So, I’ve written about some of the less exciting stuff associated with starting a new life abroad, and from what I’ve written, you would never guess that all things being fair and equal, I’m actually having a great time. This post should hopefully rectify that.
Take this weekend for example. On Friday afternoon, I took stock of the weekend ahead and realised I had sweet FA planned. It didn’t quite fill me with fear, was just aware of the fact. However by the end of my working day I had Friday night sorted. One of my colleagues had told me about (not quite invited but hey, who’s counting?) an exhibition of the work of contemporary local-ish artists (local in the diasporic rather than geographic sense of the word) and my lovely boss said I should go, and he might be going too. Reason number one to love this place: colleagues who you like as people. So few and few between back home. So abundant here already!
Now not getting an invite = not being offered a lift there. This left me with one of two options; risk not going or make a mad dash home after work to shower, change and get the bus there, and work out how I’m getting home when I’m already out (and therefore obliged to find a solution in a place with no public transport after 8pm and no taxis). But I wanted to commit to my new tradition; in place of after work drinks on a Friday, I go for an after-work swim. I had taken my copy of VS Naipaul‘s Miguel Street and beach stuff to work, and after the last young mind had been shut down for the week (mine), I wandered down to the sea and found myself a nice spot under the palm trees, on the sand. As sunset approached I recalled that the art exhibition was starting from 7pm and if I stayed on the beach too late I wouldn’t be able to leave never mind work out how to get home.
As I made my way off the sand, I passed a market which had apparently sprung up while I’d been enthralled with the adventures of Hat, Boyee, Errol and the other residents. Randomly, who should be hawking their wares, but the organic farmers I’d visited on an outing to their farm, Bouliki Bio, with my students but a day earlier. As they’d provided me with the most delicious meal I’d eaten since arrival, and definitely the most generous portions, and were a rather dapper and impressive father-son duo, I thought I’d finish the experience by actually viewing them from a consumer’s perspective. Two bags and a stop to the cashpoint later, I was smiling at the warm greeting from both father and son (and the son’s mate who’d also been helping out on the farm the day before to give due credit) and heading up the morne home. Praying that my artist and art teacher landlord&lady would be heading out to the local art exhibition and I could get a ride with them. They weren’t. But they dispatched their son to drop me off and pick up me which was super lovely of them. And to be fair to my new big bro, he was the one who offered to pick up. And did.
The exhibition itself was amazing. I had envisioned a ballroom transformed into an exhibition space; how uncreative of me. Instead, once enough people had come down (it was hugely popular), another group could discover that each bedroom was converted into the artist’s exhibition space of choice and punters wandered from room to room, giggling as we bumped into each other, passed each other multiple times, and talked with each other and the artists. I spent about 30 mins chatting to one artist on the balcony of his hotel room, overlooking the town square. We talked while listening to the live music in the square which drew its own crowd. It was a fantastic night; five floors of sculpture, paintings, installations, among the many manifestations of local art. When I emerged two hours later feeling inexplicably happier than when I’d entered, I wandered over to the creole drummers who’d taken over from the jazz-funk outfit who’d been performing earlier.
And that was just Friday’s activities. Although I was painfully aware as I prepared to leave, of not having heard the highly valued thoughts of my favourite cultural critics (my girls), I loved the buzzing vibe and the chance to engage a little with the local creative scene. Reason two to love this place: people are friendly. You can go out on your own and feel like you spent the night chatting to loads of different people. Cos you did.
Saturday was a long overdue chat with my mum, a beach outing with a cool group of friends, and a night out to hear live Caribbean music at a party in the mountains. Sunday involved actually being able to follow a church service in my second language, and then a luxurious afternoon. First a chillax in my new fave secret spot, and then down on the beach reading, swimming, reading some more, and swimming some more. Reason number three to love this place: Beautiful weather, lovely beaches and people who don’t teef, so you can leave all your worldly belongings on the beach and feel comfortable that they’ll be there when you get back.
Started and finished Female Chauvinist Pigs by Ariel Levy which I’d been meaning to read for ages on the beach today. Really liked it. Didnt love it. Probably because I read it 5 years after I first wanted to/it came out and so it was a teeny bit dated. Plus although it’s an interesting read, it makes a similar point to Zadie Smith‘s On Beauty which I’d read first; that young women are far more concerned with being considered sexy than with enjoying sex and their own sexuality. Which as a young woman who works with young women, wasn’t earth-shattering. To be fair to Levy, Smith’s work is fiction, and Levy develops the argument; that in doing so young American women are appropriating feminist language for hugely antifeminist objectives, namely their own objectification. She makes a compelling case: I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve heard that pole dancing is fun (liberating even!)/good exercise/empowering and been made to feel like Mary Whitehouse for dignifying the statement with a response, suggesting that such claims may be a bit disengenous, and no I don’t want to do it. I nearly had to boycott a good friend’s hen do to avoid pole dancing, it’s become so incredibly acceptable. If you’ve never thought of it like that before, you should probably read the book. Match it with Naomi Wolf‘s The Beauty Myth for a contemporary feminist thought high. Reason number four: I get to read for fun, and partake in my favourite activity in the world: Reading. On the beach.
As I write this, I’m half-listening to a conversation which is taking place in French and over a game of dominoes about prostitutes who’ve had a sex change to become women. Crickets sing over them, and the kitchen door is letting in a cool breeze. The guys are taking the dominoes and the conversation very seriously. Reason number five: the people. The locale. The people. I’m loving the good life.