2014 – Trinidad Performance Tour

One last adventure…

As you probably know by now, we’ve all made it home safely (and without delays!) from Trinidad. We were a very tired but happy bunch. I know I slept all afternoon…which is probably why I’m sitting here writing this at 1:40AM. Anyway, here’s the scoop on our last day in Trinidad:

Our final day in Trinidad started out with yet another pool party, this time accompanied by the mangoes that a few of our girls went out to pick this morning. It was a refreshing way to cool off from a night without air conditioning (and without Wi-Fi, which seemed to be a bigger issue for the girls), but it was short-lived due to some time constraints. We had to be all packed up and ready to go by 11:30AM, moving all of our luggage into one room for holding during the day. We all checked out of our rooms and we boarded our buses for one final trip into downtown Port of Spain.

We arrived at a different local roti restaurant for our lunch. While it wasn’t quite as good as our first Roti experience by the side of the highway, it was still yummy and the girls enjoyed getting a second chance at their favorite dining experience of the trip (they voted to have roti for lunch on the last day!). After finishing up our lunches, it was off to do some shopping at Port of Spain’s main shopping district. Consisting of a few streets full of stores, as well as multiple little “malls” that were little more than glorified hallways with stores in them through the middle of buildings, the girls got a sense of the local culture. Enjoying some souvenir shops, clothing stores, and fabric shops, the girls managed to find a few gifts for family and friends before returning to the bus.

Our last stop on the tour was at a beautiful mangrove swamp for a peaceful boat ride. Along the ride, we saw all sorts of wild life: tree crabs, Blue Heron, a little alligator, a snake that was sleeping on a branch that went right over our boat (much to the amusement of myself but not of the girls), the Great Egret, and of course the Scarlet Ibis (the national bird of Trinidad)–an amazing, vibrantly red bird that was beautiful to see against the background of the Northern Mountain range. As we sat on the boat in the middle of the swamp, we watched as flocks of the Scarlet Ibis flew in to nest in the trees of an island where they lived. It was quite the amazing sight to see, and a very cool way to end our Trinidad experience.

We got on our buses, headed back to the hotel, and had a nice buffet dinner before heading back to the pool of our annual installment of the paper plate awards. After this, we said our final goodbyes to our tour guides, picked up all of our bags, loaded them onto the truck, and made the bus ride back to the airport. We sang for our bus drivers one last time, and made our way through ticketing and security. With one last chance to spend our $TT, we purchased last-minute snacks at an airport store. We got on our plane and took off ON TIME! We arrived at JFK, got through immigration and customs, and found our bus without issue. We arrived back in Princeton, ahead of schedule and perhaps even more exhausted than when we left.

And so our journey came to an end.

This tour has definitely been one for the books–it got off to a slow and rocky start, but in the end I think the trip may have been stronger due to that rocky start. We had extra time to bond before arriving at our destination, and everyone seemed to be closer through that shared experience of hardships. But as I’ve said earlier, it was all worth it in the end. Those few days stranded in NYC seem like a distant memory now, having been to Trinidad, experiencing the people, the culture, the music, the vibe–it was an amazing trip with an amazing group of talented ladies!

Hopefully you’ve enjoyed keeping up with our activities. Thank you for reading!

Until next tour,
-R Dawg

Rainforests, Beaches, and Steel Pans–oh my!

First of all, I’m sorry I’m not able to include any pictures in this post–our Wi-Fi access has been cut off and I’m having to write this post on a computer from 1998. If you can be patient (and I know you are!), I will remember to post some pictures once we either get to free Wi-Fi at the airport tonight or at the latest when we get home!

Our day started like every other day here, aside from being a little bit earlier than usual. We had the typical breakfast buffet, and got on our typical tour bus, and made the typical bus ride out of the hotel parking lot and onto the Queen’s Savanah (the world’s largest roundabout, by the way–sorry I forgot to mention that in previous posts). However, this day would be anything but typical…

We made the turn at the sign that said, “Maracas Bay 15Km”, and were off to yet another narrow, winding road up the side of some mountains. Passing through a small village called LaFillette, we made our way towards the lush rainforests of Trinidad. Stopping by a food stand at the side of the road, we were offered beautiful views of the sea below us, as well as many local treats–milk fudge, coconut fudge (it was fantastic), Trini candy, a pineapple concoction that had all sorts of peppers and spices (also very good!), and mangos with a similar but slightly spicier concoction (not quite as good, but I’m partial to pineapple). We also had a chance to see a very rare coral snake (the most poisonous snake in all of Trinidad), albeit a dead one–the bus had run it over. I suppose it may have been better that way–our tour guides said that this is the first time they had ever seen one up there. We all posed for a few group shots and selfies (the girls love taking selfies, and I love photo bombing or joining in), and then we were back on our way.

Passing by the beautiful beaches en route to our destination, our tourguide Tano made sure to give us warnings about everything that could potentially kill us in the rainforest (very reassuring), as well as telling us all about Trinidad’s vampires (the mosquitos that really only come out at night–our mosquito repellant wasn’t even needed!). We even came up with a new species of deadly animals to scare the other bus with–“jumping jellyfish” that lived in the trees and dangled their tentacles, which you should not confuse with normal vines lest you get stung and die. They were not amused. I think with all of the treats of the rainforest–poisonous snakes, frogs, plants, razor grass (grass that can actually slice you up like little razors–sounds like a good time!), they were already on edge enough without having to dodge vines that were literally EVERYWHERE along our walk.

We finally reached our destination–a rustic building with a bathroom and some changing facilities. The girls changed into their swimsuits, put on a ton of sunscreen, and as a precaution, put on a ton of bug spray. Because we would be crossing water on our hike, some girls opted to do the whole hike barefoot–brave, due to the rocky terrain. The hike wasn’t particularly strenuous (a puppy travelled with us and was able to make it), but it was a bit tricky–very narrow, high paths along drops into the river, crosses through the river over slippery rocks (I took a spill into the river after slipping on a rock, as did a few others on the way back), and steep inclines where we needed to use tree roots as footholds and handles. In the end, it was all worth it–we arrived at a beautiful waterfall and pool where we spent the next hour or so swimming and enjoying the beautiful sight!

When it was time to head back, we all put all of our shoes back on (most of us decided to put our shoes on and just deal with soggy shoes the rest of the day) and headed back to the bus. Along the way, we encountered some termites. Embracing my inner survivalist (ha–I complain when there isn’t air conditioning–like back at the hotel this past evening), I decided to eat some. While it was a little bit strange picking crawling bugs off a leaf and eating them, the rumors are true–they DO taste like carrots. Or maybe carrots taste like termites? In any case, I now know that if I was ever trapped in a rainforest, I would be able to stomach bugs for survival!

We took an 20Km ride back to Maracas Beach for our next exciting adventure–the world famous Shark and Bake restaurants. It was an interesting and cool experience–all of us that wanted to received fried shark on a roll, and then were able to put whatever condiments we wanted on them. There was spicy pepper sauce (this was very spicy–I would NOT have been able to handle eating a whole sandwich covered in this, but I survived a taste-testing), a delicious cilantro sauce, garlic sauce, sweet sauce, ketchup, mustard, lettuce, and small chopped tomatos. I opted for the cilantro sauce, garlic sauce, sweet sauce, lettuce, and tomatos. Let me tell you–it was AMAZING. It wasn’t overly fishy, but it didn’t quite taste like chicken, either. Somewhere in between. But the sauces made it a fantastic explosion of tastes that were enjoyed by all who tried them.

Finishing up, we headed across the street to the beach–a beautiful beach surrounded by beautiful palm trees and mountains. It was a true Caribbean paradise! We quickly headed into the water to body surf, and noticed right away that the water was saltier than we were used to. The waves were also relentless–I got tossed under a few times. Fortunately, it was a very soft, sandy sea floor–not cuts or scratches like you might get on the rockier Jersey shore. Despite the waves, there wasn’t much of an undertow, so I never felt a fear of being swept away. The girls had a really great time, and were sad when we were called back onto shore to wash our feet off and get back onto the bus.

We rode back to the hotel for a buffet dinner (that we were an hour and a half late for–I guess we were having too much fun at our two swimmin’ holes). They didn’t seem to mind our tardiness. We took a few minutes to freshen up and change into some different clothes, and then it was back into the city for an AMAZING performance by the Silver Stars steel pan band in their steel pan yard. Apparently, steel pan bands buy large yards in the city, putting up walls and a stage, as well as concession areas, to host concerts and events throughout the year. We were their audience last night, and I think we impressed and amused them with our enthusiam, dancing, and singing. As the band jammed away at the most exciting arrangements of “I’ve Got a Feeling”, “In the Mood”, “I Will Survive”, “Mamma Mia”, “Phantom of the Opera” (featuring the girls on vocals), “You Are Not Alone”, “Bad”, and “Bohemian Rhapsody” I’ve ever heard, the girls danced and sang their hearts out–finding energy from I don’t know where. We even had a “Soul Train” line going at one point, with Ms. Jenkins, Ms. Butler, and myself each getting a chance at solo dancing glory (I busted some moves from “Thriller”). At the end of the show, the girls were all able to try their hand at the steel pans again, getting mini lessons from the band.

And so our evening ended–we headed back to the bus, and drove back to the hotel. The girls are currently having a pool party, and then checking out of the hotel this morning. We will be having a chance to do some shopping (finally!), and then taking a sunset cruise in a mangrove this evening–all before heading to the airport to begin our journey home. I will probably write an update/post at some point tomorrow detailing today’s activities when we get back on Wednesday. Until then, time to get ready for the day!

-R Dawg

Please hold…

Today was a pretty incredible day…alas, I’m falling asleep/already fell asleep and woke up in time to set myself an alarm. I will write when I get up!


Girls meet Boys!

Sorry for the delay in the latest blog post–after an excellent but exhausting day, sleep needed to happen!

Yesterday morning we started the day with breakfast and a pool party. Because our tour has been non-stop with all of our performances packed into the three days in which we’ve been here, we really haven’t had any time to let our hair down and just relax and soak up the sun. We decided that since we had a little bit of free time that we should use it recreationally and take advantage of the beautiful pool at our hotel. It really is picturesque–from the pool you can see not only the hotel, but also some of the surrounding mountainous terrain, lovely palm trees, and even some mango trees. After a couple hours of swimming, we took a little bit of time to freshen up and prepare for a busy day out and about Port of Spain.

Our adventures started with a stop at the local pizza place–or at least one of the few places that was open for business on a Sunday. In Trinidad, pretty much everything shuts down on Sundays when it comes to businesses, so finding a place to get lunch was a bit problematic. After picking up our plethora of pizzas, we took a bit of a harrowing journey up the side of the mountain, via very steep and narrow roads (we feared the bus wasn’t going to make it, and I’m not just being dramatic when I say this), to Fort George. Built by the British, this “fort” wasn’t so much a fort in the sense that we’d think as it was a little house, a few cannons that were never used (because in Trinidad they don’t really get around to fighting), and a stunning view of Port of Spain below. The girls took in the amazing views while eating Trini pizza–some of us even enjoying the special ketchup that they like to put on their pizza here. The girls also had a fun time eating various fruits that we picked directly off the trees, as well as fending off some stray (or not stray–we heard various reports) dogs that seemed very eager to partake in our meal. After a while, we returned to the busses and coasted down the side of the mountain, observing some huge termite nests on some of the trees (apparently the termites are good to eat–they taste like carrots) along the way.

The Fatima College was our next stop on the trip and the site of our final concert of the tour. An all boys school (how exciting!), Fatima is considered to be the top school in all of Trinidad. We changed into our concert dresses and had a very quick rehearsal with the boys in preparation for the concert–because of our delay in leaving the States, we had missed out on our full afternoon workshop with them and had to rush the collaboration process a bit. The girls were more than up for the challenge, and when concert time rolled around, they were highly energized by the festive atmosphere and band consisting of three drummers, a keyboardist, electric guitarist, and steel pan player–all boys from the school. The audience was very receptive, and it was hard not to dance along with the boys in their impressive solo sets. The girls sang beautifully again, and were heavily supported by the boys–who seemed to be highly excited to have a girls’ choir in their midst. Everything about this concert was fantastic–I even got to participate in an impromptu jam session with the band at the end of the concert! A great time was had by all.

We changed out of our concert attire and then had a lovely and sociable dinner with the boys. The girls and boys really hit it off and were like old friends, despite meeting only hours ago. There was lots of laughter, lots of singing, and lots of exchanging of social media information. I have a feeling that we will continue to be in contact with this group. When the time came to leave, we sang “The Lord Bless You and Keep You” for them as a thank you, and they sang “Bridge Over Troubled Water” in response. We boarded our busses, and so did some of their guys–they wanted to come with us (because we’re just that awesome, apparently). We managed to fend them off, as they all chanted, “Princeton, Princeton Girls!” and danced for us. It was kind of awesome, and I’m sure the girls appreciated the outpouring of affection.

Because a few of us are not able to stay along for the extension of the trip, we gathered by the pool and handed out the first batch of paper plate awards and said our goodbyes. It was then off to bed, resting up for today’s activities: a day at the beach, with a hike through the rainforest to a beautiful waterfall, and an exotic lunch (shark sandwiches?). I’ll be sure to tell you all about it when we return tonight!

Till then,

R Dawg

Divas Check Out More of Trinidad

I’ve delayed writing this blog for a little while–we’ve been back at the hotel for a couple of hours now, after another exciting and all together different kind of concert tonight: “Divas Live”! It’s been an interesting day, and we’ve gotten even more awesome cultural experiences along the way.

When I had left you, we were about to get on a bus. The bus to us to the town of Chaguanas, which was about a half hour drive from our hotel. Along the way, our tour guide, Tano, quizzed us on some of the trivia he had taught us yesterday–each correct answer earned mangos picked directly from his very own mango tree. Unfortunately for the girls, they had some issues with getting some of the answers to his questions; fortunately for the girls, he also awarded mangos to those who were able to sing a Caribbean-influenced song or recite a poem (we have some pretty impressive memories–lots of Shakespeare, and even some originals!). By the end of the day, everyone on our bus had at least one mango to show for their efforts.

As we entered into Chaguanas, Tano told us a little bit of the historical background of the peoples of Trinidad and why there were so many East Indians here in the first place. When European settlers first arrived, they took natives as slaves; they then brought Africans over as slaves; and then after slavery was banned, they brought over the East Indians as indentured servants. Over time, there were clashes between the Africans and East Indians (most over job markets), but the WOMEN of both groups eventually smoothed everything out and created the harmony that still exists today between the different cultures.  Trinidad continues to be a very accepting nation, be it of race or religion. In fact, all religious holidays are days off in Trinidad, no matter what religion is celebrating–which leads to lots of different people from different religions celebrating and learning about the other holidays by going to the temple, church, mosque, etc, of their friends and neighbors. It sounds like a very cool way to live–we could stand to learn from this way of life!

Our first stop was the Fresh Produce Market and Bazaar. This was a very interesting place for our girls to experience–as we entered, we were greeted by huge crowds and some very strong smells–mainly the fresh crabs that were tied up but still trying to crawl away on the tables in front of us. And there were the fresh slabs of newly-butchered pork and whole pigs’ heads–there may have been one or two selfies taken with them (I know I took one). There were peppers of all different kinds–including the aforementioned scorpion peppers (dragon/rocket combo). Bananas, plantains, lettuce, ginger, mangos galore! My personal favorite section was the fish market, with all sorts of fresh fish being scaled and gutted right there–including a couple of hammer head sharks! The butcher posed the shark for us, much to the delight (and in some cases, horror) of the girls. But no worries–it wasn’t just gross-out material. We were sure to also stop by some stands that were selling dark chocolate and wonderful pastries (I sampled a little bit of everything). The people were also delightful, making jokes with me especially–the men were joking about my being the only man in our group. “Yah, mon, it’s tough being de only mon in a bunch, but it important work you doin, looking afta dem!” Very true, new friend!

After surviving the market, we got on the busses and headed to a local pottery shop. The girls each got a chance to try their hand at throwing some pottery on the pottery wheel if they wanted to, making a small bowl that can be used during Diwali to hold candles or to be filled with oil and wick. The girls were given some pointers, and they all discovered that it was much harder than it looked–the workers at the shop were making each little bowl in probably five to ten seconds apiece! It was really amazing to watch them work! After making our bowls, we had time to look at all of the pots that were on sale–if I had more room/a whole other suitcase packed with bubblewrap, I would have bought some of the beautifully painted pieces. All of us ended up with one of the small bowls, as our tour guides bought each one of us a bowl to take home as a souvenier (in addition to the bowls that the girls made themselves)!

Our next stop was the ashram and Lord Hanuman statue. Standing at an impressive 85 feet tall, the statue represents the Hindu god Hanuman, the monkey god who was known in some texts to be an incarnation of Shiva. We walked around the ashram and temple, which was beautifully and ornately decorated. This particular temple was begun fairly recently, and even more recently completed (within the past 15 years). There was a peaceful atmosphere here, and it was amazing to me to see the craftmanship of each of the intricate design details in the arcitecture. Walking back to the bus, it was a very picturesque scene with the Lord Hanuman statue in the foreground and the beautiful mountains in the background.

By this time, our sweet snacks from the market were no longer holding us over and it was time for lunch. We stopped at a local roti shop on the side of the road for a delicious lunch treat. For those of you that don’t know, roti is a tradional dish with meat (there were vegetarian alternatives, too!), curry, chick peas (or not chick peas…I can’t remember what they were called, but the were simliar to chick peas), and a type of thin bread that was almost like a cross between naan and corn tortillas. The only catch was this: you were not able to use utensils–the traditional way to eat it is with your hands only! We all got quite dirty eating lunch, but it was all worth it in the end with all of us highly satisfied with our lunches. Some of the girls even experimented with some of the hot pepper sauces, leading to challenging R Dawg to eat some of the hot pepper sauce. I tried it, and it really wasn’t that bad–more tingly than anything.

After driving back to Port of Spain and spending about an hour at the hotel freshening up (or swimming if your were ambitious!), we were back on the bus and off to the Little Carib Theater. Living up to it’s name (the “Little” part), the theater was home to tonight’s concert, “Divas Live”. We met and rehearsed with the Eastern Youth Chorale, learning a couple of new songs in the process–including a soca (a popular style of music in Trinidad). The theme of our trip (“flexibility!”) was out in full swing during this rehearsal and leading up to the performance–there were some issues with programming, keys of pieces, rehearsing pieces that we ended up not even performing, uncertainty as to whether or not we would be singing a solo set–those sorts of things. In the end, it all worked out.

After a quick dinner (very quick!) and changing into our formal concert attire, we had about five minutes on stage to go over the plan for the solo set that we WOULD be performing. Then it was backstage for a few minutes, and then right back on stage to open the concert. The girls were brilliant as always, with a very warm reception from the audience! The girls then got to relax and head up to the balcony to enjoy the rest of the show, which featured various divas of different disicplines–there were classical singers, caberet singers, violinists, pop/soul singers (my personal favorite of the evening), and jazz singers. By the end of the show, we were invited back onstage to participate in the (unrehearsed!!!!) final number, “I’m Every Woman”. I may or may not have made a cameo appearance on stage dancing to this one…okay I was dancing in the back, apparently more visible than I had thought. The number turned into a big party, with Sindhu and Ms. Jenkins both getting some quality solo mic time! The atmosphere was electric, and you couldn’t help but dance!

And so the concert came to an end, and we got back on our busses and headed back to the hotel. Tomorrow we can sleep in or participate in some optional pool time. Seeing as it’s after 2AM, I might opt for the sleeping in. We’ll see…

Until later,

R Dawg

It Was Worth the Wait!

So after the first full night of sleep I’ve had in the past four days, a nice breakfast and coffee at the hotel, and a shower (more on that in a bit), I’m back in the business of writing the tour blog. I apologize for last night’s exhaustion!

Yesterday started a bit later than we had originally planned, due to the very late arrival time from the night (actually early morning–3:00AM) before. The girls were appreciative of an extra hour of sleep–I was too. I had noticed on the welcome information from the hotel that they had said they were under renovations, which might cause the hot water to take a while to kick in. I don’t know if anyone else had the same problems as I did, but no less than a minute after stepping in my shower, there was zero water pressure and my shower had become more of a pathetic drizzle. For some reason, it seemed the water to my room had been completely shut off. If there’s anything this particular trip has taught me, it’s that sometimes in life there are setbacks and that in the end everything will be okay. I just shrugged it off, got dressed, and headed to breakfast.

Breakfast here is actually pretty good for what it is–a small continental breakfast with eggs, sausage (actually, little hotdogs with peppers yesterday), pastries/bread, cereal (but “The Froot Loops are NOT real Froot Loops, and the milk isn’t cold,” said one girl–oh well!), fruit, coffee, and juice. There was a similar menu this morning, minus the sausage and adding fried plantains. We all ate up, put on our sun screen (oh my gosh the sun is brutal here!), and enjoyed the daytime view of our lovely hotel. Once the busses arrived, we all got on and were off for a morning driving tour of Port of Spain.

We quickly learned that our hotel is right next door to an important residence–the sprawling home of the Prime Minister of Trinidad! Not a bad neighbor to have, I suppose! The drive around the city took us by some of the points of interest in Trinidad: the new Performing Arts Center (“We let them build the opera house in Sydney, and then built one that was better here!”); a monument with a plaque dedicated to those who gave their lives in the two World Wars (“Notice how big the plaque is (approx. 2′ x 3′)–when wars happen, we don’t really get around to actually fighting”); a cool statue of Trinidad’s cricket hero Brian Charles Lara; Trinidad’s Twin Towers (the Central Bank of Trinidad, featured on all of the paper currency here); the KFC (ironically enough, the highest-selling KFC in the world according to our tour guide); a street protest (none of our tour guides had any idea what they were protesting, but it looked like fun–a pretty festive and musical atmosphere); the National Library of Trinidad and Tobago (“Actually, it’s pretty much just the ‘National Library of Port of Spain'”); the Red House, where the national government is housed; the Hall of Justice (“If you never want to leave Trinidad, just do something to end up here–it’s free to stay!”); and various schools in the area. If you couldn’t tell, our tour guide was a jokester, although some of his jokes went over the heads of some of the girls (his story about “Stick fights”, for instance). He also warned us about the spicy foods, especially the peppers, in Trinidad. “Stay away from the scorpion peppers here–they will make your mouth seem like you’re a dragon, and later on it will turn you into a rocket!” was his advice. Duly noted.

Our driving tour ended up at the National Museum of Trinidad and Tobago. The museum explored everything from the wildlife (there are centipedes that are nearly a foot long, huge leatherback turtles, and “man-eating alligators”–if you want to hear an entertaining/slightly graphic story, ask your girls about the man-eating alligators!), the history of the peoples (from Columbus, to slavery, to the multiple cultures that have ended up here), and industries of the nation (oil, Angostura bitters, etc). It was a very interesting museum, and our tour guide was very knowledgable and entertaining in his delivery of the plethora of information.

After the museum, it was off to a local food court (not attached to a mall–just a random building with four or five different restaurant options) for lunch. We were all eager to try the local cuisine, albeit a bit hesitant when we found out we’d be eating spicy chicken (after hearing the tales of dragons and rocketry). Those of us who had the chicken were impressed with how spicy it was, but it wasn’t unbearable. Those who had the fish also enjoyed it, minus all of the spiciness. While at lunch, we met lots of interesting people–everyone is very friendly here and interested in who we are and what we’re here for. I personally talked to a couple of locals for no less than a half hour, and we talked even more about their culture–from the justice system to their healthcare system, it was pretty eye-opening. Once lunch was done, it was off to the Bishop Anstey High School.

We were greeted by their choir, and then split up into two groups–one group would be doing a musical exchange (singing for each other and teaching new songs), while the other group got to try their hands at steel pan playing! This was a very cool experience–by the end of our time together, we had mastered a four part arrangement of the first phrase of “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star”. Likewise, the musical exchange was a success, with their choir successfully learning “Bring a Little Water Silvy”, and our choir learning “Cries in the City”. After a great time, we all had dinner together and got the chance to socialize even more. It was a wonderful time getting to know our hosts even better, and I’m certain the girls made a whole lot of new friends–by the end of the evening, many of our girls and their girls were already following each other on Instagram!

After dinner, we got on the busses again and headed through a less than stellar part of town (read: a lot of poverty here, guards with machine guns, goats on the side of the road–stuff we are not used to seeing in Princeton, but sadly not that rare in the rest of the world), up the side of a mountain (it reminded me of my drives through the Hollywood Hills–narrow roadways, winding roads, and some spectacular views–but the housing wasn’t quite so nice), and finally arriving at the beautiful Mount Saint Benedict church. We did a quick sound check, got changed, and then experienced a great concert. It was very interesting hearing traditional classical repertoire accompanied by a steel pan orchestra–but oddly enough, it worked beautifully.

I am not exaggerating when I say this: When it was our turn to perform, from the first note to the last, it was as if all of our struggles to get here melted away, and in the end all of the troubles we have been through to get here were worth it. The girls sang with a new sense of purpose, a new depth of understanding, and a more captivating stage presence than I have ever experienced with them. It was truly an honor to be a part of last night’s performance.

The concert ended with the two songs we had taught each other in the afternoon, and after a nice snack, we headed back to the hotel.

Well, I’ve got to go catch a bus now. I look forward to sharing today’s experiences when I get back tonight!

Till then,

R Dawg

More in the morning…

We’ve had a fantastic day in Trinidad–such a fantastic day that I crashed as soon as I walked through my hotel door. I will post more info about our day when I get up in the morning. For now, I should probably set an alarm before I fall asleep again… -R Dawg

Two Words:

We’re here.

Okay, so more than two words: After yet another day of delays (but fortunately a ton of rest at the hotel), we FINALLY got new boarding passes, went through security, and headed to our gate. It was a miraculous feeling…like we had just reached the finish line of a marathon or something else epic like that.

The girls were free to explore the terminal, grab a quick coffee or bite to eat, stock up on some snack food, and charge up their phones for about an hour. We were all ready to board at 6PM, when we heard the announcement that boarding would be delayed because the plane had been held up a bit. Seeing as this was just a normal occurrence by now, we accepted our fate and waited it out–even making some new friends in the process (a very cute four-year-old girl, a member of the T&T National Steelpan Orchestra, and some fellow stranded travelers). When the call came over the PA for the boarding of our flight, there was much rejoicing. We hopped on our plane, buckled up, and enjoyed the ride…to be delayed yet again on the tarmac due to weather.

Looking at the weather maps on our phones, we realized that we were in some serious trouble if we didn’t take off very soon. There was a huge line of thunderstorms heading our way that would have made it impossible for a takeoff. After saying a little prayer, the engines revved, and we heard the announcement: “Flight crew, prepare for takeoff.” As the plane barreled down the runway, the ecstatic applause of the Princeton Girlchoir echoed triumphantly through the fuselage. If that last sentence seemed dramatic, it was meant to be–after going through so much these past few days, actually taking off for Trinidad seemed like the greatest achievement in the history of mankind.

The flight itself was easy enough–we got dinner onboard (chicken with pasta, or just pasta with pasta if you were a vegetarian), some of us enjoyed “Captain America II” as the in-flight movie (I didn’t), and most of us were just so exhausted that we slept through the majority of the trip. We had no trouble landing, and it was quick and painess gathering our things and exiting the plane. I did notice that for the first time in my entire traveling history, the pilots were not out saying goodbye and “Thanks for flying with such and such airlines” to us. It’s just as well, as I would have been tempted to say something along the lines of, “It’s nice to see you are ‘feeling better’–wink wink, nudge nudge. Thank you for inconveniencing so many people with your lame strike.”

It was then off to immigration/customs. This part was actually a little bit rough–I was the first to go through the line, and was unable to answer the majority of the questions asked of me, trying to speak for the entire group.

Customs: “How many days will you all be here?”
Ryan: “I don’t know–originally we were supposed to be here from the 1st through the 7th.”
Customs: “When are you all leaving?”
Ryan: “I don’t know–due to our travel complications, I think we are still trying to figure that out. And besides that issue, not all of us are leaving at the same time due to travel restrictions of some of the girls.”
Customs: “What is the flight number of your departing flight?”
Ryan: “Seriously? I don’t even know what day we’re leaving…”

We all did our best at answering their questions, and apparently we did well enough because we all made it through. We picked up our luggage (it all made it, much to my surprise–the way things have been going, I was half expecting our luggage to end up in Hong Kong), met our tour guide, got on our busses, and enjoyed the long ride to our hotel…driving on the LEFT side of the road! About 3/4 of the way through the ride, I heard one of the girls exclaim, “OH MY GOSH! I JUST REALIZED WE ARE RIDING ON THE LEFT SIDE OF THE ROAD!” followed by, “Whoa…”

We are now all checked into our hotel–seems to be lovely enough upon first inspection. There’s Wi-Fi, so I’m sure the girls will be mostly happy. I say “Mostly” because you are only able to be logged in on two devices at any time per room, and there are four girls in each room. Hopefully they work out a system. Meanwhile, I’ll just enjoy being able to use my computer and iPad without any potential for roommate drama!

Okay. It’s 3:30. Breakfast ends at 10AM tomorrow, and then it’s off to…I’m not exactly sure. The schedule is in flux, and I know we have a concert with someone in the evening. No need to go into details now, as I’m sure I’ll fill you in tomorrow night!

-R Dawg

Trinidud or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Being Delayed

I shall begin with a haiku:

Did we fly today?
No no no no no no no
No, no we did not

For those of you who aren’t in the loop, we were kept on the ground for the second consecutive day. The day started out optimistically enough–an early morning wake up call at 5AM, including the much-welcomed news that the girls could pick up their luggage in the lobby (this was a surprise for those who fell asleep before the luggage was retrieved last night). Everyone managed to meet right on time at 6AM with their luggage, and we once again headed to the airport. After being dropped off at our terminal, we resumed our post by the check-in counters. We eventually had to move closer to the entrance, due to a massively congested walkway–the Peace Corps, combined with PGC, combined with a ton of young people heading to Israel made for utter gridlock for anyone trying to pass through that particular part of the airport.

When it became clear that our 7:50AM flight was NOT going to happen, we graciously accepted our $12 breakfast vouchers and headed downstairs for a lovely meal courtesy of Caribbean Airlines. Because we had lots of time this morning, many of the girls opted to eat at the diner. While most girls chose traditional breakfast foods, I know that a few supplemented their breakfasts with ice cream sundaes. In their defense, we had been up so long that it might have felt like they were eating lunch. Always sociable, the girls met some nice ladies from South Africa (who were in the States for the sole purpose of “shopping”–must be nice!) and got to learn more about the songs from South Africa which are in our tour repertoire. As they eventually began to trickle back upstairs, they joined together in a rousing round of “The Animal Game” (I missed this because I was watching the second set of the Murry vs. Dimitrov Wimbledon match). This eventually changed gears and became the largest game of “Apples to Apples” in which I’ve ever taken part, making for some very interesting word combinations.

Because we were STILL waiting to hear more information about the flight that was supposed to be heading up from Port of Spain to pick us up, we decided that maybe it would be fun to go sing for the Caribbean Airlines folks at the ticket counter. When we got closer to that part of the airport, we realized that might be seen as a security risk and decided to not jeopardize our good standing with security. Heading back to our little spot, it was decided that braiding each others’ hair would be our next group activity. With chains of girls (I think the most I saw in a row at one point was NINE) braiding hair, we were quite a sight to behold! With a little bit of encouragement, I decided that I should also get in on the fun times and offered my head of hair as a canvas for their hair styling artistry. I’m happy to say I received a very tasteful “crown” of braids, tied off in the back with a borrowed hair tie. I wore it with pride for the rest of the morning, and didn’t pay any mind to odd looks that strangers might have been giving me.

As the morning quickly became afternoon (and still no word of our special flight), a large amount of the girls returned to the hotel to eat another comped lunch. They returned to the airport just in time to find out that we finally had a confirmed flight time: 10:30 AM on Thursday morning! Thankfully, Miss Butler and our tour coordinator were able to make some awesome plans for us that softened the blow: a return to the hotel, followed by getting dressed up (always a fun thing for the girls!), followed by a bus ride into Manhattan for dinner and a Broadway show! This more than satisfied our desire to do something rather than continuing our never-ending idling at the airport.

We got on a party bus (featuring the sweet stylings of “Wicky wicky…Stefan the DJ…scratch scratch”), headed back to the hotel to get changed, and then headed into Manhattan for a nice Mexican buffet at Chevy’s. The original plan involved heading into Times Square for a little while, but Mother Nature had other plans that involved flash flood-inducing rain and dangerous lightning. 15 minutes to show time, we braved the storm and made our way over to the theater to see “Mamma Mia”. For some of the girls, it was their first Broadway show–and it was a very entertaining one at that! For those of you that don’t know, the music in this show is all ABBA tunes–capped off with three rousing encore renditions of the classics “Mamma Mia”, “Dancing Queen”, and “Waterloo” that had a good chunk of the audience dancing in the aisles. Afterwards, we met, got autographs, and took pictures with some of the cast members by the stage door. It was one of those experiences that made us all forget that we were actually supposed to be in Trinidad…

The girls have been incredibly flexible and awesome sports through all of our travel issues. It really is inspiring to see that no matter WHERE we are, or WHAT we are going through, these girls stick together and are able to have an awesome time. I was remarking tonight that if we were having this much fun in our own back yard, imagine how awesome it will be if/when we actually get to Trinidad! Hopefully tomorrow night I’ll be writing about what that’s like!

Wish us luck!

-R Dawg

Clown Bus?


Nap Time at the Airport

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Trinidad…

Greetings from our beautiful accommodations in lovely Jamaica! Well, Jamaica, Queens…

Surely by now you’ve heard that we’ve had a less-than-stellar day of travel (that’s putting it politely). Despite some expected tiredness and grumpiness, the girls are surprisingly upbeat and were even heard singing in the hallways tonight (not in a “disturbing the peace” way, but a friendly and spirited way that made us proud of their good attitudes!).

Before I get into the details of the day, I regret to inform you that because we are using a different platform for the blog, I’ll not be able to post pictures within the blog posts as I have in years past–I’ll try posting some individual pictures as separate posts as we go.

Anyway, here’s the story:

After making it to JFK from PDS in record time, the rumors of a cancelled flight were realized to be all too true. It was an unfortunate start to the day, but by no means an insurmountable challenge. Spirits seemed to be optimistic as we dragged our luggage to the most out-of-the-way area in front of the check in desks. Some of the girls took the extra time to catch up on some lost sleep from the night before; some girls enjoyed a quick game of “Apples to Apples”; some girls even tried to get a little exercise in (interestingly, this involved tying someone’s legs together at the ankles–unsuccessfully). Needless to say, everyone found their own way to pass the time.

When Miss Butler returned from the ticket counter, she shared with us the dreaded news:

“Now girls, remember our word of the day: ‘Flexibility’! Our flight was cancelled because the pilot was sick. The next flight they can get us on is at 7:45PM.”

“But Miss Butler, don’t they have backup pilots?”

Smart girls! They realized there was something more to the story from the beginning. Unbeknownst to us (but perhaps knownst to the airline), Caribbean Airlines pilots had chosen TODAY of all days to stage a strike by calling in sick. Because it was still so early in the morning, no one yet realized the severity of the issue. But it was just getting started…

As the adults tried to get a handle on the situation and figure out how we would be spending the rest of the day before the 7:45PM flight, the girls decided it would be the perfect time to check out the self-service Dunkin’ Donuts kiosk (thank heavens–we needed it!). Fully sugared, caffeinated, and ready to face whatever curveballs the day might throw at us, we went back up to our gathering place, checked all of our luggage for safe-keeping at the airport, and headed down to the air train. Despite a bit of a crazy moment getting all of the girls onto one train (and some ridiculous back-talk from an overly sassy airport employee), we all managed to get to the Federal Circle Station in one piece. We were whisked away on a bus to our hotel–one of those typically smaller shuttle busses, with all 40-some of us packed in like a bunch of clowns in a clown car. One unfortunate man who happened to be riding with us was wincing the entire ride to the hearty screaming of the girls who had the misfortune of standing in the aisle, reacting to each turn and big bump in the road.

We arrived at the Radisson in time to enjoy the breakfast buffet (believe it or not, all of this had taken place before 9AM). After breakfast, most of us went to bed and slept for a few hours. Then it was lunch time–another buffet, but this one slightly less appetizing. Once lunch was over, we were informed that our 7:45PM flight was cancelled and that we would now be taking a 2:00AM flight. After bemoaning this new wrinkle in the plan, we headed into one of the conference rooms and had a nice, a cappella rehearsal. The girls were real troopers, and we were able to get a lot of work done. We managed to finish in time to catch the majority of the USA vs. Belgium World Cup match (a small contingent stayed in the lobby, while others either watched it in their rooms or decided their time was better spent napping). I’m not sure which was most disappointing–the USA loss, or the fact that around that same time we got word that our 2AM flight was now cancelled and the official news that the pilots were on strike. To make matters worse, we were also hearing that if we were able to change airlines, none of them flew direct flights to Trinidad and we would likely get trapped in Florida due to the impending tropical storm. All of these anxious thoughts made for a bit of a tense dinner, which featured many of the girls calling home to give updates. On a happy note, we were able to sing happy birthday to Ella who was celebrating her birthday today! So we had that going for us, which is nice…

From there, it’s been a low-key evening. Everyone has been getting some rest, and a few girls and chaperones went back to the airport and gathered our luggage so at the very least we can rest assured that we will be able to wear clean clothes tomorrow. I should probably go to bed now, too–we need to be ready to roll at 6AM for our next attempt at getting a flight.

And so, that is where I must leave you, dear readers. In the spirit of the old radio serials, I feel like I need to end in this way:

“Will we get a flight to Trinidad tomorrow morning as is the current plan? Will the pilots end their strike? Will we get a comped breakfast? Stay tuned to the tour blog and find out tomorrow!”

-R Dawg

Countdown to the bus…

…oh my goodness! If my calculations are correct, we will be leaving PDS for JFK in 5 hours and 45 minutes! I guess I should start packing…
-R Dawg


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