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Trinidad #3

Flag of Trinidad & Tobago

July - August 2005

This was my third trip to Trinidad, and the third time to visit during the rainy season. To say that it was hot and rainy would be an understatement. We only managed to go sightseeing for portions of six out of the twenty-one days we were there, and we did not visit a single beach. What did we do, you might ask? Well, a lot of our time was spent just getting things; from groceries and gas, to items for home improvement, and running errands for ourselves, loved ones and even slight acquaintances.

Dependable transportation.

Trinidad may look small to an outsider, but it takes a long time to get around. The roads have improved in the south-central part, where we were staying, but the congestion is on-par with a lot of bigger places Iíve been to. Trinidad is a tiny, super-concentrated, cross-between tropical West-Africa and the Indian subcontinent. Culturally, sort of like Lagos meets Bangalore, transported to the West Indies. We usually rent a car, but this time I drove my brother-in-law Kennethís car everyday (because he insisted), and I drove for a total of 880 miles (with only the windows for A/C). Plus, I took over 1,000 photographs. As for domestic conditions, the warmth and mosquitoes gave me a lot of sleepless nights, and for a while, Reanna was covered with mosquito bites, until we got a mosquito net for her bed. I lost some weight, from fewer calories, and dehydration, but avoided getting sunburned.

Hurricane Emily was the biggest weather story of the trip. Normally T&T is well below the hurricane paths, but this time Emily slowly swept just to the North of Trinidad and barely scraped Tobago. The timing was just right to cancel my sister-in-law Julietís flight home to Germany for four days, but it was nice to spend more time with her. Emily dumped one good soaking rain on us during the wee hours of July 14th, but there was no damage in our area. Up north there was some flooding and some landslides, however. I took my laptop, and a few times when it was raining, or at night, when what was on TV didn't interest Reanna, she watched a few DVD movies on it.

The wonderful pool.

The main source of entertainment was the pool. After about eight-years in the making, my German brother-in-law Jurgenís pool was finally operating. How sweet it is to have a pool in Trinidad! The beach waters are not exactly savory with all the off-shore oil drilling, so the pool was a terrific godsend. Jurgen is understandably proud of his pool; ask him, and heíll tell you about all the travail he went through to build it. Some days were better than others for swimming, because of the frequent rain, but I usually liked to swim between 3:00 p.m. Ė 6:00 p.m. because the sun was too intense to go swimming before 3:00 p.m. Due to Trinidad's proximity to the Equator, days started getting dark about 6:30 p.m.

One of the big surprises was finding an Internet Cafť so close to home; a little over a mile away in Farnum Village. I went there four times and emailed friends, family and workmates. This was a big improvement over last time, when I had to drive about eight or nines miles to find one. I still went to Trinicafe, in Marabella, once, and the guy there remembered me from two-years ago! I still consider Internet access to be of major importance when Iím traveling; even if it isnít an absolute necessity. It was also one of the few air conditioned places I could visit and relax in. By-the-way, I took my new XMRadio on the trip, hoping it would work, so I could keep track of news, baseball scores, and listen to music--but we were too far South and it didn't work. Bummer! But, I made do with the two TV channels we got, and my Dell DJ mp3 player (which I was able to connect to the cassette player in the car!).

Lopinot Plantation House.

Sightseeing: We did less than before, but the quality was of the first order. One day we went to St. Joseph, Trinidadís oldest European town and the first Capital, back when it was under Spanish rule. There is an old church there, St. Josephís, which dates from 1593; although todayís Gothic-style structure was built in 1815. Next, we went to the Lopinot Plantation Complex, located in the Northern range, which was a cocoa and coffee plantation started by French planters in 1800. The modest great house was under renovation inside, but outside looked very good and the grounds were beautifully landscaped, with picnic tables and out-buildings to look at, including a huge old outdoor ceramic oven.

Roger at Piparo mud volcano. Reanna took the photo.

I revisited the Piparo mud volcano I saw in 1998. It was a bit flatter, but still semi-active, and barren of any plant life on top of the mud. Nothing will grow on it, apparently. A car-full of us went to see Lion House, in Chaguanas, where V.S. Naipaul, Trinidadís most famous writer grew up. Naipaul received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2001, and has written well over twenty-books. He was born into a well-to-do Indian family, and went to Oxford. I began reading one of his books, An Area of Darkness: A Discovery of India, on this trip.

Reanna at a playground.

We spent most of July 27th in Port-of-Spain, and walked around quite a lot in the main shopping district; did some errands for people, and I bought a cricket bat and ball at a sports shop. Iím not a big fan of cricket, but Iíve watched enough of it on TV to be mildly interested, and I knew it would be a good souvenir. Next, a funny coincidence happened. As I was strutting about town with my cricket bat, wrapped in a plastic bag under one arm, I passed by three young English-looking blokes with cricket bats under their arms!

We visited the Red House (Parliament) and there was a special ceremony going to take place later that day for the 15th anniversary of the coup attempt in 1990, when a small Islamic radical group tried to take over the government resulting in a six-day siege that has been a major source of embarrassment to Trinidadianís ever since. Then, we went to the zoo and the botanical gardens, which Reanna enjoyed immensely.

The only other sightseeing we did was in San Fernando: the High Street, Library Corner and the Promenade, as well as San Fernando Hill, which is a national park. We drove to the top of it and enjoyed the views of San Fernando, the sea, and the hills to the east, where Lindaís home town of Williamsville is located. We bought some fish at the San Fernando wharf and cooked it. Spot the Tennessee apparel: I saw two people in Trinidad sporting Tennessee Titans jerseys, and one UT cap. I thought that was interesting.

We did a fair amount of shopping in grocery stores, department stores, pharmacies, bookshops, hardware, bakeries, fastfood and gas stations. With only one or two exceptions we always received friendly, courteous, service. A few times, shop assistants went out of their way to help entertain Reanna while we looked around. On the whole, I've had a very positive experience with business customs in Trinidad.

The last week in Trinidad, we were joined by one of Lindaís other sisters from Germany; Debbie, and husband Jurgen, and son Marcus. This made for a grand total of eight people in the house, and it was a bit crowded. There were some fun and not-so-fun moments, but it was good to see them again, and to get reacquainted. The fellowship was most appreciated, and Reanna had a big time playing with her older cousin, Marcus. Get this, ice, became so scarce that I learned to economize. Whenever I had some ice left over in my glass, I put it back in the freezer to use again! Learning about life from the unique perspective of this American-German-Trinidadian family is definitely worth the price of the airplane ticket.

I never seem to meet any Americans in Trinidad, but this time we met one on the flight-out; a man from Los Angeles, who is married to a Trinidadian and was staying in San Fernando. Our luck with the airport was not so good this trip; our flight was delayed because the fuel truck broke down enroute, and we left 45-minutes late. As a result, we missed our connecting flight in Newark, NJ by less than 15-minutes. Continental Airlines put us on a later flight to Nashville, and gave us food vouchers, so we got an almost free meal out of it, and a couple of complimentary phone calls to my folks to explain our delay. To cap-off our trip, we ate dinner in a little bistro at the airport with a view of New York City's skyline way-off in the distance. Maybe one of these days, if I'm patient, I might get to see New York first hand. One can only hope. But for now, lasting memories of Trinidad will be on my mind for quite some time, no doubt.

Extra photos:
A photo of Lion House (V.S. Naipaul's birthplace)
A photo of the Red House (Parliament)
A photo of Roger's swimming attire
See Map A | Map B
Go to Trinidad #1; Trinidad #2