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  • Writer's pictureHummingbird Retreat

Week 28

Wildlife wonder- Mona monkey

One of Grenada’s most interesting wildlife wonders is the Mona Monkey which can be found in the wild in the Grand Etang National Park. Sadly, they are more often seen in captivity, such as the three we saw recently, living in a small cage with no vegetation and little space to move around. The one in the photo above kept looking longingly out to the mountains and trees as if he could remember happier days. My son fed them some fruit which they enjoyed and it was fascinating to watch them sit down and hold the fruit in their hands. They looked so human-like as they sat and ate it, pausing now and again to look at us and at each other, and to move around their cage.

Mona monkeys are originally from Ghana and were brought here by slave ships from Africa. They can grow to about 60 cms in length and their long tails are often longer than their bodies, reaching a length of about 73 cms. They live in groups of about a dozen monkeys which are mainly female monkeys with one or two males. A Mona monkey can live for up to about 30 years old. They mainly eat fruit which they can store in their cheek pouches, like a hamster. They are most active in early morning and late afternoon and like to stay high up in the tree canopies. It would be wonderful to see one in the wild one day and to see them enjoying their freedom in the rainforest.

Grenadian Gift- Concord Waterfall

As you can see from the photo above, I visited this Grenadian gift with my children, Hayley and Josh. The Mona monkeys were outside the gift store, just at the entrance to the waterfall. We paid an entrance fee of just less than a pound and walked through a shop and restaurant and down some steps to the magnificent falls.

Concord waterfall is nearly 20 metres high and there are also smaller waterfalls both upstream and downstream. The falls are at the end of a winding, inland road which is in a deep valley with beautiful tree-covered sides, on either side of the road. There are two large gift shops both offering an entrance to the falls as well as a row of smaller gift shops and a large car park.

Normally it is safe to swim in the pool and to swim under the waterfall but due to heavy rain prior to our visit, we were advised just to paddle in the shallows away from the falls themselves. The strength of the water when we were there was impressive and it was forming eddies of circular water which would have the strength to pull someone under their strong current if they tried to swim there. There are smooth rocks that have been worn down by the water and on calmer days, people jump from the cliff top or slide down the rocks into the pool. We were content to just paddle in the refreshingly cold water and sit on the rocks and enjoy the view.

Reflections from the Retreat

While my children were here, we organised for my husband’s closest school friend to come and visit for the day, along with his friend’s brother. It was a very special time listening to them recall memories of their school days, share funny stories of what they got up to as boys and to hear the two of them laughing together as well as singing old songs. We recorded facts and anecdotes of Hosten’s childhood that will hopefully end up in his life story that I am writing and showed them around the house that Hosten had wanted them to see. It was good for us all to be reminded how different life was back then - when they walked barefoot to school with a slate tied around their neck and would get beaten with a belt if they got answers wrong in class. Grenada was still under British rule at the time and so they were taught British history and geography including how to farm using British methods.

Hayley, Josh and I flew over to the island of Carriacou for a day and met up with some of Hosten’s family. We had sent Hosten’s ashes and gravestone over on the ferry the week before and the plan was to lay him to rest at last in the family cemetery, near Petite Carenage beach. Unfortunately, the rains had been so strong during the previous week that the car broke down in the mud, trying to reach the cemetery and the ceremony had to be postponed. Ironically, the hurricane causing the rain here was called Hurricane Hilary! It was very hard to not be there when the family finally completed the ceremony a few days after we left. Hosten’s ashes were placed next to his father’s grave, nearest the entrance to the cemetery. In true island style, a little rum was poured on the gravestone, as if giving him a drink, as his family on Carriacou said their farewells on behalf of us all.

These events stirred up my grief for Hosten again which never really goes away but is usually just below the surface. Then I was hit with another wave of grief. Having had such a fantastic, fun time with my kids here, it was so hard to say goodbye. We had got back into the routine of eating together, watching movies and playing our favourite games such as Monopoly. We had some great days out and we even got back into me taking Josh to play football on Sunday morning and then bringing him back for the end of church when we discovered a ‘Youths v Legends’ Sunday morning football game.

On their last day, we managed to fit in a final swim at Levera beach and a few things in St Georges before they caught an evening flight. We had to wait about 90 minutes for them to queue up in the busy airport, full of people returning to the UK and a flight to New York.

Throughout their last day and particularly waiting at the airport I became increasingly ill with a sore throat, temperature, and feeling increasingly fatigued. Thankfully I hadn’t planned anything for the few days after they left because I felt quite ill with flu symptoms and it took about a week for me to recover.

Since studying psychology and having an ongoing interest in spirituality, I have a fascination with whole-person health and the inter-relationship between mind, body and spirit. I’ve been very aware of this interconnection while I have been physically ill because it felt like my body was expressing what I was feeling emotionally. I could almost feel my body becoming ill as I waited in the airport during the build-up to saying goodbye. It then collapsed for a while in exhaustion and illness as I felt a sense of loss and grief. These emotions perhaps made my body’s immunity drop so that I was no longer resistant to germs and viruses, particularly in a busy, enclosed airport. I remember feeling this when Hosten died and I was physically ill for a while after the funeral as if my whole being, body, mind and spirit, needed to collapse in order to recover.

It makes me wonder about people who experience loss or trauma and don’t have the luxury of time to recover, and they have to push on through the pain and block out their feelings. Are these the people who go on to experience physical conditions such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome, migraines and Fibromyalgia? How important it is to listen to our bodies and respond to what they need and also as a health service, to listen to the whole person. This is one reason why I have been involved in developing a charity called Whole Care ( This charity is particularly exploring how we can include spiritual care in the health service but there is also a lot more that can be done to offer a more integrated body-mind-spirit health service that responds to the whole person.

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