Bitter-Sweet Saturday

Saturday 11th August will forever be a day filled with bittersweet memories for me and perhaps for so many of us. From around midday here in the UK, I began to see messages and pictures on Facebook showing the devastation suffered by residents of Diego Martin, Maraval and Santa Cruz in the aftermath of massive flooding. Some of the images that were seared into my psyche include that of the baby’s room where the watermark was nearly half way up the wall. There was the image of the refrigerator trying to float out of the kitchen and of course cars being pushed around like toys. 

My heart goes out to the many victims of this tragedy who lost irreplaceable material possessions as well as those who lost their loved ones. In the midst of such massive infrastructural damage, I thanked God that more lives were not lost. I spent a moment thinking of those whose livelihood was now at risk, such as the taxi driver whose car was written off. I also spent time thinking of the children who lost their new school books and uniforms recently purchased for the September school term. 

Though not without criticism, we should acknowledge the response of the essential services – especially WASA, T&TEC and TSTT whose workers went over and beyond the call of duty to ensure that the water supply, power and telephone service was restored as soon as possible. My mother, who lives in Petit Valley, spoke of the isolation experienced on that Saturday as they were essentially cut off from the rest of the island. What a terrible feeling indeed. At the same time, it was encouraging to see and hear stories of communities banding together to help one another. Neighbours supported neighbours by offering their labour or even their modest food and water supplies. Out of the tragedy, there were stories of pride…pride in being a Trinbagonian. 

Of course, in London that day, there was a similar sense of pride in the performance of every member of the Olympic team who gave every ounce of themselves in representing their country. Many other commentators have lamented the public’s focus on medals and the unfortunate denigration of some athletes who may not have placed in the top three. I echo those sentiments. On Saturday evening, my wife and I were at the Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Village with my sister, cousin and some very good friends. I would always remember where we were standing when we got word that the gold medal was won. The feeling of pride in that red, white and black was indescribable. Then later when the results of the relay came through, once again the Village erupted in spontaneous celebration. 

One story of these Olympic games that needs to be told is that of the Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Village organised by the Trinidad and Tobago High Commission here in London. To a large extent, the criticisms levelled by some in the media were unfounded as well as unfair. Firstly, the Village was well thought out and brought together food and beverages, music, merchandise, tourism information etc to give visitors from Trinidad and Tobago a base, Diaspora a space to reconnect as well as well wishers a taste of what brand Trinidad and Tobago has to offer. Secondly, it was free to the public unlike some other Olympic Houses (such as the USA House which was for VIPs only). Thirdly, having 5 nights of performances by Mr Fete – Machel Montano and his HD Family was a stroke of genius as far as I am concerned. 

On the night of Saturday 11th August, hearing Machel perform his Olympic tribute (after Keshorn won gold) as we acknowledged 50 years of independence - was nothing short of moving. There was one special moment when the band went silent and the audience sang the words to ‘I’m a Trini’. In the front row was a former U.S. Consul General who took the mike from Machel to explain that the two years he spent stationed at the U.S. Embassy in Trinidad and Tobago were two of the best years of his life. Later that night he ironically went on to sing the words to the Mighty Sparrow’s Congo Man to a very appreciative audience.USA Tax Singapore

On the back of negative press reports about certain diplomatic representatives for Trinidad and Tobago here in the EU as well as elsewhere, it is good to see an example of a job well done. Special thanks to Renuka Koninger, Cultural Officer at the High Commission who was seen working tirelessly to ensure a smooth flow to the evening’s events. 

My name is Derren Joseph and despite our many challenges, I still have the audacity of hope in a brighter tomorrow.

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