Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Scuba Certified!

We went back to Tobago with Linda and Tom to finish my certification. I didn't really think it was going to be all that. I'm not super into animals and all that equipment seemed pretty confining. But, it really looks like a disney movie down there. Beautiful colors and wacky shapes. Fantastic. But the best part is being weightless. I couldn't stop doing flips. My instructor kept having to point at my eyes to tell me to watch him.

The boat captain's name was Lappy, or that's what everyone called him. Nicknames are popular here, so Tom asked him why he was called Lappy. He mumbled something that we couldn't really understand. So then, he goes, real loud and slow, "MY TOE OVERLAPS. LAPPY TOE."

Tuesday, January 6, 2009


The day after my family left, we went to Grenada, our closest island neighbor. Grenada was different: it has tourism, most of the coastline is beachy, and it’s more subdued than Trinidad. The existence of tourism threw us for a loop. Things were easy—there were turn-outs on the road so traffic didn’t stop when someone got out of their car to get a coke, banks were everywhere, the grocery store had more options, and my favorite—it was safe to walk for hours around the island. On the flipside, people constantly tried to sell us stuff. Aaron had a hard time saying no, so now we have eight necklaces made out of various spices (Grenada is the Spice Isle). Now our house smells like a cinammony, clovey, gingery dinner.

We drove around the island in a jeep and stopped at Grand Etang National Park. In Trinidad, we never see anybody on hikes. Here, there were tour guides just hanging out, waiting to show us waterfalls. Morbidly, we also went to a place known as Carib’s Leap, where supposedly the last of the Carib people (men, women, and children), simultaneously jumped off the island, choosing death over slavery to the Spaniards back in the day.

On a few walks, we found many buildings destroyed by Hurricane Ivan in 2004, like this church.

Making cane sugar juice---see the stalks that he's putting in the machine? Then it comes out of a spout by his ankle. And that's a pile of dry stalks on his right.

Aaron has become scuba certified, so he went diving. I played with my new camera.

Christmas 2008

Then, my family came down for Christmas. We took the ferry over to Tobago, which turned out to be four hours instead of two because only one motor worked. I think this would also be the reason that over half of the people on the boat puked. What was funny was that the ferry left Port of Spain at 6AM, and everybody immediately got in line to get the huge breakfasts. About half an hour into it is when the four-hour barfarama started.

Besides that, Tobago was even better the second time. We went to a more secluded part of the island made up of great views, clear water, and white sand. We celebrated Christmas scratching mosquito bites, hiking to a waterfall that looked like a movie set, and eating a local delicacy, ham bread (a sweater of bread cooked over an entire ham.)
It was pretty fantastic. And the ride back was a piece of cake.

Caroni Swamp

Caroni Swamp is right by Port of Spain and it has an abundance of the national bird, the Scarlet Ibis. It's this hot pink coral color--beautiful. The white birds are Cattle Egrets.
There is one sign, so we drove to that and this guy gets out of the car and asked us if we were going on the tour. We said, yes. He pointed us toward this boat, so we paid him and got in in the second row of a long boat filled with Austrian flight attendants and pilots. The boat captain was barefoot and watching him climb around the rim of the boat was impressive. He motored us through canals pointing out different sights: snakes coiled in trees, mangrove trees floating out of the water, and ospreys peering down at us from low branches. Then, we found this tree and just watched as hundreds of Scarlet Ibis (Ibi?) flew in to roost for the night, like a bouquet of hot pink flowers.
On the way back, it started to pour rain. It's never cold here, but it somehow got chilly. The people in front of us pulled out this huge umbrella, which blocked our view of anything and kept pouring cold water on us when they would accidently tilt it back. People around us were complaining and complaining, so when the boat captain held up a huge tarp to cover us, everyone cheered. I watched as the people behind us, row after row, pulled the tarp over their heads. The guy in the row behind us went to do the same, but the tarp ended right at his head. He looked at me and shrugged his shoulders: Tough luck! We sat and froze, in the only uncovered row on the boat, until the boat got back to land.

Four Giraffes

Our friends, Teddy and Nora, visited for a week in December and it was fantastic to see them and show them our lives here. We wanted to get them acquainted with Trinidad immediately, so we took them downtown to St. James on our way back from the airport for some street roti. Right then was when we noticed how different it was to travel in a pack of white people. It’s like we’re giraffes. At least we got to see our first street fight.

True birding.
The infamous shark and bake we keep telling you about. Teddy dove in like nobody's business.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Flora and Fauna

So, we’ve become birders. Well, more accurately, admirers of all flora and fauna. But Aaron doesn't go anywhere lately without his bird book and binocs. He can identify pretty much any bird ever made.