To SVG With Love
It was my first time leaving the shores of Nigeria and Africa by extension, in my 20 something years of life. I was moving to a faraway Island called Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, located somewhere in the midst of the Caribbean Sea. I had no idea what to expect, but the thought of the unknown appealed to me.
The dream of schooling abroad was finally a reality, and I was excited about my immediate future.
I crossed several seas, mountains, forests and plains; found myself in unknown territories, among strange faces, languages, customs and culture. I even tried a few funny cuisines while aboard and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Thankfully my mum was quite accustomed to international trips, so she paid attention to every detail on my flight ticket, and lectured me on how to comport myself all through the trip.
The Journey took me through several delightful scenes as we flew from Lagos (Nigeria) to Johannesburg(South Africa), to Sao Paulo (Brazil), to Panama City (Panama), to the Port of Spain (Trinidad & Tobago), and finally to St. Vincent & the Grenadines, where I arrived late evening of Monday the 11th February, 2013.
Until early December 2012, I had no idea that there was such a place called Saint Vincent & The Grenadines. Little did I know that popular countries like Jamaica, Barbados, Trinidad & Tobago, and The Bahamas, were also Caribbean islands located in the same geographical region as Saint Vincent. The Caribbean islands are commonly referred to as The West Indies.
Thanks to the internet, I got to learn a bit about the history, weather and culture of the country before arriving.
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) is a country of many islands, that lies to the east of the Caribbean Sea. The islands are flanked by St. Lucia to the North, Barbados to the East and Grenada to the South.
Saint Vincent makes up the main island of the country and its capital is Kingstown, which is located on the leeward side. The island is further divided into six parishes which are: St Andrew, St David, St Patrick, Charlotte, St George and the Grenadines .
There are numerous smaller islands and cays that make up the Grenadines; the inhabited ones are:
- Palm Island
- Petit St Vincent
- Union Island
The climate is tropical, and the main island has relatively dense forests, the landscape has lots of hills well distributed about the island. The sunny climate of SVG takes a slight variation from around August until December, when rain falls more frequently and in intense proportions.
It still amazes me to see how the weather sometimes drastically fluctuates in SVG. In one moment there is a heavy downpour and in the next, the sun is “sweetly” shining. And what’s more, the downpour hardly lasts more than a few minutes. So as a rule, in St. Vincent you always had to have your umbrella handy or prepare to be drenched.
The island of Saint Vincent is within a volcanic belt, with an active volcano; La Soufriere (the highest peak in St. Vincent), which last erupted in the year 1979.
Life in SVG was significantly different from Nigeria where I came from. And I experienced lots of “culture shock” in about everything: food, dressing, music, speech, transportation, housing and lots more.
The national dish of St. Vincent and the Grenadines is “fried Jack-fish and Breadfruit.” Although it took me a while to get used to it, roasted breadfruit especially, tastes heavenly.
Vincy meals are usually served as a combination of dishes, that is a little of everything. A typical Vincy meal will have rice, peas, veggies (tomatoes, cucumber etc), plantain, yam, sweet potato and maybe pork, fish, beef or chicken. This is very unlike in my home country, where a single meal is typically just one type of dish then served with Beef, Chicken or Fish.
In SVG, I got introduced to pork, peleau, macaroni pie, potato pie, lasagna, dumplings, callaloo soup, dasheen, eddoes, peas, farine and other food items. They also make lovely mouth-watering desserts like the black cake and a good number of finger-foods like bakes and salt-fish, patties, banana bread.
Home-made juice from five-fingers, golden apple, and lime are also commonly served. There is an abundance of tropical fruits in SVG, coconuts, bananas, mangoes and pawpaws, are a few. It was here I had my first smoothie experience, which is a fine blend of one or more fruits, with or without milk. It’s something I’m yet to get over.
Then there is the local drink made from the ‘Roselle plant’ that is called “Sorrel” by the Vincentians, and “Zobo” by Nigerians. After boiling the leaves, the juice is drained and sugar, ginger, and pineapple extract can be added. When served chilled, it is quite tasty and refreshing.
I also discovered the communal love for coconut water in St. Vincent. I have had it a few times and it tastes lovely. It is also quite nutritious from what I’ve heard. It’s common to see street vendors with a truckload of unripe coconuts selling to pedestrians in the capital, Kingstown.
Vincentians also love Barbecues, especially Pork and Chicken. I like the idea of involving that in many of their fundraiser events as well as social functions.
DRESSING and APPEARANCE.
Another notable difference in SVG culture is the way people dress on casual occasions. The island is tropical and so it’s common to see a lot of folks in tops and shorts, ladies and men alike.
I also find it quite fascinating that lots of folks have tattoos all over their bodies, followed by extra piercings on their earlobes, noses or lips. Then it’s common to see guys keep their hair long, with some having it plaited or as dreadlocks.
I’m particularly impressed by the way employees both in government and private offices dress, they are usually formal and classy. School students wear colorful and neat school uniforms including college-level students.
Music seems to be a big deal for Caribbean folks and SVG is not an exception. Calypso, Soca and Reggae are the ones I’m familiar with. One strange observation is how Vincentians like to have music blasting through speakers at deafening volumes especially while riding the public buses.
It’s also interesting to note that lots of Vincy folks are fascinated with Nigerian music ,both gospel and secular; I often feel nostalgic when I hear songs from back home.
End of Part One.
Eunice Adeniran is a Nigerian Medical Student of All Saints University, Saint Vincent & The Grenadines.