I’ve moved!….again.

Yep! I’m now living in The D, Day-twa, D-townthe 313, Motor City, Motown….DETROIT!

Don’t believe the haters. It’s awesome here.

And yes..I’ve started a new blog: From MIAMI to DETROIT! <— click here to be redirected to it.

I hope some (or all) of you will want to follow me on my new adventure! Cheers!

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Goodbye Trinidad

It’s always the suitcases. That’s when it really hits me that I’m leaving. Not the goodbyes,,the hugs,,the tears..

..but the suitcases.

All packed and ready to go. Just sitting there.. waiting to be whisked away.

hope they’re not overweight!

Something about suitcases has always intrigued me. The concept of just packing up your life in these big bags and just.. leaving – almost as if you were never there (wherever you happen to be) in the first place – always struck me as a little bizarre..in a good way..but bizarre nonetheless. And as I sit in my room, typing this..I’m staring at these suitcases – wondering if I left a mark (no matter how small) on this country in these past six months..

A pretty arrogant thought I know, but if felt different when I left Beirut…like I had left behind something..some sort of legacy. (If you’ve been following me for a while, you know I was living in Beirut before I came to POS). I don’t know..maybe it’s because I’m leaving Trinidad so soon,,maybe it’s because I didn’t reaaallly give this country a chance..Or maybe it’s because you just want to know that when something/someone has touched you, you have touched them in return.

I mean, wow. Has it really been six months already? wow. It feels like just yesterday that I was walking out of Piarco Airport thinking to myself, “Well, this should be interesting.”

And trust me when I tell you, it most definitely has..

But since I believe in being honest, I have to admit that it was a little hard for me to adjust to Trinidad..and to life in the Caribbean in general. Even though I’ve been visiting this country ever since I can remember (I think my first flight here was when I was 10 days old to be exact), I didn’t realize how un-Trini I am until I actually moved here.

I suppose that subconsciously, my approach to Trinidad was very different from my approach to Lebanon in the sense that I felt like I should’ve been more at ease here. I felt pressured almost, to be ‘Trini’…whatever that means – to fit in, accept things for the way they are, and just feel a sense of belonging to this country..After all, this is where my family is from, and where I’ve spent every single summer until I was about 17.. So why was it so hard? (People did warn me that it would be difficult to adjust, seeing as I grew up in Miami).

I know what you’re thinking.. “How could it be hard to adjust to life in the Caribbean?!?!?”

It’s funny..but I never felt this pressure when I was in Lebanon..which is strange since, logically, it should’ve been harder for me (ie. more pressure) to get acclimated to a country/culture I knew nothing about..when truth be told, it was the complete opposite! And since we’re being honest here..when I look back on both of these experiences..I felt more at home in Lebanon than I ever did in my ‘own country!’

……………

That being said (I hope all of the Trini’s reading this don’t hate me), I’m glad that I gave Trinidad a chance..(even if only a brief chance)..as this has surely been a tremendous growth experience for me.

I mean, had I not lived here I (likely) would’ve never experienced what it’s like to live under a ‘State of Emergency,’ what it feels like to be a part of a racial minority, or witnessed how Trinis have somehow managed to turn crime into prime time entertainment. But I also wouldn’t have gotten to know more about my ‘ancestral homeland,’ or learned about Trinidad’s burgeoning artistic community, OR learned how to properly eat a ‘doubles or that it’s almost sacrilegious to eat roti with a knife and fork! (too mention only a few of my Trini experiences..)

…I cannot possibly continue this post without giving a shoutout to my colleagues (the best way to learn about a new country/culture is to work in advertising in that country – I’m sure of it) who took my ‘cultural education’ to another level.

Danielle, today..we’re taking you to a Rum Shop!”

Inside Hereford’s Rum Shop..

And as always, my questioning began…

But, if it’s a rum shop..why are they serving beer? What is the history of the rum shop? How did it come to be? How is it different from any other bar? I’m going to blog about this eventually so I really need to know. Like now.

Thirsty anyone? Inside Brooklyn Bar ‘Rum Shop’

I really do owe you guys a lot..you made my time here so much more memorable. (Thank you for putting up with my endless questions!)

Me and a few of my colleagues..

When I think about it..my only regret over these past few months is not seeing more of Trinidad. It’s true what they say: people in the West never make it past the lighthouse unless they’re going to the airport! In six months I only made it to the East once (and I didn’t even get out of the car!), and didn’t make it to the South at all! ::::hides face:::: shameful I know..but I suppose not having my own method of transportation, and being a little wary about taking public transport alone in Trinidad will do that to you.

What is it about this lighthouse?

And..yes..you don’t have to tell me.. I’m well aware that my blog suffered from this ‘cultural myopia’ as well.

A few of you took the time to point out the fact that I only wrote about what happened in “West Trinidad.” And in retrospect, I should’ve named this blog ‘This is POS’..or ‘This is West Trinidad’, instead of ‘This is Trinidad’. I suppose I never anticipated that I wouldn’t be getting out of the West at all! So to those of you who made those comments,.. you were right,!! and I’m sorry I didn’t get a chance to cover more of this beautiful country!

Coming back from down the islands..

The view from Trinidad & Tobago Yacht Club

As to where I’m headed next..it’s still a secret that I’m waiting to reveal. (Although I will tell you that I’ll be in Miami for the next month, with a side trip to Austin,,woop woop!) When I’m ready, I’ll post it here.. But before I sign off, I will leave you with this video of what Trinidad is most known for: Carnival. (For those of you reading this who are unfamiliar with Trinidadian culture, and the term “wining” (it really is a cultural thing (so I’ve come to accept) which I should’ve explored further on this blog)..I ask that you keep an open mind ;)

And finally, thank you for reading! It was a pleasure having you along! :D

(For those of you on Twitter you can keep up with me @daniellebaiz)

and now..onto the next adventure…

Goodbye Trinidad! See you soon!

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A day in the life..

Just a little something light for a Sunday afternoon..

This video was taken by a Trini pilot friend of mine who messes around with cameras when he’s bored..

A day in the life is his (almost) daily journey from his house..to Piarco..to taking off and landing back in Trinidad..

oh,,and here’s another one..just a simple moonrise over Westmoorings.

Enjoy and happy Sunday!

(oh and a few more of his stills)..

I will most definitely miss Trinidad's lush mountain ranges..

the moon over Westmoorings..beautiful.

Video and photo credits: Andrew Pereira

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Lunch at The Breakfast Shed

*I’ve been silent for the past month or so – apologies..but I’ve recently decided that I will be leaving Trinidad in 3 weeks in pursuit of another adventure..so instead of closing this blog one time, I’ve decided to leave with a bang..so here I go!

After a meeting in POS the other day, my colleagues took me on a stroll through the newly revitalized International Waterfront Center. “Aimed at reviving and and transforming POS, the project is part of the overall Vision 2020 – a government policy attempting to take Trinidad and Tobago to developed country status by 2020.” source

The International Waterfront Center in Port of Spain

The International Waterfront Center in Port of Spain, Trinidad

source

According to the The Urban Development Corporation of Trinidad and Tobago Limited (UDECOTT), “The Port of Spain International Waterfront Centre is testament to the burgeoning development of our twin-island nation.  With only two new major developments constructed in downtown Port of Spain in the past 10 years, the International Waterfront Centre will be the brand new hallmark of an ever-evolving Port of Spain – a city already established as a significant regional centre for trade, commerce and industry.”

I had been to the International Waterfront Center only one time previously, when I went to visit some friends at the Hyatt Hotel..but this was my first time walking around the development – which I must say is very impressive – and visiting the Breakfast Shed; where my colleagues wanted to take me for a post-meeting true Creole food lunch. Talk about food coma! I was totally useless after lunch. (For those of you who don’t know, ‘Creole Food’ is Trinidad’s local cuisine, which (as my colleagues tell me) was brought over by Trinidad’s African population – but has since been influenced by French, Spanish, and English culinary tastes as well).

The Breakfastshed Trinidad

walking to The Breakfast Shed

My first question was, “Why do they call it the Breafastshed if they serve lunch?

No one could answer..(apparently they do serve both breakfast and lunch,,but it is more widely known as a lunch spot.) But what they did tell me was that the Breakfast Shed has been around for donkey years, and has only recently moved to this location when the Waterfront area was being ‘revitalized’..previously the Breakfast Shed was a bit closer to the port (more to the west) and was really reserved for port workers and more ‘everyday’ people (whatever that means).

The Breakfast Shed Trinidad

what the Breakfast Shed used to look like..

The Breakfast Shed Trinidad

yep, I'd say it has come a looooong way!

But since its move into a..well, nicer area – in close proximity to the prime real-estate that now makes up the International Waterfront..prices have gone up, and you will find more ‘white collar working class’ people enjoying local Creole food. According to an article in Maco Magazine on the Breakfast Shed’s makeover, “The grub and grime that gave the place “street cred’’ was replaced by a clean, spacious open-air food court. That changed the ambience a lot, to put it nicely. Now all the vendors have neatly partitioned cubicles with Formica counters and freezers. You can barely see them behind the steamed-up glass cases where the food is kept warm. The place is still crammed at lunch time, but now you have guests from the Hyatt, bankers, office workers from the government ministries in the International Financial Centre tower, construction workers, tourists, housewives and secretaries, even children, sitting at the wooden benches.

The Breakfastshed Trinidad

The 'new' Breakfast Shed

The Breakfastshed Trinidad

stalls in the Breakfast Shed

The Breakfast Shed Trinidad

Oh yeah,,,yummmm..

The Breakfastshed Trinidad

Delicious...

The first “Breakfast Shed” was founded by a Trinidadian social worker and the first female member of the Legislative Council of T&T, Audrey Layne Jeffers (February 12, 1968 – June 24, 1968).

Jeffers was moved from an an early age by the sufferings of the poor and dispossessed. In 1926, Jeffers established the Coterie of Social Workers which provided free lunches to poor school children. The first “Breakfast Shed” was established in Port of Spain in 1926. Others were established in Barataria, San Fernando, Siparia, and Tobago.” source

According to blogger Trinimuse, “The first venue for this venture was constructed at Warner Street, New Town, a short distance away from the Jeffers’ home. For some reason the building was called a ‘breakfast shed’ despite the fact that it was to provide lunch. This ‘breakfast shed’ immediately became popular with the school children of the surrounding New Town and Woodbrook districts. Not long afterwards came the main Breakfast Centre on Edward Street which supplied other venues. Nevertheless, it became a popular sport for the children of the city who flocked there for perhaps their major meal of the day. In this time of abject poverty, when many of the nation’s school children went without the benefit of a mid-day meal, the school kids of Port of Spain were not so deprived. Our internationally known Breakfast Shed is derived from or commemorates these beginnings.”

Now isn’t that nice? To know that you are eating at a place that was founded with such a noble mission, and has since turned into somewhat of a local institution? Well, at least I think so.. What’s just as notable is the fact that the women working there are the direct descendants of the women who worked at the Breakfast Sheds of long ago.

The ladies of the Breakfast Shed

The ladies of the Breakfast Shed

source

The piece of information that I’m missing here is how the Breakfast Shed went from being a place that fed impoverished school children, to a place where port workers and ‘common folk’ came to eat lunch. I suppose when Breakfast Sheds started to spring up in different locations, their purposes/clientele changed as well.. Does anyone have another explanation?

It wasn’t until I read an article in MACO Magazine that I learned that during the reconstruction of the International Waterfront Center, the Breakfast Shed had also undergone a rebranding, and was now “Femmes du Chalet.” (seriously? ha!) Thankfully, it doesn’t seem like the new name has caught on, as everyone still refers to by its original name.

Breakfast Shed Trinidad

Seriously? umm. no. #rebrandingFAIL

I think that whoever was in charge of the Breakfast Shed’s ‘rebranding’ should’ve focused on preserving the venue’s historical/cultural significance instead of trying change its whole identity..and while they were at it, they should’ve also paid tribute to its founder – Audrey Jeffers. Just a thought..! When I went back to my colleagues and told them what I had found, they were all surprised to learn that the Breakfast Shed was actually founded to provide meals to needy school children – it’s a shame that even locals don’t know about the Breakfast Shed’s humble beginnings,,much less ‘foreigners’ like me. Knowing the history behind this venue, makes eating there that much more..well, special.

Anyway, if you go..plan on spending about $60TT for a meal,, MACO Magazine suggests $40..but whenever I go, I spend an average of $60-$70 including a drink – maybe i just have expensive taste? You will find that the vendors serve relatively similar dishes..the trick is to take a walk around and find the mounds of food that are most appealing to you! That’s what I do! (The Breakfast Shed is located off of Wrightson Road and adjacent to the gov’t complex in the International Waterfront Center).

I’ll end this post with a youtube video I found of an American travel journalist who visited the Breakfast Shed. Check it out! It’s so strange hearing an American talking about callaloo and pelau. haha..

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My second foray into Downtown

So, I had to go into Downtown POS today to sort out some documents and decided to take the opportunity to explore the area a little bit more. A few weeks ago, was my first time EVER walking through the streets of Downtown POS..I wrote a post about it..and the responses I got were rather interesting.. They ranged from “Yeah, Downtown isn’t that bad at all, I can’t believe it took you so long to visit!” to.. “Girl you’re lucky you didn’t get attacked!

Honestly, I don’t understand the negative perception of Downtown..I mean, ok there are certain areas that are ‘rougher’ than others, but on the whole I think the area is generally safe..and full of historical landmarks! The Government should  really considering running a campaign aimed at restoring the area in the minds of the public (or, rather, those people who hold negative perceptions about the area)..I mean, walking through the promenade is so..nice..and peaceful. It’s a shame more people don’t take advantage of it.

In Miami, I used to spend many weekends going to outdoor art/fashion street festivals where local vendors would sell their work. The Brian Lara Promenade would be the perfect venue for such a festival. Don’t you think?

Anywayyy,,until then,..enjoy a few photos I took on my second foray into Downtown.. :D

Downtown POS

Snapshot of buildings in Downtown POS

Downtown POS

home of The Guardian Newspaper

Downtown POS

Walking along Brian Lara Promenade

Downtown POS

Art along the Promenade

Downtown POS

Checkers anyone? I love these types of installments that encourage people to get together,,and socialize..outside.

Downtown POS

Close up of the Brian Lara statue.

Downtown POS

A little more about the Princes of Port of Spain

Downtown POS

Newspaper vendor outside of The Guardian

Downtown POS

A mural on the TSTT building

Downtown POS

Downtown POS

What do you think should be done to change the negative perception of Downtown in the minds of (some) people?

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Carnival’s cultural regression

While everyone and their granny was at Pan on Sunday, I was at home,,watching this documentary on “The Other Side of Carnival.” In the first few minutes of the documentary, a woman takes to the streets – asking people about the historical roots of Carnival. Their answers are nothing short of appalling.

“I don’t know how it came about and what it is. To me it’s just people in the road, jumping up, wining, gyrating themselves listening to soca music.”

“I don’t know, I wasn’t there. The message today is that the women are becoming more nudist and stuff. I can’t tell you the message long ago.”

The documentary then goes on to discuss some of the side-effects of carnival that many people overlook – unplanned pregnancies, STD’s, Carnival’s effect on workforce productivity..and how Carnival as we know it today has completely forsaken most of its cultural/historical roots..in favor of commercialization.

“Costumes (for women) keep getting smaller, while prices keep getting higher. In the future, I see women playing Carnival topless.” – one UWI Lecturer remarks.

“The Other Side of Carnival” is a fantastic documentary well worth the watch.

Synopsis:

“The Other Side of Carnival is a 45-minute documentary (by Charyesse Harper) that explores Carnival’s social and economic impact on Trinidad & Tobago.

With more than 60 interviews from professors, medical staff, police officers, government officials, students, tourists, every day locals and more, The Other Side of Carnival is able to highlight that while Carnival is an exciting occasion, it is a festival that creates turmoil, which is not widely visible…or is it just simply ignored?

Known as “The Greatest Show on Earth” by the citizens, this documentary captures the roots of Carnival and how far some go to keep the original idea alive, and how others attempt to integrate change.

Consummating over two years of research and interviews and with the coordination of a multi-national crew (Trinidad & Tobago, US and UK), The Other Side of Carnival does not pass judgment on Carnival in Trinidad & Tobago, but aims to bring an awareness of the type of influence that Carnival has on the population.”

Credit to dbandwagonist for posting this documentary first. :)

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I’m Santana B*tch!

I’ve had a thing for puppets ever since I discovered Jeff Dunham a couple of years back..

and it was only recently that I found Trinidad had a puppet series of its own – Santana – created by Roger Alexis… One of my colleagues at work has the Narine ‘making love’ ringtone on her phone (when it comes to making love i is d bessss lol) and when I asked her about it, she said, “You doh know Santana? Where yuh been living girl?”

Obviously, under a rock.

source

The popular puppet short film series, Santana, became an instant Internet sensation two years ago, appealing to viewers across the globe. source What started as a sock with some holes in it and a friend’s video camera, quickly grew into the  Santana series as people couldn’t get enough of Alexis’ work. To perfect his craft, Alexis went to UWI at the age of 35 where he did a bachelors degree in Film Production. In an interview by Outlish Magazine, Alexis had this to say, “In the past people would tell me I’s a black boy. Film in the past was for de white boys. I see myself as a human being. I do all the tings I like to do. I scuba dive. I like hiking. I like outdoor stuff. I love filmmaking. So I do it.” To read the entire interview on Alexis, click here.

I haven’t watched all of the videos..but I think Sookdeo is my favorite character so far. He’s such a badass!

Sookdeo Santana

My boy Sookdeo

source

Don’t know why he isn’t on the character list on the  lexo.tv website..!!

source

And last week, Alexis had the premier of his first movie based on the series of Santana short films! Congrats Roger..that’s huge.

source

According to an article in the Guardian, Alexis is “the next big thing in the local film industry after proving himself with his first movie. Last Wednesday evening, media and fans got the chance to view the highly-anticipated premiere at Caribbean Cinemas 8, Trincity Mall, Trincity. Three earlier screenings of the movie that day were sold out. From the time the show began, laughter erupted from members of the audience, who were clearly familiar with all the characters, as they shouted out things like: “Buh what happen to Narine. He real dottish eh?”and “Ogosh, Patsy yuh bad girl!”

So yeah,, as part of my ‘cultural education’ I have enlisted a couple of friends and colleagues to join me in watching the “I’m Santana” movie sometime this week!

Bulletin! As I was writing this my colleauge came in my office to tell me that MovieTowne (one of the biggest entertainment/cinemas in the Caribbean)  has refused to screen the “I’m Santana” movie. I can’t find an official statement by MovieTowne explaining why they chose to adopt this stance..but it’s a sad day indeed when a Caribbean cinema chain chooses to screen international blockbusters instead of supporting local talent! SMFH!

MovieTowne refuses to screen Santana

Some of the Santana characters take a picture in front of MovieTowne in protest.

source

And lexo.tv Facebook fans are disgusted at MovieTowne’s actions..and rightly so!

I share their sentiments..It's incredible that the media hasn't picked this up already..I wonder why??!!!

“I’m Santana” is showing at the Digicel IMAX Theatre and Caribbean Cinemas 8..for showtimes click here and here.

Support the local film industry and go and see it!

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