Tuesday, April 12, 2005

In the Loupe, Chapter 20

Well, did we ever have an exciting week-end! But first I'm going to get you up-to-date. HA! The suspense must be killing you!

(And p.s. to Bronwyn’s family, you’re in on this because the French keyboard is driving her crazy and this way you can know what she’s up to without her sweating in p/q/m frustration. I welcome you to the Loupe.)

Bronwyn arrived on a Saturday evening flight, so Oscar - the first of her many Gwada suitors, lucky girl – said I could share his ride to the airport (he was leaving for France) and the guy would wait and drive us home too. Are you sure ? I asked. He’ll have to wait over three hours, plus potential plane delay. No problem, said Oscar. Don’t rent a car, this guy is solid, I got you covered.

Take-off went according to plan, standard island-time late pick-up and all, but I started to feel uncomfortable when buddy’s driving became Nascar-ish. In a Toyota, mind you, on one-lane, winding mountain roads. I knew any descriptions would sound like exaggeration and so looked at the speedometer: would you like to guess? He got up – often – to 150 KM AN HOUR!! Single lanes! Winding roades! I’ve never been so scared in my life. Until, that is, he asked me Bron’s flight time and started freaking out (while doing 150) because Oscar hadn’t told him he’d be waiting three hours, what did he take him for…

Speaking through my fear, timing it for the moments when I wasn’t holding down my windy-road-induced vomit, I managed to tell him to CHILL OUT, we’d find a way home. Which upset Oscar tremendously (awww, poor Oscar) and got him calling around for an airport pick-up.

After a surreal and drawn-out goodbye scene in the airport (I don’t want to talk about it), Bronwyn’s flight got in early and Oscar’s brother Michael actually showed up – on his birthday, no less! – and was polite and charming and smelled fantastic. Smooth sailing until he realized he had a flat tire and pulled over on the highway, pitch-black with no streetlights. He turns out to be quite something with a wrench and must have done a good job, as we got all the way home without stopping. Except once, but I think it was to buy some drugs and that’s just none of my business.

Since then, good times touring and hanging around with Miss Bronwyn, who does exciting domestic things like boiling mangoes into a yummy stew-type concoction and taking care of the occasional ant infestation. Occasional, I swear. Don’t judge me.

We’ve seen many beautiful sights around the island (it gets cheesy in description, so you’ll see the pictures some day and say yes, that’s quite beautiful) and had a generally relaxed time so far, except for the men who have taken to hanging around my door, having smelled fresh Canadian meat. As it were. They’re relentless and haven’t the slightest idea about women’s opinions and decisions standing on their own, which makes for a tiring series of encounters. She’s much better than I am at saying "go away, I don’t like you," which they still don’t get but at least her saying it is a start.

And THEN, Bronwyn, Franck, Java (F's beautiful Akita) and I went for a visit to Les Saintes. Remember last time I was there, with the blue-eyed and barefoot people, hundreds of scooters and iguanas and the crêpe of my life? Same place.

We met at the port for the 2:00 boat, as the tourism office had told us to do. Funnily, and I do mean funnily, there is no such boat and we sat – eating ice cream so I’m not complaining – and waited for the 4:15. While Franck and I were playing pool (read: while I was kicking Franck’s sorry ASS at pool) (because I am a phenomenal pool player; also, he’s not very good), Bronwyn saw a couple get out of a car, said good-bye to their friend and start rigging up their boat back to Les Saintes. The man, a tanned and weathered combination of Kurt Russell and Nick Nolte – twinkling eyes and all – had long dreds, prompting Bronwyn to joke that Franck probably knew him, as all the rastas here seem to know each other, and should hook us up a ride.

Do you want to guess? He hooked us up a ride! (Didn’t know the guy but seemed to know the right thing to say.)

The fun part was how the boat was just an aluminum fishing boat, the length of a pick-up truck, and we had forgotten that we were going out on the sea, rather than the lake at the cottage. Initially a WOO-HOO! kind of ride, it turned very quickly into an oh-my-god-we’re-going-to-die-oh-my-god experience, with our little tin can of a boat flying over huge waves and crashing us down on the bench. I jammed my thumb (fancied it broken but that was blatant exaggeration, as Bronwyn and Franck were quick to point out; it’s bruised, though – bruised real bad) and our bums are still sore. It was terrifying. Also really exciting, but I’m dwelling on the fear because I think you should all appreciate how hard-core my life is here in ol’ Guadeloupe.

Kurt Russell/Nick Nolte – let’s call him Nurt Kolte, yes? – and his lady just stood like pirates at the back of the boat, soaked and squinting into the wind, very impressive. He’s one of the coolest people I’ve ever met.

We got to the island and wandered around looking for a place to stay, helped along by a delightful mattress-transport guy who was very concerned for our well-being and drove us around to various room-renting places he knew about. None of them panned out but we did find somewhere that accepted both us and the dog (sleeping on the porch, of course), so we were able to dump our stuff and go see the eclipse.

Not much to say: gorgeous, magical, what a sight. Eclipse: check.

Chatted with students of mine who were family-ing for the week-end and had a nice sea-side dinner and the worst sleep of our collective lives, between extreme heat and useless mosquito nets and all sorts of bad things. Woke up exhausted and cranky (speaking for myself; my travel partners are of the stoic variety, the bastards) and hiked up the hill to the fort, which Bronwyn explored. The price has been hiked up and there was no point in seeing the same thing again, so Franck and I sat on a bench while tourists walked by and felt sorry for Java, who must be very hot.

Walking around town, we realized that all the locals, as well as being barefoot, blue-eyed (descended from Britons) and extremely tanned, are drunk. Drunk and drunk and drunk, possibly from coming home after fishing and having nothing to do on a population-under-2000 little island in the Caribbean. Lots of men staggering around yelling at fish and singing on docks and telling you about Prince Charles – depressing more than funny.

Went to the beach, hung out some more with my students, ate a feast of tropical fruit, and then missed the boat home because we thought it was later than it was. Long story short, decided the best thing was to sleep near the boat to save money and be ready for the 6:45 departure, so after spending close to three hours in a pizza parlour and attempting to enjoy the atmosphere of a sleazy bar, we cosied up on the beach and Bron and I fell asleep, guarded by our watchdog, while Franck chatted up the locals and wandered up and down the beach, for some reason having decided not to sleep. (Then he changed his mind at 4:30 and ended up with under two hours: good choice, champ.)

I’m out of time and you’re falling asleep: we were giggly and delirious on the beach, with bizarre characters trying to make conversation and sometimes trying to pick us up, slept better than we had in the hell hotel, and made it – salty and crusty-eyed – onto the ferry in the morning. Bron and I found a hitchhike straight home, a nice guy from Les Saintes, and slept all day until we felt glamorously wretched.

Maybe it doesn’t sound so exciting to you, but let me tell you. Let me TELL you.


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