Monthly Archives: July 2008

There is nothing simple about going to the beach in Trinidad








There is nothing as simple as simply going to the beach in Trinidad.  Francois thoughtfully packed a small cooler with some ice and beers and prepared to carry it down to the beach.  I myself would have brought nothing seeing as though the beach was merely minutes from the house. As he prepared to haul it onto his shoulder he was stopped.

“What’s that there boy?”



“That’s not enough!”


“It’s ten beers”

“What? That’s only one round! We need a bigger cooler!”


So the beer was transferred to a large cooler, large enough to feed a picnic of 10 people and it has wheels.  Extra beer was added, a whole bag of ice, a bottle of rum, a bottle of white wine, a bottle of Vodka and plenty of soda water.  Then a crate was added with some snacks and plastic cups.

Now that the bar was tended to we could leave for the beach.

Trinidadians really know how to do the beach and they really know how to “lime.”  A lime means to gather in a group to chew the fat and drink. Liming is close to impossible without alcohol and if dancing occurs it becomes a party.   I have never witnessed a group of people who take their leisure time so seriously. They treat a lime with the same attention as a business deal. Or perhaps better.

Liming comes from the term “Limers” which goes back to the days of English sailors, so called for the lime they sucked to prevent scurvy. The “Limers” were obliged to stay outside of drinking establishments and the habit of standing around to drink and pass the time became known as liming.

The beach lime is especially serious because preparations need to be made for an entire day.  Drinking in the sun is a serious sport and I have witnessed the technique. Simply it requires one to not stop. Mixing sugar with alcohol is discouraged as headaches will ensue and as long as one continues drinking one stays happy. People don’t get aggressive and plentiful food is consumed to aid in the soaking up of beverages. In a bar it is a true fact that beer is cheaper than non-alcoholic drinks.

So why do these islanders drink so much?  Could it be because there is little else to do? Could it be that so much time is spent in the company of friends and family in the sun and drinking helps the conversation along? Could it be that this is a rum nation?  As we drive toward the beach we always see people drinking on the side of the road. There is no such thing as a drive over 1 hour without a stop for a drink and a lime.

It has been hard to get into training. I tend to consume half as much as everyone else quite honestly because if I didn’t I would fall asleep!  Trinidad is the only place in the world where I have taken an insulated coffee mug filled with wine into the cinema. My friend Cassandra has proved a fabulously bad influence.  Whereas before I might have sipped a glass of wine at lunch, I am now drinking Vodka sodas at 10.30am.  This new friend of mine has taken me down a garden path that I am not entirely resisting. This garden in fun! The beach is different, the people laugh and relax and talk freely. Few people are guarded and the day rolls on in Zen like fashion.  Not that a Sunday at the beach ever really stressed me out but the new buzz is pretty happy. 

Another thing that has happened here is that I have become addicted to scrabble. Having never grown up with a solitary board game I am now carting my scrabble board everywhere I go and I day dream about the fancy new edition with the revolving lazy Susan stand. I am even playing scrabble on line with friends back home and I feel like a crack addict when we get a power cut and I am cut off from my habit.

So it is a good thing I have a day job or I would turn into a scrabble playing, vodka drinking, expert limer.



Filed under Trinidad & Tobago

Leaving Carnival behind

Leaving Trinidad at Carnival time is considered a huge faux pas. After all, how can you miss the biggest party in the world and the best that Trinidad has to offer? Carnival is a loud bacchanal of color, skin, music and costume. For two days people dance and “wine” in the streets before the austerity of lent sets in. We decided to do exactly the opposite and headed off to Bequia, a tiny island in the Grenadines for 4 days.  Bequia is off the beaten path. Although, if your path is one sailed then it is most definitely on the path. The tiny harbour is filled with sailboats of all sizes ranging from large chartered boats sailing the Grenadines to families who have left their lives for a year or more and are sailing the world. We met one such family who were on the Atlantic Arc and were home schooling their three children aboard their boat for a year.

Bequia is only 7 miles long and 3 miles wide and taxis are either small speed boats or jeeps with open backs. It is a magical place. Between aging hippies playing backgammon, sailors loading up with fuel, gourmet supplies and checking their emails at the internet café there are travelers and families looking to pause for a few days and forget the race of life. The pace is so slow it took a day to slow my pulse down until it was barely there. The airport is miniscule so most people take the 1 hour ferry from St. Vincent. St. Vincent also has a tiny airport, so tiny that flights only come in from the Caribbean. As the ferry approached Bequia, the first island in the chain of emerald islands that makes up the Grenadines, I thought it was uninhabited until we turned a corner and saw the little harbour dotted with boats and the coloured roofs of small homes.

It is easy to see how someone could fall off the speeding wagon we call the rat race and come rolling to a stop in a place like Bequia. Our needs suddenly become very small when witnessed from a hill top over three bays and water the colour of pale lapis. As sometimes happens when I listen to a piece of music so beautiful my skin is raised I was touched by the beauty of this simple place.

The only time my system was shocked was when, in the middle of the night, I was greeted in the bathroom by a spider so huge I instantly believed it must be a Tarantula. I didn’t take the time to assess how hairy its legs were. All I knew was that I had to sit for a moment and I didn’t want to look at that creature. I placed three towels over it and hoped it wouldn’t escape. I crawled back into bed and woke up my husband to tell him that we had an uninvited guest. He grunted and turned over and I was left with my thoughts. Of course my daughters thought she was beautiful and promptly named her Gertrude. How did I, the one with the paranormal fear of creatures have two girls so fond of bugs?

I have a theory that people who can see the horizon are happier. Just as I believe that people who speak Spanish are more beautiful, I believe this fact like an uncontested truth. We need to be able to see as far as the eye can see. If our view is always obstructed by concrete or brick we cannot feel the full potential of our eyesight. Although perhaps when we can see too far we are no longer hidden by our protective distractions. We are forced to be honest with ourselves.

Bequia created within me a longing to be on a boat. Unfortunately at the same time as this longing arrived I was watching my poor husband empty his belly over the side of a boat. Just a few minutes from the main harbour is a pretty snorkelling spot and despite the short distance it proved too long a trip for him. Likewise on the ferry back to St. Vincent I watched as he struggled with the nausea that plagued him for the whole hour. I already knew before hand that I couldn’t handle moving objects and had taken strong pills. After all, once you have filled a paper bag on a 747 you are never quite safe again. He, on the other hand tried to brave it out. He is now having second thoughts about our intended sailing trip planned for next year. The idea of being on a boat is endlessly fascinating. The perspective of the world is entirely unique, it harks back to the way most of the world was discovered and yet despite the open horizon all around one is trapped with nowhere to run, drive, walk or escape an annoying spouse or child. I have the greatest respect for those families that survive a year on a boat together. Surrounded by so many sailors, I felt the idea quite captivating. We shall see how long that idea germinates and whether it ever sprouts.

So did I make the right choice? It was certainly a different view than I would have had on the streets of Port of Spain. The tassels on those bikini costumes shake quite fast, the bottoms of those women do spin, the men, cut like sharp but warm tools press against those women in a frenzy of simulated sex. The rum flows, the music thumps and the heat bores down until all inhibitions are lost. Driving home from the airport we saw bejewelled and costumed men and women, tired feet and feathers array trying to get home.  We looked out of the window, fascinated as if we had just arrived from another planet and been dropped at the end of the biggest party in the world. I suppose we had. As we looked the calmness sat in me. I could still see the horizon.


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Filed under Travel, Trinidad & Tobago