I have traveled near and far. Experienced many highs and lows. I’ve been in the presence of a former president, met the queen of England and even performed during the French bi-centennial commemoration activities in 1989; however, never have I experienced energy like that during the 2014 Carnival activities in Trinidad. As I thought of the title for this post, so many things swirled around in my head. So many soca songs came to mind as part of the deliberative process; however, only one seemed to sum up what was in my heart. Why live mi life? Other than the fact that it is a lyric in a soca song, I am just so blessed by God to be able to have the experiences that I have. Everyone is not able to enjoy what I have been blessed to enjoy; go where I have been blessed to go; see what I have been blessed to see and meet people who have been a blessing in my life. And I do not take this for granted life is short and tomorrow is not promised to any of us. Hence, this post is an ode to my appreciation for the opportunities I have in life.
Disclaimer. I was looking forward to my trip to Trinidad and was hoping the experience would be nice, but really hoped not to enjoy it enough to want to go back again. I was pretty certain that I was going to visit the country, get my shot glass, have a few wines, avoid the paint, and call it a day. After all, I was only going to be there for 2.5 days. Surely Trini carnival was not going to be “that” great of an experience. But what I experienced cannot be put into words. I have some pictures and videos documenting the experience, but nothing can quite describe The Experience.
I arrived on Sunday afternoon and quickly processed through Trini customs and immigrations. No random bag checks or endless questions about why I was traveling by myself, who I was meeting, if anyone has given me anything to bring with me. Just a question about the nature of my visit and how long I was staying. Then stamp, stamp and off I went to collect my baggage and head to the taxi bay. After a quick 30 minute drive I arrived at my temporary lodging where I would spend a total of 10 hours during my short stay. Thank God that I did not spend a time for my accommodations. It helps to have a slew of hotel points
Once checked in, I proceeded to my room, unpacked my bags a little and headed back downstairs to get directions to another hotel where I would meet up with my group- LPTS. There hotel was only 15 minutes away; however, the directions I was given actually took me up into the mountains on a two hour hike with no rendezvous spot in sight. Since I had been up for more than 40 hours by that time, I decided to get a cab to take me to the actual hotel.
Upon arriving at the group hotel, I met up with the LPTS team lead, collected my costume for Carnival Tuesday, met a few people and visited one of the women in the group who I met two weeks prior. I ordered some food prior to returning to my hotel and packing a bag for an overnight stay prior to Jouvert (paint party) at 3a.m. on Monday morning. So, I was able to get a few winks of sleep (about four hours) on my friends couch before changing into my throw way clothing. Yes, I said throw away. Being covered in paint from head to toe does not allow one to salvage an inch of clothing.
Jouvert started with a pre-party of sorts. Our group walked from the hotel to the meeting point for the “Dirty Dozen”– the group we were going to follow for Jouvert. Along the way, i donned my plastic shower cap and throw away scarf to protect my “protective” hairstyle from the paint and mud. When we arrived at our meeting point, the party was in full effect with the DJ pumping soca and hundreds of people enjoying the vibes naturally and courtesy of the special punch. Now, I am normally a very reserved person, but after one cup of the punch, I became Ferrell like— HAPPY like a room without a roof. The next thing I knew my legs, waist and bumpa started moving without me instructing them to do so. The punch must have been very strong because I actually too pictures and videos— and I don’t do that at all.
So, after an hour or so of pre-partying (I really do not know how long because of the punch), we hit the road following the designated truck pumping soca. So far, so good. But this was like one of those horror movies where you know something is about to happen, you just doing know what or when, but you can feel it. The next thing I know, I am feeling rain. Is that rain? No, that is a splattering of paint raining down in the crowd. At first, I become a total girl and am like, “ewwwwww”. But then I relax and am like, “this is kewl.” Seconds later, more paint is on me, but this time, it is more deliberate. The paint is courtesy of a man just smearing it on me. Now, where in the states would that happen without someone allow that to happen without slapping someone? Nowhere that I can think of.
This loveliness of smearing paint on random strangers, while dancing in the street to soca music, and drinking more happy juice continued for almost four hours. When we reached the end of the route, there was a man on a platform with a giant hose dousing people off. Unfortunately that water was a little too cold for my liking, so I made sure to steer clear of that. Food was provided, but the lines were very long, so most of our group basically bypassed the food and headed back to the hotel to clean up and change for day 1 of (Carnival Monday) on the road.
Day 1 on the road is very laid back. Some people are wearing costumes that they’ve made, some where traditional carnival costumes, while others wear shorts and tanks or other tops. I chose to rock some pink pum pum shorts, a black lace top (with bikini top underneath), some fish net stockings and chucks. Again, I am a reserved person and was worrying about the costume for Carnival Tuesday, so I played it safe. The walk to meet up with our band took about 30 minutes and we were able to see a lot of the other groups along the way. When we found our group, we fell in line and the party was on.
We partied on the road, danced, and took pics for approximately four hours before our lunch break. There were three choices for lunch and I chose the fish paired with a sprite and some ice cream. The fish was not that great, but I was hungry, so I ate as much as I could stomach. Of course I ate all of my ice cream, even though it tasted a little “strange”. Like there was a little coconutty/twangy taste to it and I just could not put my finger on it. I liked the white one, but I really like the red one better. But now, I am feeling a little… free. I am feeling a little giddy. Why I am feeling like I am about to laugh at myself. Well, as it turns out, the ice cream was “special”. Special as in it had alcohol in it. Oye vez.
Break time was over and it was now time to continue with part two of the trip on the road. Or not. Several members of the group decided to head back to the hotel rather than continue on the road. Since most of the women with whom I had met and established a bond were heading back, I figured I should go as well. Once we got back to the hotel, I went to my friend’s room to collect my belonging and head back to my hotel. Before I set out on my way, i placed an order for a little food to go. Of course it took me double the time to get to my hotel since my legs were completely gone and I had to trek up a steep hill.
Once back at my hotel, I quickly jumped into the shower to let the warm water rush down the back of my legs and soothe my aching muscles. Although I workout periodically, I am not used to being on feet for a good chunk of the day. Especially not in chucks. After my massaging shower, I ate a bit of the food that I purchased and settled in for the night. Since the sandman was sitting on my eyes, I made sure to contact the front desk for a 4:30a.m wake up call since I needed to make it to the rendezvous hotel at 5:30a.m. Once my head hit the pillow, it was truly lights out.
Four thirty seemed to come so quickly and totally did not want to get up because this was D-day. Well, actually it was carnival Tuesday, the last day of Carnival, but it was D-day for me because I had to put on that skimpy costume. There wee many little pieces to the costume and I am not the most skilled person at putting together an outfit. So, I put on the bikini top, necklace, and bikini bottom. The rest of the costume was thrown into a bag so that I could change into it when I caught up with my friend at her hotel. I threw on a pair of shorts, my boots, and a tank top over the outfit so that I could not be totally naked walking by myself.
Once at my friend’s hotel, I changed into the rest of my costume with the help of my friend and enlisted the help of one of her male roommates to help me put on the arm bands. TRUTH MOMENT– with the amount of money you spend for costume, you would think that the construction of it would be better than it was. We had not even left the hotel and some of the jewels were already falling off. But, they were able to be salvaged because my friend had a hot glue gun and was able to secure the jewels that were falling off. Once the hot glue dried and the last armband was tied, it was time to make the trek for the road.
All I can say is that the energy in the air at the various staging points was off the meter. As we made our way through the crowd to catch up with our group (Yuma) and prepare to cross the stage at the soca dome, I could not help but shed some of my apprehension over wearing the costume. There were women of all ages, stages and sizes wearing their costumes with such pride. Women who were three times my size ROCKED that two piece and had faces that were BEAT!! The sea of colors and costumes was just beautiful. I could not help but to think, the world would be a better place if it reflected the spirit of Carnival. We waited approximately an hour or so before we “crossed the stage” (almost reminiscent of crossing the stage at graduation, just a little more festive) and it was a true party in and of itself. After crossing the stage, we filled our cups with some refreshments and prepared to take the road.
The road experience was like one other. Thousands of people following large trucks pumping soca music, spectators joining in on the fun and enjoying a random wine from two wayward souls (no name no blame), and tons of smiles all around for the entire day. We jumped, stomped, wined, and scrubbed the ground for well over eight hours, only taking a break for lunch. I tried the creole dish for lunch on this day and, although it was some jazzed up version of fish, it was much better. After a rather lengthy break, we were back on the road for more dancing, more wining, and more excitement until approximately 10p.m. when we reached the end of the road. Sadly, but happily, we headed back to the hotel, stopping along the way to laugh and sing and dance and just reminisce.
I made it back to my hotel just in time to grab a bowl of corn soup, cancel my car to the airport, and catch an hour of television. I was smart enough to schedule my 4:30a.m. wake up call so that I could meet up with my ride to the airport by 5:30a.m. I arrived at the airport in enough time to check-in for my flight and quickly chat with my trainer who just happened to be there and get my bottle of rum and shot glass before boarding the plane to the cold chilly states. So, I will sum up my experience with some “modified” lyrics from Machel Mantano (soca artist):
You see me, I’z a woman
Love to play, love to jam
You see me I’z a woman
I always happy once money in meh hand
But I don’t got no time for no worries
I don’t got no time for no stressin
Ah had rum on my mind so ah ready
To go on the road
Ah come out to live meh life
Live meh life
Play ah mas and live meh life
I’m the happiest woman alive