AS TOLD TO BC PIRES
My name is Emma Hanna Andrew and I haven’t seen my parents since March 30, 2019.
My parents, Colin and Janine, will see me “in the papers” in Newsday before they see me in person at Piarco.
Literally. I hope to be back in Port of Spain on August 9.
My sister Monique, my only sibling, is two years older, but there’s no downside of being the second child.
But I really wanted to have a younger sibling. Because I think I would be a better older sister than Monique.
She’s a good older sister. It’s just I would have been better. No younger-sister rivalry in saying that. Really don’t think so.
I spent the first ten years of my life in Petit Valley and the next ten in Maraval. So I say I’m from Port of Spain.
I’ve been in Europe, mainly Spain, for the last two and a half years. By myself. Occasionally with Monique in London.
We lived in a townhouse community in Petit Valley, a bunch of kids all the same age but I’m only close to one now, Alexa Brash.
In Maraval, the houses were bigger, and not so close together. I liked the personal space. But I missed being really close to friends.
I was raised in Christianity but I would say I’m agnostic.
This teacher was telling us this amazing story about this guy who worked really hard to turn his life around. And then, at the end, she said, “This is all because of God!”
And I was, like, “Why would you teach kids that? Why can’t it be of his own doing, his own self-motivation that he was able to conquer (addiction) and do something amazing with his life?”
I have good memories of Dunross Preparatory, my first school.
(Because) I like being by myself. Some of the kids, I just knew they cared about things I didn’t care about. And they were very cliquey.
I didn’t do SEA, just went straight into the British Academy. Really small classes and everybody was accepted for being different. So I kinda felt the same.
The teachers, like Sarah Garcia, my French teacher, and Miss Ali, Spanish & French, were really good.
I’d just turned 18 and my mom was passing through Glasgow and I was at home in Maraval, in pyjamas, my hair crazy, when the phone rang.
My mom said, “This lady says you can live with them if you want.”
I said, “Okay, I don’t know who these people are, but cool!”
Best decision I ever made in my life. Ever. I spent three months in Glasgow with a family I never met before, doing art courses and working two jobs.
They weren’t relatives, just friends of my aunt, but Katherine & Brian Woods are like a second mom and dad now.
I didn’t (finish) A-Levels because I have chronic migraines due to occipital neuralgia, nerve damage in your neck, which caused migraines every day for the two most important school years of my life.
I was crying at school, missing out words in essays, really unhappy. On the third day of my second term at A-Levels, I broke down.
I told my parents I was going to drop two of my four subjects. To see if it was easier.
My mom knew it was coming. She saw it on my body, I guess.
I’d already got into my school in Spain (for September). So I spent two months at home (with headaches). Then went to Europe.
I have headaches all the time. Every single day. For five years. I have one right now.
My headache (origin story) is actually funny. I was on a two-week film scholarship in Oxford and they had a circus-themed graduation. And they had a game where you threw coconuts at cans. One guy overestimated
by a lot and the coconut hit me in the back of the head.
I didn’t pass out. But I was kinda stupid for an hour. They were trying to make me not fall asleep.
The university called my dad and he answered his phone on the way to Maracas Beach. He was, like, “Emma! You went all the way to the UK to get hit in the head with a coconut?”
Because it’s connected to my neck injury, as soon as I look down, I get a headache. And you have to look down at your books as a student.
Headaches last all the time. They just go to different levels. They make everything even harder.
I’ve been to doctors, neurologists, chiropractors, physiotherapists, acupuncturists, osteopaths and tried a bunch of meds. I’ve had X-rays, CAT scans, everything.
No one has been able to pinpoint
anything. They don’t know how to help me any more.
I was like, “What the f- - - am I going to do now?” I’ve literally tried everything.
I live in a small mountain town called Mondo, maybe 3,000, mainly old Andalusian people.
Spain is beautiful but you have to learn some Spanish because no one speaks English.
I learned some. I can understand it way better than I can speak it.
Andalusian Spanish, they speak very fast. And very loud. And I talk quite soft. In English.
I’ve done a lot in the last two years which I’ve enjoyed a lot. So I have nothing to complain about really. But I would like to go home.
I’ve not been back to Trinidad since I left. I was fine with that for the first, like, year and a half.
I was fine, my parents were fine, my sister was fine. Then covid happened and (not having) the option of being able to go home is what made it worse.
I don’t let myself get excited about the thought of going back to Trinidad. Because it’s happened so often that I almost got to see my parents and then didn’t! Multiple times!
So now I just make sure I have really, really low expectations. Three weeks ago, I was supposed to have been home already.
So it will only be when I’m actually on the flight to Trinidad and have left Barbados behind that I will accept, “Okay, I’m going home now!” And let my emotions flow.
The best part of being away from home for so long is I’ve made my own little family. I’ve made really good friends. And have had really good experiences.
The bad part is having to deal with my head alone. I don’t like asking for help at all from anyone. I’m a do-it-yourself person.
It’s (especially) hard to ask people who aren’t family to do things for me. Family will look after you before they look after themselves. I’ve really needed that recently.
Being away, I’ve come to think Trinis are very warm, colourful people, compared to a lot of other cultures. I’d choose the word “colourful.”
And I love being a Trini. I love the childhood I’ve had. So much experience from so many cultures, from everyone all around you.
The whole world should just be Trini. Because we are a little bit of everything.
To me, Trinidad and Tobago is not so much home as sanctuary. It’s where your mother can sap your head.
But Trinidad is also scary, too. I don’t feel totally safe there. Especially as a girl. I feel freer and more safe away.
You can’t feel independent if you don’t feel safe. I wish I was a guy when I’m in Trinidad.
Read the full version of this feature on Saturday at www.BCPires.com