Blessed Land, Part One

Trinidad is like fairy land. It’s the ultimate land of plenty. Plenty of rain. Plenty of trees. Tropical sunshine. Good soil. Fertile seas.

It’s just below the hurricane belt too – not that Trinidad never gets hurricanes, but it’s very, very rare for this island to be hit. Last hurricane was about a hundred-and-fifty-years ago. Rare enough for Lloyds of London to do the maths and send Quest here. Knock on some climate-change-proof wood.

There is the occasional earthquake though. An earthquake last year apparently turned walls into jelly. Dennis the electrician told us. Some of the boats in the yard were left standing on their actual keels.

‘Without their boat stands anymore.’ Dennis shook his head. Quest included? We’ll never know. I went down and inspected her keel afterwards, but there’s no visible sign of damage. Dennis said all the boatyard staff were running around, trying to secure the boats.

The running-around staff being the children of this plentiful land of course. Trinidadians speak in complete English sing-song. Half the time I have to ask Trinis to repeat themselves. Not that I can’t understand them. I just trip out on their voices. As lilting as their jungly mountains.

They’re a relatively tolerant group of people too. Tolerance stemming from Trindad’s history. The main thrust of immigration to the island occurred just after the abolition of slavery in the 1830s. Indentured Indians were the ‘new’ immigrant for the British colonies. Nowadays, there is a pretty equal split between Afro-Caribbean and Indo-Caribbean heritage in Trinidad.

The result? As well as cultural diversity, Trinidad makes some of the most delicious and varied-tasting food in the Caribbean. You know what they say about food and culture. Actually, I’m not exactly sure. But it’s something profound. We just love the fresh fruit and vegetables – you can struggle sometimes to get them on other Caribbean islands. And whoever thought of mixing garlic, salt and pepper with pineapple slices? They should be awarded a posthumous honour. Failing that, an enormous bear hug. It’s delicious. Called chow. Tastes better on this manna of an island.

Trinidad does have its problems though. But who are we to say? We just stay here for brief periods of times. It’s all the Trinis who tell us. ‘Getting worse,’ they implore, ‘Neighbourhoods you can’t drive into,’ People setting on you so they can rob you. Or worse.’ We hear these warnings over and over. And I’m not poo-pooing them. We get it. As a result, we don’t really leave the boatyard at night – or drive into ‘those’ neighbourhoods. Doesn’t mean nothing will happen though. Plenty can happen. Travelling tells you so.

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