Tag Archives: West Indian

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.

 

 

 


Yuh Know You Is A Trini Too

Trinidad and Tobago is famous for many things – the smallest country to qualify for FIFA World Cup Finals; home of the Pitch Lake, the largest natural asphalt deposit in the world – to name a few. Perhaps T&T’s greatest claim to fame is their people; a diverse mish-mash of cultures and ethnicities that blend together perfectly to make a unique population with equally unique idiosyncrasies. Last year I blogged about how to spot this peculiar species in Yuh Know You is a Trini. Here are a few more identifying characteristics!

For those of you not familiar with Trini parlance, please refer to the Trinbago Dictionary here.

Yuh know you is a Trini too if…

…You are half Indian, half African, half Syrian, half French Creole, half Spanish and a quarter Carib.

…KFC deliverymen hail you out in the street

…You have several margarine/butter containers in your fridge containing anything but butter or margarine

…You fear maljoe

…You know somebody who knows somebody who has been jarayed

…Your name is Akil or Keisha; spelt with 10 letters and 2 apostrophes

…You had 300 guests, 6 groomsmen, and 6 bridesmaids at your wedding – and you’re unemployed

…You can’t spell Blanchisseuse

…Your car bumper sticker is “Ah What Less”

…You have a drawer full of plastic HiLo shopping bags

…At least one member of your family is a pastor/priest/pundit/imam

…You know a pastor, a policeman, and a bandit – and they’re all the same person

…You use the noun “ting” liberally – “Well look ting!” “Ting start” “Da’s he outside ting”

…You keep a cutlass and a box of tissues in your car

…You never run out of Crix

…You have given and received a good cuss out

…You spent your rent money on weave

…You don’t know what a zebra crossing is

…You know where to find Red Man

…Your boss is your sister’s baby daddy’s uncle’s half-brother

…You put coconut oil or Brillocream in your hair

…You douse your neck and chest in baby powder to keep cool

…Your have your loctician/barber/hairstylist’s number on speed dial

…You don’t wash and iron clothes on the same day for fear of contracting cramp

…You have no money on your phone

…You go out to come back

…You keep a sweater at work for when it rains

…Any temperature below 20°C is considered freezing

…You spend at least $50 a week on Lotto, Play Whe and scratch cards

…You plant something in your garden every Corpus Christi

…Your main source of news is Twitter

…The only time you used a turn indicator on a car was during your driving test

…Driving PH is your side gig

…You musical idol is 2 Chainz

…You believe ketchup is a vegetable

…Your sister posted a video of you getting licks from your mother on Facebook

…Four generations of your family live in the same house

…You sub-let an HDC apartment from your aunt

…Your Facebook status is “horning”

…You keep piles of old newspapers for “in case”

…Your email address is sexydouglagyal13@hotmail.com

…You have no idea what the sign “Take One Only” means

…You’ve already made a downpayment on a Carnival 2015 costume but you haven’t thought about Christmas yet

 

I’m sure there are many more idiosyncrasies I did not mention. Add yours in the comments below!


Keep Calm and Play Mas

We’re in the home stretch – the week before Carnival. This is the time of year that thousands of Trinbagonians have been pining for since February 13th 2013. National productivity levels over the next two weeks will drop to record lows while alcohol consumption and partying scale dizzy heights. From now until Las Lap Carnival Tuesday it’s non-stop feting. If you can’t handle the winery, best to leave the country now.

This is the only time of year when traffic lights are needed on the footpath around the Queens Park Savannah as people jostle for position; desperately trying to fit in as many workouts as possible before Carnival Monday. Every public green space and gym is crammed with sudden fitness fanatics frantically trying to work miracles. Trinidad is the only place I know where people eat themselves into a food coma at Christmas then expect the Fitness Fairy to transform their bodies into a living work of art eight to ten weeks later.  (*raises hand* – guilty)

Carnival itself is a great workout. We do more bicep curls, squats, and good ole peltin’ waist in two days than we can manage all year. People who normally can’t make it around PriceSmart without an oxygen tank will blissfully jump the length and breadth of Port of Spain without complaint. Even our facial muscles get a thorough workout from eyes popping, ear to ear grinning, and lustily singing lyrically-challenged compositions.

Thanks to Mr. Killa’s Rolly Polly, sales in XXL spandex leggings and fishnets tights are at an all-time high. To misquote Sunny Bling – man toting more meat than rice these days and big girls are rejoicing. Trini men think they can handle anything but many a man has attempted to test a bam bam and found himself up against a penis destroyer. Free caution tape for dangerous bumpers should be standard issue during the Carnival season – “Wine on this at your own risk”. I agree with Machel – we need a Ministry of Road to handle Carnival affairs. The Ministry of the Arts and Multiculturalism just ain’t cutting it.

The Ministry of Road should have a department that specialises in Carnival Clothing Legislation. Carnival fashion is always a lottery and the odds of good taste are not stacked in our favour. Peacocking is not only allowed, it’s expected. And what ridiculous lengths we go to in our efforts to be noticed! A woman at Prestige Fete this year was proudly flaunting black pleather shorts, black knee high boots (presumably also pleather?), skin-tight gold spandex top, and a gold lamé cape. Who the hell wears a CAPE in everyday life?? It certainly shouldn’t be anyone who remembers the day Kennedy was shot.

There is a fine line between cosquelle and clown. Unfortunately, with the fashion police taking their annual vacation during the Carnival season, this line can be hard to see. (Blame Machel for fogging up de place.) The seemingly nationwide obsession with exposing as much flesh as possible – because we “tun up” – pushes common sense aside in favour of the ghetto fabulous and the garish. I remember asking a friend – where do people go to buy these clothes? I don’t know what is more ludicrous – that shops actually sell such eye watering couture, or that people buy it.  And judging by the number of women strutting around in boots you’d think Trinidad and Tobago had undergone a drastic climate change.

Competing for attention with the atmosphere of gaiety and abandon are the usual controversies and bacchanal without which no Trini Carnival would be complete. Annual favourites for the season:

  • Fete promoters being threatened with injunctions
  • Carnival artistes complaining about prize money
  • Woodbrook residents complaining about noise and traffic
  • Masqueraders and band leaders protesting changes to the parade route
  • Panmen claiming disrespect

And the list goes on and on…because this is the FIRST time we are hosting Carnival. To quote Sparrow – we like it so.

Musically the 2014 soca crop follows the tradition established in recent years – catchy, disposable wine and jam fodder we will have forgotten by this time next year. But I’m not complaining. The music pleasingly numbs the senses and consolidates the real purpose of Carnival – a temporary escape from the grim reality of everyday life in Trinidad and Tobago. Let’s face it – if we didn’t have Carnival (and 14 Public Holidays) life here would be really hard to deal with. Between now and Ash Wednesday I will be moving  like Iwer – going round country mashing up fete; fete after fete after fete. I’m claiming Carnival immunity for all my actions over the next week. It’s not me – blame it on the music.

What are your Carnival plans?

Who will take the Road March title this year?

Can you really lengthen a dhoti with cloth?

Tell me your thoughts in the comments below.


Two little girls

This blog post is a departure from my usual witticisms and rants. I’m sorry to disappoint my regular readers but I had a life changing experience yesterday. Talking about it is difficult but for some inexplicable reason, I find myself compelled to write. Maybe this is part of the healing process.

Inane crazed musings will resume…soon.

The Sister I Never Had

Yesterday my best friend SA passed away. I don’t know where I am on the seven stages of grief but I suspect I’m still in shock and denial.  Today I don’t want to think about death. I’d rather reflect on the treasure trove of memories SA and I built over a friendship that spanned 36+ years.

On a warm September day many moons ago I joined 104 other young girls and their parents in the auditorium of St Augustine Girls High School for Form One registration. I recall nothing about that day except this – the principal asking the assembly to acknowledge the girl who had achieved the highest mark in the entrance examination.  As I turned to look at the pretty girl dressed in red with the big smile I remember thinking – that’s the girl I have to beat. Over the next seven years I would occasionally match but never surpass SA’s academic achievements. She was quite simply, the smartest girl I knew.

In a friendship that grew from childhood to adulthood we shared everything – disappointments, triumphs, celebrations, and heartaches. Our conversations evolved from whispers about first kisses at the back of the classroom and furtive notes hastily written on torn scraps of paper, to late night conversations on childcare and the directions our lives were taking. Every school experience, painstakingly written letter, phone call, text message, email, Skype call, girlie vacation, and raucous night out brought us closer together.

What didn’t I share with SA? Not much. She was my sounding board, advice columnist and favourite liming partner. Being born a month apart, every birthday and milestone was a reason to celebrate together. If I were to line up all the bottles of wine and champagne we’d shared over the years….I doubt one landfill would suffice.

Many a time we rescued each other and she quite literally saved my life. Separation by distance did little to dim our friendship. Somehow we slipped seamlessly from innocence to womanhood without losing the candour and strength of our bond. Out of all my friends she was the most like me. SA fully understood my complex family relationships; like me she strived for more and struggled with periodic bouts of self doubt. We comforted and supported each other.

Many people were baffled by the close nature of our friendship. SA was a perfectionist and could be intimidating. But I saw beneath the sometimes prickly exterior to the warm person inside – the nurturing mother and loyal friend who never missed an opportunity to lavish care and attention on those she loved.

We had great plans to meet in London last August for a memorable weekend of the kind we had become accustomed to over the years – lots of food, alcohol, and female bonding. When SA called the day before we were due to meet up to say she felt unwell I suggested rest and a check-up. She concurred and agreed to see a fellow professional (she was a doctor) the next day. I was not prepared for the phone call less than 24 hours later informing me that what we thought was a tummy bug was in fact cancer.

I last saw SA in person four months ago when I visited her where she eventually drew her last breath. We both knew the time was fast approaching. We said everything we had to say to each other and most importantly – expressed our love and gratitude for the positive impact we had on each others’ lives. Not many people get that opportunity and I know we were lucky. We maintained regular communication via Skype and text until three weeks ago when SA’s health deteriorated to the point that this was no longer possible. Today’s news was inevitable and expected; I monitored her condition to the end.

There are some people who enter our lives and despite their constant presence, their impact is minimal. That was not the case with SA. She significantly affected those around her. To paraphrase Senator Edward Kennedy eulogising his brother Robert Kennedy – she need not be idealised or enlarged in death beyond what she was in life; remember her simply as a good and decent woman who saw wrong and tried to right it, saw suffering and tried to heal it.

At some point the tears will come, but not yet. I am mindful of Rabindranath Tagore’s wise words – “If you cry because the sun has gone out of your life, your tears will prevent you from seeing the stars.”

To my beloved SA – thank you for a lifetime of friendship. I am a better person for having known you. Rest in peace.


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?


You Is Ah Gonian If

The recent Tobago House of Assembly election was a stark reminder of the many differences between Trinidad and Tobago. Tobagonians  are fiercely proud of their heritage and the election result – a resounding victory for the PNM – was further proof that Gonians will resist any attempt of perceived Trinidadian dominance. Tobago culture is an enigma to Trinidadians. To understand it, you have to be one of them.

Let me stake my claim to being half-Gonian thanks to a Patience Hill born-and-raised father. Despite spending most of my childhood in Trinidad, I didn’t gain Trinbagonian citizenship until adulthood. I  entered the world in England, Mother is a Bajan, and no-one in my family was born in Trinidad. So you see I’m really not a Trini at all. I’m a fake.

Having said that, I’m more Trini than Gonian and with typical Trini arrogance here’s my take on what defines the Tobago native. Use the Trinbago Dictionary if you need translations!

You Is a Gonian If…

…You eat crab and dumplings at least once a week

…You race your pet goat

…You can dance the Heel and Toe

…You believe Trinis are always in a hurry

…Six of your relatives share the same name

…You use words like ninyam “Meh put ninyam pon table” and pickney “Where mih pickney an’ dem?”

…You love a good Bongo Night

…You think all Trinis need to humble themselves

…You grew up chasing crabs on the beach

…You not-so-secretly want Tobago to secede from Trinidad

…Your uncle has a fishing boat

…You look forward to  Great Fete Weekend

…You never miss a village harvest

…You know nothing about cricket but would never admit this

…Half of your family works for the Tobago House of Assembly. The rest are in the hospitality industry

…Going to church is a social event

…When talking to two or more Gonians, Trinis can’t understand you

…You have 100,000 extended family members. 80,000 of them live in Tobago; 40,000 live in the USA, and one lives in Trinidad

…You exist in a different time universe to other nationalities. One Tobago minute = One hour elsewhere

…You can make a cook anytime, anywhere, with anything

…You know where to get pacro water and bois bande

…You dislike Trini politicians…in fact, anything Trini…

…You consider turtles to be unofficial wild meat

…You’re related to me!


Yuh Know You Is A Trini If…

I’m often asked by non-West Indians what distinguishes Trinidad and Tobago from other Caribbean nations. The answer is complex. The Trinbagonian love of partying and having a good time is well known, as is the country’s dependence on oil and natural gas for its main source of income.

There is a unique set of characteristics which defines the Trinbagonian  and sets him/her apart from Caribbean brothers and sisters. Within this character set are the subsets Trinidadian and Tobagonian. You would think that being a twin island state the differences between occupants of the two isles would be minimal. You would be mistaken. Trinidadians (Trinis) differ in many subtle ways from their northern neighbours. I’ve decided to document some of the differences, starting with the Trinis. For the benefit of those not familiar with Trini parlance, refer to the Trinbago Dictionary here.

Please add your own observations in the comments below!

Yuh Know You Is A Trini If…

…You never leave home without vex money

…You have an uncle named Junior and a cousin called Baby

…You can fete whole night and wake up for work the next day no problem

…You treat the shoulder on the highway as the real outside lane

…No meal is complete without the mother-in-law

…You take out a loan to play mas

…The back seat of your car is a set of speakers

…Everyone in your family has a home name

…Sunday lunch must include callaloo and macaroni pie

…You pitched marbles as a child

…You have no idea what an orderly queue is

…You sing lustily to every parang song but can’t speak Spanish

…Your ring tone is a soca tune

…You bathe pizza in ketchup

…You give every flu virus a name  e.g. “I was home sick with Section 34”

…Your smart phone cost more than your car

…You have at least one item of red clothing in your wardrobe

…You believe every sporting achievement should be rewarded with house, land, and a public holiday

…No drink is finished until you’ve eaten the ice

…You have KFC delivery on speed dial

…You can’t foxtrot, samba or waltz but you can wine, jook, jam, and palance

…Your favourite card game is All Fours

…You collect rain water in buckets for “in case”

…You put up new curtains every Christmas

…As soon as you jump on a plane to “go foreign” you lose the Trini accent

…You know everybody’s business

Liming takes priority over all other activities, especially work

…You drink bush tea to cure every ailment

…Your pit bull knocked up the neighbour’s pompek

…Scotch and coconut water is your favourite drink

…You skive off work to watch cricket in the Oval

…You arrive two hours late for every event

…Last minute beating book got you through school

…You’ve been to New York more times than you’ve been to Tobago

…You support Manchester United and either FC Barcelona or Real Madrid

…Words like broughtupsy and bobol are part of your everyday vocabulary

…You can’t understand how all dem Jamaican and Bajan make the West Indies cricket team

…You take your pet bird for walks in its cage

…You know God is a Trini!


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