Tuesday 26th July, 2005


A culture shock

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Essiba Small (left) enjoys August holidays with her twin sister, Asha, at her family in the “country.”

As a teenager, Essiba Small was into music and liming during her August holidays.

August Holidays is the name of a new “value-added” series in your favourite newspaper. Initially, it consists of articles by staff writers, reminiscing how they spent their August Holidays as children. You, too, can participate by sending your August Holidays recollections to [email protected], with a contact number.

By Essiba Small

August holidays for some young people mean crossing the seas. But for me and my twin sister Asha it was across the country.

Growing up in the “plannings” on St Joseph Road, East Port-of-Spain, we looked forward to spending holidays with family in Carapichaima and Arima.

I mean, there’s only so much one can do in a concrete jungle for eight weeks.

The few holidays we stayed at home were spent skipping double dutch in the apartment building’s corridor and playing moral and hopscotch with Angela’s, our neighbour’s, four girl children.

I also seem to recall Asha and me starting rival radio stations. Mine was called WKYZ 95.1 FM which boasted an urban format, based in California USA (God knows why), and hers, WKBC 90.6 which featured a smooth jazz beaming live from Westmall, Westmoorings (God knows why).

So leading this sheltered kind of life kind of made us appreciate holidays in Carapichaima with our cousins.

For our 13-year-old selves the trip was a culture shock. All that greenery.

Unlike at home, Asha and I were awakened by our cousins as early as 7 am every morning for a hearty breakfast that included eggs, bacon, cocoa tea and homemade bread.

Lunch was dead on noon and included homemade pepper sauce and vegetables that came from the yard.

I remember how in awe we were seeing food coming up from the ground for the first time and how much kicks our cousins got from our awe.

Dinner was at 6 pm and snacking on our favourites—corn curls, sweets, chocolates—was almost non-existent.

The neighbourhood parlour was not only far away but our cousins insisted that we eat healthy snacks like popcorn, corn on the cob (also grown in the backyard) and tonka bean.

I remember after a week of having to get out to bed at 7 am, Asha telling me (during one of our many night-time whispers in bed, while everyone else slept) that she felt as if she was in a concentration camp.

Still we did as we were told and followed the routine without a complaint. None of us wanted to be reported to Mummy and Daddy for being unruly.

We spent our days catching butterflies just to watch them up close before releasing them.

And, at the crack of dawn, we listened for the bell of the milkman as he made deliveries along the street.

I got on a bike for the first time in Carapichaima and took a hard fall in the stony dirt yard, too—I have still have the scars to prove it.

I never got on a bike again.

My most memorable time by far was performing in concert by candlelight in the gallery when the lights went out.

Vacation in Arima by Aunty Sylvia’s house was a far a different experience.

We were older, at 16, with raging hormones.

As in Carapichaima, we used to wake up at 7 am, but for a totally different reason—to hang with the boys we befriended in the area. One of them was Pecky and another, a very cute Mark Wright, who went on to become Marka of the local rap group Blak Mayl.

Marka and his boys used to ride in the yard on their bikes every morning to lime and play cards.

We’d only break for lunch and a shower and then we’d lime some more till night fell.

Aunty Sylvia was liberal that way but it’s not like we were on our own and free to do what we want.

She’d keep watch from her sewing room to keep a leash on the raging hormones of all present.

So I never got a chance to see the Statue of Liberty or Big Ben up close. Nor boast of going to a magical place like Disneyland. But that’s okay. The vacations my sister and I spent out of the plannings, right here in Trinidad, were far better.

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