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.
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...)
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.
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:
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).
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.
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 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?
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.