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May 2, 2004

Trinidad and beyond...

I haven't been off the shores of Grenada and Carriacou since I arrived here on August 31st, so when my friend (another volunteer) Amy suggested we take a little trip, I was all about it. We considered a number of different islands, but eventually decided on Trinidad. Not only was Trinidad more affordable (about $70 US for flight and good exchange rate) but Amy also has a good friend in Gouyave who has relatives there. They said they were more than happy to put us up for the week and their 24 year old daughter, Samara, would show us around for the week. We arrived early Wednesday morning (the second week of school's two week Easter break.) As we were flying in, we were a bit in awe of what we saw...highways, billboards, tall buildings, shopping malls, etc. Seems crazy that a couple of Americans were shocked by these sights, but after seeing none of that for the last 9 months or so, it was crazy to realize that this was a mere 30 minute flight from where we were. Trinidad is quite a bit more developed than Grenada, despite it's close proximity. There's a number of reasons for this, depending on who you ask. Trinidad is a lot larger than Grenada in size, and has many more human and natural resources. A major discovery assisting in this development was that of oil in Trinidad. A major boom in the late 1970's brought a lot of prosperity with it. In addition, I've been told that because Trinidad did not trade hands between the french and english as often other countries in the area, they were able to gain political and economic stability much quicker.

Regardless, it is a beautiful country and we walked into the large airport in awe of the building. I even made Amy go check out the bathrooms--"Best I've seen in the Caribbean!" After our pit stop, these two "small island" girls walked up Immigration with the name and phone number of our hostess. The immigration official demanded to know the address of where we were staying. After we explained that we didn't know it, we just knew it was somewhere around Port of Spain, he informed us that we could not enter the country without a proper address (Wait--they USE addresses here? I guess we really aren't in Grenada). We were informed that they would have to page our ride outside the airport and we would just have to wait. We waited a bit distraught about our arrival and eventually a senior offical came over and asked us our situation. We patiently explained it to him and responded with the importance of an address and if he was entering our country the situation would be the same. We politely laughed and explained that in Grenada, there really aren't address, you just need to know the town and person's surname (or even their first cousin's surname!) and you can find the place with a few questions of the locals. He responded with a proud and forceful "Well, THIS is Trinidad and Tobago!" After about 10 minutes, they ended up waving us in and told us to not to this again. "Thank you sir. Absolutely."

We had a great 5 days in Trinidad and really enjoyed the mixture of truly West Indian culture with a more developed American tone to it. I was pleasantly surprised by the diversity as well. People of every color speaking in Trinidadian accents. Samara turned out to be a good friend with a lot of friends who drive! Everything is much more spread out than Grenada and busses were not a great way to get where you needed to go. We spent a great day at the beach, took an all day drive to the south of the island with a friend of Samara's, visited the zoo, downtown Port of Spain, and had delicious pizza--twice! Check out the photos to see some more about what we did. We returned bright and early Monday morning as Grenada was gearing back for their return to school.

Prior to leaving for Trinidad, I also celebrated my first Easter in Grenada. As in any other holiday celebrated here, it is primarily an excuse for a major fet (party). I went down to Bathway beach with the Peter's and their extended family and a few thousand of their neighbors. I couldn't believe how packed this usually quiet area was. The road and parking area that usually has about 10 cars was absolutely packed. There rest of the area not filled by cars was filled by bodies, vendors, speakers and a stage that was Grenada's version of Spring Break Live. Good times were had by all...

My next adventure is patiently getting through the next 5 days before I get on a plane back to Michigan for Mitch and Melissa's wedding. This couldn't come at a better time...I'm hoping they feel the same way! I'll be home from May 7-19 and then return to Grenada to spend a few days with the newlyweds at the tail end of their honeymoon in Grenada.