As part of our arrival process on the island, we have had a security briefing. There were two main parts to this: where to go and how to dress. Until now, our movements have been limited to the hotel, the office and the accompanied house searching and so we were keen to gain a better understanding of the local neighbourhoods. With any luck, I would now be able to leave the confines of the hotel grounds.
This was unduly optimistic. The city’s neighbourhoods are classified as “never, ever, EVER go there”, “never go there alone”, “go there with all windows closed and doors locked in your car, park in an official car park, do your business and leave” and “your house”. The hotel is surrounded by “never, ever, EVER go there” zones. Most of the day, I am alone while the Handsome Dutchman is at the office. Next to that, I have neither a car nor a house. The saving grace is that nearly all steps in Trinidadian bureaucracy are conducted face-to-face so I am allowed out of the hotel several times a week to conduct business at a slow pace! With each day that passes, we feel more and more like we are living in a version of Grand Theft Auto (V, for the aficionados) and is, no doubt, why I am scheduled for driving training in the coming days. Not too much in the way of self-pity is allowed, though. I am still surrounded by palm trees and cocktails and many people pay good money to do just this for a holiday!
Next came the instruction on jewellery and clothing which seemed to be not to wear anything of any sort of quality in public – something we struggled to adapt to immediately. The next day, we were due for an appointment downtown. Downtown falls into the category of “never go there alone” but our driver dropped us at the door and we felt more or less alright. Once we were inside, the Handsome Dutchman pointed out that we were not doing so well on the jewellery front. I have learned to turn the stone in my engagement ring into my palm when I am out of the hotel but we hadn’t really considered our watches or the bracelet I was wearing. I wear the bracelet pretty much every day. It was a very early gift from the Handsome Dutchman and although it is not full of bling, he did happen to buy it on Bond Street and it certainly does not pass the low quality test. The best I could do was to cover it with my hand but soon I began to attract attention for looking like a fool rather than wearing jewellery and it was difficult to know which was worse – the whole point is to avoid attention, not attract it. I pointed out that I had at least left the gift he gave me on our wedding day for safekeeping with my parents in Scotland. He was proudly wearing the gift I gave him on his wrist. We clearly need to acquire some cheap and cheerful watches for these situations. The Handsome Dutchman also suggested I should stop waving my iPad around. All Apple products seem to be a limited commodity on the island as they are not officially for sale.
Whether we can comply with the restriction on designer clothing remains to be seen. Perhaps we will just have to dress up at home and dress down when we are out – I surely did not ship all those sandals across the Atlantic not to wear them. Luckily, our version of San Andreas means we get to live in Franklin’s house and my pair of Manolo Blahnik’s will look just about right.
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