Sunday, December 12, 2010

Turning into my typical Saturday, and I like it!

I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t enjoying my time in Barbados. Working at the UN has its own set of challenges – hierarchies, office dynamics and atmosphere, some menial work tasks – but I am learning and enjoying myself for sure. And outside of work, I’m really getting the chance to learn about Bajan culture. I’m getting the slang, the dance moves, the walk and the food. Okay, so I am a bit of a foodie so I like to focus on that a bit too much sometimes. On a side note, in addition to the almost daily temptation of the ice cream truck circulating in our neighbourhood, today a bakery-on-wheels came though as well! Canada needs to get on the ball on this one.

Back to Bajan food. On today’s menu: soursop punch. Soursop is a green, bumpy round fruit with white, sour flesh. Not the most appealing sounding, but mix it with some sugar, water and a bit of milk and it’s really tasty! The hard part is taking out all the seeds, blending it and straining it.

Yesterday was another food first: I actually caught and then ate my own fish that night. I went fishing with a friend in a sit-on-top kayak. Well I fished for a bit, and I caught a robin (obviously not the bird) and a herring (apparently not the same as the ones that come in cans or that are featured in Monty Python). The third and fourth from the top in the photo are mine. The technique was to throw fish pieces in the water, wait for the fish to swarm it, and then throw the baited line at them, hoping they would nibble. I can be a patient person, but after catching two fish, I was ready to just snorkel around and look for turtles. I found a mom and a small guy not far from the kayak so I just followed them around for a bit. I am really falling in love with turtles here though; they are so graceful and beautiful.

And then it was time for surf lesson #2. I have to say that I was a little bit nervous since it has been 2 weeks since my first lesson. But we were alone out on the waves and after more than a few falls, and a little technique adjustment, I actually was able to stand properly on the board! I rode that wave to the end (okay it was tiny) but picture me, fists pumping in the air yelling “yeeaaahhhh.” Success!

This photo was taken after I gave back the rental board, so I posed with my teacher's board. Mine was 7'10" - much easier to learn on. And so after that natural high of finally getting up, I learned how to cook fish stew and how to cut yams and breadfruit.

Today, I limed like it was my job. Speaking of work, this week is going to be quite interesting with staff from Trinidad and Tobago coming in for meetings on Tuesday and Wednesday. Tuesday is about integrating their activities, success, challenges, etc. into our annual report for this year and Wednesday we are supposed to plan how to integrate them into our country programme plan for next year. They are the newest member of the UNICEF Eastern Caribbean team, bringing the total to 11. And Anguilla might join at some point too. This is a really unique region in that way, working in some many places, with different targets and baselines in each. I will let you know how it goes! And can you believe that I actually ran on my own accord three times since the half-marathon. I think I’m officially crazy.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

D- Day

The time is now. Well it was actually Sunday morning at 3am when Laurie and I forced ourselves out of bed to catch the FREE! shuttle to the start line. After psyching ourselves out by watching everyone warm up and look super professional, the race started right on time (unlike everything else in the Caribbean haha) at 5am.

As much as running in the dark is weird, it was really nice not to have the sun draining all your energy. The course went from Bridgetown to Payne’s Bay close to Holetown on the West coast, where runners turn around and head back to Bridgetown. Off we went, sticking together most of the way to Payne’s Bay, along the highway hugging the coast line, eerily silent until BAM! steel drum band. Oh so stereotypically Caribbean, but lovely nonetheless.

As I neared Payne’s Bay, the crowds of people lining the streets started growing. Who wakes up at 6am on a Sunday morning for no reason?! And my friend Sam, who lives out that way, came out with a big sign for me and after I turned around, he proceeded to bike with me back half way to Bridgetown. Pretty good incentive not to walk. And after Sam went home, a women who had been running in front of me most of the way told me she thought she couldn’t finish and had never run alone before. She pretty much summarized her life story, 40 and a single mom, working at the UK High Commission etc. etc. and so together we pushed to run the second half together. So I never ended up walking and finished in 2:07:58 :)

And Rodney, Laurie’s friend and Melissa, one of my roommates supported us at the finish line! Overall, I felt really great to have actually trained and finished. And to celebrate: ice cream!

I am not publicizing my finish line photos because my shorts (originally made for doing yoga) clearly were not designed to sustain so much motion and sweat because they were really drooping down my butt so classily highlighting my white underwear against black shorts. Note to self, purchase new running shorts.

Here are the overall results

Monday, December 6, 2010

Happy 44th Independence Day Barbados

I know it is a little late, but Tuesday, November 30th, we celebrated Independence Day here. It is interesting to think that Barbados is just about 100 years behind Canada in separating from the Brits. It makes sense why the island is sometimes referred to as “Little Britain” – which makes me think of the hilarious British comedy show.

Anyways, it is an official UN holiday here and it was quite refreshing to have a day off in the middle of the week! I took it upon myself to experience a little more Bajan (colloquial for Barbadian) cuisine and activities. The surfing lessons the previous Saturday went really well – though I only could crouch by the end of it, it was a workout-and-a-half. So my friend Sam who is giving me surf lessons offered to take me along with him and a friend while they went spearfishing, giving me some goggles and a snorkel to swim around the coral at the same time. So I headed out to the West Coast to meet Sam. I found him really high up trimming loose branches from a tree in his friend’s yard, which backs right on to the beach. After lounging around for a bit, we set out in a kayak towards the ring of coral reefs which encircles the island. I am not so interesting in doing the spear fishing myself, especially since they use a kind of gun and guns make me feel unsettled. But cool to watch. Not that I was watching much. I preferred just to swim around, check out the pretty fish and search for turtles! After having dove numerous times in Zanzibar without seeing any, and having helped those baby turtles back into the ocean, I really wanted to see them in a natural way.

And I didn’t have to look to for long, though Sam was much more adept at spotting them than I was, but they were so used to tourist groups on catamarans dangling fish pieces at them, that human contact is not so frightening for them. I will not delve into the ethics of luring hordes of turtles to have flighty tourists ogle at them. Regardless, to me, swimming with the turtles, just me and the turtles, was wonderful. I plan on going out there as often as I can; it really makes you forget everything else happening in your life. 3 hours of treading water later, and with a few fish each hung around their wire belts, we headed back to shore. I learned how to de-scale and clean a fish on the beach and learned that the fish here eat moss off rocks, which translates to bellies filled with green ooze. Yum. We also enjoyed some conkies, which is a traditional pumpkin/sweet potato based clump (soft cookie?) mixed with raisins, coconut, corn meal, spices and sometimes dried fruit, and baked or steamed wrapped inside a banana leaf. I’m currently sans camera – long story but I will have another quite shortly – so please enjoy this Google Image photo:

After conkies and the swim, we went over to Sam’s family’s place for a BBQ, with fresh fish and more traditional cuisine: pig’s tails. I just tried to find a suitable image and it mostly makes me wish that I hadn’t tried it. Regardless, it was like a hard, fried sausage with I guess a muscle or cartilage inside; edible at least. And they took great pleasure in offering it to me and watching me eat it; so, when in Rome! And otherwise, I watched a few local football matches as part of an Independence Day tournament. Interesting observation: the lines on fields here are painted with leftover black oil of some sort instead of our normal white paint to save money.

Oh and yesterday, I ran a half-marathon! I’ll post again tomorrow about that with photos and links. I’m off to the “hot pot” thermal springs tonight to work on my muscles. Right now I feel like I aged 80 years in one day.

In other news, McKinley, the CANADEM intern in St. Kitts whose bog I linked to earlier, is coming to Barbados for Christmas!