Welcome to the twentieth post of my fictious continuing story, Around the World in Fifty-Two Weeks. I hope y’all enjoy!
Around the World in Fifty-Two Weeks
Week Twenty: Montserrat
My arms were a bright red. I looked at them in dismay then gently poked at them with my fingernail. The touch made me wince and I nearly laughed at my stupidity. After so many weeks spent on islands during the last five months I would have thought that I had either built up a tan or at least learned my lesson, but no, I was once again hosting a terrific sunburn. I pulled the brim of my hat down, thankful that it had shaded my head and kept my face from suffering a similar fate as my arms and lower legs.
I had arrived on Montserrat two days before and had found it to be delightful. I was getting tired of being a tourist though, and had come to the island determined to do something different for a change. Upon my arrival I had looked it up on the internet to see if I could find any local charity or cause to devote my week to. I hadn’t found anything that caught my attention, although there was some information about the “critically endangered Giant Ditch Frog.” That wasn’t exactly what I’d had in mind, but I looked into it anyway, curious.
Humorously, the nick name for the Giant Ditch Frog is “Mountain Chicken” and so there’s a whole project called “Saving the Mountain Chicken.” It was hard to take it seriously, but the government has even gotten involved and everyone seems to find it a worthwhile (and hardly laughable) venture.
Even though I didn’t find a charity to help out with, I found myself sliding into the Montserrat lifestyle and soon relaxed and settled in. Although Montserrat is a British colony, it’s been considering independence from Great Britain for some time now. Montserrat is a successful blend of African and Anglo-Irish cultures and so therefore is unique. It’s official language is English, which I found to be a relief.
Christopher Columbus discovered the island in 1493 and claimed it for Spain. I couldn’t find a lot of information about the early history of Montserrat. There were a lot of Irish who were important in the early years after it was settled in 1632, and so the island is often referred to as “The Emerald Isle of the West.” A beautiful title in my mind. (One of the countries I’ve been most hoping to visit during this year is Ireland. I can’t believe that my year of adventure is almost half way over already. There are still so many places to see and things to experience.) Sadly, most of the Irish didn’t come on happy terms; they were either indentured servants or slaves. By 1648 there were around a thousand Irish families on the island.
Even today the Irish culture is very present in the country. There are a lot of Irish names, the national emblem is a carved Irish shamrock adorning the Government House, and even the Island’s flag and crest show a woman with a cross and harp. The island itself seems to look quite a bit like Ireland with abounding vegetation (including lots of ferns), emerald-colored hills, and beautiful ravines.
The people who live in Montserrat were kind, warm, and welcoming. I felt safe the whole time I was there, which was something I couldn’t say about a lot of the countries I’d visited and traveled through during the year. One day I even forgot my purse at the outdoor diner I had eaten lunch at, and when I hurried back thirty minutes later one of the waitresses greeted me with a big grin and held out my bag “Looking for this, miss?” she had asked, as if she’d just been waiting for me to come retrieve it.
When I expressed my thanks, she’d merely shrugged as if it happened all the time. “If you hadn’t come back for it I was going to see if I could find identification and then I would have called around to the hotels looking for you.” Again she had shrugged and smiled. That alone was enough to bolster my faith in the fact that not every country was rife with strife.
Much of Montserrat was destroyed by a large volcano long so very long ago and there were still huge portions of the island that were off limits to tourists. The rest of the island was thriving though and vibrant. There were lots of hiking trails and gorgeous beaches. My week was relaxing as I strolled through museums, met lovely people, hiked up steep yet beautiful trails, and even went snorkeling again. I’d fast discovered that snorkeling was one of my favorite things to do while visiting the beach because there was so much to see beyond the surface of the water. It was a good reminder to me that people are a lot like the ocean… Although they may seem one way from the outside, after you get to know them there’s a whole new side to who they are. It’s like exploring a treasure chest and finding all sorts of breathtaking riches and amazing discoveries.
On my last day in Montserrat I found a Christian church to go to, thrilled that for once the sermon would be in English. Although I’d attended many churches during my travels, rarely could I understand what was being preached. I had made up for that by listening to sermons on-line, but there was something extra-special about this Sunday. The sermon was about how everything we do will make a difference either for the good or the bad, and we need to make sure we are living our lives the way God wanted us to. It was a good reminder and I journaled about it that night, determined to spend the rest of my travels looking for opportunities to make a difference for the good and hopefully touch lives in a positive way. I wanted my life to be successful in the light of eternity, not just on earth.