Monday, June 3, 2013


This post is not about Disney's Lion King. It is also not about the musical The Lion King. It has nothing at all to do with anything Lion King that you might think of now or in the future. 

This post is about a very special place here in Trinidad, a place that I have grown to like very much - if not love - over the last weeks, or months really, that I've been here. 

Sans Souci. 

I have been there three times since the first time I came here, unknowingly, to have a cup of coffee on December 16th of last year (BTW, it's been confirmed, I really do like the coffee here). For a weekend in April, a weekend in May, and the long weekend that transitioned from May into June. This last weekend, until just yesterday. And every single time was incredibly special! 

Have you ever heard somebody say "nomen est omen"? Well, nominative determinism is definitely a thing! Sans Souci proves it. This is what the Merriam Webster online dictionary has to say about it: 

sans sou·ci - foreign term \säⁿ-sü-sē\ - Definition : without worry

Basically, it translates to Hakuna Matata. Perfection! (Although I am still not talking about the Lion King. Hakuna Matata really exists and it's actually Swahili, an expression commonly used in Zanzibar and Kenya, according to every student's favourite source of information: Wikipedia.) Perfection because there really are no worries in Sans Souci, they just get lost on the way and then all you do while there is enjoy life. Just, live.  

You'll have to trust me on this one, because I don't think I can take every single one of you with me when I go there. And there's a reason I haven't posted before about all the weekends I've spent there. It's somebody's house that we go to, after all. Somebody's home. I'm extremely lucky in that I feel confident to call that somebody, an amazing and extremely talented painter, a friend. Therefore, I get to share his space from time to time and can enjoy the peace and quiet of the house next to the ocean. And I'm so grateful for that! I hope I tell him 'thank you' enough. If that is even possible. 

I don't want to tell you exactly where it is located, because I want to respect my friend's privacy. But I can tell you that if you find yourself in Trinidad now or some day in the future and you want to go to Sans Souci and feel the magic of the little seaside village for yourself, even if you can't come with us you can do that. There is a hotel there and I'm sure if you don't go on a busy weekend or during the big holidays, you'll get a nice room and will be able to experience what I experience every time I go. Not in the same way, because my friend's house and everybody's company contribute a huge part of what makes the time up there special to me, personally, obviously, but you'll still get to see what I mean. And the hotel sems to be nice, at least from the outside, and it's also right opposite the beach. 

And if you can't drive up there yourself because, like me, you're from foreign (as they say here) or you don't have a car of your own for some other reason, you can easily travel up by public transport. A taxi from City Gate to Sangre Grande (via Arima), then a taxi or a maxi straight to the village (via Toco). The same to get back. It's not that hard. And it's not expensive. No matter how you go up there, driving or traveling (as they say here), it will not take longer than 3.5 hours - and that's the worst case scenario. And it is worth the effort. So very much. 

Here is what makes going to Sans Souci so precious and worry-free to me: 

It is a simple place. A peaceful, quiet, tranquil one. Not always in the literal sense, of course. But even if there's loud music coming from the beach or a bar where people lime, it will never be as loud or obnoxious as when you hear the same sounds in the city. The moment you arrive, the moment you open the car door and set your feet on the ground, you can feel the noise of the city dissipate and trickle out of your ears, not to return until you leave. The stress evaporates from every muscle in your body; it's like Port of Spain has covered you in a layer of plaster or clay and it just cracks and bursts and all the pieces fall off of you and you're free all of a sudden. And you stretch and bend and stretch again and where before there was tension, now there is light. 

A small detail by the entrance. A greeting, if you will. An announcement of what awaits you.

Arriving there last Friday afternoon, my friend Natasha, who I was lucky enough to catch a ride up with, said, "I didn't know how much I needed to be here until I got out of the car." That just says it all, doesn't it? 

Also, in Sans Souci, I feel one hundred percent free to be who I want to be and do what I want to do. I can be lazy, I can be active, I can be outgoing, I can withdraw into myself, I can be an artist or a musician or a writer. Yes, I said musician. I haven't played an instrument in many years, but Sans Souci inspired me to pick up a guitar and try a few chords. Or maybe, it was the guitar's owner that inspired me to do that. Who knows? Who cares? Either way, to sit out on the porch and listen to beautiful tunes is one of the best things for me to do in Sans Souci.  I'm not going to play regularly again like I used to, but to even have played a little bit is already really something for me. 

Hadn't played in almost ten years, but it still feels good in my hands. 

And I'm not the only one who feels that way. I've been up there with a number of different people, in groups as well as with just one person. The owner being up or us having gone without him. Everyone gets to be who and do what they want. Go to sleep whenever, get up whenever, join a conversation or wander off and sit by yourself, play music or get lost in thoughts or watch a movie or meditate or go for a swim or read a book or paint or cook or randomly start doing dishes or cleaning or make a rum and coke for yourself and/or others, etc. Anything is possible. And yes, doing dishes and cleaning is included, because those things come so naturally up there. From the inside. Because you just know how much you're getting and you want to give back. It's never something you have to do, it's just something you do. 

The sea is rough up there, but refreshing and energizing. 

Let me give you an example of doing what you want, so you get an idea of what I'm talking about. When you go to the coast and spend a day or two or three in a house right by the beach, you're supposed to spend a lot of time outside, swimming in the sea or lying in the sand and all of that, right? Well, not here. In Sans Souci, "supposed to" doesn't exist. It's invalid. You think of the things you're supposed to be doing or the things that are expected of you and you get an error message - "does not compute". It's just not how things work up there. 

Hakuna Matata - you can't worry about or bother with social norms. 

Therefore, this can happen: 

Spent the whole weekend watching the original Star Wars trilogy. So what? We wanted to! 

And to shock you even further, this is what Kwesi and I did the following time we went up, this last weekend. While the sun was out, not just while it was raining: 

Episode I and II. Why? Because fuck rules, that's why. 

What are you thinking right now? What a glorious waste of time to be watching Star Wars when the sun is shining and you're literally less than a minute from the beach? No. Because that was what I needed to be happy and feel good at that specific time. So that's what I did. And because I'm lucky, I didn't have to do it by myself. Because Kwesi is almost as much of a fanboy as I am a fangirl, we watched it all together. Ignoring everything society has to say about weekends by the beach and instead just enjoying ourselves our own way. 

Another reason it's gorgeous up there, the stars. You see so many of them and they're visible every night. Well, unless it's cloudy. No light pollution like in the city and no having to worry about sitting outside at 2AM. Or 4AM. Or any time, really. 

Longest possible exposure, but my camera is still not powerful enough to show you all the sky's gifts to us. 

The only place on Trinidad where I have seen a higher density of stars in the night sky was the deserted because protected beach in Matura where we went to see the Leatherback Turtles lay their eggs. Everywhere else doesn't even come close to this. 

A few other things: 

There is always incense burning somewhere close by. Relaxation in the form of light, scented smoke.

Paw paws (as they call them here) grow in the yard. Next to coconut trees. And heliconias.

You see the most fascinating little beasts, like phasmatodea. Anywhere else, that encounter would have freaked me out. Up there: chill. 

Coffee with this view tastes better than coffee without this view. Lean back on a deck chair, wake up slowly. 

Kitchen window. No further explanation needed.

These are, as I said, a few things only of the many that made me fall in love with Sans Souci. There are way too many for me to be able to tell you about all of them, far less show you all of them. But I believe these last pictures gave you a nice first glimpse of what magic the place holds. 

And on top of it all, the weather is also hardly an issue up there. Unless there's a storm of sorts, it doesn't matter if it rains. I have been up there during the dry season as well as during the rainy season, which has finally kicked in completely, and it honestly does not matter whether the skies are clear or clouded. Why? Because the sounds of the rain just add to the serenity of it all, as the sounds of the rain tend to do. Up there, it engulfs you. Much more than it ever could in the city, the song of the rain comes to you from above and all around you. The smell is everywhere and after, when it has stopped, everything is fresh and new, including yourself. 

The last drop falling, the first bird back in the air.

Yes, being up there during the rainy season without a fan means that you will be eaten alive by mosquitoes. Because they seem to have built a scientific facility up there where they have managed to immunize themselves against any kind of repellent - they munched right through my Colombian super-repellent Nopikex, which usually keeps  e v e r y t h i n g  away. So you lie awake all night, scratching every bit of exposed skin, the surface of your body being covered thoroughly in bites by these monsters. And when they're not biting you you're close to tears because even then the heat won't let you sleep - because obviously you closed all the windows to make sure the mosquito coil smoke doesn't get out and more vampires don't get in. Yes, I'm currently describing my nightly experience from the last time I was there. But, because Hakuna Matata, you just sleep in the cooler hours of dawn when the mosquitoes have gone to sleep and the sun is not yet up. And then you take a nap or three during the day, while it rains. Cool and buzzer-free. Who cares if you go to sleep at 4AM and get back up around 8AM? And then sleep again at noon. And again in the afternoon. Up there, nobody. So, despite being terrorized every night by flying squadrons of blood suckers, I still got to enjoy my stay and in hindsight I know I wouldn't not go if I had the chance to change something. Even though I spent a lot of time cursing and promising that "had I known we wouldn't have a fan I never would have come." Yeah, no, I would have. No matter what. 

By now you probably think that I've lost it. I'm completely out of it, my feet are not touching the ground of reality anymore and I must be on drugs or something, because it's just ridiculous and weird how I talk about a simple house in a simple village on a simple island like it's a piece of freaking heaven, short of being made of gold and chocolate. 


I am very much aware of reality and "real life". I work, I study, I read the news and talk to people. I check my bank account, I help friends who need assistance or support, I shop for groceries and brush my teeth. All of it. Of course I do! Don't worry about that. 

The simple truth is that I have found a little spot where I can escape from everything negative. A hiding place, if you will. I am still ontheway, but I have yet again stumbled across a place where I can come to a halt and be still for a while, which is wonderful. 

Traveling, even when you spend a lot of time in a single place and it doesn't feel like traveling but you're also not really quite at home, well, it can be exhausting. At times, you have more things to keep track of, bear in mind and, well, worry about than somebody who is established and settled down in one single place. That's not at all a bad thing, really, but nevertheless it's a good feeling to be able to slow down from time to time, or maybe come to a full standstill for a while. And in Sans Souci I get to ignore it all: being perpetually in motion with no determined destination, not having a fixed home, not knowing what even the near future holds in store for me. It all fades out of existence and for a few days, I'm just here.  

Like her: 

This adorable little thing is Rosie and she's doing her very best not to fall asleep on Kwesi's lap as she enjoys the sounds of the evening and the heat of the fire (to roast dinner on) with us. 

I wanted to share this with you in the hopes that you'll find yourself an oasis of your own, where you can go to detach and distance yourself a bit, to -  and this is what we say - die Seele baumeln lassen. 

Hakuna Matata, my friends, Sans Souci. 


  1. ja, die seele baumeln lassen ...... wenn man die eindruecke einer gegend oder eines landes spueren kann ist das moeglich..... aber auch in staedten wo man sich wohlfuehlt so wie es fuer mich in wien ist....... ich lass hier auch die seele baumeln und das sehr oft!

    die pic´s werden immer schoener, interessanter und immer kuenstlerischer...... gefaellt mir sehr gut und vermittelt sehr viel, werde immer neugieriger auf dieses schoene land und deren bewohner.....

    danke.... macht spass alles so zu verfolgen,

    schoene gruesse aus "leider immer noch kalten" wien.......

    und, eine gitarre.... immer toll!

    gruss pp

    1. Ja, du hast natürlich vollkommen Recht!

      Ich glaub, dass ich das in Wien auch werd können. Wien ist anders, das darf man nicht vergessen. Oder vielleicht ist Port of Spain anders. Ich fühl mich sehr wohl hier, aber:

      --- Es ist nie vollkommen leise, da sind immer irgendwelche Hintergrundgeräusche. Kühlschränke, Ventilatoren, richtige Generatoren, Autos, die vorbei fahren (tagsüber mit lautem Radio, nachts glücklicherweise ohne Radio aber immernoch mit lauten Motoren), Hunde, die mitten in der Nacht ganz wichtige Themen zu diskutieren haben und die ganze Nachbarschaft niederbellen.
      --- Es ist nie vollkommen dunkel, selbst bei dem landesweiten Stromausfall gab es noch die eine oder andere Lichtquelle in St James, weil es ja Batterien und Generatoren gibt. Und wenn kein Stromausfall ist, hab ich ums Haus herum so viele Straßenlaternen, dass ich NIE mein Licht im Zimmer aufdrehen muss!
      --- Es ist nie vollkommen leer, egal zu welcher Tages- oder Nachtzeit gibt es Leute auf der Straße, die vorbeigehen oder vorbeifahren.

      Ich hab mich an das alles gewöhnt. Ich kann trotz Licht und Autos und Hundegebell schlafen und es ist kein Problem. Aber ich merk, wie sehr es doch belastet, sobald ich mich davon entferne und den Riesenunterschied bemerke.

      Ist eigentlich spannend!

  2. i am so happy you get it! i have been there over seven years and you 'just came' and you get a sense of the place and what it is about :)

    1. If I had been in a better place emotionally back then, I could have seen it six months ago. That way, it took coming back in April for me to really get it. Though I did have a hunch, of sorts. I don't know, it's just a good place to be.

  3. This was lovely. I love the part about expectations vs. reality! It's true that weekend just called for tv/movie watching for whatever weekend. Gonna miss you the next time I go up there. But not the damn mosquitos! I'm still healing from those bloodsuckers!!!!

    1. Aww, that's sweet of you to say. I hope I'll get to join you guys up there again soon. And, yeah, without the mosquitoes. We need fans and mosquito nets!

  4. I'll provide the fans, you bring the nets and Kwesi can bring the machine gun LOL