Monday, August 1, 2011

The Emerald Isle

I just came back from a place I never knew could exist in our modern, wasteful world.  I was in a place where there were no McDonald's, no Walmarts, no strip malls.  You can't just go to the grocery store and buy a TV dinner.  The crime rate is sooo low people don't lock their doors or their cars, and it's encouraged to pick up hitch hikers.  It's a place where restaurants are run by families, not corporations.  Their ingredients are from their own gardens, from the neighbours' chicken coops.  Everything is handmade, the bread, the roti at the People's Place and the fruit juice.  "Eat from the Land. Not from the Can" - small billboards read all over the island!

It's a place where you drive down the road and there isn't a stop sign or a stop light anywhere.  You can park pretty much anywhere without fear of getting a parking ticket.  Someone will politely ask you to move your car if it's in a bad spot.  It's where people live life, they embrace family and friends no matter if you are black, white, poor or rich or a tourist.  There isn't even a movie theatre, although John Watt's homemade ice cream is to die for!

There is no air conditioning and people are hang outside with friends and family - not locked in their 'castles'.  When you wave at people you don't get a blank stare, you get a wave back and a smile and most of the time a welcoming 'alrit mon'.  When someone beeps their horn, it's a friendly greeting or a form of a thank you.

It's a place where the environment rules the people, it's respected, it's enjoyed.  The watershed and rain forest are off limits to any kind of development and home to all kinds of unique birds, lizards, frogs, insects and plants found nowhere else.

Most of you know I just came back from Montserrat in the Lesser Antilles, about 48 kms southwest of Antigua.  It's the only island in the Caribbean with an active volcano and it's impressive!

I have been to a lot of places in the Caribbean and I have to say this is the first island where a natural disaster like the volcano stopped development for good and most of the locals are thankful.  Unfortunately 2/3s of the island are uninhabitable right now and the capital was buried under a pyroclastic flow in 1996 but they are slowly rebuilding.  There are problems with the roads and with the new airport.  The British government is slowly helping but can't be counted on.  I think this is a mistake as this seems like a perfect place to rebuild using our brains rather than our money.  To give priority to the natural world and our planet.  We might all well learn a thing or two about our greed and what it does to harm our planet.

So what did I do all week?  I made new friends, listened to local musicians, went to the Cudjoe Head festival, saw some of the devastation from the volcano, visited the Montserrat Volcano Observatory and drank in all the green, all the quiet, felt the peace, watched the boats go by and found a place where the smog, stress and anger of our modern world don't exist.  The history is rich and I want to learn more about slavery, the sugar trade and the volcano.  Thank you Montserrat!  I will be back!

 View from our villa

 Park anywhere

 Our fav eating place - The People's Place on Lawyer's Mountain - John is a total cool guy and a great chef!

 All roads are on a pretty steep angle, our driveway was about a 25 degree grade...

 Looking to the Northwest on the windward side of the island.

Montserrat at one time had a lot of Irish settlers and is nicknamed "The Other Emerald Island"

This is some of the new island created by the volcano!

There are more pictures on my Facebook page and a lot of pictures on Paul's computer, he's coming home tomorrow so check on Facebook later this week if you want to see more of Montserrat.  I can hardly wait to go back, hopefully for the St. Patrick's week celebrations - one week long party!