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Tomatoes vs Lobsters

by Tracy on

You see a few ubiquitous metaphors used to describe the islands of the Caribbean, there's the always cheesy: "string of pearls", or "trail of jewels", and let's not forget the constantly overused: "geographic patchwork quilt", but few, very few in fact, who come here ever see the islands for what they truly are, nobody hardly ever sees beyond the obvious.

I see the islands more as individual members of a large extended family, a family with all the usual disfunction and angst but a family none the less. And just like any big family there are the members who enjoy success, the average Joe's, the near-do-wells and the black sheep. Union island, located near the bottom of the chain just north of Grenada and south of the Tobago Cays, certainly falls into the latter category this family tree.

A bar built on conch shells in Union Island Cruisers and kite surfers make up the bulk of the tourist trade here. It's the kind of place that tends to collect strays, old hippies, retired smugglers and the odd fugitive. Union is tiny, her beaches are meager at best, but the few people who live here are a sturdy, resilient breed. With no paved roads, a ramshackle hotel, and the only known tourist attraction being a bar built on a pile of conch shells, people might think Union has nothing to offer them but they'd be wrong. If you're one of those travelers who enjoys the fringes, who relishes a place that most people will never see, then Union is for you.

From an economic perspective the islands are a reflection of the rest of the world in microcosm. The ebbs and flows of capital and currency, supply and demand, the market forces that drive any place are also found here but if there is one constant of the islands it's this: all things are local. Take eggs for instance, this time of year there simply are none to be found on Grenada, which might seem odd considering this is one of the larger, more prosperous islands in the southern Caribbean. Eggs are a staple on Grenada, and at Christmas time the demand is so high they become like gold; almost impossible to find. So imagine our surprise when Carmen and I went ashore to do some provisioning here on tiny Union, and found the local market fully stocked with eggs!

But all things being local- where there are eggs, you won't find tomatoes, and if you do find them they will come at an exorbitant price. Here on Union, a person can purchase freshly caught, live lobsters for less money than an equal weight of tomatoes. The ever present "boat boys" arrive almost daily to show off their catch and to haggle over price. Fresh local fish, conch just retrieved from its shell, the boat boys are happy to deliver, but they are slick, sharp hawkers so be sure you know your basic marine fish species lest you be sold a red snapper that is in fact a scarlet parrot fish.

Our second guest of the season has joined us here in Union Island, our Swiss friend Maya, who bravely landed at the local airstrip yesterday via island commuter. We'll be continuing our trek north up through the Tobago Cays- more posts and photos to come: we are feeling good!

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