Misadventures in travel with the troublesome two
Imagine yourself encircled by the peaks of St. Vincent’s ancient volcanic giants, submerged in the briny waters of the therapeutic Owia salt pond. Stand on the remnant pyroclastic river flow of the magnificent La Soufriere and walk bare-footedly on the warm black sands of Richmond’s beach. Travel with kin who drive daringly unto moving ferries, and get drenched by sea spray en route to beautiful Bequia. Trek to the hauntingly picturesque Fort George where Grenada’s controversial hero Maurice Bishop was executed in brutal betrayal. Peer over the poignant edge of Carib’s Leap where thousands of indigenous Amerindians wilfully plunged to their deaths in escape from the oppressive regime of the Conquistadors. Roam through the multi-coloured, fragrant markets beneath Queen Emma’s Pontoon Bridge, and saunter down the historic streets of Otrabanda in Curacao. Reverence the untamed Guyanese jungles, and savour sweet pineapple beside the Demerara. Allow Barbados to titillate you with fried flying fish and coconut-breadfruit prepared on its white beaches, and be awed by the deep caverns of Harrison Caves with its eerie luminescent beauty. Tour the rugged countryside of Isla Margarita in open-topped Landrovers, and kayak through fetid mangrove swamps rank with abundant wildlife. These are snippets from my memoirs in travel.
I was a free-spirited Discovery Travel and Adventure junkie who sought to explore the world and revolutionize it. It was a way of life I hungered for. I wanted to live with Amazonian tribes (loincloths and all), skydive above continental borders, run through Montserrat’s “exclusion zone”, spear-fish Lapu-Lapu in the Phillipines, and get paid to gorge on bizarre foods like Andrew Zimmern. In my own backyard or on the soil of another country, I lived every day as a God-given adventure.
That semi-nomadic epoch came to an abrupt end with an unscheduled but even more magnificent development; the successive birth of two vivacious bundles of joy aptly nicknamed the “whoopsy” babies. Fraught with the mundane tasks of motherhood, I hastily but enthusiastically grew new deep roots as my life became centred on the never-ending needs of the new pint-sized persons. Added financial responsibility under a constrictive teacher’s salary further grounded any attempt to travel. Gone were my old days of travel with my maiden family, replaced now by treks to the paediatrician and play parks.
Unfazed, I turned my ethnographic interests to the boys and eagerly looked on as they grew personalities. They swiftly became distinctive, quirky, and thoughtful personas, who demonstrated a love for adventure and anything on wheels. Regrettably however, from infancy they unswervingly broadcasted an intense hatred for car-seats. Our family’s singular test flight to Tobago was suffused with extreme bouts of bawling as the boys effected protest action against restraining seat belts and impenetrable windows which kept them from consuming clouds. Long drives mandated multi-tasked supervision with intense periods of story-telling and song. Aimed at the preservation of my own sanity, I invested in a portable DVD player as an intermittent diversion, but for an entire two years I was geographically delimited as trips were restricted to one-hour drives.
The spirited duo had developed a boundless propensity for finding mischief in even the most fool-proof of situations. Attempts at local holidaying have been consistently wrought with comically embarrassing challenges, and one experience which epitomised this phenomenon was our local SOE getaway.
During the 2011 State Of Emergency, my husband and I took a little local break and spent a weekend with the kids at a guesthouse in North Trinidad. The small expedition seemed chock-full with promise for much needed relaxation and I sighed with contentment as we drove uphill the charming Lady Chancellor Road. On arrival to our lodgings, we unpacked and hung a hammock on two pillars in the room; without this the energetic twosome would not sleep so we had reserved a room specifically with a place to put the magical mechanism up. The kids enjoyed their usual activities; making havoc in the hotel bedroom (in recompense we left a generous tip for room-service), running through the hallways and obnoxiously disturbing guests, and of course, scattering ice blocks on the floor inexplicably acquired from the ice machine.
Mealtimes were as typically interesting, and in the quiet dining area housed on a quaint veranda overlooking the city of Port-of-Spain, our boys reigned. We were served with the usual stuff, a tasty and eclectic mix of soulful Caribbean cuisine and solid European dishes. For breakfast we allowed our progenies the liberty to partake of the buffet, and with great self-importance (and some parental assistance) they selected their items, piling their plates with their choice of scrambled-eggs-and-pancake-syrup-covered fruits, straddled with salt-fish accra and slices of cheese, all sprinkled with a generous amount of frosted-flakes cereal. With full tummies and renewed bursts of energy, the mischievous pair optimised on the window of opportunity while their famished parents gobbled down their breakfast. The boys deviously practiced their stealth and decorating prowess by craftily splattering the dining area tables and floor with an artistic array of colourful leftovers. I had three consecutive cups of strong West Indian coffee that morning.
After the harrowing breakfast ordeal, we piled into the car and took a leisurely drive to the zoo. The lines were surprisingly long and the cantankerous ones became impatient. The wait increasingly seemed less worth it so we sped off in search of new activity. Luckily, we live in beautiful Trinidad where every street boasts of some magnificent travel treasure. We toured the city, and our little rascals were diverted by bustling vending activities and the rich architectural history that towered above them. A wholesome lunch of provisions and ripened plantains, topped with callalloo and stewed chicken was purchased from an unassumingly good culinary establishment. It was thoroughly enjoyed, not only by ourselves, but also by the car-seats.
The highlight of the stay at the lodgings was our adventures in the pool. On the last morning sometime after another eventful breakfast, we took the boys for a final splash. The water was a bit nippy, but they enjoyed it nonetheless, romping around in their patterned floats and infusing the atmosphere with delicious giggles. Then Tiriel very excitedly pointed out “Hey Mama there’s yellow in the pool!” To my absolute mortification I saw bits of yellow, icky substance floating in the water; the younger Jediah was having a bowel movement. Without a word, my quick-witted husband grabbed up the kids and disappeared in the direction of our room, leaving me with glorious task of rectifying the mess.
There were about half a dozen people around the poolside, and a couple of ladies were in the water with me. With stoical composure I swam up to them, calmly pointed to the area, and said “Excuse me, but I’d advise you not to swim in that direction. My baby just defecated there.” One of the women did not catch on and kept swimming the course. In a super-human flash of movement, the other grabbed her and shouted “What happen, yuh deaf or what? De child just buss ah tooze in de water!” All eyes turned on me and apologizing profusely I sheepishly made my way to the reception area, blood red with embarrassment. I was told that the pool guy was not out on duty because of the SOE, and was gently instructed with a faint smirk to clean up the mess with the pool net. Now redder with embarrassment, I inhaled deeply and gawkily tried my best with it; but the little bugger had made a soft one. The troublesome substance disintegrated into tiny particles and could not be caught. Pierced by disapproving glares, I dropped the net and sped back to our room, only to be greeted in the doorway by wide grins and a flood of soapy bathwater.
In the drier days of absolute personal freedom, I craved a different course for my daily adventures. But as I reflect on the curved undulations of the landscape of my life, I know that I have landed the mother-load of all expeditions. The exhilarating quest to give deep-rooted wings to my effervescent offspring, and the endlessly amusing joys received in recompense, merge to make the most rewarding of all journeys. As we travel onward together, I will dance in the music of my children’s impish laughter as I watch them play in the fresh breezes of life here in God’s country.