Thursday, March 5, 2009

Tales from Trinidad

Saturday, February 28, 2009

It’s my final day in Trinidad. I can’t believe how fast the week went. It seems like just yesterday, I was walking through the airport in nervous anticipation of what it would be like to stay with a guy I barely know, for a week.

Well, it’s been interesting as I knew it would. Ng been a good host, cooking fantastic foods like, roti, curried iguana, potato pie, shrimp fried rice, stewed lentils and chicken. I’ve not eaten this well in a long time. Truly delicious. He’s also introduced me to other delicacies of the island such as doubles, which are curried chick peas surrounded by two pieces of fried bread – that’s for breakfast. Then there’s the Bake and Shark at the beach. Fried shark on bread topped with pretty much what ever you want – tamarind sauce, garlic sauce, cucumbers, tomatoes, shadow benny sauce, which is similar to cilantro and soooo good.

And I won’t forget the coconuts. I love the coconuts. There are stands everywhere to which you just walk up and tell the guy you want a coconut. He’ll ask you if you want “jelly” which is the meat inside the coconut. This is important to specify because the younger coconuts have less jelly and more water whereas the coconuts with jelly inside have less water. I pretty much always opt for the jelly. It’s great because the entire experience is completely self-contained. The guy cuts the coconut on both sides with a huge machete – kind of hot to watch. Once you drink the water from the coconut, you give it back to him and he cuts it open. The best part is that he also cuts a little piece of the coconut off to use as a spoon. All in one – ya gotta love it.

Logistically, Trinidad is like most islands I’ve visited. Things move very slowly and not necessarily forward. But, it seems to not matter to anyone as that’s just how it is. Last night, we went out to a trendy spot in Port of Spain called Aura. This place is big with the older set. Older meaning over 30, I suppose. I sat down at a table while Ng went to get our drinks. It wasn’t crowded at all and there were three bartenders behind the bar, so I’m thinking it won’t take but a few minutes. Well, twenty minutes later – I’m not kidding, he returns with our drinks. No complaints. It’s just how it is.

The crowd at this place could have been from anywhere. It was surprising to me in that I figured it would be less trendy and more island-like. But these people looked like they could’ve been out in the Meatpacking District.

I drank a lot of wine and thoroughly enjoyed myself. As it got later, the music got louder and I couldn’t help but get sucked into the Soca. Soca is a dance music that originated in Trinidad and Tobago and is derived from Calypso. It’s got a great beat. Think of reggae with a beat. Ngl would kill me if he read this. As you might imagine, Trinidadians take their music seriously. It’s a big no-no to lump reggae and soca into one category. In fact, I’d venture to say it’s downright insulting.

The thing about Soca, is once you start dancing to it, it’s very hard to stop. I could’ve danced for hours, but lucky for Ng, who was tired, Aura was closing. We could have gone upstairs to the dance club, 51 degrees, but it was late and we had a long way to drive home.
I slept better than I have all week, thanks to the wine. You’d think it would be quiet and peaceful here in Trinidad.. I sure did. Between the dogs barking all night long, the birds chirping through the night and into the morning and the roosters crowing continuously, a sound sleep is hard to come by. The dogs are the most annoying. People here keep their dogs outside. Everyone’s got gates, so the dogs stay behind the gate. There are usually at least three dogs to a home and they rarely bark at people. In fact, we got out of the car last night and they were all resting comfortably behind the gate without so much as a wag of the tail.

It’s the stray dogs that really get them going. And I mean really. There were times I woke up in the middle of the night to the sound of fifty or so dogs barking like crazy. I thought someone was getting attacked. It was crazy. This goes on all night long. The stray dogs roam the neighborhood and the dogs with a home scream at them. It’s like living across the street from a kennel.

At least we didn’t run out of water today. Water, apparently, can be hard to come by, if your tank isn’t big enough. Each tank holds up to 600 gallons of water. Some homes have up to four tanks. Ng has one. Once he gets his washer/dryer installed, he’ll have to get another tank. Wednesday night, we ran out of water. There’s been four of us staying here and I guess we used up all the water. The tanks are refilled through the main line on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. There’s a main line that runs to the tanks and on those days water is replenished. Like magic. When I asked Ng what do people do if they run out of water on a Wednesday afternoon, he simply replied, “They wait until Thursday when it comes.” Gotta love it.

The water isn’t the only oddity in the plumbing factor here. I got my period on Friday and was unclear on whether I could flush my tampons down the toilet as I do in the states. Ng wasn’t sure either as this hasn’t come up for him since he’s had the house. At first he said to just flush them, but then as an afterthought he said, “Ya might as well jooost ‘trow them away.” Ooookay. Should be interesting, considering the one garbage can in the entire house is in the kitchen.

Now, the first day of my period is no joke. I bleed a lot. The idea of retrieving my tampon into some toilet paper and carrying it through the house to the garbage didn’t really appeal, but the rules are the rules. I already have anxiety about staining Ng’s bed or anyone else’s for that matter as this sometimes happens if I don’t wake up in the middle of the night to change my tampon. Now, I had a whole other set of anxiety to add to the mix as I wondered how I would wake up in the middle of the night, change my tampon, make my way downstairs to the kitchen, without waking Ng up who is sleeping in the living room, which is just off the kitchen.

I decided to take a plastic bag upstairs with me and create a secret makeshift garbage to house my tampons until the morning. So there I am, waking up in the middle of the night, carrying my little bag of tricks to the bathroom, catching my tampon with some toilet paper, wrapping it up and throwing it into the bag. Once finished, I tie the bag up and bring it back to my room for safe keeping. Good thing my nerves kept me from forgetting its presence. Imagine leaving that behind.

In the morning, I try to wait for everyone to be out of the kitchen/living room area before hurrying down the stairs with my plastic bag. When the coast is clear, I tiptoe to the garbage so as not to call attention to myself and throw the bag away. Mission accomplished. Well, almost. I have to get a new bag for the next night. I grab a new one, ball it up in my hand and rush back upstairs to stash it in my suitcase.

Changing my tampon throughout the day is not as tricky logistically. It’s just more embarrassing. In a house full of three other people, who know I have my period, discretion is hard to come by. Each time I go to the bathroom, I retrieve my tampon into some toilet paper and then wad it up with more. I put in a new tampon, flush the lame toilet that can’t handle my damn tampons and wash my hands. From there, I take a deep breath, open the door and hold my head high as I walk straight to the garbage and discard my little wad of feminine love. Thankfully, nobody says anything, but I know they know. How could they not? Oh well. In Mexico, you can’t even flush the toilet paper down the toilet. Imagine the bag I’d have to carry around for that.

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