Alumnae Trip to Trinidad and Tobago

We arrived at Port of Spain in the afternoon and were greeted at the airport by Lisa Johnson and Yvonne (Bissoon) Meyers. Lisa and Yvonne had gone ahead of the group to spend time with their families, before showing us Trinidad and Tobago.

We checked into the Kapok Hotel. The early evening brought a welcome reception by the Trinidad Alumnae at the poolside patio. Camera flashes lit up the place as old and new friends greeted each other and got caught up on past and present. Special guests were Undine Giuseppi and her son, Neil. Undine was Assistant Dean at Alma in l957-58 while she completed her degree at the University of Western Ontario. Now in her eighties, (she doesn't look it!) she is a well-known educator and author. Her latest book, a biography of the late Russell Tesheira, insurance executive, was to be released to the public on Saturday. Undine has been author or editor of some twenty-four books.

Thursday we got down to the important business of sightseeing and shopping. After a panoramic view and tour of the city, we visited West Mall, an elegant modern structure which is currently undergoing renovations to make it even more elegant. Our own Marcelle (D'Abadie) Martinez has a craft store there which supplies both local crafters and visitors. How does she manage this, a young family, and visiting Alumnae.

A group spent the afternoon at Macqueripe Bay, while others enjoyed the hotel pool or collapsed in their rooms. Dinner was at the charming Verandah Restaurant.

Friday found us at the Asa Wright Nature Centre, high in the Northern Hills. The former coffee-cocoa-citrus plantation, now 720 acres, began in l974 to offer tours to American birdwatchers. There is a wealth of birds, flowers, trees and animal life. We watched leaf-cutter ants and listened to our guide imitate the various bird calls. A verandah stretches across the front of the plantation house and overlooks the Arima Valley. All around are feeding platforms and hummingbird feeders. Colourful varieties of hummingbirds abound and are a treat to watch. Two fairly large lizards wandered below the platforms. Not only was the wild life fascinating but the food for human guests was tasty. Many of us wished we could return to stay in the guest cottages and make a night tour of the rain forest.

Dinner (yes, we could still eat) was a longish trek to the Bight, a seafood/seaside restaurant facing a large and busy yacht basin. Then, we were off to tour Carnival Mas(querade) Camps where busy sewers and craftsmen were working on gorgeous, intricate costumes. They were not too busy to smile and wave at the tourists and explain their tasks. Brilliant outfits from other years were on display. We also stopped to listen to a steelband rehearsal and to watch a four-year-old boy dancing to the rhythms.

Was this the most unusual location ever for Saturday's Semi-Annual Alumnae meeting? I think so. Mount St. Benedict Abbey was the site on top of Mount Tabor and surrounded by colourful flowers and trees. Believe me, we now know what hairpin turns are. Our skillful drivers were experts but we all thought nobody should make that drive at night. There are around two dozen monks in residence (although we didn't meet any) at this guest house, conference centre, and rehabilitation facility. It was an ideal spot for our meeting.

One most special guest was Jocelyn Soodeen, former roommate of our own Louise (Lyle) Sifton. They had a delightful reunion and again cameras flashed. In spite of distracting scenery, we managed to hold our business meeting. Joni Pypka reported on plans for the Annual June meeting at St. Thomas, Union and Port Stanley.

In spite of rain and fog, Marcelle, Suzanne (Williams) Imbert and Lisa Furlonge arrived with souvenirs and Trinidadian desserts - chip chip, sugar cake, fudge, candied grapefruit and guava cheese - all this after a fine buffet cooked by the monastery staff, a pineapple whipped cream cake made by Lisa's cousin, and ice cream.

We also managed to tuck away a hearty feast of Polynesian food in the Tiki Room of the Kapok that night. Lisa's family joined us for the evening.

Early Sunday morning, we flew to Tobago and the Crown Point Hotel. Pictures of a visit by Queen Elizabeth early in her reign were enshrined in the hotel lobby. Here the rain, which we had managed to evade by being en route or dining, caught up with us. Locals said it had been raining for four weeks and THIS was the dry season.

Nevertheless, we embarked on a five-hour tour of the island. Our main driver, Matthew, had crossed on the ferry with his van the day before. He recruited a local driver, Francis.

Highlights of this tour included Fort King George (Patty Sanders and I enjoyed this from INSIDE the van), and a mysterious tomb with an inscription as follows:

Betty Stiver - 1783
She was a mother without knowing it
And a wife without her husband know it
Except by her kind indulgences to him.

Naturally, this prompted much speculation and theorizing.

We wondered why so many colourfully dressed people were out on the streets of the towns through which we passed. There was a local election the next day and loyal party followers were out in full force. The Democratic Action Congress supporters wore yellow tee shirts and the People's National Movement (the incumbents) wore red. Our driver, a rabid DAC booster, shouted slogans at the crowds. Soon, led by June (Anger) Cooper, we all joined in with, "No more PNM!". You can imagine the looks on people's faces as they wondered what space ship had dropped this strange group.

Our best weather day in Tobago was a sunny visit to Pigeon Point Beach, which epitomized the best of the Caribbean. As well as surf and sand, there were delightful little shops and restaurants. Dinner that night was at the charming Bonkers restaurant. Our only problem was the deluge that poured off the pointed roofs across the tile floor. We beat a hasty retreat back to the hotel. Then we were faced with a soggy trudge over saturated lawns. Sine (Louden) Herold and I were confronted by a large frog seated on our doorstep
- no, he didn't turn into a prince.

Tuesday, our last day, featured a visit to Buccoo Reef and Nylon Pool and this adventurous group reported an enjoyable time. Several of the rest of us remained at the hotel resting up for the return trip. Next, more flood problems. Lisa was notified in the late afternoon that the restaurant she had booked cancelled because of water problems. Crown Point (the Best of Thymes) Restaurant rose to the occasion and provided an excellent dinner for us all. Patty Sanders added to the festivities by recalling one of her husband's favourite sayings - "Drinks for everyone!"

Back at Piarco Airport in Trinidad on Wednesday morning, we enjoyed pineapple pizzas for lunch - and some final shopping.

We arrived in sub-zero Toronto to search for our vans and shiver in the cold. Now I know how those hearty Swedes feel when they jump from sauna to snow bank.

All said, this was a fun-filled tour with agreeable and compatible fellow travellers, impressive sights and delicious food. (I have a new standard for pineapple and mango.) Lisa and the Trinidadian girls showed us the gems of their island and we are very grateful. There was a great deal of planning, organization and head-counting involved.

Although Lisa swears, "Never again!", we hope she feels the pleasures outnumbered the pains. Lara (Masur) Leitch was considering some possible future destinations - Hong Kong or Vancouver? Who knows?

This trip description kindly written by Mary Ann Neely, Graduating class of l950, Staff - l954-69

A nice note from one of the Trinidad travellers:

Dear Lisa,

I can't begin to thank you in a manner that you should be thanked. I am certain hundreds of hours of your precious time must have gone into the planning of the Trinidad/ Tobago trip. You went far and above the call of duty. A month long trip to the place of your choosing, complete with servants to pamper you wouldn't be too much to shower upon you for all your diligent, hard work. We all thank you from the bottom of our hearts. You have won the praise and admiration of us all.

I, as a complete outsider, was totally overwhelmed with all the details you had put in place for the trip's every event.
I have been organizing daylong classroom trips for years so I have a smattering idea of the dozens of things that need attending to that aren't evident to the onlooker's eye......and then all the problems that can and do mess up those careful plans.

I was so impressed with your superb organizational skills, your efforts get to know everybody and their own special needs and idiosyncrasies and deal with all of them so competently and with sincere concern. You even hid your annoyance with the latecomers so well. The food and drinks constantly aboard the van really captured my attention as such a wonderful and hospitable gesture to keep everyone comfortable at all times.........and it was especially thoughtful of your Dad to help out in that regard. I can honestly say I didn't feel hunger or thirst pangs even once during the whole trip.

The restaurants and events you chose to attend were excellent and the prices reasonable. You thought of it all..... of course you couldn't control the weather, the only thing that was unexpected. Both hotels were lovely and quite different, which was nice to experience diversity. I'm really happy that Tobago was included since it provided a totally different atmosphere..... the beaches and snorkelling opportunity were something one shouldn't miss.

You handled all problems, minor emergencies and disappointments with calmness, dignity, patience, and are a real "class act", Lisa. It was also pleasant that no pressure was put upon anyone to join in any activity they chose not to. Everyone will sing your praises for years to come. It was such a fantastic holiday nobody wanted to come home.... that, in itself speaks volumes for your efficiency and kind and generous personality. What's not to love about Lisa??!!

I hope you got some nice pictures..... you are welcome to any of mine if you choose. I'm sending on a couple to you.
I'll see you at the Main Street Manor on Wednesday, if you can make it.

With fondness and thanks,