Prior to arriving to live in Trinidad, I had never visited the Caribbean and I have to admit that I did not have a lot of knowledge about the area. To my shame, what little I did know about the culture and history of Trinidad was through a very UK focussed lens and related to the Afro-Carribean population who first emigrated from the West Indies to the UK in the middle of the twentieth century, which frankly was of little use in terms of helping my understanding of either the Caribbean or Trinidad. I was, for example, completely unaware that the largest ethnic group in Trinidad is Indo-Trinidadian with 37% of the population. Afro-Trinidadians make up the country’s second largest ethnic group, with 36% of the population identifying as being of African descent. A further 24% identify as “mixed”. Indo-Trinidadians are primarily descendants from indentured workers from India, brought to replace freed African slaves following the abolition of slavery.
I realised that I knew about as little about Indian traditions as I knew about Trinidadian culture and history when the Handsome Dutchman and I received an invitation to a wedding here in Trinidad. We knew that the wedding was a Hindu celebration. There are really only two things I know about Hindu weddings. Firstly, there are often hundreds of guests and secondly, the wedding can last many days. Both of these turned out to be accurate in this case. Although the Handsome Dutchman and I are not the most gregarious of people and really like to hang out in our own home with each other and all our stuff, we do like the opportunity to get dressed up and experience something new so we were pleased to accept the invitation.
The next dilemma was, of course, what to wear. We expected that the wedding would be outdoors and we planned to attend a part of the wedding taking place in the evening. With evening temperatures rarely as low as 25°C, however, it is still necessary to dress for the heat. I am beginning to realise that this is not such a challenge when it comes to evening wear. Hailing from a cold country where formal events are often concentrated in the winter months, the usual difficulty is how to wear sleeveless dresses and strappy sandals and not succumb to frostbite when there is snow on the ground. My Missoni mini-dress and Manolo Blahnik sandals with bare legs certainly would not have been an option in a Scottish winter but they turned out to be perfect in the heat. I am well known among my friends for my shoe habit – an obsession for pretty shoes stemming from a childhood where getting shoes to fit my narrow feet was always a trial. I am always ready to point out, though, that a good percentage of our shoe cupboard is taken up by the Handsome Dutchman’s shoes. Somehow he manages to make people not believe that is the case but in honour of the wedding, he decided also to wear some of his “party shoes”.
I then needed to think about make-up. I have skin that is both so dry and so pale that it could be mistaken for desiccated coconut. Until faced with a tropical climate, I have never had to think about make-up that is long-lasting. I have never worn long wearing formula or powder. Even on my wedding day, where make-up certainly had to last for hours, I wore a tinted balm which had the primary objective of moisturising and achieving the “dewiness” they talk about in YouTube make-up videos! In Trinidad, however, any make-up – including eye make-up – seems to end up melting all over my face and after only a few hours, it looks like not only have I been to bed without taking my make-up off but I have also had a shower and still not removed it properly. I did have some powder which I had been accidentally given at a make-up counter so I reckoned now was the moment to try it out. Apparently, it is a magical product – make up was fully intact at the end of the evening!
And so, with outfit and make-up dilemmas resolved, the Handsome Dutchman and I could enjoy the wedding celebrations. We were glad to hear that music was an important part of the wedding and even some locally renowned musicians were performing. Here is a glimpse of what we experienced:Follow @CastawayintheC