Paul and Gayle are taking a year from their roles in Picton and Belleville and will be teaching at the Maple Leaf International School in Trinidad. We will use this blog to record some of our edventures!

Thursday, 25 December 2014

A Little Jaunt to Tobago

Our Trini friends will finally be relieved - we made it to Tobago! We were warned to be careful on the roads -- the windy, narrow mountainous roads that lead to gorgeous beaches are quite the sight.

In planning our trek to Tobago, we decided to take the 2.5 hour ferry so that we would have our car with us. This proved to be a good decision, as it allowed us to explore much of the small sister island of Trinidad.

Tobago is located just north of Trinidad and is somewhat more touristy than Trinidad. We were no longer the only foreigners in a sea of Trinis!

After enduring a late night flight from Toronto, we picked up Abby at the airport in Crown Point. We then headed down the road to Castara, a small seaside town located about 45 minutes (and 20 km) from the airport) where we stayed for 4 days at a "rustic" guest house. Castara was a cool place to call home for a few days, as it came complete with a sandy beach, a historic town mud oven that baked yummy bread, and an ice cream shop. What more could you need?

On day one of our vacation, we donned the running shoes and walked to Englishman's Bay, a 3.5 km walk to a profoundly beautiful bay and beach. Along the way we befriended some goats grazing at the local cemetery, numerous cows along the roadside and some cocricos, one of the national birds of Trinidad and Tobago. We relaxed in the midst of waves, sand and about 15 others at Englishman's Bay.
Englishman's Bay Beach
After a second day of beaching it, we were ready for some action so we jumped in the car with the plan of circling the north end of the island. Well, the road (note - one road only) was so narrow and windy that it took us the good part of a day to drive 20 km. Highlights of our road trip included 3 stops at 3 very different but cool waterfalls.
Abby at Argyle Falls
 During our last full day in Tobago we drove back to Crown Point to go on a glass bottom boat tour out to the Buccoo reef. For $24, we got to see the reef from a glass bottom boat, swim on a coral "sand" bar and snorkel over the reef. For the record, squid are super cool, and elegant in the water.
Store Bay Beach at Crown Point
It was certainly a highlight to explore a new place with Abs for Christmas.  There lots of pictures in the Gallery.

Merry Christmas to Everyone!

Monday, 15 December 2014

New Blog Feature

We've added a new "Map" feature to our blog. Just click the link above and you will be able to see the places we've been in Trinidad (and beyond). The red markers have pictures attached to them. For us, this will be a diary to help us remember where we've been and what we've been up to. Many places on the map have not made it to the blog.

Click this to see the list of titles.

Saturday, 13 December 2014

Another Saturday Adventure

To celebrate the first day of our 3 week Christmas vacation, we decided to head east of Port of Spain to Arima, and the Arima Horse Club Track to catch a few races. Although we are used to harness racing in Ontario, we quickly adjusted our betting strategies to match those of turf track races, where jockeys actually ride the horses.

The afternoon proved to be really enjoyable. The grandstand was coolish (probably 29C) with a nice breeze and a great view of mountains in the distance. There was a solid crowd of people, dominated by men. We got a huge kick out of a group of 4 that had a 40 ouncer of Jack Daniels stuffed into a back pack, complete with cups, mix and ice. I guess that is acceptable behaviour??? It was pretty obvious that not a lot of foreign women turn up at the track, so a few people seemed super friendly to me and less so to Paul.

I'm proud to say that once I settled in and got into my gambling groove, my strategy of selecting a horse by its name and colour worked wonders. In the last 2 races, I turned $15 into $26. That might seem like a big win, and it is in my head, but to convert Trinidad & Tobago dollars into Canadian, you divide each by $5, so I walked away with a whopping $2!!! Ok, we may have lost a bit on 2 other races but you didn't want to hear about that.

On our drive back home, we diverted off the main highway in search of the Maracas waterfall. Our car has been acting up a little so we figured a cool down period would do it a world of good. We eventually reached the end of the road that our car could handle and were just about to park on the road side when a young girl walked out of her house to greet us. She informed us that it would be unsafe (for foreigners) to hike to the waterfall or leave our car on the roadside. But for $150 TT she would be our guide and allow us to park the car in her yard. We agreed and off we walked, with 4 sketchy, scrawny, and smelly dogs in toe.

We were half hoping - half expecting a swimming pool at the bottom of the waterfall but when we arrived, there was not much water pooling. Instead there was a team of 5 people filming an environmental documentary about "must see" places in Trinidad. We were told this segment on the Maracas Waterfall would air on Canadian TV sometime in 2015. Watch for us!

On our hike back to the car (which incidentally was perfectly safe), we diverged off to find another waterfall with a nice little pool for swimming. This made the hike complete, and we managed to ditch the one-eyed, rail thin dog that was still accompanying us. I don't think we took a picture of this dog, as we didn't want to scare you or have you unsubscribe from our blog.

Stay tuned for more reports. We are heading to Tobago next week just before Christmas and then to St. Lucia after Christmas.

We hope all is well with you. Enjoy the holiday season and Merry Christmas!

Gayle and Paul

Saturday, 6 December 2014

A Proud Nation

On Tuesday we were fortunate to see the Women Soca Warriors, Trindad's nation soccer team, take on Equador for a spot at the Women's World Cup that is being held in Canada next year.  The women narrowly missed a chance to qualify in a tournament earlier this year and were playing the second of a home and home series with Equador. The winner of the series would qualify to go to Canada.

The first game was a draw in Equador, so this was going to prove to be an excellent contest. (Well, and a great experience for us.)

The stadium was packed with over 20000 fans mostly wearing red. This nation is proud of it's athletes for sure.  The game was dominated by the Soca Warriors, however they could not put the ball in the net. During injury time, Equador scored a soft goal off of a free kick that was misjudge by the keeper.  The disheartened fans were silenced almost immediately.

We learned afterward that in 1989, 25 years ago, the men's team faced a similar challenge against the USA and lost by a similarly soft goal. Everyone, over 25 remembers that day well!

Check out the pictures in the gallery.

Sunday, 30 November 2014

Self Defense Training

Last week, I took the grade 9 and 10 students to "Rough House", a mixed martial arts studio, for 2 days of self defense training. While there are only 5 girls in the class I thought it would be important for everyone to be able to back up some of our "assertiveness" content with some physical training.

Racquel and Chrysta in action
The leader of the sessions was MMA fighter, Adam DaSilva whose main message was RUN, but if you are stuck you need to protect yourself.  He really did a great job explaining how to get out of difficult holds and to take control.

The first session dealt with grappling and the second session was striking. The students were amazed at how, with the right moves, it was possible to get away. They were very surprised at the quality of the workout that they got during the practice sessions. 

I was very pleased with the sessions. One of the girls joined the gym after the first session. She went to the women's training class all week!

Take a look at the pictures and story on Adam's blog.

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Hash Baked

You've heard us talk about "Hashing" and we really enjoy it.  Hashes bring something for everyone -- Fast runners, casual joggers, hikers, walkers, even some kids go hashing.  If you just want to go, hang out and drink, that's fine too!

Last Saturday we decided to go on the DDI Hash. DDI is short for Down D' Islands. 

Language Note: North Americans would say "Down To The Islands". However, Trinis tend to drop a word or two as they speak so the "To" is often left out. eg, the students will say to me -- Sir, we going Savannah today?  Ultimately, it is a much more efficient way of speaking! Also, as general rule, "the" is changed to "D'".  This is even the case in formal business names -- There is a roti shop called, "D' Bess Roti". So "Down To The Islands" is "Down D' Islands" or often just "DDI".

DDI refers to a group of small islands off the western coast of Trinidad. Going DDI to weekend at a second home or on a boat is a common pastime. This was our first trip DDI.

As you can see. the hash website said, the boat (not exactly as shown) would be leaving at 8 am SHARP. Our friends picked us up at 7:40, we arrived at 7:50. I will save you the pain.  The boat finally left at 10:10.  Ouch!  Trini-time caught us again. Locals know the routine.

The 10 am boat ride was a loud Soca dance party. I am not 100% certain that everyone on the boat actually went to bed before getting on the boat.  The trip was about an hour and a half.  We arrived to find out that the hash had not yet been set.  So we waited another hour for the "hares" to make the course.

At a little after 1 pm we started our jungle trek through the rain forest.  This island was a leper colony until the 1960's so there were some interesting old buildings, a grave yard and lots of cactus.

As always the run was fun.  I like being part of the lead group. That means you are leading or "Checking" -- trying to find the right trail. It also means that you are at least on the wrong trail for 50% of the time and then you have to catch up! 

After the hash, we swam and Gayle and I hiked a little more.  The boat ride back was an even louder Soca dance party. By this time people had had lots to drink and everyone was having a great time.

Next Hash is Dec. 6. 3:30 pm SHARP.  Don't be late.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

A Weekend in Grenada

I feel a bit like a rockstar poser putting that title: "blah, blah, ... we jetted down to Grenada for the weekend...just had to spend a couple days on our big fancy yacht...met my good friend Keith Richards there..."

So the truth is there were a couple of purposes for our trip. First, our visitor's visa expired on Nov. 15th (our work visas were still being processed when we arrived in August) and our 3 month grace period for driving also ran out. In order to take care of these seemingly small "paper work" items, we would both need to take at least a full day off work.  The system can be quite slow here for some things -- licenses especially.

We figured out that we could leave the country and upon return we'd have our passports stamped properly and we'd be able to drive again! The closest option for foreign travel is Venezuela. Although we can see it from the beach, the 7km swim is just too far and that part of the country is a little "rugged". And, well, it's not overly safe there right now.  The next best option is Grenada, so we decided to make a weekend of it and booked the 40 minute flight.  Luckily, it's not the busy season and one of the all-inclusive resorts was offering a decent sale. Wins all around.

We trekked to the airport on Friday night and were in the air by about 8:45. By 9:45 were checked in and having a late dinner. I created a stir by entering the dining room in my shorts.  Oops! There is a dress code for men after 7pm!

Saturday morning we had a great breakfast that included bacon. It's the first we've had since moving.  Most of the bacon we can buy in Trinidad is turkey or very expensive. I've eaten 3 months worth in one weekend.

After a quick tour of the hotel facilities we could see that the weather wasn't going to be great so we decided to jump on the bus to the local market. We speculated it would be quite busy because we saw a large cruise ship come in around 7 am. Upon arrival, the first of many downpours started and we quickly found the tourist mall that was crowded with visitors from England on a 5 week cruise. There were many souvenir shops, with made in China items stamped with the word Grenada.

When the rain broke we freed ourselves from the mall and were greeted by Herman, a local who was claimed to be the "big man around here". He toured us around St. Georges, the markets, the fort and told us stories of the history of the country. We initially thought about ditching him, but he was really a good guide.  He stayed with us for about an hour and a half and showed us things we'd never have seen without him.

At noon we returned to the hotel and played -- snorkeling, sailing, kayaking, eating for the rest of the weekend. It was so nice to have been able to take a break from school.

Upon our return, our passports were given a shiny new red stamp showing July 2015!

Check out the pictures in the gallery.

Sunday, 9 November 2014

After all, it is an "edventure"

We've been fortunate that most of our experiences here have been great. Some because they were exactly what we expected, some because they weren't. Even when what we're doing hasn't reached the "great" level, we've learned, and therefore it was worth it.

Today was no different.

We started with our normal Sunday routine of an early bike ride to the end of the Diego Martin main road to exercise. They close the road to vehicles so there are just walkers, joggers, cyclists and one superfast speed skater. The rest of the morning we dedicated to getting planning done for the next two weeks since we had plans for the afternoon and next weekend we are going away. Any day I get to skate is a great day, so anything else would be bonus!

At 12:30 we were heading for the Centre of Excellence to see the Pendragon's Magic Show. This was heavily advertised and the price seemed right so we picked up a couple of general admission tickets for $100 each (about $20 CAD). The news paper article suggested that we would see "mind-blowing" effects from "One of the Greatest Magicians Of Our Time".

Here's what lead to our decision: 1. We hadn't been to the Centre of Excellence, so it might be worth a look; 2. This is a big-time magician; 3. The price was right; 4. The trip there would be only about 20 minutes in Sunday traffic; 5. If we're lucky, there will be good snacks; 6. We'd likely be home working if we didn't go.

There was a steady flow of traffic as we pulled in to the parking lot. We noticed that VIP ticket holders had a special parking lot that was further away than everyone else. On the way in we got a free sample of a new yogurt drink and a vendor was just putting burgers on his grill. Things were coming together nicely.

We rounded the corner to the side of the building where the entrance was. We approached the gate and noticed the sign "VVIP" only. After a quick look at our tickets we were ushered along to the next entrance. I looked through the door and saw the scaffolding for the stage. As we walked away from the door near the stage, we passed the VIP entrance and continued passed the “Special Reserve” entrance before we entered the "general admission" doors.

The auditorium was little more than a large barn and our seating area was at least a solid 7 iron from the stage. (Despite the fact that there were about 10 rows at the back of the Special Reserve that weren’t used.) I quickly took a trip to see what food was available as a consolation prize. Chocolate glazed doughnuts made us feel better for a minute or two. Another trip to the vendor for a bucket of popcorn didn’t help at all. We soon learned that the screens intended for our viewing were positioned poorly and did little to enhance the show. The sound was awful. The introductory magician would have been suitable for a 6 year old’s birthday party.

During the intermission, Christmas carols were played. Trinidad is big on Christmas, so this wasn’t all that surprising. We’ve heard Christmas music on the radio and most stores are well decorated already.

The Pendragon show finally started at about 2:30. We lost all hope when the narrator came to the stage and introduced herself as Mother Christmas. After a couple of “tricks” we decided to bail. We walked to the car, drove past the sleeping security guard and hit the road.

Not much fun, but some good learning: 1. Doughnuts are really good; 2. The centre of excellence has an underwater rescue training facility (Cool!); 3. There is a really nice turf soccer field and stadium as well; 4. General admission tickets mean you sit at the “back of the bus”. … 11. They don’t charge for parking … 42. There is a Chinese food restaurant nearby that has a buffet on Wednesdays and Sundays. 43. The barn has a rubberized floor and would be great for speed skating; …

Saturday, 1 November 2014

Trinidad - The Land of the Hummingbird

With Abby in town, we set up a visit to Yerette, the home of Theo and Gloria Ferguson, a Trini couple that have a VERY cool hummingbird sanctuary. It turns out that Trinidad is the home of the hummingbird.

Theo and Gloria have transformed their home gardens into a haven for hummingbirds. They've planted shrubs/flowers to attract the wee little birds, and have about 50 feeders scattered around the small property to feel the birds. Upon our arrival, we were immediately bombarded by dozens of flying acrobats.

We learned tons of amazing hummy facts:
- they are the only birds that can fly backwards, straight up, straight down and hover
- depending on the refraction of light, a hummingbird will appear very different colours
- they have to eat 1-2 times their body weight in nectar per day to get enough energy to sustain themselves
- their pee is odourless and colourless (a blessing according to Theo if it lands on you)
- the resting heart rate of a hummingbird is 500-600 beats per minutes - a human's is 60ish
- the flying heart rate of a hummingbird is 1200 bpm - WOW
- no surprise the heart of the hummingbird is 4 times bigger than a human heart compared to its body size

Check out the pictures in the gallery Paul managed to take. It really doesn't capture the essence of the visit, but trust me, it was very awe inspiring!

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Another Saturday Adventure

We try and keep Saturday free for some new Trini adventure, and yesterday was no exception.

We rolled out of bed at 5:20 a.m., picked up our friend Marie and headed up the north coast road to meet our guide Emil and 18 of our soon to be hiker friends. Our goal, the Paria waterfall. After a bumpy and weavy drive to the end of the north coast road, we parked, hitched up our back packs and trundled off down the trail in search of one of Trinidad's beautiful waterfalls. After 3 hours, a few water breaks, several amazing vistas, 3 turtles swimming in the ocean, a lost camera, a found camera and several super cool plant stories, we reached (that is what Trinis say when you get somewhere)! The waterfall was cool, and the swimming and rock jumping was even cooler.

Don't forget to check out the pictures and video:

After leaving the waterfall, we played in some monstrous ocean waves and I became great friends with about 82 sand flies. At least that is how many bites I've counted on my legs. There was a rugged boat that took us back to our drop off and let's just say ocean swells are pretty darn big when you are in the middle of them with a 75 horse motor. Back on land we enjoyed a German sausage sandwich at this quaint little German restaurant (go figure) and then headed for home.

Exploring some of Trinidad's north coast was a great way to spend our Saturday.

We are excited to have Abby come visit for her shortened reading week this Thursday.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

ADHD Workshop

A few weeks ago one of the administration staff emailed everyone to see if there was interest in attending an ADHD workshop.  We decided to attend, even though it was scheduled for a Saturday.  At the very least, it would become another story for our Edventures.

As most of you are teachers, you will agree that "workshops" can be hit or miss it terms of their effectiveness in the classroom. We often ask the question -- "Is there something I can use on Monday that will make me a better teacher?"

This workshop was a definite "hit".

The event which was held at the modern and beautiful University of the West Indies Graduate school of Business, was hosted by the ADHD Society of Trinidad and Tobago. This is a relatively new group of who are dedicated to raising the awareness of ADHD.  Attendees at the workshop, the second in the series, included educators, parents, clinicians, ministry of education staff. The highlight of the day were the sessions lead by Ben Glenn (@simpleadhdxpert,

Ben was diagnosed with Dyslexia and other Learning Disabilities while in grade school. As an adult he learned that he also had ADHD "and suddenly everything about my life made perfect sense".

Ben was an energetic and funny speaker who entertained us with stories of growing up with 2 brothers who also had ADHD.  He told of interactions with his parents and how he was inspired by one of his teachers to "snap out of it". One of his daughters is "just like her daddy", so he is seeing things from the other side now.

Ben had many messages for us:
- "you can't discipline a Neurological Brain Disorder"
- "the biggest struggle is that the kid feels stupid"
- "ADHD kids will hyperfocus -- usually on the wrong thing"
- "sometimes the teacher is not the most sparkly thing in the classroom"
- "only you can unlock your potential. Teachers and parents can give you the keys"
- "When you find the thing you love, pour your heart into it and you'll make a difference"
- "ADHD kids need 'relentless encouragement' over the long haul"
- "you have to find a way to build their confidence"
- "find the good"

Ben took a few minutes during each of his two sessions show us his creative side by making chalk drawings. The music was loud and the audience silent as Ben worked at his canvas. The drawings took 12-15 minutes to create.  I was amazing to watch him work -- focus, hard work and a lot of chalk dust. You can see photos of him working in the Gallery

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Teaching Physical Education at Maple Leaf

As you may know, two-thirds of my teaching timetable here in Trinidad is physical education. Some may not know that my original career plan was to become a physical education teacher, however, when I left university I was given the opportunity to teach computers. Computers and I get along quite well, so the original plan was quickly shelved!  While I was a little concerned with my lack of experience when moving to teach PE at Maple Leaf, I was also very excited to have a new opportunity.

After some initial learning about the "system" here, I think I have a pretty good handle on things. We have a very limited facility. There is one covered outdoor gymnasium.  The north west corner is bordered by a rock face that leads up to jungle.  During a hard rain (which happens almost once a day) the concrete floor gets wet and it's unusable. There is also a paved courtyard area which is a little larger.  The gym is used for periods 1, 2 and 3 by elementary classes. Secondary has period 4 only. There is no field or outdoor grassy space. This doesn't hold our students back from playing hours of "small goal" football (soccer to most North Americans) and other sports.

The Maxis we ride in
Since I have a period 3 class, we must spend our physical activity time off campus.  Everyday we load up two maxi taxis (vans that hold about 12 passengers) with students, a security guard and myself and head to a park, community centre or the Savannah.  At typical class looks like this: 
10:45 am get changed
10:50 am load the maxis and take attendance
10:52 am leave the school

A loaded Maxi. We take our gear with us!
10:52 - 11:10 am -- travel -- depending on traffic and destination this can be anywhere from 10 - 20 minutes. I usually budget for 15 minutes each way.
11:10 - 11:45 am - physical activity (give or take)
11:45 am -- load the maxis and head back for lunch.

Yes, that's only about 35 minutes for activity so we have to maximize all opportunities by getting moving very quickly.  The students are very good and understand this, so they form up quickly and get active. Sometimes we use travel time for goal setting and instructions. Which is far from perfect because I can only be in one maxi at time. Sometimes I ride with half the students on the way and the other half on the way back.

Orienteering at King George V Park
Although we have some external factors that we cannot control (e.g., rain, traffic, other groups using the facilities), the students are great and understand that flexibility is important.  On Friday, as my senior class arrived at the park, the rain started to pour (hard).  Undaunted, they left the maxi and began an energetic barefoot small-goal game (not our planned activity).  The rain let up a little, but didn't ever stop.  The maxi driver was not impressed with the muddy and wet students getting into her van at the end of class.

I think any physical education teacher would agree that, despite the plan,  the success of a class can be measured by the number happy, dirty, wet, sweaty kids at the end. 10 / 10!

BTW, I mopped up the mud in the van with some wet pinnies and the driver was pleased too!

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Photo Gallery

We've added photo gallery to the blog. You can click the tab at the top to see folders with our recent pics. Make sure you open the pictures to the slide show so you can read the captions.

Saturday, 4 October 2014

The Last 30 Hours

Hi all,

It's time for another update from Trinidad.

The last 30 hours have been jam packed for us. Our Friday started as normal - up at 5:40, to school by 6:40, classes beginning at 7:40. Our teaching day was a short one with 40 minute classes, ending at 11am. There is currently a high rate of illness from chickenguna, a painful viral infection that causes vomiting, diarrhea, fever and joint pain. So it was decided that the school would be sprayed to kill mosquitoes, and everyone had to be out by 11am.

Off we trundled at 11am, bound for the blood donation bank downtown in Port of Spain. A colleague from school and fellow Paul has been biking with developed a serious bacterial infection in his leg and needed blood for a surgery. Here in Trinidad they encourage friends and family to donate blood for specific people in need. It seems like a smart plan, making blood donation more personal. By 1:30 Paul had donated (I'm a bit of a fainter so decided against donating) and we headed off to pick up our Red Cross First Aid certificates from the course we took two weeks ago.

We arrived home by 2:30, vegged out and watched Catching Fire.

At 6 pm with yummy mashed potatoes, green beans and salad, we headed off to our Principal's home for a Canadian Thanksgiving potluck dinner with about 30 people from school. Let me tell you, cooked turkey and a full spread including pumpkin pie and apple crumble was thoroughly enjoyed by all.

Still full from Friday dinner, we crawled out of bed at 6 am (this is unusual for me as I kind of like to sleep in on Saturdays) and drove downtown to meet for a 7 am hike. There we met up with 3 ex-pats and headed up a steep road into Hololo, a small little community with big, growlly dogs that were luckily behind fences. As we summitted the mountain to the end of the road (literally), it started to sprinkle, and then downpour! The rainy season strikes again. Our wet adventure eventually dried as we headed back down the road and ended with doubles, or deep fried breads with a chick pea sauce.

Tonight we are taking in a dance performance, with tickets we won (not through trivia). Perhaps it will be blog worthy.

Friday, 26 September 2014

A New Take On Hashing

Wednesday was Republic Day, a national holiday. The local hash club organized a special fundraiser "Red Dress" hash.

Aside from a short run in the woods, this was more of an urban hash in the streets and back allies of Diego Martin. The local folk were mesmerized by our fine costumes and questioned us often as to what we were doing. We definitely went places we would never have gone. Also smelled a few things we'd never like to smell again.

The pictures tell the rest of the story!

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Some Recent Photos

Click here to see some recent photos and videos:

A week in Trini

Here is a little insight into our normal day to day lives in Trinidad.

Paul went biking with another teacher on Sunday morning for a solid and sweaty 2.5 hour ride. I did not. Instead I went to the air conditioned gym and ran on the treadmill, while watching some shows on Netflix. Life is tough.

Monday was a normal school day. Paul jogged to the gym for a workout before school. I left our apartment at about 6:30 a.m. and drove the 2 km. Depending on the two traffic lights, the drive might take 5 minutes or 10. School starts everyday at 7:40 with morning announcements, and no national anthem. We both have period 1 as our prep, and then teach 80 minute classes. The classes are slightly longer here to compensate for multiple holidays during the school year. Lunch is 35 minutes, followed by period 4. This last class of the day ends at 2 p.m. Typically we've been working at the school until 4:30 or 5:00 pm but due to high volume of traffic, many teachers leave shortly after 2.

On Tuesday we headed down to the Savannah after school to watch our under 16 "footballers" (that would be soccer players) play a league game. By 5 pm swarms of sandflies had invaded the field, looking like columns of haze and tasting a lot worse. The game was postponed as breathing and sight was tough with bugs in your mouth and eyes. It was really gross. Apparently this happens sometimes in the rainy season. Lucky for us the flies were not on the grass for frisbee so we were able to play a fun pick up game. As a reward after frisbee, with dead flies stuck to our legs and necks, we trundled off to McDonalds for $9 ($1.75 Can) chocolate sundaes!

Speaking of the rainy season, the weather is consistently HOT and HUMID. Like I'm talking 32 degrees C during the day and "cooler" at only 25 at night. And when it rains, it RAINS. Sometimes it comes with thunder and lightening. But usually it will rain hard for 30 minutes and then be done within the hour and come out hot and humid. Paul has been soaked only once so far during phys ed :)

After school on Wednesday we drove out to Chagauramas as Paul is planning to take his phys ed classes to do some orienteering. We biked around a bit and managed to see a momma howler monkey and her baby over us, climbing around in bamboo. We got a few pictures, but the cell phone camera makes it look a little more like a blob in a tree.

Thursday was an exciting day at school with a school wide assembly to launch Maple Leaf's 20 Year Anniversary. It came complete with cupcakes for everyone, so I was happy! That night we attended the PTA Wine and Cheese back at the school. This catered event provided a nice way to chat with teachers and parents while drinking a glass of wine or juice at the school!

The student council election assembly happened Friday morning (we like having assemblies) with speeches and then voting after. The rest of the day was all a buzz with talk of the 2014-15 StuCo. After school Friday was our first volleyball practice. We have an EA that is a national volleyball team player (how cool is that!!!) so I'm working with her to coach some volleyball.

Seeing as Paul is teaching phys ed and has already had a couple of first aid situations (a fainter and a sprained ankle), the school suggested he re-cert first aid. So off we went on Saturday for a Red Cross CPR and First Aid course. Trini's are a little edgy and funny, so the 8-4 course went by quickly and we got a little more insight into Trini vocab and culture.

Now it's Sunday and school work is on the agenda. Although Wednesday is a national holiday - Republic Day, and a day off school for us so it is a short week. We have plans to do another Hash on Wednesday - complete with red dresses. Should be a good photo opp!!!

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Our First Hash

No!  Not that kind of hash...

Hashing, as we have come to learn, means getting together with some others and running around the bush. The overall group goal is to try to find and stay on the trail to ultimately find the end where there is a healthy supply of beer. 

The "Hares" (trail makers) purposely include false trails and markers to mess everyone up. The trail can include just about any kind of terrain and is marked by small piles of shredded paper on the ground.  There is lots of yelling as there are different code words to let everyone know where the trail is leading.  ("ON ON" means you are on the trail, "ARE YOU" is what you say to hopefully get someone to let you know which way to go...)

Yesterday we took two other teachers with us and drove about 45 minutes. There were about 200 or so of us who converged on a little rural town and ran (sometimes aimlessly) for about an hour and an half. At the end everyone was milling about re-"hashing" the run, drinking beer and eating Roti (a local favourite -- a wrap with meat and/or vegetables).

Some people walk, some try to lead.  (Leading, is tricky, because if you pick a false trail, you will end up in the middle of the pack very quickly.) In the end, it really doesn't matter because you will be sweaty, muddy, scratched and tired and the beer tastes the same.

It turns out that these are held just about every two weeks, so if you show up to visit us on a Saturday, you might get lucky and have your first hash.

Marie, Gayle and Maddy eating Roti after the run

Jamie, Todd and the boys (our Frisbee friends) were also hashing.

People were lining the curb on both sides after.

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Our first week at Maple Leaf

One week under our belts and we are ready for more at Maple Leaf!

Here is a quick recap of how it all shook down during our first week:
I have a grade 11 Biology class of 9, a grade 12 Biology class of 13 and a grade 12 Chemistry class of 14. For those of you not in teaching in Ontario, these are VERY small classes. Our students are extremely polite, conscientious and hardworking. I've only had one student on one day not have their homework finished. Imagine my surprise! They genuinely want to learn and do well. No pressure as their teacher.

The school day starts at 7:40 am, but because of the huge volume of traffic on the road we roll into school around 6:30 am. I have finally managed to find a work space for my period 1 prep. The school has a small footprint so teacher work rooms are limited and given that the Trini culture is quite social, I don't really want to be "working" in the staff room during my prep. 

The school day ends at 2 pm, and the school seems to clear out rather quickly.  I'm excited to help coach volleyball, as the head coach plays on the Trinidad National Team! I'm also looking forward to starting a science club that will run hands on "mad science" after school workshops for the elementary students.

The school is also open on the weekend, but no, we did not darken the doors this weekend.

Parents' night is this Thursday evening, so we'll get the chance to meet the parents. Thursday is also a big day with a House League Assembly, and on Friday there is another assembly for our 20th Anniversary kick off. 

All for now...

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Queen's Park Savannah

One of the neatest things we've discovered is the Queen's Park Savannah. This is a large tract of land (the road around it is 3 km) in the centre of Port of Spain. It is surrounded by mountains and there is a "pitch" walk way all around it.

Essentially, most of the area is a hay field. The grass is cut with a bush hog, (and not very often).

Despite this, it is used by hundreds of people everyday!  When we go, it's usually to play Frisbee.  We just set up some cones and play. There are always soccer games and cricket happening.  Usually there are countless people running or walking around the outside. Occasionally someone is flying a remote control plane.

While some of the areas have goal posts for soccer or rugby, there is no "booking the field".  People just go!  and PLAY! 

At night, in the summer at least, and on weekends the rest of the year, a food court magically appears at about 5pm. There is bar-b-que chicken, juice bars, ice cream, gyros...If you like coconut water, you can always get fresh coconuts chopped open with a machete!

This photo, while not ours, captures it nicely

Thursday, 28 August 2014

A Cut Below...

If you haven't read Paul's entry "A Cut Above", I would highly recommend it before you read my perspective on the hair cut.

With little wings developing on his collar line, Paul was desperate for a hair cut before starting back to school on Tuesday. With really today as the only option, I dropped Paul off at this little barber shop literally a 4 minute walk from our place. That was at 3:45 pm. I got home, surfed the net, watched some news, had a snack. You know, the usual things after a hard day at work. 5:30 hit and I was starting to worry. Perhaps the barber shop was closed again and Paul ended up walking to the plaza to get his hair cut. He was desperate because his hair was SO long ;). Possible, but almost 2 hours for that to happen?

At 6:00, I was trying to reason out what had happened. Although everyone we've met has told us that our neighbourhood is safe, maybe they were lying. I envisioned Paul being mugged for his $20, beat up, or run over by a car. The latter is truly the most likely as we sometimes still look left when we should be looking right for oncoming traffic. Ok, one of us still does that her name is not Paul. At 6:30, I was planning a funeral and heading back to Ontario. At 6:45, three hours from the drop off and in the dark of night, I was shakily looking up a fellow Canadian's number to see how I should contact the police and report a murder when in walked Paul with a nice little new hair cut!!! A huge sigh of relief flooded over me.

Holy cow - it literally took 3 hours to get a hair cut. So much for the 5 minute buzz in Picton.

A Cut Above

Like many other things in Picton, when you go for a hair cut, it's generally uneventful. When you go to John's there's probably 1 or 2 people ahead of you and you are in the chair in about ten minutes. When you go to Mark, you rarely have to wait AND Mark takes pride in having you out the door in 5 minutes --"no time at all". If fact, I once arrived at the door at 5:01 and, although he was locking the door, Mark put me in the chair and I was back in the car at 5:04. I am not kidding! You know where this is going, right? There is a little barber shop on the way to the local "Starlite" plaza. I've passed it many times and it looked good enough from the outside. On Wednesday, I decided to walk down to get a trim to be ready for school. Lights were on, but nobody home. Thursday is Frisbee night and I didn't really want to leave it to the weekend. So Wednesday was the best option. FAIL. Thursday it is. I was thinking that I could get a cut around 3:45, remember, haircuts take 5 minutes in my world, and be home in time to get Gayle and go play Frisbee for 5:30. I opened the door to find the place busy. One barber using clippers...promising. Simple math, there were 8 people (1 girl, 1 baby and 2 women), so it looked like maybe 4 people in front of me, I should be home in 45 minutes. The television above the mirror was blaring some awful noise. The chairs were all full, except for one in the middle of a family. I stood by the door not wanting to get between mom and her 1..2..3..4 cubs. She said, "it's ok" and pointed. I sat down...and began to learn. I looked at the TV. Planet of the Apes was just starting. The DVD player was hooked up to a stereo and it playing at a significant volume. People were talking. Kids on both sides of me looking at and playing with magazines. With the noise and the accents I was lucky to understand a quarter of what was being said. I picked up a week-old newspaper and began to read it. This barber was meticulously cutting, trimming, shaving the head of 10 year old. Much more detail that I am used to. As I watched, 2 customers left. Excellent. So that leaves 2 kids, then me. Should be ok, I will stick it out. One of the women leaves and returns with bags from the nearby grocery stores. She offers the barber a beer, he accepts. The mom takes one too. A couple of other guys come in and find chairs. I flipped through the pages of the newspaper and found the Sudoku. Damn, no pen. Second kid takes the chair. It won't take long to cut this little guy, I thought to myself. As I watched, I soon learned that everyone gets the full treatment. No short cuts. I watched a little of the movie while quietly interacting with the 3 year old beside me who is very interested my arm hair. I looked at my watch. 4:35. SHIT. Frisbee is going to be a stretch at this rate. The three year old gets into the chair and is quite thrilled about his opportunity to look as good as his big brothers. I'm next. Just minutes now...The movie is not holding my attention well. The three year old is done and I start to shift closer to the edge of my seat, as I am next. WRONG. The other woman, who I have convinced myself, is just hanging out, gets in the chair. Dammit. I can't leave now. Too late for Frisbee. I'm fully invested. Turns out, I was fully invested for her 45 minutes and another 20 for the next guy. Then ME! Sometime during all of this, Planet of the Apes ended and someone put on Hercules. I got a great haircut and walked home in the dark. I arrived at 6:45. Haircuts do not take 5 minutes.

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Saturday River Walk

Today started off at 7:15 am by loading our bikes into our "new" (2003 Toyota Yaris silver cruising machine). As you can imagine, there isn't a ton of room in the silver bullet for 2 bikes so Paul had the brilliant idea to remove the back seats and turn our car into a "truck". Our bikes fit beautifully, but too bad for the Trini hitch hikers.

Down the road in Carnage (pronounce with a French accent), we watched cigar boats competing in the annual Great Race, a boat race from Trinidad to Tobago. After the wave of boats passed, we jumped on our bikes and headed for some quiet riding on the roads in Chaguaramas. We had been told of this "tough" ride up to an old WW2 American military base and decided that at 8:30 am, we were fresh enough to handle it. For those from the County, imagine 20+ Finger Board hills and you've got this ride. Of course we both tanked it (at probably 2km/hr) and then enjoyed the 3 minute ride back down, white knuckling the brakes all the way.

After a re-energizing slushy, we found a short hike up a river bed to a really cool 30' high rock gorge. The pictures don't do it justice but it was beautiful and fun to trek up through the rocks and water.

Lucky for us we did this Saturday morning because from 1 to 4 pm, it poured rain. The nice thing about this rainy season thing is that it stays warm and you don't ever have to worry about hypothermia!
Click here if you can't see the pictures.

Friday, 22 August 2014

Pictures from Edith Falls

Click here if you can't see the pictures.

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Behind the Wheel

A message to all Trinis in the Northwest Moorings area: "Stay Off The Sidewalks". Ok, we finally took the plunge and got our first driving experiences in. If you've never driven on the other side, you should try it. Keep your head on a swivel and always talk through your plan with your navigator. The roads are narrow, very windy and the traffic is fast. We went for gas and to put some air in the tyres. The gas station is right on the corner of a brand new intersection and it was chaotic. I paused for a split second when entering the intersection and was promptly cut off by a vehicle turning in front of me. Luckily there was a fender bender involving a couple of other cars which allowed me some free road out of the station. Gayle is now getting very good behind the wheel as well. The key is to drive "aggressive but defensive". Our little silver 2003 Toyota Yaris is just like driving a go-cart. I think there are bigger lawn tractors with more horse power in Canada. BTW for those who are interested regular unleaded is $1.50TT per litre, which is about $0.30 Canadian.

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Out For A Walk

Today was a "get to know your surroundings" day. We did this without a car - which most of you will know is very much our style -- and we learned is not the style of most Trinis. (and we learned why!)

This area is only partially pedestrian friendly. Sidewalks end suddenly, crosswalks are scarce in some places.  Oh, and cars drive on the other side of the road -- some of them very fast! We've learned that walking to the mall, while it is only 1.5 km away, should probably be a rare occurrence! (Picture us walking down the median of a 4 lane road, laugh a little then shake your head -- We did!)

The good thing is that we do have a car and it should be insured and on the road by Tuesday.  Now we just have to learn to drive all over again!

Maple Leaf International School from the parking lot Our building. We're in 103.Just in case you thought we were going to a scary place, this is a store in the mall we visited today!

Saturday, 16 August 2014

Welcome to Trini...

Greetings from Trinidad!

One house sold, one storage unit packed, one red eye flight and we've made it. Sounds simple!

After being picked up from the airport by our new school, we met our lovely landlady and got a tour of our new digs. Later in the afternoon (after a recovery nap), a co-worker scooped us up and took us to navigate the roads and get us set up with a cell phone and some groceries. Food is more expensive ($3.50 for a dozen eggs and $6 for a small box of cereal) but the sweet juicy mangoes compensate.

We just experienced our first "rainy season" rain storm, which lasted 8 minutes, just long enough to take a picture. I'm sure that novelty will soon wear off.
Magnus and Paul at the Airport
The view from our front door over the our pool area!