What is there to like about Trinidad?
This is a question that many people living there may ask on a daily basis as they read newspapers replete with distressing headlines and reports.
When I lived in Trinidad I often wanted and needed to escape from it, whether consciously or subconsciously. Leaving for places further afield always felt like freedom, a breath of fresh air.
On visiting India, the longest journey I have made thus far, en route I thought of Trinidad and felt as though a rope, tied to that island, was attached to me. The rope seemed to stretch, the farther away we flew, until it felt like a cord, then a thread and then a strand of cobweb which seemed to burst as we landed in Kolkata. I felt severed and, later that year, moved to Tobago.
Back to my first question: What is there to like about Trinidad? Everyone’s answers to that will differ. On recent trips to Trinidad, via air, I have had window seats. Normally, I would simply see the island’s landscape. But lately, looking down I find myself marvelling at the view. On my last flight over, at Christmas, I was somehow so struck by what I saw below me that I took notes, intending to write about it because of the beauty.
The headline of the note written on my phone is: “Beautiful Trinidad.” The sights that jumped out/up at me, are listed as: brown rivers (which at the time were shimmering and snaking through the land)...vehicles (which struck me as shiny, orderly ants dutifully wending their way along what looked from above like tracks instead of highways)...cleanliness (the landscape struck me as having a freshly washed and polished appearance – “Had it rained?”)...fields (geometric, patterned, almost reminiscent of some of the fancy, artistic shapes shaved on men’s heads at barber shops)...swamps (at times the shape of the water, surrounded by mangrove, somehow looked heart-shaped – “How come I never noticed that before?”)...
I found myself jotting down what the male steward announced as we landed: ”Welcome to beautiful Trinidad, ladies and gentlemen. We wish you a safe and pleasant onward journey. It was a pleasure serving you. We certainly enjoyed your company.”
Maybe it was because of the Christmas spirit in the air (at the time), but rather than sounding like something a copywriter had penned for flight crew to recite, it actually sounded authentic, as though he meant what he had said – “Beautiful Trinidad.”
Having changed in ten years of being "away" (even though just in Tobago), there is a part of me that now perceives Trinidad from a fresh perspective – in the way that a tourist might experience a destination to be, not knowing the daily frustrations of its inhabitants. Beyond that, however, I do think the island has changed, in a good way.
I find the customer service has evolved and is of a very high standard. Wherever I have gone, I am greeted with genuine smiles, enthusiasm, professionalism, warmth, helpfulness.
“How are you today? How may I help you? Did you get what you are looking for?”
In public, people are generally friendly and chatty, embracing. The average person seems to be bristling and sparking with energy, moving quickly, purposefully, out and about on a mission.
“Everything seems so advanced,” I commented to a friend.
There are lots of new establishments, coffee shops, restaurants. Even just in passing by, I found myself observing patrons, sitting, sipping, chatting, laptops on tables, "power lunches," body language vibrant and intense – somehow looking like characters in a movie.
There is a feeling of orderliness and of things moving and working like clockworks. The traffic and potholes seem negligible. Even crime, predominant in the media, does not appear visible or audible (except for the odd gunshots) to the average eye/ear. Unless directly affected by criminal activity while on the island, many visitors might wonder about the accuracy of the ominous travel advisories they read before daring to venture to Trinidad.
On reading this, many people who live in Trinidad might ask “What she talking about?” Not unlike the “Which Tobago you living in?” question I was often asked when I moved to Tobago from Trinidad and would gush about things that those living there for a long time could no longer see.
Sometimes we need to step away to get new lenses.