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Snapshot of Guyana (part of the West Indies Mission)
Guyana is unique–it is the only South American country whose official language is English! Much of the population speaks Guyanese Creole (an English-based creole), and many indigenous languages are also present. Guyana is religiously diverse – a little over 55% of the population is Christian, while about 28% is Hindu and another 7% is Muslim. Guyana’s culture represents several diverse influences, including African, Indian, Amerindian, and British cultures. The south of the country also has strong Brazilian cultural influences. American pop, reggae, calypso, and even Brazilian music are all popular within Guyana. Cricket and soccer are the most popular sports. The One Pot Meal–a meal using a mixture of whatever meat, peas, beans, or other ingredients are available– is common in the country. Pepperpot (a stew using beef, pork, or mutton and flavored with peppers and cinnamon), curry, Guyanese chow mein, and several seafood dishes are also quite popular. Fresh fruit is often used to make juices. Chinese and fried chicken restaurants are also popular among the locals.
Snapshot of Suriname (part of the West Indies Mission)
Suriname is another unique South American country, with its official language being Dutch. While Dutch is widely spoken throughout the country, Sranan Tongo (a Dutch-and-English-based creole) is also very widely used by most Surinamese. Suriname has many diverse influences. About 40% of the population is Christian, around 25% is Hindu and another 13% is Muslim. Several indigenous religions are also present in the country. Suriname recognizes holidays from these different religious groups as national holidays. Surinamese culture reflects influences from Africa, the Netherlands, India, China, and indigenous groups. Kaseko and Hindi-Surinamese music are both unique styles that originated in Suriname, though other modern musical styles are also popular. Soccer is the most popular sport in Suriname. Surinamese cuisine also reflects the country’s many different cultural influences. Rice, peanuts, cassava, and roti bread are all commonly served in meals. Chicken, fish, and salt-cured meat are also commonly served. Other dishes include bakmi (a type of Chinese noodles served with pork) and moksi-alesi (boiled rice served with salt-cured meat or seafood and vegetables).
Snapshot of French Guiana (part of the West Indies Mission)
French Guiana is an overseas region of France, and as such French is the area’s official language. French Guianese creole (a French-based creole) is widely spoken, and several different indigenous languages are also spoken by the population. The area is primarily Christian, with the Roman Catholic church being the most dominant church. Most of French Guiana’s population is of mixed African and French descent. Bigi Pokoe is a popular music style in French Guiana, though Surinamese kaseko is also popular. Seafood is commonly eaten in French Guiana, and curry and fricassee dishes (rice and beans mixed with different kinds of meat) are popular throughout the country.
Snapshot of Trinidad and Tobago (part of the West Indies Mission)
English is the official language of this island nation, however Trinidadian creole and Tobagonian creole (both English-based creoles) are commonly spoken on the two islands. Most of the population lives on the island of Trinidad. While the majority of the population is Christian (around 60%), there are also significant populations of Hindus (about 18% of the population) and Muslims (about 5% of the population). Calypso, rapso, steelpan, soca, chutney, and parang music all originated in Trinidad and Tobago. Carnival is an important cultural event in Trinidad and Tobago, accompanied by parades, floats, live music, and elaborate costumes (though missionaries should stay probably stay away from the festivities)! Competitions between different musical groups also form part of the celebrations. Cricket and soccer are the two most popular sports, though rugby and basketball are also somewhat popular. Fried bake is a popular type of dumpling that is served with fish and steamed vegetables. Callaloo, a spicy vegetable stew, is commonly served with starchy foods such as cassava or plantains. Macaroni pie, a baked macaroni, egg, and cheese dish, is also popular. A wide variety of seafood, including shark, is also eaten. Several types of tropical fruits, as well as ice cream and sno-cones are also popular snack items.
Snapshot of Grenada (part of the West Indies Mission)
The official language of the island nation Grenada is English, however the main spoken language is Grenadian Creole English, which also includes African, Indian, and French influences. Grenada’s population is primarily Christian, with the Roman Catholic and Anglican churches being the largest denominations. Calypso, soca, reggae, and rap are all popular music styles, though traditional folk music is also used in different events. Carnival is the country’s biggest celebration. Storytelling is another popular folk tradition. Cricket is the most popular sport in Grenada. The most popular dish in Grenada is Oil Down, which uses coconut milk, a variety of salted meats, dumplings, and several types of fruits and vegetables. Fish cakes and other seafood dishes are also commonly eaten.
Snapshot of St. Vincent and the Grenadines (part of the West Indies Mission)
The official language of St. Vincent and the Grenadines is English, though French patois is also spoken. Most Saint Vincentians are Christian, with the Anglican, Methodist, and Roman Catholic churches being the most popular denominations. Soca, Big Drum, calypso, and reggae music are all popular in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and music plays an important role in several other festivals, such as Carnival and the Big Drum Festival. Seafood is commonly eaten, as well as several types of starchy vegetables. One popular dish is billjau, a stew made with fish, tomatoes, onions, and peppers. Dumplings and biscuits are also common. Breadfruit is the most popular type of fruit grown on the islands.
Snapshot of Barbados (part of the West Indies Mission)
The official language of Barbados is English, though Bajan (an English-based creole) is more commonly spoken in daily life. Over 95% of Barbadians are Christian, with the Anglican church being by far the most popular denomination. English influence is strong in Barbados, as evidenced in many folk songs as well as the country’s national sport, cricket. Calypso, soca, and spouge music are all popular in Barbados, and the singer Rihanna comes from the island nation. The Crop Over festival is an important traditional event in the country featuring music and dance competitions. One of the most popular dishes in Barbados is Cou-cou (a dough made from cornmeal and okra) served with flying fish and a spicy sauce. Other types of seafood are also popular, and dishes such as fried fish cakes, and fish and chips are also quite common.
Snapshot of St. Lucia (part of the West Indies Mission)
Though the official language of St. Lucia is English, Saint Lucian Creole French is spoken by the majority of the population. About 70% of the population belongs to the Roman Catholic church, though several other Protestant churches are present on the island as well. Music and dancing are both important to the culture of St. Lucia. St. Lucia’s Carnival and annual Jazz Festival are both popular cultural events. Calypso, soca, reggae, and dancehall music are also popular. Cricket is the country’s most popular sport, though soccer is also played. The national dish of St. Lucia is fish served with green banana. Soups and stews are popular, as are Indian-style curry dishes. Rice and peas, potatoes, and other ingredients and spices are regularly used in cooking.
Snapshot of Martinique (part of the West Indies Mission)
Martinique is an overseas department of France, and as such, the official language is French, though Antillean creole (a French-based creole) is commonly spoken. Most of the island’s population belongs to the Roman Catholic church. The culture of Martinique has influences from France and the Caribbean. Zouk is the most popular style of music, though Martinique is also home to many other types of folk music. Carnival is an important celebration in Martinique, featuring parades, costumes, and music. Many businesses close during this festival. Soccer is one of the island’s most popular sports. Colombo is a popular curry dish in Martinique, combining different types of meat or fish with vegetables and spices. Several other types of seafood dishes are also available, as are French dishes such as crepes.
Snapshot of Guadeloupe (part of the West Indies Mission)
Guadeloupe is an overseas department of France, and though French is the official language, manly locals also speak Antillean creole (a French-based creole). Most of the population belongs to the Roman Catholic church, though other religious groups are present in smaller numbers. Music and dance are important to the culture of Guadeloupe, with zouk, kompa, and hip hop being among the more popular styles. Traditional dress (including a colorful head scarf) is often worn during special occasions. Soccer is the most popular sport in Guadeloupe, though basketball is also somewhat popular. A variety of seafood dishes are popular in the country, many of which use a variety of hot spices. Several local fruits and vegetables are also commonly used in meals.
Snapshot of Anguilla (part of the West Indies Mission)
Anguilla is a British overseas territory, and as such the official language is English. Most Anguillians are Christian, with the Anglican, Methodist, and Seventh-Day Adventist churches being among the more popular denominations. British influence is strong in Anguilla, with events such as the Queen’s birthday being popular celebrations. Boat racing is the national sport of Anguilla, though cricket and rugby are also popular. In addition to traditional Caribbean styles such as reggae and calypso, country music is also somewhat popular in Anguilla. Like other Caribbean nations, seafood is quite popular in Anguilla and is used in a variety of soups and casseroles. Goat meat is also popular, as well as rice, sweet potatoes, and breadfruit. Fritters and dumplings are also popular.
Snapshot of Sint Maarten/Saint-Martin (part of the West Indies Mission)
The island of Saint Martin is divided between French and Dutch territories. The southern half of the island, Sint Maarten, is a constituent country of the Netherlands whose official languages are Dutch and English. The northern half of the island, Saint-Martin, is an overseas collectivity of France, and the official language is French. An English-based creole is spoken on both sides of the island. The French side of the island is primarily Roman Catholic, while the Dutch side is dominated by Protestant churches, especially the Methodist church. Calypso, merengue, and soca music are popular, and lend to the island’s vibrant nightlife. Food on the island blends Caribbean and European influences, though many international foods are also available. Various seafood dishes and callaloo soup are popular local specialties.
The Church is continuing to grow throughout the West Indies. The first stake was established in Trinidad within the last five years. Baptismal numbers continue to grow and the missionaries are an incredible force for good throughout these nations. The majority of members will travel to the Dominican Republic to attend the temple in Santo Domingo.
There are three main ethnicities in this mission, which are the foundation for many of the traditional foods: East Indians, Blacks and American Indians. With this background, Curry and Roti is a traditional dish. The curry is prepared with chicken and Roti is similar to a thicker version of a tortilla. There are many varieties of Roti too. Pumpkin and Roti is another favorite. Pumpkins are boiled to a tender state and eaten with Roti.
The fruits in the West Indies are plentiful and colorful. There is so much variety and it is common for mangos and other populous fruits to be received as gifts.
There are many traditional drink options. Drink shacks on the side of the road offer lemonade, juice bags (plastic bags filled with juice), and soda products, including the local drink, Vitamalt. This is a non-alcoholic malt soda. The water is generally unsafe, so it’s important to have filters or drink bottled water for health reasons.
No matter where you are in the West Indies, there is always public transportation available. Even in rural areas there are unofficial taxis, where drivers with a car declare themselves as a taxi service, therefore, they are. In the cities there are vehicles called “Maxi Taxis.” These are buses equipped with giant speakers, and they cram as many people as possible in them. On the outside of the bus there is a colored stripe that determines the destinations of each bus.
Because of the lack of infrastructure in these impoverished countries, safety is more common than westernized locations. There are “Red Zones” where missionaries will never enter, and there are neighborhoods that are off limits after dark. Use common sense to avoid the majority of these issues.
Many people in the West Indies believe in mythical night monsters and other gods. However, religion is necessary and important for the people of the West Indies and there are churches everywhere of all faiths, both Christian and Non-Christian. Generally everyone has a belief in God, and many families represent their faith by their church’s flag being hung in their yard. The French-occupied territories tend to be slightly less religious than their neighbors.
Carnival is a major festival in the West Indies, where it is the second largest Carnival celebration. Phagwa is the color festival that is celebrated throughout the islands. Diwali is the Hindu festival of lights; oil lamps are formed to make great shapes and designs for this holiday.
- “W’appin’ der bwoday?” – What’s up?
- “Err’teen normol.” I’m good
- “Just now.” – This expression can signify any amount of time.
Packages and mail will be rifled through once it’s entered the West Indies. Make sure to carefully and strategically hide important and valuable items that are sent through the mailing system.
PO Bag 543
Trinidad and Tobago
Straight from the West Indies Mission:
*What items were hard to get or not available?
*What did you eat the most of?
“Flying fish, rice and beans, spaghetti.”
*What is the craziest thing you ate?
“Cow hoof soup.”
*What was most surprising about the culture?
“The people were so easy-going and friendly. We got into almost every house we approached.”
*What advice would you give to someone going to the West Indies Mission?
“Get ready to love the people, the incredible landscape, and the food.”
*What do you wish you had known before you served?
“I wish I had engaged in a more thoughtful study of the scriptures.”
**Did you serve in the West Indies Mission? If so, we would love to hear your advice and your stories! Please contact us at email@example.com.**