Life in a Suitcase: Postcard from Trinidad and Tobago

I am in a place where it is difficult to distinguish between a party, a bus journey and breakfast time. Everything feels like a tropical nightclub, but without the excessive booze, lights and hormones. The music of the Caribbean is its very heartbeat, and through it I am finding a real joy of life. The rhythms travel through every cell of your body and command movement in your muscles and bones. All the songs I have heard have been in Major keys and have very energetic music videos – to non-musicians this means tunes that ‘sound happy’. Everybody is dancing, like carnival dancing, with manic hip rotations and inexplicable bumps and grinds. How can they do that with their bums? we ask ourselves everyday. The bum has a life of its own it seems.

The subject matter is often about dancing, partying, letting go, self-discovery and like all pop music much of it is about sex. But I feel like Caribbean songs take it one step in another direction, and not necessarily ‘further’ either. For example, in Trinidad there are a lot of words and phrases that are euphemisms for sexual things. One song that is on our bus playlist is about a ‘salt fish’. And we thought, how peculiar to devote an entire song to salt fish and to ‘soak it good’ and to ‘heat it up with some firewood’. Still, we danced along, had fun with the song.

You can imagine our horror when we discovered what it was actually about… I shall say no more!

The Trinidadians (or ‘Trinis’) adore their flavours and spices and we have tried two traditional favourites. ‘Bake and Shark’, a tender fillet of shark fried in breadcrumbs tucked into a fried bun, and a ‘Roti’, which is curry in a salt dough stretchy pancake with crumbled chickpeas in between the layers. The former can only be bought at Maraval beach, for sustainability reasons I think. One day I drank fresh watermelon juice, coconut juice, a homemade iced mocha and could have weeped because they were all so delicious.

Why am I here? I can’t even believe it myself. I am in Trinidad and Tobago for CONNECTT, a brand new, global musical alliance founded by conductor Kwame Ryan, a former member of the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain. I am one of 15 Connecttees who come from the UK, USA, the Americas, Germany and France. I applied for CONNECTT through NYOGB as an Alumnus, and I am here with former NYOGB co-principal violist James! We are working with young musicians from Trinidad and Tobago and will perform orchestral and chamber music in and beyond the concert hall this week. Already we have played in the delightful Green Market in the Santa Cruz area.

It has been hard to find time to write about CONNECTT so far as every day has been spectacular and extremely busy. James and I haven’t even found time to Skype the NYO Office yet, given the lack of time and 5-hour time difference. But today must have a mention.

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We visited Mahara National Park in East Trinidad and trekked through our first ever tropical rainforest. It rained, and beautifully it did. The fat drops of water made a soft, soothing thuds against the leaves. There were clusters of bamboo so thick and tall they keeled over the paths and blocked out the sun and rain. The rain softened the ground. Mud, glorious mud, all over us, mostly brown, sometimes golden yellow. The trail was hard and slippery, but we found a safe path through large stepping stones, logs and foot holes created by long, old tree roots in the ground.

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At the end of the trail was a small waterfall, hidden in the cosy deep of the forest, and a very deep pool of crystal turquoise water. When it rained, the drops created little bubbles on the surface that disappeared the moment you tried to latch your attention. It was a sea of explosive little bubbles, like harmless fireworks sparkling on the water. We took off our soggy outer clothes and bathed like mermaids. You could even climb up to the top of the waterfall by holding onto a rope, and then jump off! To be here alone on such a beautiful day was extremely special and has undoubtedly changed our lives.

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The walk back was muddier and wetter. I never wanted dry, clean feet so much in my life. With my trainers and socks I had to wade through knee deep water and land in murky puddles. I just didn’t care anymore and it felt great. Equally satisfying was throwing my shoes and socks in the bin afterwards.

GIVE ME MORE, TRINIDAD. Thankfully, still a week of paradise to go.

PS. Thank you Cornelius for the photos.

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One thought on “Life in a Suitcase: Postcard from Trinidad and Tobago

  1. À Strasbourg – The Diary of a Noggin

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