Home, home on the plane

"It was so hard for me to leave BWIA and Trinidad.," says Donna Black. - courtesy BC Pires


My name is Donna Black, née Delph, and I lived in six-seven different countries in the space of 15 years.

I come from Woodbrook. We lived in Trincity before, when it was first developed, opposite Orange Grove Estate and they had all the canes all around it.

One older sister wanted to live in town. My father said, right, that’s it! And we all moved to Warren Street. Thank God for Beverly!

My parents had come from Guyana for my father, Compton, to work for newspapers.

The friends I made at St Joseph’s Convent in Port of Spain are still friends up to this day. We have reunions every five years.

But I feel we should have them every two years. Who know what’s going to happen at this tender age?

I’m the fifth of six children: Camille, Verita, Beverly, Gordon, the late junior table tennis champ, me, then Suzanne.

The first four were born in Guyana.

I don’t know if I’m really Trinidadian because I was born in Trinidad. but started in Guyana. I came across first-class. In the stomach.

I got married to a Jamaican, Richard. I'm Trini, he is Jamaican, and we live in Barbados. So we are very West Indian.

I always thought of myself as Trini first, but definitely West Indian after.

When I met Richard, he was working in Libya. I said let's just have fun because you are living so far away and I am not leaving Trinidad. You can come and visit.

We got married a year or so after we met, because I was pregnant with our first child.

Joelle, Alessandra and Nicolas all got their names from places we lived. Although the girls were born in Trinidad, we were in France and Italy before.

We call Alessandra “Ale” for short, pronounced Ah-lay. People in the Caribbean of course call her Ali.

We spent three years in Norway, where Nicolas was born. We call him Nico at home but, again, in the Caribbean, they have to call him Nick.

I am a practising Catholic and believe in a Catholic God.

But a lot of people have decided not to follow God.

I’m still figuring it out. I’m a work in progress but I believe in my prayer. It’s something I can fall back on.

My husband used to work with an oil service company. We were in Ivory Coast but we had to leave because there was a coup.

I went back home to have Ale. Then we moved to Cameroon, which was a beautiful place. Lovely places to bring your kids up. They both reminded me of Trinidad.

After O-Levels in ‘78, I worked at a bank as a teller, but in 1980, my friend Juliet Chufor-Beresford applied to BWIA and told me I should, too.

It was the fashion and I had my hair curled in an Afro at the interview.

They said, “Okay, we like you. But you need to cut that hair.”

I said, “But I’m five foot one. What you going to do about my height?”

They said, “You can wear heels!”

I flew with BWee for ten years.

Donna Black: "I don’t know if I’m really Trinidadian because I was born in Trinidad but started in Guyana. I came across first-class. In the stomach." - courtesy BC Pires

I really do love people. I think that showed through when I was a flight attendant.

And I think BWee prepared me for all the travelling I was going to do with Richard. Because if you sat down in Ivory Coast and made no attempt to meet anybody, you wouldn’t! I told Richard. “You have your office, your work, your buddies. I still sitting here.” Yes, raising the girls is important – never underestimate the work of a mom – but you have to live. I made friends for him, me and the kids.

It was so hard for me to leave BWIA and Trinidad.

Joelle and I joined Richard when he was posted to Parma, Italy.

Fog everywhere. Can't see even two steps in front of you. Everybody wearing grey and black, dull winter colours.

MC Hammer was the rage then. I landed in Milan in tie-dyed MC Hammer pants! My husband said he recognised me at once.

After Italy we went to Ivory Coast for six months before we moved to Cameroon for three years.

I learned French from the nu-nu, the local housekeeper/childminder. A lot of French people tell me today I speak French with an African accent.

After the Cameroon we were in Holland.

The Hague was a nice vibe. The language challenge was always that their worst English was a lot better than my best Dutch. I found learning Dutch really hard.

I said, look, at least let me try to improve my French. And I went to Alliance Francaise in the Hague.

After two and a half years in Norway, we settled down in Welling, South London for two years. Richard had his first job out of oil service, in computer sales.

Debbie Landreth-Smith, one of my BWee people, came up with a Trinidad newspaper in 2001. There was an advertisement, a Shell post in Trinidad.

Richard said, “I could do this job with my eyes closed!”

I knew computers weren’t completely his thing. He worked on rigs!

I said, “Apply, nah, the problem will only arise if you get through!”

An English guy called him and said, “You’re overqualified for the job in Trinidad…But we have another job.”

That’s how we ended up in Barbados.

We’ve been in Barbados for 22 years now. A big difference from seven countries in 15 years. All our kids went to school in Barbados.

When Richard had applied for the Trinidad job, I was ready to go.

Today, I'm not sure I would.

All my sisters, nieces and nephews are there. I love that place. People say I have always lived outside and don't want to come back and I'm talking bad about the place. I would never talk bad about Trinidad.

But you have to face the facts. What is going on? It's frightening! You start to feel uncomfortable. You making sure the door is closed. Always watching over your shoulder. I wish somebody could think of something to do.

When I was flying a lot and I saw people in airports, you could tell literally from the way they walked if someone was a Trini. It's an easiness.

A Trini is somebody definitely like me. Somebody you could talk to easily, somebody who would invite you to their home and you would invite to your home. Somebody who would talk to any and everybody.

Trinidad and Tobago is my home. I always told my kids, all the time, listen, you all have Trinidad passports. Today, tomorrow, something happen, Trinidad is the one place in the world you can go and they cannot tell you that you can't come in!

And whoops! Guess what? Mr Rowley told those people who went on that cruise during lockdown they couldn’t come back home! And Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley took them in!

How can you tell a TT citizen they cannot come into their own country?

Let me tell you, that one was at my throat! It made me choke! I couldn’t take it! I had to eat the words I always said to my children.

Read the full version of this feature on Friday evening at www.BCPires.com



"Home, home on the plane"

More in this section