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Winding up, down and around the mountainous roads of St. Vincent in the local van-buses at breakneck speeds makes for a memorable experience. This delightful poem is by Erica Standen from I Shall Not Forget, a compilation of poems she wrote about St. Vincent while she lived with her husband (while he worked on an agricultural development project) on the island from 1987 to 1993.
Traveling in a Mini Van
“Villa?” shouted the young conductor
(Head far out the open window)
As the van screeched to a halt,
In busy Back Street, by ‘The Bounty’,
Traffic jamming at the rear,
Children jumping out the way,
Women tripping, others driving clear
(I shan’t repeat what I heard them say)!
“Yes, please!” was my loud reply,
To be heard above the din
Of reggae music from within,
And people shouting at each other,
As some climbed out,
While others noisily pushed in
All at the same time, in unison.
There was no orderly mini-van line!
I wriggled my way into the van,
Wondering how on earth I’d reach
The little space, right at the back…
(For the van inside was tightly packed)
Not an inch to spare.
Somehow I got there!
Phew! A seat at last, between
A Rasta and a girl in her teens.
The van moved on, the door banged tight!
Through the speakers, volume high,
Pappy sang: “Soca music sweet…
It be sweet, fo’ so’!”
All of us inside the ‘prison’,
To soca and rap bopped in rhythm,
Skipping a beat whenever we hit
Pot-holes, in the asphalt grit.
We stopped and started on and off;
All the way to Villa,
Squeezing in more…
Overloading for sure!
Natterers had to shout
Above the calypsonian’s score.
A laughing woman, very stout,
Leaned dangerously against the door.
Around the bends our tyres screeched;
Towards Sion Hill our engine strained;
Along the sides we often scraped.
For waving hands we always braked,
To let in more,
Through the sliding door!
Laughter and chatter
Added to inner confusion, and clatter.
“Stop at de Supermarket!” called the teen.
Out we all clambered,
To buy ice cream.
Amid much rushing,
Amid much fussing,
We were back again inside the van,
Keeping cool from the humid heat,
By licking ices to the soca beat.
I tapped the conductor on the head…
“My stop is Villa Lodge,” I said.
We rounded the bend,
And crossed the road,
Oncoming traffic we had to dodge,
Before halting at Villa Lodge…
I climbed over bodies, baskets and more,
And paid my dollar at the door.
While the ‘mobile jukebox’ drove on past,
Vibrating to the beat at full blast,
Outside the van I felt alone,
As I started the silent stroll home.