The words which appear in the last line of my bio are 100% truthful. I often describe myself as a Caribbean girl and knew I was not meant to live in Jamaica all my life. This Caribbean love affair first started in Trinidad.
The year was 1979 and Trinidad was hosting the World Netball Championships. My mother, a former Jamaica netball player, carted my sister and me off with her. (Yes, airfare was cheap in those days.) The mix of the accent (the sing-song of the ‘friend of a friend’ we stayed with), the new landscape (Diego Martin, Frederick Street, the boat ride to ‘the islands’…which I later found out was NOT Tobago) and the introduction to new food (coo-coo….we had only cooked thick cornmeal for our dogs) made me know that I wanted to explore more of this region and its diversity.
The count so far is 15 islands: Trinidad (not Tobago), Guyana (technically not in the Caribbean, geographically speaking), Barbados, Grenada (my favourite), St. Vincent & Two Grenadines (Bequia, Tobago Cays), St. Lucia, Dominica, Guadeloupe, Antigua, St. Kitts, Nevis, St. Maarten, Tortola, St. Thomas and The Bahamas.
To those from outside the region, all Caribbean people sound the same. To Caribbean people, you know to say “oh, you’re from XYZ island” once you hear a different accent. Well, actually, more often than not, Grenadians think I am from Barbados. My standard response is “eff I were from Barbados, oy would talk like this” in my best Bajan accent. People from neighbouring islands do sound similar though. Some Grenadians and Trinidadians can pass for relatives. With the French undertone in the accents of St. Lucians and Dominicans, there is no mistaking those islands are near (enough) by. You would have to listen closely to distinguish an Antiguan from a Kittitian. This theory does not hold true for Jamaicans, who have Cuba to the west and Haiti to the east.
From most of the islands, the sea is often visible and who doesn’t love ocean vistas? Beaches are pristine with crystal clear water – a much sought after attraction for tourists and locals alike. That most islands still ensure public access to the beach is to be applauded. The landscapes are somewhat similar, with the presence of hills or mountains adding dramatic views and creating many breath-taking moments. Most of the islands have volcanic activity to thank for their dramatic topography. The flat, Little-House-On-The-Prairie feel of the parts of Guyana I have visited is in stark contrast to the other Caribbean countries, one giveaway that you are not on an island. The limestone foundation of Barbados also gives it a different look from the rest of the region.
Eating coo-coo opened my eyes to other food possibilities. Hearing otaheiteapple referred to as Pommerac demonstrated that in seeming differences, there are similarities – a lesson for life. When travelling around the Caribbean, I try and opt for the local fare. Sidebar:On my second trip to Trinidad, this time as an adult, each day my friend would ask what I wanted for lunch or dinner. Each day she got the same response. “Roti!”The Grenadian national dish of Oil Down is serious comfort food and perfect for a road side cook.
We haven’t even mentioned the music of the Caribbean yet – reggae, soca, zouk and so much more. Guaranteed then that this love affair is set to continue, until the diversity of all of the Caribbean has been explored.
By Michelle McDonald
Photos by Michelle McDonald
Michelle L. McDonald has been writing since her teenage years, when she started posting entries in her diary. Since then, she has developed this hobby into becoming a Features writer and Blogger. Since 2003, her work has been published in the Jamaica Gleaner, SHE Caribbean and on www.caribbeancricket.com profiling International cricketers and writing “off the field” features from the Caribbean and the United Kingdom.
On www.yamfoot.net Michelle posts candid stories about living in the Caribbean. Professionally, she is a freelance Service/HR Advisor and Trainer and is based in Grenada and Jamaica, although she considers all of the Caribbean her home.