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  • Writer's pictureHummingbird Retreat

Week 9

Wildlife wonders- Bougainvillea

Before I returned to Grenada our friend and gardener, Alvin, had given the garden a thorough trim. So when I first arrived back at Hummingbird Retreat the beautiful bougainvillea bushes had been cut back to being wooden stumps and I was sad to see the lack of flowers in the garden. However, in Grenada things grow so quickly and the wooden stump that greeted me on my arrival has turned into the flowering bush in the photo above. I wondered if I could include Bougainvillea as a ‘wildlife wonder’ but, although they are mainly decorative garden shrubs, they do grow wild and originate from nearby South America.

Bougainvillea are Grenada’s national flower and are seen in many gardens on the island. Strictly speaking the flower is the inner white parts and the coloured ‘flowers’ are actually the ‘bracts’ which are modified leaves surrounding the flower. They come in a range of colours but most common are the bold reds, pinks and the white variety. Last time we were here, we were surprised to see both pink and white flowers appearing on the same branch of our bougainvillea bush on our balcony. These 2 colour varieties are just another way that this plant displays its exuberant colours.



Grenadian gifts – Saraka


Saraka is a traditional African celebration of thanksgiving for the harvest that is held annually on the Friday after Easter. It is only celebrated in three places in Grenada and one of these is in the local village of River Sallee. This tradition has survived in Grenada through its faithful practice by enslaved Africans when they first came here and then continued by Grenadians each year. One of River Sallee’s residents who has helped to preserve this tradition is 106 and she is one of the oldest Grenadians on the island. The celebration begins with the drums playing and the conch shell being blown, early in the morning, to tell the village to get up and start cooking. Food is cooked in large pots outside on fires, in the traditional way and homes offer food for free as part of the celebration.


I walked over to River Sallee in the afternoon and joined the growing crowd at the playing fields to watch the celebrations of traditional dance, drumming and presentations of food. River Sallee’s saraka committee is chaired by Happy (great name!) and you can see her explain the celebrations here - www.youtube.com/watch?v=MCzM4VuqoCQ They had a food competition where local people presented a tray of food which also had to have certain items along with the food such as a coin, some flowers which must include the bougainvillea, something red and so on. The winner was Betty who is locally known for her great cooking and who I met at the local church, and it was great to see her win.


After the food was judged it was spread out in individual portions on bluggoe (banana) leaves on the ground. This is traditionally seen as feeding the ancestors and the ground is first blessed with rum in a libation tradition of wetting the ground in the four corners to seek favour from the ancestors and gods to bless the feast. The bluggoe leaves are then spread out on the ground for the food to go on, which is then eaten, first by the children and then the adults.


The photo shows the Moko Jumbie dancing while the food was being judged and this dance is another African tradition brought to Grenada. These dancers are on stilts and they represent the gods who, being taller than humans, can see more and so can protect the people. I’ve added a few videos of the evening on my Instagram page - www.instagram.com/hummingbirdretreat/ I shared some of these with a Ugandan friend who was amazed at the similarity with Ugandan celebrations there and hearing the drums and seeing the dancing certainly reminded me of my time in Uganda.


Reflections from the Retreat

Since coming here in February I have been waiting for the builders to start working on the house again and now that Easter is over, they have started work this week. It has been good to see some more of the tiling being done and doors being fixed back on which had been removed due to previous tiling work. A number of windows have been broken over the last year due to a combination of age and strong winds and so these have been ordered and the builder, Delon, and I have been drawing up a list of the next phase of work for us to focus on. This week I tried to order more tiles but there are no more stocks of the tiles to match the ones we have been using and so it looks like some of the bedrooms may have to have a different sort of tile on the floor.


Walking round the shops in Grenville (the second largest town) this week, I missed UK shops for the first time. Not only is it difficult to get large quantities of items such as tiles but certain items are very expensive due to being imported. For example, the house needs a complete decoration inside and out and this week I discovered that paint is about 4 times the price it would be in the UK with a 10 litre pot of paint costing the equivalent of over £100! I realise how much I have taken things for granted in the UK with shops there having sufficient stock and things being easily available. Another example is fresh food which is seasonal here and so I get used to buying an item and then go back a few weeks later and it’s no longer there. For example, I enjoy peanuts and raisins and so I have been buying bags of peanuts to mix with raisins. A few weeks ago I picked up what I thought was a bag of peanuts off the shelf, from the place where the peanuts usually sit, and it was only when I had mixed them with raisins at home and was about to have a mouthful, when I noticed small white marks on my peanuts. Putting on my glasses (which I should have done when I was shopping) I realised I had picked up a bag of kidney beans instead of peanuts. They are all packaged in the same, clear plastic bags so look very similar and thankfully I noticed before I ate them!


When I first came here the water pressure was very low so that the shower in my apartment is often a trickle rather than a full force of water. The local plumber said that there were new valves needed and so these were ordered. Nearly 2 months on and after a few more leaks had developed, the plumber finally came to fix things. He worked hard fixing various pipes and valves and I discovered that as well as being the local plumber, he is also the local water board worker and an evening DJ for a local gospel programme. He previously played professional football internationally for Grenada so is a man of many talents! As the plumbing got fixed, the rain started to come and we discovered a few leaks in the roof and a crack developing down a wall which has also broken a few of the newly laid tiles on the nearby floor in the hallway. Somehow, I have a sense that this house will always keep me busy with repairs!

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