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.

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