The curious Curacao caper

With patches of rust scattered along the dull maroon waterline, ugly streaks on the small white cabin, and paint flaking off its faded black hull, the fishing trawler seemed a most unremarkable, dingy vessel that for years, slouched low in the open at its mooring, next to the stone walled ruins of the Curacao Trading Company complex.

The heart of the matter

The Tsimane or Chimane people are an isolated, indigenous tribe who maintain their tough, subsistence traditions in a remote area of Bolivia’s Amazonian lowlands, faithfully foraging and farming in small, rural settlements along the Maniqui River, like their ancient ancestors.

The kite fliers and dreamers

As the April sunshine blazed and the days grew drier, the boisterous north east trade winds swept in from the restless Atlantic and our schools closed with a sigh in a tired haze of dust.

Going bananas over suckers

For most of my early Guyana life, suckers were merely the plain, pointed side shoots that perennially popped up in a clump around the pseudostem of the banana and plantain trees which towered in many crowded backyards, providing cool green shade and sweet, filling provision.

Comma crimes and catastrophes

The Greek classical scholar, Aristophanes of Byzantium, is hailed as the patient father of punctuation for his pioneering efforts to sort out the complex comprehension and proper pronunciation of his native language 2200 years ago.

Facing the music

One fine Sunday evening, three months ago, Sri Lankan carolling churchgoers were stunned into sudden silence when they eagerly picked up their Christmas music sheets at one of the country’s biggest Catholic services, in preparation for reciting a beloved prayer.

The Spirit of the World

Gaping mouths and ghastly sockets scream silently of nothingness, as the phantom heads float high, trailing suckered tentacles in all ghostly white swathes, sardonic symbols of a post-apocalyptic grim world titled “Sailors on an Exotic Isle.” This year’s last minute Carnival creation of genius designer and veteran mas-maker, Peter Minshall, entirely hand-sewn from simple chicken wire, glue and plain cloth, “Spiritus Mundi” is a Latin term that means “Spirit” or “State of the World.”

Power and privilege

  “Absolute power corrupts absolutely” is the famous quotation used by English Catholic peer John Dalberg-Acton, Lord Acton in an 1887 letter opposing the move to promulgate the doctrine of Papal infallibility.

Shame in the Warden City

The Mighty Sparrow complained bitterly “it’s a shame, it’s a shame” in his classic composition “Pay As You Earn (P.A.Y.E)” about the sudden imposition of income tax, lamenting, “but we have we self to blame, because we ask for new Government, now they’re taking every cent, cost of living is the same, it is really a burning shame,” While such expenses today are certainly far above that of 1958 when the double entendre piece was penned,

‘Mr. Big’ and the ‘Baccoos’

As a young child, I loved accompanying my stout father, “Mr. Big” to the city sea wall for his regular swim after a long, exhilarating walk along the Fort Groyne, a weathered, narrow concrete erosion barrier bolstered by great granite boulders, jutting out into the ocean like a giant index finger at the far end of breezy Kingston.

The Oil Men Cometh

Less than a fortnight ago, the new United States leader publicly repeated a startling phrase that had become common enough during his blunt and divisive campaign to reach the White House.

T- Rex and the Death Star

American journalist Steve Coll describes an illuminating exchange in 2001 between then President George Walker Bush and the Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

A crater, cenotes and clay

A slim, greenish brown band in a layer of clay clearly separates two key geologic eras all over the world, showing abnormally high microscopic concentrations of iridium, a rare dense, brittle element that best resists corrosion and bears a beautiful silvery burnish.

Little Guyana, Big Apple

The Little Guyana strip of Queens, New York runs for about 25 vivid blocks, with the thriving storefronts a feast of wild colours, bustling with immigrants sporting a range of distinctive musical accents that mark their origins in faraway tropical villages with rather strange names ranging from Ankerville to Zeelugt.

The Spice Master and Chutney Kings

A slender, supple magician behind the shaky wooden counter, the venerable spice master spoke in soft swishes of silken sound, silvery smooth like his slick hair separated at the side, but with eyes smouldering behind thick glasses.

An Author and a Gentleman

Edward Ricardo (E.R) Braithwaite never lost his distinctive Guyanese but clear, crisp accent even though he spent most of his long life away from his South American birthplace.

Dancing with Daro

My Auntie Daro’s black Christmas cake was heavy, smoky and heavenly. Baked in a traditional mud chamber, she ingeniously cut a deep rectangle in the ground, layered flickering red-hot coals and bricks, and stacked alternate shelves for cooking the countryside confection dominated by the heady base of staggering XM rum-soaked local fruits.

Alpha and Omega

The public belief of a cover-up and conspiracy in the 1976 Cubana Flight 455 twin bombing persists – fuelled by the preferential American treatment of the two prolific terror masterminds and their shielding from justice.

When hopes and dreams die

Unable to ever forget her mother’s anguished sobbing and shrill screams a sleepy Wednesday afternoon, Roseanne Persaud Nenninger finds it deeply distressing even now to speak of her brilliant older brother, Raymond Persaud, 19, one of the six teenaged medical students who won a coveted Guyana Government scholarship in 1976 but was killed on the way to Cuba.

Journey to Algiers

Thousands of eager Guyanese turned out to greet Cuban president, Fidel Castro on his whirlwind trip to Guyana in September 1973, while Prime Minister Forbes Burnham mused that the United States could get rid of three troublesome Caribbean leaders in a master stroke by sabotaging the Soviet-made airliner carrying them to a Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) meeting.

The mystery of the Korean case

A mysterious valise containing confidential documents belonging to an unnamed North Korean official was offered to the United States (US) Embassy by a “reputable businessman” in Barbados, shortly after the Cubana Flight 455 airliner crashed into the Caribbean Sea.

WOLADY and the Right to Know

A leading American, independent investigative institution wants the outgoing Barack Obama-administration to finally release still secret documents, under the country’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA),  related to the surviving mastermind of the 1976 twin-bombing of the Cubana Airliner.

Flight of the Condor

The big-boned, but skinny old man in the worn gown, lay long on the fat pillow and thin plastic blue liner of an anonymous Miami hospital bed, the name tag sliding down his wrist, the shock of thick white hair and hard green eyes small set in the sallow, splotchy face framed by wild bushy brows.

Of Mice and Men

Guyana initially welcomed the Barbados Government’s commitment to “a vigorous investigation” of the “act of terrorism” in the Cubana Airliner bombing and to ensuring “that this evil would be wiped off the face of the earth,” but days later slammed the island’s defiant decision to refuse jurisdiction for the crime.

The dark arts of diplomacy

Severe verbal attacks against an “obviously nervous” Prime Minister Forbes Burnham, the protest pullout of a key diplomat confidant and mounting tensions with the aggrieved Americans led to the Government of Guyana (GOG) rejecting a Cheddi Jagan-proposed “strong anti-U.S resolution” on the 1976 Cubana Plane bombing, in the country’s Parliament.

Blacken and the bandits

Niggling worries about an American-backed assassination plot, looming local economic problems, and the sudden bombing of the country’s Consulate in Trinidad, plagued Guyana’s troubled leader, at the time doomed Cubana Airliner Flight 455 went down in 1976, American diplomatic cables reveal.

Lost souls, restless spirits

I raced home from school late one hot afternoon to find my aged mother strangely in tears, sadly listening to our faded transistor radio permanently perched on the matching bright blue formica dining table that shimmered with flecks of gold and silver, like an early, starry night sky.

Get Shorty, shame and soca

Spectacular Lord Shorty was ironically anything but little. Standing an imposing six feet four inches tall the musical genius boldly experimented and created the sensual soca, with his exploratory “Indrani” song in the early 1970s, the consummate classic “Endless Vibrations” album of 1974 and the international hit “Om Shanti Om.” An original Trini “saga boy” or dashing dandy with a particular passion for beautiful women and hedonistic living, Garfield Blackman seamlessly merged the eastern sounds of the dholak, tabla and dhantal from the mostly Indian village, Lengua where he grew up in the southern part of the island, with the symphonic steelpan and catchy calypso music he also loved.

Ducks and Dodd diplomacy

Every Christmas season my money-minded maternal grandmother would travel down to the city by taxi, wearing her traditional starched white embroidered cotton headdress, with a fat duck or two in tow and baskets of freshly picked produce from her organic riverside farm to sell to my hopelessly outwitted father.

A haven for the Hamal

Each dazzling day, next to the muddy, grassy verges of the busy main road along the eastern bank of the murky Demerara River, a few families dry racks of freshly gutted, still bloody, thickly salted Atlantic fish openly spread out under the harsh, blinding sun.

Of Mummies, Jumbies and Jamborees

Once upon a time, a real long time ago, one of my two marvellous mothers, the much older one, used to scare the living daylights, dying night-dimmers and all bodily discharges out of me and my friends, often at the same time, by telling us what she would generically and euphemistically term, ‘jumbie stories.” For a puny, perpetually sick child with a far too vivid imagination, such terrible tales were never a good idea.

Weep with us, oh Eve!

The Americans have Kennewick Man, the Chinese, Peking; the Indonesians, Java, but the Africans are most blessed as the indisputable cradle of mankind, with a breathtaking range of choices from the legendary Lucy and Ardi in Ethiopia, to the Black Skull of Kenya, Toumai in Chad and Twiggy from Tanzania.

To be or not to be

My husband and I are fumbling in the dark. For a few exasperating hours, early one June morning, on our giant grey settee in the living room.

Duck curry and parrot stew

The silence is noticeably deafening. After all it’s very late Sunday, close to midnight, in a rather serious suburb in  northern western Trinidad, when I hear the shout from down Upper Conaree, “Where my Warriors family…?.” Our cricket-mad friend, Guyanese and Basseterre-based accountant, Amar Gossai is on the prowl, seeking company.