Friday, May 18, 2012

Freedom Tastes Like…

…nutmeg ice cream, Grenadian chocolate, rum punch and… Goober?
            What a whirlwind week this has been!  For all my good intentions, I never even came close to blogging on Wednesday (which has been my typical blogging day this term).  Every day we’ve been busy with plans and appointments.  Sure, we didn’t get to go turtle watching or deep sea fishing, but we do still have another year and a half on this island and no chance of getting bored!
            On Friday, Ivan finished his last final, Biochemistry.  Not until Tuesday did we receive his grades.  Though, I’m happy to say that we had no reason to worry.  He made Dean’s List, if there is a Dean’s List here, which I don’t think there is…  So I guess he didn’t make Dean’s List.  But he made Awesome List, which is my version of Dean’s List, but with a better title.  With first term done and over with (whew!), we started taking advantage of our new freedom right away!
            On Saturday we met up with some friends in L’Ance aux Epines (LAE—a 5-10 minute drive from the school) and visited the tidal pools.  We didn’t, however, have the common sense to research the tide’s ebb and flow prior, resulting in a watery visit.  Apparently, on May 12, high tide occurred at about noon.  We didn’t get to see a whole lot of marine life and, every time we ventured onto the lower rocks, were assaulted with wave after wave of seawater.  In the end, Ivan and I, Melanie and Kevin were all dripping wet and sticky with saltwater, but it was fun, like getting caught in a downpour with friends is fun.

            That evening, we went to another friend’s house for a Chicken ‘n’ Chips party.  There we indulged in fried chicken drumsticks and French fries, which were both emphatically fried—hello, greasy food, haven’t seen you since the States.  Five months without fried food may lead to grumbly bellies upon its reintroduction.  The party was held on the roof of Becky’s apartment, where we could see the whole airstrip and, on the other side of the airstrip, the university.  We watched the sun go down and the stars come out, blinking to life one at a time, then exploding across the sky.  (Anyone who comes to visit: do yourself a favor and watch the stars come out, especially if you’re from a brightly lit city and rarely see a clear night sky.)
The bell on the tamarind tree
            On Sunday, a couple of friends took us to the northern tip of the island to tour Belmont Estate, where Grenadian cocoa beans are farmed and prepared for chocolate production (can’t thank you enough, Laura and Matt).  A large group was expected for a tour shortly after us, so ours was rather brief.  We were shown how the cocoa beans, wet and gooey out of the cocoa pod, are drained and loaded into wooden stalls where they are covered with banana leaves and left to ferment.  There were about ten stalls, each with beans at a specific stage of fermentation.  In the last stall, a worker was shoveling beans from the stall into burlap sacks in preparation for the next step of the process.  The entire fermenting area stretched across one end of an old barn.  The doors were wide open, allowing air current, but, if you visit, prepare yourself for the sour smell of rotting fruit.

Shoveling the fermented beans

Used to strain the fresh (and slimy) cocoa beans

The greenhouse sauna!
           Next, we saw the trays of drying beans outside.  The trays were equipped with wheels which allow the workers to slide them beneath a nearby structure in the event of rain.  The nearby structure offering shelter to the trays also was a greenhouse of sorts, with even more trays of drying beans.  We went inside, but only for a minute because it was so hot!  We got to try one of the dried cocoa beans and both enjoyed it.  Some people may not find it appetizing, however, as they are not sweet at all.  If you are a fan of very dark chocolate (yes, please!), you may appreciate it.  I was reminded of dark chocolate covered espresso beans because the cocoa beans were not only bitter, but also had the texture of a coffee bean.

Dry cocoa beans--they look like salted nuts!

Sacks of fermented beans
Drying in the sun
Chocolate samples
            We tried a couple samples of 60% and 71% chocolate after the tour.  Normally, we would also have been given a chocolate drink sample and a fresh cocoa bean to suck on, but they seemed to be preparing for the incoming tour and we missed out.  The tour cost $5EC per person (student price) and we bought a chocolate bar for $10EC.  Before leaving, we visited the talking parrot, Rainbow, the screeching conures, and the turtles in the “petting zoo” (for lack of a better term).

Cocoa pod

Mmmm... salad!

In front of the tamarind/"hanging" tree

            After leaving Belmont Estate, Laura and Matt took us to Pearls Airport which is basically an old airstrip along a beach with dozens of cows and an airplane that’s seen better days.  Dodging the cowpies, we ventured to the Gray Pearl (if the airplane was black it would’ve been a perfect Pirates of the Caribbean moment).  Looking at the pictures, you’d think it looks like a corroded, collapsing, tetanus deathtrap.  You’d be right.  So we climbed inside.  Which is what any sane person would do.  Yup, even me.

What finesse! (Laura, thank you for being awesome!)

The fuselage... there were no survivors.
            Then, to finish up our day, we paid a short visit to Laura and Matt’s children… ahem… their four-legged children.  Bella, Gus and CJ.  Bella is a Rottweiler with a penchant for injuring her leg.  She’s a proper lady with a desire to keep all things clean, especially her visitors, so she proceeded to lick Ivan and I clean for close to an hour.  Thank you, Bella.  Although she is not above making you into her own personal beanbag.  Gus is Weimeraner and a refined gentleman.  He knows how to appreciate a truly comfortable spot next to his owner for a good nap.  Though you may catch him running after a tennis ball that has already been fetched by CJ.  CJ (aka Charlotte Junior) is a Pothound (that’s a purebred Grenadian mongrel).  He shows his excitement by creating pee graffiti and decimating stuffed toys.  All in all: a fun trip!
CJ at his summer home

            The next day, Laura and Matt took us to St. George.  This was only our second visit to the market, after our first disaster.  Luckily, after living on the island for a few months, we’ve learned to ignore most solicitors and waved off the never ending stream of “you need a taxi?” “you been to Fort George yet?” “you want a tour?” and, once inside the market, the barrage of “buy my spices!” “get your spices here!” “best spices in Grenada here!” and we also knew what to look for and what to avoid (check your nutmeg to make sure there are no bug holes in the shells before buying them and avoid “spice baskets” if you can’t account for everything in them, as you might end up with about 200 bay leaves).
Laura and Matt, a truly spectacular couple!

            We ended the trip with a little relaxation poolside at the University Club.  We ordered lunch and, after waiting about an hour, actually received it.  The food was pretty good and the portions aren’t bad.  Their prices were moderate.
            On Tuesday we went back to the tidal pools first thing in the morning, determined to see some sea life.  We caught the tail end of low tide, but were able to see some really spectacular coral and seaweed and even some colorful fish.  Plus, vivid sea urchins dotted all over the rocky pools!

Hunting for crabs

            Then we visited a friend, Kat, her fabulous husband, Brian, and their awesome dog, Gunther, for a couple hours.  Hanging out with their wiggly, stumpy dog made us miss our dogs so much!  We’re really lucky to have family willing to keep an eye on Ajax and Babe for us.  We can’t wait to get home and kidnap both of them and drag them all over with us!


Nutmeg ice cream--to die for!
            On Wednesday we took the Mont Toute bus from school to the Grand Anse Shopping Centre where we got ice cream cones ($5.25EC each for single scoop) at Rick’s Café.  We both got nutmeg flavor.  It was the first time we’d had nutmeg ice cream since our first week on the island.  Then we walked around the Food Fair, which is another grocery store, and found the oddest thing in the cooler section.

Home of Sugar & Spice (ice cream)

Found at Food Fair... Really??? Why???

Shopping Centre Goldfish, where we met Becky, and her daughter and friend fed the fish!

            From the Grand Anse Shopping Centre, we walked to Grand Anse beach and strolled up and down the shore.  When we saw some storm clouds moving in, we began running back to the Grand Anse campus pavilion to take cover, but didn’t quite make it.  We got caught in the downpour.  And we weren’t the only ones!  As we ran, drenched, to the pavilions, we met up with Melanie and Kevin!

            Throughout the whole week, we were busily packing everything that was going to stay on the island for next term.  Since we’re on campus in the fall, we’ll need a lot of odds and ends, like transformers (married housing only has 220 volt outlets), dishes and cutlery, pots and pans, bedding, etcetera.  In the end, we had so much stuff to leave here!  Two full suitcases didn’t even hold half of what we were leaving here!  Luckily we have the best friends on the island and Tammy was kind enough to offer a spacious closet all for our stuff!  On top of that, she carted all of our luggage to and from our apartment in True Blue to her place in LAE.  We couldn’t ask for a better deal!
See that maroon suitcase? There were two of them, plus all that other crap!

            Today we had an early dinner at De Big Fish with Melanie and Kevin and tomorrow we’re meeting up with them again to hang out at Magazine Beach.  We’re soaking up every last minute before our flight leaves on Monday.  Hopefully Sunday is a little more relaxed so that I can pack for our return home!

Yes! A break from school!

Pina Coladas excite Kevin

The catch of the day: Mahi Mahi

            Every evening we’ve been enjoying cold rum punch and each other’s company.  It’s been so amazing without the constant demand from school.  For the first time since we arrived, we really feel like we’re on vacation!
            In case you’re wondering about my first line in this post, we had to go light on our last trip to the grocery store.  Since we’re trying to clear out all of the food in our apartment, we decided to live off of sandwiches for our last week.  So we bought three loaves of bread and two jars of Goober.  Every time I eat a sandwich, I think of all the foods I’m going to eat when I get back home (chicken pineapple stir fry, sauerkraut and kielbasa, Alfredo turkey skillet, tomato and basil focaccia, taco pizza, taco salad, choco taco, Cristal’s cake, Dad’s breakfasts, Ed’s burgers, Megan’s pasta salad, steamed clams, babka, trifle, and on and on and on…)

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