Monday, November 12, 2012

Graceful turtle RIP

Lazy jazz wafts through the thick humid air, the immense bearded lady in her stained apron sits in front of me, frowning at her Blackberry. Beads of sweat trickle down her chins into the orange t-shirt that stretches beyond it’s capabilities, around her dense shining skin. She is on a break from the steaming kitchen, like me she is basking in what little breeze teases as it flutters by.
I’m at the Lazy Turtle, a French run pizzeria on the tiny island of Carricou. I’m the only one here, using the free and fast Internet. Pastel painted wooden chairs are lined up in rows at the empty tables, awaiting this evening’s crowd of cruisers and holiday makers. Fresh coconuts are on offer - the seller's sharp machete slicing through the hard shell, spilling the fresh, sweet juice and handing the ready made cup to eager hands and lips. The season has begun, the hurricanes are hopefully all gone and the tourists are coming back.
Today is our last day in this bay. There are many ‘lasts’ lately, but this lifestyle has taught me to never say never. We might be back, we might not leave. Something might need fixing on the boat; we might be invited to another social event. Life is fluid.
Life is relaxed. The laid back beats are backed by the surf, lapping the beach below me. A crowd of divers has just arrived next door, eager to head off to the reefs, alive with coral and multi coloured fish.
The islands are paradise.

But there is another side, as with everything. Even paradise has an ugly underbelly.
As much as we cruisers pass through these places with rich cultures and customs, there are things that happen that we find difficult to accept. Hard to witness. Things that have happened for centuries that rub us with the coarse sand of cultural difference. Of taboo. Our righteous backbone stands straight up and urges us to do something.
Many areas in the islands have been designated as marine reserves, protecting the wildlife that is in danger of extinction; that is so precious to those of us who have not grown up with this exotic flora and fauna at our fingertips.
However, not everyone sees these animals as sacred, precious, as cows in India.
Once when I was living in Ghana I showed my local friends a photo I’d taken in Houston Texas, of an advert for taking photos of your pet with Santa Claus. This concept was absurd, frivolous, bizarre. It was cultural. Dogs and cats are not considered members of the family in Ghana. In some areas, cats are a savoured delicacy. They are food.
It’s with this understanding that we try to accept what we saw the other day on a stroll through town.
The other side of paradise is that conservationism is not universal. Turtles to some are food.
And we try to compute this, when remembering our days of swimming alongside these gentle, valiant creatures in the Tobago Cays, marveling at their grace and swiftness in the water.
We try to view the islands with a sense of balance. Of good and bad, light and darkness. We walk on, but our knees are a bit weak. Something tugs at us, something feels not right with the universe. There are so many questions, but no good answers.
Some days are harder than others to face.


  1. Ugh. WOW. I don't think I could've handled seeing that. I know it's cultural, but it doesn't make it any less heartbreaking to me.

  2. Oh, that's so sad...poor thing..but you are right..all paradises have an ugly side. I've experienced that first hand too! ;-)