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  • Writer's pictureHummingbird Retreat

Week 6

Wildlife Wonders- Sergeant Major Fish

I remember when I first visited Grenada, over twenty years ago now, and I was amazed to stand in the centre of the capital and see beautiful tropical fish swimming in the harbour. Whenever I come back to St Georges, I go to the Carenage (as the harbour is called) to check that the fish are still swimming around the fishing boats. Last week when I visited, I saw a number of large shoals of small fish, an interesting looking fish of different colours that I still need to identify and a small shoal of brown fish that were about a foot long. There was also a couple of shoals of sergeant major fish.

The sergeant major fish get their name from the five black stripes on their body which are similar to the stripes identifying this military rank. They are also known by other names such as Pilot Fish or Five Finger and they are a type of damsel fish. They are small and round and can grow up to about 22cms long, though the ones I saw were about half that size. They are usually found in coral reefs though younger fish like to be in more sheltered environments such as underwater caves and shipwrecks. This is maybe why I often see them in the sheltered environment of St Georges Carenage, where they can swim under the various fishing boats. They are also found in tropical fish tanks but thankfully the fish I saw have the whole ocean to enjoy.

Grenadian Gifts- Lake Antoine

This lake is about a 5 minutes drive from the Hummingbird Retreat and recently a small group of us walked around it, as well as a slight diversion to walk through the nearby Rivers rum distillery. Grenada is made up of various extinct volcanos and the island’s lakes can often be found in the craters of these volcanos. This lake is known for being the best example on the island of a ‘tuffaceous ring’ which means a crater formed by a ring of consolidated ash. It was formed about 12-15 thousand years ago when the volcanic activity in Grenada was coming to an end.

The lake is set in 16 acres and is home to various birds such as herons and ducks as well as various fish and other wildlife. While we were walking around the lake, we saw a large, brown bird of prey circling over the lake and then diving for a fish. There are a number of different species of kites and hawks in this area and seeing this beautiful bird was an added bonus to this beautiful, peaceful walk.

Reflections from the Retreat

Recently my container arrived safely from the UK and so I went down to St Georges, the capital, to go through the process of customs at the port. To do this I needed to employ a broker and I was grateful to him for navigating me through the system. We filled in forms and I submitted my long list of items and the receipts for all the new items. We then, after the first period of waiting, watched a crane lift the container into a space near the beautiful blue waters on the edge of the port. I watched a few yachts leave the nearby yacht club and sail pass, while we waited for the customs officer. He arrived with his clipboard in hand to join us as we watched the container lock being broken open. It was so good to see all my belongings packed just as I had last seen them in England, though not so good when the car wouldn’t start. It was probably in shock from the change in temperature and still feeling seasick from the long voyage, but thankfully, with a few silent prayers and encouragement, it came back to life and was carefully driven out by the broker.

The customs officer started enthusiastically opening boxes and matching items to my list but after checking a few boxes he decided my list was accurate enough for the items to be loaded onto the trucks. Thankfully, the customs officer didn’t ask me to unpack the tightly packed car of all the most fragile and precious items and with increasing swiftness the 5 trucks were packed with all my items.

We then had to wait for the customs officer to report to a senior port member and after waiting for a few hours and paying the custom taxes for the items, the trucks were released to drive up to the Hummingbird Retreat house in Bathway. On the way up there, we picked up about a dozen guys who Delon (our builder friend) had organised to help us unpack. They stood up the stairs at the front of the house and passed, or often threw, the items from one to another from the trucks into the house. The piano and kitchen appliances were a challenge and it wasn’t great seeing the fridge sliding out of the box down a few stairs, but hopefully it will still work! The day had begun with me setting out at 6am to get the 2 buses needed to reach St Georges and it was dark by the time everything was unloaded, so it was a long day but good to see my things in the house.

However, not everything got up to the house that day. Despite being told that it was better to buy a car in the UK and ship it over, the customs tax for the car was a huge 180% of the price and so I was given an unexpected bill of £13000! Thankfully I had registered as a Grenadian national and so this was the half price discount price! Another lady from England was also there collecting her container and she had bought B&Q supplies for new kitchen units and was told that due to the cost of the wood she had a similar bill to pay. It was good to be able to share the solidarity of shock and panic as to how to pay these huge bills. Amazingly we also discovered that we were both from the same London borough of Havering and had lived very close to each other, which increased our sense of sisterhood and mutual support.

So I had to leave the car in the port and raise the necessary money to pay the bill the following week. I couldn’t leave it there for long because I was charged a daily rent for the space and I was keen to get both the car and its contents safely home. I was so grateful to people who helped out financially and so the following week I was able to go back and pay to release the car. This involved another day of walking to different offices around the port to sort out car tax, a temporary driving license, car insurance, a police inspection of the car and an evaluation which then increased the insurance. However it all got done in the end and it was very liberating to finally drive the car with its contents safely home.

So the last few weeks have been more of a challenge. It was hard being so far away from my children on Mother’s day and unpacking familiar items from ‘home’ have stirred a lot of emotions seeing them in this new location. The shock of the customs bill raised my concerns about financial security and it was difficult for me to ask others for help. Then there have been various processes which I have found hard to understand such as the postal system and the process at the port, particularly when the broker would disappear for hours and I was unsure what was happening, even when he did try and explain it to me.

Interestingly, the meditations I get emailed to me each day have been on the theme of powerlessness this week which has really resonated with me. They have encouraged me to recognise that sometimes this is a necessary place to be in. Here’s a quote from one of them, ‘Admitting our powerlessness frees us to allow the One who is Power to become active in our lives.’ So although it has been emotionally and physically challenging the last few weeks, I know that spiritually I am learning to admit my powerlessness at times and this is all part of the journey. As someone who likes to be in control and to have a list or plan for every situation, I have had to live with the not knowing, to know that I am not in control and to find myself in a position where I have needed to ask for help. The journey to create Hummingbird Retreat is as much about the internal work in me as it is about developing the external structures of the house. So I continue one step at a time trusting the process and my Divine companion as I walk by faith and not by sight.

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