tubs, a kitchen that has granite counter tops, two ovens, two stoves and so many cabinets! There is a formal living area, which no one uses, but it is very grand.  There is also a formal dining area attached to the kitchen with 8 high back elaborately carved wooden chairs.  The entire living area is open with grand vaulted ceilings that rise about 30 feet. On the first floor, there is also another entire apartment, with a library/tool room, bathroom, living room, and god knows what else behind the closed doors.  Then there is the basement, which has a bathroom, bedroom, and the laundry area.  There is wash machine, but clothes are hung on a line outside in a covered patio to dry.
There are 6 pigs in the backyard, about 80? chickens used for eggs, a number of dogs, and they have a greenhouse type set up, but it is not used because my Host Mom doesn’t have enough time to garden. Behind the garden is the/a river and a nutmeg tree (I think?).
The area is pretty busy, since I live on the main (and only road thru my village and connecting to nearby villages), and my room is in the front of the house.  I hear all of the traffic, which drives so fast, and all the sound systems blaring, horns, etc.  In addition to that, I am frequently awoken by church bells at 6am on Saturday/Sunday mornings and all the neighborhood dogs howling in unison. Then there are the roosters, and the general traffic/loitering caused by the store.
Kingstown is surprisingly a lot cleaner than I was expecting it to be, too.  Sure there is some garbage in the streets, but on the whole, Kingstown is much cleaner than other cities I have been to, even in the United States. I have seen people cleaning the street gutters, and I imagine this is very necessary because I have yet to find a public trash can. 
      Some general observations and things to point out. Everyone that I have seen riding a bike is also wearing a helmet! YAY! Even those who are riding motorcycles wear helmets! There are no stop lights, wait, I have seen one, but it was not in operation. There are very few traffic signs, and I have not seen a speed limit.  There is a very distinct dialect, which might as well be another language.  Everyone speaks so fast, so if there was any hope of me understanding anything, it is hopeless.  Unfortunately we are not taught the dialect during PC Training, so we are left to just pick it up ourselves.
      Vincentians LOVE mayonnaise, butter/oil, sugar, and salt.  One or all of those ingredients can be found in pretty much everything, and in excess too!  Im probably going to develop diabetes, hypertension, and get really fat. Gah! They also love juice.  But their juice is the equivalent of our Koolaid, but with twice as much sugar. The oranges are green. Everyone spells my name correctly for once.  They also say it very prettily.  My last name in the local dialect sounds similar to the word for “get your ass out of the way”.  It is very difficult for people to understand what I am saying when I tell them my last name.  Deet is my new perfume. 

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