Missions Trips Chapter 17: Sightseeing in the South… and Seafood

To read this story from the beginning, click here.

Wednesday, Day 5

This was a time of being disconnected from the Internet, since we did not have cell service here or WiFi to which we could connect. The disconnect was good for us, but it was hard on Pat at first. I rejoiced in being untethered; but for the first few days, my poor hubby would look at the full bars on his phone and the list of WiFi signals, then mutter, “They’re all locked.”

He did, however, enjoy reading the books he brought along. Pat and I each brought a book to read along with our Bibles. (Actually, Pat brought two or three books.) Right now he’s reading the biography Sergeant York. My light reading has come from Shadow of the Almighty, the biography of Jim Elliot. I use the term “light” very loosely, for some passages I’ve had to read a second and third time to fully absorb what he is saying. Elisabeth Elliot is listed as the author, but the book is at least 85% filled with excerpts from Jim’s letters and journals. Seeing his passion for God has awakened in me a new desire to draw closer to the Father. It is has also motivated me to return to the practice of keeping a journal—not that I think it will be read someday, as his is, but for the sake of personal accountability to grow in Christ, and to record what great things He has done.

Today was not a workday, but it turned out to be as tiring as if we had worked. We left the house at 8:15 a.m. and drove to the south side of the island. When we started out, Kawal said something that I’ll never hear from any of my family members: “If you see something you want to take a picture of, let me know and I’ll stop the car.” Oh, there were many such things, but I only asked once. He voluntarily pulled over at a place where the road ran very close to the Gulf of Paria . . .

. . . to a beach were he and Kay used to picnic with the girls (You can see Venezuela from there.) . . .

Columbus Landing “La Trinidad”

. . . to Pitch Lake . . .

. . . and to a fisherman’s wharf.

I also took many photos through the window, with special attention given to houses, people, and vegetation.

We stopped at the home of Kayme and Thelma for lunch. They were expecting us. Kayme is a fisherman by trade, so it made perfect sense that Thelma served fish prepared two different ways, along with rice & shrimp, and a salad of lettuce, tomato, and cucumber. To drink, we had a fruit beverage that, though I’m not sure what it was, tasted delicious.

On our drive, we were in and out of rain, sometimes very heavy. We also passed a funeral. The hearse was driving up and down the road followed by a car equipped with loudspeakers, from which we heard the southern gospel and country music of Jim Reeves. Seeing the funeral reminded me that though I have seen a lot of houses from the many miles we’ve traversed on Trinidadian roads, I have seen only two cemeteries. One of them is down here in the south.

Kawal bought some fish from Kayme and Thelma, to carry back to Kay, and he delivered a couple more invitations to the Bible conference, then we started back to Caroni. The trip south takes two hours—when you don’t stop to take photos. Today it took significantly longer than that, partly due to stops and partly due to the heavy rain. Some of the route runs along a highway where he can drive 100 kph (about 60 mph), but much of it is subject to wind gusts, and the roads are riddled with either open or poorly mended pot holes, such that I likened the drive to riding horseback. To make matters worse, my seatbelt refuses to latch, so my core got a good workout as I tried to remain steady while the car jostled and wound through the country roads. Kawal has often told us in States that we should be grateful for our roads. Now I understand his sense of gratitude.

The roads may have their obstacles, but the scenery is breath-taking, and I took a good many photos. When the rain made photography pointless, I put away my camera and got out my book. But I quickly learned that reading and riding in Trinidad don’t mix. The nausea was real, folks. I put the book down before I had read three pages, and then I tried to lie down, using my camera bag as a pillow. It didn’t help, so I sat back up and stared out the window. Quietly, I asked the Lord to settle my stomach, and He did. I was grateful. I seldom get sick in that way, but the last time I vomited was 26 years ago, on a bus in Mexico. I didn’t want Kawal’s car to be so christened, especially since I didn’t happen to have a bag handy this time!

When we returned to the house, we all rested some, then I went to the kitchen to reheat leftovers for dinner. Pat washed the dishes afterwards. I was a bit surprised, but I shouldn’t have been, because he does the same thing at home. He is so sweet!

After dinner we sat down and talked for a right long while. Actually, Kawal did most of the talking, as he shared with us some of the burden he has been bearing. It was good to be there to help him shoulder this load. After all, the Bible says, “Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2). At 10:00 we said good night, welcoming the end of another good day.

Addendum

Allow me to tell you a little about the beach and Pitch Lake. This part was not in my original writing, but was added later, when I was home and could do some research online to learn a little more about what we saw in Trinidad. Kawal told us some of this, and the rest I gathered from what I believe to be reputable online sources.

The beach is called Columbus Landing because Christopher Columbus landed there in 1498, while on his third expedition to find a direct route to India. Three large boulders shoot up out of the water near the shore, so Columbus named the place “La Trinidad.” This island is located just 7 miles off the coast of Venezuela, and its nearest island neighbor is Tobago, situated 19 miles to the north, off the northeast coast. Granted, the closest distance from Trinidad to Venezuela is 7 miles, from the northwest of Trinidad to the tip of Venezuela’s Paria Peninsula. Southward from Columbus Landing, the shore of Venezuela is some 12 miles away, but you could reach it in 20 minutes in a fisherman’s boat.

La Brea Pitch Lake, Trinidad

In 1595 Sir Walter Raleigh came to the island in search of El Dorado, the fabled “city of gold.” His ship was in need of repair, so the Indians led him to the 100-acre “lake” of pitch, from which he gathered enough pitch to waterproof the hull of his ship so that he could continue on his voyage. He is credited with “discovering” Pitch Lake, since he is the one who made its existence known to the world. When we stopped there for photos, I saw two groups of people down below walking through the pitch. I believe they were tourists, not workers. The road we were walking on was paved with the pitch. According to Trip Advisor, Pitch Lake in La Brea, Trinidad is the largest natural asphalt lake in the world. And I learned from USA Today that mining of the pitch began 1867, and since then an estimated 10 million tons of asphalt have been extracted. This lake serves as a major source of income for Trinidad, and the asphalt mined here is used to pave roads, racetracks, and airstrips.

Although Columbus was the first European to discover Trinidad, the island was not colonized until 1592, when the Spaniards came. (At the time, Columbus was too busy trying to succeed in colonizing Hispaniola.) In 1797, the British took control of the island, and the island gained their independence in 1962. You may have heard the country referred to as “Trinidad and Tobago.” Tobago was at various points in its history controlled by the Dutch, French, and the English. In 1888 the governments of the two islands merged to form a republic under the British Commonwealth.

The island of Trinidad measures 1980 square miles, only slightly larger than Rhode Island, the smallest state in the U.S., and it boasts a population of about 1.2 million, which is also comparable to that of Rhode Island. The official language is English, officially called Trinidadian English. There are at least four regional dialects, all of which are based on English, but have degrees of influence from other languages. I found it easy to understand most of the people, but there was one lady in particular whom I found hard to follow in conversation. The young people speak with less and less of the Trinidadian accent, due to the influence of both British and United States television programming and gaming. Some of the older folks find this disturbing, for they see it as a shift away from their roots. This very matter was a topic of conversation while we were there.

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