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.)

            I’m so happy we discovered this fruit stand last term.  The guy who works on Sundays has to be one of the nicest Grenadians we’ve met.  He takes pride in what he sells and encourages you to choose your own product, so you get the best pick (or at least what you judge to be best).  He’s careful when bagging it and will ask you to carry softer produce (like bananas) separately, so that they don’t get squished on your way home.  He will go into great detail when explaining how to prepare certain foods or how to detect when something is ripe enough to eat.  Last week I bought a breadfruit and he cut it and seeded it for me.  After explaining how to keep the breadfruit and prepare it for cooking, he asked if I wanted him to peel it for me.  When we left, he gave us a free waternut (immature coconut) to drink.  Last Sunday, he asked us to pay less than the total due, then gave us two free oranges and two free golden apples.  I’m starting to think he appreciates our business!
            Speaking of fruit, we got our hands on some ginormous starfruit!  I know we had these treats last term also, but they were one-third the size of these!

            Now on to creepier and crawlier topics…
            On Friday, Ivan and I joined a group of friends to celebrate a birthday.  There were about a dozen of us who met at Umbrellas, a restaurant on the shores of the Grand Anse beach, where we barely caught the remnants of the sunset before ordering our dinners and enjoying some drinks during happy hour.  After dinner, we made our way up north, toward St. George, stopping at one of Grenada’s forts where we settled in at the “fort bar” for an evening of drinking, Taboo and unofficial tours of the fort’s crumbling remains.
The birthday girl


            The mood was dark as we skulked around the collapsing walls.  Almost thirty years ago, during Operation Urgent Fury, when the U.S. invaded Grenada, a bomb meant for another fort had been unintentionally dropped on this now-decimated tourist stop, with the unlikely victims being patients of the then-insane asylum.  To add a little chill to an already bloody story, we were shown the crosshatched etchings in the walls of the cells, deep and shadowy in the unsteady beams of our flashlights—scratches from the patients of the asylum, as hauntingly permanent as the concrete walls themselves.

            As if we weren’t already crawling with goosebumps, our next stop left us practically screaming for mercy!  Our party split, one half scooting to our bar room to leave the other half ducking through craggy tunnels in search of the frighteningly enormous spiders that frequented such places.  And, oh, we found them!  A rocky pit in the wall of the tunnel housed two mammoth insects that I can only describe as horrifying.  As large as the breadth of my outstretched hand, plated with dull grey armor, climbing on thick slow legs, they were the very representation of revulsion.  Their front legs (pedipalps) were folded in half and tipped with pincers, poised to snatch at the unsuspecting.  Their abdomens looked like a series of interlocking plates, like a rattlesnake’s rattle or the underside of a cockroach.

            In keeping with my curious nature, I researched the heinous creature and discovered that it is a Tailless Whip Scorpion.  Although in the arachnid class, the tailless whip scorpion is neither spider, nor scorpion (which explained the lack of webbing in their little cave).  They are not poisonous or really harmful at all, despite their rather off-putting appearance.  With a disturbing presence like that, it’s not hard to believe that everyone in that tunnel knew these nasty bugs made an unforgettable debut on the reality show, Fear Factor.  (In the clip, the insects are mistakenly introduced as African Cave-Dwelling Spiders—also known as Whip Scorpions.  A little research shows that they are, in fact, Tailless Whip Scorpions.)  This was also the insect of choice to portray the tortured spider in the movie Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.  So apparently the media agree that these things leave a lasting impression.

            As a side note, many of you may remember Ivan’s little avocado project last term.  Alas, the avocado tree didn’t quite survive the summer months.  However, Ivan took one of the genip seeds from last week and popped it in a pot of dirt.  Voila!  We’ve got a sprout!

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