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Photo Workshop in Montserrat


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Montserrat Bugs Me by Oksana Kravtchenko Even we traveled many of Caribbean Islands trip to Montserrat is always special. Since our first visit during Christmas 2002 we go to Montserrat almost every year. People say we got "Montserrat bug". It bugs us to come back when we are home in Toronto. That time all I knew about Montserrat was that it is in Caribbean; the island has an active volcano for almost ten years, and part of the population evacuated to England, US, Canada, and other places in search of shelter and security. First we were scared to spend two weeks close to an active volcano. However, we found out that lots of locals still live there; they moved to the safe side of the island. We took comfortable overnight flight with BWIA to Antigua and from there fifteen-minutes connecting flight by Winair (local Caribbean Airline) to Montserrat. The plane can fit only up to twenty passengers, so make sure to have a reservation. Montserrat appeared to be nothing like neighbouring Antigua... no fancy resorts and casinos, no crowds of wondering tourists from Cruise ships. Do not look for those white-sand postcard quality beaches with tall palm trees. Montserrat is different in nature and appearance from all the neighbouring islands. And it can be proud of having the nicest and friendliest people, secluded black-sand diamond-sparkling beaches, spectacular hiking trails through rainforest, underwater diversity and magnificent volcano, all of these are unforgettable photo memories. In December almost every of our mornings would start with the short tropical rain; "like God takes refreshing shower"- it rained for ten-fifteen minutes, refreshing colours on grass and leafs, wrapping the island in emerald colours, concluding the show with the rainbow gates over the hills inviting the tourist to explore cool, breezy and sunny land of Montserrat. On our first day we went on hike in the mountains. Woods are rich with wild mangos, bananas, almonds, breadfruit, cocoa trees, and coconuts. We saw rare bird oriole living in the rainforest, local agoutis and a lot of goats along the roads. I found an interesting fruit, I do not have a name for - it dried and I keep it on the shelf as a souvenir. We went on couple other hikes and every time we were finding different plants, flowers and exotic fruits. Couple days after our rainforest explorations, we had a chance to get to the beach. The black sand sparkles like a million diamonds under the sun and is very clean once carefully explored. There are plenty of beaches, and many of them are secluded even during the high season. Snorkelling and especially diving are spectacular just from the shore. We made our first dive with "Sea Wolf Diving Centre" certified instructor who introduced us the underwater world of Montserrat. We spent most of the mornings diving and exploring Pillar Corals, gigantic Barrel Sponges and Sea fans. Dive operator Brian Cunningham who came from Bahamas also told us that since he came to this island he felt in love with Montserrat. He hadn't seeing such a great diversity in one dive anywhere else in his twelve years dive master experience. Here you can have a chance to see famous Turtles, Eagle Rays, French Angels, Barracudas, Parrotfish, Spotted Drum Grunt, Squids, Lobsters, Trunkfish and Flying Gurnard in one dive. If you are a diver make sure to bring all your gear and do not miss the opportunity to go to Little Bay - there right from the shore you will be amazed by the rich underwater world filled with fishes, corals and other wonderful creatures. Don't miss the opportunity to see "Garden of Eden" - the name tells for itself. For more information regarding the dive sites visit One of the evenings we went to watch volcanic glow - the sky was very clear with no wind. We drove for about half an hour in the mountains to the point that is safe and close enough to volcano. Never in my life had I had that kind of fear of natural powers. In seconds I was really scared and ready to go back. I heard thousands of thunders; I could see those huge red boulders rolling down from the mad mountain. The view was fascinating - the mixture of fear and admiration made me stare on volcano glowing in its power in the midnight sky for couple hours... On our next trip to volcano we brought binoculars with us, so we had a chance to see in details volcanic top, spitting those red hot boulders... "Feeling Hot, Hot, Hot!" - singing famous song written by Calypso King Arrow (who actually is Montserratian), we took a ride to Festival Village to dance out our excess of energy. Festival took over all the other activities on the island, during the day one can hardly find someone outside, but by the night the streets were crowded and no parking found close to the festival place. We really enjoyed the songs and beauty contests. All the shows were so colourful and filled with that passion to celebrate. People were dancing till morning on the streets, enjoying the music and each other's company. Locals are very friendly by their nature and we felt very comfortable getting around any time of day or night. I should mention local food, if you want to try the best of Caribbean cuisine prepared especially for you, check "Ziggy's" restaurant that is located in a verdant, intimate and secluded environment. They also have a choice of international menu, best wine selection on the island, so make sure to have a reservation. There are many other small restaurants with different cuisines, all with great service and fresh food. For fish gourmands there is a Jumping Jack's Beach Bar, where one can try fresh fish caught by Danny and cooked by Margaret, meals are reasonably priced and the environment is very appealing. Two weeks are gone and we packed for the trip back. Same Winair and Antigua Airport, soon we are in our Toronto home "feeling hot, hot, hot" even in the middle of our winter… No other place on the planet ever left this kind of feelings in my heart. Like this very special island called Montserrat, so I will be back again soon... Volcano Stories By Shirley Spycalla VOLCANO STORY (1) After a period of quietude lasting for 400 years, the Soufriere Hills Volcano on the island of Montserrat in the Caribbean roared to life on the 18th July 1995, disrupting the idyllic way of live on this paradise island. With the volcanic crisis now its eleventh year, one-half of this 39-˝ sq mile island is in the exclusion or daytime-entry zones. The remaining citizens, those who hadn't fled in the early years of the crisis, have put on a brave face in a disaster that has caused nothing but turmoil. This event happened in the 1st week of August 1997, when explosive eruptions were almost exactly 8 hours apart. Lou, my husband, had gone to work at the Golf Club where he was manager. On a mad impulse, and without telling anyone where I was going, I drove into the daytime-entry zone to our apartment on Richmond Hill, overlooking Plymouth, to take out some of our belongings that we had had to leave behind. The entire area was devoid of life and covered with thick gray ash - a desolate moonscape. There was absolutely no one else around. Leaving my handbag and car keys on the dining table in the apartment, I hurriedly began taking things out onto the front porch to be later transferred to the car. The volcano was rumbling gently - a most nerve-wracking sound. On the second such trip when I was outside on the porch, a volcanic earthquake shook the building violently. The front door swung shut with a bang and automatically locked. Desperately I walked around the building but could find no way to get back in. With no other option available, I decided to climb through a window that opened out onto the porch from the drawing-room (living-room). The space between the steel-framed louvres was about 8". I had got my head and shoulders through when I got totally and irreversibly stuck! Going backward was not an option anyway, as I HAD to get inside to get my car keys and bag (I had no cell phone). The police would padlock the barrier between the "safe" and "unsafe" zones at 6:00pm, and I would be locked into the unsafe zone without anyone knowing where I was. On cue, the volcano started to erupt with a terrible roaring. Stuck between two louvers and frightened like the devil, I bawled for about half an hour at the thought of rescuers finding my skeleton half in and half out of the window. Overweight as I was, I would definitely not have made an attractive skeleton! Reaching the conclusion that bawling was getting me nowhere fast, I stopped crying and starting praying like ten pundits. Suddenly an idea came to me - to get one hand back outside and dig my way in, at the point where I was caught by the metal edges of the louvres. With my right hand digging deep into my flesh and pushing, and my left hand digging in and pulling, I slowly inched my way through the louvres. Finally, after what seemed like hours, I dropped onto the drawing-room floor like a baby exiting its mother's womb, bruised and in pain all down the right side of my body. Without further ado, I grabbed my handbag and keys and ran for my life, leaving everything behind. Like a bat out of hell, I raced out of Richmond Hill and made it back to the barrier two minutes before the police closed and locked it for the night. Lou and I went back to the apartment eight years later, in May 2005, and found everything gone - all the furniture, appliances, cupboards, chandeliers, kitchen and bathroom cabinets, sinks, bathtub, toilet, water heater and all the light fixtures. All that was left was moldy, warped parquet floors and wires sticking out of open electric sockets. Our apartment, along with many other once-lovely island villas and condos, had been thoroughly vandalized with everything looted. When I reflect on my actions that day in 1997, I conclude that it was foolhardy of me to have risked my life for material things that were mostly all replaceable. The second thing I learned from the experience was never to doubt the power of prayer. If I hadn't prayed, can you imagine what the headlines in the Montserrat Reporter newspaper would have been? - "SKELETON FOUND STUCK IN WINDOW!" Perhaps in the "Jus' Wondering" section on the back page of the newspaper, there might have been a couple of entries written in the local dialect: "Jus' wondering a who de skeleton be dey a window an' why e carn use de door!" "Jus' wondering if de skeleton a bruk een or a bruk outa de house and why e nuh no dat e look lek wan tief!" So life goes on Volcano Story (2) The second event happened in March 2000 when new guests arrived at our guesthouse to stay for a few days. The husband, John, was a full-blooded Native-American. Actually he looked as if he had just walked off a wild-wild-west movie set with his shiny long braid, high cheekbones, slightly hooked nose and honey-brown skin. All that was needed to complete the portrayal was a feathered headdress, moccasins and a tomahawk!! As John and his wife sat at breakfast on their first morning at "Erindell", John said to me that he sensed there was an angry spirit on the island. To this I replied that that must be the volcano, and explained about the tragedy of the deaths in 1997. He said, no, that he knew about the volcano, but that it was something more than that. John asked me if I'd noticed an increase in crime, serious accidents and deaths involving young people on Montserrat. To this I replied that Lou and I had indeed noticed this, especially deaths of people in the 25-45 age group. I added that there were also a number of island residents who were simply disappearing - about ten within the last few years! In a small society such as ours, on an island with an exceedingly low crime rate, the disappearances had become a matter for concern, and the police had so far not been able to solve the problem. Seeing a mystery unfolding and a possible link, I told him about the archaeological dig at Trant's Estate in the east of the island, early in 1995. Dr David Watters, a curator at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pennsylvania, USA, had led the dig. I also told John that two of the Amerindian remains had been shipped off to the museum for further research, along with several cases of pottery shards, stone tools and arrowheads. At this point, John became very agitated. He said that it was a big mistake to have disturbed the burial ground of the native people, and that as long as they were off the island, the volcano would never go back to sleep! Before John and his wife left the island, he asked me to lend him a red ballpoint pen, which I did. On the last morning of their stay, he presented Lou and me with a painting he had done, using the blue, black and red ballpoint pens. Staring at the figure in the drawing for a moment, I said that it looked like an Anasazi (pronounced "Anasahzi") medicine man doing a ceremonial dance. Anasazis are an extinct tribe, so John was astonished that I knew, but he agreed that it was indeed so. He then said that as long as we kept the painting in our house, we would be protected from the troubles of the island, and that we would always have peace and love in our home. Immediately upon returning home, John reported the matter of the disturbed burial ground to the Native-American Association. Two Native-American Chiefs, one of them being Chief Billie, came down to Montserrat and visited with the Chief Minister of the day, David Brandt, and the Governor, Anthony Abbott. The Chiefs then returned home, satisfied that every effort would be made to return the Amerindian remains to Montserrat for re-interment. Up until today, the remains are still at the Carnegie Museum and the volcano is still erupting, now in its 11th year, more than twice as long as the average length of the eruption periods of andesite volcanoes (3-5 years). I have followed up constantly with the National Trust and have been assured that as soon as a new museum is built, the entire shipment, including the remains, would be brought back home to Montserrat. * * * Meanwhile, strange things continue to happen. On the morning following the huge dome collapse in July 2003, when the island was covered by 12" or more of thick, concrete-like ash, four young men came up our road with shovels. They bypassed every house along the way, came straight to our house and asked if they could help us clean. I had never seen them before in my life. Earlier, Lou and I had started to clear away the ash, which was about 6 - 8 inches thick on the patio and walkway, and it had taken us one hour just to clear away an area about 3' in diameter. Needless to say, we were happy for the help. The young men worked all day, and I truly believe that our house was the first to be cleaned on the island! There were many times when huge ash clouds would drop ash on houses to our immediate right and left, but no ash at all would fall on our house! Our neighbours also remarked on this phenomenon. In 2005, I was interviewed as part of the radio programme, "Volcano Stories", commemorating the 10th anniversary of the start of the eruption. During the interview, the interviewer asked me if I would allow him to make a photocopy of the Indian painting and I agreed to it. When the hour-long programme ended, there was a telephone call waiting for me in the outer office. A man whom I did not know (he wouldn't give his name) begged me not to give anyone a copy of the painting or it would lose its protective power. He kept repeating this for at least 40 minutes, so that the interviewer grew impatient and left the compound without getting a copy. Over the years, other guests at our guesthouse asked if they could take a digital photograph of the painting. I agreed, but something always came up to intervene, like cameras that simply stopped working, or the guests got distracted and the photographs were never taken. Weird! I do wish those Indian remains would come back home! Memories by Julie Rergyamdee My greatest memories were my friends from Salem and Friday and Saturday nights spent dancing at La Cave, the Yaght Club, and other clubs in Plymouth. Their destruction is especially sad since there are no longer any places like them on the island. "My" Montserrat has been wiped away, but it's still a beautiful island and people who remain are just as colorful as they always were. One memory of a colorful soul was a guy who called himself "Solid Gold" and was a regular at La Cave. He wore gold clothes and would attempt to mimic Michael Jackson, I think! :) Very entertaining! There were many just as interesting back in those days! Julie Rergyamdee Two Stories By Judy Brown When we lived in Montserrat during the 80's, we lived in Old Towne. The kids and I would often take walks at night---the sky was so clear and the stars so bright, we had no difficulty seeing where we were going. One night, we ended up down on the golf course. As some rain clouds had just passed over, the golf course was still quite wet. As we neared one of the greens, we noticed quite a few frogs sitting on the green. There had to be 8-10 frogs!!! So we progressed to the next green---the same thing!!! So, we ran from green to green, counting the frogs. Sounds silly, but we had great fun---and thereafter did it often---after an evening rain!! Next story- Living so close to Old Road Bay, we pretty much lived at the beach! I would notice, from time to time, some crabs that lived in holes at the back portion of the beach, under the trees. I asked some of the local kids if you could eat them, and they said yes! Being from Maryland, we do crabs alot!!! I even had some Old Bay seasoning. But the kids told me that you have to catch them at night, when they come out of their holes. So, a bunch of us went down there one night---me, my kids, and some of their friends who would show us the capturing technique!! We were armed with flashlights and big bags---you're supposed to shine the flashlight on the crab and he won't move---then you can pick him up. I held the bag open---I wasn't going to pick them up!!! We managed to collect about 3 dozen. Then the kids informed me that I had to take them home and put them in the bathtub with a little water, and let them sit over night so they could purge all the mud out! Yuk!!! All night I listened to them scratching, scratching on the sides of the tub, trying to get out. The next morning I had to face cooking the crabs, with only a small pot---it took all morning. Then I had to pick the meat out of the shells. I was dismayed to find that I was only getting about a tablespoon of meat out of each crab. It became clear early on that I was not going to have enough meat to make crab cakes!! The picking took all afternoon as I had been long ago abandoned by everyone--they had all headed for the beach. As it turned out, I had only enough meat to make a crab quiche---bummer, to say nothing of the hour I had to spend cleaning the mud out of the bathtub!!


Award-winning photographers!

September 27, 2005 KODAK Gallery Award, PPO Convention, Kingston
July 28, 2005 Published the new book "Montserrat and Montserratians" Photo exploration.

July 25, 2005 Group Photo exhibition in Mall Galleries, London, UK "Montserrat on the Move"
June 23, 2005 Workshop at TIAG (Travel Industry Association of Georgia) Workshop Info
April 29, 2005. Igor received award "Photographer of the Year 2004" from Central Portrait Branch of Professional Photographers of Ontario.Photographer of the Year
February 25, 2005. Igor received award 2nd place in International Photo Contest for "Scuba Diving" magazine.April Issue.
October 19 , 2004, Igor received award "Travel Photographer of the Year" during the CTC-27 in Aruba organized by Caribbean Tourism Photographer of the Year

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