Saturday, August 2, 2014


I'm sorry it has been so long since I updated; things got busy once I was home and it slipped my mind.  In just a week I will be getting married so that has taken up all my time.

Saying goodbye to my new friends who were flying back to New York was so hard; tears were shed.  Even saying goodbye to those who go to PLU was hard, too.  It was the end of an experience, of something that bonded us closer than I would have ever thought.  Once home people slowly drifted their separate ways.  Once school starts I hope I will see them all more than I did this summer.  We all keep in touch still; Facebook is a lifesaver for that.  I flew home with Aubrey.  Getting out of the country was surprisingly easy.  It was strange to watch the palm trees and hills of the country I had been living in for almost 6 months leave beneath me.  I was excited to see my fiance again, but there are things I would miss about the country.  There are things I still miss.  I miss doubles, I miss roti, I miss buying liquor from Hi Lo and not having to show ID, I miss the Tunapuna market, I miss the evenings where I watched the sun set and light up the mountains, or the lights start to come on at the monastery.  The excursions that I remember the best are Tobago, Carnival, J'ouvert, and ziplining.  Between Carnival and J'ouvert, J'ouvert was my favorite.  There is something intoxicating (besides the liquor) about being out in the dark at 4 in the morning blasting music and dancing down the street.

Note- It is beginning of August and we are still waiting for grades from UWI.  That's just how it is. Yay.  Also, everyone else received their caution money for returning their UWI ID; Nicole and I are still waiting for our checks.

Settling back in for me was easier than I would have thought.  Part of it could have been getting to spend time my fiance, and part of it was probably the massive amount of wedding planning I had to.  I had close friends who wanted to hang out often, so I was always busy.  Coming back from Trinidad I met my parents, my fiance, and my friends in the Florida Keys for a 10 day vacation.  It was a nice intro back into American life.  There was almost as much sun and heat, there was no time difference (for me), and some of the same kinds of food.  The second night there we had an American/Indian/Trini fusion meal.  Our friends made a spicy curry chicken and I made the channa and pumpkin that goes in roti.  I'd brought back a pack of dhal puri from Trinidad on the plane and so we had roti for dinner.  It was almost like the veggie ones I got in Trinidad.  Before we left Florida we found (the only) double/roti shop in Florida, if not most of the US. (It was right up the street from Busch Gardens).  My family and friends all got to try doubles and phoulorie fresh and hot.  It wasn't quite as good as Trini, but close!  I stuffed my carry on waaay too full so that I could bring back mango chutney and phoulorie mix (6lb, actually) in my checked bag.  I'm looking forward to stuffing my face with that soon.

I am now home and happy.  Would I ever go back?  I'm not sure.  It was an amazing experience I can appreciate more as time passes.  I think not missing my fiance so much would have helped it be more enjoyable, but I can't change that.  Maybe someday I would take Daniel and visit T&T and show him some of the things I saw and did.  Until then I have pictures and friends and memories to remind me of my time abroad.  I have grown and changed in ways I am still realizing.

Was it worth it?


Friday, April 4, 2014

March and Carnival

Sorry I have not posted in a while; just got caught up with everything happening.

Carnival was a lot of fun, but it was a LOT of standing in the sun for hours. They changed it up this year and took different routes, which brought a lot of confusion by the time we got to the main stage. We had never performed with our pans before so that was an experience! We did not realize we would get hungry sooo fast; no one ate enough that morning. A truck came with us for half the way with drinks and our bags. After a while the truck split off since the road was too full and that is when the standing started. By that time it would have been worth it to have money for food with us. Rosalind, the head of our band, was really nice and bought us snacks and brought us drinks. We did our final performance (less than stellar by that point) and then most of use rode in the truck the last few miles back to the Mas camp. It was worth it to have spent more on shoes because most people's cheap shoes had fallen apart during the day. In all we were chipping and dancing for about 10 1/2 hours that day. When they say you have to experience Carnival to know what it is like; it's true.

Wednesday, the day after, most people went to Maracas beach. I stayed and slept all day. I guess the beach was really busy and not as relaxing as they hoped. The rest of the week was break; most people slept. The next week lectures started again, this time focused on the Indian presence in Trinidad rather than the African.  We took a tour of Central Trinidad in Chaguanas (Shu-GWAN-es) and looked through their big market, got the most AMAING doubles for breakfast, saw the Temple in the Sea, and another temple in the area.  We stopped for a lunch of roti and after looked at a few other places.  It was a fun tour!

The next week we had our mid term exam for our CCS class; I’m glad I studied! One of the parts was naming island in the Caribbean on a map and what country they belonged too; that was a little harder than I thought since the map was missing islands!  That Friday we went to Holika Night, which tells the legend connected to Phagwa.  Honestly, I don’t think I get the story; I kept getting mixed up who was supposed to be good and bad.  On Sunday we met with the PLU people who were visiting for the 20th year celebration for the program being in Trinidad.  We made suggestions about the program and amenities and it sounds like things will change for next years program (sadly, our beds are staying just as hard and mattress topperless).  We all then went to Phagwa, close to the same place we went for Holika night (or maybe it was the same place).  I wore sunglasses because I didn’t want dye in my eyes and it was a good idea! A bunch of the girl’s contacts got dyed from powder being blown in their faces and they had to throw them away.  The little kids there were the worst; they would sneak attack you and get you right in the face with dye or powder.  That evening we performed with Malick our Carnival dance for the PLU people.

Wednesday was the big celebration dinner; some of the students wore traditional costumes to welcome guests, there were a lot of speeches, and we performed our dance with Malick again.  On Saturday almost the whole group went to a beach at Chaguaramas (Shog-er-RAM-us) and went zip lining! It was about 45 minutes long, 7 zip lines, the highest was about 100ft, and less than $20 US a person!  We all agreed we want to do it again before we leave if we have a chance.  Sunday the 30th we went to the Spiritual Baptists Liberation day.  I don’t think I have ever heard so much singing.  Someone would start to say something and everyone would sing it.  We only stayed for a few hours; it started about 10:30am and didn’t end until around 5 or 6pm. 

This week we had two lectures and some meetings, but have a free weekend this week.  I am working on my mas costume for class; have the frame of my headpiece done!  Now it’s mostly working on finishing up all the papers and final projects that are due; the program tries to finish everything by the beginning of May except for the final presentations.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Events / 2 Weeks Before Carnival

As we get closer to Carnival we have been going to a lot more events.

We went to a Calypso tent which, for me, was one of the most boring events so far. Then again, all the singing is about the country's politics and I am not interested in that. Some of the students enjoyed it. One of the main factors in some of these events though is their length. We were at the Calypso tent for 5 hours with a short intermission. We sat right in the front which made it harder to hear since the speakers were aimed right over our heads. Still, it's an experience of Trinidad.

The second event I didn't enjoy as much was Panorama. It is the steel pan semi finals. It's like a big party in these wide tiered stands next to the stage. However the speakers are really loud and I wish I had earplugs to help with the noise. Also, we had the option to pay a fee for drinks and meals provided. I thought I would be fine with just a sandwich and water; bad idea. It would have been worth it for a variety of food and free liquor. That event was 7 hours.

The next event was stick fighting and was not at all what I expected. Stick fighting is when two men with sticks whack each other with a few rules. It is outdoors in mid Trinidad; about an hour drive away from Tunapuna. There is a rectangular ring and officials keeping the fight from being too brutal. Some people got bloody but we couldn't really see form where we were sitting. As a non violent person this made me happy; from Candice's description I was expecting something a lot more violent. It was pretty impressive to see the precision they use in fighting and strategy; it is an art form.

On Thursday we went to the Kings and Queen's preliminary. These are the giant Carnival costumes that can have three wheels for support and are 20+ feet tall. There were about 50 queens and 50 kings so we only stayed for the queen's competition. Half way through we got to go walk around backstage and see the costumes being set up as well as got to take pictures next to them. I think this was my favorite event so far.

Friday morning we went to a Parliament session. There are a lot of rules about sitting and talking and when you can and can't stand. It was a good session, though, an amendment was passed unanimously with both sides agreeing. We now have a break for the weekend before we are busy every day next week leading up to Carnival!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Random Notes

Some random notes that would be helpful for next year's students.

There are a few banks that take American credit/debit cards. One of them is Republic Bank; it as across the street from the post office. Rattans is a really cheap clothing store that also has cheap towels and washcloths. It's not great quality, but a good place to get outfits that will be ruined. On the way to the post office at the intersection before (right side) there is a couple story corner all purpose type store. This is a good place to buy supplies for school (that or Charrans the bookstore, although the name is deceiving because it has hardly any books). Upstairs they have lots of household goods like mosquito nets, clothes pins, cups, plates, bowls, measuring cups, etc.

You are given 2 sets of sheets and pillowcases and a flat sheet to sleep under. One set is bright orange, the other aqua. You also get a pillow and some people got tiny rugs about 2 feet long and 1 foot wide. The floors are bare like the ones at PLU. You get a bowl, cup, 2 plates, knife, fork, and spoon. The corner rooms have two windows which is nice for ventilation but the middle rooms are close to wifi. BRING AN ETHERNET CORD! 100 feet will stretch to the end of the corridor. It is worth it; the cheapest one in Trinidad is $80US compared to buying for $20 online. The wifi is really slow and often goes down or simply does not work.

Also, packages are beyond expensive to ship. A girl in our group had a UPS package that was a couple pounds and it ended up costing her and her parents $400US with shopping and duty. Aubrey got a package sent from the post office of some shorts she wanted and it only cost $20 for shipping and I think $10 in duty. However, for items with value under $20 you can claim it is a "personal item" you already owned so you shouldn't have to pay duty. I am going to see of this method works or not.

If you like reading bring a few paperbacks; there are really no libraries here for pleasure reading. However, I haven't been to the on campus one so I'm not sure if they have a fiction section. Also, bring pictures and posters! I brought posters out of national geographic magazines or magazines and printed some color photos at PLU with some extra prints. I also cut up some calendars which is an easy way to have nice pictures on sturdier paper. They lay flat on the bottom of my luggage and it was so nice to have color on the walls. I haven't really seen anything for decoration here so it's better to bring stuff. At the end they can just be thrown away.

Clothing here is comparable in prices to the US, especially the mall. If you have to do shopping, go in Tunapuna. Trin City mall is a long 2 story mall about 15 minutes away that has some American places like Coldstone Creamery, Subway, Auntie Ann's (I'm told it tastes different), and Cinnabon.

I'm not sure if I mentioned this before or not but the moon is different here. When it's a half moon instead is the right or left side being gone the top or bottom are in shadow instead.

Packing List (What They don't Tell You)

Some of these things they will mention you should bring, most they won't.  These are all things I or the students wished we had remembered to pack!  For anyone going next year, I hope this helps!

Command hooks
Metal hook (for hanging mosquito net)
Business outfit
Church appropriate conservative outfit (long skirt, nice shirt or nice dress)
A hat or bandana
School supplies (somehow I forgot paper)
Extra notebook for J-term class
Extra razors
Lots of clothes (bras and shorts especially)
Blank paper
Colored pencils
Water bottle (with filter if possible, the water tastes odd)
Base makeup; bring brand new ones
First aid supplies
Anti itch cream
Fun tack (the sticky putty)
Hair clips and scrunchies
Long pajamas (I was fine in shorts and a t shirt)
Nice club dress (not slutty)
Nice flats or low heels
Curling iron
Non scented lotion (The bugs will EAT you alive with scented)
Lots of feminine/sexual/etc supplies (better safe than sorry)
Clothes pins (the dryer often isn't free)
Baby wipes or baby powder (you are always sweaty the first few days)

Shampoo, conditioner, etc. Don't count on a travel bottle lasting you, it can be a few days before you go shopping

TOILET PAPER! There is none in the bathrooms, you have to buy your own. Bring a roll to get you started.

Mosquito repellent (just because you don't get by Mosquitos doesn't mean you're safe. These Mosquitos don't play by the rules; your legs are always an open buffet)

Sealed microwave meal that does not need to be frozen. The day I got here all the stores were closed and there was no food. A lot of people couldn't eat because of that. Same with breakfast. It was nice to have something to pop in the microwave and eat.

Underwater camera (I have a Pentax that works in and out of water. One of the girls had their camera ruined at the beach. Even a film disposable underwater camera; you can't buy them here and can't develop the film, though)

Friday, February 14, 2014

Valentine's Day

It's Valentine's Day! One of the worst days I could be away from my fiance, but we traded little gifts and cards.  Some of the girls are going to a women's night concert tonight for Valentine's Day.  Carnival is in two weekends which seems much closer than it should be.  I am not sure if we will get to try on our costumes, or at least the full thing, until Carnival day.  We also have large flags we use in our dance that we are pretending to practice with right now; I hope we get those before we have to perform!

We are getting better at our Carnival dance at least.  Our moving one isn't that good, though, because we don't have a large enough space to practice and keep tweaking the dance.  Still, I figure we will know it well by Carnival.  I can see why we start so early!

Reading about the Sochi Olympics and problems they talk about the stray dogs...there are so many stray dogs here!  After a while you get used to the sound of barking and howling, as well as the fact that you can't pet them, no matter how much you want to.  They are everywhere; Aubrey and I walked across campus and saw them trying to have a threesome...wasn't working too well.  All the dogs are wild/semi-tame, so they aren't fixed.  That means lots and lots and LOTS of new puppies and dogs.

The cars drive on the wrong side of the road here (to me at least) but an odd thing is they walk on the wrong side of the sidewalk, too!  One is supposed to stay to the left, not the right.  This means that I'm constantly running into people wondering why they aren't moving.  I'm the one who should move!

Pedestrians are valued maybe less than the dogs here!  Being a white female there's a better chance cars will stop so I can cross the road, but a few of the other students have been brushed by cars coming too close.  Cross walks here are called zebra crossings and there's not many of them!

I think I mentioned this before but people honk here for everything: hello, goodbye, hey sexy, get out of the way, I'm going to honk just in case something might happen, I can play a song on my horn (the maxis do this!), I'm bored, the sky is blue......the list goes on.

I haven't been to the clubs here but the students say they are fancy dress.  People who go do their makeup fancy, do their hair, and wear really nice dresses.  It's very classy.

As for the normal clothes here most of the students do wear long pants to UWI because most of the rooms are air conditioned so much you'd think they were trying to make it snow!  However, lots of people wear spaghetti straps, tank tops, sleeveless dresses, etc.  They don't really wear short shorts; about knee length or a little shorter are acceptable.  Bikinis are only for wearing on the beach so one needs some kind of cover up or light clothes to go into town after or for food.  Having some kind of hiking sandals would be great; the only ones I can find here are expensive!  It is definitely good to have lots of long dresses, skirts, etc. for all the events we go to through the program. I do wish I had brought some more nice pairs of clothes like church clothes; I only have pair that nice.

The waterfall was amazing; swam in, climbed up, slid down, rolled around in, etc. the waterfalls! It sucked for anyone wearing hiking shoes though....we had to walk through the river a ways and there was no way the shoes were staying dry. Aquasocks would have been best but I forgot mine and wore flip flops; wasn't too bad off except in the mud! But it's an experience I won't forget!

This sunday we head to Panorama (steel pan) semifinals; I'll post again after that!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

1 Month Down

Hello everyone; I haven't posted much lately because there really hasn't been that much going on.

Brendan decided to leave the program about 2 weeks ago and started PLU for spring semester.  For our Caribbean Culture and Society class we have usually 2 lectures a week with guest lecturers and short paper/reflections to turn in based on that. We also have dance class twice a week...seems more like boot camp than dance class! We are yelled at a lot for doing it wrong.  We are learning two different dances to perform, one dance has to be moving to get across the stage quick enough with all the big bands now.  We finished J-term and the third class with the volunteering doesn't start till after Carnival when things slow down.  Below is an example of one of our schedules for the week.

We've had a few excursions on the weekends; went to Maracas Beach and had Bake 'n Shark (tasted like fish), visited some steel pan (drum) yards, went to a few more Mas costume camps, and we are going to a Calypso tent this weekend.  This saturday we are hoping to join the UWI Bio club to go on a hike to a waterfall! I introduced my friends Aubrey and Giorgio and now they are dating.  Classes have started at UWI; I'm taking photo and a Carnival class; Mas: History, Development, and Meaning.  The Mas class is my favorite so far; we are learning about Carnival history, what the traditional costumes mean, etc.  Our final is a paper on someone who works with Mas and to make a costume that we design.  My sewing skills are not extensive so that will be interesting!

The internet is slower than expected; there is wifi but it's often dial up speed.  I have a room at the end of the hall with two windows which is great for ventilation but not great for internet.  The program isn't quite what we expected; I don't think it ever will be.  Of course it gets hyped up, trying to get people to go, but sometimes I feel like it has been hyped too much.  First they tell you you will have lots of free time, then they say you are always busy.  In actuality it's a mix of both.  When we have to go to events in the evenings or lectures it's busier, but we actually end up having a lot of free time during the week. There's not a lot to do in Tunapuna besides shopping and for a single white girl, I can't really travel without a companion.  I mean, I'm sure I could, but it wouldn't be very safe.

When they say there is every culture food in Trinidad that is a lie.  There is roti which is good and doubles which I could eat for every meal the rest of my life.  There is Trini food which is lots of stewed chicken and pigs/chicken/ox feet/tail/random body part.  We have a joke that if it moves, a Trini will eat it.  They have a large Indian culture but that doesn't mean you will find Indian food like tikka masala or vegetable korma or anything.  They don't have many sit down restaurants here.  No Thai food either! Aubrey and I are longing for peanut sauce.  At least I can cook italian food easily. Boneless skinless chicken breast is really expensive here; Trinis like their meat on the bone.

Things I miss: My family, Daniel, my cat, doughnuts, pad tai, indian food (an actual meal), stores with everything you need in one place, not sleeping with a mosquito net, italian food...mostly everyone here misses food!

Today was the first day it's been cloudy all day; it's the best!  There's a cool breeze coming in my window all the time and when it rains it cools it down even more.  I'd hazard it might even be 75 right now--pure heaven.

Registering at school was a mess; most people changed their classes from what they first picked so there was a ton of going back and forth to professors and trying to get signatures and registration codes for classes. We are still trying to get financial clearance so we can get our IDs, it took a week or two to even get the codes to register for classes.  Everyone swears that the school system is better than it has been, but it's a far cry from PLU!

Things are slow right now, they are supposed to keep picking up as we get closer to Carnival March 3-4th.