What is it to be a Trinidadian?
I can say, I am Trinidad. Like je suis Charlie, Je suis Trinidad. I left that tumultuous existence of living in a country of great incest. Incest may be a dirty word and mean literally having sex with a family member but if you draw on the greater aspect of sex and redefine it as intimacy and realize that living in a small country, a microdot on the world stage, we trinis for better and for worse are incestuously related and they may even be the less than 6 degrees of separation between us.
You are always going to meet some relative, as you are related to many by birth, by marriage by some infidelity and extended familial nuance driven situation.At any occasion you are given an opportunity to witness some ancestral falling out and meet an extended family or familial member, you did not know existed. I met at 21, 4 new uncles who were in their 30’s , that were my father’s half brothers. His father had 2 or was it 3 families, other than the one where my father drew his roots from. Or are we all related by this experience that is Trinidad.
I met a Canadian couple, who claim they are TRINI. They went to Trinidad 25 years ago and made Trinidad “their home”, though it took them 25 years to be able to afford to live there part-time. So there were trini-adoptus. And they limed with everyone I had known. Now that’s incest of the less than 6 degrees of separation. I have not been to Trinidad in 30 years. But everyone I used to know, they knew and I mimicked what conversations we had all those years ago. And, they said, “OMG, we are still having the same conversations, 30 years later.” Incest.
Relativity can be well, a relative thing. For instance language and culture make us relate to one another, wherever we may be in this earth. Trinidad is a melting pot of many races and cultures now redefined as just Trinidadian. I through my writing and teaching drew upon this early imprinting of language and wrote books and articles, which explored Trinidad by proxy.
When I had, my book, The Book of 25, reviewed at Toronto’s bastion of advanced learning, known as the degree factory of Ontario, the University of Toronto, Canada. A professor of English, after reading the short stories, states in awe, shock and a bit of derision. “Your command of English language is superb. Your prose and syntax profound in your execution. But you will never sell this book in Canada.”
As Canada was not my market, I completely agreed. But academia can breed a level of snobbery and elitism that ruins what an education can be for you. But as a Trinidadians we are not capable of being judged by the rest of the world, for we feel deep down we are better than it or better than “them” whoever they are.
I state this was mirth and a sense of that relative judgment of time and experience, as that is the imperialistic decree of my mother. We are better than the rest of the world.
Trinidad is a distinct identity forged in the tropics of Cancer and Capricorn. This relative proximity of cardinal points of longitude and latitude has sealed our collective fates. As above so below, the tropics of cancer, ruled by the moon and known as the crab, colloquially in astrology and of Capricorn, the goat, ruled by Saturn the planet of structure and that structure can include education. We born in the “trini-ty” learn early and that formal or informal education can pay dividends later in life. Trinidad is an informal culture which imprints on our informative years as a ruthless dictator of will that permeates all of our senses making it a formal education. My sister remarked to me a few years ago, “You have to return to Trinidad” I did not physically return but most certainly in this sense of writing is a return to Trinidad, in a spiritual sense. The spirit was made flesh and the word was spread. I did not eat the cascadoux except in a virtual sense. Trinidadians are like sand we are everywhere.
|It is believed that if anyone eats the Cascadoux fish, regardless of where they may move in the world they will return to Trinidad to end their days.|
There is a story in The Book of 25 that illustrates what I have written above as an introduction to our distinct point of view. I associate crabs with Trinidad. If you are truly a trini, you must have gone on at least one full moon Crab hunt in TOCO. This hunt equivocates more to like catching lemmings as they leap of a cliff. Involves your car with bright lights blinding the besotted crabs who are paralyzed, gundys drawn in faux battle mode.
The frozen in motion crabs do not stand a chance to your cutlass wielding and your spades to shovel them into, canvass bags and garbage bins. Then you rush your pillage home to boiling pots of water and a feast that no Red Lobster can imitate. Many times crabs have invaded our home as the parents planted an indoor garden that led directly to our outdoor one. A hint folks, crabs can tunnel and enjoyed the toes dangling of the living room couches.
The Two Crabs
There were two crabs walking on the sand. The mother crab said, “Child, you are walking very strangely. You should walk straight forward and not move from side to side.” “Mother,” the child said, “Walk straight yourself, and I will follow you. Please, show me how you wish for me to walk”
The mother crab, tried to show her child. First, she placed a coconut leaf on her head and walked tall. The child said “No not yet mother, you are walking the same way as I did.” Then she crawled on her belly and her child said again, “No not yet mother, you are still walking the same as I.” Finally, the mother said, “Child you are walking perfectly, just as all crabs do.
Trinidad has taught us to walk in as many ways as we can. To walk tall, or walk freely in the end we all saunter, run and gallop and talk in ways that are sheer perfection. I had other teachers in Korea, read my many stories, written as a modern day, Aesop’s tale. They laughed and said, “You know when you are drunk, you speak like this. It sounds just like you.” I say, Amen to that.
I carry this sense of Trini perfection into my classes and with it an incredible sense of humor we all share. I taught Korean students in Toronto ages 16-19 and I realized they as foreign students had as usual, a granola blend of language ability. I had to test them. They were visually acute, images meant everything but did they have the ability to translate images to vocabulary? Pictures being a thousand words and the like.
Trinidadians are a verbose people, garrulous, argumentative and as far as I am concerned created the earliest version of today’s Rap- wars. Trini-tongues can lash you with words, idioms, all forms of language that is hysterical at times, damaging at others but entertaining all the same. And some of the more creative usage of English language I witnessed at Fatima College. Teaching ESL brought all those memories flooding back.
It’s this sense of entertainment and the need to respond with knee jerk laughter to my students attempts to voice what they saw, that I share. This to me is the best of a Trini sense of humor, when we are liming we may say and do things that mimic those of lesser ability. But in the end its all necessary to learn from our mistakes. But humor is humor.
Here is the white board scribbling of the class and I will show you the images that provoked the writing.You can promise not to laugh, but that would be too painful.
- There could be some corpulent women at the party.
- The guy looks like they (he) could hoax the girl into getting into bed with him.
- At the party anarchy reigned.
- Everyone in the party will be omnipotent when its Friday night.
- Fish are formed motley.
- Fish evolute (evolve) their own microcosm.
- Wild fish are not amiable.
- There are a lot of anonymous fish are exist.
- Dinosaurs would expatriate planet earth.
- The foods look very succulent.
- These foods (create a )convivial atmosphere.
- If the food was expired it could be obsolete.
- The ponderous looks from the teacher made his students uneasy.
- These food looks delectable.
By now you will certainly agree this is right up a Trinidadian alley. An Alley in Belmont, Morvant or Caripachima. But not in Toronto, Canfukda by non – west Indians. But its this sense of outre of other that we find funny. And laughter is the best medicine. I could not make it up. I literally did a face plant in class and the students joined me in the laughing as I explained their colorful mistakes. I felt I was back in Trinidad, liming.
I segue to another matter of “blurred limes”. A recent feud erupted with the likes of Pharrel Williams and Robin Thicke over Marvin Gaye lyrics. The melody of Blurred lines. was lifted straight from my liming days and when we had Quatro and bottle and spoon and we would create these melodic rifts that I think is the basis of the hit song. And we ain’t get no legal recourse. I had to mix it into Pastor Stewart and the result, pure folly, fun as per Trinidad and Tobago.
Cristoph De Caermichael