Tag Archives: Trinidad & Tobago

Farewell Uganda

The day has arrived. The past week has been quite wonderful with dinners and breakfasts and coffee breaks spent with good friends. It has been a slow but soulful goodbye and I feel happy and ready to depart. Of course my mind swings back to the last farewell, two years ago, when we said goodbye to Trinidad.

I am absolutely sure that I will come back, I am already day dreaming about a visit next year.

In the mean time it is time to bid this great land farewell.

And 3limes will be taking a short break too. I am boarding a plane for Bahrain today, then a short week later I will hit London for the weekend. Finally on July 3rd we arrive in Montreal! It has been a long two years since we were home and I intend to have a splendid summer both lake side and in la belle ville.

See you later, Uganda, and thank you.

 

 

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Filed under Being brave, Trinidad & Tobago, Uganda

Goodbye Sweet T and T

Well here it is, the last post from Trinidad. After this 3 limes will be taking a little vacation while I go and dip my toes in some good Canadian lake water.

 

I didn’t want to come here. Looking back at that resistance now, the tears and the fears, I, of course, find it ironic, since now I am so sad to go. 

 

This is a land filled with beauty, colour, song and a thousand smiles. It is also a country of crime, bitterness and anger. I have rarely mentioned the question of crime here since I hate to taint the reputation of the sweet land, but it is a fact. I just think it is a great shame to think “land of crime” whenever Trinidad is mentioned because it is a whole lot more. However, in a strange way the hatred of the crime and the terrible slip in respect for one another is what bonds many Trinis. The vibrant culture sings out “ we are more than that!’

 

As much as I have loved being here I am looking forward to not looking over my shoulder, except that will probably take some time. I am excited about letting my girls have more freedom, perhaps a walk to the store or park. But I must say, and it should be said that I have had nothing but beautiful times with good people during my two years here. In the vein I would like to conduct a little Trini wrap up.

 

 

In Trinidad hot yellow is the new white.

Large earrings are worn to the beach.

Sarong must match bikini.

Doubles are delicious, who knew chickpeas and dough could rock the world?

Trinis love Soca. I mean really LOVE. SOCA.

Cricket is a really big deal.

Rum is like water.

Roosters walk wild, a cow lives by the highway, ancient turtles lay eggs, and there is an animal called an Agouti which looks like a rat from a horror movie.

A LIME is relaxed but if a DJ plays some SOCA wining will ensue.

Parrots fly wild.

The drive to Maracas is magic. 

Men call each other Hoss. Instead of Dawg.

People dress up to go to the movies. People dress up all the time.

You can see Venezuela.

Pepper sauce in Not an option.

My new favorite word is Macocious. It means Nosy. Facebook is the ultimate place to Maco.

Trinis take their time, and Lime.

 

 

 

 

I hope that you will come back and follow our journey to Uganda. I am anxious to start telling stories from Kampala. 

Here is a little picture of our route to Africa. Trinidad-Montreal-London-Kampala. Luckily that route will take 6 weeks. In that time I hope to freeze my derriere in a gorgeous lake, eat some mighty fine sushi, gorge on cheese, laugh with my “sisters”, visit a giant doll house, meet a new born, reunite with some old friends, drink some mighty fine wine, watch my girls on a canoe, take a red bus and buy some pretty shoes.

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Filed under Travel, Trinidad & Tobago

The Girl who saved the day ( and killed a roach.)

Teenagers care immensely what people think of them. Their sense of self is being developed and their egos take a crushing blow. The other day in class a young man that we shall call Tom opened his backpack to slip out a book. What crawled out instead was a very large and very brown cockroach. I don’t do well with roaches. As an aside I’ll mention that I once handed over my pocket money to a friend in return for the killing of the large cockroach making its way across my room. I am a wimp with a capital W. A wimp moving to Africa where I hear the bugs are super-sized.

Apparently Tom didn’t do too well with cockroaches either judging by the speed with which he leapt, white faced onto the nearest desk. While he was shaking like a lilly white leaf the girl of his dreams, the one everyone knows he adores, we’ll call her Nat, was slipping off her shoe and giving that cockroach what-for. Within minutes she had that roach crushed and swept up in a tissue much to the applauding, cheering and jeering of the class. I was outside of the room, hand on forehead, quivering until the beast was dispatched to the garbage. With a stroke of perfect timing, at the exact moment that all this was going on, in fact at the moment that Nat was running to the garbage in the corridor, roach in hand, the head of admissions was passing by with a prospective family who were visiting the school with a mind to enter their child next year.

Now, Nat is the hero of this story, the coolest chick in the school, the brave roach squashing student and object of Tom’s admiration. Tom, on the other hand, is now considered a “girl” and his emasculation proved the subject of much hilarity in the lunch room. He now looks upon Nat with Awe, in addition to Lust but hopefully his feathers have barely been ruffled. His sense of humour and his ego are intact but still, that must have hurt a tad. What was once an infamous tale of unrequited 10th grade love is now a tale of girl rescues boy. I, of course, was thrilled by the display of girl power, and a smidge jealous of her bravery.

I might need to brush up on my shoe wielding skills.

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Filed under Might be funny, Teenagers

The longest goodbye

When I was 9 my family moved from Hong Kong to Japan. I wasn’t particularly upset about moving to a new country other than two wholly devastating events. I had to bid farewell to both my best friend and my dog. My parents decided that leaving him behind would be the best thing, considering that Tokyo was a concrete jungle bereft of green parks and places for a long-eared basset hound to run free.
I can still recall the tears. My friend I could talk to on the phone, perhaps even see again but my dog, keeper of my secrets, lover of my bed? No. It was goodbye forever.

Now as we embark upon the Great Departure from Trinidad I look at my two daughters, 9 and 12 and see history repeating itself.
We have a gorgeous dog; brown eyed, long in the ear, soft to the touch. We brought her with us from Canada and wept as we watched her endure the 4 months wait in Montreal, the long flight and the 1 month in quarantine before she finally arrived. She is named Zola and we call her our bear. We spend many a moment staring at her in awe. She is sweetness incarnate.

Yet we have decided to leave our beloved dog behind. She will not be joining us in Africa. This decision is based upon many factors, mainly practicality and the quality of life for our dog. The logistics of shipping a dog from Trinidad to Kampala are horrific, but can be overcome despite expense, time, and discomfort for the dog. But once in Uganda we have no idea if our apartment allows dogs, who would watch her when we leave to travel and explore, nor how she could endure the 6 month quarantine that would be demanded of her when we leave and try to bring her back. It goes without saying that the nomadic lifestyle we have unwittingly adopted is wholly unsuited to dog ownership. It is hard enough to drag a whole family across two continents, let alone an innocent and sweet unwilling pet.

Practicalities and rational thought aside, this whole affair is breaking my heart. 31 years after the fact I am reliving the terrible farewell I bid to the first dog I loved. Here I am doing it again. I cannot say the words out loud “she is just a dog”. She is not “just” anything. I have raised her from a pup, cleaned up all of her bodily secretions, trained her, loved her, and slept with her. The bond between her and the family is one that travels deep.

We are all silently dealing with this in our own way. We awake sad and slightly shocked; we look at her, touch her and stare into her eyes as if for the last time. The next 4 weeks will be the longest goodbye.
Last night she slept beside my youngest, curled beside her head like a pillow. At night she likes to visit us, one by one in our beds, a quick check to ensure her pack is in place.

Will her heart break like ours?

 

windswept-puppy

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Filed under Family Stuff, I love dogs

Slow food in the Fast lane

Grocery shopping here is a frustrating and very expensive experience. Eating local food such as Roti and Doubles is a cheap and cheerful way to go but finding decent imported food is both costly and unreliable. Every now and then a container arrives filled with a new and exciting product and a few months later, when the container has emptied and run out, the shelves are bare. It’s best not to make too many decisions about dinner until the shopping is done as you never know what you will get. Many people cave and go headlong into the fast food option a few times a week.

The busiest KFC in the world is here in Trinidad on Independence Square. While that branch might be the busiest, I suspect that the other Trinidad branches are not far behind. I have never seen as many people eating fried chicken in my life as I see here on a daily basis. Many students rush to KFC during our 30 minute lunch hour, coming back to school with minutes to spare and licking chicken grease off their fingers for the remainder of the afternoon.
It is cheap, tasty and who cares about heart disease and long term health disasters when all that rum dissolves the probable effects?

In the rest of the world fast food consumption is on the rise. Has anyone seen those tv ads where the nice lady serves Mcnuggets on a banana leaf as a pseudo fancy appetizer? If that is not a woeful tale of recession optimism then I don’t know what it. Crowds of people march into the golden arches demanding their $1.00 meal, feeling puffed and victorious with their frugality, but what can a $1.00 actually give you? Is anyone thinking about the substances, rather than food, that is being ingested? When did people put money so far ahead of health?
McDonalds was one of only two companies to close 2008 with a 4.5% increase in their stock value. (The other is Walmart. Surprised?) Wholefoods is crawling through the tunnel of recession despair and the Big Mac rules. There is no MacDonalds down here but Burger King and KFC have line ups round the block. This has always been the way, recession woes have not really hit this corner of the Caribbean.

When I was very small, back in 1974, my family was living in Hong Kong. There was a MacDonald’s there, shiny, new and nonexistent in the UK from where we had recently been transplanted. So it was novel, yummy and there was an exciting replica of a pirate ship that we would crawl all over. A visit quickly became our Sunday night routine. I remember we weren’t allowed to drink our shake until we had finished our burger. Got to get those nutrients in first!
Once my parents realized what we were really ingesting, the visits to the glorious arches stopped and our fridge became filled with the freshest and best food we could buy. We weren’t an obsessed family but we were healthy, yet despite the guilt I sometimes felt, I loved the occasional fast food blitz.
Now I crave fine food, rather than the fast, squashy and wet food that comes wrapped in paper. I am dreaming of my summer in Montreal when I can gorge on gorgeous tomatoes, fabulous cheese, and fresh produce from the farmers market.

Right now I am dreaming of sushi.

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Filed under I love food, Trinidad & Tobago

Cliff Jumping

Here is a little tale of Trinidad and the postal system. Back in early December 2008 I mailed two packages to my nieces in London. They were Christmas gifts and I thought that sending presents 3 weeks early would be sufficient. They arrived on May 11, 2009. I had given up hope but apparently the lesson here is not to lose hope at all but just to be patient.

I am not a patient person. I start to fret when the lady in the bank takes too long to write out the numbers on the bank draft; I am not a fan of the 12 minute cappuccino, I can barely control myself during a power cut. This is a problem as I am moving to Uganda where power cuts are a daily occurrence, there are few ATMs, I can’t even imagine the postal system and I just found out about the Washing Machines. Apparently there aren’t any. I had just digested the idea of living without a dishwasher and had warned my daughters about extensive dishes duty and now hand washing?
I won’t pretend. I am stressed.

This move has got to me. It has moved from the theoretical sphere to the definitely real. Moving is a very slow process and it is hardest on the 12 year old in the family. At that age there is a complete lack of perspective and a total absorption in the melodramatic. Rather than have a smidgen of hope, she is convinced that she will NEVER see her friends again and that her life is pretty well over.

I know, I just need to breathe and take one day at a time.

The time draws near. Between book sales, furniture sales, visits from shipping companies, purchasing of airline tickets and freak out sessions over what to do with our dog, I have been losing sleep. Moving is stressful and moving to Africa is particularly heart thumping since it is the great unknown.

Jumping off cliffs is brave.

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Filed under Family Stuff, Travel, Trinidad & Tobago

Greener pastures

I’ve noticed that I live in a bubble. Apart from the fact that my house resembles a goldfish bowl (it sits on a corner and is surrounded by windows) I myself feel like a goldfish, bug-eyed, going round and round in random circles.

I live between school and home, a distance of mere steps, I don’t drive here in Trinidad and an excursion out of our neighbourhood only ever happens at the weekend. So 5 days a week I live within a 1 kilometer radius. If I need to purchase something I need to either walk to the Mall (still within the 1K border) or get a ride. There is no public transport to speak of and walking anywhere beyond our little circle is dangerous, first because there are no sidewalks here, everything is very spread out and there is the small matter of crime.

In Montreal I walked everywhere and lived in my car the rest of the time. I was highly independent and completely self sufficient, relying on no one for transport and venturing beyond my safe cocoon daily.

I guess you could say I am suffering from Cabin Fever.

Trinidad is very suburban, a life style I have never encountered, having always lived in the centre of cities. I am at heart a down town girl and there are days when I long for Montreal, with a pain that is almost sweet in its nostalgia. I want to pound the streets, stop for coffee, browse the stores, peruse a museum or gallery, hide in a bookstore during a brief shower, pick up sushi, grab dinner to go in a deli and ride a bus. There are days where this longing strikes me hard and I barely notice the tropical palms, the sun, or the call of the early Kiskadee that pulls me out of bed.  I have always been a walker in a city and a lover of the bus. But I have also been accustomed to grabbing my keys and jumping in the car if I needed to pick up supplies from the hardware store or take my dog to the vet. Here I am tied to my home and dependant on the schedule of others.

My freedom is compromised and my spontaneity crushed.  I want to dive into the vibrancy of a city and feed on the culture, come up for air and feel alive.

The grass is ALWAYS greener.

 

 

 


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The little island that should.

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Tobago. To.Ba.Go. Trips off the tongue like a song doesn’t it? The baby sister to Trinidad is a 3 hour ferry ride away, or a 15 minute flight. We opted for the ferry so we could take our car. It was an eye opening experience. For an 8.30 departure time we had to be at the prot at 6.30 am where we lined up our car and napped until the loading began. Once we were parked and the handbrake firmly pulled up we entered the ferry.

I immediately realized what a soft and gentle bubble we live in. Here in all its glory was the other Trinidad. The colourful ladies poured into their super tight white shorts and stretched to breaking point in those hot pink t-shirts lined with glitter. Here was the gold, dripping in chains, set into teeth. Here was the hair piled high, the booty party in all its force. Normally women so endowed might opt of the subtler shades of colour, in hopes of perhaps muting the impact those propeller boobs and super booty might have. Not so on this ferry!  Squeeze that body into the brightest lycra! Drape those breasts in fuchsia and red! Roll out the glitter! And that was just the ladies. The gentlemen, gathered into loud card playing groups, turned their volume up high. By 9.30 am most were drunk. The bottles of rum were half empty, the cans of Stag lager crushed under foot. Outside the wind was blowing the cigarettes into the sea, the bucolic sight of playful dolphins over shadowed by the sight of Trinis drunk so close to dawn.

As the ferry roared into Scarborough we stuck out like sore thumbs. We were neither drunk nor merry, we emerged into the light glad to see land and shell shocked by the combined consumption of hard liqor and fried food, sometimes in the vomit bags, often in the sink. Relieved to be free we clambered into our car and headed off to our Villa, a shiny Ivory Tower facing the golf course.

We spent two weeks in Tobago, happily ensconced in our fairy world far from the reality of gold teeth and happy morning drinkers, enjoying the delights of cousins and family.

Sadly Tobago is a crumbling baby sister to its fast paced sibling. Many Trinis come to Tobago for the slower paced life, the tranquil beaches, the liming, the surfing, the gentle breeze. It is not a Caribbean island like any other. There are no hotel chains, despite being the tourism island in comparison to Trinidad, known for its industry. In fact the Hilton pulled out, not wishing to attach its name to the disappointing edifice that lacks vigour and colour. No one seems to care, no one makes an effort, and no one wants the money, nor the tourists and certainly not the business that Tourism would bring onto the island. All the hotels, the golf course, the restaurants ( bar2) were mostly empty. The grocery stores had given no thought to the tourists staying in self catering villas; in fact the choice of produce was well below the level of quality available in Trinidad.

50,000 people live in Tobago and there are many beautiful corners of this little island.  It is rustic, unspoilt and untouched by the demands of tourism that often leave Caribbean islands feeling like holiday playgrounds for the rich and white.  I consider beautiful Barbados in this category. However Tobago takes this lack of regard for tourism to an extreme. There is such a total disregard for what could be the money ticket for this poor island that Tobago leaves a neglected and rather sad impression on the traveler.

I regret not being able to show my family the shiny big sister that is Trinidad. Tobago is certainly third world, backward, slow and inefficient. The lives of the Tobagonians would be much improved by an injection of pride and business savvy.  My question is this. Why? How could the government of Trinidad be so short sighted as to fail to see the potential of their little sister island? When the gas runs out and 25 years down the road Trinidad and Tobago is steeped in the mire of disappointment and poverty, regret will surely set in.

 

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Filed under Trinidad & Tobago

Obama is Coming.

In 31 days Trinidad and Tobago will be the host of the 5th Summit of the Americas. 34 democratically elected leaders of the Western Hemisphere will gather here in Port of Spain, home of 1 highway and the 12 minute cappuccino, to discuss and exchange ideas about the Americas, the problems, the solutions and to gossip about who is the most handsome leader of the Western world.  5000 people from 33 countries will gather here, and according to the T&T organizing committee, will have a chance to see Trinidad in another light. Hmmmm. The big question, of course is why did Trinidad get this honour and what benefit will there be to this small island through the hosting of this mammoth event?

 

Of course, Trinidad is pulling out all the stops. They are dredging the harbour to accommodate both the large cruise ships coming in as well as Obama’s battleship,his home during the event. They are updating the airport, lining the windows of the Hyatt with bomb proof sticky stuff, pulling people from the military reserves out of their jobs (one of our maintenance men at school is going), training people to march and patrol in boots, hold guns and look scary. The other day, streets were closed and the daily traffic jam brought to a halt for a rehearsal. This country is getting ready. They are closing the port and the airport for the entirety of the event, which means no one ( me!) can return from Tobago on the ferry in time for school. The whole country is getting ready to turn into a peacock and show off their best colours to the world. They will tuck away the unsightly feathers, the crime, the poverty, the massive corruption, and showcase them selves as a country worthy of respect and investment.  Apparently there is some assurance that at no point will any VIPs see anything ugly at all. Routes have been laid out so that no cars will pass by the boarded up facades of the formally magnificent homes around the Savannah.

 

This is a huge undertaking for Trinidad. It takes over 3 years to build an over pass over the highway and here they are dredging the harbour 31 days before the Summit begins. There is much cynicism over the fact that Trinidad is rushing to show off to the world ( and to future investors) long before it fixes its own domestic troubles. Comparing the money spent on this summit to the health care spent on the poor of Trinidad is one bone of contention. The papers are full of criticism for the government and Patrick “Business Man” Manning but I suspect that when the streets are swept and everything is shiny and ready and Obama is actually here, a certain pride will take over this little island and the words of one famous leader will echo through the land.

“Yes We Can.”

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Just luvin’ that Carnival feeling

The streets are being swept today and most of the city is back to normal but there is a glow in everyone’s eyes and the memories of Carnival can be felt in the facebook videos, comments and pictures, the smile of a waitress, the front of the paper. Photos are being poured over and everyone is excited to relive the day. So in that merry vein I am posting more photos from yesterday.

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The photo below is by my 9 year old, daughter. Good huh?

 

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She loved those costumes!

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Filed under Family Stuff, Photography, Trinidad & Tobago