Recently, I had the opportunity to travel to St. Lucia with my mom, Ellie. We were invited by a high school friend of Mom’s who has been going there for many years. Mom and her friend traveled to Europe during college even though they attended different colleges. They’re lifelong friends who traveled to Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay later in life.
I couldn’t help but think of “Mary Poppins,” one of my favorite childhood movies, throughout our trip. I loved that film — I fondly remember the umbrella, the rain and the songs. I can type “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” by memory. Disney released the film in 1964, setting the record for 13 Academy Award nominations.
For fans of the movie, let me explain “tuppence.” It’s a British pre-decimal two-sided coin called a “2 pence.” Confusing? Yes. Familiar? Maybe.
Before we left, we learned that St. Lucia is one of the islands near Barbados, Grenada and Martinique. Creole is the native language, as often heard in New Orleans and Baton Rouge, La. I learned a few phrases such as “messy” for “thank you” in lieu of “merci” — sounds a bit like some other word blending I remember!
There are approximately 170,000 people on the island. Nearly everything is imported, including livestock, medicine, cars, and tires. The cars arrive at the port from Japan, Europe and the U.S. The most popular brands are Toyota, Honda and Audi. For locals, one car costs about $27,000. There are used cars, tire shops and Hertz. Gasoline is imported and is roughly $6 per gallon. They reuse scrap metal and export it along with bananas and spices. There’s no recycling in St. Lucia because the recyclables are exported to China. GE appliances, KitchenAid cookware are imported, too.
Tourism is the main industry, and we met people from Canada, Great Britain and the U.S. There’s a workers’ union, yet no minimum wage, so employers pay whatever they choose. Therefore, wages are low and workers are fired on a whim by the employer. There’s a contrast between the wealth and the poverty.
On the other hand, local employees save every penny, every dollar, every tip, and their wages. Like most countries around the world, local markets spill over with fresh fruit, jewelry, local coffee, trinkets, spices and clothing. I’ve bargained for items in Arab marketplaces in Jerusalem as well as Mexico, Spain and Jamaica. My mom is well traveled and more skilled in the bargaining game, so I followed her lead.
In St. Lucia, there’s a Mormon church and an Anglican church, but not a synagogue. Public school is compulsory from kindergarten through high school and there are private Catholic schools. High school graduates typically attend college either in Jamaica, England, Cuba or the U.S. The best career options are law, sales and medicine because there’s a high demand for these professions. St. Lucia has two hospitals and numerous medical clinics.
My mom and I saw sparrows, doves, salamanders and mites. Several days in a row, I saw a pair of purple doves. I waited for the partridge in a pear tree. There were black and calico cats everywhere. On the first day, it actually rained cats and dogs. Local animals are pigs, snakes and ... cobra. When we traveled through a small part of the rainforest, we saw palm trees and banana trees.
Every day on the trip, I took pieces of bread and fed the birds. It reminded me of Mary Poppins, since feeding the birds was part of the original movie score. The songs stick in my mind every day. I laughed every day during this adventure.
Travel is a learning experience in many ways. I always welcome the chance to travel with my mother. It was the trip of a lifetime. As we flew home to Colorado, I clicked my ruby slippers three times. I know in my heart that there’s no place like home.
Julie Richman is a freelance writer, project manager and consultant who has lived in Colorado Springs for 21 years. Send your guest columns for print consideration to the editor at firstname.lastname@example.org.