Friday, March 29, 2013

The Dark Side of Trinidad.


I have two beach-related posts lined up for you, one about Manzanilla from last Saturday and one about Las Cuevas from today. I think you'll like them, because beaches are always awesome, but I've rearranged my priorities and want to tell you about last night first. 

Last night was crazy. 

The good kind of crazy. 

The day before yesterday, Josimar accidentally mashed up (I don't know if this is trini or international English) my bare-as-always toes with his shoe-clad foot and it hurt really bad, but I didn't think anything of it until later I saw all the blood on my toes. Not that much, but more than there should be. Because there should be none! On my right foot, the second toe's nail had been lifted when he stepped against and was bleeding from underneath it and from the sides. The third toe was the one that worried me and him as well as Pedro, because that one's nail had been broken in half. Eeew! I know, it's gross. I'm not going to upload any pictures, don't worry. Also, don't worry, this is part of the story, it'll all come together in a moment. So those injuries were pretty bad, but not so much that I wouldn't be able to keep going about my business. 

Last night, business meant going to Provocative Fitness to try a new workout there and later going out dancing to Sabor Latino with Fletch. Unfortunately, on the way home from the gym, I mashed up a next toe, all on my own. I don't even know what I did, but suddenly a third toe was bleeding. The big one this time. That's the reason I ended up not going out last night and staying at home instead - this is where it all comes together, because for the night to be crazy I had to be at home. 

I spent a little time with Pedro, as most evenings, then I left him to his work and went into my own room to watch a movie. A little after midnight, the lights went out. In my room, that doesn't really matter during the night. It only affects me insofar as the internet doesn't work anymore, because the modem doesn't work without electricity. But I don't suffer from fans turning themselves off, because I don't have a fan in my room and just always sleep with the windows open and the curtains apart. What I do notice when the power goes out, therefore, is the streetlights outside my window not lighting up my room anymore - good thing. And the second thing is that all of a sudden everything goes quiet. It's those moments you realize, how loud all the fridges, fans, A/Cs, etc. really are. In our house and the neighbours' houses. 

A few minutes later, I could hear people congregating in the kitchen, because apparently nobody had gone to sleep yet. So I went out there yet and everybody was there, looking for candles and chatting. We didn't stay in the kitchen, though, we went into the front yard, because it was too hot inside. 

The moon was just one night past full, so outside, everything was bathed in silver. It was so beautiful. And because there were no artificial lights from the city - zero light pollution - we could see the stars for once. They were brilliant! It was brilliant! 

Bernie, Richard and Saviour soon went back into the house to go to sleep, but Pedro and I stayed outside for a while. It was so great to walk around barefoot in the front yard, seeing all the stars and really also seeing everything around us, because the moon was so bright it might as well have been a very cloudy late afternoon, like right before a thunderstorm. We sat around then, chatting quietly so as not to disturb the silence and simply enjoying the night. Going for a walk in the neighbourhood would have made it perfect, but Bernie would have freaked out if we'd actually done that. 

I brought my camera out, because nights like last night don't occur often and it's an opportunity that needs to be seized if you're into photography. 

Playing with settings is fun! I even turned us into ghosts: 

My street, only with moonlight and some passing cars.

Pedrinho and I are ghosts.

Around 2AM, we did go back to our rooms and I went to sleep. 

Power outages are no strange ocurrence here in Trinidad, we're all quite used to them. Same story in Colombia. But they don't often last this long, it will mostly just be a few minutes, or up to an hour, and then everything is back to normal. This time, it took longer. When I got up in the morning, there was still no electricity and, what's more, the water was gone too. That surprised me, because power outages don't usually affect the water. And the other way around. I asked Bernie what was going on and he told me that he wasn't sure either, but that one of the neighbours had a battery radio and had heard that it was a big power outage.

How big? 

It wasn't just our block. It wasn't just Saint James. It wasn't just Port of Spain. It wasn't just the North. It wasn't even just Trinidad. It was a nation-wide problem that affected both islands. Both! Trinidad and Tobago was sitting in the dark - completely. And in the morning, Trinidad and Tobago was without current and without water. So, no electrically operated devices, no showers or flushing toilets, no internet - not even cell phones worked properly! I tried texting Ariston, who I met later, to find out if our plan would in any way be affected by th power outage, but the message didn't go through. When I tried to call, my phone just beeped into my ear loudly and announced that the connection could not be completed. Same thing happened when I tried test-texting and test-calling other numbers. That was something entirely new to me, a power outage so big that not even cell phones would work. Crazy! 

The current, water and cell phone coverage all came back a little after 11AM, though, so it was all fine and Ariston and I could even do our beach trip as planned, but it had been quite the little adventure to see something like that. 

Maybe you wouldn't see it that way - and I know for a fact that Trinibagonians don't see it that way. As people who live here and who might have experienced that happening previously (although Ariston assured me it hadn't been this bad in over 15 years), you wouldn't get that excited. And if it actually affects you, you don't get excited either. But to me, it was pretty cool. Lucky me didn't notice the difference between fan and no-fan in the moment of going to sleep, because I never have a fan anyways. My phone, computer and camera were all charged and I had next to nothing in the fridge. I had just showered so I had no problem in the morning and I had enough drinking water to take me through days, including when I used it for brushing my teeth. I know that not everybody was that lucky and I can only hope that nobody suffered any damage last night, as every time the power and/or water goes out. But me, I literally got to see the Dark Side of Trinidad! So yeah, pretty cool for me. 

Now, the lights are on, the water is running, my phone has been beeping and ringing all afternoon and everything is basically back to normal. 

But I won't forget last night's magic, between the stars and the almost-full moon and the complete lack of humming and clicking and rattling of all sorts of machines that usually disturb your peace when you live in a city... 

Yeah, magic. 

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Part 2 of the Return of the Jedi... to Trinidad!


Where were we? Ah, yes, Ariston and I were laughing our asses off while eating Häagen Dasz ice cream in Movie Towne. That means that the next day to tell you about is Thursday, the day of old paths and surprises. 

That afternoon, at approximately 5PM I super-secretly met up with Josimar about a block away from the house. Why super-secretly and why a block away from the house? Because Pedro didn't know that Josimar was back in the country and we were going to surprise him later. I didn't know when exactly Pedro would come back from work, so we didn't want to risk being seen and thus ruining the surprise. So he picked me up about a block from the house to conceal the presence of his very recognizable truck and we headed to Maraval to get food at Subway and chapstick at the pharmacy across the street. Exciting, I know. After that, we went to Cascade, to Gillian's house (where I used to live), because she was hosting a meeting there to talk about communities, what they meant to people and how to build them and get the most out of them. 

It was not only interesting and insightful, but also fun in that I saw some people again that I hadn't seen in quite a while, like Gillian herself. And also her boyfriend and some of her friends I used to see around the house when I stayed there. Plus, I met new people as well. All in all, very productive and positive. Even Michael was there and during a chance meeting in the kitchen (getting water for tea, surprise) we agreed we'd do something on the weekend. More on that later. 

Afterwards, Josimar and I went back to St James, but not to my house: to Jeanelle's. She was having an after work lime there with all the people from the ACS, which included Pedro. I called him just before we got there and asked him to come outside and help me carry in the "thing" I had brought, because it was supposed to be a bring-something-to-eat-or-drink type of event and I'd told him I didn't have anything to eat or drink, but I did have "something". Oh, you should have been there and seen the surprise on the boy's face! So cute! Loved that; loved that I got to be a part in it and kind of half-orchestrate that surprise. 

The rest of the night was spent listening to music and chatting and watching music videos on YouTube until I was so tired I was ready to fall asleep on Jeanelle's couch. Luckily, both Josimar and Pedro were also ready to go home then and I got to fall asleep in my own bed. After another while, because falling asleep right away is not my thing. 

For the next morning, Friday, Josimar and I had planned to go to Maracas Beach, swim a while and have breakfast there. He was going to pick me up at 6.30AM, only it wasn't a phone call or text from him that woke me up but my own alarm. Thinking I'd overslept, I checked my phone and saw that there were no missed calls or messages, so I texted him and asked what was up. He'd overslept! We agreed that he'd come to pick me up at 9.30AM instead, so I closed my eyes for another five minutes. Or so I thought. I woke from loud knocking on my door - oops. I did oversleep after all, Josimar was punctual and I wasn't even up yet, but I was ready to go within less than ten minutes (including the brushing of teeth, that's how fast I can be when I want to) and we left Port of Spain not that much later than our new plan had suggested. 

When we got to Maracas (after a quick stop to buy sunscreen) it was more beautiful than I'd ever seen it. You couldn't make out all the colours standing on the beach itself, but from the higher sides of the bay, as you drove in, you could see travel-brochure-esque waters! I never even knew Maracas could look that way. I wish we'd had an opportunity to stop by the side of the road to take some pictures, but we couldn't. You'll have to trust me, I guess. We parked the car and found a nice spot in the sand where we could leave our stuff while we bathed. There were quite strong currents, but the waves weren't as high as the last time I'd been to the beach and the water was also a lot warmer, although still quite cool considering it's Caribbean. We jumped in and then went over to Richard's to get shark for our breakfast and it was glorious as always. 

Mah boy, mah shark, mah beach. Jealous?

Josimar went back into the water after, while I relaxed in the sand for a little while and then did some crunches. Unfortunately, I couldn't do as many as I usually do, because the sand was uneven and my back started to ache after a bit. Better than nothing though, every rep counts! 

Some time between noon and 1PM, Josimar had to get working, so he dropped me home and I don't remember what I did for the next while, but I know that at about 5.45PM I was picked up again. This time by Mike and Alison, a couple from the UK, who had just moved to Trinidad because of Mike's job. How do I know such people? Because I'm part of yet another online community: InterNations.com. It's a network for expats all over the world and because I have developed an interest in migration studies, I thought going to the March edition of their monthly meetup would be a smart idea. And indeed it was. From 6 to after 9PM I did nothing but make the acquaintance of one new person after the other, because I knew absolutely nobody there when I arrived. Not even Mike and Alison, I'd only spoken to them on the phone earlier that same day, so everyone was new. There were a few foreigners who had moved to Trinidad, but mainly Trinis who had lived abroad before. And everyone had their own interesting story to tell, so it didn't get boring even after three hours. It really was a lot of fun, just really exhausting because I'm not that social a person so meeting so many new people was a tad stressful for me. Still very nice, though. 

A bit after 9PM, Andrew came to pick me up from there and we went on the Avenue to get some food and then we walked around for a while chatting while figuring out if we wanted to go to a bar or not, because we both had to admit we were a little tired. It was so nice to see him again, I'd missed him while I was gone! 

Then, later that night, something really cool happened. Michael and I had agreed to speak that afternoon about what we were going to do on Saturday but he forgot to call. Josimar and I were going to meet up again in the evening and he did swing by the InterNations meeting, but then I ended up hanging out with Andrew while he went out with Pedro and Jeanelle and their friends. Both of them called me after midnight. Michael, to set up a plan for the next day; Josimar, to find out if I was still out or already at home. That fact, that I got two phone calls in the middle of the night, made me really happy. A happiness that stretched from right then way into the next morning and, really, until now. And yes, I'm certain I'd feel the exact same way even if I hadn't still been up and they'd woken me up with their calls. 

What's so great about people calling you at such socially unacceptable hours, you ask? Well, I feel like when you're in a place where you have connections with people so close that they feel not only confident but also comfortable calling you at such late hours, then you're at home. Like, really. 

At least, that's how I feel.

There are still two days left to complete the recount of my awesome first week back, but I'm going to leave those for tomorrow (or so), because I have so many pictures that I want to dedicate a post of its own to them. You should be looking forward to that, because you'll get to see a side of Trinidad I haven't shown you yet.

Cliffhanger!! 

Monday, March 25, 2013

Return of the Jedi... to Trinidad!


We've already looked at how I came from Cartagena to Port of Spain, which was a real adventure, but the truth is that the entire first week of my current stay here in Trinidad has been crazy cool, just nuts, a flurry of activity. And because, like I recently told you, I'm now taking notes on what I do every day, I can actually tell you with accuracy and confidence what exactly I've been up to. 

After posting that first entry about being back, I spoke on the phone to my friend Michael, who you will remember for being the person who loves the rain almost as much as I do. He was in town because of the banana project and was, like a surprising number of people, quite happy that I was back in Trinidad. I'm honestly still amazed by how many friend's I've made in the short time I spent here, but let's get back to last week now. He picked me up from my house on his way back home, around 7PM, because I wasn't really back until I'd spent time up at his house, I really do love that place a lot... 

So we drove up there, making a few detours to take care of some errands, and you all know what came next: tea, music, looking out over the valley. Unfortunately, the mosquitoes were in battle mode and attacking so ferociously that sleeping outside was completely impossible, but nevertheless I got to enjoy my favourite place on the island. It must come across like I'm abusing my friend and taking advantage of him by only ever hanging out with him because I love his house so much, like some parasitic plant growing on a tree to get its sunlight, just noticing that right now. Don't worry, that's not the case. We actually do enjoy each other's company, so this classifies as friendship. Like, a mutual one. 

I never expected it to rain that night, so I wasn't too disappointed when it really didn't, because we still find ourselves in the dry season. What did surprise me a lot was how very dry this season actually is. I'd seen the effects on the car ride from D'Abadie into Port of Spain already, but it became really obvious when I stood on Michael's porch and looked out over my valley. You've seen the pictures, it's gorgeous in how lush and green it is. Having ever only seen this island during the wet season, I'd never imagined the abundance of green could turn into a melange of somewhat limp-looking greens and actual browns. It was crazy! Now I'm waiting for the rain to return not only for my own sake, but also for that of the landscape, although it is still beautiful and no less dreamy. Even when the clouds are missing. 

After I came home the next morning, a lot later than planned because we both overslept after having been kept awake by belligerent mosquito armies half the night, I continued getting my room ready to be lived in. I'd left a box of stuff at Michael's house, things I wouldn't need in Colombia but require again after coming back, so I spent some time unpacking after going through my usual morning routine: scout the internet for job offers and apply for every project I qualify for. There are still not many suitable projects out there and I seem to keep losing to cheaper translators on the bids I get to make, but at least I can send out regular job quotes and that in itself is worth something. 

The late afternoon I spent reading and waiting for Pedro to get home. I don't know if I've told you about Pedro before. His name is Pierre and he's from Martinique/France and he moved here just before I left for Colombia, into my house actually. He'd posted on CouchSurfing that he was looking for a place to stay and I got him in touch with Bernie and I'm so lucky that worked out, because I love that adorable guy. He's like a puppy! 

How come we hadn't met the day before if I was at home until 7PM? Because even though he usually comes home from his internship with the ACS around 5/5.30PM, that day he stayed out a little longer and we missed each other by a few minutes. But Tuesday evening we did coincide, especially becauase I wasn't going out anywhere. So we went out to get some food and then, after not so much talking to each other as talking at each other about all the things we'd been doing in the time we weren't living in the same house, we settled into a shared workspace where he did some leftover office chores and I practiced my Portuguese on Duolingo again until we decided we weren't going to get any more done that night and thus went on to watching silly things on YouTube. Gosh, I'd missed that boy. He's become a really good friend really quickly. 

The next day, the daylight hours were spent the same way as the previous one's - look for work, read, practice on Duolingo. In the evening, Ariston came to pick me up. He's also part of the local CouchSurfing community and I already know him since last December. We went to Movie Towne together to get Japanese food, which I hadn't had in aaaaaaages. Really, since like July 2012! So, finally, after all those months, I had a bowl of miso soup. And then we had funky sushi rolls. Because that happened more than 20 minutes ago, I do not remember the name of what I had, but there was eel in it and it was good. We had the best waiter, too, Stephon a.k.a. Marlin a.k.a. Christopher. Seriously, he was in such a contageously good mood, few waiters display such happiness at work. It made the food taste better, I tell you. But, honestly, that evening was awesome and not just because we had the waiter with the most positive vibes in all of Trinidad. The company was great, I'm not sure when last I had so much fun over dinner. And then after  finishing our sushi rolls and leaving Stephon a glowing review (it was one of those places where you get a little questionnaire with your check), we went and got even more food: Häagen Dasz ice cream. Yum. And the fun continued there, talking about movies and our favourite funny actors and personal quirks, well all sorts of stupid stuff. I really hope we'll repeat that, and soon, because I have so much fun again. 

And talking of fun, I'm going to have fun now. Pedro and I are practicing our Portuguese real-time now, via Skype. He has a friend in Brazil who's being patient with us and trying his best to understand what we're trying to say in our horrible Portuguese - because we're not good yet. That's the plan for tonight, skype in Portuguese and then more Duolingo and then my workout. Despite the fact that this week is already less stuffed with activity than last, it's looking good and I'm enjoying it. 

More about the Return of the Jedi... to Trinidad tomorrow! 

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Back to the Roots via Memory Lane


Being back here in Trinidad, I feel like I wasn't really gone for as long a time as I actually was. January 31st to March 17th, that's over a month and a half, yet I feel like I've only been away for a week or two. And I've figured out why I feel that way: I was almost completely inactive for all of the first month I was in Cartagena. Aside from a short weekend trip to The Island, I did absolutely nothing interesting. I've mentioned that I've been working on something important and, well, that took up all of my time and therefore I could have been anywhere and my location would have made no difference, I would still have spent all my time reading/writing/sleeping. At the same time, Béa was also very busy with work so neither of us tried to drag the other one out of the house for an adventure and we both just concentrated on our respective top priorities without enjoying the fact that we were in one of the most beautiful cities of all of the Caribbean, which we usually don't forget for even a day. Still, I'm very happy that I was with her during that period, because she helped me a lot when I got super nervous about my project and I tried to help her with her workload too, when I could. I hope I actually did. 

Because timing is a bitch, the day Béa had to leave Colombia for a long work trip coincided with the day I finished stage one of my project so my free time started when I was alone in the city. Thanks, timing, eff you. In some way, that made it more interesting, though. Back when I started coming to Colombia, my life was quite different from what it was like in the last year. With my friend, roommate and weekend-stupidity-accomplice gone, all I could do was go out and re-discover what Cartagena used to be, what she used to mean to me.

Thus started my two-week trip down Memory Lane, all the way back to The Roots. 

It's not like I did very much or anything special, really. I just went back to doing the things I used to do and doing them the way I used to do them. Taking the bus or a colectivo instead of a taxi, eating in the street instead of a restaurant, sitting with friends on the city wall instead of going to a bar, and taking walks along that wall, up on top, all the way around. Please don't think I'm complaining about the way things were in the last year, not even a bit. All those changes that happened were changes I made myself, whether consciously or not. No, I am not complaining at all, it just was nice to revisit the way things used to be one last time before leaving Cartagena. Because this time, for the first time in many years, I left Colombia without knowing when I'd be back. 

One weekend, Carolyn from downstairs and I went to Tierrabomba, to have a little beach adventure. We took the bus out to Bocagrande and then from there took a boat over to the little island, after negotiating prices and times with the boatboys. Had a very relaxing time there, although I did manage to burn my face, chest and stomach like some idiot that's never been exposed to the sun before. But before you get angry with me for being so silly and burning my skin (yes, this sentence is directed at you, Béa): I bought sunscreen a few days ago! And I even used it at the beach that day. So it's all good, it won't happen again. We can calm down now and keep enjoying the blast from the past. 

Another weekend, or possibly the same one, I really don't know, I went with her and Indira and their friends Nolbert and Ali to a place called El Baúl de los Recuerdos - the memory chest - out in Las Gaviotas. Unlike when we went to the beach in Tierrabomba, this time there were cameras. Well, a camera. Still, here's a picture of those fun guys who took me along with them to sing loudly and falsely to really old latino rock, pop and a loooad of ballads. 


Group of crazy people.

What I really liked and what constitutes the central part of that trip back in time was the visit I got from my friend Mark from Trinidad and his friends Nick and Marta from Jamaica. They arrived in Cartagena on Sunday afternoon, exactly a week before I left, after a wedding they'd attended in Barranquilla. We went to Café del Mar for drinks and then to Mila for dinner and it was really nice, but everyone was tired so it was a short night. Okay, though, not a problem at all. What was a problem, however, was that the next morning Mark had to leave Colombia hurriedly and get back to Trinidad because of a dental emergency. Poor guy, but he later sent me an e-mail telling me that he'd made it fine and gotten treatment. So no need to worry. 


Now I had a decision to make: Do I leave Nick and Marta to themselves, because the link between them and me has just fled from the country or do I keep them? Well, I'm guessing that by now you already know me a bit so you know: I kept them! 

And I must say: best decision possible. 

I had a great time showing them around the city, introducing them to all the things that had originally made me fall in love with the place and sharing stories and anecdotes. At the same time, Nick was preparing a radio documentary about the afrocolombians in the area and because I'd previously worked on the topic in the course of my university studies (a paper on afrocolombian culture, a paper on the palenquero language and my thesis itself, which featured a lot of just that because of its focus on the Colombian Caribbean) I was able to help him out with the gathering of information on the topic. First, I sent him the first two - shorter - papers and some of my YouTube videos that show traditional music from afrocolombian communities in the area, then I took him and Marta to The Island and introduced them to Ana Rosa for an interview and we also got some bicycles to go into the village and talk to some people there (which I haven't done in such a long time, I can't even believe it) and then after coming back to Cartagena I got him an interview with the head of public communications at the Observatorio del Caribe Colombiano so he could get some of the official information taken from studies and investigations by researchers all over the country. They were happy to get all the information, the people we met with were happy to share their stories and see the interest in their cause and I was on cloud number nine because I love when I'm able to help people and this time especially, because I think this might have been the first time that I got to make use of my studies "in real life". Awesome! 

Always interesting to see a place through somebody else's eyes.

Revisiting all the places and seeing the people, it wakes old memories. 

When after so much time a place can still surprise you, it's special.

And because Nick and Marta were staying in the place that used to be my home before I found a new one with Béa, the Bellavista (Mark had asked me to get rooms for the three of them and where else was I going to put them, right?), I also went there almost every day, to pick them up or have dinner with them - and every time I got to spend a little time with my dearies: Adriana, Monique, Stiven, Enrique, etc etc etc. Wonderful. 

Can you feel the positive energy here? It's like I'm sitting in a cloud of it. No idea if it's coming through the words and you can feel or see it too. But it's great. I really enjoyed showing those people around and sharing "my" Cartagena with them. Although of course I missed Béa a lot, but they made it easier for me to be home alone, because I didn't spend a lot of time at home. 

It's truly a pity I had such a huge load of work during the first month I was there and didn't get to enjoy the city during the whole time I was there, especially because I would have loved to have more high quality time with Béa instead of getting on her nerves with being stressed or tired, but I'm happy I got at least that. I might miss Cartagena, but at least we had a beautiful good-bye. 

Cartagena, we will meet again some day, don't you think I'll forget you. Colombia is way too dear to me to just leave and never come back. I'm not the only one who thinks so, even Nick (who'd literally met me just days before) at one point said that by looking at me when I talked about the city, he could tell that I was going to be back. I like that. 

And what I'm especially looking forward to: next time I meet Béa we will be in Austria, because I'm actually going there for a visit this summer and so will she, between work trips. And there I won't be hung up on a gigantic project so we'll be able to have real fun then. Yay! 

About Trinidad, this first week has been truly amazing. In fact, I can hardly believe I only arrived here a week ago today. Incredible. I will tell you all about it, I even wrote down notes so as to not mix up days anymore. You're proud of me for that, right? You should be, I'm doing it for you. 

Good times.

Monday, March 18, 2013

I AM BACK!!!


Guess what! I am back in Trinidad! 

I am so happy, I can't even explain it. I'd been looking forward to coming back almost since I left, because - and I think I've mentioned this - my relationship with Colombia isn't what it used to be, but I'll write more about that in the next blog post. 

The trip here was a real adventure and it's the main reason I decided to write about being back right now instead of after actually doing anything interesting here. Because it was so incredible and just showed again what an unimaginably lucky person I am. Really, unimaginably lucky, you'll see. 

My last night in Colombia was first wonderful and then awful. Here's why it was wonderful: I'd been spending a lot of time in the Bellavista the whole week (more on that in the next post), and Monique had invited me to come by again on Saturday night so we could all have dinner together. So around 6PM I headed over to Marbella and joined my dear Adriana and my dear Monique at their accustomed table in the cafeteria, which is really more of an office than a regular table. We chatted for a long while, about all sorts of things, other friends living in the hotel joined us for varying periods of time and all in all it was really nice. We did a lot of catching up and, of course, had some good food. A little after 9PM I went back home, because I was already really tired from having wanted to finish packing that day so I wouldn't have to do anything in the morning. Here's when the awful began... I spent the evening like most evenings, watching a few episodes of tv series and then reading. Only, I decided I wanted a cup of hot Milo before going to bed. I knew it was a bad idea, because I was too tired to drink anything heavier than water, but I did it anyways. And then I paid. And on top of the stomach cramps and nausea (which didn't let me sleep until around midnight, when the problem finally 'resolved itself') the building's transformer had exploded earlier. Literally. There was a light flash and a really loud bang and then it was dark and silent. I had no idea what had happened, so I walked outside where a neighbour was having a shouted conversation with the doorman downstairs and that's how I found out it was the transformer. I'd just been copying flight information onto a sheet of paper, but of course I couldn't continue, because no electricity - no internet - no flight info e-mail. At least, that forced me to turn off the computer and switch to reading for a while after having my Milo (which I made in the dark). But the ensuing mixture of extreme nausea and no working fans anywhere then had me changing location multiple times: trying the bed, the hammock, the sofa and then finally the bed again when the electricity came back. On the positive side, after my stomach was emptied and the fan was back on, I slept like a baby and thus was more than ready for my trip yesterday morning. 

I got up without a rush, took a shower and washed my hair, got dressed in the clothes I'd prepared for the trip and then spent an hour getting Béa's apartment ready for her return. It'd been so nice of her to let me stay there not only while she was there but also while she was gone, I wanted to make sure everything would be in order when she got back. So I washed, dried and put away the dishes, I cleaned the soon-to-perish items out of the fridge, I made sure nothing was lying around anywhere and the closets weren't in chaos. I put away the replacement pasta and cookies I'd gotten because I'd eaten hers and then double checked the lids on everything to make sure she'd get to eat her food, not the ants. Then I took out all the garbage and got my things ready. Right before I left, I remembered something in the fridge I had forgotten earlier and, unfortunately, that meant some more dishes in the sink that I didn't have time to wash before leaving - that still bugs me, actually. Turning off all the fans and lights, I locked the apartment, handed the keys to the doorman to keep safe until Béa's return and made sure he hadn't forgotten our agreement on apartment-care. Then I said goodbye to Carolyn and the building and the neighbourhood before getting a taxi to the airport. I just really, really hope I didn't forget anything, but I went over everything like three times, so I think it should be fine. I'm really just telling you this in such detail because it allows me to go over the list again in my head. 

At the airport everything went fine and the flight was uneventful. I actually found the first thing I like about the augmenting tourism in Colombia: almost everybody on my flight was a US citizen, so there were only eight people ahead of me in my line at the immigration desks, and maybe four or five behind me. I was through the whole thing in under ten minutes. Crazy, never had that before. And I was also pretty much just waved through everywhere, immigration and customs. Having your documents in order really pays off! 

Because my flight onwards from FLL to POS was supposed to be tonight at 6.20PM, my plan was to sleep in the airport. I'd spend some time reading and make good use of the carpet floors and free WiFi in FLL Hollywood Int'l Airport (Yay free WiFi) during the night hours, the next day I'd check my bags in the morning and meet my friend Louizis in his terminal, because he was arriving in FLL for a trip as well. So the first thing I did was hit a bathroom (the one on the plane had been stinky so I didn't go - and don't call me fussy, you wouldn't have gone either) and then go to the food area to get some dinner and some snacks for the long night ahead. Culinarily equipped, I set out to find the perfect spot to spend the night and soon found it: A corner seat on a comfy 3-seat-bench, space underneath for my large backpack and my small bags and two power outlets right behind my backrest. 

I settled down, unpacked my laptop and a jamaican beef patty and as I opened gmail to tell everybody who'd asked to be informed that I'd arrived safely in FLL, my gaze drifted and fell upon the Caribbean Airlines counters ahead of me, a little to the left. They were completely abandoned aside from one of the counters, where two ladies were still working on something. I shoved all my things far under the bench, grabbed only the bag with the real valuables and headed over to ask if maybe it was possible to check my bag for the next day's flight, just so I wouldn't have to take care of it all night and all day. Fragen kostet nichts, I figured. 

They were very sorry to decline, check-in a day prior to departure was not possible, but counters openend at 4.30AM and I could check-in right then and spend the day bag-free. I found that very helpful and, adequately cheerful, headed back to my makeshift camp to keep munching on my patty and writing e-mails. 

I'd just sat down when I saw one of the ladies waving to me, calling me back over. My hopes went sailing skywards, because I thought that maybe they were going to offer keeping my bag in the Caribbean Airlines office, or somewhere else equally secure. I walked back over and was surprised on the verge of shocked when they told me that tonight's (yesterday's) flight to Port of Spain was delayed and therefore still in FLL and they were going to see if they could get me on that flight. I wasn't sure I'd understood and asked, "My bag, you mean? To send it ahead?" "No," the lady on the left answered, " all of you. You and your luggage together." My jaw dropped in time with the rest of my face radiating amazement, which the lady on the right correctly interpreted as assent. Immediately, she headed off towards the gate area to find out if it'd be possible to send me to Port of Spain immediately. Me and my things, that is. In her absence, her colleague kept expressing their shared astonishment at my having planned to spend the night in the airport. She just didn't want to accept that that was an OK option, even though I assured her I'd done it before on numerous occasions and it was really no problem. 

A few minutes later the one who'd left came back nodding furiosly as soon as the other lady and myself were in sight, so right away we started putting passport details and visa information into the system, while she, as soon as she got back to the counter, had somebody take my backpack through the TSA check and to the baggage room of what was now my flight. Usually, whenever I fly I ask if I can have a seat by the window, but I figured they were already helping me out so much - and without me having even asked for it! - I wouldn't push my luck by asking for extras. Within mere minutes I had my passport back, my boarding pass in my hand and, still shouting (very sincere) thanks to the two wonderful ladies at the counter, was rushing over to the security checkpoints to get to the gate. It was a little after 6.30PM (original departure time had been 6.20PM) and the new boarding was scheduled for 6.45PM, so I didn't have much time, but because everything ran perfectly smoothly again, I got there walking, not running, and with time to spare. 

Sitting at the gate, I remembered two things: 1) My room was going to be ready for me upon arrival - on the 18th of March. So I didn't have a place to stay the first night. Oops. 2) I had calculated my stay in Trinidad very exactly, leaving after the 90 days I was allowed to stay in the country. Only, now I was going to arrive a day early and it was going to be 91 days. Oops again, a big one this time. 

I used the spare time at the gate to get online and because I'm a lucky bastard my friend Kevonne was on Facebook and agreed to be my hero and my saviour by picking me up from the airport and letting me spend the night at her place in D'Abadie. How lucky am I? 

The flight itself was ridiculously great, because of the fact that not only I was in a window seat (those two angels at the counter apparently could read minds as well), I was also the only person in my entire row. So I got to sit by a window while awake and then actually sleep a while lying down. Lying down! With a blanket! How lucky am I?! 

And when I arrived at the immigration checkpoint, just like in FLL, I was one of very few visitors (only five this time), so my line was extremely short. Although, arriving in Trinidad that's pretty much the norm. I'd by then figured out that I would just explain my 91-day-situation to the officer in charge and hope that he or she would understand and help me out. And he did. Guys, people are good. It probably wouldn't even have mattered if I'd said nothing, because they rarely check how long you've been when you leave, but I just really don't like lying so I wanted to tell the officer my story and see if there was anything we could do about it. In fact, he kind of laughed at my being worried. Now, the date on the stamp in my passport equals the date on my ticket back out of Trinidad. Seriously, how freaking lucky am I?! 

On the way from getting my luggage through customs over to the ATM I ran into Bernie, who happened to be working that night and who was extremely surprised to see me in Trinidad a day early: "Daaaarlin', what are you doing here?!" He was happy to see me, though, and even happier when I told him that a friend was coming for me and he didn't have to worry about me with the room only being ready the next night. So I got a big welcome hug and then went to get some cash and meet Kevonne outside. That dear, dear girl had seriously come to get me from the airport at almost midnight, even though she had to work the next morning. I must have done something really nice in the past or in an earlier life to deserve all this kindness.

We slept until about 6/6.30AM, although truly I didn't really sleep much because the mosquitoes were making a big fuss trying to show me how much they'd all missed me and my blood while I was in Colombia. But it was OK, I didn't mind. Have one last drink, little bitches, because I brought Nopikex from Colombia and you won't ever bite me anymore! Muahahaha. 

Kevonne walked me up to the PBR and then went to work while I tried in vain to get on a maxi to Port of Spain. Not a single driver let me get on his bus, even though of course I was going to pay for two seats with that big backpack of mine. They didn't care. Probably because it was rush hour and they feared some kind of complication. Big bag, small bus, lots of people. Whatever. I called Bernie to ask if he knew if any of his drivers would be available and he suggested calling Ari, who in turn had one of his friends, David, call me back. David then came to pick me up from the side of the road (literally) some ten minutes later and took me and my not-actually-that-huge amount of luggage home through the dense morning traffic. At a few minutes past 9AM I was home. 

And that's where I am now, home. I already unpacked my things and set them up all over what's going to be my room for the first month of my stay, before I get my old room back when Pedro leaves in April. I'm sad he'll go, but more than that I'm happy I got back in time to still have one month to spend with my favourite neighbour. Went to the supermarket, announced my arrival on Facebook, texted a few friends and then settled down to read a bit, practice my Portuguese on Duolingo.com and then write this here. 

It is now a little after 3.30PM on Monday, the 18th of March 2013. Had those two ladies not been so incredibly nice and worked so hard on getting me on that flight, I would still be in Florida right now, at the airport, not even close to boarding my plane. Although I have to repeat that I wouldn't have minded spending the night at the airport, that had been my own idea, after all. But this is better because instead, I woke up this morning in the country where I really want to be and where, I think, I'm supposed to be right now. Why? Because my gut tells me so. And my phone, which has been busy since I landed. In Colombia, there were hardly any texts or calls in the month and a half I spent there. My own fault, of course, but that's what happens when time runs its course. However, since I switched my phone on after the plane had taxied to its final parking position (because I respect the aviation rules about electronic devices, okay) it has been ringing, beeping or buzzing almost continuously with texts and calls from and to my friends here. And I'm glad, because I missed them and it's great I'll get to see them all real soon! 


And one more thing before I go - don't worry, this post won't be as excrutiatingly long as the last one: I would like to say thank you not only to those two kind ladies who shipped me home 24hrs earlier than anticipated, but to all the people I encountered on flights and in airports during all my trips over the last years. 

I'll be honest, this thank-you exludes the two people I officially dislike (the jamaican officer who didn't want to let me into the country because I didn't have a ticket back to Austria even though I had one leaving Jamaica, giving me a 15 minute speech and asking me the most ridiculous and way too personal questions; the Spirit employee who forced my to buy a ticket out of Colombia on the spot or she wouldn't let me get on the plane, although nobody had ever asked for a return ticket before). 

Everybody else: You Are Great. 

I don't know if anybody who works with an airline or in an airport will ever see this: a stewardess or a TSA officer or a person in immigration or customs or somebody at an information desk or a pilot or a baggage handler, anyone of you really. But I still feel like this should be said 'out loud'. All of your jobs must be really frustrating sometimes; airports are stressful places and people can be stupid and very mean when under pressure and you are usually the last person they think about when they want things to go their way. Oh, why do I say 'they' when I'm one of them? I mean we. Yet, I try hard not to be like that. I always do my best to be calm and positive no matter how stressed I am, to smile and say thank you to everyone and wish them a good day/evening/weekend. I'm glad the funny t-shirt I wear on purpose when I fly made you smile or even giggle, I'm happy to see you notice that I take off my shoes at the security checkpoint without you having to remind me to, and I greatly appreciate every single time you smile back, say that I'm welcome and wish me a safe trip. 

Thank you.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Carnival Madness - not even!


I bet you thought this was never coming, right? Well, it's here now... so... Ha!!

Here's the story of AAAAALL THE THINGS that I did in the week from the 14th to the 20th of January, my own personal little Carnival Week. Obviously, nothing that I experienced during that week or indeed my whole stay in Trinidad comes even remotely close to what the real Carnival is actually like, but I wasn't there for that so this is as good as it gets. Or as bad. Depends on how you look at it. 

Monday. 

This was Catherine's last day in Trinidad. Remember her? She was there when we went to see markets out East and then on to Waterloo. She had to go downtown to get ticket for the ferry to Tobago, her last stop on the trip before going back home to the north american winter. I had to go downtown too, also for tickets. Only mine weren't for any ferry but for two events that happened the following weekend: a cooler fete in Queen's Park Savannah and the semi finals of this year's Soca Monarch. But more on that later, let's not get ahead of ourselves. 

Into Port of Spain we went and headed straight to the ferry terminal to get Catherine's ticket and because it was still a few hours before she had to be back there to catch her boat, we decided to sit somewhere and drink something (it was hot - surprise) while I waited with her. Walking around town was not an option, because it wasn't possible to leave Catherine's luggage anywhere in the terminal and it wasn't much, but it was heavy enough to make us decide against heaving it up and down the streets of downtown. So we went to the Hyatt instead and sat on comfy couches on their terrace overlooking the gulf, chatting and enjoying ice cold drinks. We fancy! I'll be honest, though, by ice cold drinks I mean ice cold pepsi, because that's about as much as we could afford. It was the Hyatt, man. Two young travelers can't go around ordering 65 dollar cocktails of the fanciest menu in town. But we had a wonderful time lounging around and chatting. And the best thing - Fletch came by! He also had business to take care of in town (yes, buying tickets to parties counts as business) so he met us at the Hyatt and we hung out for a while the three of us. Because he knows some people who work there, he actually got somebody to take us all up to the pool. We'd been wondering for a while where that was located. It was, we had decided, impossible that the Hyatt didn't have a pool, but we weren't sure where it was. The roof had been our bet and we were almost right. It wasn't all the way on top of the building, but a few floors up and offering a great view over Port of Spain, the gulf and even the coastline going south. And it's an infinity pool - so of course I hope to make it back there some day and actually be able to jump in too. 


Catherine, Fletch and me being superfancy. 

Shortly after, it was time for her to depart. Insert sad emoticon here. 

Fletch then helped me confirm that the information I'd gotten online about where to get my tickets and then, while he went off to take care of his stuff, I proceeded to spend way too much money in way too little time - but in hindsight it was really worth it, so no regrets there. 

The rest of the day went by quietly, so no exhaustion on day one. Sleep pattern: normal. (Although we know what "normal" means...) 

Tuesday. 

The arrival of another CouchSurfer marked this day. Not one of mine, though, at least not then. Gerdette from Ireland moved into the room next to mine, she had found Bernie through the world wide webz and booked the room for the first nights of her stay. I couldn't help but take her under my wings anyways. And with me and CouchSurfing, taking somebody under my wings means chewing their ears off with travel stories and how nice all the people I've met through the network are, how to make the best use of the site and how to successfully insert oneself into the community. I'm not saying she needed any help with that, I'm saying I don't care and I told her everything just so. Did I ask her if she even wanted my "tutorial"? Don't remember, don't think so. Umm, maybe I should have asked... Sorry, Gerdette! 

This part here, I'm not sure when this happened. But if I take everything I remember and put it together like pieces of a very weird puzzle, then the result is that it must have happened on Tuesday. But I'm really not sure, because if it did, then when did Gerdette arrive? Monday? Really early on Tuesday? I have no idea, but before this. I'll just write as if I was certain. 

Thing is, Gerdette's older. Not old, just older. And because I knew that there was another CouchSurfer in town at the time that was in about the same age group, Bunny from the US, and I thought I'd bring the two together. Don was also still in town, staying in The Little Inn, where I'd spent a little time in November, so I invited him too and at 2PM we all met "by the Scotiabank on Independence" and went to get coffee at the Rituals on Frederick Street. Even Michael came by for a little while and then we switched from Rituals to a table and bench on Woodford Square, because we didn't have enough space in the tiny coffeeshop. I'm glad I got him to come out too, because later he and Gerdette got talking and she ended up getting his contact to surf with him a few days later. This is how it should work, people get together and get to know each other and share some stories and a nice time and then help each other out if they can. 

After our little group dispersed, I went on a mini shopping spree to get a new outfit for either the cooler fete or the Soca semis, because I decided I hadn't spent enough money on my upcoming weekend yet. 

That night we all went to Shakers, of this I'm sure again. Because where else does one go on a Tuesday, right? I'm super inventive and not at all stuck in my ways. Mhm. Anyways, my dear Andrew came to pick Gerdette and me up in the evening and then we met Don on the Avenue. We'd all said that we didn't want to stay out late that night. Gerdette had just arrived (I think...), Don was flying out the next morning, Andrew had to work and I also had to get up early on Wednesday. Did the night go according to plan? No, of course not. Whyever would it? Don and Gerdette found our table was too close to the speakers for good conversation and promptly asked some guys at another, bigger table if we could join them because they still had space. They looked kind of nonplussed and Andrew and I couldn't help but grin, because that's not common practice in Trinidad. Everybody managed to introduce themselves to each other, though, and criss-cross conversations were happening around the table in no time. Surprise fun. Another very nice surprise was that my friend Sophie Jay also showed up at Shakers and we got to chat for a while, always great to see her. 

A lot later than originally planned, we dropped Don off at the guest house and Andrew took us girls home and then it was time to fall into bed. No exhaustion yet, but I was pretty tired. Sleep pattern: good old normal. 

Wednesday. 

This one should have been the day I take a full break, because I knew that the rest of the week would be stuffed with activity, a lot more than Monday and Tuesday. I don't go out a lot anymore,  not like I used to when I was younger (shut up, I know I'm still young, that's why I said younger), but Monday and Tuesday could have happened in any regular week. Not so the rest of the days ahead, here's what was planned for that: 


Gameplan.

Nevertheless, I didn't take the day off. If I remember right, I spent the daylight hours working and sewing - another project, YAY! I'll tell you about that some other time - another promise, YAY!! 

In the evening, I headed out to a friend's house to spend the night there and, naturally, there wasn't much sleep because we arrived late and then spent the better part of the night listening to music and talking instead of just sleeping. People, don't be ridiculous at this point imagining things that didn't happen. We know I'm honest and if I say talking I mean talking. So, please, let's not start with any bad jokes now. Thank you. 

Still no exhaustion. Sleep pattern: eyes kind of shut for a few hours, but they wouldn't stay that way because the scenery wanted to be contemplated (darn you, scenery, you should have let me sleep). 

Thursday. 

I don't remember what I did Thursday during the day, I only remember that by around 4 or 5PM I started regretting not having slept more the previous days. As you could see in the previous picture, Thursday was when the planned busy-ness started with an evening visit to an art gallery. I don't remember who the artist was, but that's OK because I didn't know that before going there either. Andrew had invited me to accompany him and a friend of his when we met on Tuesday and when I asked what it was all about his answer was "I'm not sure, but there's free drinks" so of course we went. And there was food too, not just drinks! Also, the pictures shown were pretty interesting. My favourite part of the night, though, right after hanging out with a good friend, was that Andrew introduced me to other people he knew there and I got to meet lots of interesting personalities of the Port of Spain High (kinda) Society. And even I knew people there. That's one of the things that show that you're a little bit part of a place. When you go to a random show opening at an art gallery in the city and suddenly somebody comes up to you, hugs you and goes "Heeeey, cool that you're here, how have you been?" - wonderful. 

The night, however, didn't stop there. No. After the art show, we went to a party a little ways outside Port of Spain at Studio Film Club. At least that's what I think the place was called, the memory - like most that I have - is fuzzy. And mind you, the free drinks for me were water and coke, no alcohol whatsoever. I can create my own holes in the recollection of any event completely and 100% free of intoxication, thank you very much. 

So, party. Again, that know-random-people-in-random-places thing happened. Only, the person was not random at all, it was Sophie Jay. Because I was so extremely tired already, I found myself a space on a sofa in the venue and just sat down with the firm resolution not to move again until Andrew told me we were going home and, luckily, Sophie Jay had decided that she was in for some relaxchat (that's what sitting on a sofa and talking is called by the cool kids (me)) as well and sat next to me for most of the evening. Mark, a British journalist friend of Andrew's that I'd been introduced to at the previous stop of our tour through Thursday night, was also there and we talked some more, basically finishing the conversation we'd started at the gallery. A whole lot later than I had originally been promised, Andrew then finally dropped me home and I could go to bed. 

Now, Thursday might have been the day I spent hours and hours messaging back and forth with Joseph, a CouchSurfer from Canada who wanted to come to Trinidad but wasn't sure when and had a lot of questions and in the end he decided he was coming Friday.

Exhaustion level: exhausted. Sleep pattern: I have no idea, but not enough. 

Friday. 

On Friday, I think Gerdette came back from spending one night in a guest house the mountains and one night in Cascade (where Michael had dropped her off after figuring out that though he'd offered to host her he couldn't actually do it so he took her to Gillian's place who was able to have her stay at her house for one night). But as Cascade only worked for one night, Gerdette came back to our house to stay in the room she'd previousy occupied for one more night and then she was going to actually surf with me the next night, Saturday. I wasn't sure this was correct when I started typing this paragraph, but now I'm remembering things that make other things make sense and now I'm pretty sure this is how it's happened. Also, Joseph, the Canadian surfer, arrived on Friday to come surf with me for one night. He was in Port of Spain mainly to get his visa for Brazil where he was going a while later, but we had agreed that he would only stay with me for one night while he figured out where to go next. So he arrived and we did our best to find out where he could have his picture taken for the visa and how to get him to the embassy safely and then he went to get all of that done and I should have napped while he was out, but I'm not good at sleeping at night so imagine how bad I am at sleeping during the day. Oh my. Ernieways, the day flew past and around 9 or 10PM that evening, the two surfers in my house - who really both of them are supernice people - went out with me to the BackYard Jam in Murray Street, just off the Avenue, where 3Canal was performing that night. 

We didn't go by ourselves, though, we met up with Lexie, a local surfer I know. First, she and I got doubles for Joseph and Gerdette, because they had to try them. You can't go to Trinidad and not have doubles, ask anyone. Then, we paid the $60 admission and went into the BackYard to see if the party was already happening or not. And it wasn't. Like, at all. There were some artists already performing, but the crowd was less than impressed so after looking around for a while and having a drink each and greeting some people (yay, I knew people there again) we decided that no, we were not staying. So we headed back out onto the Avenue and got some drinks somewhere else, basically hanging out in the street for a while. 


Best vodka cranberry ever, simply because there's a piece of kiwi in it.

When we did decided to go back to the Jam, we met my friend Travis (remember him?) just outside the venue with some of his friends so we all talked for a while and then we did go back inside and then it was great. 3Canal was already performing and let me tell you, I am now officially a fan of them. Rapso music is awesome! 


3Canal performing a song with the backup of a local choir.



My two surfers and me!


With Lexie, isn't she pretty?

That particular night, we didn't stay out too long, because I wasn't the only tired one and also the whole party ended pretty abrubtly after the main concert finished. Which was NOT a bad thing at all! I think we were all home before 1AM. 

Not as exhausted as the night before, because the music pumped up my energy levels, but still really tired. Sleep pattern: constantly thinking about Joseph, because he still didn't have his next steps figured out and I wanted to help him and make sure he was going to be OK so bad that it wouldn't let my mind rest - stupid mind.

Saturday.

SaturDAY was the most difficult day of the week. I got up early because I couldn't sleep any longer and then when Joseph got up we started looking at his situation again. All I really wanted was to get him sorted out and then as soon as I was alone again in my room just lie on my bed, quietly, doing nothing until I either fell back asleep or felt better. I'm not going to go into any details about why that did not happen, but the important thing is that in the end Joseph found a next CouchSurfer who could host him and he went to meet the guy. Gerdette moved her stuff from nextdoor into my room and we changed the sheets on my surfer mattress and then, because she's an incredibly understanding person, she actually stayed out of the room for like the whole day, occupying herself in town and reading out on the porch so I could do my desperately-try-to-relax-or-even-sleep spiel. Which did not work. Surprise. The difficulty here was that I was going to the cooler fete that night, an event that officially started at 11PM! I was going there with my friend Kevonne, the surfer I'd smuggled into Ravi's New Year's celebration. She was meeting a whole bunch of people there and said I could join them and I am so glad I did. The start was rough, because I had prepared myself for leaving the house around 10.30PM, as in really late, after all the fete didn't start until 11PM. Only, it seems I'd forgotten where I was for a while there, because - obviously - Kevonne and her friend who was driving didn't pick me up until waaay after midnight. We got to the Savannah a bit before 1AM (I think) and, guess what, the two of us were the first ones there of her group of friends and they all arrived about an hour after us, or something like that. But that does not matter. 


SaturNIGHT was and still is my favourite party night I have experienced in Trinidad so far. It was freaking awesome! What exactly is a cooler fete, you ask? Well, a cooler fete is a huge huge party with live music on a stage and you bring a cooler with your own drinks, but there's also food and drinks to buy right there and it's really big, or at least that one was. The stage was immense and I was told that there were thousands of people. I can't confirm that, because I suck at estimating numbers, if you ask me it could have been a crowd of anywhere between 200 and 7,000 people. Because of the cooler thing, I prepared by shopping accordingly in the afternoon. I didn't have a cooler, but I definitely had things to cool. 

That is not 7up, it wasn't allowed to bring glass bottles into the fete so that's where the rum went.

Now let's not get ahead of ourselves calling me a hopeless alcoholic, because I didn't even near finish any of that. OK, I did finish the coke over the next days, but not the rum. Not by far. That 7up bottle came back home with me and wasn't empty even though I'd even gotten some of Kevonne's friends to help me with the rum. The next day I filled it back up but didn't finish that either. What was left of the white rum I gave to my friend Pedro to try, you'll learn about him later, probably. And the dark rum is in a box in Michael's house with other things that are waiting for me to come back to Trinidad. So here, I widely over-estimated my drinking abilities but that is fine, because you would not believe the wild kinds of fun I had without getting hammered. 

Back to the fete. It was incredible. All those people, the crews waving their flags, all the music (first just so, then live, but always great), all that energy and those vibes! 

And Kevonne's friends were all so nice, nobody cared that I was the odd one out because I was the only one that didn't know everyone, so welcoming. One of her friends, Jason, came up to me a few minutes after Kevonne introduced everyone to ask if she had taught me how to wine. If you don't know what wining is, please google it. Or better yet, go straight to YouTube. Now, when somebody asks me if I know how to wine I always say that I don't. A l w a y s. Why? Well, because I kinda do, but not really and I will never ever be good at it. So I just deny any knowledge or previous experience and then people don't have any expectations that I can disappoint. It's a great plan, really. And usually I don't do it either, even after saying that "I've never done that, no, sure you can teach me" or something along those lines. But at that fete, I did. Horribly, I'm sure. But I do not care. I had fun! So much fun! It was so cool. Really. And the music, just wow. When the artistes started coming on stage and playing all the biggest Soca hits of the 2013 carnival season, oh my. I said at some point that I would show you more songs, so here are a few of my favourites. 


Let me just tell you, I am listening to these and other songs as I am writing this blog post and it's taking me right back to Seven... man... 

I enjoyed myself so much there, and, really, I hadn't had such an unreal amount of fun in a very long time. I don't know... Just imagine being at this huge party outdoors with an insane amount of people and everybody's drinking and dancing and having like the best time and then all of a sudden you see that the sky is getting lighter and then the sun is coming up and you just stand there all like "Fuck me... this is awesome." Really, that's how I felt. Despite the fact that I was running so low on sleep that I shouldn't technically have been able to even stand upright, I made it until 7AM with only one minor low that was cured instantly with a portion of fries. The rest was just pure enjoypartydancelifeenergy. And at sunrise I was just standing there, in the middle of it all, a pair of stolen sunglasses on my face, amazed. Happy. 

Kevonne's friend who had dropped us off there picked us up again in the morning and the two of them dropped me home before they went to sleep at Kevonne's friend's house. 

Exhaustion level: What? Sleep pattern: Who? 

Sunday. 

Oh no. Just, no. No. Sunday was weird and then, later on, bad. I have no recollection of the day, really this time. I've been thinking for a while and I have no idea. I know I was awake, I'd only slept about an hour and a half in the morning between falling asleep ages after getting home and waking up again way too early given the circumstances. But I have no idea what I did. I probably just read or scrolled through 9gag for hours and hours, but I did not sleep like I had planned. Cos I never freaking do! Dangit. This is becoming a post about how I can never sleep, but I'm really just using that as the guiding thread through an exciting week, don't let my whining distract you from the main point of this story which is all the partying that was going on that week, pleasethankyou. 

But as the week was coming to an end here, so was my stamina. I've told you about the crashing before and, you anticipated it correctly, it happened here. Kevonne and I were going to the semi finals for the Groovy and Power Soca Monarch in the velodrome out in Arima that night with my friend Nku, who is also a CouchSurfer. Do you also see a pattern here? It's like I'm unable to meet new people without that community being somehow involved. Only, Nku never made it because he had some kind of emergency and him and his crew didn't come to Arima. So it was just Kevonne and me. 

She had spent the day sleeping at her friend's house in Port of Spain so she came by my house to pick me up on her way out to her place. We hung out there for a while, she changed and we watched a little TV and then we went to the velodrome around 6PM, stopping for food on the way. Because it was only the two of us we didn't go in front of the stage but found ourselves some seats. I had been tired all day, but I really wanted to see the semis so I tried my best to make it through. And as I don't have any pictures from Seven, here's one from the semis so you can see a bit of crowd and flags and stage. 

Only to imagine what Seven was like please triple the crowd, double the flags (which I now realize you can't even really see in this picture) and imagine an adjusted angle because the picture would have been taken from in between the people not from the back. 

I'm not going to drag this out any longer. I did not make it. At 8.30PM I had to go home. I felt nauseous and was honestly worried I might pass out if I didn't lie down so I explained that to Kevonne, who luckily was really understanding and not mad about me basically bailing, and made my way outside and to the Arima maxi stand. Like a zombie I made my way home: maxi to City Gate, taxi to St James, walk from the Main Road to my house. I don't like traveling alone at night and it's next to never that I get into a situation where I have to, but it was necessary so it was done. Boy, I was glad none of my closer friends or Bernie knew how I got home at the time, because they would probably have screamed at me for abandoning all my reason and common sense. Not safe what I did there. But I got home so it's fine. 

And guess what I did when I got home! Did you guess sleep? Then yaaaay --- you're wrong! I couldn't freaking sleep half the night! Horrible! It took until Monday for me to really crash and finally sleep properly, and I hate that fact. If I'd known that sleeping wasn't going to work anyways, maybe I could have somehow made it through the night and stayed at the semis instead of zombieing home. Gah! But, well, next time it'll work out better. 

Now you know. Now you know why I keep saying I miss Trinidad (Don't worry, this is not the only reason!!) and why I wish, to my own surprise, that I had been there for Carnival. Because what I experienced was nowhere close to the real deal. That wasn't Carnival, that was the pre-show! Can you imagine what it would have been like to be there for the actual thing? I can't. But I would have loved to go to a lot more fetes and party more with all my friends and dance more despite the fact that I know I look stupid when I do and meet more new people and listen to more Soca - everybody I've asked so far has confirmed that, yes, I will in fact be the only person still listening to this when I get back to Trinidad. 

But at the same time this is also why it's good that I wasn't. The reason it has taken me so ridiculously long to write about the week from the 14th to the 20th of January is that I was working on a really important and complicated project that took up 100% of my concentration and there was simply no capacity left in my brain for anything productive after fulfilling my daily work quota for said project. And, let's face it, I wouldn't have slowed down had I been in Trinidad. I'd have tried to do both - party like crazy and pour all of my brain juice into what I was working on. And it would not have worked out, I would have hurt myself. So, really, it was better this way. 

But next year. Yes, next year. 

I'll be there.