Unexpected Sightings and the Kindness of Neighbors

As I ran to get my camera, I took this quick shot of the caiman cloud before it floated on by, lurking over the hills of Diego Martin and Westmoorings, like some type of mascot, or possibly some type of omen.  Maybe it was simply telling me that I should hold onto my car keys while I balance my camera over the ledge to get the shot.  When I heard the jingle of keys sounding rather far away, and wet, I knew they had fallen way below, in the drain about 30 feet beneath us; behind a very tall chain link fence.

I’m pretty sure I heard the caiman-in-the-sky laugh at Junie, Elias, and I as we stared in disbelief at our only car key, laying there like a rock in the little river-drain far below.  Thank goodness for our nimble footed security guard, who climbed and shimmied right down and retrieved our keys.  He knew exactly what to do, he just dove in,

without much of a thought, while we looked on in thankfulness at his kindness and grace.


Its funny how seeing something like a lone set of keys that you didn’t think you’d ever see again appear  when you were pretty much absolutely positive that they were gone forever  can make you want to hold them up for all the world to see, and rejoice at their very being.

So this week we rejoiced in the little things, like the kindness of neighbors and the  appearance of the unexpected.


Our Sunday trip to Maracas Bay ended abruptly in a loud and powerful thunderstorm, which we saw coming in from the sea, and quickly gained momentum until we were all running from the water for safety, trying futilely to move faster than the storm.  As we found shelter under the cabana, with a crowd of other beach goers, we looked up to find we were standing right next to our across the way neighbors, a family from Spain we hadn’t had yet a chance to really meet.  And this was our chance. We shared cold drinks and conversation in Spanglish until the thunder got too close for comfort and we parted ways.


After eating some shark and bake sandwiches, tamarind candy, and sugar cakes, we decided to take one more walk on the beach before we left.  And here we found

our second unexpected  appearance.  We have seen pelicans, osprey, sand pipers, and gulls roaming the beaches, but this rooster seemed to be making a surprise appearance.  There he was, a red rooster on a cloudy beach.  Just like that.  Didn’t know where he came from, nor where he was going.  But he sure looked like he knew; and wasn’t about to let on.


Then there was the unusual siting of a sixteen year old boy washing the dishes

beneath a pea pod chock full of the we-are-all-so-in-this-little-peapod-of-an-adventure-together metaphor.


This same sixteen year old was spotted carrying a princess backpack,

Another manifestation of the pea pod metaphor that has become our reality these days.


A simple shopping trip to SuperPharm (think: Walgreens) brought us this encounter

with another surprising sight; a road weary flower seller looking for one more sale before the sun set.


The fact that the princess lair has been quickly filling up with princesses is not so surprising,

But we are so grateful that one of these little princesses lives right next door to us.  Nicole and her newest best buddy have been revelling in each other’s company.

and when Aliana is not “coming by Nicole,” Nicole is “coming by Aliana.”


And herein lies another unusual siting, this time in the pool.

This jaguar appeared in our pool, and although we don’t know if it is native to Trinidad,

we do know that it appears to be open to taming;

maybe even domestication.


When it was time to take out Nicole’s extensions,  a task that usually involves many movies, sugar-laced bribes, tears, and frustration, we decided that sitting at the pool might take the sting out just a bit.  I brought out all the essential tools, and sat poolside to begin the process, hoping the neighbors playing and chatting would be sufficient distraction to make the time go by faster and less painfully.  Before you could say “Ouch,” we had six hands instead of two working away, nimbly unwinding the plaits.

Six hands, from three countries, patiently detangling as we allowed our stories to unravel along with the hair; and our respective versions of I-spy which kept Nicole distracted for a couple of seconds. We worked until the sun went down and the headlamps came out.  The simple and addicting satisfaction of each tiny plait deconstructed was clearly a universal phenomenon.  The time flew by, and I was grateful for the reduction in tears and for the feeling that we are beginning to be part of a community again.


Today, I got a text which combined the neighbor and the unusual siting themes of this posting.  It said, “Girl!  You have to come by with your camera today.  Outside the baby’s room there is a frangipani tree with incredible caterpillars on it.  It needs to be in your blog.”

Well, I didn’t get around to looking until this evening, and when I finally did get a chance to walk around the building, I could not believe my eyes.

  These huge caterpillars were chomping up this beautiful frangipani tree at such a rapid rate, you could literally watch the leaves diminish into the fatness of the caterpillar.  I thought for sure I would see one of them take a break from eating and sit down on a leaf and light up a hookah, like the caterpillar in Alice in Wonderland.

I am reminded that I am not that different from Alice, exploring this new land; encountering new characters like the Rooster on the Beach , the Flower Seller in the Parking Lot, the Plastic Jaguar in the pool, and the Caiman in the Clouds.   I half expected the Frangipani caterpillars to start up a conversation with me, and maybe it wouldn’t be so different from Alice’s conversation with the Hookah Smoking Catapillar.

Caterpillar: Who… are… you?
Alice: Why, I hardly know, sir. I’ve changed so much since this morning, you see…
Caterpillar: No, I do not C, explain yourself.
Alice: I’m afraid I can’t explain myself, you see, because I’m not myself, you know.
Caterpillar: I do not know.
Alice: I can’t put it any more clearly, sir, because it isn’t clear to me.

All four of us have changed since this morning, a short two months since we arrived in Trinidad.   We may not be able to articulate these changes, but we know they are there, like a shirt not quite fitting the same as it used to.  Sometimes it feels uncomfortable, at other times it feels delightfully fresh and new.  This week, we were guided through this Rabbit Hole Wonderland  by the comfort of neighbors and the allure of the unexpected.

9 thoughts on “Unexpected Sightings and the Kindness of Neighbors

  1. Ellen and all,
    I must remind myself not to read your beautiful blog at 6 a.m. before going to work as, of course, I weep with joy every time!
    Hugs to all,

  2. Haha, I like the rare sightings 🙂

    Ps, whenever you update your blog everyone in my office comes and gathers around my computer to read what you’ve written. You’re very popular in the Plymouth Trugreen branch!

    xxxoooxxxooo love all of you!

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