Wednesday, December 8, 2010
Coast 2 Coast: Tripping in Trinidad and Tobago - Monos Island
Quiet, airy, cool, and relaxing. Certainly, I am not speaking about some country area in Trinidad nor Tobago. "People here are unified. No one interferes with you, we are a small, simple community here, Mytle Lopez says. Ma Ben, as she is affectionately called, lived on Monos Island since 1981. "When I was seventeen years old, you could not get me to sit on a boat and get wet by salt water", she fondly remembers. In a nutshell, she got married, settled down with her husband, who was a fisherman with a home on Monos Island, and lived there to this day. Today, she is cleaning the area around a tall slim tree. "I am going to plant something here" she said. Mrs Lopez, regularly cleans the whole area, including the stretch of road she calls the highway, with her son. I asked her if she gets paid to do this, "No! I love my surroundings to be clean so I do it." Her son is using the weed wacker to clean one of the neighbors yards. This he gets paid for.
Monos Island or Scotland Bay, is one of a group of islands in the northwest area of Trinidad. In the old days they used to be called the Dragon Islands. On the way to Monos, you pass a couple of other islands called Fantasy Island which has a new name, and the ever popular Gaspree Island home of the Gaspree Caves. Photographs does not do justice to the sheer beauty of these remote and privately owned islands, you must see it in person.
"When I go to Monos, I am going home," remarks one resident. "I love the area and I tell my wife that this is where we belong." Mrs. Lopez, opens up her home to vacationers who want to rent. "My place is always open, I like when I stand right here in my kitchen, I can see the jetty and I can look out the window to greet people passing here," she laughs, her floured hands kneading a roll of corn maize dough. "You ever had Noni before?" she asked. I shook my head, "I've heard it tastes really bad, so I never tried it." She pulled out a large plastic cranberry juice bottle, "Have some of this, and tell me what you think." I looked at the brown liquid and got caught in my throat, "Ok". I figured I might as well, at least, to try it once. The liquid had a pungent smell, like a mix between an old toe-jamed grapefruit and sharp wine. The glass was filled to quarter and I took a sip, then I emptied the glass. My face screwed up a bit then I had a second glass. And then I smiled, she did too. Now, I am the proud owner of the large cranberry juice bottle of my first Noni Juice.
The Island is filled with fruit trees and vegetation. The air is clean and the grass is always green. A caretaker of one of the homes drives a compact open top vehicle. He is a dark, stocky guy his ras piled high on his head, he is shuttling his family to the beach down to the back known as Scotland Bay. Caribbean living at its finest. The beauty of the area is its natural undeveloped state. Some folks like the hub of cities, tall glass and metal buildings, fancy cars, a window cubicle, high-heeled shoes, the works. Here its a small boat, your wooden/concrete home, and quiet is all you need. Every morning at 5:30am, Mrs. Lopez starts the day by praying, then she takes a bath, goes outside tends her yard, and sweeps the 'highway'. Some days, she comes inland, and buys groceries at least once a week in Port of Spain.
In her home, Ma Ben or Mrs. Lopez is in her element. The refreshingly yellow home is partly wooden and partly concrete due to old age and termite damage. The house is very clean and airy. Her main bedroom still has her wooden floor, right next to it, is her small tiled bathroom and another larger visitors bedroom with double decker and single beds. How does she keep it so clean? "Cleaning is a daily thing you know, you have to keep making your rounds to keep your surroundings intact." On top of one of her clothes drawer, there is a picture of her and a young woman. "Thats Benita, my daughter, she died some years ago, here we were going to a wedding."
For me and many Trinis, Monos Island is a vacation get-away. A place that you jump off the jetty, see fishes, Sting Rays and Eels swim in their natural habitat, hear a variety of birds sing their songs of a new day, and pack up and go home. But for Ma Ben, her son Lance, and four other neighbors, Monos Island is home, its where their heart is.
2010© Lisa Marie Bonaparte