What if it Happened to You?

Sunday evening at about 6:33 pm (plus or minus a few seconds), the Evacuate Building Alarm in our apartment BLARED. By BLARE, I do not mean the annoying cricket sound of your household smoke alarm.

I mean foghorn blasting—BAAA-BAAA-BAAA-BAAA-BAAA—directly into our ears, Like this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3aNx-mAq0Hg

While our apartment building alarm does not come complete with a recorded “Please evacuate this building” message as does this Utube example, it registered loud and clear. Years of school  fire drill practices, and two personal housefire experiences, kicked in.  

I grabbed my purse, passports, Curtis (who wasn’t at all happy about being yanked away from his computer) and walked the seven flights downstairs and directly out the front door as we had been taught to do in all those school daze fire drills.

   Hmmm Pirates of the Caribbean marauders might be welcome...

Hmmm Pirates of the Caribbean marauders might be welcome...

Of course, we were thinking—hoping--it was probably a false alarm. And, a part of us wondered if marauders were attaching the building again. Yes, marauders!

Our building stands at the edge of the sea, overlooking usually calm, innocuous, Gulf of Paria. A few years back, so the story goes (Curtis and I happened to be away at the time, but this is what Mimi & Brian told us): In the dead of night, marauders in boats—pirates perchance, drug runners more likely—tried to storm our building. Our keen eyed security guards spotted the approaching boats, threw on all the floodlights and set off the alarms, thus frightening the marauders away. Hooray!

   View from our balcony

View from our balcony

Needless to say, although my ears were plugged (Curtis’s weren’t…do not ask me why?), all senses were on high alert as we cautiously, quickly, yet calmly made our way down all those many flights. Here’s the weird thing: although ours is the central staircase in the building and each floor has about 10 apartments, we were the only people walking down.  Are we the only ones home this Sunday evening? I wondered. Could this be only a test of our Emergency Alarm System and everyone in the building but us had received the memo and thus were ignoring it? Did they know something we didn’t know?

Finally, as we rounded the 4th floor landing, we encountered a couple. “What’s happening?” They asked (I think. I did not unplug my ears to find out). “That’s the evacuation alarm,” I said, it what I know was my duh, what do you think, dummy voice, and continued onto the next flight down, hoping they’d follow our example.

The elder Chinese woman who lives on the 2nd floor and knows every single thing going on, was instead of leaving, walking back into her apartment when we rounded that curve, which made us think that it was indeed a false alarm. But there was no way we were going to back down—or, in this case, back up, especially as at the back up at this points was 6 flights.

The Emergency Alarm was still BLARING as we excited. After walking a safe distance from the building, we looked up to see what we could see.  The building wasn’t practically deserted. Far from it. Rather than evacuating, most of the occupants of the other apartments were hanging over the walkway railing, looking around and down, craning their necks to see what the heck was going on?

  Think all these other apartments come equipped with rope ladders for emergency evacuation?

Think all these other apartments come equipped with rope ladders for emergency evacuation?

Watching them, watching us and each other and wondering, all I could think of was What if? Visions of Twin Tower victims jumping to escape the flames, of the balcony in Berkeley collapsing, of the earthquake damage in Kathmandu, of so many tragedies flashed through my mind.

As suddenly as it has sounded, the Emergency alarm stopped. With the residual siren still ringing in our ears, Curtis and I stood outside for a time. A few families, with children in pajamas, came strolling back into the apartment complex. They, more obedient that we, even, must have gathered at the Muster Point as per evacuation protocol. They smiled and nodded as they passed and we did too, all of us feeling as though we'd earned high marks on a pop quiz of sorts. This time, the Emergency Alarm had been only a test. But, What if

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Find a Penny: Pick It Up? Or???

Who knew it was a cultural thing? I'm just back in Port of Spain from some time in Manhattan which might be why I'm noticing things I hadn't before...or had and forgotten. Such as pennies on the ground. I'd never noticed so many pennies on the ground before.

Find a penny, pick it up. All day long you’ll have good luck

You don't see many coins on the ground in Manhattan. If you do, they are usually in front of a street person who's stacking them, counting them, or otherwise keeping close watch on them while hoping they'll multiply.

 One of "Harts Band" Carnival Costumes

One of "Harts Band" Carnival Costumes

It's pre-Carnival in Trinidad, which means:

Steel Pan Bands are practicing in every pan yard, roadsides and on the Savannah,  boisterously & loudly.

Everywhere, every night--parks, stadiums, parishes, neighborhoods--are fetes.

Folks who don't like parties, Soka music blaring from thumping speakers, being "on de road" playing Carnival, are packing up.

And gyms are crowded cause everyone's on a post holiday tone-up in preparation for squeezing into their carnival costumes.

 If this were your Carnival Costume, wouldn't you be hitting the gym?

If this were your Carnival Costume, wouldn't you be hitting the gym?

Saturday night, Curtis and I attended the Victoria Garden Fete. Upon hearing "Fete" and "Victoria Garden" together, you might imagine this:

Trinidad's "Victoria Garden" Fete is like this by daylight.

 That's our friend Jann in the center. (This is actually a Moka Fete. I couldn't access our Victoria Garden pics. But the scene is much the same.)

That's our friend Jann in the center. (This is actually a Moka Fete. I couldn't access our Victoria Garden pics. But the scene is much the same.)

After nightfall, once the band's warmed up, it's like this:

Back to the pennies: It was closing in on nightfall when I spotted a crumbled wad of money on the ground near one of the drinks tents. Not pennies, bills. TT dollars are colorful: pink, purple, blue. Unlike US greenbacks, they couldn't be camouflaged by the lawn. The fete, while crowded, was not that crowded... No way could I have been the only person to spot the wad. Yet no one else stooped to pick them up. Why?

Expecting I might be on Candid Camera, that the wad of bills must be attached to an invisible string everyone else knew about, that as soon as I reached for it the wad would be jerked away, but too frugal to ignore found money, I scooped it up. Then looked around, expecting someone to have seen me. Or to be looking around for their lost bankroll. To say something...

 I unfolded the bills. They looked real enough. Not play money or coupons. Then quickly, without counting it, I handed it to a gal working in the drinks tent. "Someone dropped this," I explained. 

She was clearly taken aback. Thinking she was thinking I was looney for giving away money, I shrugged it off and hurried off to catch up with Curtis and our friends.

Of course, hawk-eye Curtis, had seen the entire exchanged. So, I explained to him and our friends, how I'd found it. The woman we were with looked horrified.

"Oh, NO!" She said. "NEVER pick up money."

Trini superstition, it turns out, has it that lost money carries the bad luck "mojo" of whomever lost it. Thus, by picking money up off the ground, one could also pick up the bad mojo it carried.

Find a penny pick it up; forever after your day will suck.

Was it true? Do superstitions cross borders? Or do we carry them with us? Is it you believe your way and I believe mine? Or is it more "When in Rome-ish"?

Getting to the point: Does picking up a found penny--or dollars--bring good luck? Or were the rest of my days going to suck?

In hindsight, if I had it to do over again, I'm still not sure what I would have done. What about you?

What of the fate of the woman working in the drinks tent? By giving her the crumpled wad of cash had I, albeit unwittingly, cursed her with bad luck mojo, too?

My friend laughed. "She didn't pick it up. You did!"

Ahhh so that's how it works. Culture counts.

Find a Penny Playlist:

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Thanks for the Memories

Thanksgiving, for me, begins with pie. P-I-E, pie. Not so much for the eating, as for the making of pies. For with the pie making come the memories.

 Cherry, pumpkin, apple, pecan . . .  Just saying the word, as the song goes,  "Makes my eyes light up/My tummy say 'howdy'!"- from Shoo-fly Pie and Apple Pan Dowdie

Cherry, pumpkin, apple, pecan . . . Just saying the word, as the song goes, "Makes my eyes light up/My tummy say 'howdy'!"- from Shoo-fly Pie and Apple Pan Dowdie

The memories begin creeping in while I’m writing my grocery list: apples, pecans, cranberries, canned pumpkin, corn syrup, pie spices, sugar, flour, shortening. . .  American Thanksgiving is a feast in celebration of North American foods gathered at the first harvest. So it follows that American Thanksgiving foods are cooked from ingredients grown, produced, and readily available in North America.

How many hours did I spend going store to store in Indonesia searching for those same unheard of items? Explaining cranberry sauce and pecans to the Indonesian custom officers; baking my first fresh pumpkin pie; the barrage of text messages heralding “Ranch Market has Crisco!”

How I would have welcomed that text as I drove from shop to shop, round and round Port-of-Spain and surrounds, Tuesday. Trinidad stores are well-stocked and carry all manner of imported goods.  I’d worried some, about finding a nice turkey, but never dreamed I’d spend hours searching for ground cloves and shortening, lard, or TT equivalent. 

 Shona and Charles lugged these blocks from New York to Turks & Caicos, Trinidad, Houston, and the 1000s of milesback to Port Alfred just so they'd grace their South African Thanksgiving.

Shona and Charles lugged these blocks from New York to Turks & Caicos, Trinidad, Houston, and the 1000s of milesback to Port Alfred just so they'd grace their South African Thanksgiving.

  Nanny, my grandmother, in 1981. Nanny always used Crisco brand shortening. Nanny would say she wasn’t much of a cook, (although, aside from red meat which she liked cooked until it was “tough as shoe leather” everyone disagreed; and no one ever left her table dissatisfied) & she made glorious pies. 

Nanny, my grandmother, in 1981. Nanny always used Crisco brand shortening. Nanny would say she wasn’t much of a cook, (although, aside from red meat which she liked cooked until it was “tough as shoe leather” everyone disagreed; and no one ever left her table dissatisfied) & she made glorious pies. 

 Hand written recipes are pure gold. A smudge of chocolate here, a crusty bit there, memories of the dear ones who wrote them on every card.

Hand written recipes are pure gold. A smudge of chocolate here, a crusty bit there, memories of the dear ones who wrote them on every card.

 My go-to cookbook and recipe folder, taped together and stuffed with hand-written recipes from my grandmother, my mom, their friends, my 10 year-old scratch. 

My go-to cookbook and recipe folder, taped together and stuffed with hand-written recipes from my grandmother, my mom, their friends, my 10 year-old scratch. 

From the time I was big enough to stand with my chin over the edge of the table, I helped. (Before that, the story goes, Nanny plopped me in the highchair with a blob of pie dough. I’d merrily mush and masticate while she rolled & baked.) She who capitalized the "P" in perfectionist, didn't allow anyone to interfere with the making of her pie. However, when the last pie was in the oven, training time--fun time--began. Nanny'd turn the rolling pin over to me.

  I’d roll it, smear on a layer of butter, sprinkle on sugar and cinnamon, roll the dough into a long tube, cut it into bite-sized pieces and bake. We call these pie-twists. I taught my daughter to make them. And yesterday, Mimi and I used the last of the dough to make pie-twists, too. It’s what we do.

 I’d roll it, smear on a layer of butter, sprinkle on sugar and cinnamon, roll the dough into a long tube, cut it into bite-sized pieces and bake. We call these pie-twists. I taught my daughter to make them. And yesterday, Mimi and I used the last of the dough to make pie-twists, too. It’s what we do.

Mimi, my neifrie (upstairs neighbor & friend) came over yesterday while I baked pies. Not to “get in my way” she assured me, but more to watch and keep me company. Before Mimi arrived, I was kind-of, sort-of . . . a lot nervous.  Even with several batches of my secret weapon, Nanny’s Never Fail Pie Crust, chilling in the fridge, things could go wrong. I prefer to “make corrections” without witnesses. . .

 Who'd a thunk a chilled bottle of rum punch serving as rolling pin could result in such a fine lattice work top for a cherry pie? Adele, my mom-in-law gifted me with the bottle her grandmother used as a rolling pin. 

Who'd a thunk a chilled bottle of rum punch serving as rolling pin could result in such a fine lattice work top for a cherry pie? Adele, my mom-in-law gifted me with the bottle her grandmother used as a rolling pin. 

We made a grand pie making adventure of it yesterday, Mimi and me. Mimi measured and mixed, stirred and washed while I rolled and crimped and fussed over each crust. Into each pie, along with the sugar and spice, fruit, flour and TT shortening substitute, we stirred memories—wisps of every holiday past and every person of them: my nanny, her mom and mine, our kids, our friends, our lives.  

Thanks for the memories!

happy-thanksgiving-8.jpg

Sunday “Morn’n Morn’n” Trini-Style

How quickly new becomes norm.  . .  Our Sunday morning routine, for example. It came about as a form of penance. One Sunday morning we decided to pay for our night before indulgence with a hike up Lady Chancellor Hill, a long, shady, winding road rising up from the city of Port-of-Spain. 

It’s named for Lady Sylvia Chancellor who “was born the year Queen Victoria died”, 1901. From what I could dig up, Lady Sylvia was a philanthropist who lived and died in England, so I have no clue why the hill is named for her, except that her obituary said she was a “tough” old bird and her hill, 3.2 k long with an ascent of 600 feet from base to look-out, is a “tough” old hill.

 On a clear morning the view from the look-out is spec-tac-u-lar!

On a clear morning the view from the look-out is spec-tac-u-lar!

 It has to be way early Sunday,  don't ya know , for the road through St. James to be this empty.  

It has to be way early Sunday, don't ya know, for the road through St. James to be this empty.
 

On the drive to "the Hill"—either to fortify himself and/or postpone the impending punishment—Curtis pulled up beside a road-side stand in St. James selling “doubles.”

 Vendors wake in the wee hours to cook up a batch of curried chickpeas and fry up stacks of bread for the day. 

Vendors wake in the wee hours to cook up a batch of curried chickpeas and fry up stacks of bread for the day. 

 Popular  doubles  vendors will have a crowd around. "One for here, one for take-away" and they sell out early.

Popular doubles vendors will have a crowd around. "One for here, one for take-away" and they sell out early.

  Doubles sauces include mango, shado beni (a green sauce made from a cilantro-like herb), tamarind, and pepper sauce, if desired (I like it “slight” meaning a dash, Curtis likes more)

Doubles sauces include mango, shado beni (a green sauce made from a cilantro-like herb), tamarind, and pepper sauce, if desired (I like it “slight” meaning a dash, Curtis likes more)

 Wrapped and twisted in wax paper, my doubles ready to take-away

Wrapped and twisted in wax paper, my doubles ready to take-away

Doubles is? are?* hands down and dripping with sauce, the most popular Trinidadian street food. A "doubles" is a curried chickpea sandwich, really, but so much more: a shot-put sized round of flat bread, called “bara” is topped with a dollop of curried chick peas, splashed with sauces, and a second “bara” is placed on top.

According to Wikipedia (my go-to source for quick info) “Doubles was invented in Princes Town, Trinidad by “Emamool Deen (a.k.a. Mamoodeen) and his wife Rasulan in 1936.” They started by topping a single round of bara with curried chickpeas. However, customers would ask them to “double the bara, hence the name ‘doubles’ evolved” 

We bought a couple of doubles (2 for $8, about $1.30 U.S.) drove part-way up the hill to the Horticulture Society parking lot, sat on the edge of a planter, gobbled down our doubles, then hiked the hill.

The next Sunday we did it again. And now it’s “what we do.”

While we walk/climb/creep up Lady Chancellor, because  "Trinis", Trinidadians,  we pass, regardless of age or how winded, calls out “Morn’n Morn’n!” or “Guh-day! Guh-day” always two times—doubles—we do that too.

“Morn’n Morn’n!

* Is they is or is they are? My friebor Brian pointed out that doubles singular or plural is still doubles

Trinidad State of Mind

What inspires: The Trinidad State of Mind In Trinidad, "liming" is socializing; "wining" is dancing; both are national pastimes. And, I've noticed, although no longer property of the British Empire, residents still adhere to the motto "Keep Calm and Carry On."  TT whining Unlike in England, however, in a distinctly Trini way, the compound phrase has been split. Sometimes Trini's "keep calm" in the face of hardship, sometimes they "carry on".

And when the situation calls for it, as it did yesterday, Trinis do both!

Each weekend, thumping and bumping party boats set off from Port-of Spain on Trini-style versions of Gilligan's "Three Hour Tours." Packed with revelers intent on pursuing the national pastimes these "Booze Cruises" make their way "Down de Islands" (DDI for short), and back. TT booze cruise party boat Yesterday, being a usual Sunday afternoon, the air should have been alive with the sound of party boat revelry. But it wasn't. This morning, our friend and upstairs neighbor, Brian, sent news why. The usual Sunday afternoon party boat--aptly named the Harbour Master--packed with 504 passangers, ran aground. Seems whoever was at the helm failed to master his way around an artificial reef.

Imagining the scene, you might picture mayhem, bedlam, chaos . . . At the very least wailing, weeping, and threats of law suit. I did... But that is not the Trini way. TTS Hummingbird Among the passengers on board was a 25-year-old celebrating her birthday. Cassandra noted how the boat suddenly stopped and whoa-is-she "spilled her drink." She went on to say "The party continued and even when I left there there were still people dancing on the boat but we never felt unsafe....she and her friends never felt that they were in any danger since the lights of the capital were clearly visible." The owner of the boat seemed similarly unconcerned. He planned to wait for the next high tide and see what happened... Cassandra said, “This is Trinidad." Keep Calm and Carry On.

Here's the link to Trinidad Express story: http://www.trinidadexpress.com/news/540-rescued-220137561.html

Cooking Up Awareness

Have you noticed airport cultural diversity campaigns? Those corridors lined with posters show the same image with different definitions or different images with the same definition?

It makes the walk down gangways more interesting, definitely. And the message is delivered, clearly. But it’s nowhere near as effective as say, cooking a batch of barley.

It’s a happy little cook-a-thon afternoon. The music is playing, pots are bubbling and I’m dicing and slicing. Caught up in the joy of it all, I decided to cook up a batch of pearl barley. Those grains are just so darn good for you… The bag had been calling from the cupboard for a while.

While living in Indonesia, we always kept our grain products, pasta, flours, spices, grains, seeds, nuts… in the freezer to keep them from becoming bug food. We did the same when I was a kid in Huntington Beach—after big brother Joe and I whipped up and ate a batch of whole-wheat flour chocolate chip and weevil cookies.

In Trinidad, no one has warned us about bug issues with food storage. Sure it’s humid and hot and tropical—but it’s air-conditioned, a veritable fridge. So I didn’t think we had to freeze any of that stuff. Instead, I’ve been stuffing our freezer with important things: frozen margaritas, the corksicle, protein & chocolate bars!

Barley just takes so darn long to cook: 40 to 50 minutes. Caught up in cook-a-thon mania I’d decided to rescue the bag of pearl barley from the cupboard. Once I’d committed myself to putting in the time, I decided to do it right. Why mess around with cooking a few portions of barley when in the same amount of time I could cook a batch—all 50 some portions. (Where is that Food for 50 Cookbook anyway, John???)  Once it was cooled, I planned to season some up for eating today, then bag it, tag it, and pop the rest into the freezer to use in quick meals ahead. Rachael & Martha got nothing on me!

So, I dumped the whole box of pearl barley into a colander, gave it a good rinsing, clicked onto the Internet to find out the proper proportions of barley to water and cooking time, and got to it. Now if barley is good, wouldn’t barley with protein be better? That’s what I figured, too. So I added a couple more cups of water to the pot, set the timer for 20 minutes and measured out a cup of quinoa to add during the last half of the barley cooking time.

Fifty minutes later, I dipped out a spoonful for tasting. Blew on it. Chewed and called it done-and delish! I spooned it into a shallow 9x12 dish so it would cool faster and not cook more—no self-respecting cook wants over-cooked barley-quinoa blend—and went on about my way.

What the heck is quinoa—pronounced keen-wha! as in “how cool is this”—anyway? How come I had never heard of it until recently? It’s like those mysterious fish species that suddenly show up and fall off restaurant menus. Where have all the orange roughy gone?/Long time passing/How did all the tilapia and monk fish come?/Not long ago-oooooo/Oh will I ever learn?/O will I ev-ver learn… I’d never actually, for sure, definitively, held a quinoa, let alone cooked one before. Yes! of course, I’d eaten them (it?)… But always mixed in something else, usually a medley of grains, herbs and chopped veggies. So how was I to know what it (they?) would look like cooked?

Curtis moseyed into the kitchen around hungry time. While he was making his sandwich, he gave the dish of barley-quinoa, fiber & protein-enriched goodness a few stirs (and maybe a taste test or two) . . . it was after that that I took a good—then better—look.

Maybe when it (they?) cook, quinoa balls split apart and turn into little squiggles that look like half parenthesis or fingernail clippings? And maybe not . . .

Maybe quinoa stays in perfect tiny protein packed ball-shapes. And what, upon closer inspection, looked like baby pearl barley were (was?) quinoa. In that case . . .

What were those cute little half-parenthesis or fingernail clipping looking squiggles? They definitely look like worms. And didn’t one or two of them wiggle? (Which, if they did means they can withstand boiling then simmering for 50 minutes and survivalists ought to collect them for analysis.)

Had I, unknowingly, prepared a super, doubly-protein packed blend? One I might be able to sell to Atkins aficionados? Or, with a little effort, identify the optimal barley worm cultivating environment much the same way the Asmat of Papua have learned to cultivate sego palm worms. The WHO would surely award me some kind of metal for my efforts, wouldn’t they? (Not the musicians; the organization...although I wouldn’t mind meeting Roger-Baby.)

If this had been one of those power outage times when we operate by candlelight… or if I were in an unplug and tune in: let’s eat on the patio beneath the moon moods…or if we were in Papua or Pipette or some such exotic-sounding protein-deficient locale, that batch of super protein packed barley-worm-quinoa blend might well have been dressed, served and joyfully consumed.

But it wasn’t, I’m not, and we don’t—not that there’s anything wrong with it.

Need a Protein Boost?-Look Closer . . .

 

 

 

SO FAR AND YET SO CLOSE . . .

** I can’t just push on with my usual day and let my guests fend for themselves, can I? Especially not in Trinidad where they can’t drive, the only place close enough to walk to is the mall—or around in a circle, and if they leave the building without a “fob” (of which there are only 2) they’ll be locked out forever and have to sleep under a car and catch a long green lawn lizard for lunch . . . What sort of host would that brand me?

Recently . . . okay, last October, sis-in-law Marilyn came to visit. I placed the TT Travel Guide on her bedside table, handed her a pad of sticky-notes and told her we could go anywhere in the book she wanted. (Being new to Trinidad myself, I’d never been anywhere in the book, either, so it would be an adventure for both of us.)

Yes, I did warn Marilyn that I’d already suffered 2 flat tires, run out of gas and driven on the wrong side of the street more than once, as well as the wrong way down a one-way. . .  Eternally “yar,” Marilyn rose to the challenge.

Our first few outings were timid enough: jaunts around town; up up up a scenic hill; over and around the mountains to the beach…on a narrow, shoulderless pitted roads . . . during a rainstorm. . . .

On the day of our last outing, Marilyn flipped to a sticky note which directed us South on the highway to a Hindu Temple, “Waterloo Temple in the Sea.” At high tide it’s surrounded by water; at low tide by mud flats. It serves as testament to Sewdas Sadhu, who built it, “single-handedly”--spell check doesn't like this word apparently, it suggested: highhandedly, underhandedly, offhandedly, evenhandedly--over a 25 year period, by carrying stones on his bicycles and preparing and dumping bucket after bucket of concrete on the seafloor at low tide to build the foundation.

According to the book, the way to the temple seemed fairly straight forward---it was NOT!  Others might have been tempted to turn back. Not us! If Sadhu could do what he did, we could, with air-conditioned confidence, find it!

Good thing we passed a “doubles” vendor on the side of the road, and hostess mindedness—and tummy growls—compelled me to crank a U-turn so Marilyn could try one of these fist-sized gloppy curried chick peas-drizzled-with-chutney-cucumber-and-pepper sauce (if desired)-sandwiched in fry bread morsels or we might still be looking . . .

It was low tide and the scene around the temple island was mudflat and religious relics mired in muck. Not the most photogenic, but inspiring none-the-less as they reminded Marilyn of something more she’d read in the guide book—the Chaguananas Pottery makers, where red clay is fashioned into all manner of pottery and fired in open wood-fueled kilns.

Although Southeast Asia is far from Trinidad—on the other side of the world--our visit to  Benny’s Pottery Works, “the oldest and most famous” of the traditional pottery workshops transported me right back to Java or India or Nepal. . . The methods are the same. The workers possess the same wiry builds, same stance with cigarettes dangling from their mouth, same quickness and expertise.

So far and yet  close . . .

*I’ll only say this one time, never again, and only way down here at the bottom of the post. So if you’ve read this far, this is to you: Forgive me for slacking on the blogging. Truth is I've been so busy "filling my writer's well" (as my friend Richard Harnett puts it) I haven't taken time to blog. Stick with me, I'll be better about it, promise???

If the Right Side's the Wrong Side What's Left?

So what if it meant driving on the other side of the road, in a strange car…I didn’t think driving in Trinidad would be a big deal. I drive rental cars in strange cities all the time. For the past 7 years I’ve been riding behind the driver on the wrong side of the road in Indonesia. That would get a person used to that side of the road, wouldn’t it? But everyone else said it would be a big deal. And then they started making a big deal out of me not having driven yet. So…

Thursday I bit the bullet and dragged myself out of bed when the alarm buzzed—before light—so I could drive Curtis to work. You know how those “brilliant” ideas sound so good the night before… I packed my walking shoes so I could drop him, walk the Savannah and be home before my usual morning even began. The Savannah is a circular park across the street from the BPTT Office (BP Trinidad). FYI: At 3 miles-around, it’s the largest round-about in the world (Guinness Book of World Records concurs.)

Traffic circles the Savannah one way, thus eliminating concerns about which way to set off. It’s a simple matter of going with the flow—and if need be, keep going around and around— until I became accustomed enough with driving from the passenger side to attempt turning onto a 2-way.  Surely the 3 miles once around the Savannah would be enough?

It’s not just a matter of driving on the opposite side of the road; the driver also sits on the other side of the car. In theory, driving from the passenger side seems simple. Don’t we all mentally drive when riding shotgun? What you don’t think about is the feeling of having cars so close to your right side when you’ve always driven with the traffic close on the left. Maybe it’s knowing if you stick your head a little too far out the driver’s side window an oncoming car could easily rip it right off with its side mirror….

The entire instrument panel is flipped, so the radio are on the other side, the gear control is on the other side, and, as I discovered when I flipped the indicator to signal I was pulling out, so is the windshield wiper lever. If this is any indication, I’m  going to have a very clean windshield.