Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Simple Sunny Sunday

Some things are nowhere as good as they could be, others are a lot better than I ever thought they could get. It's very interesting to observe my life at the moment. Sunday was a day that falls into the second category, a lot better than I ever though a random, regular Sunday could get. 

Let me tell you why. 

I got up in the morning and went up to the supermarket almost right after rolling out of bed, having calculated how long I'd be allowed to doze without losing time for the things I had to get done. Up there, I bought a bunch of veggies and some pasta to be converted into a light pasta salad for an outside lunch with Kwesi. Yes, it's continuing, I'm not mistaken so far! 

We'd been talking about meditation online and via text message, so we decided to meet up and have lunch in the grass under the trees to keep talking about meditation and possibly try it out. See, it's one of the things I'd been wanting to try out for the longest time but still hadn't. Like Yoga. I've been interested in that for years and it took me until last month to finally get started. Ridiculous, but better late than never. 

Food prepared, showered, hair washed - ready for the day to actually begin. 

At 1PM we met in the Botanical Garden right north of the Queen's Park Savannah in Port of Spain, or rather, in St. Ann's. We found a place in the shade of some trees, a little ways off the main grassy park areas, which were full of families enjoying the nice weather, due to it being the weekend. It was a nice atmosphere, with children running around playing, but too full of noise and movement for us, who were looking for tranquility and relaxation. 

First was lunch: my salad made up of broccoli, snow peas, carrots, mushrooms, tomatoes and some whole wheat spiral pasta with a special vinaigrette my dear Pedro had helped me make. After that, though, we decided to find a different spot in the gardens, because a) there were lots of little crawlers in that area, what with all the fallen leaves under the trees and b) we were sitting on a slight slope that made my back hurt when sitting up really straight. So we found ourselves another spot under another tree, even more retreated but more levelled and less populated by insects. On that note: jumping spiders are annoying but pretty. 

The next while, I don't know how long exactly, was filled with tasty and crunchy while at the same time melty cookies (Kwesi's contribution to food-tainment), some reading, more relaxing and meditation lessons. Not too much, but it was cool. Now I know what it's about, what it entails and, most importantly, I know that I can do it. 

Crumbs and greens.

On the way out of the park, we ran into Josimar, who was attending one of his friends' birthday picnic (I think). We then continued walking, all the way back to my house. Walking to the Botanical Garden hadn't been possible, because the midday heat and sun were too strong for me, but by then it was already the very late afternoon so it was a nice walk. Walking attentively, not only watching but seeing, observing and taking in. 

Walk with your eyes and your heart wide open.

Why did we go to my house? Because my external harddrive (the one with all my photos on it) was acting up and had decided to not let me use it anymore and instead play mouse. As in, it started making weird squeaky noises whenever plugged into my laptop. That is half an answer, you say? That still doesn't explain why he came to my house with me? Well, see, Kwesi knows about computers, like a lot. So he helped me fix it. Or rather, it's not really fixable, but he got it to a point where I could copy off the most important things to store them somewhere else and not lose the files most valuable to me. Phew!

And then Josimar showed up again, yay! I love seeing my friends so often, even when it's random. I like them and I like seeing them. (That's why they're your friends, Isa, duh...) 

Even later than that, when Kwesi had finally escaped my can-you-help-me-can-you-fix-this claws, Fletch came by to pick me up. And it was about time too! Three weeks in the country and we still hadn't managed to hang out, not even for five minutes. But, finally, that changed and he picked me up and we tried getting ice cream in Movie Towne. Unsuccessfully. Turns out, though, that that was a good thing, because his roommate Anthony had been cooking all day and told Fletch that he'd made a lot of food and to come home to eat and bring me along too. Obviously, the huge picnic lunch had not been enough for me, so I happily went and stuffed my face even further. Yes, this was sarcasm. But, hey, you haven't tasted Anthony's cooking, so you don't know how very worth it it is to eat even though you're not hungry. Every time I eat at Fletch and Anthony's place, because I'm so lucky this wasn't even my first time, I wonder and wonder how Fletch is in such good shape and doesn't have to be rolled to work every day. Seriously, the man can cook! A chinese soup - to be drunk, not eaten, that's how traditional it was -, a yummy dish I'm going to call salmon strudel because in my head that's what it was and - here, we're entering the realm of pure decadence - a fresh strawberry tart. 


Deliciousness beyond words. And the rightfully proud chef.

After dinner, we lazed on the couch for a while drinking tea and watching MTV, until we were all yawning and it was time to go home. Anthony, as generous as he is gifted in the kitchen, let me take home a piece of his tart (as you can see in the picture above), so I'd be able to keep on enjoying it. 

Getting home, however, I found Pedro still working on a big project he's been spending a lot of time on recently. So, instead of putting my piece of strawberry tart in the fridge to eat it the next day, I got two spoons, sat down next to him and invited him to share it with me. Because sometimes, when you're working hard and getting tired, a little piece of strawberry-flavoured happiness can give you just the energy boost you need to keep going and get your things done with re-charged batteries. And to allow you to understand how good that tart really was, let me tell you this: we sat there, eyes on the dessert, alternately taking tiny spoonfuls of deliciousness and savouring them slowly, the silence only interrupted by our "mmmm"s and giggles. That's how good it was. 

It's days like this one that make life a pleasure. Simple days. Days where you spend time with wonderful people, enjoy the sunlight filtering through leaves, have some food, drink some tea, laugh and breathe and be. Just be! 

It can all be so easy. 

Especially when you're as lucky as me. Because when you're as lucky as me, then the day after all that joy, you randomly run into your friend Andrew on the way to the mall and you chat and he says he'll come by you later to hang out for a while. And then while you're at the mall you get a text from your friend Angel who spontaneously comes by to have a coffee with you and then helps you carry your heavy bags back home. And then you spend a really nice evening with them and feel loved and appreciated. 

Yes, some things are nowhere as good as they could be, some things are scary, some things are downright bad. But there's still all those other things that keep reminding me that life is a wonderful thing and I just can't help but feel blessed anyways. 

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Soul Music

It is Saturday. It has been a week today. 

A week since what? 

Good question. 

I'm not sure yet. 

A week ago tonight I went to a concert with a friend. A new friend. Another one of those astonishing and marvellous people I am continuously amazed to find myself surrounded with. Let me mention again how incredibly lucky I am. Okay, so a new friend. Only this one's different from the others in two very fundamental ways. 

One, he's not new. Not really. Talking about people and places, we randomly stumbled across the fact that we had met before. Well, not exactly met. But we'd been in the same space at the same time before. We thought we'd met at Gillian's community meeting, but no! All the way back in December, he was in the house in Sans Souci where we had that incredible coffee on the way back from the crazy Toco adventure night. What?! I guess we were supposed to properly meet and it just took a little longer than intended by ...the universe? 

Two, I feel some kind of connection here. More so than with most other people I've met in the last months. Or maybe not more, but different. Yes, that's it. It's a different kind of connection. He's the kind of person I feel I can share some of my ideas with, the ones that many others wouldn't really know what to do with. Like this one about a very intriguing community project. I feel like I can be myself, be honest and open, and it makes me want to share. Usually, for me to get to that point with anyone takes a lot longer. And - and this is the crucial part - I feel like I can learn a lot from this guy. Like every time we talk, there's something I can take away from that exchange, that conversation. I hope I'm not mistaken, I really do. 

The concert I'm now going to tell you about is but one example of this learning, but for now it is the simplest one to share this way. 

At the time he asked me if I was going and, when I said that I hadn't even heard about it yet, extended an invitation to see if I wanted to come along with him and his friends we didn't yet know that we'd met before what we thought had been our first encounter. That came out later, chatting in one of the breaks between bands. So, because I'm trying to make myself say yes to things and live as many new experiences as possible, I accepted and we agreed to meet by the venue later that evening. I don't even want to imagine not having said yes, not having experienced that night. I am so grateful not to have missed it! He was late, but you know what he did? As soon as he knew he wouldn't make it on time he sent me a text to let me know and I wouldn't end up waiting. I told you, different. So we met up in front of the venue, him and his friend (who I'd also met at the community meeting, for real) and me. From the entrance we could already hear music wafting out into the street, carried on the breeze. It sounded good. We paid the admission and went inside, where the sound grew more intense. It sounded better. In that moment, I had no idea who that was, doing their soundcheck, but I knew I wanted to keep listening to that music. You might feel like I'm exaggerating here, but in that moment I felt like if I could bring those harmonizing voices and acoustic guitars home with me, I would never be sad again. Soothing, calming, stunningly beautiful. And I'm still not exaggerating. 

And in case you read over it: that was only the soundcheck. 

We got something to drink and settled down on a staircase a little to the left of the stage. Finding a place where we'd be able to sit throughout the concert was something I was very greatful for, because not only do I consider my days of standing through hours of concert over (although I still find myself doing it anyways from time to time) but I felt like from that vantage point, I had a special view over everything. Observe the crowd without being in it, hear the music without getting distracted by people walking past, feet getting tired or back starting to hurt. And now please don't act like this is the first time I reveal what an old granny I am. 

But back to what matters. 

All the music we heard during the following hours was extremely good. All of it. Officially, this event called Uprising was W.I.R.K.'s concert, but they'd brought their musician friends as supporting acts. The two guys we'd heard when we arrived were one of those acts, Freetown Collective. This is their Facebook Page, in case you want to check them out and show your love and support. First up were The Burning Graves, next was Nickolai Salcedo from Gyazette, then Freetown Collective came back on stage - all of them played three songs each. Then, with all the supporting acts having shared their art, it was time for W.I.R.K.: West Indian Rhythm Konnection. So many inmensely talented artists in one single space, outstanding performances by all of them and the vibes that were felt in the place are impossible to describe. 

I want to come back to Freetown Collective, though. Despite them not being the main act and despite it having been the first time I ever heard them perform. Just thinking about it, I am still blown away. How often do you listen to somebody sing and it touches you so much you can feel the hairs on your arms and on the back of your neck stand up - individually? How often do acoustic instruments and voices harmonize so perfectly that the soundwaves resonate inside you in a way that makes you feel like they're re-aligning everything inside you, from your physical organs to your soul, vibrating and touching and healing? 

I am still not exaggerating. 

Here is one of their songs that you can listen to on YouTube: 

Put on your headphones, turn off everything else and for a mere five minutes, just feel.

This isn't one of the songs they played at Bohemia, where Uprising took place. But it's very similar. All of them are soulful, deep and have this special quality to them, where the singers' voices dig into you and nestle inside you and then stay there never to leave. I haven't heard any of the songs from the concert since that night, because - very unfortunately and very surprisingly - these guys don't yet have an album out, but I haven't forgotten the way they made me feel. Which is: at peace. Very much so. 

♫ "Say what you want, I've got to hold on to my decision... 
and that is love." ♫

As I said in the beginning, this happened a week ago tonight. And I truly do not know what it
was that happened to me. Did I fall in love with music all over again? Yes. Did I stumble across, or rather was taken to, new artists that I want to hear a lot more from? Definitely, yes. Did I have one of the most special concert experiences of my life so far? Most certainly. Was there something more to it, still? Yeah, and what that is I still have to figure out. I'm not sure yet. We'll see. 

I shall, for now, remain waiting for a next opportunity to hear them live and soak up their overwhelmingly positive energy. And in the meantime, I hope I'll get to hang out with my new-but-not-that-new friend, Kwesi, because I feel like there's probably more awesomeness where that came from. 

I hope you like what I'm sharing with you and that in listening to this song you'll also find a little calm in the stress of our everyday lives. A little break from the loud and the fast and the aggressive. 

In the words of some of the people I have around me at the moment: 

Love and light! 

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

The Ghost of Beaches Past.

Congratulations, you have arrived at a post about beaches! This must be exhilarating, I'm so happy for you, really. Congratulations. 

Beach number one: MANZANILLA. 

This beach is located on a stretch of coast along the Atlantic, on the eastern side of Trinidad, a few hours' drive from Port of Spain. It might seem a long way off for a day trip, but it's absolutely worth the time, effort and gas money. 

I'd been to this place before, the first time I came to Trinidad with a university excursion on the topic of slavery and slave resistance in the Southern Caribbean back in the summer of 2011. I even have the photos from back then on my computer still, the following one is from the picturesque road that connects Manzanilla and Mayaro: 

August 27th, 2011.

This most recent trip occurred the Saturday before last, with Michael and the two CouchSurfers he was hosting at the time, Alana and Karim. They're a really nice young couple, she's Brazilian and he's Belgian, who are travelling around the Caribbean in search of the perfect place to have their baby. To spare them the huge detour west through Port of Spain - because our trip took us East - I travelled out to Curepe to meet them and we started out towards the Atlantic coast from there. The drive was spectacular, simply because going for drives in general is spectacular. All I need now is for myself to be behind the wheel next time, because I miss that. A lot. 

On the way to Manzanilla, we stopped along the highway to buy some watermelon.

The time at the beach was very relaxing for me, even though I didn't go into the water. I just spent the hours we stayed there walking along the edge of the ocean, taking pictures and admiring everything I saw - from stranded jellyfish over horizontal palm trees to treebranches that looked like they'd originated in a Dr. Seuss children's book. 

I took a lot of pictures, but I decided not to post too many, so I made some collages again. I thought that collage-thing was just a phase, but if it is then it's a pretty long one, because I am not yet over it! Not by a long shot. 

The birds loved our watermelon!

Enjoying the beach.

Stranded jellyfish. Tons of them all along the edge of the water. 

I'd say this beach is not ideal for bathing, because of the high number of jellyfish you find there, in and next to the water. But it's a wonderful beach for going for walks, chilling on a blanket in the sand and it serves as a destination if what you want is to go for a relaxed drive and see different landscapes - because if you're coming from Port of Spain then your surroundings will switch from mountains to hills to coast. 

We only made it back to St. Joseph rather late, so I decided not to travel back to Port of Spain but stay there, taking advantage of the fact that everybody else had to go into town the next morning and I could ride along in the car, avoiding the maxi+taxi combination. As always, yay for CouchSurfing and friendship! 

The moon was already far up in the sky when we started our way back towards the car.

Beach number two: LAS CUEVAS. 

Las Cuevas, unlike Manzanilla, is almost completely free of of jellyfish as far as I know. At least, I've never seen any of those little seamonsters anywhere on the North coast although there are signs in the area that warn to be careful of them. Still, like Manzanilla, I hadn't been there since the first time I'd come to Trinidad, that same August of 2011. 

I went there last Friday with Ariston. Usually, Friday is a good day to go to the beach, because everybody is at work and you tend to have the whole area to yourself - no having to look for a nice spot forever, no standing in long lines at the bake and shark stalls, no people watching you fall over every time you get hit by a wave and laughing their asses off at your expense. This Friday wasn't, because of Easter. It was a public holiday, so everybody and their grandmother came out to enjoy the day by the seaside. For Ariston and me, that meant that we had to get our shark at Nathalie's instead of Richard's (his is better than hers), we had to walk a long way from the parking spot to the beach and we were surrounded by picnic-ing families when we settled down in the sand. 

It was still a pleasant day out, sitting in the shade and then strolling around with my feet in the water, taking pictures of the rock formations that give Las Cuevas its name. And of other things. 

We walked all the way over to a separate stretch of beach where people were spending more than just a day - some were there for a night, some appeared to have set up camp for even longer. There was an entire house made of cardboard boxes, with a big sound system inside (as in: various big speakers) and a few hammocks in the tree next to the improvised building. I'd never seen anything like it before, believe me, it was quite cool. 

From that day out, we got back a lot earlier than the previous one, so not only did I sleep at my own house that night, I also didn't. Wait, what? Because we got back to Port of Spain in the late afternoon already, I got to go out that evening. I went to a party with the theme of "Sunglasses at Night" with Pedro, Josimar and Thais. I don't own any sunglasses, but it was still fun. Until after 4AM - therefore, no sleeping at home until the early morning. Long time since I'd gone out until that late... remember?

And with that said, we're almost up to date again! It's funny, I really try to keep you posted about what I do and what's going on, but then there will be days where I'm so busy that I don't get around to writing anything at all and suddenly I'm like five stories behind. Right now, though, I only owe you one more story: that of the concert I spontaneously went to on Saturday and who I went with. 

Will write that as soon as I can, because I'm already looking forward to sharing it with you! 

PS: I know there were no ghosts in this story, but I really liked that for the title.