Jigsaw Pieces

Ok. I officially love the Grenadines. Maybe strong to start with. I’ll back up a little to explain. Coming to Union Island is like filling the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle for us. We’ve always sailed past this place, to or from other places. And Fin wasn’t the only reason we didn’t come to the Grenadines before. She was a good excuse – but not exactly the reason.

We’d heard it was dangerous here. Relatively speaking. We’d been warned. Plus there’d been reports on the Caribbean Safety and Security Net (CSSN) about boat robberies. Break-ins. Just a couple of months ago for example, a spate of boardings occurred in the Grenadines by a man who’s speciality seems to be swimming up to the boat he’s intending to rob. No skiff, no rowing boat, just stealth. Like a James Bond thief. So, this may have put us off a tiny bit. Sail on, we said to ourselves – to supposedly safer islands.

And then we went to Trinidad. After Trinidad, I think you can be persuaded not only to be more brave, but you also get it. It was tough in this part of the world – not very long ago. I’m not saying it isn’t hard now, but during sugar plantations and slavery? For people to have lost their roots – not only the land they hailed from, but their family history – who they came from is akin to stealing their cultural and genetic identity. To transport these people and place them thousands of miles on little rocks in the Atlantic under the guise of actual human ownership, well that’s just jaw-dropping. Could I have survived it? I wonder. The physical brutality maybe, but the loss of my familial heritage? That’s like a hole in your soul.

Sorry for the sadness. After all, here we are sitting in this same tropical wonderland. The sea temperature is close, if not over 30 degrees C. It’s sunny – a lot. The sand is soft on our feet and there are starfish sitting like plump, red cushions under the boat. Quest is polished and she’s rocking around on this anchorage, all keels blazing. Still. It does strike me, how these two parts of one place – the infamous past and the tourist-nature-loving present match up together. They could be two different places.

Then add to the mix how nice these St. Vincentians are we’ve met in Union Island. The customs lady. The woman at the phone shop. Kay at the supermarket. Rose at the bakery. The Tobago Cays Marine Park ranger – he came to get the marine park fee this afternoon. Jack was trying to figure out how long we’re staying. The ranger had to keep crumpling up receipts in his receipt book and start over again.

Eventually he said to Jack, ‘You can’t be a man and a woman, ok. You have to choose to be one or the other.’ I felt like kissing him. Thank you! Then he looked at me. ‘I’ll listen to you? It’s two nights, right?’

I nodded. And from being proper stern, he began to laugh. As if the sun was a noise. It was impossible to resist; Jack and me and the boat driver. Indeed, we’ve had more belly laughs here then we’ve had on some Caribbean countries put together. On the one hand, we’re not surprised. Up in the BVI, we discovered that among the friendliest people we met were from the SVG. It’s quite common to see St Vincentians working on other islands. Their country is relatively poor, especially compared to tax havens such as the BVI. It became a running joke – if someone was nice and liked a laugh in the BVI, Jack would ask them if they were from the SVG. Nine out of ten times, the answer was yes.

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