My name is Kim Isava and I’ve come back to Trinidad after 25 years in Jamaica.
We had a family home in Flamboyant Avenue, Petit Valley until we sold it when I was 38. So I’m a Valley girl.
I never changed my maiden name, Isava. Originally, in Spanish, it was Izava. But, when the Izavas came to Trinidad from Venezuela, they changed the zed to an ess.
School took me to Jamaica. I met and married a Jamaican man, had Jamaican children and ended up staying there. At first, I missed Trinidad a lot. When I came back home for Carnival, I didn’t want to go back. But I eventually found Jamaica suits my personality. Jamaicans don’t play. They don’t pretend to like you if they don’t. And I LOVE that!
My husband, Chris Bell, is the love of my life. Both our children were born and raised in Jamaica. My daughter, Kelsey Bell, 24, is at UTT. Zachary, 20, is very much a yardie. I can barely get him to come visit. Kelsey likes that she’s half-and-half. She likes her Jamaican roots but she LOVES Carnival – but that’s because of me.
My parents didn’t feel uncomfortable with us leaving home at 9 o’clock in the morning to spend the whole day out on the street. I had friends in Diamond Vale, Cassia Drive, Hibiscus Drive, and we would just ride over and spend the day. There was no video games and TTT [Trinidad & Tobago Television]started at 7 am and was over by midday and then it was just those bars on the screen. You had to play plenty boardgames, plenty all-fours.
Towards the end of the long August holidays, the neighbourhood children used to play school. Bring out exercise books, and somebody is the teacher! And you have a [makeshift] blackboard, the ruler. Kids probably don’t play school now. Or maybe there’s an app for that.
Holy Name Convent gave us the balance, as humans. Academics were important. But the nuns would also play cricket with us, in their habits and long skirts. You knew you didn’t have to fit into a mould: you could just be you.
I don’t go to any church now but I believe there is a higher power –
I don’t know if it is called, “God”, I don’t know if it’s male or female –
that guides and protects me. And can give me good weather for the cricket and the Carnival. The important things in life! You’ve got to believe in something, I feel.
My husband is a very strong believer in God. But he’s probably the most open-minded person I know. He doesn’t judge. He has no prejudice at all. A Jamaican man who is okay with gays, eg, is still unusual.
You just don’t know what somebody else is going through.
Carnival in Jamaica is different from Trinidad. It’s one day, about six hours on a Sunday, and then they’re done. All of Jamaican carnival is like J'Ouvert morning.
From the age of eight, my son would be socialising with his friends –
but on the PlayStation! I’d hear four or five of them in a game together until midnight –
but in separate houses! The whole human interaction element is basically gone. Twenty-year-olds can’t even speak [properly]. I had to teach my children how to be interviewed because they’re now at working age. Look into the people’s eyes, shake their hands firmly, listen to what they’re saying, don’t just blurt out something.
Jamaica has been doing well for the past two years. Their stock market was the best performing in the world last year. There’s a lot of growth. But, back in 2008, when the world crashed into recession, we were fine in Jamaica. Because Jamaica has ALWAYS been in a recession! You’re ALWAYS fighting your way out of some economic corner you’ve been painted into. You NEVER get comfortable. When we had four days to make this amount of money, we went out and found it! It didn’t come to us. In Jamaica, I learned to hustle!
In Trinidad, the economy has been on the up since the early 1990s. The generation of Trinidadians who came of age in that time has no idea how to hustle. Because they didn’t need to, because everything was coming to them. Now they need to hustle… and they don’t know how to do it.
When a Jamaican cuss you, they cuss you from the bottom of your toe to the top of your head. They give you EVERYTHING! In the same way, if they like you, they embrace you. And Jamaica embraced me.
Trinidadians like to pretty things up, fluff things up. They can be a little bit fake and you’re not sure which side you fall on.
Jamaicans have their own cusswords. In dancehall songs, there is a lot of cussing. In Trinidad, they play the unedited [not radio] versions. My daughter is highly offended by it. She can’t understand why they don’t bleep it out!
In Jamaica, the word, “coolie” just means Indian. It’s not an offensive term, it’s just a word. The first time someone at a party asked me if I was a coolie, I was shocked. Like, what the hell did you just say to me? Then I looked around and saw nobody was reacting and they were all waiting to find out. So I didn’t get offended. And I just said, no, I’m mixed race.
Coming back after 25 years, your whole crew has moved on. They got married. They have a different life now. So the adjustment has been a little difficult but it’s been good. Because I’m home. I just drive past the Savannah and I’m smiling. There’s Holy Name, there’s the Savannah, I’m going to Petit Valley to get a Don’s roti. I know where I am. But it’s still an adjustment.
We live in a fairly nice neighbourhood –
and there was a shooting just down the road and police cordoned off the area!
Trinidadians have free education up until university. In Trinidad, you can do ten CXCs. In Jamaica, the government pays for you to do two subjects only. And you have to pay to do more. Most people seem to be able to go out two or three times a month, have a meal, have a drink, go to the movies. I don’t think Trinidadians realise their lifestyle is not bad at all.
Trinidadians have to not be so afraid. There is potential for growth. If we keep crying Trinidad down and looking at the negative side, our young people are going to feel hopeless. Stop looking at what can’t happen and start looking at what can. Five years ago, the phone in your hand didn’t exist. Two years ago, apps that are now making millions didn’t exist. Stop complaining that there’s nothing happening and start making it happen!
Essentially, a Trini loves others. I think people are drawn to us because of that.
Living in Jamaica for the past 25 years helped make me the person I am now. But, to me, Trinidad & Tobago is home, even more than Jamaica. Always and forever. Trinidad is the place where I think of – and then I smile. Trinidad is the essence of Kim.
Read the full version of this feature on Saturday at www.BCPires.com