My daughter Jinaki likes to go to the grocery with me, in part because she likes riding on the shopping carts and in part because she likes to chat with random people.
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A Hand of Fig, a Pan of Fish and Cow
My name is Gailann Kalawan and I am a supermarket shelf replenisher.
I was born in Cedros. My navel-string literally bury on the beach! And now I’m living Belmont. In Belmont, you could hear pan ‘round Carnival time at night. In Cedros, you only hear cricket chirping and thing. Maybe a cow in the distance.
In Cedros, I remember, electricity went and, since Indian people down there like to have their kitchen separate from their house, my grandmother is making coconut tarts for us, from scratch, in the dark, by flambeau. And me and my sister just sitting down at the window, watching her and talking to her. One of my best memories is my grandmother cooking for us.
In Cedros, you could wake up in the middle of the night because a cow walking in your yard. Yeah! Chain dragging! When you hear, “Clump-clump” and you look out, is not lagahoo, is cow walking through good-good. Is be real nice.
I grew up Presbyterian but I used to go to the Catholic church because my father was Catholic. But, when I turn teenager, he christen in Hindu. Went Catholic school. Went to temple once with my paternal grandmother, God rest her soul. I was in the heart of the four-day wedding and all those things because, most of my friends, who is Hindu, who is Muslim. To me, that is part of growing up in Trinidad.
In Cedros, my cousins and I, we catch fish and, as we catch it, we wash it, we clean it and we fry it right there on the beach. My cousin climb up in somebody estate and thief a hand of green fig and we throw it in the fish and fry it up and it was really nice.
My best friend, Adanna Sergeant, went to primary school with me. So it’s going on to 30-something years we’ve been best friends. And now she’s my neighbor in Belmont.
I’m not married and have no kids yet. But God will bless me one day.
My Uncle Crab—he’s not the prettiest thing in the world, but he’s one of the best things in the world—have a tendency to give everybody he know Indian names. But, for the life of me, I could never remember the one he give me. But when he call me, I just answer!
When my dad worked maxi-taxi, he would bring home strangers. Mummy would cook for them and they would spend the day with us and it was really nice.
I read A LOT! I like vampire romance stories. My boyfriend, Joel Tardieu, believes he is a real vampire. No garlic in the house. he doesn’t come out in the daylight. But he’s a darling, a real sweetheart, the best-the best-the best! His goal in life is to cheer everybody up. If we go into a restaurant and the cashier grumpy, he will crack jokes until she smile.
As a replenisher, I have to pull stuff from the back, make sure shelves are ready for customers. Over the years, I’ve worked in every lane in the store.
You can touch some lanes in the morning and know it good for the whole day but certain lanes need more work than others. Flour, rice, sugar, peas does go like nothing. Carnival time, is pace-pace-pace packing alcohol. Christmas time, EVERYTHING does go fast, and you don’t know where it going.
The best part about the job is you get to meet people. In my store, you meet a lot of foreigners, dignitaries, a few famous people. Bunji Galin does pass through. Denyse Plummer is shop here a lot. Learie Joseph is a riot inside my store!
The bad part of the job is, sometimes we’s be understaffed and is be a little bit stressful. The younger men in the store are playful, like younger brothers. But they’re all very helpful.
I go to one fete per Carnival: break ‘way; get on bad. And that’s my fill. I don’t play mas because I love the sun but the love is not returned.
To me, a Trinidadian was always willing to share, very friendly, very open. If you eating and you see somebody alone, you offer them a plate of food.
Trinidad & Tobago is my rock and I will never leave it.