Tuesday, May 8, 2018

So Your Character is From Grenada ... Featuring Maxine @ The Rogue Storyteller

It's time for this week's So Your Character is ... Post! This is a weekly segment where I interview lovely volunteers from around the world to give you a firsthand account of being a citizen of their respective country or having a disability. I'm hoping to encourage international diversity, break stereotypes, and give writers a crash course on how to write a character from these different places on our planet. If you haven't checked out last week's  So Your Character is from Argentina ... be sure to hop on over there and give it a read!

Disclaimer: The content below may be culturally shocking to some. Each of these posts is as uncensored as possible to preserve the authenticity of the cultures of each of the interviewees.

(None of the Images are Mine)

Hello there! I’m Maxine and I’ve been running a book blog called The Rogue Storyteller for a little over a year now. I’m in the final year of my pre-veterinary medicine program (and then have four more years of veterinary medicine) and really want to work in wildlife rehabilitation. I’ve lived on the Caribbean island of Grenada since I was two weeks old and it’s the only home I’ve ever known. In my free time, I like to write, read, and play my ukulele. 

What do you feel is unique to your country? Landmarks? Celebrations?
Grenada is 22 miles long, about 12 miles wide and 12 degrees north of the equator. We are a tri-island state, meaning two nearby islands (Carriacou and Petit Martinique) are dependent on Grenada. The island is home to approximately 100,000 people, 100+ bird species including our endemic Grenada dove, the Mona monkey, armadillos, manicou, turtles, and more. Grenada is known as the Isle of Spice due to our plentiful spices and for many years we were the number one global supplier of nutmeg. 

Grenada is truly beautiful and untouched. We don’t really have any specific tourist areas or events and so when you visit Grenada, you will be truly immersed in our culture, whether you come for Carnival or to visit our beautiful beaches and waterfalls (but you have to leave your hotel). We also produce the best chocolate you will ever taste, from cocoa pod to packaging, and we’ve transported it around the globe by sailboat. We’ve also won a prize, including eleven gold medals, every year for the last nineteen years at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show.

Tell me about your country's environment. What are some of your favorite places?
Grenada is a volcanic island with the calm Caribbean Sea on the west coast and the rougher Atlantic on the east. We have two seasons, wet and dry- so it rains half of the year and not the other half. There is a hurricane season but we are just below the hurricane belt and tend not to be hit by major storms. We’re known for our beautiful reefs and our coral restoration project in the Underwater Sculpture Park, where you can dive or snorkel. 

Hiking up Mount Qua Qua in Grand Etang rainforest is also breathtaking. Around the month of May, you can visit Levera beach in the north to see the endangered leatherback turtles come onto land to lay their eggs at night and you may also see some baby turtles hatching. Grenada is a developing country but you cannot build above the height of a coconut tree (six stories) and we have very little light pollution so the stars are always shining brightly. We also have the best sunsets I have ever seen in my life.

Tell me about your country's food. What are some of your favorite dishes?
Our national dish is called oil down and it’s like a stew with lots of provisions, meat, and vegetables in it. I personally really love stew chicken, fried breadfruit, Lambie waters (which is a broth made with lambie/conch) and aloo pie. 

We also have the sweetest plantains and bananas, as well as many tropical fruits you wouldn’t find in an American supermarket, such as golden apple, cashew (not the nut), breadfruit, wax apple, damsel, and skin-up.

Tell me about any different speech patterns in your country. Slang? Idioms? Words for things such as “biscuits” instead of “cookies”?
English is the official language but the island does have its own dialect and it’s not uncommon to find people who speak French patois, a variation of French (historically, the island was controlled by the British and the French, whose rule went back and forth seven times each). We have many phrases I’ve never heard outside of the Caribbean so I’ll just give a few examples: If I say, “I gone to come back” or “I’m going down the road”, don’t wait for me to come back. I may have driven an hour away or gone out and you probably won’t see me again for the day or even the week. If you’re nosy then you’re “too maco”. A friend of mine has also contributed “tete prap”, meaning bra. 

Describe briefly a regular day in your country.
We have a major fishing village called Guoyave and fishermen go out early in the morning and you can buy fresh fish right off the docks in town. Traffic is relatively low but it is at its worse around 8am when people are going to work or school, 12pm when workers go home for lunch, and then 4:30/5pm when people go home for the day.

For me, my day is mostly going to university and sitting in class all day and then studying all evening. But if I have a day off and don’t spend it at home, I like taking my dogs to the beach for an early morning walk and then getting a fresh mango smoothie on my way home. I may also go out to lunch with friends, go hiking or visit a waterfall.

How does your country compare to others, especially the States since my audience is primarily American? Environmentally? Politically? Culturally?
It is customary to greet everyone you see, even if you do not know them (though that is probably unlikely as it is a small country). Respect is a very big thing for us and part of that is saying good morning/night and making conversation with people. We run on island time and if an event says it starts at 6pm, you can plan to get there for 7pm and still be early. We have a prime minister and not a president and you have to be eighteen to vote in elections, get your driver’s license and to legally be able to purchase alcohol. We celebrate our Carnival in early August, a time to celebrate our country’s culture and history. The carnival event pictured below is from Pretty Mas, where people dress up in bright costumes and parade through town.

Briefly describe three of your country’s historical events that you feel are important.
1. Fedon’s Rebellion occurred in 1795, which was almost a successful slave uprising but they couldn’t gain control of the capital of St. George’s and ultimately were re-enslaved by the British. Slavery was later abolished in 1834.

2. Grenada gained its independence from Britain in 1974, which was a very big deal as there was a lot of tense politics going on at the time with our political parties and throughout the other Caribbean islands as well.

3. In 2004, Grenada was hit by Hurricane Ivan, which destroyed much of the island and left many without electricity or water for months. The hurricane wiped out our nutmeg plantations and other farm lands, taking away the island’s main source of income. I think this was a big turning point for us as we then turned more towards tourism and while we still produce a lot of spices, it no longer makes up the majority of our economy. 

What are some stereotypes about your country that irk you? What media portrays your country badly be it a movie, a book, or a TV show?
Grenada hasn’t had a lot of media portrayal in books, movies or TV shows but there are a few things I’ve heard that are just ridiculous. It’s not uncommon for me to tell someone I’m from Grenada and they’ll ask if we have internet. That is honestly one of the most common questions I get- if we have internet, cars, etc. and let’s just clear this up once and for all. Yes, we do. I may be able to count the number of traffic lights on the entire island on one hand but we do have internet, cell phones, stores, a cinema and whatever else you can think of. 

What media portrays your country well be it a movie, a book, or a TV show?
Again, we haven’t had a lot of entertainment coverage. However, there are a number of Caribbean authors such as Grenadian native, Richardo Keens-Douglas, who have written many books set in Grenada and other islands. Many of these books are about the island’s folklore, such as the story of La Diablesse, a woman who wears a wide-brimmed hat and has one human foot and the hoof of a cow, who lures men away from town and leaves them disoriented and alone to drown or die.

Who are your top three favorite fictional characters native to your country in books, movies, or shows?
Again, very little fictional coverage of Grenada but I do love Anansi the Spider, who originates from Ghana but is a popular children’s book character here in the West Indies. Stories often end with "This is my story which I have related. If it be sweet, or if it be not sweet, take some elsewhere, and let some come back to me.” Anansi’s stories have morphed and been retold many times and so there are many variations of his adventures, making for the perfect stories.

Thank you, Maxine, for this very informative post! Come back next week for a post all about Haiti!

Are you interested in participating in this project? Check out the tips archive to see which countries have been filled and if you're from a different country, shoot me an email at howellvictoriagrace(a)gmail(dot)com. I'm especially looking for Cuba, Venezuela, Switzerland, Zimbabwe, and Iraq.

Do you have any characters from Grenada? Did this inspire you to write a Grenadine character or set a book in Grenada? Are from this or been to this country and you have further input? Feel free to share! Do you have any questions for Maxine? Be sure to thank her!

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