Jan. 12, 2013

This morning I’m in Arima, a busy, friendly borough of Port of Spain, Trinidad. Antoinette, my CS host, lives in a big house the family has inhabited since about 1991; her mom and step-dad, two sisters and their men and kids all live here. It’s in a friendly little neighborhood that feels close to the countryside (but it’s not really). The household is a Middle Eastern/African combo (typical Trini).

I posted on Facebook: “Ah, the freedom to look for a new lover! No attachments. What’s love got to do with it? I am very pleasantly surprised by how many people I can love.”

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Random notes from Jan. 11

Upwardly-Mobile Trinis, like U-Ms everywhere, bore me terribly.

What subtle, secret payments do oppressed, repressed, subservient women extract from men?

Nomadic people like me are often seen as spies, as cultural infiltrators, by sedentary people.

I like observing how people treat me when they can’t place me socially. This is happening a lot here in Trinidad: the people don’t understand the American “downwardly mobile” phenomenon. I have often been this kind of social observer (“participant observer”) during my various social experiments, such as prostitution and “spare-changing” (begging) on the street. People want to place each other socially in societies where lots of competition for “a better life” is taking place. When they can’t place me, they often treat me as their social inferior. Loss of face is the big thing; mustn’t be insulted in public.

Trini billboard: “Image is not real. Health is real.”

When people yell at each other in T&T, they’re not mad. They just yell a lot.

I bought some cheap earrings on the street in Port of Spain. The vendor put the in my ears for me, and she said: “God is all. All the best.” She gave me a kiss.

I sat near a very old lady on the 6:30 am ferry back to Trinidad. She had those eyes that look translucent. She told me to think, “I am not going to get sick.” She was very wise, and I became empowered in her presence. I called myself “Wave Rider,” and I took control of myself on the journey. “I am in control of my destiny,” I told myself. I felt very Yang and able to heal myself and others. I did not flow with the ocean; I was not Yin. I rode the waves; I ruled myself.

This tiny woman makes me feel so confident. I feel that to make many mistakes is a good thing. It shows that I am constantly testing the waters, trying new things, experimenting with life, pushing myself. Too much flowing with things makes me vulnerable to undesirable forces.

Two young guys from Indonesia got into the maxi (van taxi) when I was returning to the center of PoS from Pier 1 (where I bought my ticket to Venezuela (c. $125 US). One was from Java, one from Celebes.

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Celebes, Indonesian Sulawesi,  one of the four Greater Sunda Islands, Indonesia. A curiously shaped island with four distinct peninsulas that form three major gulfs—Tomini (the largest) on the northeast, Tolo on the east, and Bone on the south—Celebes has a coastline of 3,404 miles (5,478 km).

 [Credit: © George Holton/Photo Researchers]The island is very mountainous, with some active volcanoes, but there are large plains on the southern peninsula and in the south-central part of the island on which rice is grown. The highest peak is Mount Rantekombola, or Mario, at 11,335 feet (3,455 metres). Major deep lakes (danau) are Towuti, Poso, and Matana, the latter having been sounded to 1,936 feet (590 metres). The rivers are short and unimportant.

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Java (Indonesian: Jawa) is an island of Indonesia. With a population of 135 million (excluding the 3.6 million on the island of Madura which is administered as part of the provinces of Java), Java is the world’s most populous island, and one of the most densely-populated places on the globe. Java is the home of 60 percent of the Indonesian population. The Indonesian capital city, Jakarta, is located on western Java. Much of Indonesian history took place on Java. It was the center of powerful HinduBuddhist empires, the Islamic sultanates, and the core of the colonial Dutch East Indies. Java was also the center of the Indonesian struggle for independence during the 1930s and 40s. Java dominates Indonesia politically, economically and culturally.

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Port of Spain has huge docks, boat yards, dry docks–the whole works. It’s an important port. Big freighters–like the one the Indonesian kids were off of, racing sailboats (“World Racing Challenge”), yachts, party boats, ferries, T&T Coast Guard ships.

In downtown PoS, I saw the Soca star Nisha B. She was at a street/park gathering for the 4 pm live, local news.  I recently saw her on TV, with another women Soca star, Saucy Wow. They both said that women singers/musicians are not living up to their potential, partly because men make the industry so hard for women. She was performing (way too little) and being interviewed with other Soca stars and drumming groups.

Here’s a link to Nisha B’s song “Wine Up Your Body”:

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In Charlotteville, Tobago, Althea told me there is no negative stigma to being a street sweeper. Groups of these women were cleaning the street in Charlotteville. They move around between the various towns on T&T.

What about Rasta women? Althea said their efforts toward equality are documented.

“Absolute faith gives great power to beliefs.” (from TB show “Taboo” about healers around the world)

I try to teach people I meet about the natural wonders of the USA. People from very urban areas, like Western Europe, go to the US and only visit the cities; then, they think the US is totally urban, like their countries.

I am a very healthy, free, independent woman!

T&T = lots of Chinese; almost no Japanese.

An old Trini man in his boxer shorts often shakes his ass provocatively (that’s what he’s going for) on the street in downtown PoS outside the KFC (the great meeting place in Trinidad and in Scarborough, Tobago). An old woman did the same thing yesterday; I watched her as I sat in KFC waiting for Althea my host. She does research on cocoa at the University of the West Indies (other campuses: Barbados and Kingston).

Muslim women in full burkas in PoS.

Women like me who travel alone are different from other women, especially from traditional women. We have to be smart, tough, and a bit conniving/sneaky/silent strategists.

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Planning the route ahead is an everyday thing now. I love my life so much! There is nothing I’d rather be doing.

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Lessons Danilio Perez learned from (the memory and music of) Theolonious Monk: “Music is music is music, no matter what the style.” (on WWOZ radio)

Anya wrote me a message and said: “You’re quite inspiring.”

I am finding myself through my travels. Doing what I love is showing me who I am.

Obeah is an African-based religion and magic embraced by many folks in T&T and the West Indies in general. Probably because it was used against slave-masters, many people today (many/most of whom are Caucasians) call religions like Obeah “evil” and they label it “black magic.” Fools!

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OBEAH

Obeah (sometimes spelled Obi, Obea or Obia) is a term used in the West Indies to refer to folk magic, sorcery, and religious practices derived from West African, and specifically Igbo origin. Obeah is similar to other African derived religions including Palo, Voodoo, Santería, rootwork, and most of all hoodoo. Obeah is practiced in Suriname, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Dominica, Guyana, Barbados, Grenada, Belize, The Bahamas and other Caribbean countries.

Obeah is associated with both benign and malignant magic, charms, luck, and with mysticism in general. In some Caribbean nations, Obeah refers to folk religions of the African diaspora. In some cases, aspects of these folk religions have survived through syncretism with Christian symbolism and practice introduced by European colonials and slave owners. Casual observation may conclude that Christian symbolism is incorporated into Obeah worship, but in fact may represent clandestine worship and religious protest.

During slavery Obeah was directed against the European slave masters. However, with the rise of Christianity, Obeah is considered a taboo, and the term has pejorative associations.

Obeah in Trinidad and Tobago

One aspect of Obeah that is familiar to Trinidad and Tobago, though not all other nations where Obeah is practiced, is the Moko-Jumbie, or stilt dancer. Moko was a common word for Ibibio slaves. In the Trinidad and Tobago Obeah tradition, a jumbie is an evil or lost spirit, related to the Kongo word “nzumbi,” which led to the sensationalistic Zombies of Hollywood. “Jumbie,” however, retains more of the word’s original meaning. It is sometimes associated with a child who has died before being baptized; such a child is called a douen and is said to be forced to forever walk the earth at night in English-speaking regions of the Caribbean. Jewelry is made from deadly toxic red and black seeds called jumbies, jumbie eyes or jumbie beads (seeds of Abrus precatorius containing the lethal AB toxin abrin)in the Caribbean and South America. By contrast, the moko-jumbie of Trinidad and Tobago is brightly colored, dances in the daylight, and is very much alive. The moko-jumbie also represents the flip side of spiritual darkness, as stilt-dancing is most popular around holy days and Carnival.

(from Wikipedia)

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