If you've paid much attention you know Diana lived in Trinidad and Calypso was born there. My son Isaac has not yet had his turn to even visit. It's his birthday this week so I thought I'd share something about Trinidad that gets him excited.
My last visit was during the summer of 2002. Before I went I called my dear friend who works in the entomology division of the Ministry of Agriculture.
Flora, how yuh goin', gyul? I comin' to TNT fuh meh holiday and I have a favor tuh ask.
Meesh, I goin' good. You would be stayin' by us I hope? What I could do fuh yuh?
Of course I would stay by all yuh. And well, meh boy does love insects, yuh know. He been catchin' dem since he jus' small and I was hopin' yuh could maybe hook us up wit' some big, freakish bugs.
Oh gosh gyul, yuh make joke!
No, Flora, I eh make joke. De boy love insects.
Gyul, meh own chil'ren eh like insects. Yuh does make me real happy! I would be glad to collect some fuh all yuh.
When we lived on the island, Flora had taken us to the Ministry's 'Bug Museum.' The museum is a large room full of specimens of virtually every insect to be found in Trinidad and Tobago. May I just say it was a somewhat disconcerting experience. There are some seriously big ass bugs that are just insanely icky. There were beetles the size of my palm or bigger, with these terrifying looking horns coming off their heads. There were locusts bigger than my whole hand. There were arachnids of nightmarish proportions. I tried to confine myself to the order lepidoptera...(deeeep breaths, focus on the pretty butterflies....). I had not yet developed even the slightest degree of appreciation for many of the much more sanely sized insects I lived with in Pennsylvania, much less these titanic tropical beasts that looked like they could carry off small children.
I asked Flora if I could expect to find any of these creepy crawlies in my own back yard. She said yes but that since I already knew wasps and bees I really only needed to concern myself with scorpions. Nothing else I would come across in my backyard was a danger. Right, except when I am standing on a chair shrieking like a...well, like a girl...because one of those giant beetles with horns comes lunging at me. (In my own defense I hasten to add that I am the resident spider killer here at the House of Lime. Mr. Lime is the one given to standing on chairs and giving an estrogen heavy performance when spiders are in the vicinity.)
By the time I left Trinidad I was learning to be blase. Crib legs in dishes of water to keep the ants off the baby. Wash the dishes after use and before use because of the proliferation of cockroaches. Wait for ants to exit the water well in my iron before pressing clothes. Don't sit on tree stumps so scorpions don't go after you. Replace electrical switches and outlets with regularity because the ants crawl in, get zapped and the moisture in their bodies shorts it all out. React by nonchalantly asking, 'Didja flick it off?' when Mr. Lime tells me he saw a 4 inch cockroach on my head when he woke up in the night. Understand that when I wake up with a swollen lip it is because a kissing bug bit me during the night. However, I still hopped around like a lunatic when a tarantula skittered towards me after falling from the ceiling and hitting Mr. Lime in the head. Mr. Lime just about had a heart attack. He climbed on a sofa after Flora's husband suggested Mr. Lime just step on the tarantula. Mind you, Mr. Lime only had on flip flops. I don't blame him for not wanting to squish that thing.
Fast forward to when we have returned to the USA. Isaac is almost 3 and now catches grasshoppers and crickets with considerable efficiency. He regularly comes into the kitchen dangling one by its back legs. I'm rather amazed that chubby preschoolers fingers are nimble enough to catch the critters without damaging their fragile bodies. Also, I don't want to ruin his fun by screeching in horror, 'Get that thing outta here!" Trinidad has helped me learn to control my responses and actually kneel down and marvel with him over whatever his latest catch is. Then I take pictures of whatever he catches. So now the routine is catch, marvel, snap a pic, release the critter, look it up in field guides to identify the species. He finds stag beetles, luna moths, walking sticks, preying mantises, newts, salamanders, frogs, snakes (the amphibians and reptiles I have enjoyed since I was a wee Lime myself).
Now it is 2002 and I am headed to Trinidad and Flora has promised to help me find some crazy tropical insects. As soon as I arrived she presented me with a scorpion she caught in her own yard. She also found a really magnificent walking stick,some sort of burrowing cricket, some gigantic beetle, and then I found this big katydid on the beach. It was dead but in good condition. I even picked it up and carried it myself, aren't you proud of me? It was really fun to see her glee as she caught these critters and told me all about them so I could tell Isaac.
She packaged them all up in jars of formaldehyde. She got me documentation from the Ministry stating that I had permission to remove the specimens from the island in case customs gave me trouble. Isaac was completely thrilled with his insect collection (I got some bonus 'Cool Mom' points and Auntie Flora got a gushing letter of thanks and a bunch of 'Cool Auntie' points.). In fact, just last week when everyone had to bring in a bag of their favorite things to share with their class as a part of 'getting to know each other' the little jar containing the scorpion went along to school.
May I also suggest that you go check the comment by Lacquer, Semi-Gloss Lacquer on my post yesterday. He added it quite late but it is a very good tribute to another WTC victim with whom he was personally acquainted.