A Visit from the Soucouyant

Whenever I greet a stranger on the street in this Caribbean nation the reply to my, “Good morning,” is invariably, “Yea Mon.” Sounds like a Jamaican greeting, but I reported from that country last autumn, so this is not Jamaica.  But which country is it? Throughout this blog post I’ll give you hints.  The first to call in with the correct name of this country will receive an autographed collection of Tucker Carlson fables. And the opportunity to review my unculled batch of hundreds of photos.  The people here don’t chill, they lime.  As in, “I be liming at the beach all afternoon, mon.” Such a term possibly originated with British sailors (limeys) in this formerly British colony.  Use that hint in your discovery. 

I am here, not to be liming, but to provide marketing training to the Tri-Valley Cluster – – a group of mostly chocolate producers in three adjacent valleys of the North Range.  Several of these producers also offer hospitality and tourism services to visitors including groups of passengers from cruise ships. I conducted training for a dozen farmers and small business people at the Café Mariposa.  This rural lodging was rustic paradise for me. I ate cocoa infused cuisine multiple times each day while sitting on the veranda watching 13 species of hummingbirds compete for sugar water at the bird feeders. The names were as colorful as the birds themselves: Blue-tailed Emerald, Green-throated Mango, Ruby Topaz, and more.

Our training covered product marketing (cocoa-based treats) and service marketing (meals and lodging for tourists.)  A college intern in our training class took the lessons to heart by visiting a local specialty market where she secured a trial order for Mariposa’s bite-size healthy (no refined sugar) chocolate treats.  I was impressed.

On a free weekend I took the ferry to the sister island of this two-island nation.  (Another hint)

A jazz festival was taking place on an expansive beach.  The age of the crowd skewed more toward my age than to my grandson’s age, but they were colorfully dressed.  As the MC put it, they were in their Sunday best…on Saturday.  For the women, Sunday’s best on Saturday at the beach, meant a bright, skimpy bikini topped with a sheer coverup. For the men, Sunday’s best was tee shirt and shorts.  It was hot midafternoon on the sand, so several people carried hand held battery-powered fans.  One woman sported a perfectly shaved head with a neon blue lightning bolt glued to her crown.

This was an upmarket crowd; many were drinking champagne from flutes provided by the surrounding food and beverage booths. Big false eyelashes and lots of gold bling were evident.  Even our entry wristbands were gold.  Gold colored.

The music was jazz influenced, but not jazz dominant. There was a saxophone solo – – naturally at a jazz festival.  But also, a pianist who played a jaunty set and a violinist whose music was lively but not jazzy.  Several in the crowd joined in to dance the electric slide in the sand.  All in all, a great way to spend Saturday afternoon.  The previous weekend I had attended a Saturday night steel pan concert.  Twenty to thirty bandmates were performing percussion on metal drums.  They tell me at Carnival time, steel pan bands can have up to one hundred drummers, all in perfect sync. But that is a story for another time.  Carnival is also another hint to identify this island nation.

One of the beauties of this country is that it is a multi-racial society where all seem to get along well: former African slaves, descendants of indentured servants from India, Brits and other Europeans, and more recent immigrants from Venezuela – – just 15 miles away at its nearest point. Christians, Hindus, and Muslims all easily coexist.

On the long car rides to visit my clients I learned that two of my local colleagues had seen a soucouyant. (This too is a hint…but since you have never heard the word before now, it won’t be much help.)  One colleague reported that when he was young, his grandfather woke him in the middle of the night and directed him to the living room window.  Outside a fireball, the size of a coconut, appeared and zoomed back and forth until daybreak.  As the sun rose the fireball dove into the neighboring home.  My colleague and his granddad rushed over to the elderly female’s house where they discovered their dead neighbor.  They suspect she might have been a soucouyant.  Another colleague said that when she and her brother were children a similar fireball entered their home.  It burned brightly like fire but did not cause damage. The fireball moved around and eventually entered their parents’ room. 

The next morning their mother revealed bruises and teeth marks on her legs.  The assumed soucouyant had sucked her blood.  Both of my colleagues’ stories were told with a sense of true belief…so, who knows?

Here is a bit of information from my friend Mr. Google about soucouyants:

The soucouyant is a shapeshifting Caribbean character who appears as a reclusive old woman by day. By night, she strips off her wrinkled skin and puts it in a mortar. In her true form, as a fireball she flies across the dark sky in search of a victim. The soucouyant can enter the home of her victim through any sized hole like cracks, crevices, and keyholes. Soucouyants suck people’s blood while they sleep leaving blue-black marks on the body in the morning.

And finally, this delightful Caribbean nation with still a few soucouyants around is Trinidad and Tobago.   

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