New Year. old scene.

 

yep, it's paradise

Last February 24 we returned home from our 69 day trip to the caribbean–and I started counting down the days until I’d be back here again.

The winter was frigid, the spring wet & brief, and as usual summer breezed by. Now, 26,092,800 seconds after i reappeared in the snowy tundra I am back in the equatorial climate on the tiny island of St. John.

So far this vacation has offered up lots of excitement for those who accept adventure, and i sure do. From ringing in the new years at the local bar to getting stung by jellyfish and everything in between.

A few days ago my family and I went to a a local beach fish fry, and when we arrived we were the only white people there.  While some might have been scared away we embraced the idea. Whether it was because we’re just party people or because we wanted to get a taste of local culture (and some lobster.) The party was very fun and i took elsa on her first snorkeling trip this year in which we saw a starfish (see below) and a sea turtle. Afterwords I went a bar and watched the vikings play. 

baby I'm a star

 

A few days later my family went to one of the many beaches and dropped anchor only to find 9 feet waves waiting for us. Gnarly. The second we laid foot on the beach Elsa and I were running full speed to get these waves.

everybody's gone (body) surfin'

 

But now our vacation is coming to an end.  In a couple short days we will experience a dramatic 100 degree temperature drop when we arrive back in the colorless frozen land we call home. Back at home, its back to school, sports and friends. I guess that doesn’t sound so bad either.

Reflections on the Breakaway

The trip is over now and the sand has turned to snow, the warm water to ice, palm trees to bare oaks and bare feet to boots and 3 layers of socks.

dscn1678

To sum the trip up I’d say it was brilliant and arguably the best time of my life most of the time but just a little of the time it would be miserable because I wouldn’t want to write a blog post or do my math because i wanted to spend my every minute in the sun basking.

But after the trip I can now say that I learned so much, not just on school-related topics but also about life–seeing all the lifestyles and the way some people get along with what seems like nothing to us.

I’m sure I will never forget any part of this Breakaway in the future. Thank you mom and dad for taking me!

Pit Stop in Puerto Rico

For the last leg of the trip we spent 3 days in Puerto Rico at a very nice resort that had its own private island, a funicular (like a gondola to take you up and down the hill) and a water park.  It was the biggest and most touristy place we stayed at during the entire trip.  And it was pretty great.  We didn’t get out and explore much, but relaxed and played for our final days…

yep, that's me, way out there, practically walking on water

yep, that's me, way out there, practically walking on water

Here are some things I did in puerto rico:

  • Rode a big, fancy bus that had tons of room, TVs, and free drinks.  We’re not on “More Faith” (the dollar bus) any more!
  • Swam and went down all slides in the water park including a 45 foot drop straight down.  I eventually got kicked out of the drop-slide for going down head-first!  
  • Went on a ferry to their private island that had mini golf and horse rides. My dad and i rented a kayak and kayaked to another near-by island that was protected by the government.
  • Played basketball with Spanish speaking dudes on Palomino Island.  
  • Walked way, way out on a shallow reef.  (see the picture at the top of the page)
  • Played poker with some friends at a local restaurant.
  • After 10 weeks finally had some good pizza, they don’t have much pizza in the Caribbean.
  • Saw iguanas for the first time all trip.

I really liked Puerto Rico but i didn’t love it, it was too inhabited.

Things I never ate before this trip

 

What would you order?

What would you order?

Eating in other countries is always an adventure.  Sometimes there are weird things you’ve never heard of.  Other times you order something that sounds familiar but it turns out being something else.

I’ve tried to be open minded and  try new things.  Some were controversial and some were good and some were just awful. Here’s a list.  Which ones have you had?  Which ones would you try?

  • Sugarcane (love it, but don’t tell my dentist)
  • Armadillo (known locally as tattoo–I saw it before it was cooked and kind of got grossed out; it tasted ok but was bony)
  • Conch (known locally as lambi–love it)
  • Curried goat (it was okay)
  • Crab back (chopped up land crab stuffed, cooked and served in the shell of the crab–not my favorite)
  • Cocoa tea (they just call it hot chocolate)
  • Tuna roll (as in sushi)
  • Oildown (the national dish of Grenada–kind of a stew, I ate the chicken)
  • Coconut water (even though everyone down here thinks it’s a delicacy and worships it i don’t really like it)
  • Fried plantain (too sweet for me)
  • Barracuda (loved it, one of my favorite fish)
  • Fried flying fish (YUCK)
  • Callaloo soup (not good but not bad either, really salty and thick green)
  • Nutmeg ice cream (too flavo(u)rful for me)
  • Seafood pasta (just love it, one of my favorite dishes on this trip)
  • Okra (yuck-ra, a disgusting vegetable)
  • Lime Squash (kind of like fresh limeade–yum)
  • Ting (a very good soda with a citrus flavor)
  • Passionfruit, Soursop, Kingfruit, Papaya, Guava (the whole fruit thing was discussed previously)

Food I took a pass on–need I explain why?

  • Fish eggs & heads & guts
  • Urchin
  • Fried jack minnows
  • Rum punch (yes, I really was offered some!)

 

 

Glimpses of Grenada

I’ve been on Grenada about 3 weeks now and I’ve seen lots of amazing and unusual things. Here are a few of the sights and scenes.

A beautiful morning rainbow

A beautiful morning rainbow

 

Guy at the fort where the French and British used to watch for invaders.

Guy at the fort where the French and British used to watch for invaders.

 

 

Urchins in the water with a ripple effect

Urchins in the water with a ripple effect

 

Adorable kids at a preschool. You'll be seeing more of them later!

Adorable kids at a preschool. You'll be seeing more of them later!

 

A very bright caterpillar. I've seen about 50 this vacation, There EVERYWHERE!

A very bright caterpillar. I've seen about 50 this vacation, They're EVERYWHERE!

 

We started laughing at that big lure and we said "Thats a joke right?" and he said "No thats what we use when were out deep fishing"

We started laughing at that big lure and we said "Thats a joke right?" and he said "No that's what we use when we're out deep fishing"

 

Although Grenada doesn't have that many tourists they still have some.

Although Grenada doesn't have that many tourists they still have some.

 

cool statue on the harbor

cool statue on the harbor

 

 

commuters are everywhere

commuters are everywhere

 

This guy jumped off a cliff at a waterfall--and encouraged donations!

This guy jumped off a cliff at a waterfall--and encouraged donations!

Juicy Fruit!

I love fruit. I’ve always loved fruit. At home i eat pears grapes and at least 3 apples a day.  Here those items are very expensive and rare so instead i eat tropical fruit, and instead of going to the grocery store i get it in all kinds of ways. Remember that rasta market where i got those bags of passion fruit for 10 EC? Well here in Grenada,  bigger bags with more passion fruit are 5 EC! 2 US for a bagfull! For those who don’t know, this is what a passion fruit looks like.

Yummmmmm!

Yummmmmm!

 dscn14351

A couple days back we went in a car and got a tour of Grenada from a guide and as we were driving through a town we were yelling out of the car window asking if anyone had passion fruit. And finally someone said yes, and right there in the middle of the road we purchased two bags of passion fruit.

Another fruit we got that day was called soursop.  Soursop is a big green prickly fruit that tastes like a sweet tart with a weird texture.  I like the way the other guests staying where we are put it, “a milk infused pineapple with a unknown texture.” We got this fruit because our cab driver pulled over to someone’s house that he didn’t even know and asked if we could have one off their tree, and the nice old lady said yes so my mom hopped out and helped her pull one from the tree and then handed it inside to me but the next one was tricky but they finally pulled it out of the tree… but my mom dropped it 12 feet down by a river so I had to go and retrieve it. This morning Jimmy, one of the people running the guest house where we’re staying, squeezed about a gallon of juice out of one big soursop. Here’s a picture…

Not very common on this island

Not very common on this island

 

They get pretty big

They get pretty big

The last fruit I’m going to tell you about is starfruit, or five finger, or carambola. You may have seen these before in thin slices on the side of your plate, they cost a few dollars in a US grocery store IF you can get them! Here they’re free! While coming home from river tubing Phillip the driver said over there, there is starfruit. Of course i asked if i could get some and he said it was up to me so i ran over and filled up my shirt with five finger/carambola/starfruit and since then we’ve “refilled” again. Starfruit is even more like a sweet tart then soursop.  

These are the little ones I didn't eat...

These are the little ones I didn't eat...

super sweet and juicy

super sweet and juicy

There’s much more delicious fruit down here, but I don’t have a story and I don’t have a picture.  So that will fill you up for now.

My version of a field trip

Today we had a very interesting day exploring the island of Grenada (consider yourself warned.)

We woke up and had an excellent breakfast with lots of fresh fruit and then set off for a adventure. Our group included my family, a couple from Michigan and our ‘guide,’ the woman who owns the guesthouse where we are staying.  

it's pronounced like "guava" without the "a" at the end

it's pronounced like "guava" without the "a" at the end

First of all we walked down to town–a fishing village called Gouvaye–which took about half an hour and it started to rain.  The road was really rough and muddy.  It was supposed to be closed to traffic because it washed out from a landslide and they never fixed it but people were driving on it anyway, of course.

We wandered along to the old nutmeg factory right in the middle of town where the farmers bring their fresh nutmeg and then it is dried and sorted and ground into the spice and shipped all over the world.  (Grenada is the #2 producer of nutmeg in the whole world!) That was very cool. (And yes i’ll be bringing some samples home to the class.)

Have you ever seen so much nutmeg?

Have you ever seen so much nutmeg?

Then we explored the town a little bit, and checked out the little shops, and then headed out, down a road that is right next to the sea. I was ahead of the group and some local men on the shore started yelling at me and waving me to come down, so of course i did.

I'm the white guy in the back...

I'm the white guy in the back...

And it turns out that they were pulling in their fishing nets! So I helped them pull in the nets, being cautious of urchins in the net and it took about 30 or 40 minutes to pull it in. It was HARD! And i thought they’d caught no fish because 3/4 of the net was already pulled in and it was empty but it turns out there were still very many fish still to come in. By the end they had hundreds of minnows and two big fish.

At the end a guy asked me “aymondoyuwannasomefeesh?” and my response to that was “well sure I’ll take a couple for bait” then he asked if I had a bag so I went up and grabbed a little plastic one and gave it to him. Who knows where it went, I’m pretty sure he swam out to the boat that was helping them net and 20 minutes later I had a stuffed to the top bag of dying minnows (jacks) that will hopefully be used by me today fishing in the ocean.

We said goodbye to the fishing guys and continued our walk up to a very old plantation where they grow things like nutmeg and cloves and bay leaves and coffee and cocoa beans. At the spice plantation a really nice old woman showed us (and let us smell) all the different beans and leafs and pods they use to make spices and at the end I got a lot of stuff to show people at home, like cinnamon (the bark of the tree), and bay leaves and homemade cocoa blocks that you put in hot water and wait for them to dissolve and ‘whalah’ you have hot chocolate.

lots of spices to enhance the flavor in your food!

lots of spices to enhance the flavor in your food!

Then we walked through a river that was flooding the road and hopped on one of those minivans that holds lots of people (only 18 this time) and came back to our lodge.  It was a very fun day!