Now that I finally understand that a love of Martinique does not necessarily equate to an endorsement of colonialism, mental slavery or white supremacy, I’m coming out of the closet as a Madininaphile. So you can imagine my delight when I discovered that my chosen residence at present is the centre stage of an animated feature at cinemas now. Enter Battledream Chronicle.
I’ve been travelling a lot this summer. I’ve been magnificently blessed. I’ve also travelled with my eyes open, and something unusual has caught my attention: Quite separately from my natural antenna keenly tuned to signs of social upheaval, it seems that every place I’ve visited has been in the throes of a political drama.
I’m not expert in international political analysis, but I swear every stop involved someone explaining that something wasn’t working normally as a result of protests.
Before you write me off as some leftwing fantasist seeing the revolution everywhere I go, here’s what I mean:
1) Martinique: Petrol Strike.
Firstly there was the question of whether I could leave for my adventures in the first place. A week before my anticipated departure, there were talks of yet another petrol strike. Two days later it was confirmed and began.
As usual in Martinique, the petrol stations were blockaded and the island came to a swift, choked standstill. In a petrol strike, business meetings are postponed, schools lack teachers and pupils or close, services – including health and police – effectively shut down because key personnel can’t get to work. The state doesn’t appear to have reserves in these eventualities/make provisions for ‘key’ staff. Riots don’t break out because the would-be opportunists/discontented are also conserving whatever petrol they have left. Thus it was that all movement in the country halted days – hours really – before I hoped to begin the adventure of a lifetime. ‘Off island,’
C’est pas possible! I fumed.
No one knows how long it will last. Although the petrol strikes in the last year have always lasted five days or fewer, everyone remembers how it was a ‘mere’ petrol strike that started the historic 40 day national strike/protest of 2009. The discontent which fuelled that moment remains widespread – particularly the social complaints – so I’ve often heard Martinicans say they expect another such outbreak, with some rather apocalyptic predictions of a violence which will be markedly different from the last period of protest.
On the Friday before I was due to leave, the worst happened. My ride to the airport phoned me to say she’d run out of petrol; if Coralie couldn’t get some the following day, I’d need to try and find somebody who still had petrol, and who loved me enough to use the little remaining petrol they had on me. She might be able to take me the 10 mins to the port with what little petrol they had left, but not the 30 min drive to the airport. Boats and planes had the fuel to get me off Martinique to St Lucia, where a flight would take me to London and my summer adventure would begin. But could I get to the port or airport to board? Continue reading
I love Martinique. Love it! Why? Because I catch the most jokes here. I write this with a silly grin, teary eyes and chuckling. This place is nuts. It’s like Angelina Jolie in Girl, Interrupted. Beautiful but incomprehensibly crazy. Though it might be a crap analogy because I remember feeling like I didn’t ‘get it’. Although it’s possible that it is therefore the perfect analogy.
But I digress.
What had me laughing so hard I felt compelled to blog about it? Slavery – history versus the discourse here? The state of education in contemporary Martinique? Or perhaps both? I’ll let you decide.
First off, I was not alone. The group of crying splutterers included me, two Martinican dudes, and two girls, one Martinican and one Guadeloupean. We had convened at 8am and were reviewing the contribution of our comrade in educational struggle, who was also a Martinican, at around midday. His task was to translate the fruits typically found in a jaden kréyol Matinitje (literal translation: traditional Martinican creole garden) into kréyol – as in the language – so that creole-speaking students learning to read and write their language could have a written reference point aka a dictionary while they learned a bit of Martinican cultural history. There’s a real and problematic lack of learning materials in creole – the first language of many if decreasing numbers of Martinicans (and St Lucians, Dominicans, Guadeloupeans, Trinidadians and Haitians…Mauritians, and Seychellois…but that’s another story). Bref, this was an important task. Continue reading