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August 29, 2002
Charlotteville, Perhaps the "Old" Caribbean?

We woke up the next morning and there must've been an army of parrots going nuts in the hills surrounding the anchorage. Fish were jumping, and there was a brigade of fishing boats blazing by with their crazy looking long poles hanging off each side. The fishermen stand up as they steer, going mach ten with long dreads billowing behind him. All day, they would buzz us back and forth, absentmindedly raising a hand our way in greeting as they passed. We were in fifty five feet of deep blue water but it was so clear you could see far below. Schools of fish were everywhere behind our transom.

As we dinghied into town, we went closer to shore to have a look at the opening in the forest that made way for a beach. Thousands of palms draped with vines clung to the sides of the cliffs as they arched over the sand, providing a sliver of shade. Already, a few people were there. A stream came down from the hills and someone had channeled the water into a little pipe where people were doing laundry and having a fresh water rinse. Along the rest of the coast on the way in, the still water was sprinkled with rocks peeping up. The pelicans having a rest on them would slowly turn and watch us pass, not being bothered enough to be even ruffle a feather. As we slowly puttered in, we could see flashes of blue and yellow parrotfish swimming barely below the surface of the water.

Closer to the dock, a gaggle of local children were diving in and out of the water off someone's fishing boat. They'd scream and cackle as they cannonballed off the side, and had to hold their underwear up with one hand as they climbed back out and onto the boat. They waved their arms and called us over. Water dripping from his hair, the oldest boy politely asked for a ride into the dock, but before we had a chance to answer, the younger kids dove into our dinghy without a second thought. Suddenly Curt and I didn't fit in our own boat and were sopping wet from little wet bodies pressed up against us. The older boy looked embarrassed and scolded the others while we just laughed. At the dock, they ran-off down the planks towards town, while he asked if we needed help finding anything. We gratefully declined. He apologized for the younger kids before running off as well.

The town itself looks like the scene of a movie set. A road follows the beach front, and is barely wide enough for two cars. Along the sand, trees shade benches and make-shift tables scattered here and there where fisherman seem to pass the time drinking rum and having loud debates about things we couldn't make-out. Chickens and dogs are everywhere underfoot, and interestingly, the chickens seem more welcome company to the men, as the dogs get chased away with their tail between their legs. Along the other side of the road lies what makes up their town: tiny little one room snack shops, tables filled with fruit and vegetables, an ice cream shop, patio bars with chalkboard menus describing the day's fare: fried chicken and chips or roti usually.

It seemed to us that Tobago must be what the Caribbean was like before cruise ships, tourists, and before anyone knew that these "duty-free" islands existed. Everyone seems to take pride in their homes and surroundings. The yards are well trimmed with beautiful flowers all around, the soccer field (right next to the public library) proclaims "Say No To Drugs" and everyone says hello when they pass.

We went on about the business of trying to find a place to check our email. Sandwich board signs proclaiming, "Internet Access" led us down the beach and up a small road. We arrived in front of someone's two story home- where a sign sat in the yard. Everything looked all closed up, but it was around 11am by now so we decided to poke around just a bit further. We found a couple of people sitting on the porch upstairs. "Yeah, yeah- we got de computah. Come." A lady in her slippers walked us back downstairs to a little room with two computers that had internet access. Curt and I took turns perusing Vibe and Ebony magazines while the other checked email.

Reading news from back home while sitting in someone's spare room using their computer with chickens underfoot just made the juxtaposition of what we're doing now, versus a year ago, that much more obvious. We are so far removed from "normal" American life now. We have no idea what's going on with Osama Bin Laden, or President Bush, or the stock market, or what new movies are coming out- nothing really. It's a peculiar feeling, both isolating and sometimes a welcome rest from our old reality. Already, I wonder what it will be like when we return to California to live in a house with walls and a floor that doesn't rock and sway all night long.

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