Blogger's Note: This one's a novel, so I'm just doing one post today. Give your eyes a break when you're done. You'll need it. (Pictures are taking forever to load and I'm running out of time here, so they're limited in this post. Sorry.)
Last week I escaped to the charming Caribbean island of Trinidad to celebrate Carnival with the world. Situated only 45 minutes from Guyana, right off the coast of Venezuela and just southwest of Barbados, Trinidad is impressively disparate. While still deeply infused with the Caribbean culture, the people maintain a warm hospitality and laid back attitude in life. The music, however, shifts from coarser Reggae to upbeat Soca and lively Calypso. The infrastructure is much more developed and the amenities more abundant.
Carnival was a volunteer-teacher-in-a-third-world-country-with-hyperactive-students’s dream. Trinidad transformed from a sedated island to a furiously festive state, having prepared itself two months in advance for the affair. I’ve compiled a few short guides to Carnival based on various interests. No matter which guide you find most appealing, experiencing Carnival comes highly recommended. But be warned: this celebration is not for the weak.
A Party Lover’s Guide
A note to my traditional, slightly conservative Asian father: Dad, the following has been written for journalism purposes. Your daughter may or may not have participated in the events listed below.
It’s fete after fete after fete.
Monday Morning J’ouvet (pronounced Ju-vey)- Wake up at 3am for the sole purpose of celebrating. Meet your band* on a designated street corner and get ready to dance and march along the road and witness the magnificent sunrise. Wear cheap clothing because you will get doused in paint, smeared with mud, sprinkled with glitter and drizzled in chocolate. Dance and whine** up and down the streets until the sun is high in the sky, then get cleaned off by the massive hose crew and rinse some of that paint from your hair. Even after washing off, you will still look like you went mud wrestling with a leprechaun, a fairy and Willy Wonka.
Monday afternoon Mas***- After a couple hours of rest, get ready to preview the parade of costumes, listen to steelpan bands, and chow on delicious Trinidadian food, knowing that the best is reserved for Carnival Tuesday. Then dance until the sun comes up.
Tuesday Mas- This is the illustrious and impressive masquerade that most people associate with Carnival. You can “play Mas” by signing up with a band and dressing up in an extravagant costume then dance/march in the parade. The crowds appropriately gather to observe the revelry, while the bands compete in a fierce competition for monetary winnings. This makes Mardi Gras back in the States pale in comparison.
Everything ends at 12am for the dawn of Ash Wednesday. Go home and repent for all the sins you’ve accumulated in the last 72 hours.
Wednesday Wash Down- Lay out on the soft sand and relish in life as it is meant to be enjoyed on the beach. You can dance to the Soca music blaring on the coastline or idly bask near the blue-green waves of the Caribbean Sea. Close your eyes and reminisce on one of the most energetic and spirited experiences of your life.
*Band- a huge truck with the most incredible sound system blasting Soca and Calypso music, driving slowly along the street. It will be followed by a truck with alcohol, a truck with paint, and a port-o-potty truck. Genius. Massive amounts of people gather near the trucks and passionately dance alongside.
**Whine- a form of Caribbean dancing mainly utilizing the hips. Can also be known as “dirty whine.”
***Mas- short for “masquerade.” In the Caribbean, the more syllables you can drop off a word, the better.
A Food Lover’s Guide
After a week of indulgent consumption, it’ll be time to deal with some waist management.
Corn Soup – Thick creamy flavorful soup with chunks of corn and dumplings
Doubles- Two thick rotis rolled together with curry and chutney chickpeas, cucumbers and peppers
Curried Crab and Dumplings- Just like it sounds like and completely delicious
Bake and Shark- Fried sweet bread, fried shark, tomatoes, lettuce, pineapple, and creamy white garlic sauce in sandwich form. Garlic sauce, my new favorite discovery, is a common condiment and is usually added to fries, burgers, and/or hotdogs.
Pineapple and Cilantro- And onions and a bit of salt. Sounds weird, but it’s a refreshing snack.
A Nature Lover’s Guide
It made me green with envy wishing I could live here.
Maracas Bay- Take the winding path through the lush tree-covered mountains and arrive at one of the most beautiful beaches in Trinidad. Splash around in the cool, blue to green gradient ocean and stretch out on the velvety white sand. Hug a palm tree. Maybe two.
Tobago- Venture out to the smaller, more tranquil and tourist-favored of the island pair. The gorgeous shores are the epitome of Caribbean beaches. Arrive via 2-hour (party) boat or hop a 20 minute plane ride. Ride the glass bottom boats to check out the exquisite reef.