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The Voyage of Spectacle The Most Expensive Game Ever Played — Part II

The Voyage


Andy and Melissa are sailing around the world on their 48-foot sailboat, Spectacle.

The Position

Bali, Indonesia

The Pictures

The Voyage of Spectacle

The Most Expensive Game Ever Played — Part II


The Most Expensive Game Ever Played

Part II — Trinidad

As Andy mentioned, we went to the England versus New Zealand match in St. Lucia and it turned out to be really boring.  On the other hand, the energy surrounding the match was electric … super fans in crazy costumes, face paint, national flags as capes, gorilla suits, and yes, even a Borat-style swimsuit (he made the cover of the local newspaper, yikes).

The big game in Trinidad was India v. Sri Lanka.  Not only is this a huge game and historic rivalry, but Port of Spain, TrinidadIndia’s cultural influence in Trinidad is apparent in every part of life.  We briefly read about this alleged East Indian influence and thought:  Huh?  What?  How prevalent could it actually be?  Maybe some Tandoori chicken here and there?

Seriously, one cannot fully grasp the magnitude of East   Indian influence until experiencing Trinidad in person.  Indeed, 43% the population of Trinidad and Tobago is Indo-Trinidadian, and another 18% characterize themselves as a mixed race with some fraction of East Indian descent.

Upon our arrival in Trinidad, we immediately noticed a very different vibe.  The polite and reserved British fans, even the “super” fans, paled in comparison.  In a way, India was more the home team even than the West Indies team.

After the abolition of slavery in the British empire in 1833, a labor shortage forced Caribbean sugar cane farmers to seek out other solutions.  As such, the first Indian indentured laborers arrived in Trinidad on May 30, 1845 (a national holiday since 1995 called “Indian Arrival Day”) on a ship called the “Fatel Rozack.”  Ultimately outlawed by India in 1917, this migrant labor program nevertheless resulted in the immigration of 140,000 people from the Indian subcontinent.

Not surprisingly, the program had some problems.  British and Trinidadian people, even those in official and leadership positions, referred to the Indian immigrants as “Coolies,” a pejorative term thought to mean “menial laborer,” although the exact origins suggest a racial slur.  The term caused bitterness and distrust especially since many of the Indian immigrants paid their fare to the Caribbean and ultimately became successful land and business owners – these immigrants were not slaves, but they experienced similar racism and abuse.  A strenuous campaign to adopt the term Indo-Trinidadian was successful in the late 1880’s.

Because of this migrant labor program, the East Indian influence is everywhere in Trinidad — signs, businesses, music, fashion, architecture, language, accents, food, attitude, religion — truly everywhere from the Taj Mahal dry cleaners to the best Indian food we’ve ever had to the Hindu prayer flags to the cab driver’s dashboard statuette of Vishnu.

But East Indian is not Trinidad’s only exotic racial influence … next door to Trinidad’s best restaurant, which is Indian food, is Trinidad’s second best restaurant, which is authentic Thai food.  Indeed, Trinidad contains a wide array of the world’s citizens including African, European, Middle Eastern, Thai, Indonesian, Chinese, and Latino.  The people-watching was fascinating and highly entertaining and we frequently pointed out a “colorful” passerby asking each other, how the hell did he get here?

Just like their uniqueness in appearance, Trinidadians are also unique in personality.  We met several locals with extremely strong opinions formed by relatively trivial or obscure events.  For instance, a waitress instructed us to take a Maxi (a small bus with a specific route but no defined bus stops requiring passengers to yell “stop”) to get to our next destination.  As we waited for the yellow-striped van, a cab driver approached us ranting and raving that the waitress worships the devil.  Apparently, he disagreed with her transit suggestions and as such, she’s a demon who wishes to “keep good men down,” especially those who are trying to better themselves.  After negotiating the fare, he ranted about the demon waitress (who publicly “claims to be a born again, church-going woman” and is apparently “reborn of the devil”) for about 10 minutes more, and then started in on his ex-wife.

Along the same lines, we had a hysterical interaction at the cricket match with a deadly serious Rastafarian nut salesman (who even had dreadlocks in his beard) that went something like this:

Andy:  Hey man!  You’ve got pistachios?  I love pistachios!  I’ll take two bags!

Rastafarian Nut Salesman:  Nods affirmatively and seriously.

Andy:  Looks at price.  Man, you’re sure not giving these things away, but I’ll take two anyway, I guess.

Rastafarian Nut Salesman:  Stares intently.  You will have justice.

Andy:  OK good … um … wait … what?  Are we still talking about nuts?

In any event, Trinidad’s cultural diversity produces a fantastic vibe of cooperation and mutual respect.  This vibe, along with all the complexities of the cricket situation, combined to make our two days in Trinidad absolutely magical.

In St. Lucia, the local news was that vendors and hoteliers are gravely disappointed in World Cup revenues.  On the promise of huge tourist dollars, many business owners were appropriated financial incentives to refurbish or expand their facilities, and it has turned out to be a bad investment.  Evidently, this has not been the case in Trinidad as all of the hotels in Port of Spain (Trinidad’s capital city) were totally sold out.  The last proper hotel with vacancies was the Port of Spain Hilton at a shocking $450 per night.  In a weak moment of frugality, we opted for the Bel Air International Airport Hotel (not to be confused with the Bel Air Hotel) … a total dump at $150 per night and a $30 and 1-hour-minimum cab ride to Port of Spain.

To be fair, the crappy Bel Air is staffed with friendly, competent, and professional people.  Waiting for a cab into the city, we witnessed this good service first hand while getting acquainted with some other hotel guests, the Chaudhury family.  Dr. Chaudhury brought his wife, daughter, and son all the way from London to see their beloved India cricket team.  Unfortunately, they put their tickets in their checked luggage, and lovely Air France (definitely not a Melissa and Andy favorite) just can’t seem to master that “keep-the-luggage-on-the-same-flight-as-the-passengers” trick.  As frequent air travelers to ticketed events, we knew that putting the tickets in the checked luggage was a rookie mistake, but we felt bad for them anyway.  At 3:00 p.m., they were panicking to locate the luggage or contact ICC (International Cricket Council) personnel for an alternate resolution before the game started at 9:30 a.m. the following morning.  Everyone was desperately trying to help this stranded family, and since we had two extra tickets, we exchanged contact information with Dr. Chaudhury should their other options run out.

Then we met Max, the East Indian but West Indies cricket fan cab driver, who took us into Port of Max (the Cab Driver), Andy, and our Calypso PerformerSpain.  A quick stop at a scenic overlook provided a fantastic view of the city and port, and a fabulous impromptu calypso serenade.

Calypso is a unique Trinidadian music form with French Creole roots.  Often backed by a steel drum, Calypso is primarily lyrical and can be irreverent, political, satirical, witty, or gossipy.  Some Calypso artists use the music form as a verbal newspaper to discuss contemporary issues, and some rely on more general themes like life, love, and loss.  Some lines from our personal serenade included:

“She may be wearing blue, but her heart is happy because she’ll always love you.”

“God’s gift is the love in your eyes, but cut back on the Stags, you could use some exercise.”

With a population of 500,000, Port of Spain is a lively atmosphere of urban chaos.  We walked a couple of blocks, checked out the cricket ground, and then just kind of stopped for a late lunch at the first available establishment.  With tons of televisions with multiple international feeds, Trotter’s is a sports bar that wouldn’t be out of place in Westwood, Tucson or Columbia, Missouri.  We quite liked it, but it definitely lacked anything approximating local flavor – they offered jalapeno poppers, spinach dip fully plagiarized from Houston’s, and a perky waitress with precisely 37 pieces of flair.

We moved on for drinks at Smokey and Bunty’s, a legendary local pub in the St. James neighborhood.  The crowd was totally representative of Trinidad itself … East Indian bartender, light complexion West Indian owner, dark complexion African-descended patrons to our right, British immigrants at the table to our left, Southeast Asian family patronizing the roti stand next door.  The people-watching was astonishing, but we had yet to find rowdy cricket fans, and we were missing them.Tandoori Scallops at Apsara

Hoping to see some rival fans (or perhaps some players), we walked about two miles over to dinner at the fabulously authentic Apsara.  The food was amazing … deliciously spicy, burn-your-face-off scallops on a sizzling skillet, chicken tikka masala served on a brazier of red hot coals, and a huge plate of naan with all the accoutrements.  Dressed in a fantastic Indian get-up, the Indian maitre d’ told us that Sizzling Scallops at Apsaraour hero Murali had eaten there every night that week.  He also explained that he was a converted Sri Lanka fan because of the restaurant’s former chef, an exceptionally talented and well mannered Sri Lankan who had sadly lost his visa.

After the meal, we decided to head over to the famed Hilton, in part to try to visit Dr. Chaudhury (who ultimately didn’t need our help) and in part to try to mingle with the fans.  It was a short walk, and as we approached this lovely hotel, it was pretty clear that we’d blown it by not staying there.

Now back to Andy for Part III of “The Most Expensive Game Ever Played.”

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