The heat hits me first as I swelter under the setting sun. Weary, I stumble out of the bright pink tuk-tuk that brought me here. My parents stride ahead, clouds of dusk floating around their feet, as I take in my surroundings. The house stands palatial against the evening sky. Ivory white like an elephant’s tusk, the villa is regal and imposing. Exhausted, I carry my luggage into the airconditioned hallway. Straight ahead I can see The Pitons, St Lucia’s towering twin mountains. In the West, we have the golden arches of McDonald’s, here in St Lucia, so far away from capitalism and commerce, the emerald-green peaks of the Caribbean are the everlasting symbol of freedom and hope. St Lucia understands different values.
That evening, we gather around the pool, like bees to flowers.The setting sun glistens over the infinity pool, which overlooks the never-ending sea. Above the rippling ocean, the violet and rose streaked sky creates a sense of warmth. I watch the slick silhouettes of dolphins cutting through the water like silver knives.
A feeling takes hold of me and I run down the spiral staircase of the house, to the silvery sands below. My bare feet run over the soft, shell-studded beach, down to the blue lapping waves. I roll the hem of my cotton dress up, therefore able to go deeper into the waters. Here I stand, thigh-high in the body of the Caribbean sea. Looking back is the silhouette of the large house that has grand columns and luscious lawns dotted with pineapple trees.
Early the next day, as the cool blue sky is painted golden by the rising sun, we meet our driver outside the house, who will take us to Castries, the capital. We follow the main highway north, taking in the multitude of sights and sounds along the way—harbour towns with ships standing tall against the beautiful blue tropical sky; the overwhelming scent of flowers as we drive past Maranatha Botanic Gardens; the lush thicket of verdant trees that are clustered all over this volcanic island. Finally, the deep, pounding hum of Calypso drumming that emanates from all around, announces to us that we have arrived at our destination—St Lucia’s Carnival. As we wave goodbye to our driver, I begin to feel that someone has hit the fast forward button on my surroundings. The peaceful journey of this morning, through the sleeping, idyllic island, feels light-years away, as I am confronted with all the heat and force of Carnival. The streets erupt with singing and dancing, as feathered and sequinned dancers shimmy around like strutting peacocks, rum-happy locals cheer and clap nod the scent of barbecued food wafts through the air. This island truly has two faces—the silent beauty of this morning has transformed into this vibrant, throbbing energy that will last well into the night. I may be returning home to the grey mundanity of England next week, but just for now, time and place cease to exist. And finally, I understand the words of St Lucia’s most famous poet, Derek Walcott, about his beloved country: “Faced with its beauty, the sigh of history dissolves”.