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Trinidad for Women -- a journalist reports...

Maureen Littlejohn is a New York-based writer who loves adventure, spicy food and good conversation. A journey woman to her core, this adventuress is always looking forward to seeing the rest of the planet. After her recent trip to Trinidad, Maureen sent this travel report written from her woman's point of view....

Trinidad is probably best known for its Carnival, the most colourful, over-the-top celebration of mardi gras in the Caribbean. But for Journey Women, there are other, less recorded reasons to visit this island destination. These delights include the wonderful food, mountain forests, warm people and fact that Trinidad isn't swarming with tourists. In fact, when I was in Port of Spain, the people were actually very curious about a pale-skinned female tourist like me being in their midst. An elderly lady even stopped to ask where I was from and went on to tell me her granddaughter now lives in Canada.

A Trinidad backgrounder...

The population in Trinidad is a mixture of backgrounds, including African, East Indian, European, Chinese and a smattering of remaining indigenous Amerindians. Claimed by Spain in 1496, and then seized by Britain in 1797, Trinidad gained its independence in 1962. Having been steeped in the British school system, the people are polite, well spoken and well educated. Of course, you'll probably have to ask them to slow down and explain some of their unique terms, such as "limin'," which means to get together for a party, "wine," which means a sexy dance, or "Mas," which means masquerade, as in Carnival.

To say the social climate here is conservative is an understatement. This is a country where rap stars have been slapped with criminal charges for spewing blue language on stage. Family life is primary and religion is an integral part of it, whether it's Christianity, Hinduism, or traditional African faiths like Orisha.

A woman's safety...

What's it like for a woman to visit Trinidad? During my visit I felt quite safe during the day on the streets by myself. Guys did not hit on me. The people here are generally very polite and just about everybody has a job. The police are vigilant, especially with drug traffickers ( I was told by my tour guide the last person to be (Yikes!) executed on the island, a few years back, was a local drug lord.) At Carnival time, hotels such as the Hilton will organize women's groups to attend the parades and even provide security if requested. Generally, though, it is not that acceptable for women to travel alone here.

Questioning some of the local women, I was informed it's best to hook up with a guide or a few friends in order to explore. This was especially true at night, when people seem to go out mainly in groups.

Panhandling in Trinidad is a more gentle art than on other islands (like Jamaica, for example), where it borders on harassment. When a male journalist and I were exploring their Botanic park which was filled with people, a Rasta man came over and pointed out a few historic aspects. It would have been easy to just walk away from him, but he was not rude or pushy. Of course, he wanted a few Trinidad dollars for his time. Another fellow improvised a humorous song and expected something in return. Be aware, in advance, that if you are visiting here, you will have to deal with this (basically harmless) behaviour.

Finally, don't be silly, dress smart when you're in Trinindad. Culturally correct clothing for women, except on sassy young people who are determined to be noticed, is generally very modest. If you don't want to be stared at or harrassed, leave the short-shorts and tight tank tops for the beach. For sightseeing, you'll do best in a loose, long skirt and T-shirt. Never dress in a manner that would be considered sexually provocative.

She tests the Night Life...

At night, I went out with my guide, Anthony who was helping me to research this story. We found night life in Trinidad, but it's not the resorty kind. It's much more urban and tends to heat up on the weekends. In Port of Spain, the Western Main Road in the St. James suburb is where people congregate to sip a beer and "lime" with their friends. Smokey and Bunny's is a fun, rough-and-ready place to go, where the music blasts into the street and the party spills onto the sidewalk. Down a block you'll find Brian's Punch stand, where the blenders go full tilt to whip up sweet, milky, non-alcoholic concoctions of sea moss, carrot or peanut flavours. If you're looking for a night club, The Pelican Pub, uptown on Coblentz Ave. and Cascade, behind the Hilton Hotel, are popular choices on Friday nights. Do as the local women do. Go with somebody else you know.

travelling experiences in Trinidad...




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