Having extended time ashore in Antigua reminds us of some of the “real life” activities that we often miss out on whilst enjoying our cruising in the Caribbean. Nothing more so than the recent elections which have been the main topic of conversation for weeks. I have some experience of what is involved in election campaigns in England, but the Antiguans definitely have their own twist on campaigning.
In the run up to the elections our mornings were kick started between 6 and 7am with campaign vehicles driving around the villages delivering their messages over a speaker system. Slander does not seem to worry the Antiguan politicians as we listened to messages being broadcast about rival party candidates being “thieves who have stolen money from the church” amongst other alleged crimes ! The parties must have spent a fortune on printing with virtually every lamp post being decorated with some sort of party leaflet or flag and road sides surrounded by hundreds of enormous, billboard sized posters.
Other fascinating elements of the election for me were the ban on the selling of alcohol until 6pm on polling day and the day after being a public holiday. Presumably everyone needs a day off work to catch up on the drinking they missed out on during polling day ! It is obviously an effective way to remind people to vote as there was over 70% turnout. We were then awoken at 1am the following morning by the car horns, music and loud hailers as revellers celebrated the results. The Antiguans always know how to party.
We have continued to explore different areas of the island and always find something of interest, even when just strolling through the local village. Some of the simplest local houses are very well tended with the owners clearly taking pride in keeping their homes in order. The people we meet on our strolls are always friendly and we enjoy glimpses into “real life” as we pass families chatting on their front porches and children playing in the roads and fields, always accompanied by a slightly scruffy looking dog.
We also finally made a long planned visit to the Carib Coffee Co. to watch the grinding and learn about this local business. As always, the staff were very friendly and informative and we enjoyed a delicious coffee whilst listening and learning. It was great to see how many local hotels and restaurants buy from the Carib Coffee Co. with bags of orders all lined up in the shop waiting to be delivered. We love a 'proper' coffee in the morning and took the opportunity to stock up on some of the different blends ourselves.
The Easter celebrations also brought another day of alcohol restrictions with the ban on sales of alcohol on Good Friday. Another valiant attempt to reduce drinking before a boozy long weekend. How wonderful it has been to see large groups of family and friends gathered on the local beaches making the most of their holiday. Again the Antiguans know how to party at the beach and we witnessed some very elaborate camps with huge awnings covering separate kitchen and dining areas, piles of water toys to keep the kids happy and lots of seating for the extended family groups.
We were fortunate to be invited to a friends camp for breakfast on Easter Sunday and tucked into an amazing spread of fried plantains, local bakes, codfish, fresh fruit and even bacon and eggs, all washed down with coffee and hot chocolate. We had missed the singing but did arrive in time to see the children hunting for eggs. A lovely treat for us to be included in this special family event and a reminder of the nicer side of “real life.”