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Party Done

Ash Wednesday. Carnival is officially over. My sore feet, aching calf muscles and suspiciously scratchy throat are testament to the wonderful time I had dancing through the streets of Port of Spain. Today is the day some people dutifully head to church to have purifying ashes applied to their foreheads while thousands more are checking the Lost and Found for their pride, dignity, self respect, and decorum. Luckily I am still in possession of my core values despite spending two days wearing very little.

The weather forecast for Carnival Monday and Tuesday was sunny with a 100% chance of raining bumpers. The meteorologists were spot on. Thousands thronged the streets in search of bacchanal. Not everyone can keep up with the hectic pace though. To quote my husband – it’s a series of sprints, not a marathon. Opportunities for rest are limited so I grab every chance. At 4.00pm on Carnival Tuesday afternoon I was asleep on the Harts Rest bus; recharging my batteries for las’ lap.

The Carnival season is a difficult thing to explain to people who have never experienced it. At what other time of the year does one get a license to break every fashion rule and party non-stop for six weeks? When else would one consider traversing the streets of a capital city dressed in a bikini and strategically placed glitter? Where else can one see a half-naked man jump into a bathtub filled with mud at three o’clock in the morning? Trinidad and Tobago is a very conservative country but during the Carnival season, anything goes.

The rising cost of Carnival has not dimmed the general population’s enthusiasm for the festival. Every year we pay more money for less costume. The fetes are no different. The average all-inclusive fete ticket is equivalent to a monthly car payment. However I have noticed that the more expensive the fete ticket, the more people are admitted free of charge. Personally I have no problem with this – I gratefully accept all freebies.

In preparation for squeezing into that tiny costume, I spent the past four weeks on the Jorge Cruise Happy Hormones, Slim Belly Diet. Twenty-eight days (give or take a few lapses) spent chomping low sugar, high protein food paid off. I lost a few pounds and more importantly, inches off my thighs, enabling me to shimmy into trousers gathering dust in my closet.

Unfortunately my weight loss joy was short lived. Three days of eating all manner of off-diet fete food during Carnival weekend led to me waking up bloated and apparently five months pregnant on Carnival Monday. To hell with Jorge and his diet. I don’t want to see celery, cream cheese or avocado for a very long time.

As much as I love Carnival, my mas-playing days may be numbered. I’m used to young men saying “Hello Aunty” in my living room but when it happens on the road – in the band!- it is mighty disturbing. I don’t want to be rubbing shoulders – or any other body parts – with my kids’ friends in a Carnival band.

And don’t talk about the pernicious glitter. I changed the sheets and scrubbed every inch of my body yet I still glisten in the sun. Then there’s the mud and paint. Up to this morning I had to clean paint out of my ears. A trip to the spa might be in order.

My body needs to recover and the country needs to get back to work. The wave of visitors over the Carnival season is both a blessing and a curse. Yes we want those lovely tourist dollars, especially with oil prices falling. But tourists bring other things with them I can do without, thank you very much.

At the height of the Ebola scare Government ministers began hinting at cancelling Carnival. Public outcry ensued. In T&T society, partying and revelry trump the risk of wining on an Ebola bumper any day. Luckily the Ebola outbreak was contained and mas leaders around the country breathed a collective sigh of relief as the spectre of diminished Carnival costume dollars faded away like smoke from the La Basse.

A new health issue emerged to taunt us, yet curiously I seemed to be the only one concerned. Never mind Ebola, what about the influx of unvaccinated Americans? I like living in a measles-free country. No-one else was worried about this? Just me? Alrighty then. If I were the Minister of National Security – and let’s face it, in T&T anyone is qualified to do the job – I’d insist on no entry without proof of Measles Mumps Rubella immunisation.

Thankfully the mass exodus began today. Carnival season is like swimming in a sea of Freshwater Yankees. They outnumber every other tourist group and are omnipresent. For my non-Trini readers, a Freshwater Yankee is a Trinbagonian national now residing in the USA. Their accent is a strange blend of American twang and Trini lilt; only marginally less annoying than finger nails on the blackboard. Having said that, Carnival would not be the same without them. Every year I delight in watching them hit every fete, eat every local dish, and get lost trying to find the entrance to Grand Bazaar.

The Lenten period of reflection and sobriety begins today. Like all good Christians I will be abstaining from something – although I am not sure what that something is yet. Right now I am still basking in the glow of one of my best Carnival experiences ever. Machel and Angela say party done…for me the memories are just beginning.

 

 

 

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Fetiquette

“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!

Fetiquette

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?


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