Last update: 08-Dec-2013 4:55 am
Sunday, December 08, 2013
Trinidad & Tobago Guardian Online
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Don’t you all ever sleep?
After three weeks living in Port-of-Spain I looked in the mirror and found I look more tired than ever before. Instead of a glowing fresh-faced tan, I was looking at an unshaven, pale face with huge bags under my bleary eyes.
This was not what folks back home were expecting when they heard I was moving from the harsh British climate to a Caribbean paradise.
When I Skyped my family they asked why I wasn’t tanned. They all looked gloriously brown and healthy from the hottest UK heatwave for seven years. I told them the truth, I have no time to tan. I have no time to even sleep.
London is one of the so-called “24-hour cities” of the world. So far, the frenetic pace (and partying) of Port-of-Spain is making London seem like a sleepy backwater. On my first evening here, still jet lagged, I was dragged to not one but two parties. These finished at 4 am.
On my second day, a Sunday, I was in the office meeting and greeting. Outside a staff party was going on (naturally). Actually a lime in tribute to a staff member who was murdered a few months earlier. Welcome to Trinidad.
On my second weekend I was invited to Zen nightclub and then to Sahara beach party—starting at 4 am.
The following Saturday it was J’Ouvert in Tobago, a 5 am “breakfast party.” Five am! How does that even work?
I asked a colleague whether you’re meant to sleep all night then get up to go out and start drinking at sunrise? She told me her roommate gets home from liming at 3 am sets her alarm to wake up at 5 am so she can go out again.
That’s two hours sleep. Probably about average for a T&T Saturday night.
Partying here appears to start around midnight. By midnight in London, people are so wasted it’s time for a taxi home to bed.
Tobago also has the famous Sunday School lime in Buccoo lasting til the early morn, and people are still in work by 9 am Monday morning. Hardcore.
It’s not just partying that causes sleep deprivation.
A friend last week woke at 5 am to go to Sunday Mass at church. An ungodly hour, surely.
The T&T Field Naturalists Club advertised a hike to Rio Seco in north east Trinidad on a Sunday morning which departs Port-of-Spain at 5.15 am.
Even the most hardened birdwatcher back home would still be in the land of nod.
The late Margaret Thatcher famously used to get by on four hours sleep a night. Meh. Jack Warner gets to his office by 3 am every day.
On the rare occasion I do manage to get in my bed, I’m awoken at 5 am by a cacophony of birdsong and by 6 am bright sunshine is pouring through the curtains.
Maybe the birdsong is symptomatic of Cascade life. In St James, I hear they are kept awake by loudspeakers, drinkers, soca and steelpan rehearsals.
They call St James the city that never sleeps. It feels like T&T is the country that never sleeps.
Before leaving England I said to UCL’s eminent professor of anthropology Danny Miller, a specialist in Trinidadian ethnography, that I might struggle to adjust to the slower pace of life out here. He laughed and told me life is actually faster in T&T than back in Blighty. “I get frustrated about the slowness in getting anything done in England,” he said “in Trinidad when I need something to happen it happens.”
This is certainly an industrious, restless society. Things change by the minute and you have to be wide awake to keep track. Sleeping, it seems, is a sign of weakness.
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