Fort de France
"We went inside and spoke to some of the occupants, who told us that they had been camping in the square since 24 January outside the Justice Ministry in protest ..."
One of the things we didn’t fully appreciate about living in the UK before we left was how easy it was to just order things, with usually a small delivery fee, if that. Now that we are in the Caribbean, where lots of things we need are not stocked in the islands, we have to order products from abroad - usually from the United States. This involves a large delivery fee plus customs charges and of course, collection from a location. In the case of Martinique, we are using a FedEx office.
One of the things we have just received are spare parts for our Beta Marine engine that we need to replace to keep the engine in good working order - air filters, fuel filters, oil filters and belts. With postage and customs, it has added an additional €100 to the cost of the parts. Not to mention having to travel to the airport to the Fedex office and go to three different offices in order to get the required stamps. This is easier and cheaper than in many of the other islands though, where you are required to hire a broker in order to get anything. For us, the cost of hiring a broker to order our engine parts and Starlink far outweighed the cost of paying the customs charges ourselves. We are still waiting for our Starlink, which will give us Satellite internet, but we have at least received notification that it has shipped.
While we have been waiting around, we have been getting the usual tasks done - laundry, collecting fuel and topping up our water tanks. We’ve also done a little more thinking about where we will spend hurricane season and have decided that we may go to Curação instead of Grenada as it is vastly cheaper - about half the price. The marina is in quite a remote area, with poor bus services, but as we will be working, it will be less of a problem. It’s in a beautiful location on a lagoon, which will be good for post work swims and paddleboarding. Car hire is cheap, so we can do this once or twice a month to see more of the island. Curação looks like a very interesting island, with diverse cultures and a variety of things to do, so it should keep us occupied for eight months. But we are stlll unsure whether Starlink is going to work well enough for Luciano to do his work. We are hoping to receive it next week. We will then need to install it and try and test it to see if it will be fast enough to work with and take it from there.
While we’ve been in Fort de France, the capital of Martinique, we’ve visited the gorgeous Schoelcher Library. Named after prominent French anti-slavery campaigner, Victor Schoelcher, the library was built in 1887. Highly colourful and decorative and Art Nouveau in style, it was originally built in Paris and then dismantled and transported by boat to Martinique. We went inside and admired the double storey towers of ancient books above our heads and went upstairs to see the Antillean section. We also visited the nearby pre-columbine archaeological museum which details the living patterns and culture of the Kalinago and Arawak Indians, which populated the Caribbean islands from South America.
We’ve enjoyed walking the streets here, with its shady tree lined plaza and colourful trendy cafés along a mural-lined road. One day we came across a town square occupied by numerous tents and with flags and banners lining the rails. We wondered if it was related to the pension reforms strikes which have taken over France. Here in Martinique the buses have been frequently on strike, which is part of the pension reform protests. But this was a different protest, specific to Martinique. We went inside and spoke to some of the occupants, who told us that they had been camping in the square since 24 January outside the Justice Ministry in protest at the use of a toxic insecticide called Chlordécone. The protestors informed us that the French government had given permission for the béké (white plantation owners, descended from slaveholders) to use this insecticide in Guadeloupe and Martinique in banana plantations. It is a known toxin which gives a higher risk of cancer and other illnesses to people consuming water, meat, fish and root vegetables that have been exposed to this toxin, which has pervaded the soil. They point out that a range of protesters (of various things) have been imprisoned, yet the industries and the béké have not been prosecuted for poisoning French Caribbean people.
So hopefully by next week we will have received the Starlink and can update you on our progress of getting it installed on the boat!
This week's Vlog.
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