Trinidad and Tobago

"All Black People are Scared of the Police" WRONG.

I saw him and instinctively froze, my heart beating fast. His demeanor was very casual, he had a smile spreading across his face, and he even resembled me in color: unapologetically black. These characteristics did not stop me in my tracks, but the words boldly printed across his chest did: POLICE. He was an officer, a protector of the law, and my initial reaction was...fear.

As I looked around the car, I realized I was the only one who had had this frightening moment. The other passengers (all people of color) looked unaffected by the presence of the officer, and the driver of the vehicle even went passed the policeman on the road; she didn't look back to see if he would pull her over. An unprecedented act for any person of color in the United States. When I asked everyone why they were so nonchalant, the simplicity astonished me. Someone uneasily said, " This isn't America you know, you don't have to be scared of them here." It dawned on me that I was in Trinidad. Police aren't feared like in the States. The statement was followed up by a question. "Why would we be scared when we weren't doing anything wrong?"

Great question. Why was I scared? Could it be the ongoing genocide of African Americans in the United States of America? Possibly.

Just as prey live in fear of their predator, similar to the Jewish living in terror because of Nazi officials, African Americans generally live horrified at the sight of police. The difference is that while the identifying marker for Jews was a badge in Nazi Germany, they were able to take it off at the end of the day. It was a badge they could look in their closet and see. One they could store away, not having to deal with it until leaving their home. For an African Americans to find their marker they don't need to look in a closet, they just have to look in the mirror. Their skin is not stored anywhere except on their body. In the "land of the free" the wrong skin color is enough reason to compel an authority figure to insensibly fire bullets in your direction. 

Lightbulb moment: I've been conditioned to fear those appointed to protect me

As a black person, you don't wake up in the morning and choose to put your skin on. You don't need to alter your clothes for people to know that you're black. You don't even need to speak for people to know that you're black. You don't need to do anything, because you were born black. You can't remove your skin color, nor should you want to.

You are not the problem. Your skin is not the problem. You should not have to fear for your life. You should not have to explain injustice to your child. The color you were endowed is not threatening. But in America you areit isyou doyou areit is.

The system was not built for your success, it was built for your failure. SUCCEED ANYWAYS. The unjust killings, the systemic demise of African Americans, and the justice system are the problems. The solutions are complex, but in the efforts to create sustainable change, one thing is evident: we need to be united. There is power in numbers. Revolutions start with one person, a couple of people, but real change is seen when the masses gather. 

It's unfortunate that it struck me as odd that many people of color around the world don't fear the police. I'm not saying they don't get tickets, fines or pulled over; I'm saying that their interactions with policemen are justifiable, regardless of color. That isn't the case in the States. For the first time in my life I feel that where I live is the third world country, and not the places I am traveling to.

The world is a scary place on its own without genocide, racism or police killings. There is no reason that present day America should feel like Nazi Germany. If you want to "Make America Great Again" (even though it's never really been that great), why not start with ending the senseless killings of the second largest demographic in the country. 

 

#BLACKLIVESMATTER

 

This is usually where I ask you to leave a comment. Don't bother this time. I said what it was.

 

 

 

Do I Have Zika?

As you all know, this Summer was filled with Caribbean flavor. From Barbados to Trinidad to Guyana, I consciously ignored the travel warnings about Zika floating throughout the tropical region. I never thought I would contract the disease and imagined dousing myself in mosquito repellent. I knew there was still a probability of extracting the disease, but considered the risk minimal.

Lesson #1: You are not immune.

So many of us think that we are invincible; that things can not touch us. So we are reckless. We allow ourselves to be reckless. To do reckless things. To give in to our inner desire for danger, and adventure. 

I loved Trinidad most, of the places I visited in the Caribbean. It felt like home. A place that seemed to fit in places you didn't know could heal you, love you, and feed you (and boy, could they feed you!). Trinidad was magical like that. I stayed at Pearl's Guesthouse. It's a beautiful Victorian home with hospitable hosts and kind, enlightening travelers. There I met a friend who showed me around Port of Spain, took me to eat Bake and Shark, and introduced me to how Trinidadians live. 

After some time, I left Pearl's Guesthouse and began my first Couchsurfing adventure (read here) with Phyllis. Phyllis showed me a whole new world. We explored a good part of Trinidad and she introduced me to the warmest of her friends. In the weeks I stayed with Phyllis, I heard of 2 individuals who had contracted Zika: my friend from Pearl's Guesthouse, and a friend of Phyllis'. This got me thinking heavily about my chances of getting Zika. 

Was I being careful? Was I using the right mosquito repellent? Had I even been wearing repellent? Sometimes, but not consistently enough.

Thankfully, neither of the individuals who contracted Zika were women of child bearing age. But I am. I had researched and found the best mosquito repellent spray before embarking on this adventure to the Caribbean, I had just been failing to apply it regularly. It seems that I planned to have this amazing repellent, but never put it on. Lazy girl issues. 

Lesson #2: When you adequately prepare, make sure you follow through with your plan, especially if it's life or death

So I started to regularly wear this repellent, dousing myself in it every morning after my shower. It lasted me all day, was never sticky or oily, and had no foul smell. Deet was the best! It saved my life. As it turns out, I DIDN'T get Zika, but that doesn't mean that I couldn't have. I put myself in a risky situation that could have permanently altered my life or my future child's. Which leads me to lesson number three.

Lesson #3: The universe always has your back.

Sometimes you make dumb decisions, take a big risk and regret it after the fact. Sometimes you have unprotected sex and you end up pregnant, other times you don't. Sometimes you make an illegal U-turn and no cop catches you, other times they do. Sometimes you fly to a Zika infested region, don't use mosquito repellent and still don't contract Zika, but other times you do.

No matter where you end up, there is a reason you are there. I was blessed, but others weren't as fortunate as I. There is always a time to take into consideration the risks and benefits before making careless decisions. It wasn't till recently that I've noticed the long-term effects Zika can have on people, and it's particularly difficult when the individuals suffering are people you have grown close to. So spray that Deet! 

What risky behavior have you participated in? Did it work out? Did the risk outweigh the benefits? Let me know in the comments below!

 

Happy Wandering...

 

 

You're Not Trini Until You've Had These

It's been mentioned to me that I speak about food as most would speak of sex. I take great pride in this compliment. I love food, and especially good food. My specialty is sweets, but literally anything savory to stuff into the gaping hole in my face will suffice. As a traveler, my favorite part of any visit is the cuisine.

The two islands located off the coast of northeastern Venezuela boast a rich and vibrant culture and have encased me in a whirlwind of spices, vibrant colors, upbeat music and "wining". The one thing I've heard time and time again about Trini's is that "if nothing else, they will feed you". This sounds like my sort of place.

This "essential foods to try in Trinidad and Tobago" list I've compiled has been curated by my wonderful tastebuds in collaboration with some authentic Trini's. If you've never tried these foods, you can't truly consider yourself a Trinidadian (I don't judge, this is according to my natives). If you're visiting the islands and want a real experience, make sure to knock these items off your list. 

 

Bake and Shark

This delicacy is most famously found at Maracas Beach. It consists of a homemade bread, the "Bake" which is ironically usually softly fried. The Bake is folded, almost like a pita and stuffed with fried Shark. There are other options like "Bake and Shrimp" and an assortment of different "Bake and Fish" for those not interested in eating shark. My recommendation is to eat the damn shark. When you choose which Bake you'd like, you'll notice that it's dry. The best part of this sandwich is being able to make it your own. There is a salad bar of sorts that allows you to top your Bake with anything from ketchup and salad to mango salsa and green sauce. Each vendor has different options, but staples are: mango salsa, garlic sauce, green sauce, salad, hot sauce. Take caution with the hot sauce, this is no Texas Pete, your mouth will literally be on fire. My toppings included a lot of mango salsa, ketchup, salad, a hint of garlic sauce, and a smidgen of hot sauce, A SMIDGEN.

There are about 5 vendors are selling Bake and Shark, and each vendor has a line out the door. "Richard's" is the most famous stall, but I recommend walking past all of these vendors and making a sharp right when you get to the end. On your right hand side you'll see this no-name vendor, go there. I've indulged on Bake and Shark plenty of times, and this is by far one of the tastiest, most flavorful I've had. 

 

Doubles

HOOOOOMMAAAGAAAHHHDDD. I love doubles. Vendors sell these on the streets for about 4TTD from small carts. These consist of a fried piece of flat bread topped with chickpeas, chutney, and sometimes even mango salsa, then topped with another piece of flatbread. Eating this is an art, and extremely messy. You take the top piece of bread and pick up as many toppings as you can and stuff it in your mouth. Almost like picking up an upside down taco. Whatever falls over, you use the bottom piece of bread to collect the remains and enjoy. 

The bread is soft, the chickpeas seasoned especially well, and the mango salsa adds the perfect ting (should you choose to add it). They always ask you if you want "peppa", also known as hot as hell peppers. I love spicy food so I always add a bit, but as I've said before, this is not Texas Pete people. Be careful. I've clearly had a traumatic experience. As far as where to go for Doubles, my favorite guy is located on Ariapita Avenue connected to the "Amigo's Mexican Food" stand. My man constantly has a line, but it's so worth it.

 

PASTELLES

Pastelles are basically "Tamales 2.0", which is no surprise seen as Spanish influence has been in the country for years. Above you can watch me make the pastelles. Initially you start off with a banana leaf. You lay it out on a press, lay some oil onto it and then add your cornmeal ball. You use the press to create a perfect little circle. You would have already prepared some minced meat and lots of spices beforehand. You then take the minced meat, add it to the center of the cornmeal and fold it ever so beautifully. These can now be frozen for later use, or steamed and eaten within minutes!

I've never had pastelles from a shop, so I don't have recommendations for a place to go. I recommend you make these at home, as I hear every family makes them a little different to their liking. These are made on special holidays, like Christmas. I obviously got to make them because I'm a holiday all on my own. #SudaneseWadMagic

 

Roti

Roti wasn't my favorite, but it was still good. It is basically a flatbread that resembles a tortilla, except a little softer, and filled with a protein of sorts. You can have it with goat curry, shrimp, chicken, and beef. I personally had a curry chicken roti. The only surprise was that the bones were still in the chicken. Only Americans expect boneless chickens everywhere. That shit is not natural.  I got mine "to-go", and it was packaged neatly like a burrito. I tried to eat it like a burrito, but that didn't go over so well. The curry chicken juices were flying everywhere, and it was falling apart, and yeah.. I don't recommend eating it this way. Use your hands and get jiggy with it. 

These are sold literally everywhere. On stalls, in corner stores, in restaurants, next to the Doubles man, behind the Mexican restaurant. Roti is everywhere. Try them all and take your pick.  

 

OX TAILS

Oxtails are the G.O.A.T. , ironically enough. I have never had meat so tender and juicy. It literally falls off the bone. My mouth is watering thinking about it alone. So Oxtails are the tail of a cattle skinned and cut into short lengths for sale. I first had it as a stew, but it can be made as a soup, broth or sauce. I don't know what sort of magic is used to season this delicacy, but as someone who doesn't particularly like red meat, I was sucking the bones trying to get the meat in every crevices.

There is no proper way to eat oxtails. You need to pick it up with your hands and sink your teeth into it, sorry. Leave your forks behind. I had mine with some rice and vegetables, but seriously who cares about anything other than the oxtails themselves?  Go to Kaiso Blues Cafe, one block away from Queen's Park Savannah West, to get my favorite oxtails in Port of Spain. My favorite of all time? HOMEMADE. 

 

Pelau

It must be something about Caribbean food where the meat just seamlessly falls off the bones. Pelau is no different. This rice-based dish is combined with spices sent down from the GAWDS themselves, beans, protein, vegetables and garnishes. I was told that it was originally made with pork or beef, but chicken is becoming more popular. Once again, what a "shock" that the bones were still in the chicken when I bit into it. This can be an entree on it's own, or it can be paired with a mango chutney (deliciousness at its best). 

Best place to get it? Yet again, HOMEMADE. Margaret, a lovely friend I made, hooked me up day after day. 

 

KFC

I'm sure you're just as appalled as I was, but it's true. Every true Trinidadian has eaten KFC at least once in their life. I personally hate fried chicken of the Kentucky sorts, but the ones in Trinidad taste different. Make sure you ask for your chicken to be crispy and spicy, as a true Trini. The KFC in Independence Square yielded the largest profit margin of all KFC's in the world until just last year when Tiananmen Square took over in China. This small island loves fried chicken. 

My favorite KFC has been the one at Piarco International Airport (they don't all taste the same). Ask anyone in Trinidad where their favorite KFC is, and believe me they'll have a preference. I've made it compulsory to have a Big Meal Deal every time I land and take-off from Piarco. If you're from the States, take caution that their large drink is an equivalent to our small. Ohh the land of the brave and the fat...I mean free. 

As you can see, you need to visit Trinidad, if for nothing other than the food. The food is so spectacular because of its heavy Indian, Spanish and African influence. Trini's have such a beautiful culture because it is a mesh of cultures from all around the world. It is a true melting pot, and damn that thing smells good!

 

WHAT'S YOUR FAVORITE TRINIDADIAN FOOD? LET ME KNOW IN THE COMMENTS BELOW!

 

Happy Wandering...