Sunday, March 21, 2010

Trinidad & Tobago - The Airport

When i arrived to Trinidad and Tobago (T&T), I was beyond exhausted. I essentially stayed up the night before, excited for the trip, got in my NYC cab around 3am to get to my 5am flight at JFK, and got into T&T around 2:30pm Trini time. I was bumbling around the airport; while trying to get through customs, I hunted for a pen to fill out the customs form for about 15 minutes (apparently pens don't exist in the Piarco Int'l Airport). When I did find a pen, I had to wait in a line for a while to use it, because clearly I was not the only person sans writing utensil. Finally, with completed form in hand, I walked through discover that I had left a bag of my stuff behind the customs lady, as the doors marked "Absolutely No Re-Entry" slid shut.

Experience #1 in T&T of i'm-not-in-Kansas (aka NYC)-anymore was when I asked the officials standing by if I could go back in and get my bag, thinking desperately about how in the US the guards would look at me, scoff, maybe put out a call via walkie-talkie, then tell me I was flat out of luck. But the guards, instead, simply shrugged and said, "Oh, sure, just wait until the door opens again." You, sirs, are gentlemen and scholars.

Experience #2 was the smell. One of my favorite parts of traveling to other lands is the diversity of smells. No place ever smells the same. Of course, I know some who do not possess the sensitive olfactory senses that I do, but I believe that most people would be able to concur with me on this concept. India is not like Guatemala, is not like France, is certainly not like T&T. T&T was a breathe of tropical dryness, with a mix of aging wood and exhaust fumes. The temperature was 94F, which was a shocker to the body (I had just come from 40F NYC, after all). And it was dry. But I was elated to be on vacation, and my tired body and mind sighed with relief, and nothing could bother me.
I waited for about over an hour for Danielle's mom. I didn't mind; I was on vacation! I could have slept at the airport smiling. But the taxi cab drivers at the airport slowly began surrounding me with a touch of concern and a douse of opportunity-seeking. I'm a tourist; I've got dollar bills tattooed to my forehead. This was another experience (#3) for me; the accents were varied, and thick. I was struggling understanding them all as they spoke to me. Note to self: depend on Danielle as a translator the entire time.

I was confident that MamaD coming for me, but these men were bringing some cognitive dissonance to my mind. For starters, I had no phone. And I didn't have their phone numbers. And I didn't have a computer. And I didn't remember the address to their house. And I had never actually met Danielle's mom. But, knowing Danielle and her great care with people (and details), I was sure that our agreement that I were to wear orange and wait for her mom that day was all that was needed. Besides, I was the only white person in the entire airport area (and a very white one at that). The drivers insisted that this was problematic. I was forgotten. I was abandoned. I was not supposed to be here. One man combed the airport for a computer. Another man insisted on me calling my family in the US for help. One man, the most insistent of them all, begged me to let him take me to a cyber cafe in a nearby town, find the address, and drive me to their house, without letting anyone know. And I was close to giving in, but something inside of me insisted "no". I was going to get a ride. Calm down. Relax.

After stalling the drivers for about 1.75 hours, I finally felt the urge to look up and see a tall woman with long wavy hair slowly making her way to the airport gate. I knew instantly it was Danielle's mom; she looked just like her. She gracefully smiled and said "You must be Kim." Indeed, I am.

I beamed at her, and happily followed her, babbling about the trip in.

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