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A Shimmy In Trini

Damn! This is my second attempt at this post. The previous version was deleted when the power went out. Trust me, it was much better written 😉

About 2 hours ago, I was unceremoniously thrown from my chair in my hotel room, as an earthquake registering 6 on the Richter scale struck Trinidad. Items fell from my shelves, and power and phone lines went down, as the world shook for 15-20 seconds. I quickly gathered my phone, wallet, water and a bag of bananas and began the hour long hike into downtown Port of Spain. I neglected to bring my passport, though, which might be buried under the rubble of the hotel by now!

As I left, I noticed that the hotel was indeed still intact, but all the staff were huddled outside pointing to stress areas on the building and shouting unintelligibly. Thanks for checking on your guests, fellas.

Despite the earthquake, Trinidad has been great. Sadly, I’ve not had time to call all the people I’d intended to. A full schedule and a nasty head cold will do that to you.

Last night I met a cab driver who, I swear, was my age. Seems he’s actually SIXTY years old! Either he is remarkably well preserved, or I am ageing much faster than I intended. No comment on which option is the more likely.

Also, this week I met up with my old friend, dramatist extraordinaire Paloma Mohamed (pictured here). I first met Paloma 6 years ago when we were both winners of the Guyana Prize, along with David Dabydeen. Today, a collage of photos of “famous” Guyanese artists hangs in the showroom below me, remarkably featuring the images of, among many others, Paloma, myself and the great Eddy Grant. (They are missing Shakira Caine and Dave Baksh, of course.)

When I tapped Paloma on the shoulder, she spun around and exclaimed, “Ray?! Oh my God, we’ve both put on weight!”

At least Paloma has an excuse: she just had a baby. What’s my excuse?


Funny thing about Trinidad. The insignia of the police force is the Star of David! Here’s why.

Today we took a break from the official events and drove north to the stunning cliff-rimmed beaches of Maracas Bay. Of course, no sooner did we get there that a torrential downpour began, lasting hours. During a window of dryness, we managed to poke our toes into the Caribbean, then back into the car, for a hair-raising drive back to town, along winding hill roads during flash floods. Once again, Andrew‘s impeccable driving was an inspiration.

The boy has already left for the airport as I write this, leaving me to spread out and enjoy the fullness of our hotel room for my remaining two days. Of course, these days will likely be spent in bed, drugged to my eyeballs, as I attempt to recover from this nasty, unshakable cold.

One nice part about being stuck in bed is that I get to watch continuous BBC World News. Today I caught something called HARDTalk and was mildly horrified as a bombastic know-little journalist accosted and belittled world leaders and Nobel laureates. It seems FOX-style American news TV has migrated to the BBC. Very sad.

Meanwhile, Shaila sends us the George Allen insult generator. And Abeer sends us, um, this.

Day 2 in Trinidad

My second full day in Trinidad saw me give an unrehearsed reading and talk –for 90 minutes!– to a full house at the Carnegie library in San Fernando. I’d been told that the audience would be school kids, so had some education oriented comments in my head. But none of the kids showed up, so I had to hustle for new content. I’d also been lead to believe that there would be a panel of authors present. Instead, I was the sole attraction!

But it was all good. Trinidad always brings out engaged and polite audiences. Not unexpectedly, many of the questions were of a political nature, and I found myself once again dancing about some thorny issues.

The down side to all of this is that I am horribly ill. I now have a cold on top of a cold and the only thing I can think about is sleep, despite being surrounded by tropical perfection.

On that note… off to bed…

Back to Trinidad

Thanks for the well wishes, everyone, and greetings from sunny Trinidad & Tobago. Andrew and I arrived Sunday night and the boy impressed me by driving our rental car all the way to our hotel in St James, in a foreign country and on the wrong side of the road! Of course we had help, as a representative of Carifesta, Debbie G, led us all the way.

But later on that night, we went looking for food, unaware that this place seems to shut down at 10pm. So in the wee hours, we found ourselves driving about the deserted streets of Port of Spain, looking for anything open. We ended up at the centre of activity –KFC– after driving everywhere, including into the bus depot.

Today was a little more organized, given that it was a national holiday. Debbie and her sister gave us a lovely tour of the bits of the locale that I missed on my last trip, and then we were off to the main reason for my presence here: a reading at the National Library.

It turns out the evening was largely a Canadian affair, featuring myself, Ita Sadhu and the great Austin Clarke. It was a highlight of my writing career, appearing on the same bill as Austin, whom I’ve met before, back when he was the founding godfather of Pagitica magazine. Photos are forthcoming, courtesy of Herr Currie.

The sucky part is that I’m barely functioning due to a nasty head cold. Yuck. Tomorrow morning we’re to San Fernando to present to some school kids. Stay tuned!

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