This past week was Carnival in Grenada. The festivities started Sunday, and everything shut down Monday and Tuesday for the celebrations.
One of the main reasons we came back so early was to experience Carnival, even though we didn’t know that much about it. One of the things that I’ve found here is that it can be difficult to get a concrete answer about much of anything. You can ask five people about the same thing, and they’ll all give you a slightly different response. For instance, the signage for the outdoor movie we went to see last Sunday said that it started at 6:00. One of our friends called down to the same place and they told her it didn’t start until 6:45. Anyway, we kept hearing about “J’ouvet”, which (depending on the source) is one of the first big kick-offs to Carnival (although, according to the Internet, there’s some other cool stuff that happens first). J’ouvet starts early in the morning the Monday of Carnival, with traditions harkening back to the seventeen-and-eighteen-hundreds. Again, depending on who you ask, the traditions and costumes mean different things.
Last Sunday was the open-air movie, and after it 2 of our couple friends – Courtney and Brian and Todd and Becca – confirmed that they were up for going to J’ouvert. After compiling advice from various sources, we decided to head down to J’ouvert around 11:00 pm. We were told that there was a rooftop bar near St. George’s that we could watch the revelry from, but we would need to go early, because they wouldn’t let us in if we got dirty (a big part of J’ouvert involves oil and paint). We were told that it would be a good idea to get there between 10 PM and midnight before any activity began, and to not head down to the street until we were ready to join in/go home. Averaging out every vague answer we got as to the actual start time of J’ouvet, we were figuring on around a 3 AM go time.
We all changed into clothes that we didn’t care about and headed towards St. George’s. We had been given a tip on a spot to park that would allow us to leave once J’ouvert started, so we parked and walked about a mile to the rooftop bar. We had been told there would be a 45 EC cover to get into the bar, but apparently we were so early (at around midnight at this point), that they weren’t charging yet. This – paired with the fact that we had seen no one in the streets and there was almost no one in the bar – should have been our first clue that we were in for a long night.
Thankfully, the bar was great. It was right by the marina, located in the same building that the “Columbian Trade Show” show has its, well, trade show in.
Side note: Columbian Trade Show is a very bizarre television program we discovered when staying in Mom & Dad M’s hotel room that is essentially a infomercial, but instead of ordering stuff directly from the TV, you head down to their “trade show” to pick it up in person. They have part of an open-air mall rented out for this purpose. There was a hilarious video for some sort of massager that massages and also helps dissolve fat, and they were live-demonstrating it on a woman and all of the sudden start massaging her stomach with it and talking about how it can get rid of all that fat. In America, that’s the kind of thing that would get a guy punched in the face.
So we found the placement of the bar to be a little funny, but it was actually a beautiful location. The bar is two stories, taking up parts of the second and third floors of the building. I can only describe it as more “grown-up” than the places we go to by our place and by campus. It’s a bar I would fix my hair, put on pretty makeup, and get dressed up a little classier for (read – not club clothes). Of course, that night I was in running shorts and a race t-shirt. The great thing about this island is, I didn’t even get a weird look for it.
We hung out there for a few hours, waiting and waiting for the parade to start. We drank some Red Bulls. We (save for Nick, of course), drank some drinks. We shared a giant platter of jerk chicken and french fries. We moved upstairs. We had a huge plate of french fries. Around 4:30, the waitress came and tabbed us out, but we were able to stay longer. Around 5 (that’s right, 5 am. Who AM I?), people had started to flow from St. George’s back towards Grand Anse, so Courtney, Brian, Nick and I decided to head down to walk the street (not in the whoring sense. In the literal sense) and see what had been set up. Becca and Todd were tuckered out so they stayed behind.
We walked up toward St. George’s among all of the costumed people and then headed back in the direction of the foot traffic flow, at which point we ran into the parade (finally)! There were people covered in oil, people covered in paint, people with masks, men in dresses, people pulling giant chains and people dragging suitcases. Not sure the significance of all of it, but it was cool. We heard from some people it related back to the emancipation of the island from the French (and from slavery); we heard from others it had to do with demons coming out in the night and then being driven away by the day. The paint and oil covered people would give us hugs, so we ended up a little dirty. By the time we got to the Food Land, which was where a lot of the floats were, we were barely able to get through the crowd. Everybody was dancing in the streets and celebrating. There were small children, teenagers, people our age and the elderly there, all having a great time. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many people walking around chugging full-sized bottles of rum. I have never been a part of anything like it. It was awesome.
By the time we made it home, it was around 7:00 am. I would like to say that we bathed before getting in to bed, but that would be a lie. We did, however, hang blankets over our windows (which are already curtained) to help us sleep in.