Carnival in Trinidad!
Trip Start Aug 01, 2006
16Trip End Jul 14, 2007
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Our trip to Trini began on Sunday, February 18th, as Joel (a very good Guyanese friend), Tiffany, Yvonne and I took the quick 45 minute flight from Guyana into Port-of-Spain, Trinidad. We were very lucky to find really cheap tickets and to have the wonderful luxury of staying at Joel's uncle's house just outside the capital, so that accomodations were totally free. We arrived pretty late sunday night (~12pm), and we were all very tired...however we were aggressively and passionately informed by Indira (also staying at Joel's uncle's place), that we MUST get up at 3 in the morning (the next day, Carnival Monday, in 3 hours) for J'ouvert. J'ouvert, or "Dirty Mas", always takes place before dawn on the Monday before Ash Wednesday. It means "goodbye to the flesh" or "welcome to daybreak." In J'ourvert everyone dresses in old clothes and covers themselves in mud, oil paint and body paint. So basically there are about 10 bands that march around Port-of-Spain from about 4am until 10am. Each band has its own theme, and consists of huge trucks either blasting Soca music, hosting a steel drum band, or handing out alcohol and massive amounts of paint or mud, which everyone throws on everyone else. Pure chaos. Everyone is marching and dancing at the same time, having so much fun just celebrating fun. After the march, we ended up in this park where these guys were blasting everyone with water from a huge hose...and everyone was just shouting and dancing around in the water, trying to get all of the paint and mud off. It was really amazing to experience this with so many people doing the same crazy thing.
After J'ouvert we got back to the house about 10:30am, hosed off in the backyard before taking showers, and we all passed straight out and slept until about 4pm. Then we all woke up, got ready real quick, and went back into town for the first part of Mas (short for masquerade). On Carnival Monday the parade of the mas bands is usually only on a casual scale since the main Mas is on Carni Tuesday. The revelers wear only parts of their costumes, and the purpose of the day is more one of fun than display or competition. So after watching a few of the bands, we met up with a bunch of other friends that had also come to Trinidad from Guyana--mainly other volunteers with PeaceCorps, WorldTeach, or organizations through the UK and Canada. We ended up just hanging out in front of a little shop on the side of the main road just talking, dancing, and just having a low-key good time.
So the next day, Carnival Tuesday, was awesome because this is when the main events of the carnival took place. The people in the bands wear elaborate costumes complete with make up and body paints/adornments. Each band has their costume presentation based on a particular theme, and contains various sections (some consisting of thousands of revelers) which reflect these themes. After following a route where various judging points are located, the mas bands eventually converge on the Queen's Park Savannah to pass "on the stage" to be judged once and for all. We got to see all of the band which ended up winning, whose theme was "India." Also taking place on this day is the crowning of the Road March king or queen, where the singer of the most played song over the two days of the carnival is crowned winner, complete with prize money and usually a vehicle. This year the winner was Machel Montano, with the song "Jumbie." And the next day we saw him perform live because we somehow scored VIP passes to this posh niteclub called Zen. Priceless.
After the main Mas there were of course more trucks blasting soca, dancing, and craziness than one can even imagine...all continuing up until exactly Midnight, when everything shuts down because of Ash Wednesday. The cleaning crews start cleaning the roads and everyone goes home to sleep off the days of chaos.
The next few days we spent relaxing, sight-seeing in the area, visiting with some of Joel's friends/family, checking out the nitelife, and of course going to the beach!
The beach was absolutely amazing and I nearly had a heart attack on the drive up there because we drove up and down this big moutain so we could see the landscape really well. It was absolutely gorgeous.