St. Lucia Part Five: Sa K’ap Fet? Irie Mon!*- A Taxi Ride and a Primer on Kreyol Politics

16 Aug

Fletcher, Chicken, and Me

Well, when our driver Fletcher showed up on the dock (ahead of time) to take us to Fond Doux Plantation we started getting excited for our next St. Lucia adventure. We had booked a 5 day Romance special which included the following: breakfast and dinners, free airport transfers (or hotel pick-up), a couple’s massage, a romantic candle lit dinner, and a sunset cruise.

Fletcher drove us cautiously around the hairpin bends that characterize St. Lucia’s well-paved roads. He would pause and honk from time to time at older men who were clearing the grassy brush that threatened to spill over into the narrow road that serves as a highway. I wasn’t sure if it was because he knew them personally or just wanted to warn them that he was coming around the bend or both. It struck me then, just how small the island is, its population of 170,000 people could easily fit into my Brooklyn neighborhood. And I thought about how few people on my block or even in my building I actually greet, besides the older West Indian men in their pressed shirts and jaunty hats, who always say “Hello Dear” as I pass them in the street. It felt a lot like my neighborhood but in a more relaxed, natural context. And I liked it.

Pitons overlooking Soufriere

Then my husband, the eager Kreyol speaker that he is, asked Fletcher if he spoke Kreyol himself. You see, although Columbus was the first European to “discover” the Carib- inhabited St. Lucia, it changed hands between the English and the French for many years, so the St. Lucians speak what they have historically called, “French patois” but are now beginning to term “Kreyol/Creole” in order to join in on a larger Kreyol community.

However, it seems as if there is some awkwardness about who can speak Kreyol to whom. Greg and I had experienced this on the Marigot Bay shuttle when Greg was ignored when he asked the skipper a question, only to be responded to when he asked again in English. And just to clear up any confusion, there are quite a few St. Lucians who don’t speak Kreyol at all because it was discouraged in prior generations and nothing but English is spoken at school- but… he was not one of those people because we had heard him speak in Kreyol with other workers before.

The two bartenders at Discovery had hinted at a class divide or at least a tourist/insider divide when they insisted that they didn’t take an issue with speaking Kreyol themselves,  however speaking the language with guests is widely frowned upon.

Hold on, I thought to myself. Even when the guest might be Haitian, Martinican, Guadeloupean, or St. Lucian? Uh, okay. To be fair, my father assures me that his Kreyol is always acknowledged and welcomed when he docks in St. Lucia on one of his cruises. So it seems as though attitudes about Kreyol vary and shift according to the individual or the circumstance.

Our driver Fletcher had no qualms and happily spoke Kreyol, which sounded to my ears closer to the Haitian variety than nearby Martinique’s (a French departement equivalent to our states) What was funny though, were the more British West Indian expressions and enunciations that commingled in the conversation, the addition of mon and irie to the boisterous Kreyol of my youth. I loved it!

Soufriere Cathedral

* Sa k’ap fet? means what’s up? or what’s going on?

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