Tuesday, March 27, 2007

From a Small Island

And we're back. Thanks for your patience. So, we were in Trinidad and Tobago - mostly Tobago - staying at the house of some friends' parents' friends. Basically it went like this: we sat on our asses, drank in the afternoon, read and stuffed our faces. Kind of a lateral move from our current situation, I know, but it felt like a vacation.

I'm not sure we could have found Tobago on a map two weeks ago, but here it is, shown actual size. Former British colony, so they speak something resembling English there, drive on the left, and good Indian food is not hard to find. It's pretty undeveloped, though the roads are well-paved and lined with billboard-sized portraits of the country's military dictator, Col. Harlan Sanders. Part of his personality cult is to force the people of Tobago to eat his Special Extra Crispy cuisine three, sometimes four, times a day, served in a traditional Tobagan "bucket." He seems to run the country with an iron fist, though religious extremists threaten his grip on power.

Seriously, this country loves it some fried chicken.

The big news in Tobago right now is a ginned-up controversy whereby the local clergy is trying to get internationally-known "confirmed bachelor" Elton John banned from next month's Tobago Jazz Festival. You just can't help but admire a country that could be so reactionary and homophobic while at the same time being open and generous enough to define "jazz" as encompassing Elton John in the first place. A magical land full of contradictions, as the guide books say.

On our last night, we had to relocate to a hotel in Trinidad (the "Big Island") in order to catch our crack-of-dawn flight the next day. This turned out to be a challenge because the West Indies are hosting the Cricket World Cup - something you can be forgiven for not knowing about if you live in a country with potable water and a low infant mortality rate. For the rest of the world though, it's like the World Cup, only with cricket, so hotel space was at a premium.

I know even less about cricket than I do about baseball, but as near as I can tell the two games are identitcal in every way, except that cricket's jargon is considerably more ridiculous. Still, I'm all for a tournament in which every participating country has at least two of the following: 1) insane, nationalistic tendencies; 2) nuclear weapons; 3) a hate-fueled, centurys-old blood feud with at least one other participating country. Kind of redefines the term "nail-biter." The day before we arrived, in fact, Ireland (1,3) delivered a major smackdown to Pakistan (1,2 and 3, plus al-Qaeda) and then, for good measure, strangled the Pakistan coach to death. Well, okay, the investigation is ongoing, so maybe it wasn't Ireland. But the crack Jamaican detectives (this happened in Kingston) have ruled out Jamaicans as the killers on the grounds that "you tend to find firearms or knives as the favoured weapons" when Jamaicans are involved. Alrighty, then. Move it along, mon, nuting to see heah...

While escaping the mid-day downpours at the Port-of-Spain Hilton's cocktail bar, we did get caught up in the frenzied mob scene of the entire Bangladeshi press corps clambering for an interview with the team captain after they handily defeated Bermuda. Jesus, would you look at that pack of jackals? Like dingoes on a baby. Journalists are the same the world over.

Finally, after traveling 14 hours (via Houston), we arrived in Mexico City airport where, faced with a line of several hundred weary passengers, six of the eight passport officers nevertheless took their 15-minute break precisely at 4:00. It's good to be home.


Anonymous said...

I love the fact that a Jamaican couldn't have killed the Pakistani coach because, not only wasn't a gun or knife used, but nothing was stolen from the room! Works for me!


Burro Hall said...

That seems to be a recurring theme in Jamaican law enforcement. This is from an article about the late reggae musician Peter Tosh in TobagoAir's in-flight magazine:

"Though robbery was officially the motivation behind Tosh's death, many believe that there were ulterior motives, citing that nothing was taken from the house"

The moral here is that if you ever kill a guy in Jamaica, make sure you take his watch. The cops will be rounding up Jamaicans long after you've left the country.