Thursday, June 23, 2011

Verte, Verde, et Groen

Mallika, Deep, Craig and I ventured out of the marina this week, making a two hour drive to Nariva Swamp in the southeast part of the island. There we met two guides who spent the morning leading us through this natural area that is filled with hundreds of birds, and teeming lush, jungled forest surrounded by a low-lying, marshy wetland. Mukesh is an ornithologist we had met at the Asa Wright Nature Centre and Francis is a botanist with the Trinidad Department of Agriculture. It poured buckets of rain which sent the howler monkeys to protected thickets and although we couldn’t see them, we could hear their growls echo across the swamp. Mukesh and Francis were apologetic that we weren’t able to see the monkeys, as if they had forgotten to text our schedule to the Red Howlers. I reassured Mukesh that we were grateful for our experience and fascinated with the jungle regardless of who would or would not show up. The rain would be another lens to see this beautiful area through and Mukesh and Francis patiently pointed out and described dozens of plant, bird, and insect species. 
Gall wasp eggs in the leaves

Giant sandbox tree
Philosophers argue about whether human beings’ abilities to use language the way we do is enabling or a hinderance to our ability to develop and express ourselves and describe the world. Common thought would support language as an indicator of higher levels of thinking. I found language, at least my English, to be completely inadequate to describe the jungle we were walking through. The rain brought out the green. Green. How many ways are there to describe the colour green? Mint, olive, kahki, and emerald describe the green of something else. None of these could do justice to the colours I saw as we sloshed along the muddy trail of the grassy swamp and into thick forest. These greens were shimmering, sprouting, elegant, majestic, and delicate. The origin of the word green is groeni, to grow, so perhaps I’ll just leave it at that. The jungle was simply growing.

Welche Sprache sprechen wir?
I met Petra from Holland at the second cruisers’ barbeque and potluck we attended last week. The cruisers’ bbq/potluck circuit could be a full time vocation and this one was over at Peake’s boat yard where we will be hauling out next week. You bring your own meat for the charcoal bbq and one other dish to share. I have tried to bring something local, experimenting with cold stir-fried Dasheen Bush (a thick stemmed, chard-like leafy vegetable) with hot peppers and spices. No one has died eating it yet, although someone just told me that this is actually possible if not cooked correctly. It looks like I’m going to have to find another boring but safer casserole recipe.

Our first BBQ/potluck was with our U.S. neighbours here at the dock, and was lovely and quiet with an early finish. The Peake’s bbq was with the Europeans who are anchored out in the bay. It was well attended, much noisier, and lasted late into the evening. Petra is a fit 60+ with sharp, short snow-white hair that contrasts against her wind blown brown skin. She looks like she could could climb Mount Everest tomorrow, carrying me on her back, all the while providing a detailed account of the social and economic reforms of the 12th century Nepalese Malla Dynasty. She has jumped with gusto into local Trini life, and attends a different church service every Sunday just to see what’s going on around the island. All the Europeans looked as healthy as Petra and seemed to have an insatiable curiosity about the world. Petra introduced herself by bounding into the conversation I was having with three other cruisers, and asking in German, “Welche Sprache sprechen wir?” (What language are we speaking?) We looked at her blankly so she answered herself, “Ah, English,” and came down to our mono-lingual level, switching to perfect English like she was changing a channel on TV. She and her husband then had a discussion about my name, which is not common in other languages and seems difficult to pronounce with so many vowels and the dreaded r. In latin languages, I get “Lay-owry, “Lowree”, or “Lairwee”. Petra and her husband spelled it out, said it perfectly several times and much to my delight, declared it to be Dutch. I have always wanted to be from Holland and although I’m quite sure my parents didn’t have The Netherlands in mind when they named me, I’m relieved to finally be an unofficial member of the Orange clan. This will provide some challenges because I’m going to have to get into shape and learn 5 or 6 more languages before I can apply for citizenship so I may just have to make do with the name. In the meantime, I’ll enjoy the food and the stories.
Et tu, Canada?
Just a final note to let everyone know that the end-of-the-world is indeed in sight. It is not global warming, war, nor the economy that signaled the end. According to the American and European cruisers, it’s the fact that Vancouver could have the kind of riots it had over a hockey game. Our foreign friends looked to us for some kind of explanation and reassurance as they watched the violence and destruction covered with great consternation on international newscasts. “We expect South Africa, Italy, or even Detroit to burn their cities down over a game, but not Vancouver!” “Riots in Canada? Impossible!” The Americans announced that it was the Anarchists, as if this is a hired and organized group of outsider marauders that travel the planet looking for trouble. One even whispered to me, “It must be foreigners,” as she frantically tried to restore order to her world. It seems Canadians have, or had, a reputation for holding higher standards of behaviour. I sense we are looked upon as a quietly-kind and reliable country that has free health care, fresh air, low crime, and good education. We just don’t have a Stanley Cup.

We don't have a Stanley Cup but today we celebrate St.Jean Baptiste! I remember that ungodly hot summer you and Craig came to visit in Montreal .
Happy St.Jean Baptiste Day !
Friday, June 24, 2011 - 07:40 AM
Loved your commentary on the Vancouver post game fiasco, Laurie, and yep....still awaiting the Cup's return to more appropriate soil - hopefully Edmonton's turf in a few years! I've really enjoyed reading your blog (kudos for your excellent writing style and terrific pics) as I continue my withdrawl from the cruising life, awaiting next cruising season in six months. Today (June 27) is haul-out day for your splendid Alberta Crewed so sure hope that goes well for you and Craig. I know how hard and how much prep is involved in storing one's boat and remain VERY grateful for all the help that Craig extended to me so graciously to help with my oversights in some storage details when I left afLOAT on the hard last month. Looking forward to a rendezvous with you guys this summer! 
Safe travels home!
Terry and Beverlee Loat

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