Chitting the Chat and Chewing the Fat With Bay Islands Time
BY JEFF STRATTON
Saturday mornings at 11 a.m you’ll find a tasty slice of island life in the Roatan Radio studio. That’s when the station is taken over by Miss Daine Wood Etches (mother of Sundowner’s owner Aaron) and Miss Sheryl Norman for their show Bay Islands Time.
During last week’s episode, station owner Lowie Crisp dubbed the pair “two chicks dishing.” Their program is casual, informative and funny, with Miss Sheryl usually the one to take it into LOL territory. They try to keep the show G-rated.
“But things just slips out,” Miss Sheryl says. Yesterday’s show began with a bit of local genealogy before turning news-y, with Miss Daine speaking about the new sewer treatment plant, the grand opening of Herby’s Sports Bar at Pineapple Villas, and the ceremony at Peggy’s Clinic.
“I have one hour a week to say whatever I want,” Miss Sheryl laughs.
Ironically, Miss Daine is something of a radio pioneer. In the mid-70s, she could be heard on Radio Roatan, a small AM station than was run out of a home in Coxen Hole next to the big bridge.
Now she’s on Roatan Radio, next to Sundowner’s. Her program is a way of preserving and sharing traditions that are at risk.
“We see the need,” says Miss Daine, “and as islanders we realize how quickly we’re losing our island culture.”
The family tree part of the program stems from Miss Sheryl’s research project into islander genealogy. To date, she’s compiled data on an incredible 29,200 families. She and her partner on the project, Edgar Bodden, are trying to document every family on the island.
“In island vocabulary, the word ‘relative’ does not exist like you would use it in America,” she says. “They are FAMILY.” And on Roatan, “Who you don’t think is your family, is your family.”
Case in point: Miss Daine points out that her mom and Sheryl’s grandmother are sisters. Miss Sheryl has traced her own roots as far back as far as Warwickshire, England, circa 1560. She’s a seventh-generation islander and says Miss Daine’s Roatan ancestors have been here five generations.
Miss Sheryl says going to wakes is the best way to get information. A lot of it is interviews and oral history, but she’s got a ton of documents as well. She uses ancestry.com and a cool software program to keep everything organized.
“I eat a lot of conch soup,” she laughs — a staple at Roatan wakes.
“And you know,” she continues, “there’s a difference between wakes in a white community and wakes in a black community. Black people wakes are the best. You got food, you got booze, you got music, you got entertainment, dominos, you got fights…
When you go to white folks’ funeral and wake, it’s a different thing. The women go and sit in one area and they all cluster like hens together. And everybody sits down there and the women talk about how they’re the best at this or that. They up the ante. Then the men cluster together and they drink, and they brag.
Black folks, it ain’t none of that — just everybody having a good time.”
Miss Daine laughs as she remembers a visit from her daughter a few weeks ago, who apparently believed some of the show’s topics could get misconstrued — especially since roatanradio.com is beamed out live to the world. “Stop talking about Coke and Pot Cake,” she told her mom.
Coke of course is referencing Coca-Cola, and pot cake does not mean marijuana brownies. It’s like a bush cake.
Sheryl, who talks about island cuisine on the show, explains further:
“Pot cake is baked in cast iron pot in mud stove for about three hours,” she says. It’s got yucca root, cassava root, flour, rice, breadfruit, coconut milk, sugar, and spices. It’s heavy cake, no leavening.”
The best part of the show is when the pair introduce island words and phrases and translate them on the air.
Miss Daine re-enacted a choice one for the Reporter down there at Sundowner’s after the show.
“I’ll say, for instance, ‘Last night at the band dance, so-and-so got chune up. They serve some bad boca, next morning had a bad goma, head ringin’ up, belly were ringin’ up, he had open belly.’”
A good laugh is had after that, naturally, and then they both go about telling me what was said:
•Band dance: live music
•Chune up: drunk
•Open Belly: had the shits, from the
•Bad boca: the baleadas or pastelitos or whatever street food you had the night before was spoiled.
Ugh. We’ve all been there. And it ain’t no fun.