Our experience in Trinidad was one of a kind and definitely felt like we were at home. The beginning to our trip was a tad rocky though. We arrived a day earlier than Phylicia so we stayed at a hotel close to downtown. As soon as we hopped off the plane and headed for customs our jaw dropped: the line to get out of the airport looked miles long. We ended up staying 4 HOURS in the airport just to get through customs – very frustrating time for us and other people. It was utter chaos: people were skipping, complaining, cutting, arguing; this debacle ended up being front page news in Trinidad next day. Luckily, our trip only went uphill from there.
The taxi ride to our hotel was lovely, there were 2 other ladies in our car who were coming back to their homeland Trinidad and were able to give us tons of advice about where to eat close to our hotel. Even though we were emotionally drained, our stomachs weren’t so as soon as we layed down our bags in our room we took a short 5 minute taxi ride to the street food they recommended. We ended up getting a couple Trinidad staples (corn soup, potato pie, roti, etc) and shared it between us. The food was delicious, veg friendly, Indian oriented and very cheap. The next day we had breakfast and explored a little of the surrounding areas before Phylicia’s friend’s cousin picked us up.
Our hotel was absolutely fabulous which made Nelli very happy because I’m very particular about hotels. Unfortunately, we only booked for that day so next time we come we know where to stay and to book it very much in advance. Our taxi driver last night told us the hotel was right next door to Michael Lara’s house which sent Nelli into a tizzy. I had no idea he was a famous cricketer until Nelli told me. So we ended up getting some flowers for Phylicia’s friend and to place next to Lara’s house. The gate was open so I pushed Nelli to give it to Lara directly but Nelli was too afraid to do it. In the end I just went up to his house and Nelli reluctantly followed because I knew this was a lifetime opportunity. Actually, this bold move ended up in Nelli meeting Lara: one of the greatest cricketers of all time. Nelli was so happy that day 🙂
Phylicia’s friend’s cousin (Krista) ended up picking us up and driving us around for celebratory drinks, lunch, and a little bit of shopping. She was extremely nice and very talkative. We also picked up our costumes for Carnival on Monday and Tuesday. After that, we met up with Phylicia and had dinner at Krista’s family house where we would be staying for the duration of our trip. Her house was a little far from downtown but you couldn’t beat the hospitality of her family, the homecooked meals, and the willingness to drive us everywhere. I think this is the best thing you can do if you go to Trinidad is heavily rely on friends or family because Trinidad is not very tourist oriented (see customs debacle) so it really helps to know people.
Over the next few days we did some fun touristy things before Carnival started. We went to Maracas Bay which is Trinidad’s most popular beach and had the famous Richard’s bake and shark (so good!). We also spent one day exploring the Indian influence in Trinidad. This was a very special day for Nelli and me because we saw a community that represented us (a mixture of black and Indian). I learned that most Indian communities live in a city called Waterloo because that’s where the sugar plantations used to be. When the British abolished slavery they still needed hard labor so they brought Indians over to Trinidad to work as indentured laborers. Over time, both cultures started mixing together hence “Blindian” or “Dougla” terms. Just like slaves, indentured laborers had a really hard life and barely survived which I learned at the Indian Caribbean Museum and we later went to a famous temple by the water built by a laborer. We also went to a really tall statue of Hanuman the monkey king which was cool. One interesting thing I observed is that a lot of the houses in Waterloo had flags that had Hindu goddesses/gods on them. I suppose this is a sign that a Hindu person lives in the house which I thought showed a lot of pride for their culture. All in all, it was great for me to see that Black and Indian mixed marriages have and will continue to exist for a very long time.
Now comes for the main event – CARNIVAL. It always happens on a Monday and Tuesday. Monday is a regular parade in cute clothes and you can drink and party and dance down the street; it’s kind of like a practice run. If you do carnival, you have to register with a band and that band provides all the alcohol, food you could ever want (they are on a moving truck) that stays with you during the parade and they have a specific theme with feathered costumes to go with it. I felt like me and Nelli had more fun this day because Tuesday we had to go straight from the parade to the airport so we couldn’t get too crazy and drink. Which brings me to Tuesday. Tuesday we had to wake up at 3am and be at the parade start at 6am which is CRAZY early for me. Also, we didn’t know this at the time but we all had different costumes so each costume had to stay together for judging which was a short time but better to know for next Carnival to all get the same thing. Our costumes were absolutely beautiful and getting ready and taking pictures was fun. Also, judging was also kinda fun because you smile and dance in front of the judges and our band got 3rd place for our costume creativity. The only downside of Tuesday (besides leaving early) was it started downpouring for 10 minutes and it got a tad chilly. The music was also very fun and I had songs stuck in my head for a week since I returned – Nelli also loved the music because there were some Indian rappers that sampled some bollywood songs. I think Carnival in Trindad is going to be a unique experience that we’ll definitely remember forever because of our Blindian connection there ❤