Wildlife wonder – Sea grapes
When I walked past Bathway Beach last week, I met this family collecting sea grapes. The long, green bunches are turning to a lovely burgundy red, which is when they are ripe to eat. The photo below shows a few that they had already collected and I joined them for a while and ate some with them. They were happy to be featured in this blog and they described how you can eat the grapes straight off the tree or make grape juice as well as fermenting them for wine. The grapes were very sweet and juicy with a skin that is soft and velvety but unlike the grapes we are used to in the UK, they have a large seed in the centre and so there is less fruit.
Sea grapes, despite their name, are actually related to rhubarb and sorrel (which I will feature in a future blog). The sea grape trees grow along a lot of the coastline here and provide shade on the beaches. They are very hardy and resilient trees and their root systems help to reduce coastline erosion. In some places, they are cut back so that they form more bush-like, low-lying foliage that can cover large areas of coastline.
Grenadian Gift- Belmont Estate
The Belmont Estate is a nearby plantation estate that is open to the public. There are a number of these estates on the island, which tell visitors about the history of the plantations and offer various tourist attractions.
Belmont has a chocolate factory and offers ‘tree-to-bar’ tours for people to see the different stages of how chocolate is produced. They have a large barn of historical farm equipment and displays about chocolate as well as the chocolate beans drying in the sun. There is an organic farm and a dairy farm of goats and a few other animals such as some shy tortoises, sad-looking parrots, and some donkeys. They have a good restaurant offering a range of food and drinks and of course, their chocolate shop offers a varied selection of freshly made chocolates. They are keen to promote sustainable and traditional processes of farming and chocolate production and they have won various awards for tourism and innovation in agriculture.
Reflections from the Retreat
Before I moved here, one of the things I thought that I would miss, coming from London, is the cultural and spiritual mix that we find in large UK cities. However I have been surprised by the range of different cultural and geographical backgrounds people are from, just amongst those living in this part of the island. Although people are predominantly of Grenadian heritage, I have met Americans, Canadians, British, Germans, Polish, Ukrainian and Indian as well as people from other Caribbean islands. There is also a wider religious mix than I had expected. I have seen a few Muslim families and there is a small mosque in St Georges as well as a synagogue based near the international university.
One of the things I wanted to do in my first year here was to visit different church denominations, and if possible other faith groups too. So far I have been to a Pentecostal church, Evangelical church, Catholic church, Anglican church, a Guyanese church and last weekend I had my first visit to a Seventh-day Adventist church. I have also met a number of people who would probably define themselves as ‘spiritual and not religious’ and who follow different yoga traditions for spirituality rather than just for fitness, as well as other spiritual practices.
The Seventh-day Adventist church was particularly interesting because I don’t know much about this denomination apart from the fact that they worship on Saturday instead of Sunday. I was impressed that they had each been given a booklet of daily readings to reflect on during the week and then they have time in the service to go into groups and discuss the week’s topic. When I attended, the topic was about relationships between parents and children and it was interesting to think that across the world the same booklet was being discussed in all their churches. I was encouraged that in the conversation about children needing to respect parents, someone voiced the importance of parents also needing to respect and listen to their children. This is quite a challenge to a lot of mainstream beliefs that condone physical punishment which can sadly develop into abuse. I was also encouraged that their sermon highlighted the importance of good mental health and focused on the theme of hope. It was a husband and wife team who brought the teaching and with their obvious interest in mental wellbeing, I had already decided to speak to them after the service. I was then surprised when the man preaching mentioned going back to the island of Carriacou for a family funeral and I realised that we were related! It turned out that there were quite a few family members there from my husband’s village and so it was another interesting connection on various levels.
Looking more into what the Seventh Day Adventists believe, there are various things I would not adhere to, but I would say the same thing for other Christian denominations too. Visiting different churches and getting to know people from various spiritual backgrounds gives me an opportunity to reflect on my own faith beliefs as they continue to grow and develop.
A few months ago I had an interesting chat with a woman advertising a new church for Grenada, the Ethiopian Orthodox church. She had grown up Catholic and then had moved to Rastafarianism and it was interesting to hear her story of how she returned to a more traditional church but that, like Rastafarianism, it had connections with Ethiopia. I have met quite a few people who identify as Rastas and who have dreadlocks, smoke weed and have some understanding of this tradition but I haven’t met anyone yet who can talk more about the spiritual aspect of this relatively new religion. Rastafarianism has a Christian basis and the movement grew out of Jamaica in the 1930’s as a response to the African Diaspora’s historical abuse and a call to return to Africa. A significant figure for Rastafarians is Haile Selassie, who was the emperor of Ethiopia for over 40 years from 1930. Ethiopia is specifically significant as it is one of only two African countries, along with Liberia, to never be colonised.
Having visited various churches, I am aware that people are more identified with their particular denomination than they are in the UK and people are keen to find out which denomination I fit within and whether I will be joining theirs. It has been interesting to hear that when people talk here about ‘interfaith’ discussions, they mean talking to Christians of other denominations! For now, I am quite happy to visit different churches because it is providing a great way to get to know different people and get to know what is happening locally. I am grateful that I can still attend various Contemplative Fire meetings online, and this community feels like my spiritual home. I will continue to visit different churches here and hope that I also get to know people on various spiritual journeys. This feels like an important process of building relationships with all groups, as I create a retreat house here that, alongside other aspects of well-being, will offer a spiritual space for all.