Sunday, March 14, 2010

Fire, oil, and jazz

We came home Friday to find the hill behind our house burning with twelve fires. Smoke packed the air. The wet season hadn’t allowed for as many monsoons this year as last year, and as a result, fires popped up all over the country. Aaron hiked up to watch them rage while I stayed in the protective pool.

We left early the next morning to join up with a local hiking group (after taking 6 months to forgive them for getting us lost on our last hike) to go on an 8-mile hike and see some of Trinidad's oil birds. Along the way, there were only a few signs of people.

Apparently the Amerindians used to stick the birds on branches and light them to use as torches. Because of the high concentration of oil within them, they’d burn for a considerable amount of time. The Cumaca cave was dark and full of water up to our waists. As our group entered, the birds started squawking and screeching. Since we clearly were not invited guests, Aaron and I turned back. And that’s when I started gripping his hand because all I could think of was the scene in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade when they’re stuck in the cave with the rats crawling over their faces. It was tough to make it out quickly enough.

On our way home, we rinsed off in a river, pulled on some acceptable clothes, and stopped at the University of West Indies (UWI, or, U-wee) to attend the First Annual Jazz Festival of Trinidad and Tobago.

Neither of us are jazz followers, connoisseurs, or, really, even listeners, but it seemed like it might be fun. The crowd was older and all of the Trinidad party food was served—corn soup, doubles, pholourie, and rum. Most of the musicians were professors, but there were some of the country’s most popular performers, who had “Jazzed Up” (the festival’s theme) their hits. The result was eclectic. Ravi B’s song, “Gyal, I always knew I was a drinka” was a quintessential Trini combo: the Chutney Monarch Champion (Indian) singing a soca-style (Afro-Caribbean) song with jazz back-up (African-American) to a mostly Afro-Trinidadian audience, except for the Hawaiian and Wisconsonian in the front row. Ravi B was very polite when I asked for his photo and didn’t mention the smell of the jungle, river, or oil birds on me. When we got home that night, our downstairs floor was covered with ash and our neighbors told us that the fires had gotten within feet of our house. No fires in sight right now, though.

Carnival 2K10

Carnival again and its electric embrace of Roy G. Biv.

..its swing of bare hips from walls and bridges...

...its fantastical encounters with people you meet who are dressed with such creativity, humor, and style...

...its permanent river of sweat from dancing so close the concept of personal space is redefined…

…its steps and twists, distinctive yet synchronized, born from each truck-blasted beat felt first in the chest and then in the ears…

…its rare but refreshing breezes that tunnel through this mass of flesh, to find you and cool you off...

...its devotion felt toward the songs played so often (at every party, in every bank and grocery store, and on every radio station), each one as familiar and fantastic as your mother's cookies...

I had no intention of experiencing a second carnival that equaled our first. Yet, it proved worthy of 365 day wait. Our costumes were better; the giant headpiece and Mohawk were the best decisions of the year.

The road march soca winner came with its own one-legged dance, best performed in unison. A friend decided to come down at the last minute, so we got to show him the bacchanal ropes and watch him relish the insanity. After only visiting six houses at lunchtime, I found someone with krazy glue so I could re-attach wandering feathers, and, at each of those houses, I was kindly offered a cold drink and/or a clean bathroom. We discovered the elevated view, found by climbing walls, that provides the powerful perspective of thousands of bedazzled revelers. But, best of all, we know more people now, so we were constantly waving, talking, hugging, kissing, and/or wining with friends.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Jouvert 2K10

This year, we got up at 2AM on Sunday night/Monday morning to coat ourselves in cocoa and run like devils through the streets.

Unlike last year, this year we met up with other groups who had their own unique identities and music. I declared myself an ambassador and promptly swapped my devil horns with a Pig Snouter and covered myself in multiple colors of paint.

Palance was the year’s biggest hit. To palance is to go and have fun in all differen
t places. To emphasize this concept, pictures of the American actor, Jack Palance, were everywhere.

And we got in the magazine!