Trini Bucket List: 10 To-Dos for Trinbagonians
Everyone dreams about a permanent vacation in the Caribbean… except the people who actually live here. It might be nice to go to the beach on the weekend, but most of the time, “de sun too hot” or “Trinidad too small”.
Then you hear people say, “It doh have nuttin much to do”. Maybe that’s because you’ve hardly gone past the lighthouse. Still, I thought it’d be great to put together a bucket list of things every Trinbagonian should do.
If we take a moment to look up towards the Northern Range, south towards the Pitch Lake, east for our Amerindian heritage or west for our Spanish side, we’ll admit that out of the 5,128 square kilometres area of our twin republic, there’s so much more we are yet to see, and learn, about our unique country. Yeah, some of you were probably expecting something like make love on de lookout (with bodyguards present?), eat a roti and wash it down with a red Solo, or crash a Carnival mas band, but I’m more on a tourism tip today. So here goes…
1. Attend a Hindu Wedding
Two tassa bands, two outfit changes and three wedding gowns later, there is a new ‘beta’ and ‘beti’ in town. To sit in the crowd of an entire village, under one roof, witnessing the marriage rituals, extending congratulations, and then eating with strangers on a communal table long enough, to sit twenty, it’s one of those stories for the grandkids.
Don’t tell me you’ll never be invited to a Hindu wedding either. A friend of mine once saw an open event on Facebook for a wedding (no lie, and they were for real), so it seems as if crashing weddings just got easier.
2. Dimanche Gras on Carnival Sunday
As kids, many of us sat with our parents on Carnival Sunday to watch Channel 2’s coverage of the calypsonians singing witty, mostly controversial songs that highlighted the current state of the nation. Yes, I too remember being bored, but we sat there patiently waiting for the “King and Queen of the Bands” to take the stage. The sheer, majestic visual of the 40-foot, one-man costume was overwhelmingly beautiful through the dull pane of our coloured TV.
Fast-forward a decade later and only adult eyes can really appreciate the craftsmanship of a King or Queen of Carnival, and only adult ears can understand the intelligent rhetoric that is calypso.
3. Parang in Paramin
“They don’t have Parang in Paramin anymore, gyul. It in Country Club in Maraval.” This was the news I got after writing this piece, so I had to consider coming back to replace it. Still Paramin is special, and it’s a cultural epicentre for our Spanish heritage, so it deserves a place on this bucket list.
‘Paraminians’ are a unique set of Trinis who speak Patois and live in an area that can only be accessed with a four-wheel drive. Rumour also has it that there’s still a week they parang in Paramin, and although it’s not the spectacle it once was… to see it, no matter how small a celebration, standing in the hills of the North East, and occasionally getting a whiff of the best seasoning in the country, is another one of those things you can’t really understand until you experience it yourself.
4. Sit in Parliament
Do you remember your primary school excursion to the Red House? The beauty of youth. Back then, we thought that therein stood the honourable leaders of the nation, who ran our country, adhering to the strict rules of the House. Now, we realise that it’s actually one of the best reality shows we can watch (ooh, and the seats are comfy too).
We all know that Parliament is where you get to see leaders of Government snooze (although I haven’t seen Aunty Kamla do that as yet), or wild out like a Rottweiler who hasn’t been fed for days. Then there are priceless moments like Colm Imbert mimicing Jack Warner’s stutter, or Dr. Amery Browne quoting Nicki Minaj’s lines for “Monster” – “Ok, first things first, I’ll eat your brains, then I’mma start rocking gold teeth and fangs, Cause that’s what a M…..F…ing monster do, Hairdresser from Milan, that’s what monster do”.
Yep. Parliament is serious business, chockfull of comedy… and rap too. All ‘kix’ aside, if you really want to see how the country is run, first-hand, then you need to take in a live Parliament session, in person.
5. Experience Tobago Heritage Festival
For many Trinis, just going to Tobago will be a scratch off the bucket list (shame!), but if you’ve been there at least once, you know that Tobago is more than just beaches and beaded braids.
Started in 1987, the Tobago Heritage Festival is a ‘melting pot’ of traditions that once were part of everyday life in Tobago, and are now re-enacted as a way to preserve that history. As a visitor you will observe an ole-time Tobago wedding’, heel an’ toe, Bele, folktales, a re-enactment of the legendary Belmanna slave uprising in Roxborough, and even a beauty queen show.
6. Snorkel in Buccoo Reef (yes, we’re still in Tobago)
Since coral grows 8 millimetres per year, and our coral reef is approximately 7 square kilometres, there’s no denying that Buccoo has been around since the Amerindians walked Iere. It’s also one thing to view the coral reef through a glass-bottom boat, and another to view the array of colours on huge angelfish up close, so next time you go over to the sister isle, strap on a life-vest, put on those goggles and scope out the ecosystem of OUR coral reef, heralded as the third most beautiful in the world.
7. Dip your feet in the water at Toco and Icacos
This could have been two items, but they feel incomplete without each other. Standing at the most north-eastern tip of Trinidad, and on its south-western peninsula guarantees that you have spanned one end of the country to the other, even if from afar. It might take you an entire day, should you try to do both in one day, yet not only will you be able to brag about having seen a great part of the country, there is also the reward of experiencing some form of lifestyle you never even knew existed. And while you’re at it, you’d better dip your feet in the water.
8. Go “Down the Islands” (DDI)
“DDI” is the scene of many a lime/ cooler party by boat. Partying aside, the Chaguaramas Development Authority (CDA) offers inexpensive tours to Gaspar Grande – where you’ll find 50-foot underground, crystal clear, emerald-tinged waters at your feet, and stalactites and stalagmites above your head. Monas is always a good start, as it’s the most inhabitable, but there’s also Chacachacare, Huevos, Gaspar Grande, Little Tobago and St. Giles Island, which you can all visit with a boat and a knowledgeable tour guide.
9. Pull ‘seine’ in Mayaro… or any fishing village
Being thigh deep in the ocean at the break of dawn, with at least a dozen men on each side of these huge nets, is not something you experience every day if you live 30 minutes from the highway. That, and cooking fresh fish right there on the shore for breakfast. So for all you ‘city slickers’, who complain that there isn’t much to do in T&T, think about an early morning lime with some fishermen.
10. Eat Cascadura/ Cascadoo
“Those who eat the cascadura will, the native legend says, wheresoever they may wander end in Trinidad their days” (Johnson and the Cascadura, Selvon, 1957). Almost everyone has heard this famous folklore, and while we don’t have any real proof of it being true, many Trinis abroad will claim to be “Trini to D Bone”, few will eat cascadura – in case their US visa is revoked, and shopping in Miami goes kaput.
However, looking at the list above, and just thinking about how sweet life can be in T&T (when a gunshot not bussin’ or a Government office irritatin’ you), the importance of this last ‘to-do’ should be obvious… and besides, why would you want to spend your last days anywhere else?
Look out for a new issue of Outlish.com every Monday.