Thanksgiving in Grenada
October 25th, officially recognised as Thanksgiving on the island nation of Grenada. It is a holiday that does not receive popular support from the masses. Almost everyone I have talked to feels that this holiday is wholly artifice and placed upon by a government that is adopting an American tradition. Grenadians, although thankful for a day off of work, feel that the day has no significance for them. Some that I have talked to would prefer to have a Remembrance Day or Memorial Day for the victims of hurricanes instead of the imported Thanksgiving. You have to remember that while there is definitely a cycle of agricultural events for Grenadian farmers, it does not coincide with the autumn experienced by farmers in the northern latitudes. As a result some businesses are still open, some people purposefully find work to do as a personal sign of protest and some make a lot of food and watch movies all afternoon.
We fit into the last category, or at least, we ate a lot of food that someone else made. Our landlords that live in the apartment below us invited us down for our first taste of Grenada’s national dish, Oil Down. While I do not know the history of oil down, I do now know the basic foundation for the dish. Take a large pot, usually the biggest you can find and get some water boiling. Then make some dumplings and while they are cooking, do all the prep work for the vegetables and meat. The vegetables include but are not limited to, breadfruit, callaloo, Irish potatoes, plantains and carrots. Meat can include almost anything from pork snout and ox tail to goat and turkey to fish and chicken. If it fits into the pot, it might end up in someone’s version of oil down. Of course all of these wonderful items must be simmered in a mixture of coconut milk (fresh or processed), saffron and spice for a long time. The end result is very delicious but very filling. Clarice, our landlord, handed me a plate that was overflowing and piled high, I sense that she thinks I need to eat more. I can usually pack it away when it comes to good meals during the holidays but I struggled with that dish for nearly an hour and a half. It is a very filling dish, but so delicious I just couldn’t leave food on my plate. I am told that every person’s version of oil down is different and so I look forward to my next taste so that I will be able to increase my data set for accurate comparison and analysis. (Actually, I just want to eat some more oil down.)
So, I would say that we are slowly starting to acclimatise to Grenada. I can handle change, I even look forward to new and unexpected things, but sometimes I long for those things that I took for granted. For example, I am acclimatizing to the climate more quickly than I thought I would and some nights I even think about wearing my hoodie. Yesterday, early in the morning, half an hour after sunrise, I went for my first run in Grenada. Yes, I was drenched in sweat by the time I made it back to the house, yes, the hills are going to be more difficult than I originally thought but I felt good. I also like saying that I got up in the morning and went for a run along the coast of the Caribbean Sea. I don’t imagine too many people get to say that back in Manitoba. Some things, I suspect, won’t become familiar for a long time. Things like having to make my milk ready before I can use it for my cereal in the morning. I don’t like the taste of the long-life milk on the shelves and so we have been using condensed milk. There is something very different about spooning out a few tablespoons of thick, white syrup and diluting it with water in order to make it acceptable for cereal. I also miss real coffee but instant will have to do for the next six months. I suppose I could list others things that I miss but I, we actually, decided long before we came to Grenada that we were going to embrace local food and culture. It would be easy to go to the supermarkets in St. George’s and buy expensive imported food but then what would have been the purpose in coming to Grenada?
Tomorrow, we head into St. George’s to visit the Immigration office to get our visas extended. We have been assured that all will go well and smoothly. We will take the opportunity to do a little shopping around for items that we can’t find in Gouyave (like good flip-flops for me, mine fell apart the second day here) and do a little exploring. We are going through the books we brought from home much more quickly than I expected and soon we will be looking for more reading material. Gouyave has a new library that was dedicated in June but as of yet, it is not lending out books because they have not received the library software. After talking to the people working there, I am not holding my breath that it will be open before we leave in April. Rumour has it that we might be able to get a library card for the library in St. George’s.
Not much happened at work this week but we did get to go to the northernmost town on the island, Sauteurs. It is a nice town with relatively friendly people. We pounded the pavement for a few hours in the hot midday sun, handing out flyers for a Climate Change forum next Monday. When we first got to the town, we walked out onto the fishing jetty and took in the view. Looking north, we could see the nearby islands of Sugarloaf, Sandy and Green. In the distance, we could also see Carriacou, one of the three islands that make up the nation of Grenada. There is a ferry that runs to Carriacou every day and we plan to explore the island someday soon. I would post some pictures but I forgot to bring along the camera. At this point, I can still say, there is next time.
One last note before I sign off. On Monday we found the best restaurant in Gouyave. Finally a place that serves good roti for a reasonable price ($7EC or $2.90 Cdn) and that is not the limit of their menu. They have wonderful jerk chicken, curried fish stew, macaroni pie and cheese bread. We eat out very infrequently in order to save money but it good to know that there is a place to go with really good food.
That’s it for now, I know, nothing really exciting except getting to see some more of the island and meet more people. I guess the honeymoon stage is wearing off and we are starting to get down to living in Grenada for five more months.