No Worries, No Problem

23 Mar

Travel presents new opportunities. Expanded horizons. The exchange of cultures and the chance to challenge yourself in exciting ways.

For spring break, my friends and I went to St. Lucia. We rented an apartment at the top of a giant hill, in the middle of a residential neighborhood.

Our neighbors were Rottweiler and German Shepard guard dogs that would bark at us mercilessly and chase us if we walked, talked, ran, looked suspicious, looked friendly, or breathed:

lucia dog

The proprietor of the house was German and spoke of mix of English and angry, confused gibberish. (I hid in a closet every time he stopped by to “check in.”)

Our walk to the supermarket was uphill both ways. (I’m not just trying to make a point or to sound like a wise older woman. There were actual hills both ways.) It left us sweaty and afraid (mostly because of the dogs, but also because the heat threatened all of the ice cream we purchased).

The “shortcut” trail that led to our beach was littered with ancient car skeletons, as well as odd fruits that looked like giant skulls:

lucia trail

There was also a beautiful baritone voice that we would sometimes hear singing, “Lean on Me” in the bushes at night.

Speaking of bush voices, there were people who sat in the bushes on the beach and would occasionally hiss at you when you walked by.

Charming, right?

Our apartment was so full of ants that I mistook an ant parade for a mosaic design on the wall:

lucia ants

Hmm, kind of looks like a Jackson Pollock. Wonder how much they…nope. Just ants.

Our only friend in this neighborhood was a tiny cat that we met on our walk home from the supermarket and promptly named Prince Luca Zeus Knowles Winfrey. (We never saw him again. Which is why you should NEVER hang all your social hopes on stray kittens.)

lucia cat

We were totally immersed in the “quaintness” of our neighborhood.

We did manage to meet people outside of our neighborhood, though!

We had the pleasure of meeting approximately seven self-proclaimed “Rastafarian Kings.” One went by the name of “Mr. Happy” and harbored an obsession with Canada and all things Canadian. (And also weed.)

Another noticed my Rastafarian necklace and told me he was looking for his queen. (I started wearing that necklace everywhere I went.) He fist-bumped me and I let my fist bump linger airborne for an awkwardly long amount of time. And that was our wedding.

A third told us he was a security guard and yelled at us for using the wrong beach entrance, only to pull out a joint and say, “Enjoy the beach, man!”

We also met a bartender who called us “Sweet Little Petals” because we decided to replace water with Piña Coladas for the nine days of our voyage. She also warned us that rainy days in St. Lucia are called “baby making days,” and that we ladies may want to “run for the hills.” (I could barely walk the hills and she thought I was in a position to run toward them.

One day, a ten-year-old boy named DeAndre splashed water at us until we agreed to play with him. He had an “energy ball” – AKA a little squeaky toy – which he used to squirt water in our faces. Naturally, we bought him lunch. (Actually, he lured us into buying him lunch by promising that we could “talk about jokes” at the table):

lucia jokes

Here they are, talking about jokes. Not telling jokes. Just talking about them.

Nighttime was also for meeting people!

One night, I accepted a dare to get a free drink from someone at the bar. Feeling confident, I walked up to a nice looking guy and proceeded to ask him what he was drinking. He was drinking something non-alcoholic, he said.

A challenge, I thought, before proceeding to quiz him about his favorite local beers.

Turns out that “Non-drinking” translates to several years SOBER. I had approached the only non-drinking computer science engineer on the island and had probably made him very uncomfortable. (I got the drink, but it came at a price. An emotional price, that is. The drink was still completely free.)

Bottom line? Meeting locals is a great way to get to know and love a country and culture.

Wondering how to embrace all of these new experiences while simultaneously becoming disillusioned and embarrassed by your own origins?

That’s where boat tours come in.

St. Lucia is full of cruise ships. And cruise ships are full of tourists. And tourists love tours.

Let me preface this by saying that I have never been on a cruise. Partly because I fear boats. (But also because I fear that the reality of a cruise ship would shatter my Titanic-inspired illusions of boat romance.)

The main reason I could never go on a cruise is that I cannot stand being in large crowds of people for extended periods of time. Small crowds – perhaps the size of a knitting club – are fine. But big crowds do not float my boat (pun intended).

Lucky for me, my friends harbored (pun intended) similar disdain for cruises and their crowds. So, we took great pains to avoid the harbor and its fleets of tourists.

But, the universe wasn’t going to let us ignore the tourists. No, no, the universe – that bitch – was going to make sure we left our dog-filled residential mountain of immersion for a complete tourist experience.

The price of tourist immersion? Johnny 1 and Johnny 2.

The Johnnies, as I shall call them, were last minute additions to what my friends and I thought was going to be a private island boat tour, but what actually turned into a big group outing with parents and kids and small talk.

Johnny 1 was tall and muscular in a way that screamed illegal substances. He had a giant tattoo of the sun that encircled his navel, and he wore his bathing suit low enough to moon whoever had the pleasure of walking behind him. (Can’t have the sun without the moon, I suppose…)

Johnny 2 was a smaller version of Johnny 1, except had shaved off his eyebrows instead of tattooing his skin.

I was under the impression that in such as big crowd, I would easily be able to fly under the radar and sidestep conversation with everyone on the tour.

But then, our boat tour stopped at a town and we were all assigned to taxis. And these taxis took us to lunch, where we were all assigned tables. And these tables put us in close contact with the Johnnies. And this contact made me want to change species.

You know how they say there’s no such thing as a “stupid question.” Well, I’m here to say that I have discovered the infamous “stupid question.” I discovered several, actually.

The Johnnies were full of questions for our taxi driver and tour guide.

First, the Johnnies were interested in masonry. Assuming that our cab driver knew something on the topic, they asked, “Yo, man, you ever built a house? What’s the concrete like here?”

Strike one.

Then came questions about our driver’s past: “Yo, have you ever killed anyone?”

As I geared up to vomit out a window, our cab driver chuckled and said no, he had never killed anyone.

Strike two.

What about women?

“Have you ever shared women?” they asked, before making crude gestures to a woman passing by. “If she’s good enough for me, she’s good enough for my buddy.”

Too upset to speak, I stuck an arm and a leg out the window and told my friends that this was the end of the line for me.

But then it was time for lunch, and I thought that I’d finally be able to break away from the Johnnies.

No, no. I had the pleasure of getting the only free seat, which was conveniently located next to Johnny 2 and across from Johnny 1.

The Johnnies made the cast of The Jersey Shore look like a bunch of PhD candidates. I could feel my brain cells dwindling by association, and so I ate rapidly to replenish my strength.

“Do you import animals here?” they said aloud, to no one, at lunch. “Got any tigers?”

Good question. I always like to find out how many imported animals live on the islands I visit. That way, in the event that I should have to build an arc to escape a storm, I will know just how many tigers I can expect to join me.

“Someone check out this squash! I’m not gonna say it’s weird, but it’s definitely something.”

You’re right, Johnny 2, it is “something.” And that “something” is not squash but POTATO. YOU ARE EATING A POTATO.

To our tour guide: “Can you go pick me a banana?”

Strike three.

For the rest of the trip, when people asked us where we were from, the answer was always “Canada,” followed by a pleasant smile and a swift getaway.

If this trip reinforced anything, it’s that you should never leave your house.

Just kidding. You should always leave your house because houses geld moldy and dusty and that’s not good for your breathing.

You should also always leave your house because you never know who you’ll meet or what adventures you’ll encounter!

Sure, you may have to deal with crowds of people and small talk. And yes, you might come into close contact with a rare species of “stupid questions.” And these “questions” may make you feel confused or upset or nauseous. (That could also be the boat, though. I’m still afraid of boats.)

But you may also get a marriage proposal on a beach. Or meet a ten-year-old joke enthusiast. Or taste the best Piña colada of your young life.

Travel is a mixed bag. (Especially for me because I don’t believe in folding or sorting my belongings, so all of my bags are mixed and mysterious.) You get the quaint with the unexpected with the touristy with the exciting.

And so, as they say in St. Lucia: no worries, no problem.

lucia group


5 Responses to “No Worries, No Problem”

  1. Ariel Jones June 7, 2015 at 3:37 pm #

    Great story…my boyfriend family is from st.lucia and he always talks about how beautiful and chill it is…it’s cool to see how other people think about it
    Follow me –>>

    • sophpearl June 8, 2015 at 4:16 pm #

      Thanks so much for reading, Ariel! I LOVED St. Lucia – a beautiful place, and the people were really nice!

      • Ariel Jones June 8, 2015 at 4:18 pm #

        Yeah I’m planning to go after graduating college so I have years to save. I rather have a lot of money to really enjoy myself when I decide to go

      • sophpearl June 8, 2015 at 4:19 pm #

        Good plan! There’s so much to do, so saving is definitely a good idea. But at least the beaches are free 🙂

      • Ariel Jones June 8, 2015 at 4:27 pm #

        Yeahhh… they tell all the time all the things you can do there I can’t wait

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