Tuesday, May 01, 2007

It was 7 pm on Friday night and I was in a white van speeding along winding, unlit and unmarked roads. Inside the rickety van, there were no seatbelts for the eight passengers and the ocean breeze darted through with ease. The radio was blaring a reggae version of Bryan Adams' Heaven. We were somewhere on the quiet southeast coast of Barbados, heading into Bridgetown on the fantastic Bajan public transportation system. It was just as well, too, because deciphering Barbados' streets is on par with, well, decoding a cipher. Fortunately for visitors, driving is something of a spectator sport on the island. Passers-and-sitters-by are eager to offer directions, as well as crisp analysis of the situation.

For example, after the final of the Cricket World Cup, the road next to the famed Kensington Oval became a one-way road for traffic leaving the stadium. Southbound traffic entered into a laidback, low-speed game of chicken against shuttle buses. Bemused residents of the neighbourhood who were watching the fireworks display from the stadium took it upon themselves to direct traffic and offer directions informing us to drive straight and then turn where we needed to turn. Though Barbados is approximately the size of Toronto and we were staying roughly 10 miles from the stadium, it took 90 minutes to arrive home by what was literally a roundabout way.

The preceding match was simultaneously baffling and thrilling, much like its location. The match attracted a diverse array of Old Money old white men from places like England, Australia, and South Africa who bought a round of beer every half hour for twelve hours. Nonetheless, ground-shaking, trisyllabic chants of "Sri Lan-ka!" did emerge in the brief period when it looked that the Sri Lankans could be the Purple People who would be the Eaters of the banana-yellow Australians.

Hundreds of millions of people watched around the world, Canada included. However, fans bought food in a muddy gravel lot and almost half sat in temporary stands erected for the purposes of the tournament. The match was called due to light and the Australians celebrated their third straight World Cup, before it was re-started so that Sri Lanka could bat three more meaningless overs in the dark. In the end, I think that I've seen games of Monopoly that ended with more certainty.

Darkness is a beautiful thing, even if it cancels cricket matches. There aren't many lights in Barbados, which has a population of just 300,000. The night sky lights up unexpectedly with stars and, from my vantage point, hung black over an ocean that was blacker. The ocean, it can be hard to realize, doesn't disappear when its beautiful blue waters no longer make for great pictures. A roaring armada of waves smashed themselves against the rocks all day and all night.

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