Ellen Lampert-Greaux lives in Petite Saline, and when she's not organizing the local film festival, or supervising the local volleyball league, or writing for various magazines, she turns her sharp eye upon local happenings.
While most of the civilized world is lying low, avoiding the dog days of
August, the local population in Saint-Barth inexplicably springs into
action. Not only is it the hottest time of the year, but it is also the
beginning of hurricane season and the weather cannot be counted on to be very cooperative.
Never-the-less, from late July until late August, there
are neighborhood fairs, sporting events and the celebration of various saint
days - from St BarthŽlemy himself to St. Louis, patron saint of the
fishermen in the village of Corossol. This year the season started with the
neighborhood of Flamands and migrated through Lorient to Gustavia and
finally Corossol. Run by local non-profit organizations who actually can
make a tidy profit running the bar at these various events, these day-long
happenings start very early in the morning, when most of us would rather
still be in bed. The first thing on the program is frequently a mass in one
of the local churches or a crack-of-dawn fishing tournament. The activities
continue, right through noon and the hottest part of the day, proving that
some people around see nothing wrong with mad dogs or Englishmen when it
comes to avoiding the sun. The fun ranges from sailboat races and beach
volleyball to soccer games, tug-of-war, triathalons and Junior Miss
competitions as well as games of cards, dominoes and the local version of
boules. First prize for the latter tests of talent is often a live goat who
spends the day tied to a tree pondering his fate.
While all of this is going
on, there is also the local volleyball tournament, the annual St. Barth's
Cup, which runs the better part of the month. Over 100 players divide up
into about twelve teams (boys vs boys and girls vs girls) where the players
range in age from about 16 to 35. The action takes place on a local tennis
court with as many as 400 fans filling the bleachers every night. This year
was the "year of the hair," as several players turned up with bright blue
and bright green dye jobs. The problem is that these colors don't last too
long, but since the hair's natural color was stripped away first, these guys
now look like a group of male albinos has arrived on the island.
wooden sail boats, with names like "The Flying Fish" and "The Windward
Beauty," take place in regattas along with catamarans and kid-powered
mini-sailboats. All of this takes place under a sun so hot that a 90ˇ in the
shade seems like a respite. At night, there are concerts on tennis courts
and on the beach, but this year some of these were rained out, causing
hundreds of people to run for cover while the band watches forlornly from
under the sagging plastic roof that covers their instruments and amplifiers.
I've discovered that the best place to be during all this excitement is a
beach-front hamac at my mother-in-law's house in Flamands where there is
always a cool ocean breeze. Anything I can't see from here, I'm sure to hear
about sooner or later.
More to come,