Trinidad + Tobago Carnival 2013

 

Trinidad and Tobago Carnival was not a part of the itinerary (as many other places so far), but after being convinced by my new danish friends Tabi(tha) and Tina my stay was extended and I agreed on coming along. The girls had met a local guide in Tobago named Daryl (aka. Sprout when in the hood), who had invited them along to Carnival in Trinidad in the second largest city of the island called San Fernando. The largest city is Port-of-Spain and it has the largest and most hectic Carnival celebrations. By going to San Fernando for the Celebrations Sprout promised us we would get a more real and local experience of the carnival and we would most likely be the only white people around.

Daryl had a tight schedule put together for us so we would experience as much as possible. Carnival celebrations are normally on monday and tuesday, but we left Tobago with the ferry early saturday morning to get to Trinidad early in order to see the city of San Fernando and the kids carnival before hell would break lose with the real carnival.

The plan for us was to be accommodated in the appartment of Daryls sister – we didn’t now what to expect but we would soon find out.

The most of the first day was spent walking around in San Fernando. The girls wanted to do some costume shopping for the Carnival, so we were dragged around in the shops, where we among other things ended up buying some sweet masks for the J’ouvert, which is a street party that kicks of the carnival and parades.

The carnival celebrations consists of the J’ouvert, parades on monday and tuesday, another street party called Midnight Mas and the final street party called las lap.

Street parties

Basically the street parties consists of big trucks heavily loaded with sound equipment blasting out this years Soca band hits (which is around 5 songs played on repeat). These trucks drive around the streets with  people walking and mostly dancing behind the truck belonging to their band. A band is not a music group but rather a “party gang” of people, which can be quite confusing when people talk of you or them being in a “band”.

Soca music

Soca music is the all time favourite music of the people in the East Caribbean and it has taken over from the Calypso tradition. More or less all Soca songs are about drinking rum, having sex, winnin’ and grindin’ (a kind of dance where you rub your ass against someones lap) and listening to Soca music. In my ears most of it is crap, but after hearing the same 5-10 songs on repeat for 6 weeks i ended up being brainwashed and liking it. Below is an example of one of the better Soca songs…

Accommodation

The accommodation was a bit of a unknown besides the host being the sister of Daryl and the price. It quickly turned out to be a mad house we would be staying in. The appartment was a 3 bedroom unit, where the sister, her little daughter Ta’shawna and baby boy, another brother and girlfriend and stepdad lived. For the carnival we would be 10 people in total staying in the appartment. Early on we found out that running water was only available in the morning due to low water pressure, resulting in a non-flushing toilet  and most baths from a bucket.

The sister had a little daughter of 6 years and a baby boy of 5 months. We were told by the little girl that their dad had been shot in front of their eyes. A lot of the time the mother was not around, leaving the girl to be entertained by us. It didn’t take us long to realise that the girl was cleptomanic and later on the girls found quite a few things missing from their bags.

We were the sister’s bedroom where the girls shared the queen size while I was a given a “nice” matress with a bizarre smell on the floor.

All in all the accommodation gave us an interesting insight into the social dynamics of Trinidad and Tobago family life. Many kids grow up only with one parent (either because of death, but mostly because dads won’t take responsibility), weed and alcohol is heavily consumed in front of the children, where many have sisters and brothers from different fathers.

One night we were all kept awake for hours because of a relationship argument grounded in jealousi and drunkeness, and the day after everyone acted as if nothing had happened – just day to day life in T&T.

 

Kids Carnival

The kids carnival lasted almost a whole day with the kids walking several kilometers behind trucks playing music so loud most of them must have hearing damage or at least temporary tinitus. The day would end in a finale where all the kids in costumes would enter stage and be judged for their performance and costume – most of them must have slept well that night.

J’ouvert

The J’ouvert street party kicks of monday morning at 5 am and continues til you pass out. Everybody goes crazy, dances to the Soca music played from the trucks and paint is smeared all around. Usually you join a band for the J’ouvert by buying a t-shirt or outfit. We skipped buying the outfit and tried to sneak into the one our hosts were in resulting in me being kicked out twice and getting lost from everybody else.

 

Midnight Mas

Midnight mass is another street party where everybody joins a band again by buying the official band t-shirt. This we were in and joined the party as it started at midnight between monday and tuesday after the first day of parades. The party continues until it gets shut down by the police around 3 or 4 o’clock am.

 

 Las lap 

The final street party which rounds of the carnival on tuesday after the last official parades. By now everybody is exhausted, but people are still dancing and drinking until midnight when everything shuts down and the years carnival is official finished.

After 4 days with many new impressions, social studies, a lot of party, walking and dancing we were game over as well. We were all feeling ready for heading back  to Tobago the next day for a week of relaxation before we would all leave these islands filled with contrasts and bizarre events.

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