Sunday, June 21, 2009

Going “down de islands” is Trini slang for renting a beach house on one of the small islands off the coast of Trinidad. It’s a common weekend thing. My students talk about it all the time and when I asked Enrique how often he went down de islands, he said, “Not so often, just every Sunday.” We had tried to plan it a few times, but the islands have remained elusive for almost the whole year. Fortunately, some of our more savvy friends, Mark and Rebeka, hooked us up. We left Friday morning to take full advantage of our 3-day weekend with all necessary supplies and hopped in Spider’s boat to cross the ocean, past Centipede island (where they grow as big as my arm, apparently!), until we reached Gaspare. The house was blue, cozy, and full of sun decorations, bunk beds, and magazines from 2005: all we’d need. Mark and Rebeka’s friends, Natalie, Enrique, and Andrea joined us in relaxing for the weekend. We swam, snorkeled, laid out in the sun, read, napped in the hammocks, and went for a few hikes. The landscape of the island was a volcanic desert, completely different than Trinidad. We played cards until things got rowdy and the table broke; Spoons with rum is a different game entirely. The national ability to party and relax with equal skill and dedication is quite impressive.
These ants are huge. As big as my fingernails.

June 9th, 2009

For my birthday, Aaron and I took half-personal days. We went out for lunch, spent a few hours playing in the waves and laying in the sun at Maracas Beach, and then got a big group together for a 2 hour game of ultimate frisbee. (He also took me out to a fancy dinner and paid for me to get a thai yoga massage at our yoga studio sometime!) It was fantastic.


Some parts of Trinidad don’t have any roads, so the only way to see them is to walk. A local group, Hiker’s World, planned a hike on the remote Northeastern coast, starting in Matelot and finishing in Blanchisessuse, 20 miles later. We signed up to go with them. Before permitting us to go on the hike, we had to prove ourselves in a “practice hike,” that was “much more difficult” than the actual hike (not that there was a practice hike for that one). The practice hike was about 4 hours of straight hills, which isn’t that big of deal, except that there was some miscommunication. When I hear the word “hike,” I think “medium walking pace,” “time to stop and look at the view” and “rest stops.” Interestingly enough, Hiker’s World, while a separate entity completely from the hashers we trail-run with every other weekend, do the same. People yelled at us to go faster, yelled at us to not tie our shoe laces, and one guy even trampled past me when I tripped and fell. Still, it’s cheaper than hiring guides to have taken us.
The hike-a-thon started at 7 AM Saturday, May 30th. To get there by that time, we met the group in downtown Port-of-Spain at 2 AM and rode a maxi to Matelot, soca blasting and lights blaring for most of the 4 hour drive. Dazed, we started the hike on the sandy beach of the small town. The day fluctuated between isolated, beautiful beaches and thick, sweaty jungle. I tried to make new friends, but after my first attempt, stopped (“Don’t be offended, but do you know what a turon is? Nope! What? A tourist moron. Oh.). Instead, I enjoyed the forests of heliconia, with a slashed passageway like a tropical Narnia, and swam in small, lonesome coves out of The Tempest. I felt grateful that we were able to witness such a different part of Trinidad—all beauty and no pollution. As we walked across the last bridge, six hours after we started, they handed us chicken pelau (similar to jambalaya) and T-shirts: The thrill of the victory and the agony of de feet!