Journey to Paradise

It was an ordeal to get to Montserrat. What should have taken about 12 hours door to door, took over 24 hours. The flight from London to Antigua was delayed by 5 hours. As such, I missed my connecting flight from Antigua to Montserrat. I end up staying in Antigua for the night and then taking a mid morning flight the next day. Then once I landed in Montserrat, my suitcase with all my clothing didn’t arrive. I was most distressed. Luckily the gods were on my side and it arrived later that day.

Now I’ve been in Montserrat for a full 24 hours and I’ve had time to reflect on my environment. Things are very much the same as I remember, but they are also quite different. St John’s which uses to be the sleepy part of the island is now the center of the island. It is buzzing with people and cars. The amount of activity makes it feel like there are more than five thousand on the island. It feels like twenty thousand. I suppose this shouldn’t be too surprising as the island’s population does swell during carnival each year.

Everything also seems smaller and closer together. I suppose a lot of this had to do with the fact that since the volcano covered two-thirds of the island in ash some years ago; those that remained have all been forced to move to the north which has meant building additional houses. My family house on Mongo Hill use to be at the top. Now there are other massive houses above. Plus the rugged roads to the mountain are now paved to allow traffic to go further up. Part of me is distressed by this, but it’s good to see the island still alive and vibrant. Shortly after the volcano, the British government wanted to shut the place down.

On a personal front, it was good to see many familiar faces again – especially my grand aunt, Nenen – who raised my mom and us when we were little. At 86, she is a firebird. Her memory is sharp and she tells me stories. Stories of myself, my mother and any family member or person I happen to point to in her photo album. She is the ultimate family historian. Plus in many ways, she is the link to the old way of life. Thus, it’s a shame that I have not always been consistent with my letters.

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