So.. this is my first blog entry ever. I finally have something exciting to write about! Do you want to go to Montserrat and do music education/outreach work for a year? Erm…yes please?!
Firstly, I just want to say a big thank you to Jon Ang who has been a massive help to me. (Jon was my predecessor here and kicked off this project from Jan to July 2012). From giving me endless information about the island, telling me where to go on a Saturday night to checking in with me since I’ve got here, I would have been lost without him! I do now enjoy making him jealous and correcting him:
Jon: “Are you living in my house?” Me: “No, Jon. MY house!” etc. (replace “living in my house” with “using my car”, “enjoying my TV” etc etc..
In all seriousness, he has done a great job here and is going to be a tough act to follow! Wishing him all the best in his new teaching job.
I’m writing this on the morning of my 5th day here. I am already in love with the place. In fact, I was in love with it as I got off the plane and I can predict that someone is going to have to drag me off this island in July..
Without a doubt the most exciting part of the journey over was sitting in the front of a tiny plane with the pilot. I didn’t think I was going to like being in such a small plane, but once I saw the views I really couldn’t care less. We took off from Antigua and briefly stopped over at Nevis before heading on to Montserrat. It was such a clear evening so we had fantastic views approaching the island. Also on the plane was a Monserratian lady who lives about a 15 minute bus ride from me in London. Small plane small world.
I was picked up in the tiny Montserrat Airport by Veronica, who is in charge of my house, and a friendly taxi driver, Tom. (I say friendly, I now realize that everyone on Montserrat is this friendly!). Veronica had organised a lovely welcome to the house, with a week’s food supply and a 3 course meal waiting for me. Little did she know that she would be having the pleasure of seeing me again the following day when I managed to lock myself out the house! I wasn’t sure how I’d feel living on my own, but I love it! Of course I haven’t been playing loud music and wandering around the house singing..
On day 1 I decided to go for a walk as I wasn’t quite confident enough to drive around (you should see these hills. You can’t imagine it unless you’ve been here). 45 really hot and leg killing minutes later I decided to head back home, only I couldn’t get into my house. I don’t have a local phone yet and of course my 3 signal doesn’t work. Luckily I do have wifi so was able to get in touch with Jon who saved the day by sending me Veronica’s number. I had her number but no phone to call her with so had to trek up to the main road. (Yay, more hills and mid day heat!) Of course the first car that passed me stopped to see if I needed help and kindly lent me their phone. Veronica was really happy to come out and help me on her day off… ahem.
On my second day I decided to brave the driving – had to be done at some point – and on Jon’s recommendation I headed for Jack Boy Hill. This is on the other side of the island and offers amazing views of the coast line, an area destroyed by pyroclastic flow and of course the volcano. Jon assured me that he drove here on his second day (although having met some of his friends they have informed me that he had an automatic rental car for the first week. Thanks, Jon).
Driving here in a manual car is hard work at first! Especially since a big part of the (only) main road is closed for road works and you have to follow a diversion around steep, windy hills on ‘roads’ only wide enough for one car. (I say “follow”. There is a sign saying “Diversion” but then of course no help after that. So when you come to an option of 5 roads to take, it’s literally ‘pick a road, any road’. Because people are so friendly though, getting lost isn’t scary because someone will always point you in the right direction.. I’m not saying that I necessarily always understand what they’re saying!
On the way back from Jack Boy Hill I explored two of Montserrat’s beaches: “Little Bay” up the north of the island, and Woodlands Beach, a black sand beach 5 mins from my house. All I can say is I think I’m going to like it here.
I’ve also met the Director of Culture, Herman Francis (known as ‘Cupid’). He took me to my first ever steel pan band rehearsal the other day, quite an experience! I am going to have to do a lot of practice, although I almost got the hang of ‘la bamba’! He also runs a music ensemble called Small Beginnings that I will join in after school today, and this evening we’re going to the Emerald Community Singers rehearsal. Looking forward to getting involved in both these activities.
Anyway…this blog looks long enough! More later..