Carnival Days: Carnival Tuesday on de Road!

Finally the big day!  Get yourself settled and ensure all children or offendables are put away (lots of people in very skimpy clothing coming up…)

I jumped out of bed at 4:30, gave myself a tentative shake, and breathed a sigh of relief at being able to move everything painlessly after yesterday’s crazy dancing and jumping exertions.  I set the coffee machine, showered, and started on the makeup (like Monday’s, but more jewels and more layers of color and sunblock).  I tried to apply some false eyelashes, like all the cool girls wear, but the glue started to sting and burn on my lashline so I had to wipe it all off and forgo the falsies for big mascara.  Lesson:  Do not attempt to play with serious chemicals near your eyes on Carnival Tuesday (at least practice withstanding the burn).

After I did myself up, we rushed to take a couple of pre-party, pristine costume shots:

Then we jumped in the car and headed off to pick up a friend and meet the band.  Did I mention we left the house at 6:30 am??  Rise and shine, peeps, rise and shine…

Once we arrived in Port of Spain, we found parking near what we assumed would be the end of the band’s parade route and quickly found the band, who were out in full glory and enjoying breakfast to the sounds of some sweet pan:

Pan band providing musical love for the band during breakfast

Nothing like feathers in the 7 am Port of Spain sun

The Ruby of Mumbai prepared by hitting up the breakfast truck for some doubles:

Breakfast doubles truck man, how I heart thee

Look mami! No tamarind sauce on my costume!

After breakfast (at around 8:00 am) they started to line us up in our sections, by costume, to await the crossing of the Savannah “stage”/judging point:

Rubies forming an orderly line

Rubies in a less orderly formation, in full sun

At this point we got all excited, and waited, and got more excited, and waited, and inched our way up the road, and waited, and waited some more:

Rubies rehearsing their best stage-crossing moves

At around 10:30, we finally reached the Savannah “stage”, which is not really a stage but rather a spot on the Savannah where bleachers are set up and judges look at costumes and evaluate the band’s portrayal of their theme and general enthusiasm/craziness.  I was thirsty as could be (and it was definitely beer o’clock with no drinks truck nearby) but the energy of the 2,500-strong band, the crowd, the cameras, and the setting were enough to get the adrenaline pumping and get me jumping, dancing, and waving myself all across the stage, and boy did I have myself a time for those brief five minutes!

There were TV and media cameras EVERYWHERE and you best believe this girl got as much camera action as she could snag, waving her feathers (both the literal and figurative) with pretty wining for all and sundry to record.  It was BEYOND fun, especially when tourists and spectators would ask for pictures with us in our glory (I think half of China may have had their picture taken with me).

Of course I was too busy doing my thang to take snaps as I went along, but I did catch some of the aftermath:

Rubies getting some air and recapping stage-crossing glory stories

After which we mobbed the drinks truck for some refreshment before continuing on our merry way along the Savannah for an hour or two:

Thirsty masqueraders mobbing the drinks truck

Savannah public/onlookers

Greece, the costume Little A would have worn had she come for Carnival, sniff...

And a friendly masquerader in Merchants of Venice, the costume I ALMOST picked, had it not been for the suspect placement of green feathers down below...

And wound our way to the lunch spot for the day.

Because I was so damn intent on getting my picture taken in front of Pollo Tropical, the tasty Puerto Rican food chain that just opened on the Savannah:

Do they have REAL Cuban black beans? Must find out... but didn't on Tuesday

And stopped to get near the cooler zone (where they whoosh cold air around you) and to remove an big errant bra bead that somehow landed inside my boot, we got caught in the lunch mob trying to file into the QRC grounds and it took a while to get lunch and find seats on the bleachers (which were definitely not as nice as Monday’s seats).  I had just enough time to get lunch, give my feet an airing, take my headpiece off for a bit (oooh, relief), hit the bathroom and reapply sunblock before we headed out again.

Once we did, it was around 1 pm, and the streets were blazing hot, but the drinks truck kept my water and beer flowing and the party REALLY kicked off:

Need to stop traffic and cross the road? Just wait till people start wining on a car and then go!

Doing my civic duty and wining on a car (for the sake of traffic, of course)

Flags and booties waving--real island representin'

Maybe Mr. Laura can be convinced to wear THIS mas costume next year?

Just before reaching Ariapita Ave. (where there would be masses of spectators and my favorite part of the route) the band staff gave us some much needed energy popsicles to gear us up.  Duly sugared, we hit Ariapita, feathers a-wavin’ and tails a-shakin’:

Enthusiastic winer "throwing waist"

These two looked fresh and happy ALL day long, representing the Adulis/Africa band section

There were tons of spectators and picture-snappers, so I pranced and posed my heart out with all the other divas on the road:

A male Greece individual costume graced me with a pose--I'm in awe of him!

Ladies looking lovely in the China costume

And did the generous diva thing by giving away bracelets and one of the feathered armbands I made to the cheering and admiring little girls/future-divas-to-be:

After that we headed back to downtown for more carousing and the final part of the route.  More drinks, more crazy dancing, plus a snack of aloo pies to keep us happy and energized:

Police SVU weaving through the mob of dancing peeps

I may have wined on the drinks truck....

And I may have wined on the King of Carnival (big platform contraption thing)

As the day wore on, lots of headpieces came off as they succumbed to wind and wining.  Still, some of us managed to hang in there:

China section member representin' after dark

I am happy to report that my headpiece stayed on for the whole route, and that this girl danced from the second lunch ended until the day was done.  I might be a Ruby of Mumbai, but I’m also an Energizer Booty!

I took a bit of a fall at the end, when a girl in costume rushed past me and knocked me over, but thankfully I just got a few light scrapes and bruising–and the snacks truck delivered a final snack of Doritos to me right after and that was enough to distract me.

As we marched back to the car (which was really close this time–kudos to Mr. Laura for a stellar parking job!), I started to feel a bit teary-eyed at the thought of it ending.  I have looked forward to this ALL YEAR, and even since before last Carnival.  However, it confirms the fact that I am a Carnival addict, and like all the other addicts I will patiently wait for the madness to start up again for Carnival 2011.

Yesterday, I tallied up the damage to the costume and counted my lucky stars that I had not worn any of it on Monday, given the state of it after Tuesday’s fun-having.  Here is the bra before:

And after:

Dangling beads, broken chain, plenty dirt and grime

The belt before:

And after:

Dangling and missing chains, torn-off beads, raggedy fabric

Boots before:

And after:

Boots, dirty and chain-dangling and beads missing

The headpiece, before:

And after:

Feathers flopping in the wind (because they came unglued in the back)

I also tallied up the bruises and scratches on me, which were at their worst on my wrists and neck (where the sweat and sunblock reacted with the cheap scratchy jewelry to give me some nasty-looking cuts and burns):

Cuts and abrasions, yuck

Oh yeah–and I can barely walk from all the dancing.  I don’t think I have any hip flexors left.

But was it worth it?  Absolutely.

I am not being hyperbolic or facetious in saying that Carnival really changed me.  I never thought I’d have so much fun in the short span of two days, that I had so much energy and adrenaline in me, or that I’d have the confidence to wear next to nothing for all and sundry to see while dancing in ways I never thought I would and taking part in  what must surely be the largest street party on earth.  I will eat spaghetti and cans of tuna to afford this next year.  Because there is a next year, and a year after, and every year after that, as long as I can shake it and there are flights to Trinidad.

Carnival Days–Valsayn Fete and Carnival Monday on the Road!

Whew.  I feel like I’ve lived a lifetime since last Friday’s Soca Monarch!  No words will ever do justice to the sheer awesomeness of my Carnival experience, but I’ll try my hardest, going slowly and in order.

Which brings us up to….

Carnival Sunday:  Jamboree Fete

We hit the Jamboree all-inclusive food and drinks fete in the neighborhood this year, as we did last year, because it was a great time last year and some great acts played.  I wore my Carnival fete creation–I draped and folded and pinned and crossed my fingers, and voila, it’s the first dress I’ve ever made without a pattern, woot woot!  I was beyond happy with the result:

I chipped (shuffle-wine-dance combo) down the road to warm up for the fete:

We arrived unfashionably early, which meant we could grab a good table in a prime spot before the crowds arrived.  I didn’t mind in the least–we amused ourselves quite nicely taking in the thumping beats and gorgeous setting in the park and did our best to get our all-inclusive money’s worth in food and drink (in that order):

Mini bake and shark

Pholourie (spicy seasoned chickpea flour fritters with pepper sauce and mango and tamarind chutney)

Mini lamb gyro

Food and drinks tents

The rum setup table--note the amount of rum per cup, which meant that rum and Cokes were basically rum with a splash of Coke for color

After all the food I could handle (including an unpictured plate of fried chicken and fries) we got down to the business of mingling and dancing to the ever-louder music:

The DJ was great and warmed us up to a nice and frenzied pitch for the three musical acts–who NEVER SHOWED.  No Bunji Garlin, no Faye-Ann Lyons, no Shurwayne Winchester.  Nothing, nada, zilch.  Oh well; truly annoying, but at least I got some good Trini food, drinks, dancing, and a mean hangover for my troubles.

Carnival Monday:  Hitting the Road and Warming Up for Tuesday

So, about that hangover…. Ach. I woke up feeling like death warmed over and was surprised that my crazy eating (both at the fete and afterwards at home, where I housed toast, eggs, and leftover Indian spinach and sweet potato hash) didn’t soak up the moderate excess (ha!) of alcohol consumed.  However, nothing was about to stop me from having a good day so onwards I persevered, downed some oatmeal and ibuprofen, got dolled up:

After which we finally hit the road!

Monday mas is a big party warm-up to Tuesday’s full-costume extravaganza, so it’s more casual in terms of start times; though bands set off at 9 or 10, most people don’t arrive until 11 or so.  We arrived in Port of Spain around 11 and set off to find the band, which took off from Charlotte Street downtown at around 9 am.  It took us about forty-five minutes to find our band and on the road and we marched the entire parade route, around half of Port of Spain, at a fairly fast clip until, thirsty and grateful, we found them.

Never have I been happier than I was after crossing those security ropes and downing a bottle of water, after which we got our party started.

Our band on the road! Crazy mass of people partying, basically...

Note the huge trucks on the side--those are the drinks and music trucks

When we arrived, we took the sights in and got a feel for the setup.  The band had three music trucks blaring soca at a million decibels from huge speakers on it, about three bar trucks serving premium mixed drinks, beer, and soft drinks, an express bar that had soft drinks, water and beers, a couple of snack trucks (with chips and the like), a “wee wee truck” (with portapotties on it–damn, I wish I could say I used it just so I could say I peed on a moving truck, but sadly the urge or desperation to do so never struck), plus an ambulance truck.

The drinks truck--note the Spice-logo coffee cups, which we were all given to use for our drinks

I was floored by the sheer amount of security personnel, which would make sense later when I found out that the band had about 2,500 masqueraders/participants.  There were security personnel who held up ropes to fence the band in as we wound along the streets, security personnel who guided the trucks along the route and ensured that masqueraders were kept safely out of the way of the moving trucks,  and a particularly hardcore, very mean looking “extraction team” which consisted of huge men with big batons who pulled out any stormers who dared cross the ropes and join the band/hassle band members/try anything funny in the much-feared extraction team’s presence.

After wining and chipping and dancing for about a couple of hours, we wound our way to the rest area for lunch . The band scored major points for setting up the lunch and rest area at the Queen’s Royal College grounds for lunch and we were most grateful for the shade, chair and tent setup, and beautiful setting of the country’s poshest secondary school:

QRC grounds, food tents in the background

We quickly found chairs, grabbed lunch from one of the lines, and ate while chatting about the morning’s sights.  I had stewed lentils, rice, salad, macaroni pie, and barbecue chicken.  It was all very good and very well-organized, so we had plenty of time to rest a bit–and re-bandage any emerging foot blisters, which were beginning to set in.   Had I not overcompensated for possible blistering and wound a band-aid around my pinky toe so tightly as to cut off circulation, I might well have been fine, but as it was I ended up giving myself a blister from the bandaid instead.  No matter, though–nothing that some beer and adrenaline wouldn’t take care of:

From left to right: Carnival Kristy's foot, husband's furry leg, my poor forsaken foot

After lunch, we paraded and jumped and wined our way along the rest of the route through Woodbrook and back to downtown.  I saw lots of crazy wining, lots of VERY skimpy Monday wear, and an astonishing number of wedgies on girls who did not have the desire–or foresight–to wear tights with their boyshorts, bikinis or thongs.  True, the tights might be scratchy and tight and give a muffintop to all but the most toned, but they do shape and firm, prevent wedgies/wardrobe malfunctions, and gave you a strong protective barrier from dust, dirt, sweat, and the advances of uninvited winers.

As the afternoon went on, the mood got more frenzied as we all got to know each other (well, by face or backside mostly!).  The band was large enough to feel like a real presence on the road, but not so large that we ever felt crammed or claustrophobic.  It was a great vibe in terms of band composition too–not so young to be acting like children out on a first outing, not so old to be disapproving of dancing and drinking, and friendly and ready to get down as a group.  The band was very well-organized and we had no problems getting drinks or water; they even sent around staff with popsicles after a few hours in the sun and threw baggies of chips into the crowd a few hours after that to keep energy levels going.

I wish I could give more concrete anecdotes, but I hope you’ll take my word in that I had an awesome time drinking (mostly water–Port of Spain in dry season is hotter than hot hell so way more water than beer was consumed), dancing, and partying with my Spice peeps:

This young lady in orange wined on the burglarproofing/metalwork on this building, which happens to be the Ministry of Finance and Inland Revenue--take that, taxes! As you can see, Ministry security is not too fussed about it...

Wining the day away...

Wining on Independence Square...

A winer safely wining in the presence of the much-touted and ever-present Extraction Team member

Well-deserved break on Brian Lara Promenade

We danced until the truck stopped playing music at around 8:30 or so and then did the loooong walk/drag back to the car, running into some friends and some food on the way:

Yeah right! I didn't eat that (but will, someday, just to say I did)

Corn soup--much more like it

Your girl got home, showered off the dust and grime, and tried to get some sleep for Tuesday!  Thankfully, I was so tired–and SORE–that I fell asleep pretty easily for my 4:30 am wakeup call for Tuesday.

I’ve got to hand over the laptop (and good thing, too, as the internet is being slow as turtles right about now and making uploading pics a real pain) but I’ll be back with the final, biggest, bestest, most photo-y recap of  Carnival Tuesday tomorrow….  Stay tuned!

Carnival Monday Sneak Peek

Carnival Monday has been amazing, beyond compareison, 200% fun, and well worth the buildup all year long!

I’m about to run off in search of epsom salts, after which I will ice my knee and attack my foamroller before trying to go to sleep for a 4 am wakeup tomorrow.  A full recap is coming your way on Wednesday, I promise-double-pinky-swear, but until tomorrow, here’s a sneak peak of Monday wear: