Hurricane scare, lost on a bus of French speakers none of which could speak English in the middle of the night, many ‘first’ experiences (bikini shots, snorkeling etc.) and 8 flights back home – my holiday was packed full of unforgettable experiences. These and a lot more are a basic kaleidoscope of what was a 3 three weeks’ adventure. I am fortunate to have just returned from an amazing holiday in Grenada and Guadeloupe. This will be the first of a couple of blogs I will be writing about the trip. To think that last year this time I had never heard about both places and today these are both places I will certainly visit again. This blog is dedicated to people who showed me kindness during my trip. I am so sad that I did not get everyone’s names and / or contact details – something I will definitely do next time. So here we go…
Around October 2017, my Gaborone realtor, Tlamelo introduced me to her sister, Gorata, a medical student at St George’s University, Grenada. I had no idea where Grenada was and I immediately said that I would love to visit. She offered to host us as her sister decided that she would also love to join in. Tlamelo was not able to come with as she has just given birth to a beautiful baby girl. This meant, I thought, Gorata wouldn’t have me anymore since I only knew her sister. She heard about my intentions and was quick to get on the phone to let me know that I was free to still visit her. What a great host she was. We did a lot during her off-school times and even had my first snorkeling experience with her. Thank you baby sis – you are a gem. Keep that smile on. The world is a better place with you in it Dr Afa.
GRENADA TAXI DRIVER
This might be a strange inclusion to this list because what he did may not really amount to much. On one of the days, I did a half-day tour of the island with another couple and a wonderful tour guide. One of the stops was at the Concorde Waterfall. I had been wearing a bathing suit under my clothes so that I could play a bit in the water.Since no one else was in the water, I was shy to be seen in a bathing suit by myself. This man reminded me that I had travelled over 20 hours in the air to be here and that I might not get another chance to do this again. Besides, I did know any of the people who were standing around and would probably never see them again. I simply jumped in, alone. What a liberating experience this was. What this man said literally launched my holiday. I then gave myself permission to enjoy every moment and not be too concerned about ‘what will people think?’
BARBADOS GENEROUS MOMMA
I arrived at the Grantley Adams International Airport in Barbados with about 8 hours layover. I decided to explore a bit of the town and beach life. I met one of the airport customer services ladies and asked where I could go and the easiest ways of getting there and mostly, the best way to return given that I still had a flight to catch and didn’t want to sit in traffic. The lady suggested a walk around Bridgetown and a visit to Miami Beach. Transport was $2 a trip around the island no matter which mode I chose. I had about $50 and she discouraged me using such a large sum and gave me $2 instead to use. She then wrote down all the instruction like a mom to a small child, which I appreciated because you know, she wanted to make sure that this South African girl does not get lost in a foreign country. I came back to look for her and couldn’t find her. In a taxi I met a lady called Felicia who on hearing I was from South Africa asked me how Julias Malema was. I was shocked that the whole taxi not only knew of him, but followed him quite closely. I so wish I had exchanged contacts with both ladies.
My first day in Guadeloupe, France was really depressing. I had deliberately visited Guadeloupe for purposes of practicing French but man it was harder than I expected. After the first day I collapsed on the bed and wondered whether coming here was a good decision after all. I could not make myself understood and I felt discouraged. I decided to take a trip to the Tourism office for some help on how the bus system worked. Trying to get help around for directions was a mammoth task but I managed to get directions to a bus stop where I was going to wait for who knows how long? Just so I can tell the driver, ‘L’office de tourisme.’
A young man working on water lines drove past me a couple of times as he went about his business. He eventually saw I was searching and asked if he could help. With his little English and my little French we managed to understand each other. He gave me a lift to the tourism office which wasn’t very far off. (Yes I know, strangers). I did not realize that he was watching to make sure that I get into the Tourism Office. When I was almost at the door, I saw a poster that caught my eye in the opposite direction and headed there to read up. Poor guy thought I was getting lost and long after I had gotten into the Tourism office, he came back to make sure I had arrived safely. The lady happened to know him and thank him for his kindness. Nicolas gave me his number and told me to call / text anytime I needed help.
Guys, this experience was one I cannot begin to explain. So I was due to meet with Mirva, whose story comes below this one. So a group of English speaking folks meets up every Friday at the Gosier night market and Mirva knowing my stresses with trying to speak French thought it would be a nice time to experience the night market and meet some new people. So we exchanged details via email and the smart thing I did was make all these plans and not take down / save Mirva’s telephone number. (Boitumelo!) Anyway, I then got onto a bus and told the bus driver that I was going to the ‘marche nuit du Gosier.’ Ok, he gives me a ticket and I sit on the front seat and kindly ask him to ‘Sil vous plait montrez-moi ou decendre,’ basically show me where to get off. When we got to a certain area, I notice a lot of people walking up and down the streets and got an inkling that it might be there so I ask if this is where I am to get off and he emphatically tells me ‘no.’ On we go and deep out of town we go. The farther we went I just knew that I was getting lost. When he stopped to pick up some people I decide to ask if we were still on the right track. Miscommunication. My French disappeared and I switched to English without even thinking which only got me blank stares. I try to explain in my broken French with no much success. The bus is now stationary and exasperated, the driver stands up and looks into the bus and asks if anyone speaks English. Silence. Not a single soul. At this point I want to cry because one, I have no clue where I am. Two, I do not have wifi, and google translate isn’t working properly and three, I do not have Mirva’s contact numbers and four, I still cannot make myself understood in French. I then make out from what the driver says that if I am lost, I must know that this is the last bus and that there is no bus going back. After more back and forth, a lady who last got onto the bus says that she speaks a little English. Well, her little English was way little than my little French, but she got two facts bang on; that I was lost and that I needed to go back to Gosier. She then sacrificed her trip and got off the bus with me. Now I am standing in the dark in the middle of nowhere with a stranger who cannot speak English. She makes a phone call and thereafter attempts to tell me something although all I got was ‘mari,’ so I figure we are waiting for her husband. After about 10 minutes, I knew she was from Morocco and that she was married to a French man and they had two boys. The husband arrives and he can speak English. I almost kissed him. I explain my dilemma and it turns out where I am going is in a completely direction to where they come from, but this is no place for a young girl to get lost alone so they will take me. Once again I am in a car at the mercy of strangers and all I do is pray. I am dropped off at the market and begin the frantic search for Mirva and her crew – nowhere to be found.
Oh my friend, where do I start? I have never bothered anyone on this trip more than I did Mirva; before, during and even after my departure from Guadeloupe. I first heard about Guadeloupe in my French class around February this year, 2018 at Alliance Francaise Gaborone and because of proximity to Grenada, I decided to also hop onto this butterfly island to check it out while practicing some French. Mirva is a Finnish blogger based in Guadeloupe who wrote “The ultimate guide to Guadeloupe,” the only comprehensive book you will find on the island written in English. The eBook is power-packed with what to do, how to do it and everything else you may need to know on Guada. I devoured this book many times before setting foot on the island and kept emailing her for more questions which she was only too happy to answer. On arrival we kept in touch and she invited me to meet with her and a group of English speakers at the night market on a Friday. A quick google search revealed that the night market was a great place to get some beautiful souvenirs while having some local cuisine. Since I elected not to hire a car, Mirva together with her little bundle of joy were so helpful to me especially during the mini ‘hurricane’ we had. She helped me stock up on basics for the time I would be indoors and also picked up my lost wallet at a store. Mirva did too much to mention on a short blurp. Back at the night market, turns out the group’s 7pm meet is actually around 8pm ish – gosh! Almost gave me a cardiac. Check out Mirva’s blog.
I met Pierette at the English speakers’ club at the night market and she and I clicked immediately. She is French, born and bred in Guadeloupe and meets with the group to practice her English. She says she doesn’t speak good English but her English is way better than my French. Pierrette shared her dinner with me, a local fish dish, spent her whole Sunday with me at plage de la datcha in Le Gosier while telling me about Guada, patiently practiced French with me, checked in on me now and then during the storm and drove me to the airport at an ungodly hour on my departure! Such a kind and generous soul. Merci beacoup mon ami. Tu me manques tellement. This girl is 45 and she is retired – #lifeGoals. She tried her best to get me a french man, but boring old me 😉 – ha ha!
LAIINY & MOM
Pierette and I had taken busses from different directions to the beach and after 3pm, there were no more busses to take me back to my apartment in Bas du Fort. Drama follows me… A lady and her daughter (Laiiny Jernidier) who were also at the beach walked past us and we asked them about the bus schedule and they informed us that there was no bus anymore towards my end and so again I was stranded. The mom and daughter duo offered me a ride in their cute mini and so it was. Me and strangers! I know I know!
Lesson to self and others intending to visit Guadeloupe: HIRE A CAR!
When I got onto my 7th flight from Dubai to Johannesburg (yes 7th) I was beyond gatvol and all I wanted was to get home. I had a simple plan; get onto the plane, no talking to strangers, read 1 / 2 chapters and then sleep. Oh well, while I was frantically running chasing after the flight in Dubai, I had dropped my neck pillow and a sweater, something I noticed upon boarding. Enter Muzi Mthethwa, my middle seat fellow passenger. I generally prefer a window seat but at this point I couldn’t be bothered; only the aisle was available. I wasn’t interested in any chit chat and notably didn’t have a friendly face on. Muzi was actually such a kind soul with whom I ended up chatting for almost 6 of the whole 8 hours of flying. The other two hours I tried to sleep, with fatigue and no neck pillow, this stranger offered his shoulder for me to lay my heavy head because his plan was contrary to mine, not to sleep. Angels have legs y’all.
As I love to say, ‘you will never regret being kind…’