We landed at Hewanorra International Airport in the afternoon of April 28, 2015. While the ground looked a little dry from the air, I felt the warm humidity of St. Lucia as soon as the airplane doors opened (Calgary, Alberta is usually very dry).
After getting our bags and going through customs, we walked outside to a meeting place where many taxi drivers and shuttle-buses asked us if we needed a ride. We were meeting a nun who runs the Children’s Home where my travel companion (Amanda) will be working for three months – we are both here to for practicums to complete our Master of Social Work degrees.
The nun and another worker from the home arrived and we hopped on board the smallish white van with three rows of seats. Our welcoming and fun hosts drove us through the country-side out of Hewanorra, through Castries (where we both start working on Monday), and into Rodney Bay to find our apartment.
Sister A (her name starts with ‘A’) then took us to the grocery store. By that time my head hurt and I couldn’t think straight – dehydration, lack of sleep on over-night flight and need for food. Once home, I drank lots of water and made some dinner and started feeling better. I slept blissfully well that night.
The first full day in St. Lucia began as I awoke May 29 and ate cereal for breakfast on the ground-level patio. I then walked to the beach with Amanda and were pleasantly surprised that the walk was only about two minutes. On the way, we realized our neighbour adjacent and looking out our back yard is the Cuban embassy – while still tropical-rustic, our area in Rodney Bay is a little more upscale than I expected.
Sister A stopped by mid-morning to drop off a co-worker, Sharon, who rode the bus with us to Castries so we knew where to get on and get off to catch the next bus to work. As with many smaller countries, buses are not like Calgary city buses but are vans – often smaller than many North American SUVs – that seat about eleven to twelve squished passengers.
When we arrived in Castries, we were instructed not to go down a particular street (danger-alert) but we did walk through a market full of delightful produce – I will get food there after work on Monday. We hopped onto the next bus to go to the Children’s Home up a hill on a narrow winding road.
At the Home, we hung out for a few hours and met some of the kids. Having worked in a homeless shelter and having never visited a group home or an actual orphanage, I was pleased that the place really felt like a home rather than a shelter or warehouse. The workers and the kids (ranging in age from 2-months to 18 years) clearly had respectful and fun relationships.
I played video games on a computer with two teenagers who were clearly much better and much faster drivers than I. We also just hung out and watched TV with the kids until Sister arrived and made sure everyone focused on more productive activities.
As we were leaving to head back to Rodney Bay, Sister got word that her 29-year-old sister-in-law had passed away – she had a short intense battle with cancer. We offered to take the bus home but Sister drove us home anyway saying it was on the way.
On Thursday, I had my first coffee since landing. A tasty morning espresso alone at a beach-side restaurant across from a resort pool. At home, I was used to drinking three double-espressos before leaving the house and then several coffees while at school or work so skipping a day was something of a big deal.
Food and coffee is expensive here so I bought some “Green Gold Mountain Coffee” made right here in St. Lucia. Since I do not typically make drip-coffee, I needed to go back later for filters. I have to say that this coffee is tasty – sweet and floral at the same time. At $9.60 (Eastern Caribbean Dollars) an espresso is a bit pricey they will be infrequent treats.
When my nine-year-old daughter back home saw the photo I sent of my first on-island espresso of the trip, she wrote:
“This hailey are you having to much coffee again I mean first coffee of the day is okay but you have a lot of coffee besids that I love the perspective of your picture I really miss you”
Hailey has such a memory: I took her with me to a physical once and was honest about my caffeine consumption and, based on the doctor’s response, she feels coffee is dangerous and that I drink to much of the stuff.
Friday was Labour Day in St. Lucia and St. Lucians headed to the beaches – really cool beaches with trees and waves – sort of out-of-reach-beaches for tourists like us without vehicles.
Sister picked us up with her two young nephews (it was their mother who passed a couple days earlier) for sight-seeing. I am so fortunate that I get to tag-along with them as they orient Amanda to the island. We hop on board and never quite know what we are doing or where we are going but just sit back and enjoy the experience.
While driving out of Rodney Bay toward Castries, the youngest boy kept feeling my hair and whiskers from the seat behind. It reminded me fondly of my kids because they sometimes do the same thing. Amanda taught them “I-Spy” and, just as my kids did when they were younger, the youngest brother would, “I spy the orange sticker” instead of “something orange”.
We picked up Cory on the way and then stopped at The Home to pick up Angie and a couple more boys for a trip to Soufrière. Cory is a mild-mannered and friendly St. Lucian man and we quickly noticed that the boys at The Home really liked him – he volunteers at The Home once-a-week.
On our way to Soufrière, we stopped along the road for delicious cassava bread. Mine was fruity and sweet, others were salty and most had chocolate bread.
We stopped before reaching Soufrière to get a good view of The Pitons (see below) and then moved on to a garden and the Sulpher Springs where blackened water boils to the surface from a volcano below.
Saturday we beached and Sunday we relaxed (I swam both days as part of my plan on regaining some form of fitness after two years of studying).
Monday I start working at the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States and I am nervous. First job outside Canada and need to get there by two buses. I am sure it will be fine and that I will enjoy it – just takes time.
Until tomorrow…Or next time…