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Beet Juice

One of our favorite pastimes here in Trinidad is sampling the local beverages.  Since we’re family oriented, these beverages are all non-alcoholic, but still so much fun!  I mean, the look on my son’s face when he took a big slurp of peanut punch, that was both memorable and classic.  He didn’t like it one bit.  When my other son said it tasted like liquid Reece’s cup candy, I took a rain check on the taste test.  There are many, many unique juices and such here, so we’re still trying them out.  My favorite so far is Zing!, a grapefruit flavored drink bottled in Jamaica.

Homemade drinks can often be found at the beaches being sold in the car park. Seamoss and Channa punch seem to be the most common. Repackaged in used plastic water bottles, these punches look almost identical; creamy off-white, slightly thick.  They are marked with a reused twist tie in different colors to distinguish them from each other.  Local lore claims the Seamoss punch is good for men and their vitality. We’ve tried them both, and because of the sweetened condensed milk used in the recipes, they taste very similar, but the texture is slightly different.  I found them both to be like melted vanilla ice cream. Yum!

For our latest flavor test, we picked up this Beetroot and Linseed  punch at the local JTA supermarket.  It’s locally produced and contains water, milk, beetroot, linseed, spices, and sucrose.

It’s very, very pink.

The texture was a bit grainy, and that prevented any one of us wanting more than a few sips.  Like a sweet, not quite blended fruit shake.  The bottle is slightly smaller than a bottle of water at 500ml, and it does say that it contains 5 servings.  So maybe a few sips is all you’re expected to drink at a time.

The container still sits in the fridge half-full, so I think that means it didn’t pass the yum test.

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Sanity Savers

Traveling abroad can present some unique situations, which is why many choose to do so in the first place!  Add in the factor of living in a place for a year or two makes the decisions of what to bring along a challenge.  We chose to bring clothing, school books, and a few other items and put everything else in storage.  It many ways it’s liberating to be without all the stuff you think you need.  There have been many days however, that I long for a particular book, my fantastic rice cooker, or some other odd item that is sitting patiently for us on the other side of the planet.

Of the items we did bring, I am so happy we brought musical instruments.  A guitar, and a ukulele.  If you ever wanted to learn to play the guitar, now’s the time to do so.  It isn’t all exploring and fun in a new place, there will be lots of lonely days and nights.  It takes time to meet people, get a feel for the way of life, and learn where everything is.  You may also be living far from the action.  If you have internet, you can learn guitar.  Practice, practice, practice.

Another sanity saver is a hobby.  Something easily transported works well, that you can do with minimal or small-sized supplies.  Bring your own supplies, as they may not be available, or the quality not up to your standard.  A portable hobby also opens doors of communication among strangers.  It was funny to have a teenaged boy come up to me and ask, “Is that knitting?  Wow, I saw that on TV once.”  Knitting, crochet, sewing, jewelry making, drawing, painting, etc.  These are all great hobbies to know or learn to do.  The internet is a great teacher, and videocasts on iTunes or Bliptv are also great resources for learning or just staying in touch with like-minded persons.  I found knitting videocasts to be great mood lifters, because they are formated as if you are hanging out with knitting friends.

Another great item to bring along is an e-reader.  They are small, portable, and provide endless hours of reading.  If you can afford it, I recommend one for each person, including children.  Your new local library may not have the variety of books you are used to, and purchasing books can be costly.  We brought along the school books we needed since we home school, but we really miss having a house full of assorted books to read at any time.  An e-reader won’t take the place of tactile books, but they are a fantastic option.

On a final note, think of things that you do daily and the items you use to do them.  If you make coffee in an Italian style pot everyday and you choose not to bring it, you will miss it, I guarantee.  It’s small enough to squeeze in somewhere.  I knew that I was partial to good kitchen knives, and was able to find a duplicate set on Craigslist right before we came.  It was at a rock bottom price, and came with blade guards and a carrying case!  The seller was a retired teacher at the Cordon Blu academy who was reducing his knife collection and just happy to see them go to a good home.  I am thankful everyday that I have those knives with me now.  Makes cutting through the gargantuan carrots they sell here, a breeze.

If you have any tips on life and sanity savers for extended travel, please leave a comment.  We’d love to hear your advice!


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Politely Cutting Grass

There is a program here in Trinidad called CEPEP.  The acronym CEPEP stands for Community-based Environment Protection and Enhancement Program and is prevalent throughout Trinidad.  The intention of CEPEP is three-fold; enhancement of the environment, creating jobs, and new business start-ups.  Basically, it is road cleaning crews that pick up trash and mow the grass.  The workers tend to be single mothers and unemployed men.  The new business start-up aspect is where things get tricky.  The government doesn’t directly pay or hire the workers, an independent contractor does.  He gets paid by the government, must hire workers from the area that the work needs to be done, and he pays them.

Anyway, when the workers are cutting the grass with the weed whackers, they politely hold up a screen to prevent projectiles from hitting the cars passing by.  If you have ever had your car pinged with rocks and other road debris from mowers, then you know how nice this is.

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Caiman in the Backyard

Caiman, which look a bit like alligators, are alive and well here in Trinidad.  We happen to have a canal right next to our apartment, which has become the source of much entertainment for my 14-year-old son. 

Among other creatures, there are assorted caiman in there.  An extra-large one my son has named Steve, various middle-sized caiman, and a few month ago we saw babies.

Two baby caiman

Two baby caiman

Baby caiman

At first, it was such an exciting novelty, that when any one of us saw one, we’d call everyone out and we’d look with wonder that such a creature could be mere feet from us.

Over time however, it became just my teenaged son who would diligently look for the caiman, each morning and evening.  He takes his camera with him and photographs any creature out there, from bug to bird, squirrel to fish.  Patience has paid off, because he now has an amazing assortment of critter photos to document our stay here.  Early one morning he caught a caiman eating a dog.  Yup, he got photos, but I’ll spare you…

The fighter

Right in front of you

 And I am happy to tell you, that the canal is behind a nice, tall wall!

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Homestyle Milk

Milk here is expensive.  At one of my first grocery trips here in Trinidad, I stood before the milk, all imported, and converted the container into gallons, then into US dollars, and the milk was selling at roughly $12 per gallon.  I refused to buy it.  A few months later, I notice a different type of milk for much less.  It is locally produced and was selling for about $7 U.S. dollars per gallon.  I broke down and bought a half-gallon because my kids had been moaning about missing cereal.  Which also sells for outrageous prices here, unless there is a promotion.  With three kids, milk was gone in a day.

Months later, a local guy that works with my husband gives him a container of milk.

Fresh milk.  Very fresh.

From the cow, to the container.

His father works at a dairy and is allowed to take home milk each day.  It is boiled for 30 minutes, cooled, and packaged in recycled soda bottles.  They are then frozen and used when they need it.

This is real, whole milk.  I had to teach the kids about shaking the container before pouring!  My 14-year-old son loves it, and promptly drank half in the first day, and finished it off the next.  I told my husband that we need more of that milk!

It makes me think of all the battles being fought for the right to sell or make raw milk in the U.S.  All those regulations that start out with good intentions, but end up strangling the life out of small businesses and farmers.

So, we’ll enjoy this wonderful, creamy goodness for as long as we can.

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Something Fishy Here

A few days have passed now, so I can calmly write about the fish market in San Fernando.  First, I must tell you about some things that really rile me in life.  One of them is pollution, particularly rubbish in and around water.  Another is wasteful practices, which leads to depletion, involving natural resources.  

Alright, the fish market. 

Having been in Trinidad for a year now, the sight of fish strung up on a string from a stick with the seller holding it on the side of the highway doesn’t surprise me anymore.  Seeing a pile of shrimp mounded on a table, no ice, in the middle of the Debe fresh market doesn’t shock me either.  I won’t buy from either place, but obviously many of the locals do.  However, when you go to an official “fish market” on the shore of Paria Bay, 10 feet from the fishing boats, you have expectations.

Like fresh fish.

Now, since it was only 9:30am when we got to the market, I expected these fish to be caught that morning and looking pretty good.  However, leaving them out in the open on plywood tables will rapidly dry out the best of them.  I saw a few fish with tails starting to curl up!  That’s dry.  The piles of fish often contained varying sizes of the same fish, some seeming very small to me.  I guess if it makes it in the net, they sell it. The fish were all shades of silver/white/gray, but dull, dull, dull.  The life had gone out of them. There were three larger fish from the Jack family that had cloudy eyes, a sure sign of not being fresh.  Yes, despite being dead, fresh fish should be shiny, plump, have clear eyes and look full of shimmer and life.  Everything I saw was pathetic.  I guess the best of the bunch had already been purchased earlier.

There were few customers, mainly coming in to purchase tiny shrimp for bait, so they could go catch their own fish, and the market had only men working.  Most just hanging around their little tables, eyeing us and trying to convince us they knew where we were from. 

“You must be from Denmark!”

“No, we’re not from Denmark.”

“My son is in Denmark, you’re really not from Denmark?”

“No, sorry.” 

“Canadian then, you’re Canadian!” 

“Nope, not Canadian either.”

That was the opening line, and then one guy kept coming up to me telling me to go out back.  “It’s okay you can go there, it’s safe.  Come see our fish.”

Don’t be friendly, or even smile. 

Just move on or tell them straight out ‘no’ and walk away.  They won’t be offended.  Even though my husband and teenaged son were with me, I found the men a bit forward.  Nothing overt, but it they hadn’t been with me,  it would have been very uncomfortable. 

It was difficult for me to see piles of fish guts, bones, and scales right under the tables where you were supposed to pick your fish from.  Not that I’m squeamish, but it seemed indicative of poor practices in general.  Did I mention not a cube of ice was in sight?

Out the back door, the birds stood in line for fresh pickins.  Behind the birds are the ferries that run between San Fernando and Port of Spain.

There were a few interesting things on the little strip of shoreline next to the birds. 

 Like shark heads. 

Lots of little shark heads. 

None were larger than my fist.  I know there are small shark species, but I am pretty sure these are babies.  Further reading on sharks and finning practices here in Trinidad can be found here.


There really wasn’t much besides the shark heads and piles of pollution along here.  It was very sad to see that this filth also happens to be mere feet from what Hugo described, generously I might add, as the fishermen’s village.  


Extreme poverty. 

Hugo had painted the scene, but took artistic license to create a colorful view in the  impressionistic style that was quite appealing. 

Unfortunately, my camera doesn’t do such tricks.  

There was a line of shacks going down, all facing the sea. 

The village and fish market both had an air of desperation. This whole experience was quite sad for me.

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