Annie Lalande's planned ten-day trip to Trinidad next month will involve sightseeing, and tasting this country's sumptuous bake and shark and curry dishes. But Lalande won't be your typical tourist. The Quebec, Canada, national will be touching down on T&T soil for a deeply personal and important mission. She's searching for her father.
There's little information for Lalande to work with. Here's the advertisement she pieced together for publication in local newspapers:
"Daughter seeks dad
First name Noel/Knolly, Nolay/Noln or similar.
66-73 years old. Worked in construction in Ontario, Canada, in 1974.
Had another daughter in Trinidad, who would now be in her 40s.
Hooked up briefly with Gabrielle from Hawkesbury, Ontario.
He or anyone knowing him can e-mail Annie at: email@example.com."
It appeared that Gabrielle was 24 years old when she met the man who would be Lalande's father. This will be Lalande's first trip to Trinidad. Her search for her father was shared with Lorraine Rostant, of Rostant Advertising, in a series of e-mails and chats with Skype between April 15 and April 24.
In one of those early postings, Rostant asked Lalande if there was a special reason for wanting to visit Trinidad. To this, Lalande replied: "Actually, my trip to Trinidad is a pretty important one. My biological father is from there. But when he met my mom, it was very brief and I only have a first name and a country.
"So, the best I figured I could do is go to Trinidad and see the people, smell the air, eat the food and feel a bit like home in a way. It's crazy, but it needs to be done." Lalande's trip is not only to find her father, but to understand her roots. She's also searching for a sense of completeness.
This trip was not conceived overnight. It's been years in planning. "I'm sure I will be able to survive this adventure. I guess that also meeting someone from Trinidad and chatting with them about their life in the country would be interesting. "I guess there are pieces of my life's puzzle that will remain a mystery. I had to try and see if I could get some answers," wrote a steely-determined Lalande.
"I'm a little shaken by the fact that I had planned (for years) this trip and it is postponed (even briefly). I will get there." She had originally planned to fly to Trinidad by the end of April, but changed it to mid-May so that her husband could be with her. He'd read online about T&T's crime situation and advised that she stay with a family rather than in a strange place by herself.
To the couple's concerns over crime, Rostant wrote: "This is a complex country. It is not a tropical paradise by any means, although there are those parts, too." In a note after one e-mail, Lalande couldn't help adding, "NB: By the way, it was nice listening to your accent on your answering machine. It will be a great trip!"
Lalande described her features: "I have black hair, full lips, round nose. He would definitely be black." She said her mother described her father as "tall, slim, handsome black man." About how long he spent in Canada, Lalande said to Rostant: "When she met him, in June 1973, he had already been in Toronto. He was maybe travelling, or just passing through for some reason.
"Maybe he decided to stay a few days because he met my mom. She didn't say anything about him going back to Trinidad, either at the moment or ever. "But he mentioned that he had a daughter, I would presume a good reason to go back."