Thursday, November 29, 2012

Ground Control to Major Tom

            The big story and the reason why you tuned in for this blog is Thanksgiving (and not at all to do with the pop legend title reference, right?).  This was my first big holiday in Grenada.  Well, except for Easter, I suppose.  But as I spent most of last term miserable and perpetually anemic from mosquitoes, I was less than enthusiastic when Easter rolled around and, if my memory serves me correctly, I believe I spent the holiday crying.
            Since I’m having a considerably better term this fall, I actually felt the drive to create (as best possible) a traditional Thanksgiving.  “Traditional Thanksgiving” to many may imply the inclusion of turkey.  Ah, but this is Grenada, folks and, even if I did have a full-sized oven, there was no flippin’ way I was going to buy a turkey at these prices!
            Even so, we did still enjoy chicken breasts, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, flaky biscuits, corn, green bean casserole, sweet potato casserole, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie!  I’d like to take credit for slaving over this meal all day, but I had to cut some corners.  IGA, our primary grocery store, is notorious for running out of the particular item you absolutely must have!  Knowing this, I wondered what problems the grocer would have in the week that preceded Thanksgiving.  Many of the American students would be collecting their holiday meal items at the same time.  Concerned as I was that IGA wouldn’t have something I needed to prepare our meal, I began stocking up on supplies early.  So I bought instant mashed potatoes weeks before Thanksgiving in the off chance that IGA wouldn’t have fresh potatoes the week before the holiday.  I bought Stove Top stuffing, Pillsbury Grands biscuits, canned sweet potatoes, a premade pie crust, a jar of Heinz gravy (made in Pittsburgh!!).  The only thing I didn’t skimp on was the pumpkin for the pie.  That I bought fresh, then boiled and mashed myself.
I combined these two as a topping for the pumpkin pie. So good!

The wishbone, which was the highlight of the night for David.
Mid-bite... sort of.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Ending My Time Loop

            I’m having the hardest time reconciling the passage of time with the lack of seasons in Grenada.  I’m from northwestern Pennsylvania where Thanksgiving is marked by steadily cooling weather, the first frosts that tip the grass white, clear bags of mulched leaves at the curb, black skeletal trees stripped of their leaves.  I’m supposed to have unpacked my black wool jacket, mounds of hats and scarves, unearthed my driving gloves, made an appointment to have winter tires put on my car.  When I step outside, my breath should come out in white puffs and the air should feel crisp and thin in my lungs.
I miss this...

            I just can’t quite come to terms with the date when I look outside every day and see the same blue sky, glaring sun, glittering water and vivid green leaves.  Something seems oddly amiss when I put on sunscreen in November.  And let’s not even get started on how bizarre I feel wearing a swimsuit one week before Thanksgiving.  As often as I check my calendar and understand that time is, genuinely passing, I still can’t shake the feeling that I’ve been dropped in a looping hot summer day.
            Folks back home that envy my position, being in “paradise” (totally not my word for Grenada), know that the novelty wears off.  The beaches are beaches, and as nice as they may be, if you’re used to (and hence comforted by) the changing seasons as I am, after a year, you’d trade in those beaches for a nice piece of frozen home.  Call me crazy if you want; when our plane lands on December 19th in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, I am going to run outside and stuff my bare hands in the first pile of snow I can find.
            In short, yes, I am considerably homesick.  I’m dying to hug my family and friends, before throwing snowballs at them.  Less than five weeks…

Friday, November 2, 2012

A Trip into Town

            Most evenings, Ivan and I follow dinner with a walk around campus.  We try (not always successfully) to drag along our downstairs neighbor, David, who is happy for the break, when he can afford it.  Towards the end of our walk, we pass the black sand beach which is west of campus and gated off (with barbed wire and locks and chains), for what I would assume are safety reasons.  A couple weeks ago I took my SLR along for the walk, with the intent of snapping a few pictures of the very full, very large moon that hung on the horizon.  Unfortunately, by the time we got to the western edge of campus, and an ideal spot to take a photo, clouds had overtaken the moon and the moment was lost.  As we walked by the black sand beach, though, I saw a red hazy spot on the horizon, where the moon’s light cast a sort of sunset glow from behind the clouds.  I went up to the fence, hunkered down and started taking photos.  As they waited, Ivan and David began to notice movement in the grass around me.  As it turned out, I’d waltzed right into a whole colony of hermit crabs!
            The glaring full moon may have dipped out of sight, but I didn’t regret taking my nicer camera that evening after the opportunity for such funny pictures!

Black sand beach and a red moon glare

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Chocolate Factory: Take Two

            I have to say, this week has been exhausting and since I am writing this on Sunday and have just about run out of stamina, I am going to skip wordy introductions and just dive in with a blow-by-blow report.  Excuse the lack of long and pretty descriptions: I am pooped.

            In preparation for a trip to the Grenada Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (GSPCA), I spent a few hours on Tuesday cooking up some homemade doggy biscuits.  In anticipation of making said treats, I’d bought a Styrofoam tray of pigs’ feet that weekend.  I hadn’t actually picked out my recipe yet, so I didn’t have a list of ingredients, but assumed pigs’ feet could work their way into the dish somehow.  The recipe I used (Wheat Dog Biscuits from Bullwrinkle) called for water or broth.  So I boiled a pan full of pigs’ feet for a couple hours and used the broth for the recipe.  My apartment smelled like boiling lard, but those dogs loved the bite-sized bits I brought to the shelter.  (I think I might rename the recipe “Babe Bites” since our dog, Babe, was named after the pig and I’m pretty sure she’d also love these biscuits.)

            The shelter visit was sort of an orientation for a handful of SOs, to give us an idea of how we can be of service to the GSPCA and to familiarize us with the shelter’s layout and policies.  I’d been both excited and anxious to visit the shelter, hopeful that I could help Grenada’s suffering pet population, but equally nervous about what sort of dismal state the shelter might be in.  I’d only my own experience working for years at a well-funded Humane Society back in the States to compare and knew I was in for an unpleasant shock.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Visiting the Chocolate Factory

            I spend a considerable amount of time at our desk, writing, painting, surfing, etc.  When I take momentary breaks from whatever I’m engrossed in, I usually end up looking out our back window.  It’s not a bad view; in between the intersecting branches of our “backyard’s” few trees, I can see True Blue Bay and the flashy indigo corner of Dodgy Dock, nestled against a backdrop of modest mountains and the heavy clouds that skim their peaks.  Then I have the misfortune of casting my eyes lower and spotting the ever-present lurker who likes to haunt the bench in our backyard.  He’s an SGU worker—and I use the term loosely—a Grenadian with an SGU maintenance uniform and Rasta hat.  For hours he just lounges on that bench with his shirt spread open and a great heap of flesh spilling out.
Each picture was taken on a different day. I feel like I want his job...

            Last Sunday I went on a field trip with the photography club.  The main attraction was Belmont Estates, though we also stopped at Pearls Airport and drove through Grand Etang to visit the monkeys’ hangout.

I think they were disappointed that no one brought bananas for them

            I have to say that this trip to Belmont was much better than my last.  This time, they were actually expecting us, so they had the whole tour planned out and samples prepared.  We visited the birds and the monkeys and, while the rest of the group was enjoying their (rather expensive) buffet-style lunch, Natalie and I got to visit with Carl, the goat, and Chocolate and Vanilla, the donkeys.  Since the whole photography club was there, I didn’t feel awkward about living behind my camera.  Everyone was.  We were basically a group of walking shutterbugs.
First stop: Pearls Airport

Fresh cocoa beans to sample

Dried cocoa bean

Bellmont kitty

One of the turtles at Bellmont's "petting zoo" area

One of the adolescent monkeys reaching out for rocks

Young Mona Monkeys

Vanilla, the donkey

Chocolate, the donkey

Carl, the goat

Cocoa tea samples

            Speaking of bugs…  I wore insecticide for our visit.  I’m happy to say that it kept the mosquitoes at bay.  By the time we left, I was bite-free.  Or so I thought.  That evening I discovered two things about sand flies: 1.) They are unperturbed by bug spray and 2.) their bites are unmercifully itchy, hours after the attack.  My legs looked like a novel written in Brale.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Ho Hum to the Humdrum

            I didn’t blog last week; I know.  It’s not like I didn’t consider it.  I looked at my blog and said to myself, “But all I have to report is the same old thing.”  And it’s true.  I’ve been busy doing the same things I did the week before and the week before.
            I went on a hash.  Are you surprised?  Of course not; I’ve been writing about hashing every week.  This one was pretty short.  Half of the run was through a creek and how I managed not to slip on the rocks, I’ll never know.  When we emerged from the water, we found ourselves in a pasture, having to bounce back and forth across the path, dodging cow pies, while their producers watched bemusedly.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Forever Twenty-Nine, The Spider Hunter

            In many ways I am like my father: bony, monkey-toed, dorky.  I looked like a freckled pale Gumby as a kid and… oh, wait! I still do.  But I’m pretty sure that’s a Gray gene I also share with my old man.  Last Saturday, our similarities caused a minor panic attack for me, though.
            Despite my apparent inability to regulate my body’s temperature—or even effectively breathe for that matter—in Grenada’s humidity and heat, I opted for the running trail on Hash #745 last Saturday.  Though initially fooled by the easy, even trail/paved road, I was brought to my senses when hash-reality collided with me in the form of a 60-degree one-thousand-foot incline.  (Insert expletive.)  My saving grace during the gasping, single file march (actually, more like a crawl because you’d better believe I was using all resources at my disposal to lurch forward, including extra limbs), was Elly, the cute little dog brought along by a couple friends.  When Elly needed to stop for a drink, we all got to stop for a drink!  Ah what a break will do when you’re on the brink of heat stroke and watering the jungle with your sweat!
Taken from the middle of our ascent

Friday, September 14, 2012

Holy Guacamole!

            We’ve been on the island for about a month and a half now, and I’m ashamed to admit that my first visit back to the beach was last Saturday.  I’ve sort of fallen into a nasty habit of saying, “Well, the beach isn’t going anywhere.”  Too often I forget that I am.  Maybe I need to write on my bathroom mirror You’re Not Going to Be Here Forever in the most vivid shade of lipstick I own.
            Last weekend was Family Weekend at SGU.  The school organized three days’ worth of events and activities as it played host to many students’ visiting families.  As Ivan’s wife and, therefore, family, I signed up to take part in a couple of the free events.  That is how Ivan and I found ourselves, Saturday morning, enjoying a free brunch with friends.  We followed the complimentary meal with rum tasting (also free).  Actually, I didn’t take part in the rum tasting since I’m not a fan of rum (gasp!) or, really, any hard liquor (double gasp!).  After the boozing, we watched about half of a chocolatier’s demonstration before hastily changing into beach gear and catching a bus to Magazine Beach.

Mmmm... free fried food!
Pig foot soup, complete with hairy pig feet!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

What Lurks Beneath the Fort

            In my last post, I talked a lot about fruit.  In particular, I mentioned revisiting my opinion of passion fruit.  True to my word, we let our last passion fruit ripen another five days before cutting into it and trying the gooey center again.  My revised opinion: no change.  Actually, the fruit may have become more bitter with time!  I’ve been told eating the passion fruit with sugar and mixed up in a drink is far better than trying it raw.  Since that was our last fruit, though, I’m probably not going to be in any big hurry to try it again.
            On Sunday we took our usual stroll to our favorite fruit stand.  There we were pleasantly surprised to find two of our favorite types of mangoes!  One is the larger, plumper type, with small pits and soft flesh that is almost completely free of the bothersome fibers in most mangoes.  The fruit vendor referred to them as “rich people mangoes.”  The other type I’d only had once before when they were sold on campus last term.  They are very large—almost unidentifiable as a mango—and elongated, like an eggplant.  They have very thin, long pits and the flesh is almost buttery soft and bursting with flavor.  A single one of these mangoes makes for a meal!  After doing a little snooping, I believe the “rich people mangoes” are manila mangoes and the eggplant variety is a Madame Francis mango.  (Of course that’s subject to change if and when I learn better.)

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Fruit Free for All!

            Anyone who follows my blog, even semi-regularly, is accustomed to my interest… nay, obsession, with food.  Were there any justice in the world, I would weigh at least 300 pounds more than I do.
            For the past couple weeks, Ivan and I have been gorging ourselves (I mean, barely coming up for air kind of gorging) on fruit!  I’ve never eaten so much fruit in such a short amount of time and I love every minute of it!  I know I should stop because those 300 pounds are definitely tracking my fructose binge.
            Not only have we been indulging in the sweeter side of Caribbean life, we’ve also been enjoying the plethora of other fresh produce available on the island.  An inventory of my studio apartment in the past week would turn up:
Rock figs
Green bananas
Ripe Bananas
Passion fruit
Seasoning peppers
Scotch Bonnets
Green beans

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Let the Second Term Begin.

Ivan’s first two classes, Parasitology and Community & Preventative Medicine, began one week ago.  They’re both two week courses; so Ivan will be taking his finals next week.  Only after this first series of finals do his core classes begin (Genetics, Neuroscience, Immunology, and Physiology).  As was the case last term, I am picking up little bits of Ivan’s subject matter and my periphery has been clouded with tapeworms, hookworms, roundworms, tsetse flies, sand flies, biting, blood-sucking, burrowing, suctioning, siphoning, oozing, pulsing, poisonous …

            Despite all nouns, verbs and adjectives disgusting, I still manage to cook a decent meal for the two of us, and happily eat it.  Aside from IGA—the most frequented grocer for students—we also visit a market called Ali’s Meat and Fresh Vegetable Market.  It’s just up the road from a little fruit stall we also like to visit, so it’s a two-birds-one-stone kind of errand for us.
Ali's storefront right along Maurice Bishop highway--walking distance from the first roundabout after leaving SGU, or a bus stop off of the Frequente/Point Saline bus. Hours: M-S 8-9 and Sun 8-2 (439-4300 or 405-2140)
The Maurice Bishop highway--first roundabout from SGU
Cleaning supplies and household items in Ali's
The non-speed limit near Ali's

Toiletries and dried goods

Fruit and vegetables
Some prices for meats offered. Mince Beef (ground beef) is $16 per pound at IGA
One of the two freezers, mostly stocked with chicken breasts.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Here We Are. Again.

In fact, we’ve been here (that is to say, Grenada) since Tuesday evening.  Our summer was short, hot and hectic.  And, were I any kind of courteous blogger, I would have posted a basic “on hiatus” post, or “away for the summer” notice.  My apologies to anyone who checked, however infrequently, for updates on my vacation.  I promise to work on my carelessness in the future.
First things first: Our escape.
Ivan's notes from first term the day before we flew home

Into the garbage!

We flew out of Grenada on May 21 via American Airlines to Miami, where we had a three-hour layover.  From the moment we stepped off the plane (note—this is after taxiing and farting around while everyone got their carry-ons unloaded) to the moment we exited security, took almost exactly one hour.  That included claiming and re-checking all of our luggage, following color-coded lines across the airport, like mice at a crumb trail, passing through customs and inching through agonizingly slow security.  Then we took the air train (Miami airport’s speedy people-mover) to the wrong gate.  So we hopped back on the air train to the correct gate and had just enough time to cram fast food down our gullets before our flight to Pittsburgh began loading.  All in all, I would not recommend students or SOs book flights with a layover shorter than three hours at Miami, unless you are thoroughly familiar with the above process and the airport’s layout.
On the plane and in the airports, we had our priorities…