Day 1: new people and new experiences

We started our day with a homemade breakfast at nine o’clock that morning. It consisted of pizza, bread, hard-boiled eggs, banana and pumpkin muffins, and multiple kinds of fish. Everything was wonderful and made me feel welcome in what was my new home for the next month of my life. The guesthouse we were staying in was very much like a hostel, with rooms with multiple beds, many bathrooms, and three kitchens between twenty people. With all of us, we filled the house. The beds were very comfortable and the bathrooms were rather confusing, you had to pump the toilet handle until it flushed, and the showers were electric so no one was sure how to have a warm shower. Following breakfast, we organized into groups of three for a walking tour of Scarborough, the town near our guesthouse. We stopped at the Bacolet Beach on the way into town, about a half hour walk and about one and a half miles if walked directly. I managed to lose my Ray Bans to the ocean quite early on, I certainly won’t make the mistake of wearing nice sunglasses on the beach again. In Scarborough lots of people were walking throughout, most of whom sat or stood on or near the narrow sidewalks. There was a small cemetery on the coastal side of the road on the way in, and a large church on the inland side. Many of the buildings had bright colors and signs. There was a cruise ship in the harbor that day but I didn’t notice many tourists walking around beside our group. We got lunch around noon, I bought chicken and dumplings from a restaurant off of the main drag while we wandered about looking for the various kinds of shops we were told to find. A drugstore, a post office, the tourist information center, the Esplanade - a strip mall with vendors selling all kinds of goods, among others. We also found a fresh produce vendor which we bought a giant slice of watermelon from, it was $8TT/lb which is just over $1/lb. On our walk back we conducted two interviews for our first assignment while in Trinidad and Tobago. Our first interview was of an aging black man with a whitening beard and a brood of hens with a couple of roosters thrown into the mix. He was a ceramics maker and had his wares on display in front of him. He traveled between Trinidad and Tobago for years, saying he was always just from both. He said that one of the strengths of Trinidad and Tobago was the unity of the people. The second person we interviewed was a vendor of coconut and sugar cane water, she was jovial and engaging. She had her hair pulled back from her face in a bun and was missing the tooth next to her front two, making her proud grin a unique sight. She had lived in Tobago her entire life and was very opinionated about it. She said that people call Tobago ‘slow’ because they don’t understand. According to her, Tobago is slow because people are free, free to do as they please and to live how they like. As a self-employed entrepreneur of her own stand, she gets to decide when she wants to work and when she has more important priorities. She was very matter-of-fact about what she believed. She said that her job, her place in the community, was to serve the people. When asked about her hopes for the community she said that she hoped the government would increase tourism, especially and specifically the number of cruise ships entering the Scarborough port because it increased business dramatically on those days that the ship visited and made it possible for development to occur. She thought it would be good for the stimulation of the economy on the small island and that more people should experience the freedom of ‘slow’ island life. Throughout the day everyone was very talkative. I was told to expect catcalling, and while it was still an objectification of my body here as it is in any other place where you might be catcalled, this is the definition of catcalling, after all, the attitude of the people doing the catcalling was different here than in other places I had been. There was a level of respectfulness that was not present in New York or Denver when I had experienced catcalling in those places. It was a ‘hey beautiful’ that only required the response of ‘hello.’ Or if a person was too forward a simple ‘no thank you’ was sufficient for them to move on. In the United States, it felt more aggressive, and that it needed a more aggressive put-down in order to move on. The other thing of note is that I had not experienced catcalling often in the United States, not because it wasn’t there and wasn’t a problem, but because in the United States people drive everywhere, either for necessity - because cities have been designed for the use of cars and not for bikes and people - or for an attitude of not wanting to walk outside because it might be ‘dangerous’ or, as with Washington, the weather is known to be unpredictable. I’m sure that my being white in an area dominated by people of color made me noticeable and that this attention easily became off-hand compliments. But even as a person who did not match the typical people of this country I was never disrespected, I did not experience the racism that people of color experience in America on a regular basis, and I knew I wouldn’t. I am allowed to walk through the world, quite literally, and seldom experience prejudice. As a woman, I experienced catcalling, something that the men in our group likely did not experience, but even so, it was not as bad as when I had experienced it in America, where it had felt a purposeful degradation of my body.

Around four o’clock we went grocery shopping for the week. We had a budget of $400TT each week to make most of our meals. Occasionally lunch or dinner would be provided, like lunch and dinner today. I set out with ambitious plans to prepare buddha bowls because I could easily meal-prep leftovers, and to have food for sandwiches, muffins, oatmeal, and snacks. I managed to find a majority of what I was looking for but lacked in variety of meals I could make. We finished off the day with a group dinner at a sit-down restaurant. We ordered our entrees ahead of time due to the size of our group but it still took almost two hours before our food came out after we arrived at the restaurant. I ordered a tequila sunrise, and a chocolate supreme later thinking my tequila sunrise hadn’t been put in. I wound up slightly drunk for at least an hour sitting at that table waiting for my food and munching on bread rolls. My entree of spinach ravioli in cheese sauce was only average and I likely wouldn’t return to the establishment by my own choosing, however, the chocolate supreme and most of the mixed drinks were absolutely delicious and had a good balance of alcohol and other ingredients. I will definitely be trying more chocolate drinks. We left for dinner at 7:30 that evening and left the restaurant at 10:15. It was an uncomfortably long dinner. When we finally got back I only had the energy to remove my makeup, brush my teeth, and fall into bed. The day was filled with lots of walking (about five miles in total) and a plethora of new experiences. I’m looking forward to the rest of my extended stay here.

#Bacolet #TrinidadTobago #Travel #Vacation #StudyAbroad #BacoletBeach #Scarborough #watermelon #catcalling #TravelTips #dinner

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