New Years Day, Jan. 1, 2013

I arrived in Port of Spain, Trinidad around 6 pm yesterday, New Year’s Eve. Tricia Toney (Couchsurfer) picked me up, and today we are at her mom, Janice’s, Arima (area) house. Janice cooks lots of traditional Trini food (including tons of meat).

Today a crowd is here–mostly church-going (Catholic) folks to whom I say (in a most friendly way), “I’m part of the beer-drinking crowd, not the church crowd.” Best to have it out on the table.

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WHAT I PERSONALLY LIKE TO DO

1.)     Dream about my Soulmate (this is mostly at night, in both dreams and “day-dreams”).

2.)     Travel (I only have this energy during the day).

3.)     Socialize with fun people while drinking alcohol, listening to music and dancing.

4.)     Hang out with my Darling grandson, Sam.

5.)     Be out  in Nature (not parks, but wilderness areas with big wild animals around).

MY CULTURAL INTERESTS

1.)     Music and dancing (culturally specific).

2.)     Local foods (and eating them!).

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Random Trini notes:

Jamacan patois, according to my Trinidad hosts, is hard for everyone in the Caribbean to understand. The Trini Creole, they say, is much easier for others to understand.

T&T immigration and customs: very easy, quick and pleasant. Officials were very friendly. They didn’t ask to see an onward ticket. They did search my bag at the Security checkpoint in Trinidad, but that’s probably because I travel so light and my clothes and pack look and are very cheap.

T&T piolice and military, according to Tricia’s professional (teacher Mom) family, are well-paid and both good and bad.

T&T economy, according to Tricia’s Mom, Janice, is very good, the best in the Caribbean. Janice is smart, well-educated, and well-traveled. She’s also a very traditional Trini and an excellent cook of local Trini food. She harvests banana leaves from her backyard to make pastelles (like a tamale) with corn meal and mince meat inside the dough (which is cooked inside the banana leaves). Janice also gets banana leaves from a friend who works at the prison; the guards do gardening as part of their “hard labor.”

After collecting the banana leaves, Janice softens them over the gas on the kitchen stove (the word “swinge” came up here in some capacity which I now forget);  then, she washes them well (especially the ones from the prison, she says with a smile). Then Janice cuts them to size.

Janice told me they always have ham in Trinidad on Christmas and New Years Day. I soon discovered that “ham” is a general term that means, according to Janice, “using preservatives.” You can have turkey ham, chicken ham, pork ham or beef ham.

Roasted Geera is a product that’s made from ground cumin seeds and is “like a curry.” Janice sprinkled it liberally over the pork as it was boiling. It comes in a little bag from the store.

Janice picked bay leaves in the yard and added them (“they bring out the flavor”) of Trini Chocolate* which she ground up by hand and added to a big pot of boiling water. These bay leaves are big and round and have a totally different smell (and presumably different flavor) from the slim California bay tree leaves I am used to. I had the chocolate “tea” with breakfast; it was delicious. (*The Trini chocolate is an easy-to-handle ball that’s processed from cocoa beans.)

My breakfast was pork ham, pastelles, toast, and a spicy, relish-like sauce, plus ketchup and a pepper sauce.

They play cricket (among other games) in Trinidad; the old colonial British influence is strong here. The population contains a huge Middle Eastern group.

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My darling, French, little Brother, Benoit Hansen, a sweetheart (only 26 years old),  is looking for “a different kind of love.” I hope he finds it. I hope I also find my ONE TRUE LOVE.

My old lady-advice to Ben is: Never give up. And don’t fear aging (or anything).

Best wishes to you always, Ben.

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More random Trini notes:

Shandi is beer with fruit juice. They make sorrel here, too (like in Jamaica). The Toneys consider Jamaica–especially the countryside–dangerous.

They have an old, yard dog named Benji. He barks at me, but he doesn’t bite. I drank a local Carib beer yesterday at Janice’s., and I’m having one today. They tell me to watch out for thieves in Venezuela; “an American passport is like gold there,” said Tricia.

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GUYANA is part of the Caribbean community of nations.

Guyana (Listeni/ɡˈænə/ gy-AN), officially the Co-operative Republic of Guyana, is a sovereign state on the northern coast of South America. Culturally, it is part of the Anglophone Caribbean and is one of the few Caribbean countries that is not an island. The Caribbean Community (CARICOM), of which Guyana is a member, has its secretariat‘s headquarters in Guyana’s capital, Georgetown.

Guyana was originally colonized by The Netherlands. Later, it became a British colony and remained so for over 200 years until it achieved independence on 26 May 1966. On 23 February 1970, Guyana officially became a republic. In 2008, the country joined the Union of South American Nations as a founding member.

Guyana, a member state of the Commonwealth of Nations, is the only South American nation whose official language is English.

(Wikipedia)

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Even children drink Shandy here. It’s bottled (or home-made) and has a low alcohol (content), but it’s still an alcoholic drink. Americans would be scandalized!

SLAVERY IN TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO

(exerpt from Wikipedia article on T&T)

The Abolitionist movement and/or the decreased economic viability of slavery as a means of procuring labour both resulted in the abolition of slavery in 1833 via the Slavery Abolition Act 1845 (citation 3 & 4 Will. IV c. 73), which was followed by its substitution by an “apprenticeship” period. This was also abolished in 1838, with full emancipation being granted on 1 August. An overview of the populations statistics in 1838, however, clearly reveals the contrast between Trinidad and its neighbouring islands: upon emancipation of the slaves in 1838, Trinidad had only 17,439 slaves, with 80% of slave owners having less than 10 slaves each.

In contrast, at twice the size of Trinidad, Jamaica had roughly 360,000 slaves. Upon emancipation, therefore, the incipient plantation owners were in severe need of labour, and the British filled this need by instituting a system of indenture. Various nationalities were contracted under this system, including Chinese, Portuguese and Indians. Of these, the Indians were imported in the largest numbers, starting from 1 May 1845, when 225 Indians were brought in the first shipment to Trinidad on the Fatel Rozack, a Muslim-owned vessel[24] Indentureship of the Indians lasted from 1845 to 1917, over which more than 147,000 Indians were brought to Trinidad to work on sugarcane plantations.

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General Info on T&T

Trinidad and Tobago (Listeni/ˌtrɪnɨdæd ən tɵˈbɡ/), officially the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, is an archipelagic statein the southern Caribbean, lying just off the coast of northeastern Venezuela and south of Grenada in the Lesser Antilles. It shares maritime boundaries with other nations including Barbados to the northeast, Grenada to the northwest, Guyana to the southeast, and Venezuela to the south and west.

The country covers an area 5,128 square kilometres (1,980 sq mi) and consists of two main islands, Trinidad and Tobago, and numerous smaller landforms. Trinidad is the larger and more populous of the main islands, comprising about 94% of the total area and 96% of the total population of the country. The nation lies outside the hurricane belt.

The island of Trinidad was a Spanish colony from the arrival of Christopher Columbus in 1498 to the capitulation of the Spanish Governor, Don José Maria Chacón, on the arrival of a British fleet of 18 warships on 18 February 1797.[10] During the same period, the island of Tobago changed hands between Spanish, British, French, Dutch and Courlander colonizers. Trinidad and Tobago was ceded to Britain in 1802 under the Treaty of Amiens.[11] The country obtained independence in 1962, becoming a republic in 1976. Unlike most of the English-speaking Caribbean, Trinidad and Tobago’s economy is primarily industrial,[12] with an emphasis on petroleum and petrochemicals.

Trinidad and Tobago is known for its Carnival and is the birthplace of steelpan, calypso, soca, chutney and limbo.

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