Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Best Islands

Although it isn’t possible for most folks to buy their very own island like actor Johnny Depp’s $3.6 million tropical paradise in The Bahamas… I’m sure many of us can travel to any number of island destinations around the world.

My wife and I have been thinking about possibly retiring to an island like Kauai, or to Palawan in the Philippines. Or maybe just staying on an island for a month, renting a place by the beach. As long as there was Internet access and a place to play music, I think it would be awesome to live on an island for a while.

The online edition of Islands Magazine lists The 10 Best Islands To Live On:

1. St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands

2. Ambergris Caye, Belize

3. Culebra, Puerto Rico

4. Bequia, St. Vincent & the Grenadines

5. Eleuthera, Bahamas

6. Kauai, Hawaii

7. Gozo, Malta

8. Vanua Levu, Fiji

9. Orcas Island, Washington

10. Palawan, Philippines

Hmm… island living? It’s a big step, but a worthy possibility to further research and explore… Have you ever thought about living on an island?

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Heritage: Local Church Buildings

Biabou Church from Windward Highway

Mespo Church near Yambou River

Argyle Church

Joshua Gone Barbados

If you put "Joshua" in the search box at the top of the page and scan down on the page you get to you will find an essay on the song "Joshua Gone Barbados" by Erich Von Schmidt. I figured the least I could do was let you hear what it sounded like, so you can hear Erich's version if you click HERE.

There are two other voices playing and making interjections on this recording. If I remember correctly the voice in the middle ground (and playing bongos) is Geof Muldauer and the voice (and harmonica) in the background was Bob Dylan. It was recorded in London and I suspect that I was in London about the same time because I met Bob in a folk club about that time, 1965, I think.

Heritage: Chatoyer Monument

The monument to National Hero Chatoyer on Dorchester Hill

Garifuna Music

In the future I will be adding samples of music to my blogs. Just to see how well this procedure works I put the garifuna song Watina by Andy Palacio and the Garifuna Collective in a handy place where it could be called up.

I will be adding music samples related to St. Vincent from time to time.

Camden Park

A valley on the Leeward side, near Kingstown, that is the location of a concentration of manufacturing and wholesale enterprises.


Buccament Valley, taken from the Leeward Highway near Pembroke, looking toward the sea.

Buccament Valley, looking inland from near the sea, before the construction of the new condominium village.

The Buccament Petroglyphs. Use the tab "Petroglyph" to see other pictures and other petroglyphs.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

VINCENT, the parrot

July 22, 2008, 1:10AM
Houston Zoo welcomes birth of rare parrot

Copyright 2008 Houston Chronicle

On May 28, a tiny St. Vincent Amazon parrot pushed its way out of an egg at the Houston Zoo.

The egg was the size of a large chestnut. The bird was 3 inches tall, with bulging eyes that would take another nine days to open and skin covered with a whitish down.

Christopher Holmes, a zoo supervisor in the bird department, was the first person to lay eyes on the rare parrot. Since then, the two have been inseparable.

Holmes, 26, says that he is the chick's "primary hand rearer." But let's call it what it is.

He's Mom.

"The chick goes with me everywhere," says Holmes, who started volunteering at the zoo when he was 14 and is working on a bachelor's degree in anthropology at the University of Houston. "In the beginning, I was feeding it every two hours from 5 a.m. till midnight. I did that for 16 days."

For the first five weeks, the chick lived in a blue Coleman cooler, retrofitted with a heating element to keep it warm. Now, the bird lives in a large, open-air brooder — basically, a clear plastic box with a special lid.

Holmes named the bird Vincent, although no one knows if it's male or female. Soon, the zoo will send off one of Vincent's feathers for a DNA test to determine its gender.

"It's very hard to tell the sex," Holmes says. "The males and females are the same size, and every St. Vincent Amazon parrot is a different color."

Not yet 2 months old, Vincent has gotten much better-looking with age.

Incredibly, Vincent is almost full-grown. Just 15 grams at birth, the chick now weighs about a pound and stands a little more than a foot high. Most of Vincent's feathers have already come in, with brown dominating the chest and shoulders, green, yellow and cobalt blue on the tail, and bright orange on the bend of the wing.

"Come on, little one," says Holmes, lifting the chick out of the brooder and coaxing it into a smaller box for feeding.

Vincent watches Holmes mix the food, a fine powder of grains cut with 107-degree water. After Vincent is settled in the feeding bin — sort of a high chair for baby birds — Holmes clasps the back of Vincent's beak between his thumb and forefinger, tips back the head and pushes the warm formula into the chick's mouth with a syringe.

"That's how you elicit the feeding response," says Holmes, who has hand-raised macaws, flamingos, pigeons, kingfishers and King penguins. "It simulates the parent putting its beak over the chick."

Some of the formula drips onto Vincent's chest. Holmes quickly cleans it off.

"Just like a child," he says. "You've got to wipe the face."

Vincent is the third St. Vincent Amazon parrot born at the Houston Zoo. In 1972, the zoo made history with the first captive hatch of the species in the world.

In the wild, this particular parrot is found in only one place: the Caribbean island of St. Vincent, a slip of land 11 miles wide and 18 miles long, northeast of Venezuela and west of Barbados. It is part of a cluster of islands known as St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

Because its habitat is so small, the St. Vincent Amazon is considered a threatened species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

On top of that, the bird has a spectacularly slow reproductive rate. Vincent's parents, Patty and Buccament, had their first offspring in 1999. Vincent is their second chick.

"We're the only zoo in North America that houses the species," says Holmes, who has traveled to St. Vincent twice to help count the birds for the biennial census. "There are about 800 left in the wild."

Today, the Houston Zoo has seven of the rare parrots. The zoo's first St. Vincent Amazon, a female also named Vincent, was acquired in 1967. Holmes named this year's chick in her honor.

The zoo hopes that the chick will help supplement the captive-breeding program.

But for now, Vincent is busy being a toddler.

"We're still learning how to sit on our perch," Holmes says with a laugh after Vincent topples off the low-slung wooden bar in the brooder.

The chick makes a happy, gurgling sound, something between a coo and a mew, when its belly starts to get full.

"Vincent has different vocalizations for different things," Holmes says. "In the very beginning, it sounded like a squeaky toy."

The chick has also started to stretch its wings. Holmes suspects that Vincent's first flight will be sometime in the next few weeks, when all of the feathers have grown in. The feathers begin as pins that eventually grow longer and open.

"As the blood recedes from the feather shafts," Holmes explains, "they start to break open."

Sometimes the chick preens off its own feather shafts. Sometimes Holmes does it.

Despite Vincent's good health, it may be quite a while before the zoo introduces the bird to the public.

Vincent developed in an incubator. Because of the rarity of the species in captivity, the zoo pulled the egg the morning it was laid; Vincent hatched 28 days later. And because the chick is being hand-raised, it needs additional time to acclimate to other birds.

There's no rush. St. Vincent Amazon parrots have a life span of 50 to 60 years. After breeding season ends, zoo visitors can see Vincent's parents, along with Vincent's sister and her mate. They should be back on exhibit in early August.

In the meantime, Vincent continues to thrive.

Already, the chick is munching on dry food. Scattered Cheerios and part of an ear of corn sit at the bottom of the brooder.

Vincent still goes home with Holmes every night, but it's nothing like it was in the beginning. For the first five weeks, Holmes' life revolved around Vincent's strict feeding schedule. Now, he feeds the chick three times a day.

These meals can get quite interesting, with Vincent preening, flapping and gurgling for the duration.

"OK, we're done with you," says Holmes, lifting the noisy, just-fed chick out of the feeding box and putting it back in the brooder. "We get a little glint in our eye, cock our head to see what we can do to get into trouble and start trying to get away."

On day 80 of Vincent's life, the chick will leave Holmes to live in an off-site area at the zoo, in a cage next to two other St. Vincent Amazon parrots.

As close as he's grown to his charge, Holmes understands the importance of the move and trusts that he and Vincent will always have a special bond.

"It's for socialization," Holmes says. "Vincent has to learn how to be a bird."


Sunday, July 20, 2008

Heritage: Layou Petroglyphs

The petroglyphs in Layou are located a short distance inland from the Leeward Highway in layou.

They are more visible if you outline them with a chalk, or get a local child to do it for you.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Indian Cow Urine and the Garifuna Expulsion

While we are in Massachusetts, Sally & I often spend Saturday morning going to yard sales in our immediate area. We send things in barrels down to St. Vincent, both for our own use and to give away. One of the main things we buy is books: because we can get hardbound books for a dollar or so, sometimes less, and softbound books for 25 or 50 cents. After we have read them we donate them to the library in Kingstown, which can always find places for extra books.

This last saturday I found a book by Stephen R. Bown titled "A Most Damnable Invention" (St. Martin's Press, NY, 2005). I had been interested in Alfred Nobel, especially since I had been a graduate student at Columbia University when Tsung-Dao Lee (aka T.D.) won the Nobel Prize. But Bown's book was also about greek fire and black gunpowder.

In reading about saltpeter, one of the ingredients of black powder along with sulphur and charcoal, I ran across a mention that when the British in 1757 won the Battle of Plassy in India they were able to exclude the French from India, and particularly from the supplies of saltpeter that India produced by virtue of cow urine, low cast workers and tropic heat. India supplied the largest part of saltpeter exported to Europe, and whoever controlled India controlled the ability of European nations to make war. England and France produced only a small part of their consumption of saltpeter, even if the English King made it unpatriotic not to recycle urine.

In fact being cut off from Indian supplies of saltpeter caused the French to sue for peace and sign the Treaty of Paris that ended the Seven Years War in 1763. That was the war that is called the French and Indian War in the U.S., and the First Carib War in St. Vincent.

When the French had to give back St. Vincent to the English, the Caribs signed a peace treaty. The party that signed the treaty were fluent in French and Carib, but there was only one English officer fluent in French and none spoke Carib. Deliberately or inadvertently the Caribs got the impression that they were trading land for peace; but the small print said that the Caribs agreed to be "subjects" of the English monarch. This, after the English used mercenary german troops to defeat the Caribs in 1797 during the Second Carib War, allowed them to consider the Caribs "traitors" and thus justified not only the genocide on Balliceau but the expulsion to Rowaton that would allow the Garifuna to die off out of sight. The Garifuna survived, but that wasn't the intent of the English.

It is entirely possible that the native population of St. Vincent would have fared no better under the French, since the native population of Martinique and Guadeloupe have vanished, but the St. Vincent Caribs and Garifuna were still an independent people, at least in their own eyes, and might have retained a better status in post-revolutionary France. But that was not to be, because the English controlled the conversion of Indian cattle urine to a component of gunpowder.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Another Tourist Column

Land of the blessed
Grenadines Island holiday like being in a little bit of paradise
Posted 7 hours ago

As our small prop plane started to descend into St. Vincent, I was mesmerized by the turquoise glow of the Caribbean Sea and the endless stretch of black sand beaches along the coast of the island.

We landed before sunset on the island that used to be called Hairoun, which means land of the blessed. The name rings true with its towering volcano, genuine local people and separation from mass tourism.

The island's airport, located 160 kilometres west of Barbados, can't handle big jets. The appeal is that it's an off-the-beaten-path vacation spot.

The drive to the volcano along the windward coast to the countryside took us through banana and coconut plantations. We stopped along the way to pick soursop, breadfruit and guava that were growing in abundance.

After eating fresh guava and picking some other fruit, we arrived at the base of the volcano for a trek up to the top.

I certainly wasn't ready for the 2 1/2-hour steep hike in the suffocating humidity of a tropical rainforest.

To gauge your progress, the hike can be split into four quarters -- each with a distinctive landmark, such as large boulders or an opening in the trees.

I barely made it to the end of the first quarter before collapsing on a stair created out of bamboo. After some much needed water and mangoes, we to the next quarter.

As we hiked, I heard the crunch of bamboo leaves underneath my running shoes, the sound of trees scratching against each other and the eerie quiet of a place far away from civilization. We travelled through bamboo groves, rainforest and vegetation stunted by the altitude before reaching the top.

The hike seemed to last forever and was tougher than anything I've ever done. There were moments I just couldn't go on and had to sit on a rock trying to muster enough energy to continue.

As soon as I turned around and saw the view, I realized that the sweat, pain and almost bursting into tears was worth it.

Royal tire

The view was absolutely breathtaking.

I sat on a rock munching on some Caribbean treats while peaking into the crater of the volcano several hundred feet below. A thick, mysterious fog covered the landing and made me feel as if I was in heaven.

The way down was less physically challenging, but more dangerous. I fell down the steep trail twice after slipping on loose rocks.

I was left with large scrapes along my left leg, but that was a small price to pay to be able to tell people I climbed a volcano.

The next day, I boarded the Bequia Express ferry in St. Vincent to visit the biggest of the Grenadine Islands, Bequia. St. Vincent and the Grenadines is made up of 32 islands with almost 110,000 people.

Curtis Ollivierre, who owns a local taxi company with his wife Sandra, showed me where to get good coffee on the island, where to buy sunblock and took me to some model boat shops.

Bequia, almost 15 kilometres south of St. Vincent, is known for its whaling traditions and boat-building shops.

Sargeant Brothers Model Boat Shop is a Bequian store operated by artisans who have perfected the craft of carving wooden replicas of whaling boats. Small pieces of the model boats can take days to make and bigger pieces can take as long as three weeks.

Sergeant Brothers welcomed me into their shop and showed me where the boats are made. Bequians say their island is the jewel of the Caribbean because of how the tourists easily fit in.

"It's because of the people. They're friendly and the atmosphere is completely different than the other islands,'' said Lawson Sargeant, a model boat builder who runs the Bequia Maritime Museum.

While walking along the beach, a man selling jewelry saw the large gashes on my leg from falling down the volcano the day before. He picked an aloe plant, cracked it open and told me to put the soothing liquid that oozed out on the scrapes.

After exploring small shops, vendors on the road and boat shops, I headed to the Old Hegg Turtle Sanctuary.

A local man named Orton King took it upon himself 12 years ago to nurture turtles from the moment they are born. The turtles live in tanks at the sanctuary until they are around 36 centimetres long. That's when King releases the turtles back into the ocean.

Back on the mainland of St. Vincent the next day, I took a two-minute boat ride across to Young Island. I settled into a fenced-in private cottage surrounded by mango, almond, coffee and nutmeg trees on the 14-hectare private resort.

The cottage had an ocean-view terrace with a hammock, lawn chairs and steps leading down to the beach. A door in the bathroom led to an outdoor shower with an ocean view.

After checking in, I set sail on Young Island's own 13-metre yacht with Capt. George Kydd along the Leeward coast of St. Vincent.

Guests can charter a yacht for around $500, which includes food and drinks for up to four people for the day.

We stopped to eat lunch at Wallilabou Bay after a few hours on board admiring the view of the island from the Caribbean Sea. The restaurant was on the set where scenes of the Pirates of the Caribbean Black Pearl and Dead Man's Chest movies were filmed.

Cruising the islands doesn't have to stop with a tour of the coast of St. Vincent. On my last day in the Caribbean, I took a tiny plane ride from St. Vincent to Union Island where I boarded an 18-metre catamaran with Beresford Clifton as the captain.

Clifton described the routes he took us on and points of interest along the way. The first stop was Mayreau, the smallest of the inhabited Grenadines. It doesn't have an airport and has a population of around 250 people.

The island has beautiful white sand beaches, swimming and snorkelling areas.

"There is a small resort on the island and to spend the night it's about $350 US,'' Clifton said as he pulled the boat up to the shore. After exploring the island, we got back on board for a lunch of Caribbean fish, chicken, rice and other treats that the chef cooked in the galley below the deck.

The next stop -- the Tobago Cays. We docked and then walked to the other side of the island for swimming and snorkelling. The Tobago Cays are a cluster of five uninhabited islands surrounded by a horseshoe reef. Local boat vendors often drift to the islands selling handmade jewelry, food and many other delights.

Palm Island was the last stop on the Grenadine cruise. The island has been uninhabited by locals for many years and is now an all-inclusive resort with five white sand beaches. The perfect end to an all-day boat cruise was a dip in the ocean.

Five days in the Caribbean made me understand why the locals kept saying, "Why go to a resort in Mexico when you can come to paradise?''

- - -


* From Barbados, a short flight with LIAT, the Caribbean Airline, will bring you into St. Vincent. See www.liatairline.com

* If you're going to climb the volcano, pack lots of water and food and wear hiking boots for good grip while descending. Hazeco Tours can guide you on a hike up the volcano for around US$75, including snacks, lunch and water. www.hazecotours.com

* For a tour of Bequia, Curtis Ollivierre with Challenger Taxi will show you all the island hot spots. Along with tours and taxi services, he rents Suzuki sport utility vehicles.

www.bequia.net/challenger.htm Accommodations:

* Beachcombers is a cosy 31-room hotel with a beachfront restaurant. The nightly rates during peak season range from around US$99 for two people to $270 for penthouse suites, including a continental breakfast. www.beachcombershotel.com

* In Bequia, the Friendship Bay Hotel is about 10 minutes from Port Elizabeth. Rates during peak season range from $290 a night for an ocean-view room to $775 for an executive suite. www.friendshipbay. vc

Thursday, July 03, 2008

From Belize

From The Publisher
Amandala Online - Belize City,Belize

Posted: 01/07/2008 - 01:16 PM
Author: Evan X

As we try to understand what is in place, what is the status quo, it is important to remember that there was a conquest. There was a time when the Europeans came into contact with African and Indian (indigenous Americans) peoples, and the Europeans conquered. That was five hundred plus years ago. That conquest has never been reversed. Yes, concessions have been made, under pressure, but the essential paradigm remains in place - Europeans on top, the rest of us underneath.

The European conquest was by means of violence, but over a period of time the Europeans convinced many of our people that their rule was justified by reason of their institutions, core values, intellects, and yes, their God, being superior to their equivalents among the native peoples. European supremacy, over a period of time, became accepted as part of the divine order of things among those of our people who were compliant and collaborationist. But, always, there were those of our people who resisted, and they would be punished for their resistance.

By the beginning of the twentieth century in British Honduras, the Europeans here were using native people to help run the public service, called the “civil service” in those days. It was not until the 1920’s, however, that natives were allowed to become heads of department. The question is – what kind of natives? For there were native families in British Honduras which were more British than the British in the way they thought and behaved.

Whatever the case, it is for sure that the Garifuna people (called “Caribs” in genteel circles in those days) were locked out of the civil service. The Garifuna people were discriminated against on the basis of their ethnicity. No matter how brilliant a Garifuna child showed himself or herself in school, his or her parents could not hope for such a child to be accepted into the privileged civil service. (I don’t believe there were women in the civil service in those days either, so there must have been institutionalized discrimination on the basis of gender.)

It appeared to me some years ago, after reading the late Francis “Frank” Arana’s important work, THE GARIFUNA TEACHERS, that it was in the early part of the twentieth century that the Roman Catholic priests here recruited bright young Garifuna men to teach in Catholic primary schools across the length and breadth of the colony.

The Catholic Church had only been established in British Honduras around the 1860’s, when Catholic refugees from the Caste War in the Yucatan began to settle in the northern districts (Corozal and Orange Walk). Previous to that time, the Anglicans had dominated the settlement of Belize. The Methodists and the Baptists came in the 1830’s, thereabouts.

In a matter of a half-century or less, following their recruitment of the Garinagu as their district teachers, the Roman Catholics became the most powerful force in Belizean education. There can be no doubt that Garifuna teaching pioneers played a powerful role in the rise of Catholic education. Personally, I think it was a very powerful role, because when you consider the situation in the first half of the twentieth century here, the Garifuna teachers were the only real difference between the Catholic system and the non-Catholic one.

Remember now, that when the Creoles (you know I dislike the word) were getting “a run” in the civil service, they had to be grateful to the British, because we were “subjects”- a conquered people. Our Creole people discriminated against the Caribs as a matter of routine and custom, but it was not we who had the power to make appointments in the civil service. We were beginning to benefit from those appointments, however, and we didn’t care who was left along the wayside, such as Caribs and Mestizos.

I suppose I am the most public critic of my own people. In most cases, parents do not beat their children because they hate them, but because they love them. I love myself, and I love my own people. The fact of the matter is that we, a certain clerical class of us, were used by the British to help them administrate the colony. The British did this all over their world-wide empire. The civil service appeared the only way upwards in those colonial days, and that’s just the way it was.

It is necessary to document the fact that the British divided us along class and ethnic lines, so that when Belizeans like Clinton Uh Luna voice their criticisms, we don’t take it personally. There was a small, privileged class of bureaucrats in British Honduras, dominated by middle class Creoles, at the time of the nationalist revolution in 1950. The Garinagu and the Mestizos who were discriminated against in the first part of the twentieth century, are justified in questioning whether some of our “patriotic” reminiscences are not colonial in character.

My thesis is that for Belize to survive, we must hold honest conversations with each other, no matter how painful those conversations may be. There should be no sacred cows when we consider the colonial era. And we should also reject all the obvious attempts to create sacred cows in the PUP time. Ethnic discrimination is injustice, and it will always come back to haunt those who are guilty of it.

All power to the people.