A Beaconite and her friend recently returned from a weekend in St. Maarten and St. Martin, a joint Dutch and French territory 30 minutes away from the Virgin Islands by plane. Many residents she met there informed her that they’d never thought to visit the VI, despite it being such a short hop away, which seemed surprising to the Beaconite until she realised that she and her friend had lived in the VI for two years and never been to St. Maarten either. She was glad she did, having met locals who were delighted to give a free tour of hidden spots they would have never found on their own. The island’s population is double the VI’s and it feels far more commercial, with American fast food chains and towering casinos, as well as the vast expanse of Simpson Bay on the Dutch side, which dwarfs the VI’s many bays. It also has more European flavour, including a plethora of French bakeries and curiously tiny Heineken bottles. However, the “Spanish bars,” casual food stands and Pinel, a tiny sister island popular with day-trippers reminiscent of White Bay, Jost Van Dyke, reminded the travellers of the VI. Whereas some outsiders tend to think of the Caribbean islands as interchangeable, such travels demonstrate how unique each island really is.
A hot-mutton issue
What is the difference between mutton and goat? A Beaconite sought to learn the answer after savouring a delicious bowl of goat water from the bar in front of the horse track. In Bangladesh, where her family is from, all goat and sheep meat is often called mutton. Here, both terms are used, sometimes interchangeably. In the northeastern United States, where the reporter is from, she has never heard any mention of the term “mutton.” So why do people use both terms here and what do they mean? The reporter turned to the Merriam-Webster dictionary for her research. Technically, “mutton” refers to the meat of a fully grown sheep; “lamb” refers to the meat of baby sheep; and “goat” refers, well, to goat. It is nevertheless rumoured that even adult-sheep meat in the US is often called “lamb,” and similarly, in Asia, even so-called “mutton” dishes are made with goat meat. So, is there “mutton water” in the territory? And do restaurants serve goat in their “mutton” dishes?
Vermont no longer
Last week, a Beaconite was early to a press conference at the Central Administration Building. So, to kill time, he decided to head over to the Cyril B. Romney Tortola Pier Park and enjoy an iced coffee, where he felt as if he had stepped back in time to his undergraduate career. A cruise ship had just unloaded its passengers, so the area was awash in human activity, which reminded the Beaconite of the masses of students migrating across his university campus during those 20 minutes between classes. (Though sun-tanned vacationers do move much slower than anxious college students pelted in the face by snow). After making his way inside the beanery, the Beaconite again had to look at the palm trees outside to convince himself he hadn’t drifted across the Atlantic. People in professional garb sat at communal tables, chatting with one another before (apparently) heading for the office, as was so common in the early morning rush of his college-town cafes. There was even a girl studying in the corner of the room, hunched over a thick, glossy covered textbook. Then the Beaconite walked outside, where the sun beat on his face, tourists debated whether to spend the day exploring by bike or by boat, and reggaeton played in the distance. He certainly was in Vermont no longer.