Travel

Public Service Announcement!

You may have noticed I’ve been gone a while. That was due to several factors including illness, a very busy period at work, trying to write more, a vacation and general laziness (not in that order).

However, I’ve since got over my bronchitis, killed my work assignment and had a blast on vacation in St. Vincent (My first 5 star resort! Pictures to come!). When life gets that good, it follows that something not so great might happen and that was this week, when I tried to put on my computer and return to my writing schedule.

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Suffice it to say, I paid $1,000 to fix this thing in May, and it’s not working. Again. I was heartbroken. Especially since my vacation has left me with cashflow problems the like of Bear Stearns before it died a swift, painful death.

Worse, I have no computer to write on.

sad crying please buffy the vampire slayer sarah michelle gellar

But there are angels in the world, and one of them is my sister. So I am getting an early Christmas/Birthday present in the form of my very first laptop ever. I’m a bit nervous about using a smaller device and I will also need stuff like a new desk, but I’m incredibly happy to be getting a new machine.

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Unfortunately, this means writing and blogging will also take just a bit longer before I start up again, but hopefully this time I’ll be able to keep at it for a while. My priority these days is writing though, so I’ll not be as frequent a poster as I used to be, as you probably already noticed.

In the meantime, I’ll post cool stuff I find on the internet when I can. So here’s a link to a helpful blog on 51 things that break reader immersion for my writing friends out there. 

Till we meet again…stay thirsty, my friends!

A Wonderful New Review for LEX TALIONIS in Caribbean Beat Magazine

I’m really over the moon about this one!

Caribbean Beat magazine is produced by Caribbean Airlines and given away free on every flight they have, both in and out of the Caribbean, for two months. I’m extremely lucky and grateful to be included in their bookshelf. In the past, I’ve heard about great books like ‘A Brief History Of Seven Killings’–which won the Man Booker prize, among others–from reading the magazine while traveling around the islands on business.

You can read the review here, just scroll down a bit. 

My favourite part? The closing lines:

‘Lex Talionis sings a bloody song of both forgetting and redemption, and of the price we pay for a little tenderness, when least we expect to be taxed for our freedoms.’

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*Squees with joy*

*Dances around*

Okay, back to your regularly scheduled programme!

3 Day Quote Challenge! And They’re Off!!

I’ve been nominated for the Three Day Quote Challenge by Erin Burns! She has a wonderful blog in which she reviews books, among other things. She’s extra special to me because not only did she read and like my novel LEX TALIONIS, she left reviews for it all over the place. If she wasn’t already awesome, that would have finished the job. So if you’re looking for something to read, particularly genre fiction like scifi and romance, you might want to hit up her blog for recommendations.

So here are the rules for this torture exercise:

  • Thank the blogger who nominated you.
  • Publish a quotes on 3 consecutive days on your blog.  The quote can be one of your own, from a book, movie, or from anyone who inspires you.
  • Nominate 3 more bloggers each day to carry on this endeavor.

My quote for today is:

There Wouldn't Be A Sky Full Of Stars If We Were All Meant To Wish On The Same One by NamedByArt on Etsy:

I love this because it reminds me of a local saying in my country. ‘What is for you, is for you.’ Both quotes address the fact that everyone is different and everyone has different destinies. Clark’s quote reminds us that we aren’t all after the same thing in life, so don’t be afraid to choose your own path and follow it.

The Trini saying means it’s okay to go after what you want, even if you fail. Because if you’re meant to have it, no one else will get it. What’s not said–but is just as important–is the idea that anything you don’t have, wasn’t meant for you in the first place. So celebrate the achievements of others. Dare to be different. Don’t be afraid to take your own path. Your destiny is your own and failure doesn’t mean you missed out on anything, or that anyone robbed you of success. It just means there’s something else wonderful in front of you that you haven’t got to yet.

My nominees of excellent blogs for your attention:

  • M.A. is a new friend over at Romance Language where he posts infrequently, but speaks eloquently, movingly and thoughtfully about writing, reading and life when he does. It’s worth passing by just to read his archives, which is small but powerful.
  • Anna Kashina is a successful writer I’m proud to call friend. Author of several beautifully written fantasy adventure series, her latest works have won her two Prism awards from the Romance Writers of America. She doesn’t blog often, but has good insights into writing and publishing.
  • Kelpiemoon blogs on a million different topics over at Scribbles at Midnight. Writing, book reviews, society, music, you name it, it’s there. But they’re all addressed with great depth, good humour and openness. Check out the archives for funny observations and laments.

Looking forward to everyone jumping in and having a good time.

Have fun, and stay thirsty, my friends!

A Film Festival And A Dance Battle

Found this great roundup of the recently concluded Trinidad and Tobago Film Festival (ttff).

Great to see the films being appreciated, but even better to hear sound critical advice. Yes, our film-makers need to come from a more critical place, especially when making documentaries. We are presenting positive overviews right now, but I suspect as the industry matures, creators will worry less about offending sensibilities and start doing more to reflect the realities of the Caribbean experience, and start conversations we need to have before we chart our future.

I also came across this amazing dance battle on Twitter yesterday, filmed at the Montreal Swing Riot by Alain Wong. Street dancers faced off against vintage/swing dancers and the results were magical. It’s a bit long, but you won’t regret watching the whole thing.

Keep dancing your cares away, my friends!

The New York Times Is Loving Our Food!

Here we go in the New York Times again!

This lovely little article about a Trinbagonian family cooking and living in New York has definitely captured the essence of us.

We are no faded copy of any ‘mother’ country. Trinidad and Tobago is a blend of races and foods uniquely its own, and like all other places, we like food the way we like it. Our curry is not like India’s, but in a really good way according to most visitors. Many Trinis will tell you stories of traveling abroad and missing roti, especially if they’re an East Indian family. I spent two weeks in Barbados once and almost cried when I was able to come home and eat doubles lol. I love travel and I love to try new foods (another Trinbagonian trait), but after a while, you just want a good souse or plum chow and you can’t get that the same way anywhere else but home.

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Speaking for the islands though, when it comes to Caribbean food, there are ideas people have about us that are mostly wrong, so two hints. One, we wash most meats with vinegar and/or lime and water to cut the gamey taste (a lot less with pork though). Two, we don’t really roll savory foods in coconut flakes. We use coconut milk in everything, and put flakes in dessert, but coconut shrimp is NOT Caribbean.

What’s your favourite cuisine and what do other countries get wrong about it?

The New York Times Mentioned Trinidad and Tobago!

It was no big deal though. Just a bit in their travel section about the new hiking trails we opened, but at least we were in their headline.

Still, we tiny nations so seldom get into the news I was quite proud to see us listed there.

Now, if only we could get this kind of recognition for Carnival. That’s when tourists would really enjoy us. Just ask Nikki.

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Have a good weekend and remember to have one on me guys!

Sushi-Burritos Taste Amazing!

You’ve never heard of them? Well allow me to introduce you to them.

I just had one of these last month, while I was out with my sister at one of our new favourite restaurants, Samurai. So I can tell you it’s definitely available outside of California and New York.

Also, they’re right. It’s helladelicious. One of the best things I ever put in my mouth.

Here’s a pic of the one I ate, which I tweeted. And some other stuff we had that day.

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Ummm…those shrimp were tasty. And in the background, that’s a watermelon Smirnoff. Had no idea it came in that flavour. Definitely an improvement over the acidic original flavours.

And now I’m hungry.

Off to eat!

Stay thirsty (and hungry!) my friends 😉

Top 10 Popular Beaches in Trinidad and Tobago

And by popular, I don’t mean best. In fact, a couple of these beaches would not be impressive put up against beaches from other parts of the Caribbean. But if you want to see how real Trinbagonians live, and want to experience the beach ‘lime’ (Trini word for hanging out with friends) with us, these are the beaches you’ll find most Trinbagonians have been to at least once. Some of them will be crowded, especially on hot days, but others will be fairly quiet, and all have the distinct advantage of offering a cross-section of Trinibagonian life.

This is, of course, my own personal list, not official in any way, and other Trinis are free to love other beaches. Please note the pictures here are NOT my work and are taken from around the Web to illustrate the list, nothing more.

10.  Chaguaramas / Carenage

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Chaguaramas (SHA-gor-RA-mus) and Carenage (CA-ren-NARGE) are the go-to beaches for the everyman. Busy city dwellers in the north-west of Trinidad will often go there, especially if they don’t own a car and/or live on a budget. Bus service runs regularly from the capital of Port-of-Spain to the last beach in Carenage every day, making access easy. In recognition of that fact, the government recently invested heavily in the area, beautifying it with the popular boardwalk pictured above.

Carenage Bay, as you can see from the picture below, is a popular harbour for yachts. Their presence, and the run-off from the villages and industries around the bay, sometimes affects the purity of the water, and there can be debris as well. Rainy season is a good time to stay away, as the silt run-off from the Northern Range can affect the water too. But the waters are calm and shallow so Carenage remains popular as an easy to get to relief from the heat.

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9.  Macqueripe

Macqueripe Beach

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(Ma-CA-reep) This beach is very small and to get to it, you have to go down quite a few flights of stairs. But the harbour itself is much larger than the beach, and the water is clear and very cold, no matter how hot the day is. There are almost no waves here so it’s perfect for soaking, and the wooded area around the beach have lots of hiking trails. Vendors work above the beach, selling food and drinks every day of the week.

The drawbacks are it’s impossible to get to if you don’t have private transport, and there’s a pretty steep drop-off if you swim out far enough, so non-swimmers should stay close to shore.

8.  Blanchisseuse

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(Blan-SHEE-SHEARS) One of the many party beaches popular with Trinidadians. It’s a very long drive, especially if you’re coming from the north-west, but it’s along a lovely coast. People tend to go here less for the swimming, and more for the soaking in shallow waters, and the rivers that empty into the beach itself. Because there are many families camping and liming here on a regular basis, the beach often has a litter problem. It can also get quite rough at certain times of the day, or the year. But it can be beautiful too, as the picture above shows.

7.  Manzanilla

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(Man-za-NIL-ah) Like Blanchisseuse, this beach is party central, especially after Carnival for Ash Wednesday. The long drive is along a coastal road and the many, many coconut trees that line the road and beach are a beautiful and well-known feature. Again, popularity with campers and drunken limers make litter a problem. But there’s lots of shade, rivers and shallow waters to soak in. Just don’t get to far out if you’re not a strong swimmer.

6.  Mayaro

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(May-YAH-row) Few Trinis have not rented a house or spent time at a Mayaro resort during their life-time. Although the current can be strong and the wind creates huge waves sometimes, this beach also has good shallow spots for bathing, and is great in other areas for surfing. Most of the good spots are taken by resorts, which are sometimes a bit run-down, but if you love nature, you’ll find some here that will take your breath away. Like Carenage, there are also good bathroom and bathing facilities here for a couple of dollars, something missing from the other beaches I’ve mentioned so far.

5.  Toco / Salybia

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(TOW-CO / Sa-LIB-be-ah)Toco’s rivers are a huge draw on hot days. However, the beaches are beautiful, if often too rough to bathe, and with far too strong a current to even attempt to surf. Salybia is the exception, with crystal clear shallow waters that are good for bathing if you don’t mind getting pulled along by the current a little.  There’s a lovely and popular resort that takes advantage of the great views.

4.  Grande Rivière

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(GRAN Re-VEER)This beach is on this list because it is the second largest nesting area in the world for the amazing leatherback turtle, the largest of all living turtles and practically a living dinosaur. Turtles born here will return here to lay their eggs. Dozens will nest at night during the nesting season, which is March through August. The best time to see them, though, is April to July, during their peak. Tours and guides are easy to find.

3.  Las Cuevas

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(Las Kuay-vas) The quieter sister to the popular Maracas, Las Cuevas has clear, cold water, and can be stunningly beautiful in clear weather. On bad days, it’s rough, but there are caves to explore and you can always sit in the shallow waters. Here, there are lifeguards and good bathroom facilities as well.

2.  Maracas

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(Ma-RAH-cas) The premiere beach in Trinidad, full stop. Developed with bathing facilities, parking facilities and vendors galore, the beautiful blue waters and white sand make it the most popular beach destination for Trinis of every stripe. Here is where the popular bake and shark was invented, and the most popular vendor that sells it, ‘Richards’, still has their booth here.

Despite the often wind-whipped waters not being so great for bathing, it’s always good for surfing. On holidays and hot days, it can take hours to get here, and even more hours to get out, due to the long, winding, single road that provides access. It’s best to arrive around 8am and leave before 3pm. Bus service is spotty at best, so private and hired cars are the best way to get there. But who can complain when the sea-breeze hits you with a bake and shark in one hand and a beer in the next?

1.  Any beach in Tobago

Because there is not a single Trinibagonian alive who wouldn’t trade a day at the beach in Trinidad for a day at the beach in their relaxed, beautiful, natural gem of a sister island, Tobago. And if you wonder why, just take a look at these:

Pigeon Point, Tobago

Store Bay, Tobago

Englishman’s Bay, Tobago

(Charlotteville, Tobago)

See what I mean?

Now I want to go to the beach…

*Pops a can of beer and puts her feet up*

Stay thirsty, my friends!

Top 5 Street Foods of Trinidad and Tobago

Today I’m going to start a regular Friday feature that tells you a little about fun things from my daily life. And since food is probably the number one thing West Indians love–especially in Trinidad and Tobago–it’s only fitting that I start by talking about Caribbean cuisine.

T&T is a diverse society, with a large black and East Indian population, and minorities that include the Syrians, Chinese, Dutch and a whole lot more. Our food has been influenced accordingly and we love to try new things. So without further ado, here’s my personal list of the top five street foods of Trinidad and Tobago, researched by myself and my family and completely unofficial, of course.

5.  Souse

Salty, citrusy, spicy goodness. Souse is a leftover from colonial days when poor people made do with every part of the animal, especially the cheapest cuts. Made from soft-boiled trotters, chicken feet or even cow-skin cut into thin strips–which has a jelly-like consistency–souse is basically a pickle with the flavour profile of a ceviche. Lots of onion, cucumber, fresh herbs, mild or hot peppers and salt make the tasty broth that the meat is soaked in for hours. It’s usually served in cups and eaten with the fingers, the better to lick them.

4. Pholourie

These light, savoury fried dough balls are usually served with a sweet sauce on the side. The sauce is made of fresh, whole green mangoes, skin and seeds and all, chopped up and stewed down with sugar, geera and Indian spices. There is also a salty, peppery green chutney that is sometimes served with it, also made of green mangoes, but without the seed.

Pholourie refers to the fried balls, but when you say it to a Trini, it’s understood sauce will come with it. That’s where all the flavour is, since the Pholourie is not highly seasoned. Usually sold in paper or plastic bags, with the sauce in a bag of its own. You dip the Pholourie in the sauce and eat it with your fingers. A cheap, popular snack because you can get up to a dozen for a few dollars.

3. Corn Soup

Popular at parties, sporting events and in the streets after dark, Trini style corn soup is made of fresh corn on the cob, boiled for hours in a broth of yellow lentils, carrots, fresh herbs and mild peppers. Small dumplings are usually part of the soup as well. It’s bracing, hearty enough to quiet hunger and served hot from a bubbling pot in Styrofoam cups.

2. Bake and Shark

One of the tastiest and most popular fish dishes In Trinidad. As in Asia, shark fin soup is popular here, but Trinis use the meat as well. The fish is seasoned with lots of limes, salt, pepper, fresh herbs and spices, and then fried. The ‘bake’ is a savoury dough that puffs up when fried into a large, light receptacle for fish heaven.

The dish became popular with people who visited our premiere beach, Maracas. Vendors there would buy the fresh fish directly off the boat and fry it up to serve to beach-goers. Although it’s served many places now, it’s understood that a ‘real’ bake and shark only comes from Maracas, and for many, only from ‘Richard’s’, a popular vendor at that beach. What makes bake and shark so special is the wide variety of sauces and condiments served with it to enhance the flavour of the fish. They include–but are not limited to–coleslaw, pineapple slices, fresh cucumbers, tomatoes, lettuce, ketchup, garlic sauce, pepper sauce, sweet tamarind sauce, honey mustard and so on. It’s self-service on paper plates, so you choose your own condiments and then chow down on crispy, juicy goodness while watching the waves come in.

1. Doubles

First off, just look at that. This vegetarian dish is popular with rich and poor alike, as it makes for a cheap and delicious hot breakfast. It’s rare to meet a Trini who doesn’t love this, and have their own special ‘doubles man’.

I’ve posted on this before, so you can head here to read more about this famous piece of Trini culture.

And now I’ve made myself hungry, so I’m off to forage in the fridge.

Stay thirsty, my friends!

The American Book Center Has LEX TALIONIS!

My book is now available at the amazing American Book Center in Amsterdam, Holland!

Here’s the announcement!

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