Missions Trips Chapter 23: Go West

To read this story from the beginning, click here.

Tuesday, Day 11 (Part 1)

First thing this morning, Pat helped Kawal install a shower curtain rod in the newly tiled shower, and then his work was done. I had promised to seal the grout in the shower last night, but I fell asleep in the car on the way home from Chaguanas and went straight to bed when we returned to the church. So this morning, even before coffee, I sealed the shower grout so we could once again take showers. And yes, the shower felt amazing. Kawal had just installed the hot water heater in the shower head shortly before we arrived, but I didn’t need the water to be but tepid, for the cool water washed away the sticky humidity better than hot water could. I was still grateful for the heating element, mind you. Unheated tap water was warm enough for my head, but a bit too uncomfortable for my whole body.

Speaking of hot water, the shower head was the only place in the house where water came out heated. In the kitchen, if you want hot water, you have to boil or microwave it. And as for drinking, Pat and I were told to drink only the bottled water. We made our coffee from tap water that had been boiled, and we brushed our teeth with tap water. It is treated, but it’s different from the water back home, and Kawal did not wish to risk any awkward moments, if you know what I mean.

In this respect, living in Trinidad is not so different from my experience of life in Bolivia. There, we also had heated shower heads, we also had to boil our water, and we also had to be careful with drinking water. In 1992, when I was in Bolivia, I do not remember having bottled water handy (although I do remember taking bottles of water on our excursions to the mountains). At home, the Landers distilled their own water. The process was slow, but it made the water taste amazing (made it safe too). This we used for drinking water, but we used boiled tap water for cooking, making tea and such. In Bolivia, we had also had to soak all fruits and vegetables with a drop or two of bleach, to get the bugs out. We did not have to do that in Trinidad.

Enough about water. When I finished sealing the grout in the shower, I returned to my room for coffee and quiet time, then sealed all the grout in the new floor tiles. This did not take long, and we still had the whole day ahead of us when I finished and cleaned my brush. It still grieved me that the grouting was not completely finished, but there was nothing I could do about it. I had no choice but to be thankful for the work we did accomplish rather than focusing on what we left undone.

Pretty soon we gathered on the carport. Pat told me not to pull the door all the way shut because he believed Kawal was not quite ready to go. Kawal let Rusty out of his kennel, giving him free rein of the yard while we were gone, then after making sure the puppy had sufficient food and water, we left.

Today we drove west to see Port of Spain. It was a beautiful, sunny day, perfect for a drive. As Kawal took us along the western border of the island, we came upon a lighthouse which stands in the middle of the street. Kawal told us that this lighthouse was originally built right on the shoreline, but the shoreline has moved over the years. Also, the lighthouse marks the division between the rich and the poor. In the States, we speak of living on the wrong (or right) side of the tracks; but in Trinidad, some people would not think of going to the “wrong” side of the lighthouse. That said, I saw both wealthy and humble homes on both sides of the lighthouse.

Presently we entered the big city, Port of Spain. Actually, Chaguanas is bigger than Port of Spain, but Port of Spain is the capital, and more highly developed than its rival for size. The city boasts several skyscrapers, hospitals, headquarters for large companies (such as Shell), and ports, of course.

We saw a commercial port, where cargo ships come in and out.

Somewhere along the coast is a yacht club, but I’ve only seen it on the map. However, we did come across a sailboat marina. And there we spied a huge flock of pelicans, the most I’ve ever seen in one place.

Many of the rich people live here in and near Port of Spain, and most if not all of the white people. The population of Trinidad is roughly 40.3% East Indian, 40% black, 18% mixed, 0.6% white, and 1.2% other, including Chinese (nationsencyclopedia.com). I saw one Chinese lady while we were there, and maybe four white people (besides ourselves), but none at all until he took us to Port of Spain. They have their own neighborhood, and they pretty much stay there. The whites are European. The Indians are descendants of indentured servants brought in from India, and the blacks are descendants of slaves brought in from Africa. I’m not sure what happened to the indigenous people of the island, the Amerindians. I have read that they were virtually wiped out by diseases introduced by the Europeans (worldpopulationreview.com). The Indians and blacks in general are divided politically as well as socially. I didn’t ask a lot of questions, but I gathered this much between conversations I overheard and snippets of newscasts we watched on TVs in other people’s homes.

Speaking of news, a tragedy occurred while we were there, and every time we went to someone’s house, it was on the news. Pirates had attacked and killed twelve fishermen, then stole their boats and outboard motors. (If I remember correctly, this happened on the day we visited Kawal’s fisherman friend, for I remember thinking that his profession is more dangerous than it should be.) The motors were located the same day because they were equipped with GPS locators. Seven bodies were also recovered the first day. Over the next few days, three more bodies were found, but as of when we left Trinidad, two still remained unaccounted for. The one they had most recently found had drifted far from the place of the attack, so there was little hope of finding the others, between currents and sea life feeding on them. The fishermen were between the ages of 18 and 25. I felt so bad for the families. Death is common in Trinidad, as it is everywhere, but I saw no grief like the grief of those left behind in this brutal attack. An arrest had been made, but I don’t know if they captured all the pirates.

Violence is rampant in certain areas of the island. Just west of Port of Spain, Kawal showed us two amusement parks that have sat unused for years because crime is so high in that area that people are afraid to come to the parks. He also told us that no one goes to the villages in the north unless they belong there. Those people have a habit of shooting first, asking questions later. Their aversion to outsiders—even to other Trinidadians—is not unlike the attitude of the Auca Indians that Jim Elliot was burdened to reach with the gospel. God loves all these people, even the killers, and He wants them to be brought into His kingdom. As Jim said, the Bible promises that every nation and every tongue will be represented in the kingdom of God, so someone had to reach the Aucas. He and four other men died trying to befriend them, but their death opened the way for the gospel to enter that area, and the widows of the martyred men brought light into their darkness. My question now is, who will reach the killers in the northern territory of Trinidad?

As we drove in cities and countryside during our stay here, I was amazed at how many churches I saw: Presbyterian, Episcopal, various sorts of Baptist, and Catholic. The Seventh Day Adventists are here too.

And of course, there are Hindu temples. We saw several Muslims walking about, but either I did not see their temples or I confused them for Hindu temples from a distance. Not every church preaches the gospel, but I praise God for the ones that do.

6 thoughts on “Missions Trips Chapter 23: Go West

  1. It’s sad to see you describe this country like this. I lived in Trinidad for 20 years. There are so many inaccuracies with how you’ve described ethnicities . Trinidad is not just the few ethnicities you’ve described and in fact they are a mainly mixed population! I don’t know where you got those percentages from but they’re gravely inaccurate! The indigenous people are not just mixed in with the others . In fact they have their own queen! The lighthouse does not mark the division between rich and poor . The wealthiest person in Trinidad lives in central Trinidad. The north of Trinidad is mostly famous for agriculture, Spanish and French influenced traditions. The only thing I agree with is the state of crime which has been on the rise due to the influence of drug lords from South America. I think you should let your readers know that these words are your opinions or opinions of a very biased tour guide.

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    • Thank you for your comments. I’ve been hoping someone would respond and correct me where I’m wrong. The statistics came from a website which may or may not be accurate (apparently not), but the observations came from conversations with people who have lived there all their lives. I do not mean to put the country down, but am only sharing my observations. People there need the Lord, just like they do everywhere. This is my only article that addresses the dark side.

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      • Thanks for your reply. I’m not at all denying the levels of crime etc in the country. I only visit from time to time and even I am very weary / deeply concerned about it. I’d be happy to talk to you about the very different ethnicities and cultures in Trinidad though. My family and I lived in north Trinidad , I’d be happy to give you my perspective of the country. I promise you it’s not as divided along race and politics as you were told. I also have indigenous people ‘Amerindian’ heritage. I’d be happy to tell you about our culture if you’re interested. It’s not your fault that the information you googled or you were told was incorrect. These things happen. I did enjoy your other writing though! Xx

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