Saturday, September 29, 2012

The cultures we straddle - Cruising the Caribbean

I am in an overcrowded minibus, the windshield proudly displaying the glittered moniker ‘GOD GREAT’, sandwiched between a huge woman with tight round, putty like arms and a sea of children, like minnows, heading home from school. My sunglasses are swimming on my face, the perspiration escaping in fast running salty streams, slipping into my mouth, pooling in my cleavage, my elbows, my spine. I have no room to wipe or scratch and I am under extreme scrutiny besides.
My fellow passengers, most uniformed children, are wide eyed and twig limbed, clambering to get a view of the straw haired white lady, who is pink and sweating and disheveled, various shopping bags, piled on her lap.
They are on their regular route home, oblivious to the wild winding speed with which our driver cuts the corners of the hills and valleys. Wind, so welcome in the sweltering heat, whistles through the grimy windows (those that will open), while local reggae serenades us, the bass distorted and deafening.
I can see JW up in the front, squished between the driver and various passengers who climb on and off at impromptu stops along the road. His head bounces dangerously close to the roof as the bus flies over speed bumps and pot holes.
The ‘mate’ who takes our coins seems to know where each small child should get off, and he patiently opens the clunky sliding door for each one, as the rest reshuffle inside, he walks the tiny passengers across the road to their gates.
This is the unofficial public transport system of Grenada. Where children can take a bus across town, from what seems like 3 years old alone, and the community takes care. Ladies call out from the roadside to each other, discussing relatives, events, naughty children.
And random backpacked, flip-flopped, canvas hatted cruisers can get all the way across town to run errands and buy groceries, for the price of a Coke.
This is the cultural experience that comes before and after the cruiser get together at the South African run bakery, where burgers are cheap on Fridays and the liveaboards gather for a good deal and a good gab. 
10EC burger Fridays at The Merry Baker, St. Georges, Grenada
 This is the journey that takes us from the heart of the city back out to our various bays, where the floating neighborhood awaits.
Where yachtees organise cricket matches and dinghy concerts.
JW, injured at the Friday cricket match
 This is the life of a cruiser in the Caribbean; living on the outskirts, weaving an experience from the beauty of the islands, the comraderie of the like-minded wanderers, and the culture that makes these places tick.
Hangin' with some adorable school kids.

Monday, September 24, 2012

I'm not scared anymore...

Weeks and months have passed. I spent them in the bubble.
Today I sit once again in the lap of paradise, palm trees swaying, this is Grenada; serenaded by cool jazz as the sweat pours down between my shoulder blades, tickling it’s path down to my waist.
It’s Monday. I proclaimed it laundry day and headed solo in the dinghy, over to Whisper Cove Marina to blog and wash. And so it is.
I am slowly finding my sea legs again and easing into the sore muscles, random bruises and blisters from rope pulling.
I am back home.
But the bubble consumed me for quite a while, lulling me with it’s ease and comforts. Long hot showers, air-conditioned rental car, restaurants of every description and a glut of shopping venues. But for the first time I was more excited in Home Depot and Canadian Tire than clothes stores. Solar lights caught my eye, instead of cute shoes. My boating self did come with me to the bubble.
It is tempting to feel at home, with family and old friends near by, barbecues by the pool, and everything so accessible. We took the opportunities around us, on road trips, ferries out to Toronto Island, the vibrancy of the city is wonderful...
Yet I found myself getting lazy, hazy minded. I lost the will to write, nothing happened that scared me or amazed me or kicked my creative butt. I craved the return to the boat, to take on new challenges, to conquer more fears.
But something strange happened on our arrival.
Despite the downright aggravations of the first 48 hours – flooded, flat dinghy, rolling dock, musty, moldy boat interior, mountains of unpacking, tools, laundry, dead batteries, sweat, sweat and more sweating, there was a paradigm shift within me.
I am not scared anymore.
Anchoring, pulling the boat up alongside a dock, heading out of a bay into the unknown sea; I’ve experienced all of these in the last 3 days and I took them all in stride. This is what I’ve been wanting for so long. No changes in my breathing, no squeezing my palms and shaking and fearing the worst. Dare I say I am now a cruiser?
Up to now, my fear has kept me from feeling genuine. Like a fraud, I’ve been chatting on the beach with real sailors, wondering what it was that made them who they were, and why I couldn’t be like them.
It is a life lesson. We are who we want to be. Act it, do it, and be it. Time is a wonderful teacher, healer, friend.
I’ve come back from my first long break, ready to visit new places, sail, feel the sea and the wind.
I don’t need the bubble. I know it’s there but I am ready to push the envelope. I’m looking forward to a nightsail. A solo watch, just the moon, the waves and me.
I’m going to try making some jewellery. I am going to buzz around in the dinghy alone. I’m going to write more. Write for the sake of it, to flex the muscles of the mind alongside my arms and legs.
I’m alive!