Saturday, September 10, 2011

Dear T&T: What Happened to You?

So, generally this blog is about my love affair with travel and the lighter, more beautiful aspects of the pastime I hold so dear to my heart. 

But I cannot always live in a rose-colored travel world. 

Sometimes, the love wanes (only briefly) and the issues that affect the world and travel come to light. I suppose it is relevant to discuss the complete picture of a true love affair anyway, because the love wouldn't be real without a little heartache.

Except this is a big heartache. The source of my woes is my own sweet Trinidad & Tobago.

After 11 people were killed in just 3 days last month, the government declared a limited state of emergency, forcing residents in the targeted crime areas to abide by a 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew and to be subject to searches at law enforcement's discretion. Which, in Trinidad means, the police will do as they please when they please, just because they feel like it (as is generally the case, only now, they won't suffer any backlash). On September 4th, the emergency decree was revised to have curfew between the hours of 11 p.m. and 4 a.m. The curfew, which has already been in place for several weeks, will last another 3 months.

The government says the killings are drug related, confined to gangs and have little to do with the general public. But if the general public has altered their lifestyles to suit this madness, it has everything to do with the general public. Just as our national motto says, "Together we aspire, together we achieve," together we fail and together we suffer. The senseless crime has got to stop; they are spoiling my beloved country.

Some things, however, remain unchanged. In true Trini festive fashion, some venues have been hosting "curfew fêtes" lasting from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m., the exact hours of the required curfew, and serving promotional "AK47" shots at the bar. Only in Trinidad can we make light of a situation by throwing a party and also manage to last 8 hours doing it. 

But, back to a serious note, I worry about the people who will only know or remember this blemish on the face of my country. The ones who won't know that the water is delicious and warm and shockingly teal. That the sand feels like silky powder under your feet. That the mangoes have never been sweeter than when your neighbor brings some over, fresh from their tree. That every meal tastes like it's from a mother's kitchen (because it probably is) and the fusion of flavors and spices is like a performance for your taste buds.

They won't hear the faint sounds of steel pan playing somewhere in the distance while the warm night breeze lulls them to sleep. Or hear the soca music that will course through their veins and allow them no option but to dance. They won't know the heart and spirit of my country.

There is so much more to a country than just it's struggles. And while this is certainly an issue that needs to be resolved, I hope that one day soon, Trinidad & Tobago finds its way back to the sweet country I remember and once again leaves the world with memories of teal oceans and coconut trees rather than drugs and killing.

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