From Barbados to Grenada

Posted on July 28, 2018

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“Barbados is the Miami of the Caribbean,” said the nail technician working hard to remove the dead skin from my finger cuticles. She didn’t even look up. I’m sat in a shopping mall in Grenada right now. Her intricately braided hair woven tightly.

When you bounce around the islands you meet people from all over. They move for work, for better opportunities. Antigua is full of Guyanese. She was a Bajan.

“I love the Bajans, complete strangers were so helpful and kind to me,” I confessed. “I travelled local, even en route to the airport, three different people helped me carry luggage off the bus, across two lanes of traffic and around the airport terminal. People said good morning to me everyday, there’s always someone having a joke about something,” I continued.

She broke into a broad smile, nodding.

Barbados was only a week ago but it feels so much longer. The island has a completely different vibe and pace to Grenada. It’s more hectic, there’s always a party somewhere and everyone is trying to out do the next person. Each part of the island has its own neighbourhood feel.

It’s a fabulous place to visit, if you have cash to splash; but there’s potential for drama and these days I run from that. I am seeking a quiet life. I visited the week before carnival and it’s supposed to be low season. Lord knows what it’s like when it’s high season. The cooking there is on a par with Europe. I ate extremely well. But it ain’t cheap.

I stayed on the west of the island which is where the wealthy mainly ex pat community reside. The houses are incredible. Lucky for me i knew someone who had a spare room. He runs an air b ‘n’ b and lives in a separate part of the property to the part that’s rented out. He’s an extremely generous soul. He lives with his dog Pepper. He picked me up from the airport, let me gatecrash a friend’s bday party, took me to his best mate’s BBQ at his rather enormous house and drove me around the north and east of the island. Sounds like he was “pursuing” me, but it wasn’t like that. I didn’t get that vibe whatsoever. He is a mate. There was no chemistry or romantic interest. I guess neither of us knew how we’d really get on until I arrived. We agreed if we hated each other I’d find a guesthouse elsewhere. But things worked out well. And he said I was an easy house guest – phew. I will never forget his kindness or the good coffee. I hope one day to be able to return the generosity.

Each morning I’d be up at 6.30, make breakfast, and then walk up the road to hail the local (private) bus. It’s a white-knuckle ride for an hour into Bridgetown everyday to the dive school. Those buses stop and drop wherever you want. There’s also no speed limit. Rush hour in Barbados makes the London cattle-trucking commute look like child’s play. The sheer number of people jammed in means you don’t even need to hold onto anything.

While I was there I was hustling for work. I managed to get one freelance shift. I’d already been diving as a tourist with the school. Then it was right time and right place. Women’s Dive Day. The school had no female instructors so the owner asked me to work that day as a visiting instructor. I left with certs, so was very happy to be asked. They also have a sister school in Grenada so it made sense to make a good impression.

During the week of diving I also met some fun Belgian guys who’d been travelling for three weeks. We arranged to go out for dinner on their penultimate night. We met in town, ate Mexican food, they sank cocktails, I downed club sodas. Then we all missed the last bus home. It literally drove past all ten people stood at the bus stop. Everyone was yelling and screaming after it. But the bus continued to race up the road leaving us all shrouded in a cloud of exhaust fumes. No bus meant we had nowhere to be. We walked across the road and into a random bar to the deafening sound of karaoke.

They were drunk, I was sober and first up to sing. Let me tell you belting out Caribbean Queen is no easy feat when you’re fully aware how bad you sound and your voice is being carried all the way down the road to the bus stop you were sat at moments ago. By the time we were kicked out it was 2am so I crashed on their sofa scribbled a thank you note on a paper napkin and left early morning.

Now I’m in Grenada. The week has been tame in comparison. I’ve done some amazing diving here. The reefs are healthy and the corals colourful: red, blue, yellow and green. I’ve forgotten how bright the colours are meant to be in the ocean. The marine park is working wonders here. I also love the dive school here. The local lads are brilliant and the type of clientele is so different to Barbados. One couple I got to know over the last few days even invited me to dive with them “as their guest”, ie: to pay for the dives. I was bowled over, said thank you, but declined out of embarrassment.

The main town here is St George’s and is 10km from my digs. I’m staying 2km from Grand Anse which is a stunning beach area most tourists visit for sand, sea and water sports. The island is undeniably beautiful.

The town is a charming fishing port with crumbling historic buildings. The smell of spices linger in the air and quality coffee and dark chocolate can be found – but at a price. Grenada has incredible mountains, something many of the other islands lack. I walked in a downpour through the thick rainforest to a gorgeous waterfall called St Margaret’s. It’s easy to forget where you are. The climate is so different just 20 minutes uphill. Cool and breezy.

I’ve tried to find work here, but frustratingly no one is hiring for paid work. It’s too expensive to hangout here and work for free. Perhaps in Africa or Asia, that’s more achievable. But not in Grenada. I had been toying with the idea of jumping to Tobago, Bonaire, Dominica or Guadeloupe for another week. All great dive destinations; but timing, flights and cash have all proved too difficult to line up. I’m taking it as a sign but I’m not giving up hope.

The Caribbean has been fun. An impromptu adventure, with some incredible memories to cherish. But now it’s time to make my way home.

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