Friday, October 30, 2015

Food, Food, and more FOOD!

Jesse James is a local who runs a private taxi service called Members Only Maxi Taxi. Jesse has an outstanding reputation and is known by everyone in the expat community here in Trinidad. He is the one who picks us up from the Airport when we arrive for the first time. He also runs many tours. A group of us from school went on his Taste Trini Tour. All 9 of us met at the school at 7:30 am on a Saturday and the adventure began. We started in Port of Spain and made our way east to Mayaro. Here is a rough map of our trip.

We stopped multiple times. Most times Jesse jumped out, bought the food, returned to the van and passed out portions. I sat in the co-pilots seat. It became my job to document what we were eating both by name and by picture. I also helped out cutting portions and passing the plate. By lunch we were so full. It was tough to contemplate eating the Roti.  The sites were amazing. It was so interesting to listen to Jesse tell us about Trinidad and the places we were passing as well as stories about the food. Here is a link to the food with labels and in the order of consumption.

Brazil nuts

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Drivers License - The licensing office

Getting a driver's license in Trinidad is an experience. The school provided us with some information, what to bring, what to study, where to go. The first information we were provided was:

  1. No appointment needed 
  2. Show up at 7am 
  3. Bring the fee, our passport, visa and bond (the school has to have a bond for foreign hire teachers)
  4. Print and fill out the application 
  5. and "go to the back buildings and let a Licensing Officer know that you want to sit the test. If you are successful, you will be told to go to the front building and go to the Cashier to pay for the permit. Once you have paid you will be told to go to a little room to the left past the front door. You'll have a wait (not sure how long), they will call your name, go into the smaller room and take your photo and get the permit. The whole process can take 1/2 day to a full day. Remember no sleeveless tops, shorts nor sandals. Take something to read and a bottle of water. No, the Licensing Office does not open on the weekends. They open at 8:00 a.m. but the cashier closes around 1:00 p.m. or 2:00 p.m." 
With this information in hand,  a group of us went to the licensing office on a Monday. We got there at 7:30 am and waited in line (the wrong line). Thankfully one of us remembered that we were supposed to go to one of the "back buildings" and so we made our way to the correct building. When we entered there was a counter and seats (almost like a jury box). There were a lot of people sitting in the seats, so we sat down. Nothing happened.

About 20 minutes into our sit, I decided to get up and go to the counter and see if we could get more direction. The woman who worked there let me know that she thought we had an appointment already, and then collected our paperwork. She immediately handed back our applications, we had printed them out and filled them out, but they were 2 pieces of paper and she needed it to be back to front, so we had to fill out the application again. Once we had done that she asked us to have a seat and she disappeared. The people in the seats got up filed behind the counter to take the test. Took the test. Left. More people arrived.

It has a STAMP!
Official appointment

At about 11 am she came back and she had appointments for us to take the test. A week later at 10:30 am. She let us know that we would sit the test at 10:30, and then we would wait in another room to get our results. However our results would be available after the cashier closed at 12:00 (note not 1 or 2), so we would need to come back the following day to pay. We could only pay if we passed the test.

A week passed, we went back to sit the 10:30 test. at 11:00 we were brought to the testing area. We had to leave all bags (purses too) on a table and then file into a long cubicle with wooden walls and ancient single arm desks. We presented our paperwork, only the foreigners were required to show identification, we were given a ratty pencil without an eraser, and we sat. The exam was passed out in a manila folder. It had been handled so many times the paper was see through. Mine was difficult to read in places because it had been touched so many times. The test proctor the proceeded to let us know the rules no erasing (she then explained to protocol for changing our answer and we could only change our answer 1 time per question) and DO NOT WRITE ON THE TEST - if we wrote on the test we would be charged to make a new copy, we would forfeit our appointment, we would have to come back another day to make a new appointment). While she spoke softly to 30 of us, business was being held in the room outside of the cubicle, whose walls were only about 5' high in a room with vaulted wooden ceilings. It was hard to hear.

The test had 3 parts: 20 Multiple choice on rules, 10 road signs, 5 hand signals. You can review all the multiple choice questions possible here. You can take a practice test here. I finished the test in about 15 minutes. I was the first person done. This always freaks me out. I hate being first. My friend Christine finished at about the same time, she was a good test taker and reviewed her answers. I was too nervous to do it. I started to doubt all my answers. Finally, a Trini got up, so I did too. I wasn't sure what to do because I wasn't able to hear the proctor before the test when she described what to do.

Wait here to know if you passed
After the exam we went to the adjoining building and waited, and waited, and waited. At about 12:30 they were in. Christine was called up first. She passed. Next I was called up, by my last name. There were 4 people standing at the window. I was asked how I pronounce my first name. I told them 'lee' and three of the women took off. I was told I passed and that they had debated how to pronounce Leigh. We were not given our results. We were told we would need to return the following day to pick them up and pay.

Woo! More stamps!
The next day we showed up at 8am at about 8:10 the office opened. We went to the counter and themanager asked what we needed and then told us to sit. One of the assistants arrived a few minutes later. We went to the counter again and were given our results. We went to the cashier (in a different building) and were able to pay with only a 10 minute wait. We were feeling triumphant. We thought heck, we can be done and back to school in no time. HA!

We went to the adjacent building and sat, and sat and sat. A handful of people were called at about 9:30. Then noone for an hour. Then about every 20 to 40 minutes a new handful of people were called. Some people walked in and then walked to the door where people were called from and they were seen and left with licenses, others went to the door and were turned away. The rest of us sat and waited. At 1 I decided to be brave. I went through the door and asked if it would be possible to know when we would be called as we were teachers and our substitutes were going to leave and the school wanted to know when/if they could expect us back. I guess that worked. She pulled out paperwork, entered something in a ledger and said 10 minutes and I was dismissed. The next group was called about 20 minutes later and we were in that group. We filed into the room. We checked our information and signed a paper, then we signed a ledger, then we sat and 1 by 1 had our pictures taken. The licenses spit out of a machine and huzzah! We had our Trini licenses!
Licensed to drive

What?!? Licensed drivers! Only 4 hours sitting for no clear reason waiting, but we done. We licensed. Watch out roads. #Leightt

via Instagram

Sunday, September 13, 2015

#nofilter Torch Ginger. #Leightt

via Instagram

The President's is my neighbor

I live in an area called Diego Martin. It is across the major road from the school and the neighborhood called Westmoorings. The newly elected President lives in my neighborhood. 

Today I was at the home of friends of John and Bridget (my neighbors). There was a rally for the winning party and the president was in the car waving and shaking hands. Just something a little different from home.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Photo walking - and MONKEYS!

My neighbor and co-worker John and I took a drive around Chaguaramas.

We went to the bamboo cathedral with the intent of seeing monkeys, and ... we did! Red howler monkeys.  We were quite and took lots of pictures. They knew we were there and eventually started throwing mangoes at us. We decided it was time to leave. We didn't want them to start throwing other things.  Here is the album of our pictures.
Baby Monkey
I see you
I throw mangoes at you
Amazing tree

Saturday, September 5, 2015

#nofilter #Leightt #islandlife #imovedtotrinidad #morning

via Instagram

Hiking is serious business here in Trinidad

We took a hike today. It was tougher than advertised, but it was pretty amazing. We hiked over a mountain to the beach in Maracas Bay.  It took about 3 hours. Here is the picture album from the day.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Paperwork, Dress code

Thee is quite a bit of paperwork we need. To get our visas we had to start at the Dr. and get x-rays.
Private hospital x-ray room
The x-rays and the Dr. had to be located here in Trinidad. Because US doctors don't use stamps. Every official piece of paper here has a stamp. No stamp, no good.

 For our visit to the immigration office we were told to make sure our work permit was in our passport together with the bond document (required by the government. The school had to have proof that it was responsible for us financially). We also needed to walk with a copy of your lease and rent receipt, which we could get from the school accounts office. We needed proof of funds (our appointment letter or first payslip, we could also get this from the school Accounts Department). We needed passport pictures x 2 per person. We needed to make a copy of the bio data page of our passport. We needed to take originals and copies. The copies will go into out immigration file. We needed to be sure we received/asked for the health stamp as immigration at the Airport required this, but the office sometimes forgot to give it to us. We also would have to leave our passports with Immigration for 1 week.

dress code sign
Immigration Office Dress Code
All official offices have a dress code. Sleeves are required. No shorts, skirts to your knees, no slippers (flip-flops). People are turned away if they are not dressed properly. All offices have notices outside letting the public know about the dress code.