Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Quality Time: Celebrations and Strays

            My last post was two weeks ago and already Ivan has had his midterms!  Third term really is as brief as everyone made it out to be; even more so, perhaps, due to our apprehension at what’s to follow—fourth term and the dreaded Pathology.  But that’s not worth worrying about now.  For the time being, we are enjoying the relaxing weeks we can spend together.
            This evening, Ivan’s parents will be flying in to spend their vacation here!  We already have most of our days planned out, and the remainder, I hope, will be spent just relaxing and enjoying the perfect weather, warm sea and amazing fruit.  They will be staying at the Flamboyant Resort along Grand Anse beach—a pretty ideal stretch of white sand and glassy water for a Caribbean vacation.  I’m disappointed they missed the sailing regatta last weekend, but they will be around for Grenada’s Independence Day.
            Since I anticipate being justifiably busy for the next couple weeks, I figured I’d throw together an update post before slipping off.

            I hate to sound like a broken record, but I really am loving having Ivan around so much.  I know I shouldn’t get too comfortable; still, fourth term’s demands will probably come as a shock.  Last week, we watched movies together—as in, simultaneously, without my having to wear headphones as to not disturb the studious hubby.  There was even popcorn to be had!  Three nights in a row we watched a movie, and thus finished the most recent 007 series, wherein the role of James Bond was played by one Daniel Craig (insert suggestive whistle).
            We had enough free time to go on a hash last weekend.  Read: we ran, tripped and tumbled four miles through a tropical forest and up a rocky river.  We ended the hash sharing oil down (the national dish) with a stray dog and sharing beers with a couple new friends.  It was, as all good hashes are, moderately muddy; so there was a line for a hose to clean off before leaving for the evening.  While waiting, I actually caught myself shivering.  What I’ve forgotten in a year is that the dry season is considerably cooler than the wet, particularly in the early morning and evening.  During the dry season months, Grenada plays host to the brisk trade winds and when the sun is not beating you into submission, the air actually gets a little nippy.  So there I was, in the Caribbean, twelve degrees north of the equator, shivering.

            Speaking of stray dogs—they are just everywhere right now.  I seem to be seeing more than usual specifically around the Grand Anse campus and beach.  That, I believe, is due to one female dog that’s in heat.  The first time I saw her, she was alone and I had no treats, but she happily accepted some pettings.  The second time I saw her (all encounters were at the Grand Anse beach and campus), I remembered a baggy of treats.  She had a gentleman caller with her who refused the biscuits, apparently preoccupied by his date.  So she got the whole bag to herself.  The third time I saw her was at a friend’s surprise birthday party (again, on the beach).  She had in tow three suitors this time.  The fourth time I saw her was yesterday and she had a whole slew of rough-and-tumble pleasuremongers sniffing around.  I brought along my bag of treats, anticipating coming across her again.  She only got one biscuit, though, before I had to jump out of the way of her unseemly boyfriends who’d started into each other with hackles raised and rippling snarls (fighting over the girl, not the food, which they couldn’t have cared less about).  One of the SGU security guards had to run the dogs off so I could safely get down from the bench (where I’d taken refuge).  I’m looking forward to when she’s out of heat and I can just feed her without her prowlers around.
One of the suitors. This guy was very pleasant, though his name is Crab.
            Did I mention something about a surprise birthday party?  Well, our friend, Mark, turned twenty-seven and his wife, Myra, organized a surprise party for him on the beach.  It’s a pretty cute idea considering Grenada has some crazy gorgeous beaches that are all but deserted most of the time!  So we had a nice evening of birthday cupcakes and wine and company.  Ivan and I spent most of the night on the beach, burying our feet in the fine, cool sand and chatting with friends.  At some point a stray dog joined us.  And as I am who I am, for a good half-hour, I just scratched and petted him; in spite of my lack of treats he stuck around.  In fact, when I stopped scratching, he’d kiss me and nose me until I started back up.  As far as strays go, he was a pretty healthy dog.  Either he had an owner somewhere or his fondness for attention earned him enough food from students and tourists to keep him in good shape.  When it was time for him to move on, he squeezed between me and Natalie (who was just getting over strep throat and a related near-death experience), lifted his leg on her and then scampered off.  Natalie froze and asked, very calmly, “Did he just pee on me?”  I don’t think I could breathe for laughing so hard, but finally I was able to examine her side and no, he didn’t pee on her.  But it’s the thought that counts, right?

            On Sunday, Ivan and I joined a few friends and headed back to Grand Anse beach to watch Grenada’s 20th annual sailing workboat regatta.  We never made it out last year and as this was our last chance, I’m so happy we went.  The weather could not have been more perfect, windy and cloudless.  The sun lit up the sea, and the stretch of sand where the festival was taking place pulsed with energy and movement.  Brilliant workboats lined the shore, their wooden bodies painted vividly and, extending from the center of each, a long shaft of bamboo and a snapping sail.  The speaker’s voice, muffled by the participants’ laughter and chatter, and lifted by the wind, called out names of the boats in sets of three or four, instructing them to move into the water and take their positions at the starting point.  Beyond, against the horizon, yellow markers dictated the movement of the competitors as their homemade sails strained against bamboo masts and pulled the little workboats along.  Motorboats were near at hand to rescue foundering boats and their defeated sailors.  Some didn’t need rescuing, but returned to the shore frantically scooping buckets of seawater from the flooding belly, or propping up their masts with their bodies.  Two boats we saw capsize and needed to be dragged back ashore.  Even in the face of defeat, the sailors were in good spirits.  I like to think that the infectious joy in the festival was not in winning.  Indeed, many of the boats never had a chance.

            Ivan and I really enjoyed the regatta.  I’m not always overjoyed to be in Grenada, but that festival was an example of the sort of vibrant beauty, stunning clarity and heartbreaking perfection that I can compare to no other experience in my life.  I’m horrified to think that if it weren’t for Ivan’s indomitable drive to accomplish more in life than the average person, we would have settled for the minutiae of a static life and this absurdly gorgeous island and these remarkable experiences would have been no more than exotic advertisements and missed opportunities.  There was a distinct sense of awe and privilege at being present during an event that showcased the citizens’ intense national pride.  More than ever, Ivan and I want to continue traveling and collect unique and spectacular moments like this, drawing away from different cultures their admirable devotion and unforgettable displays of pride.  (I suppose I’d better get to planning our next trip soon, then!)
I was really pumped about those 007 movies!
            When we’re not hiking through the jungle or feeding stray dogs or watching British playboys shoot stuff, Ivan and I have other hobbies.  If you’ve been attentive for the past year, you’re probably familiar with Ivan’s botanical interests.  Last spring, he grew an avocado tree.  Sadly it didn’t quite survive the summer while we were gone.  In the fall, Ivan planted a genip seed which, almost instantly, erupted into a happy plant.  In the very same pot, he stuck a number of the local seasoning pepper seeds.  This term, the seasoning pepper plant has been producing and Ivan planted some Scotch Bonnet seeds that have already started taking off.
Seasoning Pepper
Scotch Bonnet plants

            In my spare time, I’ve begun knitting.  Spending my time here without learning at least one new hobby or craft seemed entirely too wasteful.  For Christmas, my mother-in-law got me a giant picnic basket full of yarn and all of the basic essentials to get me going, including a few necessary how-to books.  I have to say, my biggest issue when starting out was how to hold the ergonomically-challenged bamboo sticks (which, I now understand, are curiously referred to as “needles”) while simultaneously maneuvering the length of yarn that never quite matched the ideal tautness or slackness necessary for my purposes.  One ball of yarn and a full-length scarf later, I have come to a compromising realization that, in order to be a successful knitter, I must adopt a pose that resembles an arthritic, hunch-backed tyrannosaurus.  For my next project, I intend to work on that crippling posture before I’m forever stuck with clawed dementor hands.
            As far as the scarf: at first I hated it—crumpled mess of a first attempt that it was—but now it’s grown on me.  I find myself drawn to its peculiar bumps and irregularities, like a newborn hippo; it’s ugly as sin, yet I can’t help but love it.  I won’t, as was my original plan, be gifting it to some abhorrent enemy of mine, but will keep it as my own mangled and adored handiwork.

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