Giselle Laronde-West, former Miss World of 1986, won the gold medal in her kata category of female adults 35 years and over when the Shotokan karate international federation of Trinidad and Tobago
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End of old, beginning of new
The last day of 2013: I am having lunch with two visiting friends at Shore Things Cafe in Lambeau. On my recommendation, we’re all eating and drinking my favourite items from the menu—grilled fish sandwich and sorrel. We chat, update each other, discuss old/new year-related topics, have some laughs, then pay the bill.
I bid my friends goodbye and pop into the neighbouring Love & Magic Centre, the recently-opened shop/office for the Healing with Horses Foundation. I chat for a while with Mary-Ann, a visiting Canadian horse vet, who is doing the morning shift. I am scheduled to take over at 1 pm. First I need to go to the mall to use free wifi and catch up on e-mails. A man and woman are standing near my vehicle attempting to stop a taxi or any willing car. “Which way are you heading?” the woman asks. “I’m going to the mall.”
They are late for a funeral and can’t get transport. “Could you give us a drop to the highway?” The drop to the highway ends up being a direct drop to “a Baptist church in Bethel.” Neither of my passengers knows exactly where this church is, so we pull off the road in Carnbee to ask directions from a woman standing in a driveway, holding a black and white cat. The woman points and tells us to take the next right to Bethel, where she says there are five Baptist churches.
Next, we stop in front of two youths standing at the roadside. “We looking for the funeral in the Baptist church,” my female passenger says. The youths casually point up the road. As we depart, my female passenger laughs and says to her male companion: “Take care we end up in the wrong funeral. It come like we paranging in the wrong house!” One more stop for directions, then the sight of people dressed in black walking past lines of parked cars. My passengers hop out, thank me and I drive off.
The unexpected diversion from my intended direction feels symbolic. On this last day of 2013, most people will say goodbye to various aspects of life or ways of being, anticipating the new. The first day of 2014: I am driving out of Buccoo. Two women, clearly tourists, are walking, holding their thumbs out for any passing car. Figuring transport may be hard to come by on a public holiday, I stop for them. They clamber in, smiling.
“Happy New Year!” Their first words to me. They are going to Scarborough, to the port, to Trinidad, to return home to French Guiana. Along the way we chat, mainly in English, sometimes in French. One woman is a social worker, the other a teacher. Their first time in Tobago: lovely place, friendly people, fun at Sunday School, wonderful beaches. We draw near to the Port. The woman in the passenger seat asks me my name. “Elspeth.” “Elspen?”
“El-speth.” I repeat slowly, accustomed to mispronunciations of my name. “I’m Mary Ann.” “I am Laila,” the other traveller pipes up from the back. I stop and they disembark. As Mary Ann closes the door, she says: “Thank you so much. I wish you the very best...of everything!” Her tone is so sincere and pointed that I feel the words ignite something new in me. To you, reading this, I also wish newness and the best for 2014.