Yesterday I had the opportunity to experience St. Lucia Carnival. The past few weeks have been filled with parties to build up to this one big event. It is two days of dancing and parading. The Lucians call it "Jumping." If you are "jumping" it means that you are in a band or group of people that will parade, drink, and dance together. They parade all the way down a major highway by the northern airport into the capital, Castries, where they make a loop and start back again.
Each band has unique costumes that vary in amounts of coverage, some being rather skimpy. All the costumes are colorful and eccentric and some include masks and head dresses with all sorts of feathers and glitter. A few costumes had giant extensions that stretched almost all the way across the road.
The larger bands had semi trucks, which traveled with them carrying massive sound systems with towering, ear-busting speakers. Smaller vehicles provided food and drink for the parade participants and some bands even had trucks with outhouses in the back! Almost everyone at the parade had a cup, bottle, or hydration pack full of some sort of alcoholic beverage.
A group of us started watching at around 11:00am just outside of town at the corner where the parades were just beginning. The bands got increasingly wilder and crazier as the day went on. We later moved closer to town where the crowds were bigger. I snacked on chicken and bakes while I watched the mayhem commence. Rain sprinkled on and off all day long so we alternated between standing by the road, sheltering under a tent, and standing under our umbrellas. I was impressed that the parade marched on even in the rain… it's the only time I have ever seen so many Lucians out in the rain.
Around 5:00 the sky let loose. The rain came pouring down in sheets and the wind really picked up. Everyone dashed for the overhangs of the big buildings by the harbor. We waited for about an hour, but when the rains didn't seem to be letting up we decided to go ahead and face it and head to the busses. I had to brace my umbrella with my arm to keep it from collapsing as I pushed against the wind and sloshed through puddles (thank you chacos!). When I finally got to my bus stop, the busses were really scarce. One lone bus was sitting empty by the bus shelter and I promptly positioned myself near the door with a few others. I eyed the growing crowd under the shelter suspiciously as we all waited for the bus driver to return. At around 7:00, one hour later, the bus driver showed up and I was suddenly bombarded by a mob of wet, tired people. I grabbed the side of the door and literally pulled myself into the bus. It reminded me of the metro in Egypt, no lines, and no personal space. We crammed about 4 extra people into that tiny little bus. The ride home took another hour. Traffic was so backed up that the bus driver had to keep trying all sorts of different back routes that I had never seen before. The windows kept fogging and the air was musty from all the warm bodies packed in there like sardines.
I was so thankful to get home which was around 8:00pm. It was a long day on my feet and I was actually kind of cold in the rain! I put on comfy pajama pants and a hoodie and snuggled up in my warm little apartment. Yes, that's right a hoodie and pants in the Caribbean… I will truly freeze when I go home for Christmas!
What an adventure…