I may plan to go home for a vacation and to see my friends and family. Antigua is a great place to visit any time of the year. Avoid the beaches with the Sargasso seaweed (see my blog on this subject to learn more). My concern is that it’s never an inexpensive venture to return to your country of origin when it is a developing country. Normally, developing countries are such in all cases because they were once or still are exploited for their natural resources, aka colonization. So, with resources for the locals scarce, it often makes sense to take a few gifts for family and friends you know need them when one returns home. It means your visit home for a vacation can be expensive.
Pay attention to people with kids. Having children is already expensive, so if you can help with basic needs like school supplies, clothes, shoes, and the like, then help. Don’t hesitate to ask. Hopefully, they are reasonable and will ask for things they need, not the latest PS5, Xbox, or Nintendo. Those on the island should never assume that because someone lives in America, they have unlimited resources. Similarly, those in America traveling home should not assume people on the islands are destitute. With satellite television and connection to global culture, folks in the islands are exposed to all the latest gadgets and tech from the north.
Remember, it works in reverse as well. I miss certain things from home. I miss the freshness and safety of our seafood without hormones, mercury, or microplastics. I miss fresh fruits like mangoes, which are so sweet and varied, you could eat 25 different versions of mangoes during the Summer season. I have done this. It spits-shines your insides. I can get imported mangoes in the metropolis, but the taste is incomparable. Then there are fruits like Antigua black pineapple, breadfruit, soursop, sugar-apple, guavas, ginnips, and dumms. Since they were all fresh and only eaten in season, we could have them at various stages of maturity. You could eat breadfruit when the inside was creamy-yellow and soft, and the taste was milky-sweet when roasted.
Just thinking about soursop makes my mouth salivate. Same for the almost sickly sweetness of a sugar apple. Guavas are common, but we have a small and a large-white-inside-variety, both of which make the best jam. The mystery and childhood fruits are ginnips and dumms. My cousin, who I grew up with like a brother, and I use to eat ginnips and dumms like they were ‘going out of style.’ He would actually eat the snotty, the name we gave the dark red dumms that were overripe and resembled soft phlegm from someone’s nose when they have a cold. I have never seen this berry anywhere else in my travels. By the way, did I mention that the Antigua Black Pineapple is the sweetest in the world? Take it from me. It’s true.
We Miss Home
I also feel nostalgic for hearing people I know, often my classmates, speak our dialect and banter about local politics, world affairs, and everything under the sun. There is a feeling that, like the sun and air, the people and food re-energize me and re-enforces my sense of origin concreteness. By the time I leave, I am firm in who I am, fully recalling my sunshiny childhood.
To top off my journey, I must bring back pieces of my home. These could be rum, pepper sauce, frozen mangoes (I usually peel, dice, and freeze them), paintings, t-shirts, books by local authors, and gifts for friends and colleagues in the north. One of my favorite authors is Joanne Hillhouse. She beat me on debating during our on-TV inter-school tournaments. I admire her anyway.
When my mother and grandmother were alive, my suitcase would be packed with my grandmother’s home-baked bread, cakes, fried fish, roasted breadfruit, and the like. It had to come from her because there was no bread or cake like that. Mind you, then, I hated traveling with all that stuff, but I get it now I am that age. When we are sure of ourselves and cling to our rich and authentic culture, we miss home.