A couple of days before Alex and I left for Trinidad, my phone rang. It was my friend Gail.
Gail and I have known each other since I was 15 and she was 14. We were students at St. Joseph's Convent, Port-of-Spain, and she's one of the few classmates I've kept in contact with; when Marcus, Alex and I lived in Trinidad during 2005-2007, Gail, her husband and her son were some of our closest friends. Since that we left she's had another child, her daughter Catherine, and we hadn't met her or seen any of the rest of the family since we moved to Houston.
"Karen," she said, "the kids are dying to go to the beach, since it has been raining a lot here lately. When you and Alex come, we'd love to take you to Maracas."
I didn't even hesitate to take her up on her offer. Maracas Beach is one of the most popular beaches in Trinidad, located about 15 minutes' drive from where we used to live. It was the beach we most frequently visited.
Alex and I arrived late Saturday night, so Gail and I made plans to head to Maracas early Sunday morning. About 10 am, she appeared with Christian and Catherine, and we started our journey along the windy road, through dense rainforest, up over the hill and back down to the coast, on our way to meet Gail's sister, Nicole, and her kids, for our day at the beach.
The morning was dry and the weather was looking promising; however, on the way, we stopped at a popular overlook, where I snapped a picture in the direction of Maracas.
"Dude," I said, quietly, so the kids wouldn't hear. "This is not looking good."
"I know, I know," she responded, equally quietly. "Don't worry, it will pass."
We got back in the car, and continued back down the hill. By the time we got to the beach, however, the rain was in full force.
The kids were silent.
"Gail, maybe we should go back," I said. "We can swim in the pool at my parents' place."
"Don't worry," Gail insisted. "It will pass. Let's go get a shark-and-bake and you'll see."
Now, shark-and-bake (or, sometimes, "bake-and-shark") is a quintessential Trinidadian sandwich that, as far as I know, is almost exclusively eaten at Maracas beach. "Bake" is actually and paradoxically a fried bread...
... and to make a shark-and-bake, you split open a bake, put a piece of fried shark in between, and slather it with all kinds of sauces, chutneys, and various vegetables. It is horrifyingly bad for you, and one of the most delicious things you will ever want to eat. It is, seriously, a slice of heaven. And you don't have to take my word for it: Andrew Zimmern of Bizarre Foods once featured it on his show, and the man was thrown into a severe state of ecstacy as a result (start at 5:20 to see him practically weep with joy).
So, shark-and-bake time it was. We bought sandwiches for all of us, and sat in the car so we could stay dry while we ate... then, miraculously, after we were done and just as Gail had predicted, the sun came out.
Needless to say, the kids perked right up. So after hurriedly slapping on some sunscreen on the kids (though I totally forgot to put any on me!), they rushed into the ocean.
Needless to say, the kids had a whale of a time. We stayed there for hours, until finally fatigue started to set in, and it was time to go. But on the way back, we stopped at the overlook again, so that I could redeem myself with a proper Maracas bay shot:
Thanks so much, Gail. As I told you repeatedly that day, getting battered by the waves and inadvertently snorting Maracas beachwater was the perfect reintroduction to Trinidad.