A Carnival baby is a person who was born into the rhythms and movements that come along with the festival of Carnival in Trinidad and Tobago, which takes place every year around February or March. It is as though they were birthed to the beat of drums or as soon as the excess amniotic liquid escaped from their mouth and ears they heard the basic melodies of jump and wave and raised their tiny hands in the air as if to say: ‘This is my kind of music’. Carnival babies started moving their waist and holding their head as soon as their two legs could hold them up. And everyone around them would clap so that this Carnival baby would come to believe that moving their waist in circles to music that encouraged this exact movement was part of life. So when that time of year comes around, Carnival babies think of nothing else except, well, Carnival.
Based on the facts, really and truly I was supposed to be a Carnival baby. My grandmother played Carnival for 10 years. My mother and father played together for seven years. My cousin (who is practically my sister) has played for the last nine years. My best friend has also played since she was 17.
My cousin and I played for the first time at 15 years old with her father, Peter Samuel’s, band. Peter is also my Godfather and has won King of Carnival for many years in a row and founded and managed a Carnival band successfully for years. I remember my cousin and I so excited, dying our hair with cool-aid and plaiting it like never before. Our costume had a large flower covering our pelvic areas and we were only allowed to ‘play’ mas for a few hours on Carnival Monday (one of the two days of Carnival). But we sure did feel special chipping with way older folks, rolling our waists like we were taught to, taking the Carnival baton that was being passed to us by our revelling parents.
I played again three more times after that, but those times for the entire two days, jumping the highest, wining the lowest and dancing for hours on end. I am usually the one that you see dancing the most and the biggest, arms flayed, smiling like a madwoman, performing for the people looking on from the pavement. I am usually the one giving it my all, making 100s of new friends, and getting satisfactory male attention from the single, taken and married. I was the number one Carnival baby who, last time I played Carnival, ran across the GRAND STAGE (the high-point of Carnival) six times until I was on the verge of fainting. Numerous pictures and videos were taken of me doing all kinds of madness — one in particular of me jumping four feet in the air and roaring like a lion, abs and all.
Somewhere along that road, that road I chip on that is called life, the road I love because it is bumpy and solid and sometimes I really have to push myself to continue on, somewhere along that road, I met another baby, a baby from Nazareth. Born in a manger, grew up to be the greatest role model in history and future, the wisest, most wonderful man I ever knew who gave His life for me so that I could be free to experience the fullness of joy, created and given to us by God. Now that I know this man Jesus Christ, I have come to look at the Carnival baby within myself and ponder: CAN I glorify the God that gives me all that I have AND play Carnival that has been a great source of pleasure in my life?
Well, being in Trinidad for Carnival 2014 for the first time in 3 years, this conflict was intimately apparent and unavoidable. I had to face the music, pun intended. Very quickly I was sucked in, the bones in my waist started to jangle and move without my permission. The words stole their way into my mouth. The tickets to parties appeared on my dresser. And the alcohol slipped down my throat. Carnival week came around and I attended six fetes (parties) in four days, danced on numerous men’s crotches and wooed whatever nice-faced man passed by me. Friday night came and I had no voice, my body was limp, my eyelids were heavy and I had little interest in anything else.
But then I decided to do something. There I had let my Carnival baby lose. But what about this other baby? Well I heard on the Christian radio station where my friend works that they were going around Trinidad for Carnival Saturday to Tuesday visiting Christian camps. I knew I had to get away. How could I ever solve the conflict in the midst of the revelry of Carnival? After six fetes, I felt like I had gained nothing except maybe a few more acquaintances, so I knew there was little for me to gain in continuing. I said: ‘Lord, although I really love Carnival, I will give it up for you, even though I have access to a costume and my whole family is playing, even though I really really don’t want to miss out, I will give it up, so that I can give you a chance to show me something better, something that will give me joy beyond anything.’
People, God is SPECTACULARISTIC because He ALWAYS answers my prayers in a massive way. Thanks to the very kind manager of W107.1FM, the number 3 radio station in Trinidad and probably the best Christian radio station in the Caribbean, on Saturday morning I was in the caravan, eyes still mostly shut, groggy and grumpy and disillusioned, on my way to the experience of a lifetime. Even on that bus I didn’t know what the caravan thing was exactly, I just wanted to be around Christians. But when you expect something out of God He gives you SO much more than you could ever imagine and makes you realise that He is infinite and your imagination is so so so so so finite.
I prayed for an alternative source of immense joy and here is what God gave me:
(1) ADVENTURE: on the caravan we travelled to almost 30 different Christian camps bringing the best local Christian music for them to sing, dance and praise God to. We travelled to the heights of the Northern Range hills which overlooked the whole of east and central Trinidad, to the depths of the forest on the most North-Eastern point of the island, to the rolling hills and plains of parts of South Trinidad and the beautiful beaches on the eastern coast. I saw my home country in all its splendour and visited some places that I probably would have never been (and never known how to spell)– Point Fortin, Piparo, Manzanilla, Grande Rivere, Arouca, Guayaguare, Mayaro, Toco, San Souci, you name it.
(2) FOOD: Well I am now convinced that Trinidad has the best cuisine in the world!!! Almost all of the camps provided food for us, and because they were in different parts of the country the people in the camps were of differing ethnicities and cultural backgrounds, so the food was thus equally diverse and very much genuinely traditional. I ate my heart out, and my God KNOWS I love food. I ate fried shark in Point Fortin, YUM! Succulent curry and buss-up-shot with anchar mango in Penal, YUM! Sweet and thick corn soup in Sando, YUM! Pelau, plenty plenty plenty pelau all over (national dish of Trini), YUMMMM… could never get sick of pelau (rice and peas). Sada Roti with pumpkin, fried potato and that green stuff, I mean bahji, in Mayaro and elsewhere, LOVE!! Fish broth in Toco with salmon and [some other type of fish], YUM!!! Souce (pig foot and tail in a vinegary kinda soup) in Balandra, YUMM! And lots and lots of tamarind balls :) Oh and home made coconut ice cream. ALL FOR FREE because of the love of my sisters and brothers, children of my loving Heavenly Father.
(3) MUSIC & DANCE: This is a BIG one because in many churches this is lacking so although I get great satisfaction from the fellowship I have with other Christians, I often miss dancing and music. Because as a Carnival baby it is truly in my blood to move to music, any beat I hear whether I am in a restaurant or in a funeral or a meeting I must move some part of my body. WELL, hello, I danced my heart out for FOUR DAYS… to the point where I had to sit down and take deep breaths. To the point where I was smelling like ten dead horses and a cow. To the point where, when the music stopped and it was time for bed, I went to sit on one of the benches and looked out upon the breathtaking vista and to my God and said: ‘Now I am truly convinced that you know my heart, you know what I love, and you are so willing to bless me in the ways that will make my heart sing, once I do those things to glorify you.’ During the caravan, 12 top local Christian artistes took turns to perform at every camp, many of which had songs that played on replay in my mind because they were high quality, catchy, fun, and great to dance to. These talented singers became my friends, and every time they went on stage I would not only dance for my own contentment, but to support them, and to spread the word of God in song.
(4) FRIENDS: I met so many people who have all the qualities of the people I love that aren’t Christians — they are exploding with creativity and talent, are ambitious, kind, open and friendly, funny and entertaining, they are beautiful and interesting and of various backgrounds and they love life. I met so many people, singers, radio presenters, DJs, technicians and business owners. And for once I could say Jesus in front of them and not be looked at like I was an outcast.
(5) GREAT GUYS: Yes, I get along really well with men. I love the God-given connection men have with women and meeting and getting to know guys is something I really love to do. But in a world where men want one thing only, I often have to pick and choose who I talk to and be very careful about what I say around them. In a fete, if I smile at a man he immediately comes behind me and starts gyrating on my bum, sometimes letting his hands go in all places. And if I tell him I not really interested in that way, I am his new greatest enemy. On the contrary, yes, Christian men aren’t perfect, but I met a lot of great guys on the caravan and not once did I have to gyrate on any of them. Not once did any of them try to whisper a rude thing down my ear about me being sexy or whatever they think may make me do things with them. These guys were just chilled, lovers of the Lord, who have respect for the women around them and are just gosh darn COOL :) Of course the women were awesome too… I just focused on the guys because they are a contrast to the ones I meet at Carnival.
(6) JOY (and love and peace): What I really prayed for was that God would give me a taste of His unending joy and show me that my life doesn’t have to be boring if I follow Him. Actually, i discovered from this experience that my life will be full of adventures beyond my imagination. I will NEVER BE BORED. These last four days He filled me with more joy than food — so you know that is A LOT. And I am brought to tears at the manner in which my God loves me and answers my prayers.
So this Carnival baby has experienced a type of Carnival that tops every other source of fun and revelry out there. I will always love music, dancing, meeting people, food and fun. But here I learnt that if you add glorifying God to that list, if everything you do glorifies God, then you will never go hungry, you will never be bored, you will never be lonely, and you will ALWAYS have 100,000 reasons to dance.
Thank you to W107.1FM The Word for including me in this year’s fantastic camp caravan. You all definitely have something great going there — a real community of listeners! Anyone who has gotten to the end of this blog (sorry it is so long), please like W107.1FM on Facebook if you want to see something great unfolding. And anyone in Trinidad should join the caravan next year.
In my next blog I will mention the amazing local songs I learnt while on the caravan….