Tuesday, March 23, 2010
Day 1 - Some Realizations
Mama D and I talked some during the drive. She mentioned that we'd drop off my stuff at their home so I could freshen up before going elsewhere. Not one for formalities, I tried to explain that really, I was alright the way I was. MamaD studied me for a moment before repeating herself. I guessed I was going to have to freshen up. Later Danielle explained to me that T&T culture was the EVERYONE dresses up for EVERYTHING, so to her mom it was probably a given that I was going to make myself look nicer. I still looked pretty srubby. She was probably disappointed while I was visiting, in my looks.
MamaD and Danielle decided to have all of us meet at Danielle's work office, ScotiaBank, in Port of Spain (POS), to go get dinner. So, that was our next destination. On our way into the city POS, MamaD was explaining to my why I had looks of surprise and curiosity while gazing out of the car: drought. I was geared up to see a lush, vibrantly green and colorful place. What I was seeing was parched, browning land that reminded me of LA. Apparently they hadn't had rainfall in a while, and the whole country was feeling it. There was no water ban yet, but restrictions were being practiced by everyone to avoid disaster. I was reminded of my thesis work in India. Water: the world's biggest crisis.
Another surprise was the huge numbers of cars I was seeing. And factories. I don't know why I expected T&T to be au naturelle, but I was not anticipating a booming industrial sector. Wasn't I in a developing country? Aren't developing countries supposed to be closer to nature, more basic? Alas, no. I have forgotten that many (if not most) developing countries had big factories and oil refineries and commercialization. Coca-Cola, Nestle, Kraft...al of the big monsters. But I didn't really think, even while remembering this, I would see so much of it. I felt like I was driving through a tropical Michigan. Cars, highways, and factories.
The cars, though. The traffic was long! I began wondering if there could be more cars than people. MamaD was telling me that, in public transportation, the ride on the "private roads" (more on that later on) would take about 30 minutes to get to the city. In a car on the highway, an hour on a good day is not unheard of. Yikes.
We got into POS to meet Danielle, but she wasn't quite ready to leave work. So, I got a mini tour of the area in relation to Danie's life. This was her primary school, across the road from where she is now a manager. Danie says that that fact gave her a realization that felt a bit existential. Nearby was her high school. All private. All run by nuns. Her mom was also telling me about Carnival which, tragically, I had just missed. Next time...
Danielle comes out, smiling, and we kiss and hug happily. Mind you, I was still in vacation bliss. We gabbed a bit as her mom picked up another family friend and we headed off to dinner.
Movie Towne is like a strip mall in the US. In fact, I was surprised again to be out of the US. Very bright, well lit. We ended up finding ourselves in an open terraced area, reggae in the background, and landing a table at a commercial restaurant, Woodford Cafe. Danielle's other cousin and aunt showed up too, but I was not focusing too hard on this. I hadn't eaten for a very long time, so with determination I was telling Danie to order anything, immediately. I sucked down a mango smoothie as she ordered our shared dishes. Plantains with cinnamon (mmmm) and accra (which is like a puffed dough ball) with salted fish came out first. With steamed veggies, at my request. It was delicious, and I was ready to tackle our main meal.
Crab and dumplings. Basically, this version was fresh crab meat (shell pieces still scattered in the meat) stuffed in massive, thick ravioli. In a curry sauce. I was dedicated to that dish that night. The manager came over to hit on MamaD, but I barely noticed because of my wild food affair.
I slept like a baby after the meal, at their home.