Everything moves in circles, and if we're doing this life thing properly, it spirals. Upward. Reflected in the upper-9 spiral of our coily hair, reaching toward the heights is the projection.
It's Carnival here in Trinidad and Tobago. My and Dread's experiences surrounding the last three Carnivals clearly demonstrate, to me, real evolution regarding how we celebrate and spend our time. If we're moving forward in life, it should be reflected in how the outside world manifests!
My first Carnival was in 2012 when I came to join Dread for my first excursion to T&T. I remember my people in Chicago remarking how wild it was that I was taking a "22-day vacation," which was my original plan, only for it to extend by an extra 7 days because I found myself unable to leave the day after Carnival, which in that year was the 22nd of February.
That year was fun, but as it was my first go-round, I wasn't particularly prepared so some things were a hassle and draining- and nothing can prepare a first-timer but the experience itself. We went to the WASA Fete (basically a big pre-Carnival party with live performances by soca artists in an outdoor venue) and LEFT Point Fortin at midnight. I hadn't been mentally prepared for a 3-hour journey, so I became kinda irritated around the halfway point, waiting half an hour at 2 a.m. for a car to come and such. Then, to finally arrive at the Fete in the wee hours to witness the bacchanal was something else! People were POURING buckets of beer on their heads and the dutty wine pile-ups were 10+ people deep.
That same first year, for Carnival proper we found ourselves up in St. James, a neighborhood/district of the main town of Port of Spain. We stayed with our Trini bredrin Prizgar, who we knew from the other side back in Chicago. We'd come up to town Monday for the J'Ouvert parade, linked up with Prizgar, and ended up being out with him and crashing at his apartment. Carnival Tuesday kicked off at 5 a.m., and being that we were right on the main jump close to Ariapita Avenue (a bar-lined street with booming sound systems on every corner), there was no sleeping in; no rest for the wicked.
Being that I was still in this new Trinidad element and didn't know how to plan for myself (and hadn't expected to crash up in town), I didn't have a change of clothes and more importantly, I needed a tampon. We ended up trudging up, down all around in search of an open store, only to find NONE whatsoever-- very few businesses operate on Carnival Tues other than the bars. After making a huge circle around town (and many a napkin stuffed in my swimsuit bottoms), we came across an open pharmacy (a la Walgreens) one block away from Prizgar's abode, just behind his house in the opposite direction which we had traveled on foot. Oh the dramz!
The rest of the day was glorious, dancing and singing in the streets, but I wished I'd had a masquerade costume...or at the very least, not the same sweaty tank top and skirt I'd partied in the day before. I made up my mind that the following year I would do better.
And up my game I did.
For Carnival 2013, we did everything we could. On Fantastic Friday, Dread and I went up to town to attend the Soca Monarch Finals-- the official crowning of the two best soca artistes and songs for the year in two categories: Power Soca (bass, pumpin, crazy jump up chune) and Groovy Soca (melodic, bright, jammin chune).
It started around 9 pm, concluded at 3:30 am, then turned into a dancehall-- Jamaican dancehall kings PopCaan and Shaggy performed, which was an awesome surprise.
Around 5:30 we were ushered out of the venue. A few blocks down, we posted up by a curb and kinda dozed off on the grass for a catnap (only in Trinidad, I tell ya). The sun rose at 6 as usual, and we hung out til about 6:30 then made our way to the next party.
Smokey & Bunty, the wildest 24-hour bar on Ariapita Avenue, was going strong-- full of people who ain't stop. Music was blasting inside; a car parked outside attracted more revelers as well.
Austin Lyons, known as SuperBlue-- the newly crowned Soca Monarch whom we'd just witnessed win the at the concert for his chune "Fantastic Friday"-- showed up at Smoky & Bunty and the place went WILD. I looked at his face and knew he obviously didn't sleep either-- and I felt for him because what is it really like to be surrounded by a so many people manically touching you and wanting a piece? Comes with the territory, but is definitely exhausting.
From the bar, we headed to Independence Square to catch the children's Junior Carnival. I took a next nap outside, of course attracting questions from strangers: "Dat sun goh burn she! Why she sleep in d sun??"
We eventually made our way home Saturday afternoon. The next day we linked up with some family friends in Cedros (another southern borough near Point Fortin) for Sunday evening into J'Ouvert Monday.
Dread and I pulled ourselves out of bed at 4 a.m. Monday and took to the streets to get our paint on. Everyone was frost by 10 a.m. and Dread capsized by some stairs at the sistren's house, but we survived. Thrived, even. ;)
For Carnival Tuesday official, Dread and I made the two-hour journey up to Port of Spain by bus, and this time I was ready for d road.
We had a blast the first part of the morning, traversing amid the glorious, colorful people and immersing ourselves in the chaos of the sound trucks. There's no experience like a lineup of 15 music trucks all playing different soca chunes-- it's wild. Manic, even. But that's the energy.
In the mid-afternoon, our patna Ian and his queen, Merlyn, arrived to join us for the festivities. We posted up on the open field right near the main stage and made our own circle of bacchanal. Drinks were flowing and we got on BAD.
Eleven was conceived this night. ;)
Fast-forward to Carnival 2014 and this present strongend. Getting here to Tobago was no small easy feat, as thousands of people were trying to get on the ferry, and then to top it off, the Port Authority canceled one of the three scheduled sails for Saturday. After a 10-hour wait, we boarded and reached Tobago.
We chose to be here in Tobago for Carnival 2014 because of course, with four-moon new Eleven in tow, it didn't make sense to embark on HOURS-long travels from our Point home up to town where the action is. Being in Tobgao, the guest house we frequent on a near-monthly basis is less than a mile or so from the main drag of the capital town of Scarborough.
I've loved the Tobago vibes primarily because of its culture. Unlike Trinidad, which is a melting pot of mostly African/Indian with sprinkles of Chinese and a dot of whiteness, Tobago is unapologetically black. African. Nubian. Dark-skinned; however you want to describe it. The businesses are black-owned; the vibe is peaceful and radiant. Indians aren't running the show; the Africa-descended people are independent. Being in a veritable black heaven is unlike anything I've experienced in this world-- it feels like home in Africa.
So here we are, and so far the Carnival has been straight up righteous. In no way am I knocking the Port of Spain, Trinidad festivities; I AM saying that being on this side, with clear-water tranquil beaches and surrounded by black excellence is a breath of fresh air. It's unlike anything I've experienced and I could not be more grateful for this shift in perspective.
Dimensions are described as being separated by 90 degrees. But what does that actually mean? It's one thing to know metaphysical concepts, but how do we apply these to our actual lives? A great way is to take the landmarks of a year and measure how we have grown from one place to a next.
To be here in 2014, with a radiant infant in tow, and be enjoying the magic of Carnival without the hassle and trouble is amazing. Yes, I have to muffle her ears when a big truck passes. But beyond that, it is relative ease and breeze.
We've evolved from a slightly uncomfortable learning curve of 2012 to an empowered, efficient and beautiful 2014. It simply took an observation of What Is, then a conscious choice to do better and experience more. So here we are, in a literal dimensional shift, experiencing the Carnival in a beautiful, productive way.
Photos and videos of Carnival 2014 to come. Irie!