Living in
Grenada – 2015

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Living in Grenada, Part Two

De White House

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Coming as we have from frozen Toronto, our new home felt uncommonly hot as we settled in.  But there is a portable air conditioner in the master bedroom, so in due course we were much cooler, and sound asleep.

And were rudely awakened at 6:00 AM – which, given that we were two time zones away from home, felt like 4:00 AM to our internal clocks!

Dogs.  Outside our bedroom window, through which the morning light was streaming.

The room air conditioner makes a pretty constant noise, so these dogs accomplished an impressive racket, since they could be heard clearly, over the in-room rumble and hum.

Barking, squeaking, yelping, and pulling at chains.  These were not like the feral animals we had encountered on last night’s drive.  They belong here.  They are in the yard, and must be some sort of watchdog.  And they were very excited about something.

Then I heard Morris’ voice out there, coming down some stairs towards them, calming and hushing his animals, who only barked and yelped with greater enthusiasm.  Then “clank,” the sound of a metal food dish.  And sudden quiet – apart from some eager slurping noises.

Breakfast time.

We are in the tropics.  Here, people and animals are often active in the cooler morning, and at evening.  Midday, during the hottest time, things quiet down for a while.

I drifted back into a sound sleep.

When we finally got up and exited our cool bedroom, the rest of the apartment felt hotter than a sauna.  It turned out that all windows and doors were shut tight.  So I opened them.  Everything, including the doors.

Some windows had insect screening, some didn’t.  And the doors weren’t screened.  But I saw no flying insects make a rush to come in, and the ocean breezes that now filled the place were delightfully cool and refreshing.  So everything stayed open.

Goats could be heard across the road, making their normal complaints: “Ba-a-a-ah!”

The apartment is spacious.  A big living-room, with a dining area to one side; a large and fully-equipped kitchen, two complete bedrooms with walk-in closets, and a full bathroom.  The place would pass for a comfortable 1,000 square foot apartment in any city of Canada.
View from the front entrance of De White House
View out the front door of De White House
Our little Suzuki sits in the drive, and goats are somewhere in those bushes across the road

And there is this fascinating detail: former British colonies in the Caribbean use 220-volt electricity, and I have brought a small transformer in order to use my North American computer.  But there is no need.  Right beside every British-style wall outlet is an American-style 110-volt one.

Morris, our host, later explained that while he knew that this would be an important courtesy for guests who hail from 110-volt countries, there is also an element of self-interest: he has, after all, lived in Toronto for many years, and his own Canadian TV and stereo and computer and kettles and dozens of other things are all still serviceable, and might as well be put to use here in Grenada!  So when the place was built, he arranged to set up the 110-volt system, parallel to the British one, for his own use as well as ours.

He calls his home, with its two main-floor apartments, “De White House.”  It is large and imposing on the outside, and is in fact white, or a light cream, in colour.

He said, with a chuckle, “We say ‘de’ instead of ‘the,’ so the real White House in the U.S. won’t accuse us of infringing their copyright!”

After we went out and began exploring, we found that the place is quite far from any other residence.  There is thick brush behind it, and on either side.  Across the road there is a small plot where someone – not Morris – is keeping a few goats.  The land then drops down to the sea, where there is a secluded beach.

A little way up the road, to the north, is a series of bigger buildings, which prove to be a technical college.  Teenagers and young adults – all smartly dressed in what appear to be school uniforms – can be seen there during the day.

The town of Gouyave is even farther up the road, toward the north.

Every morning, along the shoreline between De White House and Gouyave, commercial fishers bring in their catch.

And we think that our temporary island home is little short of perfection.

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Exploring Gouyave

During breakfast I got a text-message from my friend Werner Schulz.  He and his wife, Mary, have arrived safely, and are hoping that we would drive up to Gouyave and join them.

I’m not going to bore my reader with minute details of all the things we did on this our first full day in Grenada, so let me just give a brief impression.

Gouyave is not a wealthy town.  Many of the buildings have seen better days.  But the place is full of life.  There are two major industries in Gouyave: fishing, and nutmeg processing.  For the former, there is a long jetty, where many commercial fishing boats moor, and for the latter, there is a large warehouse where nutmeg is processed.  The town has a police station, a gas station, an ATM, a farmers’ market, a few small stores and restaurants, a couple of schools, at least one big playing field, a cemetery, and several churches.

As far as I can tell, the entire population of Gouyave is of African descent.

Werner and Mary are staying in a single room in a gated courtyard called “Willie’s Court.”  They are not totally happy.  When they learned that their room is more expensive to rent than our beautiful apartment in De White House, their discontent increased.  However, they are determined to make a go of it.  They don’t have a car, so being in the town allows them to walk out to get supplies; and their landlords – a married couple – are really sweet and obliging.

We began to explore, and found an Anglican church almost right next door to Werner and Mary’s place.  A man who was working on the church property showed us around (the building is beautiful, and in very good repair).  As well, he obligingly told us that tomorrow, Ash Wednesday, “der wil be a mass at twelb ucluk.”  “Noon tomorrow?” I clarified, as his speech was by no means distinct. “Dat’s right.”

This is fairly important to know, since, holiday or no holiday, I would not want to miss church on such an important day.

We then found the ATM on the main street, and I got some Eastern Caribbean cash.  And we found a reasonably well-stocked grocery store where we picked up a few items for De White House.

We also thought that we would look for a restaurant at which we could have dinner today – for who wants to cook on the first day of a vacation?  This gave us our first real adventure, because it turns out that the people in this region have their main meal at midday, and nothing would be available to us in the evening, when we Canadians would normally have had our biggest meal.

We found this out by deciding to have “lunch” at a very nice-looking restaurant called “Kelly’s.” 1  However, the place had no menu.  The girl who served us merely said that we could have pork, chicken, or fish – which would be served with “provisions.”  We could get no more from her than that, and indeed her speech was exceedingly quick and indistinct, so that we had to ask her to repeat herself many times before we had the faintest idea what was on offer.

And the food, when it came, bore no resemblance whatsoever to a Canadian “lunch.”  Each of us was given a full, and indeed an enormous, meal.  There was meat or fish in the middle, surrounded by all sorts of cooked vegetable matter – beige, green, yellow, and orange.  Evidently they call that stuff “provisions.”  I recognized “plantain” – a banana-like fruit – and of course rice.  Something orange may have been a type of squash.

Werner was the only one who finished off his plate – virtually licking it clean.  Even Heather, who generally eats all that is set in front of her, then some of mine, could not finish.  Mary didn’t enjoy her “fish” at all, and left a lot uneaten.  While I mostly didn’t mind my pork and the other stuff, I left the slimey and greasy-looking “callaloo” untouched, and just nibbled at the rest, leaving quite a lot behind when we left.

As Werner and I were paying for the meal (there was no invoice) the owner, a tall and handsome older man, wanted to know how we liked it.  I told him that most of us liked most of what we had, but for me, there was too much.  He said that if we come again, we can ask for smaller servings.  He certainly was anxious to please.  But despite the North American look of his establishment, his methods were completely Grenadian.  For one thing, he never has a printed menu.  Why?  Because what he serves depends on what’s available that day.

Four white people came in while we were there.  Young adults or older teens, they appeared almost local except for the colour of their skin.  So, for all it’s Grenadian characteristics, Kelly’s is obviously the most likely place for visitors to go.

Later, back at De White House, Werner and I went online, and found these words about the region of Grenada in which we are staying: “There is almost no tourism in this parish of Grenada...”

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This Way or That!?

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

It is Ash Wednesday today, one of the most solemn days in the Christian cycle.  We did go to church (we went twice, actually) and I’ll tell you about that in a later section, entitled “Visitors in Church.”

Heather and Mary have been reading various guide books about Grenada, and learned that the most comprehensive grocery stores on the island are located in St. George’s – the capital – or even further south, in a district called “Grand Anse.”

So today, Heather and I picked up Werner and Mary with the idea of running down to St. George’s to get some things that do not appear to be available in Gouyave.

I was surprised to drive back in daylight the route I had so calmly driven the night that we arrived.  With twists and turns, steep cliffs, abundant potholes, and dozens of little communities along the way, the route seemed much longer than I remembered.  And daytime traffic was astonishing – everyone driving pell-mell, and all constantly honking their horns.

Guide books suggest that we look for a particular supermarket located in St. George’s on the “Carenage” – a stretch of sea-front so named because, in days gone by, sailing ships were beached there for “careening” – having barnacles scraped off their hulls.  On the map the place looked easy to get to: just drive the main highway south, past the cruise ship terminal, through the now familiar tunnel and you’re there!  Right?  No, wrong.

That was the way we had come up at night, but what I didn’t know was that much of it was one-way traffic.  Northbound through St. George’s along those one-way roads is easy.  Southbound is another matter altogether.

Many sixteenth century seacoast towns were built with a complex street pattern – as a defensive system intended to confuse enemies.  Locals would know their way around, but invading forces would end up going in circles, or lost in cul-de-sacs.

Well, we obviously must be “invading forces,” because more than once we managed to get ourselves quite thoroughly lost.

I was driving blithely along, heading towards the tunnel under Fort George, when I was forced to turn off because the road was about to become a one-way in the wrong direction.

I ended up in a commercial parking lot, and had to be redirected out of it, to the correct southbound route.  This put me on a road that climbed higher and higher, ending in a complex “T” intersection on a very steep slope!  There, in the direction I was certain I should go, we saw a “no entry” sign!  So I turned left instead of right, went further and further upwards until I found myself in a hilltop cemetery.  And there before me was a descent on the steepest hill imaginable!  It was paved, and supposedly intended for vehicular traffic, but the slope was on a forty-five degree angle, at least, and going straight down for what seemed like hundreds of feet.  No way was I going to drive an inch further on that!

During all this, Werner and Mary and Heather were doing a combination of shrieking and laughing.  I tried to reverse the car, back to an intersection where I might turn it around, whereupon I caused a traffic jam (there was traffic at the entrance to a cemetery!?).

At this point electronics came to the rescue.  Although it would cost me extra, I turned on the GPS locator in my cellphone, found out where I was, and, using a combination of the phone and the paper map, proceeded to negotiate a number of switchbacks and U-turns until we found ourselves back down at the waterside, and actually on the “Carenage!”  But we couldn’t spot the store that the women wanted... until I had gone past it!  I got into a cul-de-sac, and when I tried to return to the store, found myself entering a one-way street from the wrong direction.  A pedestrian shouted and gesticulated, and lo and behold, once more I found myself on the uphill, which, if I was not careful, would take me right back to that incredible mountaintop cemetery!

We realized that our mistake had to do with that “no entry” sign.  There was a narrow lane just beside it that we were supposed to enter, and taking it, we were once more along the waterside, and this time we stopped in front of the store we had been seeking.

I was in what was clearly marked as a “taxi stand,” as I let the ladies out, but I figured they could run in – and if authorities moved us along, I would politely ask directions to a safe place to wait that was within sight of the store.

So Werner and I waited in the car.  And waited.  And waited.  Taxis came and went, but nobody told us to move.  Small boats – tenders from private yachts, mostly – pulled up at the breakwater, and their occupants went into the store... and came out with their supplies... but still our two ladies did not appear.

It must have been an hour later that our wives came out with what appeared to be six months’ worth of groceries.  But in all that time, no authority had come along to move us out of our position in the taxi stand.  So we loaded the car, and drove back north to Gouyave – through the tunnel, past the cruise terminal, past the market, and up the twisting and turning coastal highway through Grand Mal, Mount Morizt, Happy Hill, Beausejour, Black Bay, and Grand Roy.

We stopped briefly at De White House, to put our own groceries away, then we continued on to Gouyave and parked by Willie’s Court.  Mary and Werner went in with their groceries, and began preparations for dinner later, while Heather and I turned into Ash Wednesday penitents, and went into the church for their 6:00 PM main service.

But more of that later.  While we’re on the subject of trips into St. George’s, you might as well know about my adventure at the Saturday Farmers’ market:

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Here’s the Beef

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Today the four of us drove back down toSaint George’s – for “market day.”  Being the only driver on this holiday, I had to make the trip, even though I have absolutely no patience for “shopping.”  However, despite my reluctance, the excursion ended up being quite fun – and I even had one memorable shopping experience!

The others were exploring various stalls and booths, but I went on my own into the dedicated meat market.

My primary motive was to get beef, for somehow Heather has been really reluctant to acquire beef during our stay in the tropics, and I prefer beef to all other foods.  So I thought that I would simply buy some, and once it was in our apartment’s fridge, I gambled that Heather would accept it for a meat dish now and again.

But I was also interested in experiencing a genuine Caribbean “market.”
Entrance to the meat market building in St. George's, Grenada
Entrance of the Meat Market building, on market day

Early on market day, farmers themselves kill an animal or two that they intend to sell.  They skin them, and bring large pieces of meat and bone to town.  Grenada’s meat market is located in an old building, and consists of a number of large cages, in which the farmers stand weilding huge knives and chopping chunks of animal – bone and all – into saleable pieces.  As far as I know, there is no reference to a beef cutting chart.

Entering the building, I went to the man in the first cage and asked, “Is anyone here selling beef today?”

“I am,” he said.
“Can you show me something that has lots of meat and not much bone?”
He turned to a shelf behind him, and lifted an enormous haunch out of a bucket.  “Like this?”
“Looks pretty good,” I said, “how much would you charge me for a few pieces cut out of that?”
He flopped it on to a scale, considered, and said, “Ninety five dollars for the whole thing.”
“Can’t do it.  We can’t eat all that.  Will you consider giving me a portion of it?”
“Half of it for forty-eight dollars.”

I considered for a while... forty-eight of his dollars is roughly twenty-four of mine.  Half that haunch would be at least ten pounds, maybe more.  I’d be getting beef for two dollars a pound.  What’s not to like!?

Of course, the risk is that this meat will be hazardous to my health.  Where has it been?  When was it slaughtered?

“I’m assuming that this beef was alive and eating grass last night?”

“Yes it was.”

The other thing I liked was that he didn’t speak to me in the rapid-fire Caribbean patois.  He spoke clearly, and grammatically.

Does good grammar make meat safe?  Of course not.  But it does indicate that this person, standing in a cage with a huge knife, and blood on his apron, is no country bumpkin.  I felt I could trust him.

A few other people nearby decided that this was enjoyable – to see an obvious tourist negotiating for a haunch of beef.  There was kibitzing, in which I took part – for having been here nearly a week, I have been able to pick up a certain amount of the dialect.  Soon there was laughing ahd joking all around.

“Ok.  Let’s do it!” I said.
“How would you like it cut?” he asked, and held his knife at a position which would create an enormous steak.
“Can you cut the pieces a bit smaller?”  I asked.
“Sure.  Like this?”
“That’s good.”

Soon I had a bag full of rough-cut chunks of meat.

I paid.  A little old lady sitting nearby, who may have been the fellow’s mother, took my money, and gave me the necessary change.

Then I asked my next question.

“How will my chunks of meat fare in this heat, if we don’t get back to our place in Gouyave until this afternoon?”

Another man chimed in: “Keep it in de white plastic bag he put it in.  Don’ put it in de black bags dey have ‘roun here.”

I was satisfied.

“Now, I also want some ground beef.  Does anyone here sell ground beef?”

My helpful fellow called out in patois to someone in another cage.  Other participants in the occasion said, “Dong dere dat man have he meat grind machine.”

Soon I was dealing with a short, grey-haired man who told me that he had actually spent many years in Canada.  His kids were born there, and both he and they held dual, Grenadan/Canadian citizenship.  I liked him.  And I took his ground beef at slightly more than two dollars a pound (after all, he had an expensive machine to maintain!)

Heather was not with me when I was negotiating my purchases, and she was not happy when she learned what I had done.  Indeed, she was convinced that my red treasures would be ready to give us bubonic plague by the time we got home.

So a hunt went up for an insulated bag.  The marketplace was roaring with every sort of product imagineable, surely someone would have insulated bags?  No such luck.

After visiting several stores and stalls, we ended up buying a dishpan, and a bunch of ice.  We put ice and meat in the dishpan, and a helpful lady actually “checked” the resulting basin-full of ice-covered meat – as one might check a coat at the theatre or a bag at a supermarket!  Although it was not in a refrigerator, my purchase spent the next hour or two on a shady indoor shelf while we continued through the market.  Would someone run off with meat and ice and dishpan?  We took that chance.

In due course, we returned, presented our checked ticket, and were given our meat, still covered in ice.  Indeed, by the end of the afternoon a lot of that ice had still not thawed, despite having been in the sun in my car for the twenty kilometre drive back to De White House!  I’ve now packaged up the meat in meal-sized portions, and have put them in the freezer.

We shall have beef.

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Next: Visitors in Church


1  Though I did not take any photographs of Kelly’s restaurant itself, when a bird flew across our table, I took a picture from my seat, looking out Kelly’s window at the bird, and at a normal Gouyave street scene.  Click here to see the picture.
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