Chapter 24 - Carriacou Culture

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There were lots of people in the town centre. On one side of the road, there was a big open-air market with a row fruit and vegetable stands. Matthew and I looked at the colorful displays of bananas, mangoes, avocados, papaya and even some fruits and vegetables that we didn't recognize.

"Matthew, do you want to buy something from the fruit stand?" I asked.

Just then, the woman behind the stand looked at us and said, "Either buy somethin' or go, but don't be touchin' my fruits. Why you not in school?"

Matthew was dumbfounded. I was used to this sort of behavior from living in St. Maarten so long. I put on my best local accent. "We be buy'n somethin'. Our school closed today."

She looked at me like she didn't believe me and asked, "What you be buy'n then?"

"Dat mango right dere... da big one."

The lady smiled, put two in a paper bag and charged me for only one. She wished us a good day and we went to enjoy the juicy fruit on the beach.

Matthew asked, "Why was that lady so mean at first, and then ended up being so nice?"

"Well, many people here are like that. They don't care that much about customer service, but they do care a lot about children. Once you know this, you'll see that they're looking out for kids all the time. Everyone's kids, not just their own."

I remembered Mum telling the story about how she'd been reduced to tears when I was still just a baby. It was when we first came to the Caribbean and we were staying on the Lord Sheffield. She had found it a bit rough staying on the boat with a little baby, but she was tough. She'd done lots of sailing, camping and backpacking in her life and was used to not having all the comforts. However, every time she took me anywhere, helpful local people would remark on my care.

"The baby is too hot. Take blanket off the baby."

"The hat is covering baby's face, put the hat up higher."

"The baby is slumped over in the stroller. It's not good for baby's neck."

After so much helpful advice, Mum would come home from her walks in tears. Dad would try to tell her to take it all with a grain of salt. Mum said she liked the concept of communities raising children, but found it hard to take in reality. After she'd spent more time in the Caribbean, she got used to it. She never liked it though. She figured that she'd brought up four kids already. She always said that perfect parents didn't exist. You could just do and hope for the best.

On the beach there were lots of dogs running around, some in packs. "Brian, these dogs don't look too healthy," said Matthew. "Why are they so skinny?"

"We call them 'island dogs' or 'coconut retrievers,'" I replied. "They don't have homes. They just hang around looking for scraps of food. Lots of people feed them, but almost everyone who wants a dog in the Caribbean has one. Lots of people I know in St Maarten have taken home island dogs. They have to be taken to the vet and given shots and they also need to get rid of the fleas and ticks and things, but if you take one home, they become really good, loyal pets.

"Can I pat them?"

"Yes, but some of them are mangy."

"What does that mean?"

"It's an itchy skin disease that leaves bare spots on them."

"Can people get it?"

"Sometimes, if it's the scabies kind. Mum always makes me wash my hands after I pat one. She hates me patting them, but I can't help it. They love it so much."

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