Thank you all for the condolences. They are much appreciated. I'm doing fine but for obvious reasons Trinidad is very much on my mind. Since there's been a lot of turnover in readers over time and since I have some other things going on that are taking me away from blogland today and since the island and the people I love there are on my mind I'm reposting something I wrote about 3 years ago. It's just a little insight into the culture and part of why I felt so at home there.
One of the things I loved the most about Trinidadian culture was the touching. It's a thing that may drive a lot of Americans a bit crazy because we tend to have these strong senses of personal space and if someone 'invades' them we bristle, stiffen, recoil. Even Americans who may come from large families where there is lots of hugging and kissing and such tend to be standoffish about coming in physical contact with strangers. It's just an American thing. I don't know if it goes back to our puritanical roots or what but there it is.
Now you add to it the growing germophobia and we are becoming icy and isolated.In Trinidad, however, there isn't that standoffishness. Get on a maxi-taxi or better yet an H-car taxi, which is just an ordinary sedan, and you'll be flush up against a total stranger, shoulder to ankle contact. Your taxi mate will move over to give you space but they aren't going to act like they are climbing out the window to avoid touching you. It's just accepted that you'll be in close quarters. Go to the fresh market for your produce and you'l be bumped and jostled unapologetically. It's understood that it's crowded and you're going to come in contact. All this is with strangers. If you are with friends, it may get even closer.
In the States there is sometimes this whole dance of touch avoidance between genders. We don't want someone to get the wrong idea. In Trinidad, not so. My male friends would wrap me up in warm hugs, not some delicate A-frame where you lean in and only let shoulders graze, but welcoming, protective hugs. In the US, even friends of the same gender (men especially, but even us ladyfolk) avoid certain kinds of touching because we don't want the people around us to get the idea we are "more than friends." Women can hug their female friends but we don't often publicly sit with arms around each other, nor would we often walk arm-in-arm or hand-in-hand. Grooming each other would be reserved for special events only, like a special party or a wedding. In Trinidad, I could freely maintain extended physical contact with a girlfriend and that was a good thing. Working on each other's hair was a normal thing among friends, not just reserved for school girls playing dress-up.
A lot of my Trini friends initially displayed a reserve in physical affection because I was an American and they knew Americans have different outlooks on the whole issue. When I didn't bristle from the taxi and market place jostlings with them they slowly became bolder. When I welcomed the gentle advances made, the walls came down. When there was no more shyness from either side and every casual touch was comfortable for each of us (and it actually occured in short order) I knew my heart had found it's home in Trinidad. My spirit could be refreshed and my soul fed by a simple, silent brush of skin.
Then I came back to the US.
Much as I love Pennsylvania, I ache for the easy freedom of touch I felt in Trinidad.