On Tuesday (after a lot of mishaps and delays) I finally received my last bit of correspondence from the body that awarded my scholarship!! This meant two things:
1. I could finally apply for my student visa; and
2. The DHL delivery guy was very nearly scarred by my happy dance.
A UK Student Visa takes about 15 working days to be processed and time was off the essence. I already knew I wouldn’t make it to London on my desired date but I didn’t need to be eons off. So, I wanted to get to Barbados (where the British High Commission servicing my island is located) as soon as possible to put in my application.
The initial plan was to take the first flight down and the last flight back, booking my appointment for 9:00 AM. I had a change of heart (read: an attack of panic) knowing that only one airline operated from Antigua to Barbados on a Wednesday (well actually, any day which was not a Sunday). The airline is called LIAT which is an acronym for Leeward Islands Air Transport. However, around the region it is also known as Leave Island Any Time, Luggage In Any Terminal and (this one is mine) Late Inept and Terrible). You might be able to tell from the nicknames that this airline isn’t the most reliable of airlines which is ironic because it is THE only airline to fly between some territories. Also, because of operational changes LIAT has been even worse this summer than usual and so my sense of self-preservation said it was best I spent a night and book my appointment the next day.
I hadn’t even been checked in yet before this decision proved to be the right one. The attendant had barely handed me back my passport when a coworker said to her that the 5:30 flight was delayed until 8:30. I asked if there was any way for me to get into Barbados before 9:00 AM (this wasn’t because I needed to get there early at this point but because I didn’t fancy being sat at the airport for three hours) and she was able to book me on a flight leaving at 6:15 which would get to Barbados at 8:20. Basically, had I booked my appointment for 9:00 I’d have missed it. LIAT didn’t see it fit to announce to a waiting departure lounge that my original flight was delayed until what should’ve been fifteen minutes before take off. Long story short my rebooked flight was delayed by half an hour so even after all that, I got into Barbados after 9:00 very thankful that I hadn’t gone with the 9:00 AM appointment.
We took one stop in Dominica, the nature isle of the Caribbean (land of 365 rivers) and let me tell you something – you haven’t lived on the edge until you have landed at Dominica’s airport. There is always a split second when you think ‘I hope this pilot knows what he’s doing else we’ll crash into a mountain’. I didn’t get any photos of the descent because I was too busy hoping the pilot had a good nights sleep. However, lots of cups of coffee, writing and window gazing later we finally landed at the Grantley Adams International Airport in Barbados.
It was interesting returning to Barbados. There was an equal mix of familiarity and newness and it all managed to feel homey yet touristy at the same time. Case in point? There is a new $20 BBDs bill!
I decided that I’d be better off taking public transport from the airport to Bridgetown (the capital city) before making my way on to UWI’s Campus. This is where the familiarity and no luggage came in handy. For $4 BBDS ($2 USD) I was able to use public transport to get to campus. Had I used a taxi it’d have been $53 ($ 26.5 USD). I was able to buy me a blouse with the money I saved. And that was only the money saved on one way of the trip!
I managed to wisely actually put the money I saved on the return trip into back into my account. Somewhere down the line I am going to sink it into coffee or sushi but it feels good to know that I’ve managed to be frugal (possibly for once in my life).
As I walked through Bridgetown I appreciated the things which were the same and the changes.
Cave Shepherd Mall remained the same. I spent many hours in the place lamenting the fact that my student budget meant I couldn’t afford anything I ever wanted to pick up in there. Also, the Barbadian Parliament building remained the same. I also loved that building.
And, yes, as I mentioned some things changed. I saw a sign for a branch of Burger King being opened close to the main bus terminal. There was a subway branch in Bridgetown that wasn’t there when I left. Then, as I walked down Bridgetown minding my own business, I saw this …
Yes, the Payless was definitely new. I saw two more branches before I left and I even popped into the one in Hastings, to see if like Jamaica it was more of a ‘Pay More’ rather than a Payless. The prices seemed reasonable.
I popped into KFC for breakfast (don’t judge) and was pleasantly reminded that I didn’t have to pay for extra packets of ketchup like I do in Jamaica. I avoid KFC in Antigua all together because the only thing I like is the Popcorn chicken which isn’t served here (Franchise people! Get with the times!)
I had many plans for Bridgetown but in the end I got lazy and headed for the bus to take me to Campus. I was getting twitchy from the lack of internet access because I had to turn off my data plan for roaming. Yes, sad I know.
Remember I said you haven’t lived on the edge until you’ve landed in Dominica? Well, you haven’t lived wildly until you’ve taken a private mini bus in Barbados (distinct thank God from the public bus I took from the airport). These buses are called ZRs (because of the letters on the licence plate). ZRs are a trip both literally and figuratively. It first starts off with the fact they manage to fit at least 24 people in a bus that’s supposed to seat 15 persons. When you add that to the break neck speeds they somehow manage to drive and the music blasting so loud you wonder how the drivers hear when the bus stop button is pressed – you are in for a nerve biting ride. When I went to school there the ZRs got annoying really quickly but for a short visit it was one of those familiar things that made me smile.
Once on campus I got some visa things sorted out at the Admin building followed by a very brief walk around.
After I was done with admin stuff I went looking for one of the lecturers I really liked. I found this posted on his office door and laughed so hard. If you haven’t studied law you mightn’t find it funny but god knows I almost stopped breathing.
I also ran into several of my past students from Jamaica (which was amazing!). I am really excited for this new part of their journey and I realized that I miss teaching… I kinda wish I had tutorials to look forward to this year but I guess I can be overly excited about my Thesis. Then, I was able to have a hot dog from the Campus Mart (which was my breakfast almost every day in my first year: topped with ketchup, mayo, mustard, a line of hot sauce, relish and parmesan cheese). The owner remembered me mostly because he spent a lot of time questioning my eating habits during the three years I lived there and also whenever my mother visited she’d take me on epic food shopping jaunts that were probably better suited for a full sized supermarket. These shopping jaunts were so memorable that the very next thing he said to me after ‘Nice to see you again’ was “How’s your mother?”
After buying the hot dog I visited my old Halls of Residence and checked up on our Hall’s dog. That was a major treat for me as it was then I realized that I really had an excellent three years. My classes were just the beginning (or the end – depending on how you looked at it).
Nearing the end of the day I was able to meet up with one of my lovely friends that I met while living on hall. I can’t put into words just how amazingly happy I was to see her. With her sister we wandered around the mall and headed home for dinner and conversation. My time at Barbados may have come to an end but it was plain as day to say that some of the links I made there would continue.
Too soon I had to bid my friends goodbye. The visa application was very, very short and by 9:30 I was on a bus headed to Hastings, Christchurch. While I lived in Barbados I loved hanging out in Hastings because of the beaches and places to eat. I felt like I owed it to myself to check in on my favourite places one more time. So… I got breakfast at KFC (no judging). I loved this KFC… not because of the food but because of the free wifi and the location. I’ll just show you the photos and you’ll easily see what I mean.
After eating, I managed to get some writing in and some all round ‘being lazy’ in before I wandered off to Haagen-Dazs for dessert. For dessert I had coffee with ice-cream. It was my second cup of coffee for the day and I must say the ice-cream narrowly beat the oodles of whip cream in the first.
I had my meals in a weird order because after dessert I headed for lunch. I decided on Mama Mia’s Café because while in Barbados I kept promising myself I’d check it out but I never did. I am happy I made that decision because it was a lovely place to have a Salmon Salad and a couple glasses of wine. I was able to listen to Mariah Carey promise some guy that she’d give her all to have one more night with him while I people watched and burned a bit of time before I needed to head to the airport. If I’m ever back in Barbados I want to try dinner there… possibly on a Monday as apparently they have this unique thing going on:
As I made my way to the bus stop I ran into a friend who’d just moved to Barbados from California after exchanging at UWI a couple years ago. It was one of those perfectly timed things as if I was a second earlier or later I’d have missed her.
It put me in a good mood on the way to the airport. I was able to buy two meals for Chefette (a popular Bajan fast food chain) for my mum and step dad.
In retrospect, the good mood was needed because, well, LIAT struck again. I was scheduled to be home at 8:00 and I didn’t get home until 11:30. I was scheduled to be on a straight flight but my flight stopped in Dominica and Guadeloupe. But that’s a blog for another day….