About Me

Living in the Caribbean is probably like living anywhere else, with the same ups and downs. But it does have its own vibe and flavour and gives me a unique perspective on most things. I'm often sarcastic, mostly funny, always looking for a new adventure. I have not boxed myself into any one category of life. I love a lot of things and dislike a lot more. I write about them all.

Travel Adventures - The Bad Passport Photo

Usually around this time of year, I start thinking of extended time off from work and a trip that would allow me to recharge my batteries and more importantly, renew my spirit. But while I love the destination and the adventures that come with a vacation, I hate some of the other stuff, like packing, hotel hunting and trying to stay within budget. One of the things however that has drastically improved over the years?

My passport photo.

No...that's not me. Mine was much worse.

Let's go back several years when I was still in high school and therefore obligated to my parents for everything. My mum took my brother and I to get new passports, and this meant passport photos. My teen years were not cute by any stretch of the imagination, and worse than that, passport photo take-outers don't have any consideration for your awkward teenaged looks. The result therefore was catastrophic! It was simply the most hideous photo ever and my mother did not even bat an eye. She did not offer to have it re-done. She simply paid for them and took them. I would be stuck with this gruesome identification marker for ten years!

Not even babies are immune
from the bad passport photo!
Fast forward to my first trip to Barbados, and I am no longer the awkward teen but a young professional, with movie star looks (okay, okay...maybe not movie star but cute enough). I step towards the Immigration desk, passport in hand and smile an award winning smile. It was a trip that held a lot of promise and excitement and it showed in my entire being. I was beautiful and beaming. Beaming...until...

Immigration guy: This is you?
Me: Yes, it is.
IG: (looking at me, then the pic, then me, then the pic) This is not you.
Me: Sadly, it is.
IG now calls Immigration woman.
IW: This is not you, man. What is your name?
Me: (annoyed, I give my name)
Together now, they now contemplate what to do next but one thing was certain, they were not contemplating letting me in the country! lol.
IW: You have any other ID?
Me: My US visa is in there. The pic is better.
They scan passport for my US visa pic and sure enough, stamp my form and send me on my way, but not before...
IW: I would change that photo, miss.

I was really expecting to be taken to the back room you see on tv - you know the one with the one dim lightbulb and the metal chairs? Needless to say, short of losing one's passport and going through the runaround of getting a new one, you're pretty much stuck with this heinous photo until your passport expires.

After that, I had a chronic fear of the Immigration desk. I would stride confidently to the desk when it was my turn in much the same way a drug smuggler would approach Customs - brimming with fake confidence to distract the authorities from the sheer panic he feels while carrying a suitcase full of 'blow'.

I was also stopped a couple years later in Paris and almost not let back in London because of said photo. Again my US visa and my Schengen visa as back up, saved my ass. While flattered that all these border officials thought I was too damn cute to be the creature in my passport pic, it was a real pain and slight embarrassment, lemme tell you.

London Gatwick - many a tale I can tell about my passport here

So when my passport finally expired, I made this photo thing into a real production - back in the day when you took your own photos to the passport office. I made sure my hair was camera ready, took some time on my makeup, wore a flattering colour (I was in black in the heinous photo cause I was almost goth in high school with the black) and accessorised. It still managed to not be the hottest thing ever but it was a vast improvement. Never again did I have to send people to the back of my passport to my visas to avoid being put back on the plane or sent to the little back room. I had been properly traumatised from those incidents and from that photo. And now, with the photos being taken at the office, even more time and thought goes into the passport photo get-up, not to mention, strict attention to timing because when that photo is snapped, most of the times by a surly Immigration Officer, you want to make sure your facial expression is passport-friendly!

Still, it was not as bad as someone I know who was forced to remove her wig at the Immigration Office before having her picture taken, because 1. the hair covered her face and 2. the Immigration Officer had no sense or decency to simply offer her time to brush it back. What was under that wig was NOT camera ready and after waiting months for an appointment, she simply could not go through with having her passport marked by a photo of her with nashy "under-wig" hair for 10 years!

Travelling has so many twists and turns. So many different factors make up this amazing adventure. How do people not love it??

Missing Airliner - When that Dream Vacation becomes a Nightmare

I have been following with rapt interest, the story of the missing Malaysian airliner, MH370. As a citizen of the world, a girl whose passport is her life, and for whom getting on a plane for a long haul flight at least once a year is a must, this story is particularly disturbing.

CNN Breaking News at 3.30amET, March 15, 2014

Even after September 11, I think many of us take air travel for granted. We plan these amazing vacations, get totally excited about the trip and all that will come with it, or we take those routine trips for work, or weekend getaways, and we just never blink an eye in worry. I can honestly say, I am so at home on a plane that I seldom think of anything bad happening while at high altitude. Admittedly, I do pray before each flight, particularly during takeoff and landing, and ask God to steer the plane safely to my destination - but once locked in to my seat, I take a nap, watch a movie, gape and become totally oblivious to any danger. Now following this story, I will confess, I am now petrified. Never one to refuse a trip off the island, I am now a bit gun-shy.

Where is MH370?
Photo credit: Boston.com
With officials not knowing just what happened with this plane, the situation is even more disturbing. Did it crash? Was it hijacked? How does a plane just disappear? I think what makes it scarier is the fact that we all believe that we are being tracked and monitored while in the air. I mean, if the plane catches fire, not sure what the people on the ground can really do, but there is a certain comfort knowing that people know where you are and what is happening. Now, do we really have that comfort? The speculation, with the theories changing every 5 seconds is a bit alarming. Now it seems as though the plane was deliberately disabled by someone. The pilot? A passenger? Whatever or whomever is responsible, a huge plane is just missing. A plane does not just disappear! But apparently it can!

One moment, you are laughing at a movie scene
and the next, you go missing?
My heart goes out to the families and loved ones of the 239 souls on board. Simply not knowing what happened to the husband you kissed goodbye or the sister, brother or friend you are waiting for at the destination airport has to be the worst possible scenario. It is a sobering reminder that nothing is to be taken for granted. It is easy to think "This won't happen to me", but it can. It can definitely happen to any of us. Anytime. Driving to work may be routine, but it just takes one moment to change your life forever. I am fully aware of the risk at least twice a day once on the killing field that is our highway. Taking that trip of a lifetime has to fall in the same bucket as we now are so sadly reminded. And of course with each event like this, we will see stricter checks pre-travel and at the airport. What's next?

The entire thing is just bizarre, scary and extremely sad, especially for those families. I simply cannot fathom how my family would feel, or how I would feel for that matter, if someone I loved never made it to their destination.

 I read an article today on CNN (I check in fanatically on this story) and the ending really affected me.

The father of a passenger on the missing plane is hoping for an outcome that would sound shocking under normal circumstances. "I hope the plane was hijacked, because then, at least, there is hope," Li from Hebei Province said. He did not give his full name.  Li is waiting at a Beijing hotel with dozens of other passengers' family members awaiting word on the fate of their loved ones.  "But if the worst happened then I will have no meaning in my life. This is my only son," Li said. As he walked away, he bent his head and cried.

God bless them.

Popping my Carnival Cherry - Trinidad and Tobago Carnival 2014

My chosen section - War Chant -
from the band, Tribe
Photo credit: Tribe Carnival
The greatest show on earth.

That is how we here in Trinidad and Tobago refer to our annual festival of freedom, fun,creativity and bacchanal - our Carnival. For some, it is merely a long weekend to jet off to another country or spend time with the family in a  less chaotic environment. For others, it is the be all and end all of life. A season to express themselves in any which way - to release, to celebrate, to party, to embellish.

I have always been one of the former - the "it's a long weekend" type. The parties I would do. No interest in the Monday and Tuesday masquerade, with the exception of J'ouvert. But it was on the bucket list - do it once, get it over with. After putting it off year after year, and recognising that I had torn up quite a few calendars by now, and with all the stars in some sort of eerie alignment, I forked over my hard earned money to experience the festival as others have done for years.

It was not easy. I hemmed and hawed for months, threatening to sell the costume I had made a deposit on. With a death in the family, work frustrations and personal issues, I just did not feel the vibes. But I rallied. Costume collection day came and I took my beautiful costume box home, opened it, examined the various pieces of what was to be my get-up on Carnival Tuesday, showed it to the folks, closed the box, went to sleep. Life went on.

I guess though there is something about the 2 days - that excitement, the frenzy, the "anything goes" aura - but only then, when I stepped on to the asphalt, stepped out in the roasting sunshine, did I start to feel anything remotely close to what everyone else was feeling. It did not matter that I did not have spaghetti sized thighs, or that my 6-pack was missing. Noone really cared. The mission: have fun, enjoy life. And we did.

And when the big day came, to swathe my chocolate body in the brilliant white and gold costume, accessorised by Carnival hair and makeup, amping up the everyday pretty, well, it did not matter that the sun was blazing. It was Carnival. My section - War Chant - was one of the few which really worked well on the road and looked good. No bias intended. I am too new to be biased. I also thought Sioux looked incredible, as did a couple sections in Bliss, which I managed to see between the throngs of people.

So was it all cookies and cream? The good and the bad:

  • Tribe was one of the bands carded to bypass the Savannah in favour of the new Socadrome. My thoughts as a first timer? I hate waiting - whether it is 2 hours or 5 hours. I hate waiting in the sun. I had to wait at the Socadrome as well. Tribe itself was the keep back cause it was so big. No room for freeing up yourself once you got on the stage cause there were so many people. Not fun. I know this is the normal thing, but it does not mean I have to like it.
In the thick of the Tribe10 crowd

Waiting at the Socadrome

  • However, Tribers are well cared for. I was never wanting for something to drink, never felt unsafe, was well fed, had access to critical amenities even though I had them on hand in my pouch. Never underestimate the power of wipes and deodorant! One can never have enough!

  • The heat. I love the sun. Love the heat. But that Monday and Tuesday heat was different!! I am now an official spokesperson for Blue Waters, Gatorade and Prolyte. And I am a true believer in makeup primer!!

  • Trini women. No matter the shape, the size - our women are fearless!! I was somewhat inspired and I renewed my waning commitment to such fearlessness. I mean, you have to be fearless to wear pasties on DD-sized breasts or to wear a spider panty on a rump that is 5 times the size of mine!

  • Freedom without limits? While I celebrate everything Carnival and people's right to express themselves, some things were just too much for my senses. The wining on top of the mosque wall, the church wall and the blatant disrespect of children along the road. This one mother in particular had more restraint than I would have had if that was my child. Carnival does not give you the right to be an even bigger asshole than usual. 

  • Fun with the friends and family. All my relatives who came in from abroad for the Carnival were in the same band. My friends were in the same band. We don't always get to see each other so this was as good as it got.

So would I do it again? I would not NOT do it again. I am glad I did it - blisters and all. I had a great time up until stomach cramps derailed the enjoyment on Tuesday. I have not been transformed into a Carnival baby. Not suffering from Carnival tabanca like quite a few of my friends. It was great. It was magical. I recommend it. But I am looking forward to the rest of the year now, including seeing John Legend in concert for the hundredth time now (super fan!!) and annual vacation - always the highlight of my life. Will think about the next Carnival when the time comes. Cheers to 2014 though.

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