By Kielon Hilaire. Her name is Winta Ghidei and she was born and raised in the country of Eritrea, and if you are one of the few who know of Eritrea then it would be no secret that the country is located in the Horn of Africa. Winta grew up in the capital city of Asmara and can fluently speak Eritrea’s native language, which is Tigrigna. If it’s one thing some people might get from all of this is that someone might have an unusual fascination with words ending with “ah”. As for me, it’s just so much more fascinating to write about Winta. Why? Because Winta left Eritrea to come all the way to Trinidad, and boy did that visit turn out to be interesting.
Firstly, a little more about Winta and Eritrea. Much of what follows were Winta’s thoughts prior to visiting Trinidad, “In Eritrea, the streets are clean, the buildings are historic and the culture of Asmara is memorable; social life is everything in the city and friendships are usually so deep that they essentially last forever. She also mentioned in Eritrea there is one culture she constantly craves for, which is referred to as “an evening stroll”, that she could not seem to find anywhere else but on Harnet Street in Asmara. “Almost everyone goes out with their friends or family to walk on the street and lime after work on evenings.” Yes, she actually used the word “lime”! And some Trinidadians are probably considering how cool Winta might be at this point (no pun intended). Having interacted with many Trinidadians while doing her studies abroad, Winta became impressed by how proud Trinis are of their country; it made her curious. Winta decided she must visit Trinidad during her Summer vacation to see what the fuss was all about.
For three days Winta stayed in Trinidad with her good Trinidadian friend, Kershelle, who had seemingly planned an “around Trinidad in 30 hours” trip for Winta. After a few trips here and there Winta found herself exclaiming, “Omg, the food here is epic!” She even made a list of some of the different foods she tried and matched them with the places where they were eaten.
- Doubles from “Sauce”
- Pholourie at the Queen’s Park Savannah
- “Sunday lunch” on the Boardwalk
- Bake and shark at Maracas Bay
- Roti from Patraj
- Aloo pies, Saheena, and Aloo pies, Saheena at home for breakfast
Yet, the variety of “epic foods” was arguably not the true epic moment; it was seeing Winta interact with Trinidadians and the environment so smoothly, as if she had grown up in Trinidad. Munching on doubles at the stand? Not a problem! Asking a stranger, “Waz the scene?” No big deal. But in her defence (and she easily recognises this) Winta does have a strong physical resemblance to the average Trini; if it was not for her unique Eritrean accent few people would guess that she was not a national of Trinidad. Makes you wonder if some of Winta’s ancestors might have been Trini or if Trinis are unknowingly Eritreans. Hmmm. Winta then went on to share her experience zip-lining at Macqueripe in Chaguaramas, stating that it was a breathtaking moment to remember. Oh, and she did manage to come across several opportunities for “evening strolls” at different locations across the country.
Winta also observed how different dancing is in Trinidad in comparison to Eritrea. Winta said, “Eritrean dance (especially Tigrigna, which is my ethnic group) is very conservative; a man and a woman, if they are dancing together, maintain a very wide distance between each other. No touching whatsoever. And you know how different that is from Caribbean dance. Also, when we dance the focus is in our shoulders; almost no movement of the hips.” To all Caribbean fellas who might be reading this and like to dance, it might help if you were to stop thinking whatever you are presently thinking and try dancing with your shoulders for once!
Fun and games aside, Winta can also easily relate to the studious nature of Trinidadians. As the holder of a Bachelor’s degree in Biochemistry, a Master’s in Public and Epidemiology and eventual holder (God willing) of a PhD in Health Promotion and Socio-behavioural Science, Winta, at just 27 years old, has already accomplished what lots of young people today dream of achieving. So this gal, like many Trinis, has certainly figured out how to balance life. “I add plenty laughing, watching TV and liming to the max,” Winta said.
Unfortunately, Winta’s visit to Trinidad was short-lived as she had to return home after the third day to take care of some Eritrean business. But she did confirm that she enjoyed her stay on the island and that she plans to be back as soon as possible to try two local dishes she was told she missed out on: Ox tail and the legendary pelau. When asked if she would take part in Trinidad’s dancing (or wining) when she returns, she did smile and say, “I will have to talk with my shoulders first.”
All in all it was a privilege to meet Winta and learn of her pleasant experiences in Trinidad. Before she left, for sharing her experiences I made sure to tell her, “Ye-ke-ni-ye-ley,” which was the only word I knew in Tigrigna that meant thank you (thanks to Google!). She then voiced a long string of Eritrean words with all sorts of hyphens included and all I could have said after that was, “Same to you, Winta. Same to you!” With any luck, Trinidad will see Winta again by next Summer.
August 2015 – Issue 17 www.seettntmagazine.com
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