What the pandemic has taught us about sweet TnT

What has the pandemic forced us to do?

The answer to that is: STAY AT HOME.

 Over the past year, we have spent a considerable amount of time in our homes and in our country. While some of us may have lived in Trinidad and Tobago for most of our lives and even travelled to other countries, we may have not truly seen the vast beauty of both islands. It’s safe to say that we are in fact tourists in our homeland and the pandemic has proved that not being able to travel has encouraged us Trinbagonians to explore our native land and by extension, our native selves. From the Caroni Swamp to the Bamboo Cathedral, we have found ourselves exploring and searching deeper within our land. We have had the opportunity to have dinner while looking at the sunset on a swamp, being graced by the presence of our protected National Bird. Where snakes are moving quietly in the mangroves surrounding us and the crabs are listening to our laughter! Where can you say that you’ve heard that happen before?

We have returned to the joy that comes from watching our children play in the Eddie Hart Grounds and Queen’s Park Savannah while enjoying some BBQ, Empanadas and coconut water. We sit there and wonder “I ain’t realized that Johnson got so tall over the pandemic boy” and we look to the dusty skies and give thanks that we are safely on our island. We have had small gatherings to enjoy a movie and Sunday Lunch at the tables with our parents and children. We started to return to ourselves.

Oftentimes we seem to find joy outside of the place that we like to call our own, only when we want to speak of the Trinidad and Tobago Carnival. Trinbagonians can go on and on about the festival, the fete, the food and drinks but sometimes falter when they must speak on the “lay of the land” or what makes them a true Trinbagonian. During the pandemic, we were stuck behind screens for a while and had to stay put. We started to return to what Trinidad and Tobago are calling us to be; ourselves. We have made our own doubles in our homes, regardless of race or ethnic background and have delved into the art of the “suck-ah-bag” when there is no milk lolly to purchase, we made kites, mango bread, built a fireside and watched the days pass as we settled into our restless island.

Have you ever been to another country and heard the sound of a distant steelpan and you’re ready to let go of your hair and chip down the street? How comforting is it that we can stand in a line outside the grocery, the mask irritating us, the sun blazing and hear a steelpan and remember that time we jumped up in a J’ouvert with our cousins? At this moment, we begin to think to ourselves that we have been passing this pan man for six years, dropping small pennies in his suitcase and we’ve never felt this sentiment. Not once. We then begin to wonder why.

When you consider it for while longer, you start to realize that ‘touristing’ is not only visiting

places, sightseeing, taking pictures and leaving, but it’s finding parts of ourselves that resonates with a physical space. This is what the pandemic has taught us; that we try to travel to Bali and California to search for our hearts and heal our spirits but, it all must happen right here, in our home. Where else are we to turn than to our root? Where else can we turn to heal but our Motherland?

 Essentially, the pandemic has helped us to realize that we must know more about our physical space and find joy there, thereby, finding the joy and the light that we are looking for in ourselves. It has allowed us the time to make foods that only our Grand-Tanti Joan had the recipe for, like Paime (Pay-mee) and Coconut bake. We have realized how much we have forgotten about ourselves but are searching to remember.  It has shown us that the story of the man on the street, knocking a beer bottle and singing about where Audrey got her sugar, is no different to our story. How we raise our arms in the air as though we want to hug the entire ether with our souls. Though packaged differently, we are Trinbago at heart and we know not how to be anything aside from ourselves.

The pandemic has taught us that we are sweet T ‘n’ T and T’n’T is we. It has confirmed that we are a tourist in our own homeland, searching deeply, to gather ourselves.

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