Colonial history. All the islands have similar stories – a long history of European powers changing hands, confused by the French, British, Dutch orDanish affiliations they once had. Now they have a mix up of languages, and place names seem to be repeated everywhere, a Soufriere, Marigot, Basse-terre, or Vieux Fort on each island, pronounced slightly differently in each place.
Sugar cane.Cane fields and plantations galore, sugar mill ruins standing around in disrepair, and the slow forgetting of their biggest industry as tourism takes over the economy.
Rum.Cane rum, aged rum, white rum, spiced rum, flavoured rum, rum punch, Ti-punch, rum distilleries, rum chocolate, rum cake… a lot of rum.
Coconuts, coconut cookies and coconut cocktails, coconut milk and coconut shavings. They would literally fall at your feet (or on your head), wherever you went, on the beach, in the forest, and sold on the street to drink straight out of the husk for petty change.
BBQ, barbeque wings, barbeque pork, barbeque anything, sold as ‘the local’ food since it was popular, cheap, and in
Roti, delicious bread stuffed with ground lentils or boneless chicken curry… which you realize is never actually boneless as you almost choke on a sharp sliver.
Beaches, black sand beaches near volcanoes, white sand beaches as fine as flour, brown sand beaches with grains like undissolvable brown sugar, and pink beaches filled only with billions of little pink shells.
Cruise ships, polluting the port cities with thousands of tourists, sometimes 4 boats docked at a time. Battling through the city center for the 8 hours they were unleashed, buying jewelry and alcohol and overpriced souvenirs, and having to politely smile and explain you weren’t from a ship everytime someone asked ‘Which ship? or reminded you it was boarding time.
Med Schools, med students and university campuses filled with Canadians and Americans who didn’t get accepted or couldn’t afford tuition in North America. And again, the questions ‘What semester are you?’ and the confused look on peoples faces when you insisted you were just visiting and not studying.
Stray dogs, everywhere, of all sizes, colours, shapes and health. In the French Islands, there were purse dogs and living teddybears who managed to become the chosen ones with homes and owners, which only struck me as weird given the animal abuse the rest of the dogs (some, just as cute) had to bear. I saw some sickly looking dogs, one with its ear cut off by a machete, and even harmless dogs snoozing in the street had to get up once in a while to dodge the cruel drivers who purposely tried to swerve towards them.
Stray roosters and scratching hens with a row of scraggly chicks in tow. And then the lucky roosters strong and healthy enough to become fighting cocks, treated like princes by their gambling owners.
Honking, by every bus driver, taxi, private car and motorcycle, as a means to communicate just about anything – hello, thank you, goodbye, get out of the way, or learn how to drive. So the streets were always singing in a chorus of honks.
Accents, sweet, sing-song accents of creole and patois with humorous vocabulary, unrecognizable slang and unusual ways of constructing sentences and tensing verbs. It was always so charming to see a latin lady speak Islander, a blonde guy speak Spanish, a Rasta speak American English, and children speaking Parisian French that I thought only mature adults could pull off.
Island time. Schedules or opening hours are just suggestions, things happen slower, you can’t rush anyone no matter how hard you try, and the apparent disrespect for time is universal so you become the disrespectful one if you don’t have the time to wait. And people wait, and wait… and wait, sitting around with nothing to do but watch other people do nothing.