Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Grenada - Carnival Preparation & Steel Drums July 12, 2011

Tuesday, July 12, 2011
In spite of being tied to a dock, we certainly stay busy.  Chase is playing beach volleyball two days a week with a group of boaters from all over.  He attended a ‘hash’ which is an organized hike up mountains or where ever, coming back full of mud with a big grin on his face, 'whupped' as they say in the south.  But our highlight this week was attending a practice session of steel drum players preparing for the big festival, Carnival.

Carnival is August 5 thru 8, with the major activities occurring on the 7th and 8th.  Staging will take place right here in our marina parking lot so we will see plenty without getting off the boat!  There is an island wide steel band competition among other activities - hence all the practice.

Shademan organized a trip for us - 3 bus loads of boaters attended, again, from all around the marinas and anchorages.  Wow!  These high school kids have been playing for 4 years and they are certainly really into it!
Practice session in the school yard with band director

Band Director was hot, hot, hot!

Medium size drum

Big time jammin'
We learned so much about steel drums, called PANS.  This music and the drums originated in Trinidad, the next island south of us here in Grenada.  Drumming was used as a form of communication among the enslaved Africans and was ultimately outlawed by the British colonial government in 1783, who were afraid the slaves could plan to revolt against their owners via the drum communications.  (Remember, slavery was HUGE in these islands - this is where is all began.  America was late to the game and got the ‘leftovers’ not sold around these islands.)  Somewhere along the line, the slaves began performing on the steel drums during the French (who were early settlers in these islands, along with the Brits and others) Mardi Gras festivities celebrations.   The music grew, spreading throughout these islands, as did the Carnival - a Mardi Gras type festival.  

The drums are made from very thin sheet metal of various thickness (thick being relative - all thin!).   The kids were playing on what looked like 3 kinds of drums, bass one is the largest - like a steel drum garbage container; there is a middle size one half the size of that garbage can one and the smallest is tenor & 1/4 the size of the big one.
Largest Drum
The largest drums- bass

This guy twirls his band sticks & plays about 6 drums
I understand that the larger the oval size of the drum, the lower the tone.  The length of the entire drum corresponds to the high or low range of the drum.   Some drums might have only 3 bass notes per drum or ‘pan’ and a drummer would then play six pans.  Each drum has numerous notes and sharps - take a close look at a steel drum if you get the chance.  Inside on the hammered out steel are various ‘patches’ - some square; some round and each is a different note!

So much fun - the kids really get into it

Chase getting a lesson

 Steel drums are even tuned up - just like a piano.  Twice a year at a minimum each is polished; smoothed out etc. by a very skilled technician. 

Calapso, classical, jazz - you name it and the kids play it!


These kids took great pride in showing us the drums, how to play and in general, had a good time with us milling about during their breaks.  
Sharon pounding away - NOT making music

Carnival preparation is in full swing all over the island.  Carnival is a VERY BIG deal!  In this school, above the building in loft like rooms, local men and women, volunteering their time, were working hard, sweating in the heat of the non-air conditioned rooms, sewing and gluing, making hundreds of Carnival costumes!
Local volunteers making Carnival costumes

Costumes stacking up

Tracing patterns

  We wandered freely about, chatting with the volunteers as they bent over their tasks.  Some were drawing head dresses with stencils, other cutting them out.  On down the line of workers the cardboard piece would be passed. This activity has been going on frantically since May.

Making the pattern from the stencil they made

 Others began to glue material, trims, sequins, etc. on them.  The costumes will sell from about $300 to $500 EC (one EC = $2.67 US), a good money maker for the school.

Headdress in the rafters

Boaters taking it all in

Headdresses in the rafters

Photo of finished costumes
Not much material!!!

The guys have it easier!

Layers of breadfruit, vegs, chicken, pig parts & coconut

As the evening wore on, the local women prepared the Grenadian national dish - the oil down - for us and had  coolers full of beer and soft drinks and their national drink - rum punch available.   (I fully described the oil down in the previous blog - refer back if need be.)
This pot feeds a LOT of people!
We had a great time eating & sipping and listening to the practice and to the special songs they played for us.  Three hours later, we boaters kept clapping, getting encore after encore from the kids.  Not able to sit still with the wonderful music & the night air, Shademan showed us the dance steps & most of the boaters got up and began dancing to the music.

Shademan dancing with his food in hand!
Shademan is a hoot!

Boaters in awe!!
The kids were playing, stepping to the beats and most likely laughing silently at the sight of this AARP crowd shaking it all about.  A fabulous, very special evening we will never forget! 

Now, click on this video to hear the kids playing this great music!  If for some reason this video appears BLACK when posted --  click on that tiny arrow on the bottom left & both the kids playing and the music will be visible and audible.

UPDATE:  The band, Comanchero, comprised of the wonderfully talented young people we spent an evening with while they practiced WON the Band competition at Carnival in August!!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Our Six Months in Grenada -Fish Nights; 4th of July & MORE

Friday, July 8, 2011

Been a busy week - Chase is getting a flavor of Grenada and the life of a boater and even meeting some cute gals his age!  Can’t be all bad around here! 

Gouyave Fish Fridays
Our favorite ‘taxi’ driver, Shademan, drove a group of us from the marina to Gouyave, about a 45 minute drive from here, last Friday night to participate in their weekly Fish Friday - billed as ‘an outdoor culinary event’.

One of many sidewalk vendors making lots of food
 This is the same town as the Nutmeg Factory and one I want to wander about it.  We can simply catch a bus there one afternoon to explore on our own.

Shademan told us that because this past week was the Fisherman’s Birthday - an annual event celebrating fishermen - that there would be a number of steel drums playing.   Guess what, Nadda.  No steel drums.

  We still had a good time eating our way through all the numerous vendors selling all kinds of locally prepared seafood cooked right in front of you.  We ate crab cakes, Jack fish fried, fried shark, whole steamed snapper, a local ‘johnny cake’ that was like a biscuit and all was ever so very good.  We ate and ate, sharing everything so there would be room for more!

Fish of all kinds cooked all kinds of ways

Folks are ever so very friendly!
Local wearing a CRAB hat, having fun!

 Music was playing  from a bandstand with young girls shaking their hips in time to the music and the young men staring and poking at each other.  So reminded me of 8th grade - boys on one side of the street and gals on the other, sneaking peeks at each other, pretending not to notice the opposite sex.   The adults just wandered about, pigging out on all the great food and we never saw anyone dancing.   I was bummed that there were no steel bands tho!

The Underwater Sculpture Park
Ah ha, found a place to snorkel - piling into our dingy with Chase, Andy, Joanne & George, we sloughed our way about two miles from the marina to Molinere Bay, on the northern side of St. George’s.    Grenada’s Underwater Sculpture Park “Art by Nature’ is in this Bay and access is easy with the entire place marked off with red buoys and mooring balls one can tie to.  Over we went, searching for the sculptures lying on the bottom of the bay, tucked in and about the reef. 

Wow!  Spooky, actually!  Swimming along, I spied a circle of life sized children holding hands as though they were playing Ring Around the Rosie or some such thing.  Three had fallen over, making it spooky to see children on the bottom!  This one is called ‘Vicissitudes’.
Photo from a website
 We saw a man sitting at a desk with a typewriter; a man on a bike - the bike and man had fallen over, and a large boulder appeared to be sitting on his head - spooky.

image-gren 6 ctlnov07
Not my photo - taken from website

There were a number of sculptures all of which depict Grenadian life, culture and the environment.  I found the circle of naked women lying on the bottom very creepy, however - weird. 

image-gren 5 ctlnov07
Photo from Website
Although fish and coral were certainly there, the 'reef' is more gray than colorful....Still, a very interesting snorkel trip!   I know we missed a few sculptures so we’ll certainly go back there!

Independence Day Celebrations
July 1 is the Canadian Independence Day and of course, July 4th is ours.

Canadian celebrating!

We talked Danny, the marketing director of the marina into helping us throw a huge CANUSA party, donating resources such as the pool and getting the restaurant to agree to pitch in.  We invited all the boaters from the southern part of Grenada - no matter what anchorage, what marina and about 100 showed up.
Love the USA shirt!

Boaters from all over the world celebrating with us

Dancing is the same no matter what nationality
Traditional Independence Day food with all the sides was the meal prepared & the bar was Happy Hour prices all day.  The DJ provided by Port Louis was fabulous all night long.  The photos speak for themselves.....another AARP party that might make the youngsters blush.

The DJ played it all

Early in the day

Hot dogs, burgers, steaks

Sharon & Andy

Sharon USA & George CANADA- Grand Prize winners

 I won the contest on behalf of the USA - had to tell why it would be great to live in Canada from the American perspective & the Canadians had to do the same from their perspective as to why live in the USA.  There were a number of participants from both countries.  Remember, the contest came late, after lots of beer or whatever.

I gave a number of reasons, such as getting to drive faster because it is KM & not miles, etc. but the topper was that women would like to live there because in some provinces the men wear kilts.  Also, for the men, there are more beavers seen in Canada than in the USA.  I brought down the house with my straight face......

Cook teaching Chase how to dance like a local

That's it kid!  You got it!

As the evening wore on, with the music hopping, the cook even came out of the kitchen, teaching Chase how to dance, island style!

Wonderful fun!

Cook got all the kids going!

We do hope this party becomes an annual event.  The marketing director was thrilled - he got 3 slip bookings that night from boaters who had never seen this marina before.  The Restaurant was thrilled as they made a bunch of money on what is normally a dead Sunday night.  Win/win all around! 

On the actual 4th, we threw a dock party with everyone bringing a dish to share.  Danny supplied picnic tables for us and Finally Fun, with our rear speakers, turned up the volume on our John Phillips Sousa military music CDs.  About 30 from our docks attended, having a ball and eating great food!  We have certainly bonded around here and each is always planning something!!

OIL DOWN - The National Dish of Grenada
Thursday we took off with a group into town to the Country Kitchen restaurant.  Restaurant is actually too fancy a word for this place located near the market, tucked down an alleyway with only about 10 tables inside.

We had the traditional island ‘oil down’ meal which is called the Caribbean comfort food.   It is cooked in a huge cauldron layered with breadfruit (almost like a potatoe, but grows on a tree), potatoes of other varieties; carrots, pumpkin, tara root, green figs and callaloo (strong leafy veg tasting like spinach), onions, lots of various island spices and other stuff I could not identify.   I learned AFTER I ate it all that pig tails, pig snouts and feet are added as are chicken necks and again, unidentifiable other body parts.  There was also a dumpling - rolled tight like a cigar that was very chewy.   Actually, the cook told me it was a dumpling, but I wonder really what it might have been.  Everything is layered with palm fronds & then stewed in coconut milk squeezed out of the fresh coconuts & cooked over an open fire for hours in the cauldron.    It is called oil down because as the coconut milk simmers down it releases its rich flavored oil into the pot.    For 3 of us + 2 cokes and 1 beer, tax & tip the total was $42 EC or $15.73 US.  It is flavorful and very very filling!  We will eat it again.
Cooked down, OIL DOWN

Making Oil Down on J Dock - thanks Joanne!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Our Six Months in Grenada - Island Tours July 2011

Saturday, July 2, 2011
Chase arrived in Grenada!
Andy’s grandson, Chase, arrived this week from Oklahoma and settled in.  Now we are on a mission to see the island and make certain Chase stays very busy & has a good time while visiting us for three weeks.....a challenge for anyone dealing with an almost 16 year old!!

Our dock of Canadians, French Canadians & US citizens has ‘bonded’ and we are busy planning parties, outings to various local events and even working out as a group at a local gym.  Throw in a few happy hours and dinner parties and we stay more than busy.  Boater’s midnight still strikes at 9 ish, however!

Marie showing off her lamp shade she just bought during our boater beach party
Vendor selling the woven lamp shades @ Grand Anse Beach

Vendor departing w pocket full of money
 Boater beach parties are a fun filled time with boaters from various anchorages & marinas along the south side of Grenada.  The VHF Channel 68 hums with information on where to go; what to do & tidbits of all kinds of information.  We love the diversity of people from all over the world here - French, Australian, Dutch, Scotch, German, Irish, Canadian, American & others all sharing a common love of adventure & the oceans.

Too many Carib beers - wearing the lamp shade

Filling a van with 10 for an island tour, using ‘Shademan’ ie Johnny, we traversed the 133 square miles of the entire island in a 9 hour marathon trip in the non-airconditioned van.  Thank goodness it was cloudy all day, with the normal sprinkles of rain that kept us comfortable.  Highlights of our trip were the lush beauty of everywhere we drove, the running commentary of ‘Shademan’ (named thus by boaters who said everytime they stopped with him during their tour, Johnny sought out the SHADE) & the factories we visited that are operating pretty much as they did hundreds of years ago. 

Concord waterfall & pool

A refreshing stop at the Concord waterfalls up in the rainforest was our first stop as we headed north along the island.  No one went swimming, citing the overcast day and cooler temps.  Concord is one of several waterfalls and certainly not the most spectacular, but still very pretty.

Tethered by this rope around her horns

The drive UP to it through the rainforest was lush - greenery everywhere with colorful flowers abounding.  Throw in a few goats and cows along the sides of the road and one must pay close attention to the road, not the sights! 

Papaya Tree

See the single red below - Unknown variety
No one knows the name of this flower
Cocoa, bananas, papaya displayed at Concord Falls

First big stop was in Gouyave to visit the Nutmeg processing station.  This island called Spice Island (duh) is noted also for the numerous spices grown here, particularly nutmeg - that are shipped all over the world.

Take a look at that spice jar sitting on your shelf - probably says from WEST Indies...that is here.  Most interesting - again, nothing has changed in hundreds of years.   There is nutmeg grown in the EAST Indies, but that is another story.

The Nutmeg

Nutmeg actually did originate in the East Indies and was brought here where it flourished.  Nutmeg is TWO spices -- nutmeg and MACE!

Around the seed is a red membrane that is the mace part.

Grown on an evergreen tree that blossoms with light yellow flowers that grown into the fruit that is about the size of a plum, it matures until it pops open to reveal the seed.

The nut is dried for a couple of months, moved around every day in the drying bins by wooden shovels so as to not harm the oily nut.

Take a look at the national flag of Grenada - the nutmeg is prominently displayed on the red, yellow & green flag!  (On the left side)
Grenada National Flag

As we toured the plant, we noticed how shiny the floors were - hundreds of years of oil getting onto the wooden floors!  The nuts are sorted by size and quality with the lesser ones being crushed into oil & used in foods and perfumes.  The best nuts become the whole nutmeg we know. 

Sorting Table w various size holes
Workers sit around another sorting table - looking for quality

Nutmegs are sorted by hand just like centuries before!

Nuts that float are NOT 1st quality
Bag full of shiny nutmegs

Bags are hand stenciled with their destination country
Stenciled bag
Full bags ready to be lowered via pulleys
Notice the old fashioned scales

Ready for shipment

Enough said - at the entrance to Nutmeg Factory

The nutmeg as we know it - ready to grate

Outside of the Nutmeg Factory

A brief stop at Sauteurs at the top tip of the island to see Carib’s Leap...the point of land from which numerous Carib Indians (the original settlers) leaped to their deaths on the rocks below rather than be taken prisoner by the French during the 17th century.
Carib's Leap

The Carib's were cannibals and very vicious.  They killed men, women, children of the French and the French got even.  The French slaughtered all of the Caribs on the island in retaliation for that attack.

They jumped right behind here.

The Grenada Chocolate Factory - Who knew that much of the chocolate made by the finest companies in the world (think Swiss chocolate; chocolate from Germany; Belgium chocolate, etc.) comes from GRENADA!!

Cocoa beans inside the cocoa fruit

The island’s rich volcanic soil  & mountainous terrain enables the cocoa bean to develop into the high quality, wonderfully aromatic Trinitatrio/Criollo variety of cocoa.

The cocoa grows in a very large pod on a tree (remember my comments when we saw one in Dominican Republic) that when turns red, is ready for harvest.

See cocoa pod/bean growing down on the lower left side
Harvesting takes place all year long, with beans becoming ripe at different times on the same tree....a continual  process.  Once picked, the pods are cut open, the slimy big beans inside pulled out.

Sucking that slimy stuff OFF the bean is a delightful tasks - just don’t bite the bitter bitter bean!  Many many years ago, it was the job of children to suck the slimy stuff off, leaving the bean for processing!  Now, beans are soaked in some kind of a solution before drying out and then roasted and further processed.

They are then bagged in old burlap bags and shipped around the world.  Grenada makes their own chocolate and it, too, is so very delish!  I can never ever eat a Hershey Bar again......compared to all the really GOOD chocolate, Hershey tastes like paste wax.  This place is in the process of being certified totally 100% organic now....much was already organic, but now 100%.

Original plantation wall

Centuries old plantation
This factory is part of the Belmont Estate, a plantation of 400+ acres & run by the same family that has existed on this island for hundreds of years.  The plantation is still worked today - although no longer with slaves.

After eating our way through numerous samples of chocolate candy that absolutely melted in our mouths, we purchased a lot which somehow was eaten before we were two hours out of the place!  I am waiting for a cooler day to make “Cocoa Tea” which is the equivalent of our hot chocolate.  This 'tea' is made from the cocoa balls that are beans that were fermented and ground into a course blend with spices added.  One then grates the ball into boiling water, strains it and serves the drink  with milk and sugar added.  We shall make this before Chase departs - no matter how hot the outside weather is!

Cane stalks piling up
The River Antoine Rum Factory runs and looks like it must have in the 1800’s!   This is the oldest working rum distillery in the entire Caribbean and that says a  LOT as there is much much much rum produced throughout these islands.

There is a giant water wheel crushing the sugar cane - which is the basis for all rums.  The cane stalks are burned as fuel to heat up the cane juice - wood logs are added to keep it a bigger and hotter fire & enormous cast iron bowls (called coppers) hold the cane sugar juice and dump it from one copper to another as it gets hotter and hotter.  The stuff sits and ferments too...phew.

Logs also used as fuel for the fire

Adding wood to the fire
Been done this way for centuries!

Walking through the barn like doors into the building where the juice is fermenting in big bins and water  is pouring around on the floor in carved out sluices in the concrete floor, I spotted the largest FROG I have ever seen in my life...as big as my FOOT (Size 5).  Hopping about, I wondered if he got drunk on the vapors and hoped he didn’t become part of the rum.  Sanitary conditions - NOT.

Fermenting Bins of Sugar Cane before it comes Rum
In the main fermenting room - pipes with water (?) & other stuff running in/about

This was the most modern equipment seen - tests something I think

OSHA would have a field day

Still want to drink Rum????

  Unfortunately, by the time we got there (4:15 PM) the place had closed - poor planning on the part of our driver I should say!  We missed the formal tour and the rum sampling, but enjoyed poking about & talking with the few remaining employees for a while as we wandered about freely.
Rums of Grenada- Some of them!

Lush everywhere

Overlooking the Lake
We topped off the trip with a drive up narrow winding roads, up/down/twist and turn through the Grand Etang, never seeing the monkeys that are said to be along the way,  til we arrived finally at an extinct volcano crater lake 1800 feet above sea level.   Standing in the cool mountain misty air, we fed some fish in the lake with our remaining snack food & just wandered about for a bit.  This volcano is said to be connected to that Kick ‘Em Jenny underwater volcano we cruised past along this coastline to get to Grenada.  This crater is also said to be bottomless.  In fact, the U.S. military and others have tried to measure the depth - to no avail.  No one can find the ‘bottom’!!

Nothing up here but the Lake
There is a trail around this lake that we talked about coming back to hike --- till we got back to the boats and spoke with a boater who had just done exactly that a week ago.  This athletic, active hiker said NEVER -- don’t go; nearly killed him.  There is no trail and much of the ‘path’ is through water, over and under trees and bushes and slogging through mud past one’s knees.  He said this was NOT an enjoyable 5 hours....Enough said.  Got the picture.
Coming back into St. Georges