My First Three Carnival Lessons



Hi, Soca-lovers!


Do you remember my first blog about how I ended up living in T&T? Well, to be honest with you, this was only the short version. I left out a little detail, sorry. I guess you can’t give out all the juicy details at once.


Really what made me want to go and STAY in Trinidad was my very first trip to the island, which was – of course – a carnival trip. About 6 years ago, I had met a really cool Rasta chick called Jo during a vacation in Jamaica. Jo does media and works a lot in Trinidad, and she invited me to come down for carnival. During that time, I lived in Panama, and I figured it would be perfect timing since I didn´t know anyone in Trinidad yet, and I would be in a group of Trinis. She organized for me to stay at her friend Colin’s place, another peaceful Puncheon-loving Rasta who limes the days and nights away like no other. Puncheon (for those who don’t know) is the strongest rum you can find anywhere on the island, and every single Trinidadian has at least one Puncheon-story to tell that brought them close to death, which is usually the reason why they don’t drink it anymore….except Colin and his friends.


My close-to-death experience was on my first day in Trinidad, when I was willingly forced to drink a shot of Puncheon (don’t do it, kids). On the same night, I was escorted to the Avenue by several protective Trinis for a casual pre-carnival lime (it’s not like there is a single Trinidadian who is NOT protective). The Avenue is probably THE most popular street in Trinidad. I was brought to an open-space-type-of bar / club called La Habana. At that time, La Habana was popular as a street-liming-spot rather than an indoor club, and especially men liked the company of the Spanish prostitutes which the place was famous for.


There, in front of La Habana, Colin gave me my first important carnival lesson:

“Benita, if you want to say that you have experienced Trinidad carnival, you need to do at least 3 things!”

I acted scared, but really, I wasn’t afraid of anything anymore after having survived a shot of Puncheon. “First, you need to block the Avenue!”. Blockingmeaning: you wine in the middle of the road so cars cannot pass. Although I thought it’s kind of a strange thing to do, I grabbed Colin, pulled him onto the middle of the Avenue, and started to wine on him. Soon the mix of honking cars and “Look at whitey bai!” started, and I enjoyed the moment as I knew I was ticking off Number 1 on the list of things I really really needed to do on this island.


Back in front of La Habana, Colin revealed secret Number 2 on Must-Do’sduring Trinidad carnival: “Benita, you also need to wine on a car!”. I also didn’t really get the point of this yet, but my ambitious inner self selected the next best car passing the Avenue and my feet started to move towards it (mentally I am already flinging up my leg). When Colin saw me approaching the big, black government SUV he yelled “NO, STOP! Not THIS car”. I asked for instructions because I really didn’t get the dynamics of this car-wining game yet. “Benita, you need to study the car… look at the driver, is it a guy or a girl? Or a guy with a girl? And look at the type of car! But NEVER wine on ah government car, and doh wine on cars with gyals in it, yuh lookin for problems!”. No problem, so the safe cars are the ones with mostly men inside, which are preferably not government officials. Miss Rose then wined on her first car on the Avenue, and proudly ticked off Number 2 on the list. “Numba Tree yuh cyah do yet. We hadda wait for dis one”. And a day or two passed before I could finally convert the Must Do’sto Been There, Done That.


People, remember I said you can’t give out all the juicy details at once? Stay tuned for “Numba Tree”, on the next episode!


Much love,

Miss Rose


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