Culture Shock

Trip Start Feb 07, 2004
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Trip End Dec 15, 2005


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Flag of Trinidad and Tobago  ,
Friday, September 3, 2004

I couldn`t believe my eyes upon entering the airport following the 45 minute flight from Isle Margaritis to Trinadad - the signs were in English! But then the person at Immigration started to speak to me in a language I had never heard before! Straining my ears I managed gather that she wanted 50 Trinadad dollars for my visa...my culture shock only worsened as I took in the clean and quite modern sites of the airport, yet paying 31 dollars for a salad (fresh and crisp!!) made my head spin even more and I felt the need to escape whatever planet I had landed on.

While waiting for my flight to Trinadadīs sister island, Tobago, I felt relieved after calculating that the salad had actually cost about A$7, and though this amount of money could feed a Venezuelan family for a month, it certainly wasnīt the most expensive lunch Iīd ever had.

After another 20 minutes in the air I arrived in Tobago and headed to the tourist office to try and learn a little about how this place worked - my travel guide doesnīt include T&T, and I knew absolutely nothing about this country. Fortunately for me the guy in the office was of Indian decent and so his English was a little easier to interpret than the Africansī. Discovering that a taxi to my desired island location would cost about as much as hiring a car, I got behind the wheel for the first time since the Transamozonia Highway with Rauri in Brazil...I managed to remember that the steering wheel was on the right, but forgot about the need to drive on the left here!

So, following a rather undetailed road map from the tourist office, I made my way across the Island to Castara, driving like a grand-ma...once off the (only) highway, the roads become very narrow with incredibly sharp hairpin turns (would be great on a bike if it werenīt for the numerous potholes) making it difficult to keep one eye on the map, another on the road, another on the goat crossing the road, another on the fat woman and 4 kids trying to flag you down for a lift; but when the on-coming car crosses to your side of the road (left!) and the pulls up at the store (to save him walking across the road to it) only meters infront you - your eyes are popping out of your head!

Feeling confident at having not damaged anyone or thing the previous night, I set out to see the 65km x 35km island. Many beautiful beaches, most undeveloped, and awesome coastal views... ... But I felt the need to keep the doors locked at all times owing to the appearance of the locals....the men look like they have just escaped from the police in the ghettos of some Hollywood movie, all of them! It took me quite a few days to overcome this stereo-typed brain-washing, fortunately I did, and discovered how friendly and relaxed these people actually are (especially the oneīs with red eyes!) even if I couldn`t understand a thing they said as I found the Caribbean acent to be even heavier Tobago.

If you need to always get somewhere in a hurry, donīt come to Tobago, fortunately I am quite a bit more relaxed these days, so much so that I didn`t swear at the cars in front of me who continually wave-in other vehicles in front of them, or stop when seeing somebody on the footpath just in case they may want to cross the road! Time means nothing here. "Liming" is the term used for hanging out and chatting, and in Tobago it is a full time occupation. Whether on the street, in the supermarket or on the road stopping to "lime" through the window to the person driving the other way...reminded me of Moe actually.

I had the good fortune of being in T&T for their Independence Day. The 42 years since seperating from Britain was proudly proclaimed everywhere with red, white & black (national colours) signs, and on the radio for at least the 8 days I was in T&T. I headed into downtown Scarborough, Islandīs capital for the festivities. Making friends with some locals over a bottle of rum which they offered me, I chattered away as best I could understand them, until I learnt that a guy spoke Spanish, so we continued talking in Espaņol which was much easier for me! Despite a burst of rain, the Tobagonians put on quite a show, the fireworks were long and spectacular.

With most of the people very poor, many living in tin shacks, I thought I had again entered another country when I went for a drink at the Hilton. The entire area has manicured gardens, a PGA golf course and private estates with security entrances either side of the Hilton complex. Incredibly beautiful and right on the waterfront.

Sunsets here are mesmerizing, especially with a Stag Lager. Though I didnīt do any diving here, I saw my first live sting-rays when snorkling in the Nylon Pools. Clear warm water, white coral-sand beaches, amazingly fat women, all of them!
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