“The bouncing done, the bouncing done, the bouncing done!”
Ash Wednesday and I’m recovering (slowly) from Carnival. I meant to post this last week but the partying got in the way. Use the Trinbago dictionary if you are struggling with the slang!
Carnival season is a wonderful time in Trinidad and Tobago. The country buzzes with energy and a sense of excitement seems to engulf the whole population, irrespective of whether they take part in Carnival activities. The wonderful thing about Carnival in T&T is that it can be enjoyed at everyone’s level. You can spend as much or as little as you want to indulge your Carnival passions.
For many people the fun lies in attending the increasingly expensive all-inclusive fetes. When I first returned to Trinidad as an adult, the average cost of an all-inclusive fete was circa TT$300 (US$50). Consequently I went to many such events. One memorable season when I was between jobs I hit eleven fetes.
Times have changed. Ticket prices shot up – $800 (US$130) is now considered reasonable for an all-inclusive fete ticket; especially in light of the Hyatt charging $3000 (US$500) to attend its LIME fete. My income has…ahem…not kept up with the increase in ticket prices and I am now very discerning in my fete attendance.
Over the years I’ve come to understand the unwritten Fetegoers Code of Conduct, or Fetiquette that governs the all-inclusive party. There are many rules, but I’ll stick to the basic six which every feter should know.
Rule Number 1 - Arrive In Daylight
There are several reasons for this. After spending the equivalent of a Latin American GDP on clothes, shoes, makeup and hair, one needs to be seen. Equally important is who one is seen with. Men want their peers to see the attractive arm candy (of either sex) standing in the shadow of their biceps. Women want other women to know
a) I arrived with a man – stay away from mine; or
b) I arrived without a man – hold onto yours; and
c) I look good and I know it (I may be delusional).
As members of a bourgeois society, a significant percentage of fetegoers want people to know they can afford the exorbitant ticket prices. So what if they’re secretly living on bread and cheese? Update your Facebook status – “On my way to Salybia!” – tweet about it, post a picture of your fete tickets on instagram, change your BBM and whatsapp status to “Having fun at… insert fete here”.
Rule Number 2 - Better Belly Bus Than Good Food Waste
The good stuff goes early and quick. Check out all the food options as soon as you arrive and decide which food queue to join first. If moving with a posse it may be wise to strategise. One person can queue for doubles, while another hits up the bake and shark stall, and you load up on Chinese. Always remember the fetegoers mantra – I paid for it. Eat everything. Leave it too late to eat and you’ll be lucky to get the pomerac chow no-one wanted.
Ironically, at a fete Trinis will line up in sun, rain and mud to sample cuisine normally rejected by their pets. The queue for horse meat at Old Hilarians’ All-Inclusive is always extensive. Take note Tesco.
Rule Number 3 – Bus De Bar
Start with the premium drinks and work your way down to puncheon. What is your mantra? I paid for it.
Rule Number 4 – Dress to Distress
Carnival fashion has nothing to do with style or modesty and the all-inclusive fete is the ultimate peacocking opportunity. Choose an eye-popping outfit you wouldn’t want your mother to see you in and make it worse. When it comes to Carnival fashion, more is more. To quote the Dowager Countess Grantham – nothing impresses like excess. Over accessorise – wear bangles, garish earrings, glitter, press on jewellery and have all your tattoos on display. Better still if you have gold teeth or a mouth grille.
Rule Number 5 – Control Your Property
Swappi said it best – What yuh mean yuh cyar wine? Trinis are born knowing how to wine. It’s in their DNA. While other nationalities are learning the Three Rs in school, Trinbagonians are taking lessons in how to bubble and flex. Trini men are programmed to track it, grab it, and wine on it. When soca music infects the brain it’s hard for women to resist the urge to put their hands on their knees and push it back.
Nothing Trinis like better than an opportunity to display their skills, but time and place people, TIME AND PLACE. You do not want to end up featured on the front page of the dailies doing the wheelbarrow. Save the dutty wining for a private audience. There is life after Carnival. Nobody wants to be remembered by their pundit/boss/peers for sending Shakira into early retirement.
Rule Number 6 – Spread Your Hands and Leh Go
Have fun! Whatever you end up doing for Carnival – partaking in the festivities, spending quiet time at home, or having a mini vacation – enjoy it to the max. YOLO is real. We get one shot at life and it is up to us to make it good. As I write this my neck, shoulders and feet are sore; legs are covered in unexplained bruises; and after two days in the sun I am so black I’m blue. Worth every minute.
Tell me your Carnival experience. What do you like/dislike the most about Trinidad Carnival?