Carriacou is a small Grenadian island northeast of mainland Grenada. It is quiet and clean and full of life. Two good friends that Tripp and I met while sailing Mah Jong (a gorgeous classic yacht that was lovingly restored a few years back) are both from Carriacou. They are some of the kindest, most fun, and skilled sailors you’ll ever meet and they showed us a wealth of hospitality during our time in Carriacou. Traveling the world is exciting and I wouldn’t trade away the experiences I’ve had at this point for much, but it can be lonely. You miss family and friends dearly and this feeling becomes especially pronounced during the holidays. This was the first Christmas that either of us had ever spent away from our families and I felt it. Scrolling through Facebook and Instagram and seeing everyone bundled up with their loved ones and their traditions brought on the homesickness in a way I hadn’t known yet. The only thing that stemmed the tide was the warmth that was shown to us by Alex and Kaya in Carriacou. They brought us in
to their families and their celebrations and it softened the blow of missing home. Kaya’s mother Teena owns the most popular pizza joint in Windward, Carriacou and her culinary prowess is known throughout town. We were lucky enough to be invited to her home for Christmas lunch. The Caribbean feast that ensued kept all the collywobbles of missing Carolinian Christmas at bay. We had callaloo stew, stuffing, pumpkin soup, yams, spiced sorrel, and so many other delicious dishes. Afterwards we drifted into a drowsy food-induced dream state on her back porch while we gazed into the Caribbean Sea. While we faded in and out pleasantly, someone hailed from the front of the house and we watched as a Carriacou Christmas tradition unfurled. What began many years ago as a tradition of caroling on Christmas day and being invited in for food after a song has since evolved a bit. Younger generations have taken to the habit of celebrating Christmas Eve all night at a local club, then they walk the streets of Carriacou by day, knocking on doors to let the inhabitants know that “they’ve come for Christmas.” Despite a full night and day of drinking, the three young gentlemen who came for Christmas on this particular occasion were relaxed, polite, and affable — if not a bit tired. They were offered cakes, fruit, and sorrel juice and enjoyed all three on the porch while we talked about anything that came to mind. The sleepy atmosphere of the porch was too much for one of the three to contend with and he succumbed to his exhaustion with a deep slumber. The other two talked with us, interested and curious about the states. They lamented the fact that they needed a visa to travel to the states while we could come in to Carriacou and Grenada without issue. I neglected to mention the recent issues we’d had with customs because even with that trouble our struggle seemed to pale in comparison. (On that note, when we got to Carriacou Teena had our package and all was well shortly after arriving. It was nice to close our chapter of being questionable outlaws without issue.) After an hour or so of lazy and enjoyable conversation, the visitors woke up their sleeping friend and headed back into the streets to find their next hosts. It was a curious tradition but it spoke to the strong sense of community and openness on the island. At home Christmas is nearly sacred, a space for families. To be invited to someone else’s Christmas is akin to inviting them in to the close familial circle. In Carriacou that feeling was the same, but it was extended to strangers, a beautiful thing to see. We spent a quiet night on the boat that evening, listening to Christmas songs and missing home.
The next day was Boxing Day, a holiday we eschew in the states, but after my Carriacou Boxing Day I’m convinced we’re in the wrong there. We spent Boxing Day with Alex and his family who have a long tradition of visiting Popo for Boxing Day. Popo is a Carriacou elder, wise man, and historian of sorts. He lives up in the hills of Carriacou in the “bush.” He leads a simple life without electricity and has helped out at Alex’s family’s bed and breakfast over the years as a jack of all trades and extra role model, all but a part of the family. After some time Popo wanted to give back and invited the family to his home for Boxing Day to enjoy company, camaraderie, and salted ham. Popo and Alex’s family were kind enough to extend the invitation to us this year and we walked up the hill to Popo’s. The salted ham was already boiling in a pot when we arrived and Popo sat with others in the shade, already enjoying his Boxing Day. He welcomed us warmly with hugs and questions about our trip, he told us about Carriacou and charmed us with his laughter and his nearly toothless smile. What I loved most is that it was simply a gathering, there were no barriers to entry, no pretensions, no schedule. It was a time to get together and enjoy each other while Popo hosted us proudly in his home. In several times that I’ve attempted to retell this story and how special the day felt, I’ve come up short. Its hard to articulate the feeling of communion that was present under that tarp in the hills of Carriacou and I suspect something about that day can only exist there. Its incommunicable, untranslatable, I can merely point toward it and hope that those reading this can fill in some of the gaps with similar experiences of their own.
I woke up the next day, my last day on Carriacou, with some of the angst of missing home dissolved. The past two days had been therapeutic and grounding, reminders that family can be found in strange places. Alex’s sister Ea lives on Petite Martinique, a quick boat trip from Carriacou, its a small island with a big reputation for boat building and friendly people. We decided to visit for the day to see Ea’s home and a project she’d been working on with a group called Petite Martinique Women In Action. Ea is a renaissance woman – a skilled artist, sailor, fisherwoman, and entrepreneur. The latest project she’s been involved in is a grant-funded aquaponics initiative designed to provide locally grown lettuces, cucumbers, and other produce to an island with limited agricultural capacity due to lack of freshwater. Aquaponics uses a closed system and flows water through a series of tanks, the water is continually cycled through the system and drastically reduces water usage. The first chamber contains fish, water flows from that tank to the roots of plants that are being grown hydroponically. The water passing over these roots is full of fish waste which happens to be a wonderful fertilizer. The roots soak up as many of the nutrients they can and the water flows through a series of biofilters and is circulated back into the fish tank where is started. The pumps in this system are run by solar energy making fish food the only input necessary. As fish breed in the tanks you have not only produce as a result but potentially fish. A large scale system like this on Petite Martinique could provide local organically grown veggies for the population but also reduces the inhabitants carbon footprint significantly. Ea’s got bigger dreams too, she hopes to eventually develop a modular aquaponics system that people could set up at their own homes to grow their own produce. These are exactly the kinds of local solutions that will make a difference as we combat climate change and should serve as an inspiration for local action.
In the morning I woke up and got ready to head to Grenada. I got a ride to Tyrell Bay, Carriacou’s main harbor, to catch the ferry to the mainland (Tripp and his father left on J. Henry a few days before). I left Carriacou refreshed. It had been a restorative time, a time to slow down and take stock, a time to enjoy the relationships I’ve made on this journey. It will always hold a special space in my heart.