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Tuesday, January 16, 2018

The Cricketer's Grin

Bumper sticker promoting enthusiasm for the Atlantic Challenge

Riding a bus to Falmouth Harbour
“What grade are you in? I asked him.
“5th,” he said and grinned shyly up at me, the only Caucasian lady on the bus.  Carl was up front and I had taken the last available seat on this mid-size bus going from St. John and heading to Falmouth Harbour where our boat was at anchor.  Next to me I found a dapper-looking little boy in his school uniform.  What a great opportunity to chat with a local child, I thought.

School boys in St. John
“And what is your favorite subject?” I asked with my most innocent smile.
“Mats,” he answered without hesitation.  
I paused at this.  Hmmm….mats, mats…..I screwed up my face, obviously puzzled.  ”Math?” I  wondered aloud.
“Yes”, he said still grinning. 

(I had learned that folks with a Creole/French language background  might not pronounce the “th” sound when they’re speaking, and instead may replace “th” was a “ts” which therefore makes “math” into “mats.” Extrapolating further silently, in rapid fire succession, I rifled through the following….. so “teeth” becomes “teets”, and “Smith” becomes “Smits”, and “smoothy” becomes “smootsy”, and “filthy” becomes “filtsy?”….I think, er I “sink.” Hmmm. Interesting. 

School girls in St. John
Lacking further creativity at the end of a long day in St. John, I plunged on with the quintessential grown-up’s question. 
“Do you know what you want to be when you grow up?”
Without a second’s pause he came back, “A cricketer.”  
Before I could stop myself, I made the faux pas of admitting that I’d never seen a game of cricket.  “It’s a really long game, right?”  He nodded in such a half-hearted way that I figured this was the end of our conversation. I’d blown it. He probably figured I’d been living under a rock somewhere not to have ever seen cricket.
Children from another private school in St. John

I had no follow-up question to draw him out after my error in judgment, plus I was temporarily struck dumb by the concept of meeting a child who wants to become a professional cricket player.  I actually had a million questions but none of them felt like the right ones to ask. Maybe this guy was a prodigy cricket player?  Maybe not.  I figured it safest to move on to another topic.
School colors

There were two rows of Junior High school-age girls sitting behind us on the bus. “Do you think they (tossing my head in the general direction of the girls in back) would mind if I took a picture of all of us on the bus?”  He tentatively shook his head and then stole looks behind us. Whether in poor taste or not, I threw caution to the wind, raised my camera above and out in front of me and pushed the shutter button.  I turned around and thanked them for the picture at which the shrieking began.  “She’s got a camera. Eeeeek!” 
"Eeeek, she's got a camera."
It’s a pretty good picture,” I announced.  “But shall we try it again?”  More shrieking, giggling, covering of faces and ducking down behind the seats.  The little boy beside me was still grinning so I figured I was probably forgiven, besides what 10 year old boy wouldn’t want to make some older girls scream?
The cricketer is still grinning.

I have been enjoying watching the children in Antigua.  Well-groomed little girls with intricately plaited hair adorned with ribbons and beads.  The school boys dressed in khakis, white or primary colored shirts, sometimes with vests and ties.  Lots and lots of skinny long-legged children.  Very few obese children in Antigua from my observations.  
Steel drum band, Halcyon

Foreground: English Harbour, Falmouth Harbour beyond
We went to hear a steel drum band recently that was playing against the sunset backdrop of English Harbour and Falmouth Harbour hundreds of feet below.  It is impossible to keep one’s feet still with the beat of those fantastic drums, nor would I have wanted to.  And the little dancing children were adorable.

Child with newly woven tiara
It seems to me that small children are treated with gentleness and patience here in Antigua.  I have never heard a child being chastised in public nor seen a child whining, or acting entitled.  Parenting seems to occur with little fanfare. Children seem to be treated like children here, with reasonable expectations and caring.  

Awaiting the Antigua/Barbuda team
Are parents calmer here? Is the tropical climate more conducive to steady parenting?  Or perhaps, the people have correctly prioritized what is important in their lives?  Who knows?  Maybe I see what I want to see.  And I very much like to see the kind of solid parenting that produces courteous children that know they are loved and are glad to be alive.  
A unique setting for photography, an exceptionally long bowsprit

Waiting for rowing team
Two days ago we went to the waterfront at Nelson’s Dockyard to welcome in a team finishing the Atlantic Challenge.  The Atlantic Challenge is a three thousand mile race from the Canary Islands to Antigua. The racers are, believe it or not, 4-person rowing teams. 

Antigua/Barbuda 4-person rowing team in 2nd place!
This was an especially big event here this year because the Antigua/Barbuda team achieved the distinction of second place, just a few hours behind the first place Swiss team with a time of 30 days and a few short hours.  The remaining teams were still out on the Atlantic. 

Flags of the eastern Caribbean
Can you imagine the national pride for such a tiny country achieving second place in a brutal international race of this kind?  Among the thousands of spectators were hundreds of children, infected with the excitement of the event as well. 

Children wearing Antigua/Barbuda flag scarves
Flags were passed out by the armloads to be waved with the arrival of the Antigua/Barbuda team.  The Prime Minister was on the podium, proudly congratulating the four men representing Antigua and Barbuda.  National pride oozed from the crowd. There were multiple ships blowing their deep bass horns in concert, bottle rockets that sounded like cannons, much clapping, hooting and cheering.  And children dancing around once again.  

The Antigua/Barbuda team has come in to raucous cheering, horns and flag-waving
I gave a moment of thought to how events like these teach children about pride. Pride that comes from being able to name oneself as a member of a particular group.  Pride of heritage. Pride of place. Pride of ownership in a way of life. National pride.  And I thought about how the pure beauty of this was that the day had nothing to do with wealth, or military might, royalty or political party. It was a day for people to simply come together.  It just felt good. 

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