Live from my location in Trinidad, I sit at my makeshift desk escaping the extreme temps of the Arizona desert and an especially intense rain storm in Trinidad right now while in the comfort of my nice cooled a/c room. (This post was written on a rainy day a few days ago:)
|The produce market is a great way to meet people and try out wonderful local produce!|
|A bus stop on the way to the remote village of Brasso Seco known for their chocolate|
|Tropical Mockingbirds were everywhere! While I was doing my laundry, this bird decided to hang out with me.|
|Sounds like the cross between a Gray Catbird and Green-tailed Towhee, the Spectacled Thrush was one of my favorite birds to observe all over the island.|
|Oh I love Asha! She is an amazing person. I lived on her property. One night she made me Callaloo Soup, a Caribbean specialty!|
|If you thought Mexican or Thai chiles were hot, you haven't tried the super hot Scorpion Peppers of Trinidad!|
Safety is a high priority for me wherever I go. As an outsider, you always have to be aware of your surroundings. So I have secured myself in a sturdy building with a nice land lady between a church and two schools and even with that protection, there were sketchy things that had happened. There was a drive-by-shooting yesterday near my apartment. I woke up at 4 AM to the sounds of pop pop pop! Murder rates continue to rise on the island. In fact, it dominated many Trinidadian conversations. One person I spoke with attended her cousin's funeral this past week after he was shot over a disagreement. Another couple had their throats slit the night before in an area that I had just birded and near a fellow guide's village. It's no wonder why everyone locks up after dark! My apartment is secure. Most of my birding expenditures have gone to security type measures. The road to 10,000 birds, heck even for a 1,000!, is not an easy one. So why bother risking my life? These treks bring depth to my knowledge and experience of the birds. Reading about them is not enough. Seeing them. Hearing them. And standing in their habitat gives me a sharper focus. In my upcoming posts, you'll read about and see photos relating to my research. I have to start with this post to give you the cultural background of the island first.
|With the hot and steamy monsoon weather, the icy cold rum punch made everything better, it was the drink of choice on Trinidad next to Carib Beer|
The Trinidad culture is a complex one. The people are a blend of Syrian, Indian, English and African cultures. Much like in the US, suburbs are formed to protect communities from the outside world with like-minded people. It was explained to me that the Syrian-Lebanese population is one of the wealthiest in this nation due to their strong business practice. They also have a strong family network and do very well in Trinidad. Around the Port of Spain, many have set up shop and live in secured and safe neighborhoods with private schools. Meanwhile, the refugee Syrians who are entering the country are being ignored by this elite group of Syrians. It was an interesting dynamic to observe. It's also interesting to note that this group of refugees is also very friendly with the average Trinidadian person and not closed off like their Trinidadian brethren. Yeah, I don't think we studied island culture in school. So I had a bazillion questions!
|Tropical Kingbirds were SUPER common in the urban neighborhoods|
|Orange-winged Parrots were common at every habitat and at every elevation. They were often seen while I was doing work outside my apartment.|
I had to know more. Then I saw a lot of the Rastafarian and people wearing traditional West African garb. Living in Cape Verde, I was very familiar with the style and it made me smile. After speaking with the ladies, I began to notice a certain trend. Many of the women I had spoken with were not married. One person I spoke with, who works in the university sector, told me that 75 percent of women make up the college population begging the question, "What is happening with the guys?" Then she responded to me with this question, "Why would a woman want to be with a man who will sit all day around the house and expect her to do his job as well?!" Many women here have said enough is enough. Meanwhile, what of the men? Apparently, they have started to hustle. If you travel here, I highly recommend you NOT google the daily news as it's full of horrendous murder reports. Before arriving to the island, I was a bit apprehensive and saw a lot of young men in those reports who had met an unfortunate fate. The cocaine trafficking on the island is a huge problem and many men who are looking to make a quick profit, are getting involved with the drug trade. Average age for a young man involved in this lifestyle to live on this island is around their 30's and 40's. It's VERY sad. Who fuels that cocaine traffic? Why the US of course! And how is it getting across? The large oil ships from the island. I spoke with several prominent figures of the oil company who have been dealing with this issue and it has been frustrating for them.
|Green Honeycreepers are like little gems seen flying from tree to tree in neighborhoods.|
|This banded Great Kiskadee hung out with a Tropical Kingbird|
And last but not least. I had been getting a lot of questions about food and water. While I've been here, I've boiled my water from the faucet and drink from the metal thermoflask I brought to cut down on the plastic. I boil it just in case, but it wasn't necessary. The water is fine which surprised me a bit. A lot of people have asked me how the food has been. Quite honestly, this has been the best trip for anyone who is a vegetarian. Most of the food makes use of sweet potatoes, garbanzo beans, fresh fresh vegetables, plantain, and lentils! In fact, I eat mostly veggie dishes. They were really tasty. I started making some of the dishes in my apartment. They sell really interesting curry sauces. They also serve excellent fish plates and um.....I'm not a fan, but the seafood is very good. I like shrimp and my mouth watered from a spicy rice dish that had huge prawns! One day, I accidentally ate some English inspired smoked herring and nearly lost it. I kept my composure and quickly made the salty and bony matter inside my mouth disappear into a napkin.
Trinidad is a beautiful country full of kind and wonderful people. I was invited to dinner at their homes. And I got to meet some great people and make new friends. Anyhow, if you like your birding easy, go with Caligo Ventures as it's a safe way to enjoy your trip to Trinidad and Tobago. If you're a little more gypsy, like myself, do your research and have a great time. We'll explore in my next writes, the awesome that is Trinidadian birding.....