Of sugar, slaves, and ruins

First I just want to show two scenes from our campground.  The first is a picture of Lily standing next to the Rain Tree which is next to our eating area.  It just shows the trunk, but you can get a sense of the size of it:

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And this is what our cottages look like:

IMG_3695But now a word or two about the history of the islands and the remaining ruins:  This island has ruins all over it from when there were sugar plantations here, owned primarily by the Dutch.  We went to one of these ruins on Monday called the Annaberg Plantation.  At one point they had 600 slaves working there, with miserable working conditions and terribly harsh punishments for infractions such as looking at a white woman.  When went to the ruins there were some park workers there giving information on the site, including a woman who was cooking traditional dum bread (apparently the bread was tasty but she was “not having it”, as Dawn says.  We also spent a good deal of time with Charles, who is the gardener there, and who is filled with information about properties of the plants and how to eat them.  You can see him hamming it up with his machete, among other things:

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In that last picture Charles is demonstrating one plant’s ability to help you get to sleep.  The wood pile shown is going to be turned into charcoal.  Clark managed to get a piece of finished charcoal, with which he decorated several people.  Charles also gave us a bag of charcoal  he had made which we used at our meal that night.

Then yesterday morning we piled into a national park van to volunteer at another ruins. Clark wrote: “Today we are trail cleaning near the campsite.  The site we are cleaning was host to the longest slave rebellion which lasted 8 months.  People are working hard to preserve this site even if it means dealing with the heat and humidity.  Everyone is doing their part to help keep this area from getting overgrown.”  Eliza wrote: “The site we are cleaning was a house during the slave rebellion.    There are many graves on the site, a few for children and some for adults.  The tombs were made out of rocks and probably mud.  The graves are above ground.  It feels good to do a good deed especially at a historic site.  The time flew by, I was interested in working longer!”  Simone wrote: “Lily, Simone, Sophie, Dan, and Meg worked with a couple from Tennessee clearing out a graveyard.  It was interesting to see that people are buried above ground here.  In our designated clean up area we saw graves of all sizes.  We believe there were babies, small children, and adults buried here.”  We later heard from the park archeologist (there is an archeological dig happening right here by our beach) that the house was owned by one of the original Dutch families on the island, and the graves would have belonged to those family members.  The graves are above ground because you just can’t dig very deep before you hit bedrock.  Slaves were buried down at the beach or their bodies drifted out to sea.  Apparently the slaves who initiated the rebellion were former royalty in Africa, who in Africa had owned their own slaves.  They wanted to gain power back, not only from the Dutch, but also to make sure they had power over the slaves from the other tribes.  This site we were cleaning is a long way from being made open to the public, as they are just at the clearing of the jungle phase.  Once the (mostly invasive) plants are cleared, the archeologists can get in and map out the site.  The first picture on the left shows what it looked like before we started:

And now we have an open day, during which students will do their homework, rest and recreate.  Unfortunately we are still unable to rent boats here, due to high water and waves.  Darn.  Still, it’s not too bad being able to swim in this warm water.  Tomorrow Dan heads back home, and we all move over to St. Thomas.

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