Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Pseudo-Artistic Interlude

The Real Austrian Embassy is still being decorated and at the moment I have a thing for motivational crêpe. Quotes and stuff. So I made these two things. They're not very good, because I'm not very patient. But I like what they say, so here they are. 

 What is this paper towel you speak of?

And to use silver metallic marker on light background is to make shirt illegible.

I changed my mind. 

I am good at this. 

Monday, July 28, 2014

Raspberry Cheese Sandwich

The first list I want to share is the one with the food and drinks, because, usually, these things are the most acutely felt in their absence. Getting used to a new diet, not having access to one's favourite food, etc... those things can get to you. And it's not for nothing that food plays such an important role in culture, in society and in our own memories and sense of identity. 

Here goes: 

--- I want to bathe/roll in it whenever I get access to it again.

Raspberries. Fresh. Lots. 
Cheese - hard cheese and soft cheeses, goat cheese and sheep cheese, all the cheese! Specifically: Camembert, Steirerkas, Rotes Schaf, Vorarlberger Bergkäse, Bonbel, ...heaven.
Bread. Real bread, that is. Made of non-wheat whole grain flour, with seeds and nuts and tons of other healthy stuff inside. Specifically: Dachsteinbrot. Oh my gods... I can smell it right now! 

--- I'm okay without it, but whenever I happen to have a chance, I'll enjoy it. 

Grandma's food, mom's food and Peter's food. Just anything they cook. 
   (esp: Marillenknödel, Kaiserschmarrn, Palatschinken, Grenadiermarsch, Strudl und Buidl)
Strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, cherries, sour cherries, gooseberries. All fresh. 
Apples, pears, plums, apricots, peaches, nectarines - from the farmers' market!
Rhubarb, in tart or in pie or on a cake or as a compote or as a jam. 
Leberkäsesemmel, mit Gurkerl. 
Raspberry and lemon juice, elderberry juice, cloudy apple juice. 
Zanoni ice cream and Kurt frozen yogurt. 
Sonnentor tea, Wiener Melange, Weihnachtspunsch (cherry vanilla... mmm...)
Sauerkraut, Viennese potato salad, beetroot salad, cornichons. 
Pizza, because it's just not the same here. 
Hugo, Weißer Spritzer, Hemingway Special at Kruger's. 

--- Oh, right, that exists too! Yeah, I'll have one. 

Fresh mushrooms. 
Apfelstrudel with vanilla sauce. 
Maoam, Milka chocolate, chocolate mousse. 

Local substitutes that are keeping me sane for the while (including affordable imported goods). 

Bananas, papaya, cantaloupe, black plums. 
Cucumbers, green peppers, broccoli. 
Arizona Iced Tea (sorry). 
Grapefruit juice, Lychee juice, Orange J. 
Dhalpourie roti with aloo, channa, bodi and pumpkin. 
Mt St Benedict Yogurt. 
Corn soup. 

I have to go get something to eat now, this list made me  v e r y  hungry. 
Not to self: don't write about food on an empty stomach!

Back to overview

Absence Makes The Heart Grow Fonder

In two weeks, it will be a full year since I left Austria. I've never been gone this long before, not in one go. I've been gone for months and back for a bit and gone for months again, but this is the first time that I'll have been outside not just Austria but Europe as a whole for a consecutive 365 days. I don't know about you, but I find that pretty exciting. 

What I want to make now is a list. A list of stuff I miss. 

Of course, I'm not exactly representative of the population of the country, but we can still have a look at "things an Austrian misses when away for a long time." In a way, I feel, that's like looking at Austria itself, but just the things that make it special - at least to me. All the things I can see/do/eat/drink/experience there but can't find here in Trinidad and Tobago because the climate is different, because the culture is different, because the infrastructure is different, etc. Or maybe, in the case of certain foods and drinks, I could find them but I can't afford them because imported things are expeeensive. 

No matter what angle you choose to look at it, there are things there that are not here and I want to talk about them. I feel we should organize this, though, so I'm going to give you categories and an urgency-meter.

We'll start out with a list of lists, which you can then click to see the lists themselves... if you want, that is. 

Food and Drinks 
Urgency levels:
--- I want to bathe/roll in it whenever I get access to it again.
--- I'm okay without it, but whenever I happen to have a chance, I'll enjoy it. 
--- Oh, right, that exists too! Yeah, I'll have one. 
Local  substitutes that are keeping me sane for the while. 

Urgency levels: 
--- I'm going to go there straight from the airport, I don't care if I arrive at 5AM or 11PM!!! 
--- Depending on whether I'll have time, I'll try to swing by and spend some time. 
--- If you want to take me there, I'll be glad to go with you.
Local substitutes that are keeping me sane for the while. 

Urgency levels: 
--- I feel the absence like a phantom limb. Literal, physical pain. 
--- I wish this were possible here, but it won't kill me that it's not. 
--- I'd almost forgotten, but now that I'm reminded I kind of want it.
Local substitutes that are keeping me sane for the while. 

Feel free to interpret those lists as wishlists! 


Thursday, July 24, 2014

I'm not an artist.

Compared to the room where I paint, normal air smells like boiled potatoes. 


Monday, July 21, 2014

Flowers, Parrots and Pommeracs.

The Botanical Gardens in Kingstown are among the oldest in the Western Hemisphere (a lot of people say they are the oldest, but I haven't seen a confirmation of this so I'm not going that far). If you click the name right here in this paragraph, a new tab will pop up with BGCI's information on the gardens, that's Botanic Gardens Conservation International. I just got distracted from writing this by browsing through their website, it's pretty cool. 

I included the link so I wouldn't have to bore you with history here on the blog (even though I really enjoy boring you), but there's one thing we have to mention. 

Remember Mutiny on the Bounty? Maybe you've seen the film (one of many), maybe you've read the book (one of many), maybe you've studied the actual event (just the one) in school or our of personal interest. You should have. If you haven't, well, I don't know how that's possible. Let me know if you've never heard about this ever, because that'd be kind of impressive. 

So aaaanyway, that same dude, Captain Bligh, who was mutineered against by his crew when they were Tahiti, he went there again and then made it back and all the way to St Vincent and introduced the breadfruit plant there in 1793. All the breadfruit on the island is said to derive from the ones brought on that original shipment and some of the breadfruit trees in the gardens are actually the. original. ones! How cool is that?! History in action. 

Also, flowers: 

This plant is the one you saw in the hiking trail plants post, but green side up and not dried yet. 

The botanical gardens, aside from walkways among different kinds of palm trees and interesting other trees and flowers, also host a bird sanctuary for the St Vincent Parrot, aka Amazona Guildingii, the country's national bird. They're pretty. But they're also very loud. 

Last but not least - a shocker!!!

How long have I lived in Trinidad now? I don't know. You tell me. The point is, quite a while. There's a fruit, the pommerac, which grows here and is very popular both fresh and in the form of chow. However, here's the shocker, I'd never tried it. What?!

Well, yes, it's the truth. Until i went to the botanical gardens in Kingstown, St Vincent, I'd never eaten a pommerac, even though you get this everywhere here in T'dad. It's been rectified. I tried it, I even picked the fruit off the tree myself. So we're all good, we can calm down now. 

This fruit has been in St Vincent since all the way back in 1791, when it was brought in by the then-curator Dr Anderson. If you don't know the pommerac, maybe you know the plum rose or the water apple or the mountain apple or Malay apple or ball guava or Otaheite cashew (Otaheite being an old and no longer used translation for Tahiti) or rabotel or pomarrosa or... or... or..! This thing has many names. I call it yummy. 

Finally, after over a month, this is the last entry I wanted to write about my time in St Vincent, which, thanks to Carl, I enjoyed immensely. Here are all of them. 

Now we can  f i n a l l y  move on! 

The King's Town

Kingstown is ... 

... the capital of St Vincent and the Grenadines. 
... located in the south-western corner of the island. 
... quaint, all around walk-able and surprisingly clean. 
... inhabited by around 20,000 to 25,000 people (OMG so tiny!). 
... full of markets: fish, fruit, vegetables, art, and of course souvenirs. Because: 
... a major cruise ship destination. 
... a town with three cathedrals: Catholic, Anglican and Methodist.
    You will automatically know which one is which, by just looking at their architectural style. 
... referred to as the "City of Arches."
... a town with three main central streets: Bay, Middle and Back. No getting lost there. 
... overlooking the Caribbean Sea. 
... full of cobbled streets that let your feet feel the history. 
... home to 17 schools, one college and a UWI Open Campus. 
... surrounded by hills and mountains. 
... almost 300 years old and the area was first settled by the French. 
... cute and pretty. 

The next picture is not a nice one like the ones before and it commemorates my one big WTF?!-moment. I literally stopped in my tracks in the middle of the street and I had to take this picture: it shall motivate us all to do so many good things that we obliterate any negative news that ever comes out of our country ever again. Because, dear fellow Austrians, our reputation precedes us and it seems it's not a good one. 

They were all nice to me anyway. 

Bestest Most Prettiest View

Fort Charlotte.
No words. 
Pictures suffice. 

St Vincent and Mustique, rain over the sea.

In there are paintings and historic information boards.

Down there used to be a leprosy colony.


Drops of rain. Rays of sunshine. Light and sea.

Astonishingly beautiful. 
Then again, it's so easy to impress me... 

Nature is a Spa II

Jump from day two to day one and now we're on day three of my trip to St Vincent. Another spa day. That was necessary and well deserved after the hike and even then I still worked for it. Yay for deserved relaxation! 

This time I went to Young Island. I'd heard that there was a ferry and that it was free, but I still wanted to see if I could just swim across instead of taking the boat. Another one of those moments where I had to do something because I needed to prove to the world (really, myself) that I was able to do it. But worry not, it's not a long swim, as you can see in the first and second pictures. One is Young Island from my hotel, the other is towards my hotel from the island. 

These pictures were taken... 

...on different days and with different phones.

I had to swim diagonally, because there was a surprisingly strong current just under the surface of the water, pulling in the opposite direction as you'd assume from seeing the wavelets. It's the tide pushing and pulling through the little channel. 

When I swam across, the tide was low and the sun was high and so was I. High on life! I was happy I'd made the swim across, even though I just said it wasn't that far, I loved the white-ish sand and the postcard-quality water and the fact that there was nobody else there. There's a hotel and some employees walked back and forth between the different bungalows and to one side of the beach the ferry operator sat in a little hut with a security guy. But nobody was on the beach itself. I was completely by myself there. 

These pictures were taken later that day, when I went back across again for just five minutes with Carl, because I hadn't been able to take pictures when I was there earlier. First, because my camera was in Trinidad and my phone had died the previous day. Second, because I swam across, so no matter what I wouldn't have been able to bring anything. That's why the shadows are longer and the water isn't as clear and sparkly, simply because the sun's shining at a much lower angle already. 

I hit land just next to that little cabin thingie in the water and immediately started giggling. Out of sheer excitement! It had been ages since I'd been on a beach that nice and it was exactly what I'd been hoping to find in St Vincent. Had I not been introduced to Carl by Clevon and had the awesome opportunity to experience all the great adventures I did, this is where I would have spent my time: Pack the kindle, the hook and yarn, a bottle of water, a little money for a fruit punch or a juice... hop on the ferry... enjoy the beach by myself all day every day... hop on the ferry... sleep. Yes. 

What I got was better, of course, but I did make the most of the morning I spent over on Young Island. I lay back in the sand and closed my eyes for a little while, soaking up the sunshine and relaxing. I swam and floated around in the turquoise clear waters around the cabin/hut. I exfoliated my whole body with the salty sand I was sitting on - my skin hadn't been that soft all year, I swear. Went back in the water to rinse off the sand and float on the tiny waves some more. That completed my St Vincent Spa Experience, first the massage and then the body scrub. And all free, because even if you don't swim the ferry still doesn't cost anything. 

Then I walked around the beach to explore and I found Sebastian! Yes, Arielle's friend! 

When I was there alone, as the tide was low, these rocks here were almost completely outside the water, above the surface. And they were full of teeny tiny hermit crabs (and by tiny I mean tiny, like the size of my thumbnail) and some other crabs, Sebastian, and a bunch of sea urchins. I spent probably fifteen minutes just crouching next to the rocks and observing the little creatures scuttle around. So cute! I even picked one up (another prove-that-I-can-do-it thing, because I'm not not scared of creepy crawleys), but he didn't like it very much so I put him right back down with his buddies. Later, when I came back with Carl, the tide had come in and the rocks were covered in water, so I couldn't introduce him to Sebastian. Would have been cool. 

Want a relaxing spa day to take some years off your face and body? Young Island carries that name for a reason, I say. 

Then I took the ferry back and had to sit on the plain wooden bench instead of the nice cushion, because my bathing suit was all wet. Still worth it! 

Nature is a Spa I

Disclaimer: Not only are these posts coming out super late now - weeks after my actual trip to St Vincent - they're also not in chronological order. The hike up La Soufriere happened on Tuesday, my second day there. What I'm about to tell you now, that's from my actual first day in St Vincent, Monday. Just before the last post, the pirates thing, which also happened that day. 

After arriving and settling in at the hotel, swimming and crocheting a bit, sorting through the OMG-where-is-my-camera drama and the what-kind-of-power-outlet-is-this trouble, and a nap, Carl picked me up again and we went to explore the leeward side of the island. 

Quick drive-plus-sight-explanations through Kingstown, up the leeward highway, through little towns/villages (everything is tiny, so I'm not sure how to distinguish between those two), we went all the way to the Wallilabou Heritage Park. That's a small place, where for 5 XCD (not much at all) you can use their changing and toilet/shower facilities and then enjoy the little waterfall and semi-natural pool. From the bar area you walk down a flight of stone stairs and it takes you straight here: 

The fall is natural and, originally, so was the pool. However, the pool was more like a little stream, so somebody placed a few rocks to keep the water and dam it up a little bit, so there's now a shallow pool that you can float around in. It's never deeper than, well... let's say tall people don't have to worry about frozen delicate parts. The water still flows off, so it's not stagnant or anything, but they did create a little more comfortable spot than you would have had if it was just the fall and a stream. 

What this means, straightforward, is that St Vincent is a place where you can get an exquisite shoulder massage for only 5 local dollars! 

Carl and I carefully made our way into the water, which turned from frighteningly cold to nicely cool within about 10 seconds of submersion. Then we took turns standing under the fall and letting the water beat work/university/flight/get-up-early/drive/etc tension out of our shoulders and necks. Heavenly, seriously. 

This is what it looks like from the deck, where they have tables and chairs and sell cold drinks. Perfect spot for crocheting, if that's what your looking for! You can see the steps, the pool would be to the left, just out of the frame of this picture. Where the other steps are, there's a second entrance into the little park. The other side, where we entered, has a parking lot. And the facilities. 

It's a simple little thing, but really nice.
Boring word, I know, but it just describes the place perfectly. 
This was a great place to start my time in St Vincent. 


Friday, July 11, 2014

It's CAPTAIN isaontheway!

One of the most famous things that bring tourists to St Vincent is the bay at Wallilabou, because a Pirates of the Caribbean movie was shot there. That, of course, means that I had kind of heard something of the sort, but had no idea it was really true until Carl decided "Let's go and I'll show you the set!"

To visit the place, you drive out of Kingstown on the leeward side of the island and just keep heading north (for quite a while) until you reach the place. There are signs. 

The pirates who live there now are terribly frightful and immediately hanged both of us. 

Luckily, I came back out of the coffin as a zombie and we were able to visit the site. 

Back to the truth: 

Honestly, the film set is not very interesting unless you're in a good mood and willing to construct the interesting stuff yourself, in your mind (in a non-crazy way). If you've seen the first PotC movie, you'll recognize the bay as the place where CAPTAIN Jack Sparrow quite literally hit the docks in the very beginning, stepping off the mast of the little ship that sank its way into the bay. There's the natural rock formation on the northern edge of the bay where the three dead pirates were dangling in the movie and there are a few (read: two) pretty rundown buildings, but that's pretty much it. Inside one of the houses you can see prints of the shooting schedule, parts of the storyboard and pictures from the set. They also have a few items hanging or lying around that a die-hard fan of PotC would probably call memorabilia. The other building houses a little restaurant and there are pirate dolls and flags everywhere. That's pretty much it. 

There are very few people there, which is why nobody cared that instead of my jeans and top I was pretty much just wearing a towel (because we'd been swimming before and changing back from my swimsuit into my clothes was just too much work, ugh). 

If we review the set by quoting the movie, here's the conversation: 

          "You are, without doubt, the worst [film set] I've ever heard of." 
          "But you have heard of me." 

On the plus side, you don't pay for visiting the place and the afternoon sea looks gorgeous, because the bay faces west and therefore everything turns silver when sunset approaches. 

The way we made the visit fun despite the set not being exactly amazing or thrilling or anything like that, was by hanging ourselves the moment we got there. For photos! Not for real. Then we just focused on how pretty the bay is, because it really is extremely pretty. How many times have I repeated that now? We had a quick look at all the pictures and trinkets, peeked into the restaurant/bar and then all attention was turned back towards the silver sea, the glistening surface and tranquility of the water, the sea urchins on the rocks just under the surface, etc... until we left. 

To make the visit truly worthwhile, make sure you walk barefoot a bit and touch as many things as possible. That way, by sheer statistical probability, you increase your likelihood of touching something that Johnny Depp touched when he was there. So, basically, you'll have touched him

I did that and, therefore, I no longer am isaontheway.

I am now, by proxy, CAPTAIN isaontheway!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Easy Peasy

We strolled up the side of the volcano, taking some nice pictures on the way, and when we made it to the top it was so anticlimactic (See what I did there?) that the only thing keeping me from falling asleep out of sheer boredom was to work on my latest crochet project. 

Easy peasy! 

The End!

Yeah... Obviously, that is not the truth.

Climbing La Soufriere was one of the hardest things I have ever done and actually making it to the top made me feel like the King of the world, instead of just the King of The Real Austrian Embassy

I would never ever have been able to make it up there on my own or with a group of people walking up with an official guide from some tourist agency (on account of how much I hate holding people back, I wouldn't even have started because I would have known I'd slow a group down). I am the luckiest person in the world, because I have friends, like Clevon, who present me to people, like Carl, whose people skills are so exceptional that they are able to get me up that volcano. I could lie about this, or not tell you anything, but you're so used to my unnecessary honesty and frequent TMI-cringe-inducing confessions, that I'm going to keep that up now. (I love to make you cringe.) 

For me, personally, the hardest parts were the first quarter and the last, umm, maybe 10 percent. The path in the beginning is very deceiving, it makes you think it's all a walk in the park - literally - but then you see the first steps and you remember that one word from the national park's information website for hikers: hard. I'm not in shape, like, at all. Remember all the times I've bragged about what a granny I am? Well, it's not an exaggeration. So once we were on the steps and all the power had to come from my thighs I became slower and slower until I had to sit down for some water and some calm breathing. This next picture is from the dry river bed, which marks about a quarter of the way.

There are more steps after that river bed but then after a while the path evens out a little bit and while you still ascend, it's now just walking upwards instead of actually climbing steps. That's the halfway mark. The next picture, that was the first time I smiled a real smile since the beginning of the trail. I was feeling better there. And I went steadily uphill (See what I did there, again?). 

Look at that view! Can you see how far up we had already reached? That's the coastline and the sea down there. It is one of the most incredible things to be hiking up and up and up and then you turn around and you see the progress you've made... nothing motivates like that. You can see, however, that I'm pretty red in the face and even on the chest and arms. That's what I look like when I'm exercise-tired. But we kept going. (Duh. It would have been pure foolishness to turn around at that point, now that we'd come so far and it was finally getting easier.) 

These two pictures were taken just before and upon reaching Jacob's Well. We took another little break there. I pretty much spent the whole hike up negotiating with myself. "Another 100 steps and you can take a breather." "Make it to that rock up there and you can sit down." "At Jacob's Well you get some water." And so on. Carl was helping a lot, as I said before. And he helped even more when he figured out that the best way to get me to accomplish something was through telling me I couldn't do it. A good 60 percent of the success of making it to the edge of the crater came purely from spite.

This event is brought to you by Gatorade Orange and Mountain Top Water. Also, focus fail. 

And here is my favourite picture of the mountain master himself, explaining how these ravines we kept seeing on our way up had formed and what materials could be seen on the sides of the crack. Carl P, seismic nerd, DJ and brilliant imitator of the movie trailer voice.

And then we reached the top!

Champions, unedited picture.

This now is the first picture I posted to Facebook and sent to my family to share my excitement about the volcano hike with everyone. Except for my grandma, she got the crochet picture, because I thought that would make her happy. (My cousin sent me an exact quote of her reaction words in an email, it worked!) 

This picture has been enhanced, obviously. But not much. The most important thing has not been tampered with: it's really me and I'm really on top of the crater (and visibly exhilarated about it).

And now, just for the fun of it, my own personal favourite picture of me (just due to the fact that it really caught my essence and thus shows my real and true self) and the obligatory moustache photo - just so we can all be sure that it really is me. Because, who else would do this?

Me on the volcano!!!                                                            Moustache.

Why not end the post where it said "The End"?
Because that wasn't the whole story. 

The truth can be seen as embarrassing, and yet I'm going to go a little further even. I'm going to go all the way here. You'll see why. 

The websites will tell you that the duration of the hike up is two hours. We made it in four. The first quarter was hard because of all the steps and I thought I couldn't do it and I almost said I wanted to turn around and not try anymore. The last ten percent were hard because the adrenaline, which was put into circulation in my veins due to all the brilliant scenery around me and the fact that I was doing better, ebbed off again as we approached the finish. The weakness from the very beginning came back; at one point, I almost fell asleep on the ground. In general, I had to sit down a lot of times because the exercise exhausted me so much I got dizzy and couldn't feel my arms and legs properly, especially in the beginning and towards the end, when we were literally 10 metres from the crater's edge. I almost threw up a couple of times, because of that same dizziness (but I didn't). I cried twice (yep). I must have apologized to Carl for my weakness and slowness and for feeling bad and for getting dizzy, etc, about 150 times. Probably more. However, I do not see this as embarrassing. Not at all. I'm not a physically strong person and I never claimed I was, so, if anything, all that shirt I just told you makes my reaching the top even more impressive - and it only took me twice the time accomplished and experienced hikers need. 

Do it like Carl and be proud of me. 
Or at least fake it, eh. 

The point of all this is: I made it, so you can make it too. 
In case you weren't sure. 
You'll do great. 

And, given the circumstances, I'll say that I did too. 

Back to all the St Vincent posts.

Monday, July 7, 2014

From Jungle to Cloud Forest

When I showed you what the ascent to La Soufrière is like, I promised pictures of the vegetation. I never promised pictures of me, so shut up right now. 

The flora is incredibly diverse on the way up the mountainside, it literally changes to indicate how far you've come - the lower the plants, the higher yourself. As in elevation, or feet/metres above sea level. Not Towelie-high. In the other post you saw that there are different degrees of steepness (path to steps to somewhere in between those two and back to path, but steeper than in the beginning). Now, here are the pretty flowers that adorn that way and signal the slow but steady transition from typical tropical wet forest to what I'm told is called a cloud forest. 

When you start out you're in a forest. The kind anyone would recognize as such. These leaves turn upside down when the weather changes, so people know when the rainy season begins. Also if you make them into a tea they help you fight off fever.

Cute curly things. 

Different kinds of ferns. 


Pretty bell flower with clouds in the background. It wasn't actually that dark, that's just how the phone reacted to the lighting situation. 

Now you can see that stuff really doesn't rise far off the ground anymore, but this is still officially considered a forest.


And this is the most resilient of them all, growing right on the edge.

Go back to see the way up the mountain. 
Go here to face the truth about yours truly. 

And once again: Go to St Vincent!