Sunday around St. George’s Town

Sunday around St. George'sSunday dawned a beautiful, sunny morning. Kris dropped me off in front of the old, defunct Public Library in The Carenage, and I spent the next 4 hours walking around St. George’s Town with my camera. Sunday around St. George's
Nothing is open on Sunday, the place is a ghost town. Mini-buses don’t run, one or two cars on the usually congested, narrow streets, just a few people drifting home from the three or four different churches, (one sullen dope dealer who heckled Kris for half an hour, while I was blissfully snapping doorways)…
St. George's TownAll in all, a gorgeous morning, perfect for shooting the old buildings, little details here and there, the flowering borders, the steep hills and knee-destroying stone steps that wind up and down the town’s mountain slopes. Sunday around St. George'sSunday around St. George's

Ballast Grounds Hill

Ballast Grounds

There’s a small hill at the entrance to the port, called Port St. Louis, next to our open anchorage. We climbed it last Saturday, and I took a few snaps. There are a couple of lookout points, and the place is also known, in our old maps, as “Ballast Grounds”.

Gorgeous weather, for a change (it rains every day, but lately just in the afternoons).

Ballast Grounds

Our boat (top, right) on anchor below the hill. The photo doesn’t do the water justice…it’s the most amazing, limpid aquamarine colour, coral reefs and turtles perfectly visible through the crystal clear water.
Ballast GroundsBallast Grounds
Ballast GroundsBallast Grounds

This huge tree at the bottom of the hill caught our eye…Kris loves massive trees. He’s completely dwarfed in this photo…I feel a mischievous urge to give him a pair of fairy wings in this photo. ;)
A giant tree at Port Louis

Guyana : : A Last Look Around

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The (former) Botanical Gardens of Grenada

Grenada Botanical GardensOur 1970s guide books to Grenada show the location of St. George’s Botanical Gardens, though no mention is made of these gardens on the current tourist maps of the town.

Grenada Botanical GardensWondering how much of the gardens had survived the 2004 hurricane that knocked 90% of Grenada flat, Kris and I went looking for them using the old maps. We found their remains inside of the recently built Ministerial Complex…demoted to a “Visitor’s Park”, probably a third of its original size (damaged by the storm, or leveled to make space for the government buildings within the complex).

Grenada Botanical GardensWhat remained was unmistakeable, though: Single specimens of large and spectacular trees, palms, and shrubs bearing strange flowers or fruit.Grenada Botanical Gardens

We also came across a frangipani tree that was being devoured as we watched by two dozen of the biggest caterpillars we have ever seen in our lives. Seriously, these things were 7 inches long, 3/4 of an inch thick, and conspicuously marked. A mango vendor saw us marveling, came over, and explained to us that local people treat these caterpillars like pets (as he said this, he stroked the smooth, silky back of one caterpillar, and it happily let him do it) and that they become beautiful butterflies. I wonder if they’re big butterflies…

Grenada Botanical GardensWe only found one clue that these grounds were, indeed, the once-fabled botanical gardens of Grenada…the petrol station across the road was called “Botanical Gardens Service Station”.

Grenada Botanical GardensOne of the things we’d hoped to find was a Manchineel tree…in Spanish the tree is known as manzanilla de la muerte (little apples of death), an extremely poisonous tree that used to grow everywhere on the beaches around here, but is now endangered (systematically destroyed by people, because its bark, leaves, and fruit are all extremely poisonous. Of course, in a country that gets plenty of blas√© and benighted tourists, it’s not surprising that the trees have been eradicated to protect the goose that lays the golden eggs. ;)

The Nutmeg

Nutmeg
Nutmegs are for sale at the touristy market in town for the incredible price of EC$5 a few pieces. One a walk into the mountains behind St. George’s Town, we found nutmegs growing everywhere, and picked these samples off the ground.
Nutmeg
Nutmeg

spiral ginger

Spiral Ginger

The last botanical drawing I did in Guyana before we sailed away…somehow I failed to upload it to my Botany, Baby post. A common plant, even in Asia where I come from, but that’s no reason not to draw it. I enjoyed doing the leaves on this one…

Embroidery in Guyana : : Naomi Drakes

Naomi Drakes
It was our penultimate day in Guyana, and I was walking among the stalls inside the public market in Bartica. Glancing to one side, I barely registered a woman sitting in one of the stalls, a large embroidery hoop in her hands. I had gone several metres past when it hit me: she’s embroidering! I turned right around and went back.
Naomi Drakes
Naomi Drakes is 32 years old, a single mom with an 11-year-old son. Her family runs several stalls within the Bartica market; Naomi and her sister run a stall selling haircare products, fashion accessories and, by the looks of it, they do minor alteration work using two sewing machines, as well.
Naomi Drakes
I asked Naomi if she would consent to a short interview and some pictures of herself and her work, and returned the following day with a camera. I tried to shoot a video of the interview, but the gloomy, greenish atmosphere inside the poorly-lit market produced a very poor video, and the ear-splitting roar of the town’s power station, which is next door to the market, drowned out her voice. So I have had to content myself with a few photos and some stills from the video.

I found Naomi to be a confident, articulate, and industrious young woman. On days when business is quiet at the stall, rather than gossip with her neighbours or kill time on her phone, the enterprising lady does her embroidery. Her large pieces (average size of her pieces is about 30 cm. in diameter (a foot) adorn bedroom pillowcases and decorative ‘towels’ (draped over furniture and such, not the kind used to dry things). Her work is popular, and she has quite a lot of orders from locals in Bartica. She leaves her embroidery projects at work, because she knows that if she took them home, she’d want to do nothing else, so clearly she enjoys embroidery.
Naomi Drakes
Her designs come from things she sees in books, or sometimes she might ask a friend who knows how to draw to design something for her. I asked her what her favorite stitch was, but she couldn’t pick one…she knows many, and each one is good for achieving a particular look. She learned embroidery from her mother, but is the only one of her sisters who pursued it seriously. Embroidery floss is expensive in Bartica, so she gets her materials from Georgetown.
Naomi Drakes
How much does she sell her work for? A pair of pillowcases with a matching design, plus all the sewing and ruffles that she adds with her sewing machine, goes for G$ 3,500.00. That’s US$17.50. I was horrified. “And the towels?” I asked… “the towels are G$2,000.00 (US$10.00) each, if I supply all the materials. Apparently, if a customer brings her own fabric for Naomi to embroider, it is cheaper. Each embroidery takes between 5 days and a week to stitch.

I protested that this was much too cheap for the amount of work she puts into each embroidery, but she reasoned that she would be sitting in the market all day, anyway, and a pair of pillow cases brings her an extra, unexpected G$3,500.00 on top of what she earns by running the stall. Fair enough, I suppose.
Naomi Drakes
I bought a pair of her pillow cases. All her other finished work were orders that she couldn’t sell to me, and she had nothing else finished. It being our final day in Guyana (we had already cleared out with immigration, we were departing that evening) I couldn’t wait for her to finish something else. A shame, as I would have loved to conduct subsequent interviews, maybe shoot a video at her home on a Sunday (or at least somewhere with better light, away from the noise of the power station.)¬† Only one of the pillow cases had been sewn up, the other embroidery was on an unfinished piece of fabric. “That’s fine,” I told her, “there’s no way I will use your embroidery as a mere pillow case, anyway! It’s too nice for that!”
Naomi Drakes
I had noticed her broken wooden embroidery hoop, the day before, and so I left her a parting gift of one of my good plastic hoops…just an 8-inch hoop, not quite as big as the 12″ hoop she had been using, but I thought it might help her to tension her fabric better (if you look at the photos of her work, you’ll notice that her fabric is badly puckered and distorted by the tension of her stitches.)
Naomi Drakes
I asked Naomi to write her postal address down for me, and I look forward to corresponding with her when I get back to Australia, maybe send her some embroidery goodies, books and such, because, despite the very different sort of work that we do, I felt such a kinship with this remarkable young woman who, in a money-and-gold-crazed mining town, and with very limited resources, has managed to nurture a serious love for the craft.

Nutmeg Nation 3 : : Grenada

Nutmeg Nation : : Grenada
Nutmeg Nation : : Grenada
Nutmeg Nation : : Grenada

Nutmeg Nation : : Grenada
Nutmeg Nation : : Grenada
Nutmeg Nation : : Grenada