Published: August 11th 2009August 1st 2009
Chee You Family Picture In Trinidad
Mom, Tony, Larry, Me, Glen and Charmaine
Today it’s all about family, traditions and witnessing the largest Caribbean festival in North America.
It’s called Caribana and it’s a three week festival held every July celebrating Caribbean culture. It ends with a humongous, a million plus, masqueraders dancing down Lakeshore Blvd. Read more about the history of Cariabana here: http://www.theroot.com/views/toronto-exploiting-caribana/
Some background about me will be helpful. I was born on the island of Trinidad and Tobago. My parents; East Indian (from India), Chinese (China) and Spanish (Venezuela). You can call us Trinidadians, Caribs http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carib
, or Coolies http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coolie
To the non-natives, these terms might be offensive, but this is part of our culture. No issue for me. I’m proud to be a Coolie or a Carib!
So how did we get here? We migrated, legally of course, via Pan AM to Maryland in 1968. This too is a very long story but the term "suitcase in your hand and $5 dollars in your pocket" sums up our life.
Over the years, my family has relished in the West Indian culture; curry cooking, Indian movies and music, steel pan and socca music and visiting the island from time to time. Since leaving home in 1977, I
Trinidad & Tobago, West Indies
My Homeland, in the WI, Trinidad and Tobago
joined the USAF, I’m sad to report that I have neglected my culture for no good reason. I’m sure Dr. Phil could tell you why, so before I see him, I’m committed to re-visit my West Indian culture over the next few years. Today is the beginning, not the end. Here’s my posse for the weekend:
Dad and my home name "Sandra"
Uncle Frank and Aunt Sheila (my mom’s brother)
Cousin Movin, Sharalea and their son Lucas and his kids Michael and Danielle
Cousin Kelvin and his kids Alycia, Kelvin Jr. and Alec
Cousin Melvin and his girlfriend Diane
Cousin Sam and husband Lionel and their kids; Deeyann, Davy, Tabitha and Lee West Indian Terminology
Playing Mas - participating in the parade and in costume
Pan Music - Steel pan (steel ban) music
Wining - form of West Indian dancing whereby you grind on each other; women on women, several women on one man, man on woman (you get the picture)
And they tell me “it’s nothing sexual”. Hard to believe, but it’s true. Day Two
Friday night we spent the evening with Movin and Lucas eating Indian curry at Charlie’s. Dad did some grocery shopping. He
One Of Many Beautiful Costumes In The Parade
is now stocked up with curry and salt fish for a while.
Next we went to the Steel Pan Festival at Lamport Stadium. For a mere $25 we enjoyed three hours of steel pan music. The night ended with the group Silver Stars. They won the 2009 Trinidad Carnival Pan Festival. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GJsxgBOiD_M&feature=related/
I enjoyed the evening making new connections with Kelvin and Sam. My Dad enjoyed the entire evening, not wanting to leave until 1 am. Thanks Lionel and Sam for getting us there. Day Three - Saturday
The day started early with a meet-up at Uncle Frank’s house. We met up with Melvin and Diane. They both were putting the final touches on their Aztec Warrior masquerades. I termed Melvin “warrior man”.
We spent eight hours at Caribana and met up with the rest of the gang. Paying Mas was; Movin, Michael, Danielle, Alycia, Deeyann, Melvin and Diane. Sidebar note here, the ladies were hotter than hot and as Shawn King would say, “someone call 911”. The dancing, that too deserves a 911 call for both the men and the women. You guys really rocked Caribana. I'm so jealous of your love of West Indian
Melvin and Diane
Melvin "Warrior Man" and Diane Hamin' It Up
culture. Not sure how I found this, but a random person posted this clip on You Tube. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RH_EL3MTpK0
At the end of the parade, I succumbed to peer pressure and jumped the fence, okay barely, to dance a bit. This was not a pretty sight. I’ll say I observed more than danced and yes Sam, checked that one off my bucket list. Again, what a great job everyone did today. All I can say, "if only and why am I missing the dancing gene?”
The day was terrific with all the people, food and music. And topping the day off, homemade mojitos by Chef Kelvin. Thanks a bunch! Day Four - Sunday
We spent the day at Uncle Frank’s house talking over old times, when next everyone was going to Trinidad and eating up the last of some home cooking; fried breadfruit, curry goat, chicken, split peas and some drinks. Yes, again succumbed to peer pressure. My drinks were 95% juice and 5% alcohol and that’s how This Iowa Girl Rolls
Before heading off to London to see the sidewalk chalk festival, we went to see Deeyann dance at another Caribana picnic. Now she’s
The Ramjattan's Rocked Caribana In Toronto, CA!
got the Indian genes and boy can she dance. Shakaria has nothing on this girl. Deeyann, you are a terrific and down right gorgeous dancer.
Time to say goodbye and head back to Iowa. London was our overnight stop and we got there in time for me to take some pictures of the Sistine Chapel in chalk. Wow, this is a work of art. Read more about the festival here: http://street-painting.blogspot.com/2009/08/sistine-chapel-street-painting-in.html
and watch this awesome video here: http://www.youtube.com/user/pastelpiglet
. Here's an shot of all nine panels http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_kwec42SZg0k/SnkpCRcrekI/AAAAAAAAALg/52v6TpniW5w/s1600-h/FullFinish1.jpg
. Too bad this masterpiece will be washed away in a day.
Another overnight stay at the Residence Inn in London and this time we had a brand spanking new room. Did I say "I love Marriott hotels"? Before going to bed, I was able to watch the semi-finals of So You Think You Can Dance as I missed it on Wednesday. For dinner, we ate the packed curry dinner. Thanks Aunt Sheila and Uncle Frank. Day Five - Monday
Up early and we were out of London by 6 am. Thirteen hours later, we were back in Ankeny by 6:30 pm. Hard to believe you can be in one
Deeyann Dancing Queen
Deeyann "Lady Dee" dancing at Caribana Picnic
country in the morning and 900 miles away by evening. The drive home was uneventful with no traffic issues and the border crossing, no issues. I'm a fast learner.
On our way back I picked two things up in one of three stops: Michigan for a bushel of peaches, bushel basket and all, and a dozen Dunkin Donuts. This story is too funny. While in Berlin, I asked Carole if she wanted a Dunkin Donut. She went to get something else and by the time she asked for it, I ate the three that I bought. Talk about a porker. I have felt bad since then. So now we are even. Reflections of my travel trip:
Visiting family is not always easy. We all live busy lives and have some excess baggage from the old days. I’m learning to leave the past behind and to move forward. I can honestly say I’m tired of meeting up with relatives at funerals and weddings and when we do meet up, we are more strangers than family. I am committed to connecting with my Canadian family and I can give credit to Facebook. Yes Facebook as it has opened the door
Kelvin and Alycia
Cool Dad Kelvin and His Smokin' Daughter Alycia
for us to talk or just keep an eye on each other without actually talking to each other. The other takeaway, I’m definitely going to look into salsa dancing to get my hips moving. I will return to Toronto and Caribana and this time "Stella will have her groove on."
My summer travels is almost over and I have a lot left to do. My next two road trips will be to the Iowa State Fair and back to Kansas City to see the American Idol tour. And yes, we will have our groove on for this show.
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