2nd Stop: St. Vincent

SV…An Eco-Island Unto Itself

Posted on: Tuesday, January 6th, 2009
Posted in: Travelog, 2nd Stop: St. Vincent, Latest Trip | 6 comments
Thanks to a day-long tour with a wise driver, a guided walk through the Botanical Gardens, and random chatter with loquacious locals, the SV green (and other countless colors) took on new meaning.  They instinctively practice the Simplicity and Slow Movements here—while also industriously growing their own. 

Even the kids gawked, picked, tasted, and asked away—wherever we went.  SV is rich with nature and resources, to be sure, but it also offers a fine model of how to sustain it all.  
These seeds served as "war paint" for the Carib indians.

These seeds served as "war paint" for the Carib indians.

  • Live simply.  Most folks don’t have much, but don’t need—or want—much.  They live well with less, and not much goes to waste. 


  • Garbage control.  Speaking of waste…Plant matter becomes fertilizer.  Glass is recycled.  Scraps might feed animals.  And the tiny garbage dump—where they first sort and recycle commodities and compost plant matter—is cleverly concealed behind tall plants. 


  • Turn it off.  Polite signs remind you to turn off lights when you leave a room or bathroom.  Motion detector and timer lights are common.  And few houses glow at night.
  • Water power.  SV generates up to half of its electricity from a series of long, oak pipes that catch the water from the mountaintop and take it to turbines waiting below.  How cool is that? 
  • Water away.  Unlike most Caribbean islands, SV has ample supply.  So things seem greener and cleaner.  Best of all, gardens and plants need never go thirsty.  And yes, you can flush!


  • Grow your own.  Not every house has a garden.  Produce is cheap, after all.  But most do, and take pride in nurturing their own tomatoes, peas, beans, mangos, bananas, and more. Almost always organic, of course!  
  • Grow your own…ganja.  As for the 3,000 industrious Rastas, their fields are way high near the top of the volcano, where the best soil sits.  Their little huts dot the hillside.  Don’t go there (although the police occasionally try). 


  • Try doing without.  Glass of water with dinner?  Another napkin?  Window screens?  Most Vincentians live without many amenities—and expect you might try the same. 
  • Be sheepish.  They love their mutton—and other locally grown meats.  So even in the city, sheep may be tied to a tree or mowing a lawn.  Same goes for goats and cows. 
  • Be chicken.  It’s a safe bet that most eggs and chicken meat don’t come from the store, since chickens strut most anywhere.  They can live off your green scraps, you know. 


  • Watch your head!  Some towering trees bear fruit the size of footballs—including avocado, mango, and breadfruit.  There’s even a seed called the cannonball.  When they’re ripening (and falling), look up. 
  • Practice plateau-ism.  Like the grape fields of Italy and the rice paddies in Asia, crops grow in some dang steep places.  A little “watch” house is sometimes nearby so the worker can take a sun—or even weekend—break between toiling stretches.  DSC_0029
  • Share vehicles.  Up to 24 passengers will pile in and out of privately-owned mini-vans that are used for public transportation.  The vehicles bear loud names like “Righteous,” “Exodus,” and “Star Boy.”  The drivers know fast only; a co-pilot takes your dollar; the bass booms.  Hitchhiking is common, as is jumping in and out of a pickup. 

Street Scene

  • Get eats on the go.  Fruits and veggies and snacks appear at little stands wherever you turn.  They may look ramshackle, but each has a permit and undergoes health inspections.  Renegades are not given a warning; they simply lose everything—on the spot. 


  • Find fresh fish.  Ask anyone, and they’ll tell you the best source for some fresh seafood.  Usually, it’s relative or neighbor, about a block away.  You must get it fresh in the morning. 

Fishing Village

  • Bring on the blossoms.  Flowers glow from unthinkable places and in unimaginable colors.  Our Botanical Gardens guide could turn a bloom into a baby in a bathtub, or a leaf into a butterfly—and even make “the sensitive plant” close its leaves instantly. 
  • Eat locally and seasonally.  “No no no, don’t eat mangos now—not in season so not from St. Vincent.”  True, true.  And why bother when starfruit, green oranges, and papaya are plentiful now?  Taste treats appeared made of delicacies we’d never even heard of. 


  • Eat most anything.  The inside of some ugly fruit makes a great starch dish.  This plant makes a tasty tea.  Cook with these leaves for the taste of garlic.  Roast this one over fire then slice it with some hot sauce.  Etc.  Etc.  Etc. 
  • Heal thyself.  Our guidebook’s advice regarding medical care on St. Vincent?  Don’t get sick or have an accident here. Yet perhaps Vincentians don’t have all that much need for Western medicine.  Many would mention “we are returning to the land instead of to drugs” for remedies—a tea that cures a cold, an herb that soothes sore bones, a tuber that aids indigestion. 
No wonder they all look quite healthy, with little obesity.  And it’s no surprise that they like to wear bright colors, and seem incapable of taking things—especially their island’s beauty and riches—for granted. 
It’s a good way of life, with nary an Applebees, Bruegger’s, or Starbuck’s to be found. 
Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Second Stop: Saintly St. Vincent

Posted on: Monday, January 5th, 2009
Posted in: Travelog, 2nd Stop: St. Vincent, Latest Trip | 4 comments
I’ve got a feeling we’re not in America any more.  Heck, we may not even be on planet earth.  This volcanic island is so blooming green and steep that the Hobbit might feel out of place.  But oh, what beauty!  A comforting vibe emanates from the happy people, the flowering foliage, and the ever-visible sea itself.  

Already three days seems too short, but that’s what the itinerary states, so we better dig in.  In no particular order, here are some first impressions. 
  • Caribbean authenticity lives here.  While not quite Harry Belafonte’s West Indies, this is the real deal. 
  • Black & white.  I’m guessing White folk make up at most 5% of the population (1%?), yet that didn’t seem to matter; never crossed my mind till now. 

Street Scene

  • Music is booming.  For the first time in years, classic rock was nowhere to be found; instead, local sounds and reggae throb nonstop from every bar, car, and boombox.
  • Caribbean independence.  In the Virgin Islands, there are strong ties to the USA and Great Britain; here, the connection here seems chiefly to itself.

Flag of St. Vincent

  • Tourism, what tourism?  Although they say visitors have replaced bananas as their #1 crop, only 7 small planes land daily and they must be empty these days. 
  • Culture lives.  The colors, food, and vernacular taste like seafood, plantains, and nutmeg; when Vincentians describe a local dish or delicacy, they get all smiley and excited. 

St. Vincent Laundry


  • Speaking of flowers!  Thanks to rich volcanic soil and ample rain-forest water, flowers and gardens are in bloom everywhere; they take pride in feeding themselves from their soils and seas. 
  • Simple living.  Many live in near-poverty conditions, though the place is clearly on the upswing; despite 30% unemployment, Vincentians carry on and take care of each other. 
  • Signs of the Times

  • Men & women.  A convivial but competitive machismo abounds (I met a man with 16 children); men honk and bark and gesture with abandon, while women dress pretty and stick with their kind like flowers. 
  • Posh spice.  Like all islands, there are some massive mansions with views of bliss; story goes that many of those rich folk left young, made their money, then came home to retire. 

Wonderful Waterfall

  • Kind & gentle.  Manners matter, and even if many have modest education or assets, they conduct themselves with more class than most people back home.
  • Get-lost land.  I met people from all over the world who have landed in this sanctuary to relax, recover, retreat, and get lost; they never looked out of place. 

Soccer on St. Vincent

  • Prideful & quirky.  Chest out, shoulders high, eye to eye and yet so laid-back; about anyone will chat you up till you can’t escape but don’t, don’t! take their picture or cop no attitude.
  • Return guaranteed.  This seafood-craving, reggae-loving, green-yearning gardener-cook may be biased, but I honestly think this likely among the last “undiscovered” gems around; next time, I’ll slow down and stay a while. St. Vincent Bamboo
Print Friendly, PDF & Email