Weather. Everyone’s talking about it.

3 Aug

If you come from New England, you talk about weather. Because that’s what we do. Today in Guadeloupe everyone is talking about the weather and by looking at this image I just took from this site, you’ll understand why!

windy city..er island.

Advertisements

To Do in Guadeloupe: first scuba dive

3 Aug

What: First Scuba dive of my life

Where: Malendure, Basse-Terre

Product/Service: PPK (Plaisir Plongee Karukera)

The review:

First off, I was pretty nervous. I’m rather risk-averse or so I’ve been told, and fitting with that I could not wrap my head around being under water and breathing. The monitors were extremely kind with the first-time divers. Each beginner had their own monitor who took them for a 20 minute dive at 6 meters. It was stunning.  I can’t believe I waited so long to do that! Breathing was easy, and the Cousteau Reserve is just an amazing aquarium. I saw so many fish, so many colors…really beautiful.

A friend of mine who dives with PPK brought me along. She likes them, as do I, because they make the effort to put everyone at ease. Their main shop or meeting point is just across the road from the Malendure beach parking lot. They put the tanks, wetsuits, masks, fins, and also snorkel equipment on the boat for you so you’ve really got nothing to do except go. While you wait or after you’ve finished your dive, you can snorkel a bit around the boat while the others finish. After the boat goes back to the dock, there is water, coffee and planteur waiting back at the shack! Yeah! I highly recommend the planteur and then a short walk over to Le Rocher de Malendure for a great meal. (Review and pics in an upcoming post!)

I plan to go back and complete my level 1 with PPK!  I do not have any amazing pictures from under water ….in time I will be able to manage a camera maybe plus my tank but for now, check out PPK’s facebook page to see where I was and some of the same fish I saw!

Five out of five ti-punch.

Here’s their facebook with contact info and gorgeous photos from dives: https://www.facebook.com/PPK.PLONGEE

 

Smile first. A pretty decent policy.

30 Jul

Pirate and I watched a documentary on Thailand the other day. What really stuck in my head after that was when the narrator was on this incredible train, smiling at people. He rode the night train to Bangcock – a “little fifteen hours of train” and as he boarded and searched for his seat he spoke about all the smiles. Smiles everywhere. From everyone. Other passengers, the conductor, old, young, and the women cooking and serving food in the dining car. The guy was filming as he was talking, walking down the aisle of the train car. An old lady smiled at him. He asked if he could sit with her, and asked her directly about the people in Thailand smiling. It was something like this:

“Why do the Thai people smile like that, what’s happening?”

“It’s a characteristic of Thai people…we talk and we have fun.  It’s our way of being..and firstly, why should we pout?”

“May I sit next to you?”

“Yes, go ahead.”

“So I like this philosophy. We smile first, and we talk after, is that it?”

Yes.”

(it’s in French, and I think I’m pretty accurate in my translation, but here’s the link, you can start watching for this particular portion at 17:46).

http://www.pluzz.fr/des-trains-pas-comme-les-autres-f5-2012-07-26-21h30.html

Pretty nice, right? I thought so. The documentary is called ‘Des Trains pas Comme les Autres’ and is focused on different or original trains for travel. Five out of five ti-punch.

Sadly, what I thought at that moment was how sad it is that in Guadeloupe the smile policy seems to be exactly the opposite. Here I have the impression that people put up a big wall, and it’s really hard to break through that. This is one of the reasons I find the culture kind of difficult here. Most folks, and certainly in any service setting I find this to be true, simply don’t smile at me. I don’t know if they smile at other people. I know that they don’t smile at me. Am I smiling at them? I don’t know. Honestly, probably I just look confused.  Sometimes I smile or try to make small talk but I find I don’t get much in return. So mostly, I smile if I’m smiled at, and I hate that it’s like that. I’d like to feel inspired to smile much more often when I’m out running errands or talking to people in the stores…  Many times however I’ve been blessed to stumble upon really nice friendly people. They stand out big time. It makes my DAY. Cheesy as it sounds, it’s cheesy-true – a smile from someone who doesn’t really need to smile at you is just uplifting. And, I might note, free and easy to do.
I’ve been observing people and their (lack of)smiles for a few days now, with this idea of ‘smile now, we’ll see later’ in my mind, and I’m sorry to report that people are just not frickin’ smiling. Next step will have to be to smile at people – REALLY make sure I’m smiling at them, and see if that helps.  There’s probably a lot more to this. I’m sure someone could berate me for being thoughtless and inconsiderate and how could I not realize that xyz and I should just smile if I want to and not expect it or care if I don’t get it in return. Sure. So, here’s the question: what will I do now? This seemingly small idea that smiling makes a huge difference I believe I believe to be true. Do I continue to smile only when smiled at? Do I try to smile first and see if it makes any difference in my day to day exchanges? I think I’ll try. I can’t force a faux smile. I’m going to try to think of something funny or nice that makes me smile each time an use that as my secret weapon in cases of no-smile-inspiration. We’ll see how it goes.

Say Cheese!

 

Image

Paneling in a restaurant in Malendure Guadeloupe

25 Jul

Paneling in a restaurant in Malendure Guadeloupe

They’ve somehow moved the decorative paneling from the walls of my parent’s tv room to the ceiling of their restaurant…two thumbs up for reduce reuse recycle.

Two MONTHS…and a housewife.

22 Jul

Wow two months have gone by since my last post. That means that for two months I’ve been saying, “tomorrow I’ll write”.  Clearly, not a great approach. So here’s the excuse: I married the Pirate, we moved into a home we built, and we’ve been pretty much busy with happy yet exhausting stuff like that for a few months now. I’m typing this looking out at a huge muddy pit we call our garden. The birds are eating the grass seeds. The dog is tracking mud into the house constantly, laughing in my face as she tears by me at 100km/hour, paws packed with mud and poop, from mud-pit-yard to deck through living room to deck and back  to replenish her mud and poop supply in the mud-pit-yard. Grrrrrrrr

So now I’m officialement a housewife. Yep. That’s me. I’m in a house. Most of the time. And, I’m a wife.  We’ve planted some things in an attempt to produce some morsels of food for ourselves – banana trees, coconut trees, avocado tree, and on a smaller scale, tomatoes, basil, zucchini, lime tree. I’d love to eat from the garden but I’m fairly certain we won’t see anything from the fruit trees because we might not be here that long. It seems Mamman, les Monstres’s mom, is feeling like moving back to mainland France in a year or so. In a nutshell we’ll follow them. Pirate isn’t too keen on being a vacation dad. I get it, and I’m down with that.

So I guess I’ll have to take advantage of this rough around the edges place until I can’t any more!  Suddenly a teeny tiny bit of the bitterness I feel here slides away. Bitter? Yeah. Notice I have a category named ‘Bitter is better’. I’m not going to lie, it’s been a beautiful difficult learning experience here in Gwada. It’s not really an easy place to adapt to, at least that’s what I’ve found. It’s not so much the language, but the culture. I find it…..tough. Closed.  Many people I’ve spoken with have decided what it’s like in the states and have zero desire to go there. And their decision seems to be based on what they learn of the states in the news, movies, and from their friends. They’re afraid of racism. Fair enough. But is racism really limited to the states? And what does that have to do with me? Well, I come from there. So I’m included in this idea of something they really don’t care for. It doesn’t really matter, I mean, I’m ok if everyone doesn’t become my friend, or I can’t convince them that the states has a lot to offer. Still….
I have been blessed to have met really nice people here. I’ve learned that when I find a kind shop owner that I should stick with that shop. Closes my world perhaps even more but hey, the negative experiences I’ve had with certain people, I just don’t need to repeat them. It ruins my day. I’ve realized that I can accept a culture as it is but I don’t have to like it. And I don’t always like it. I’ve learned to tell the difference between a difference in culture where (from the other person’s view) it’s not rude, , and when there really is rudeness. That helps a lot.

I must admit, the quality of daily life is nice. The sea all year, the sun, the plants, the calm pace. But I miss more culture. I miss changing art exhibits. I miss a nice movie theater. I miss nightlife. I miss feeling like the people around me are interested in things outside of their personal bubble. So, while sticking to my self promise to take advantage of the limited time I’ll have here, I’m also happily looking forward to the future.

gazing out on the mudpit

Sure, make like you didn’t do anything.

Long term cultural differences and anticipating the assumed obvious

17 May

After three years (what the hell when did that happen?!) in Guadeloupe, I’ve become accustomed to many things I was definitely struggling with in the beginning.  There are some mannerisms woven into the culture here that I’ll just never get used to. When I was little, there was this ‘joke’ we all thought was sooo funny. Why? We were kids, so of course we thought it was funny because it was annoying.  It goes like this:

I ask you, “Do you know what time it is?”

You answer, “Yes.”

I am obliged to say, “Can you tell me what time it is?”

You answer, “Yes.”

I have to think a little and then ask you, “Will you tell me what time it is please?”

Then you tell me.

That feeling of exasperation in anticipation of what you think is the obvious is something I can’t shake here, in terms of certain interactions. I go to the bank because my ATM card is expired. I say that I have not received my new one in the mail. (As everyone assured me I would, and that mon dieu there must be a problem and il faut le regler tout de suite.)

The nice young lady says, “Oh? When did it expire?”

I am thinking: Does that matter? It’s expired. Shit. Maybe I did that thing where I read the dates backwards because the French write them day first, or is it month first. Shit. Maybe I’m wrong.

I say,”Fin Avril 2012″.

She takes my card. She reads it. She keeps an absolutely blank expression. Stone. She says, “It’s here, your card.”

I say, “Does it normally get mailed to the home address?”

She answers, “No, no it’s here. Your card is here.”

Me: “Oui, that’s very good, mais normalement is it sent to my house, or do I just know to come get it here next time?”

Her: “Oui, Oui, it’s here.”

Sigh.

I take my card and thank her, and ask how I activate it, because I know she won’t tell me. That’s something I would expect elsewhere, but not here. If you want to know, you need to ask. Especially when you think you shouldn’t have to ask, you’d better frickin’ ask.

“You need to use it in a distributeur and enter your code or it won’t work. Don’t try and go use it in a store if you haven’t done that because it won’t work.”

I go right outside the bank to the distributeur, which is, of course, broken. I go back inside. Does she have a list of distributeurs that I could look at since this one is broken, and was also broken one week ago when I came by and nobody including myself noticed that my card was expired and that was why it had been denied in a number of stores making my day very difficult?

“Uh…there’s one in Le Moule (far) and in Grand Camp (so much traffic, such a small place, dense, confusing) and uh…”

Will the distributeur here be fixed soon?

“….ouehhhhh…..bien sure…….j’imagine…..”

Sigh. I forgot to ask if she couldn’t just activate it using her handy computer. That’s the thing. It’s probably entirely possible. Even easy to do. But if I don’t ask, I’ll never, ever know.

Farm to plate in Guadeloupe

2 May

Les 3 Fermiers had been tempting me since I came across their blog months ago.  I rallied some pals who also dig the idea of farm to plate dining and off we went to the country of Hans Bertrand. Long roads and sugarcane fields, cows and lolos, the stuff surf trip films are full of when they show this part of the Caribbean. In a hangar-type structure which was perfectly ventilated as well as decorated, we were served a delicious meal including aperitif of rhum fait maison in your choice of at least ten different flavors, appetizers – one warm and one cold, main dish, dessert, and a bottle of wine for the four of us. The verdict in brief: YUM and YES! Coffee is not included, and if not for the fact that I had to drive back home alone and thought it would be best to stay awake, I would not even have had the space for that teeny tiny coffee. The price was 30 euros each. A fair price considering they grow it, harvest it, prepare it, serve it.

Clotilde and her mom were running the place that day (as they do, I assume most days!) and I have honestly NEVER had better service in a restaurant in Guadeloupe. What sweet gracious women. It’s clear they love what they do, and it sets the mood for the whole experience. It’s calm but efficient, relaxed and lively. We made nice with the folks at the table next to us during the meal, don’t ya love that?!

After eating we did a tour of the farm where Clotilde told us which plants and vegetables were which. They work a lot of land over there, complete with papaya, banana, madere, giraumon,manioc and an herb garden, plus so much more. So much food, so few chemicals. Yay!

If you take good look at a map before you go and bring it with you, and pay close attention to a couple of worn out signs on the way, it’s relatively easy to find.  If I’m saying that, really truly it must be because I do still suffer from neon sign syndrome. Can’t find a thing without them, and for the most part, they don’t really exist here for direction’s sake. So, when you make it to Gwada, hit the beach in Hans Bertrand on Sunday morning – there’s a great surf spot with a great non-surfer spot at the same beach. Then, when you’re good and hungry, head over to see Clotilde and her mom. Make a reservation though!!! That’s a great day.

Image

Below, cotton in front of sugarcane field on the way in…

Image

Image

Above, cold appetizer, fish, mushrooms (I think – I should have taken notes!), giraumon, and I think christophine which is a root vegetable lighter than a potato when cooked.

Image

Above, the mother load. So good. Pork which tasted slow roasted and seasoned, and fell off the bone, with seasoned rice and a sweet banana gratin…ooooohhhhhhh….

Image

Above, the many tastes of local made rhum chez Les 3 Fermiers, plus fresh made juice sans alcohol. Certainly some flavors I’d never even heard of! Wow.

Image

Bungalows for rent on the farm! Right behind the restaurant. I bet the stars at night are incredible in this country setting. Who knows, maybe they’d trade for farmhand work for a weekend or something? I didn’t ask, but super enthusiastic agri-tourism folks might…

Image

Above, papaya tree!

%d bloggers like this: