Thursday, June 3, 2010

A coming of age story of my St. Lucia trip as a Cub Scout (Part 1)


I was a Cub Scout in Trinidad. My Cub Scout leader was the infamous Mr. Guy Peter Orosco. It was with Mr. Orosco and my other pack members that I had arguably the best time as a young boy. This coming of age tale happened on the island of St. Lucia when I was 10 years old.

One afternoon, as we were seated in the classroom dressed in our Cub Scout uniforms, Mr. Orosco announced to the pack that we would be traveling to St. Lucia to camp out for a week. There was suddenly a rush of noise welling up to a crescendo of fist bumps and loud jubilation. Mr. Orosco not a man that tolerates out of control boys, quickly restored order with a stern warning to be quiet.

He went on to explain that we would board a plane that would take us to Barbados, Grenada, St. Vincent, and then on to our final destination – St Lucia. He indicated that we would have to pay for the trip ourselves. We would stay in a school and best of all, we would live two days with a family in St. Vincent.

We received some paperwork describing the trip and were told to take it home to have our parents read it. Our parents had to sign a form giving permission for us to go and agreeing to pay the required amount of money. I wanted to go.

I dreamt about the trip on the way home from school. I must have read the paperwork six times trying to glean as much information as possible about this adventure. I would get to fly on a plane, I thought to myself. My dream would come true. It did not matter that I was not going to New York City. I was taking a plane to somewhere and my friends were coming with me.

I reached home in haste, dropped my book bag, and ran to my grandmother with the form waving in the air as my hand twisted it from left to right to make sure she noticed it. “Mama, Mama can I go to St. Vincent, please, please?” I asked in a pleading voice.

My grandmother read the form and said, “we will see.” That was good enough for me. I knew that she had to ask my parents for the money. But I was confident that I would get an opportunity to go. My parents lived in New York, they definitely had the money, I said reassuringly to myself

I had already told my sister on the way home from school. She was excited for me and not once wished it was her going instead of me. That is just the way she was – always supportive.

A couple of weeks later, my grandmother finally told me that I would be going on the trip. She handed me the form signed on the approval line. Yes I was going. She also handed me an envelope and instructed me to give this to Mr. Orosco. The envelope felt like money so I secured it in my bag. No one could have ripped that bag from me. In fact, I didn’t even let it touch another person all the way to school. I followed my grandmother’s  instructions to the letter.

First thing when I got to school, I sprinted to Mr. Orosco, gave him the form and envelope and patiently waited for his reply. He said, “okay Salandy, you will be going with us.” Fantastic, I thought. I turned and walked away to join a group of friends that had gathered in the corner of the school yard. Most were pack members talking about the trip. They looked at me intently as I walked to the group. With a broad smile on my face, I revealed that I was going and we all erupted in joy. I was one of the last to get my form and money in.

We were all giddy and with each passing day our excitement proved more difficult to contain. More than usual, boys were caught moving after the “freeze” whistle at school. There were more licks with the cane. But that did not sway our enthusiasm for the impending trip.

The trip was finally here. I completed packing the night before leaving for St. Vincent. I had a checklist of things to bring. My grandmother had taken me to the store in Port of Spain to get most of the items on the list. The other items came in a package from my parents in the U.S.

I slept well the night before the trip and hence woke up very early. With nothing to do, I steadily needled my sister so she could get up. We had to be at Piarco airport at 8am. Finally, with everyone awake, I got dressed in my Cub Scout uniform that I had laid out the night before, ate breakfast, used the latrine, washed my hands, grabbed my suitcase, and waited by the front door.

My Uncle Thomas, who drove a taxi, was taking us to the airport. I stood by the front door waiting for his car to appear around the corner, turn left off the street, and travel down the dirt path to the house. At first glimpse of the white car, I called out to the rest of the traveling band that Uncle Thomas was here.

My sister and grandmother piled into Uncle Thomas’ car and he drove us to the airport. The airport was about a 45 minute drive from where I lived in Maraval.  
As we approached the departure terminal, I could see a group of Cub Scouts and their parents in a cluster. Bags as well as brothers and sisters were grouped in a farewell ritual that I soon would experience with my sister and grandmother.

We exited the car. Uncle Thomas grabbed my bags from the trunk of the car and I stood there talking with a couple of my friends. My grandmother walked over to Mr. Orosco and handed him an envelope. I was assuming it was my birth certificate. There was a reminder from Mr. Orosco that we needed it to travel.

No sooner, I was kissing my grandmother and sister and hugging Uncle Thomas goodbye. My grandmother put twenty dollars in my pocket and said take this. I patted the pocket of my khaki shorts and replied, “I will keep it safe.”

My grandmother said in a caring motherly voice, “be careful and listen to Mr. Orosco.” My sister smiled and with a soft reminder said, “just have some fun.”

We hug each other a final time, and with that, they got into the car and drove off. 

I was headed to check-in on my flight to St. Lucia with my Cub Scout pack and embark on an adventure that would change my life.

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