Trinidad: Small but Diverse

The country of Trinidad, sometimes called the “rainbow island,” has a reputation of incredible diversity in regards to its music, food, and population. Located just eleven kilometers off the coast of Venezuela, Trinidad has a total population of 1.3 million. The makeup of its people ranges from African and East Indian, to European, and a variety of overlap of all of these. The main religion of the island is Roman Catholic, with Protestantism, Islam, and Hinduism also practiced.

Location of Trinidad
Location of Trinidad

History:

The original name for the island was “Iëre,” or Land of the Humming Bird, but Christopher Columbus changed it upon his arrival in 1498 to “La Isla de la Trinidad,” or The Island of the Holy Trinity. Today, Trinidad is a thriving Caribbean nation that bases much of its economy on gas-based export.

Although native Amerindians originally populated the island, Spanish, British, and French forces came to colonize it. They shipped the native Amerindians off to other colonies in the Caribbean to work and over time imported mass amounts of African slaves to labor on sugar plantations. After the British abolished slavery, indentured laborers were imported from India, China, and the Middle East. In 1889, England joined Trinidad to the nearby Tobago as an administrative ward, with which it stayed connected even after its independence from England in 1962. Over time, the descendants of the many non-native groups came together and fused their cultures, creating a melting pot that is the status quo in Trinidad today.

Culture:

All throughout the year, festivals take place that represent a variety of Trinidadian culture. Many of these festivals celebrate religious holidays, while others celebrate the traditions, customs, and music of Trinidad. The more popular religious festivals include Santa Rosa Festival, Christmas, Easter, Divali, and the Muslim celebration Eid Ul Fitr. There are multiple festivals that are based around the music of the Caribbean, such as Carnivale, J’ouvert and the national steel pan competition Panorama. In addition, the people of Trinidad also celebrate festivals pertaining to their history and customs, such as Emancipation Day and Arrival Day. No matter what time of year, there is sure to be a celebration happening in the streets of Trinidad.

Diwali in Trinidad
Diwali in Trinidad

Food:

The food of Trinidad is just as diverse as its population. Its history of colonization and labor importation led to a cuisine that contains a vast array of influences, including East Indian, Spanish, African, Chinese, and Middle Eastern. The most well known is Creole, a cuisine developed from robust stews and one pot comfort foods brought to the island by African slaves. Signature Creole dishes include pelau (a spicy dish consisting of meat, rice, and pigeon peas), macaroni pie (baked macaroni and cheese), and callaloo (a stew made with leaf vegetable, coconut milk, crab, chili pepper, lobster and many more). Another popular form of cuisine is street food, such as barbecue and jerk meats, homemade ice cream and coconut water.

Famous doubles with chickpeas
Famous doubles with chickpeas

Music:

Like much of the Caribbean, Trinidad has a lively music scene. Many varieties of music in Trinidad are a result of its historical influences, such as African and Indian based folk and classical forms. However, the mixing of cultures has led to the development of several indigenous forms of music as well, including soca, rapso, parang, chutney, and other derivative and fusion styles. The steelpan drum , a chromatically pitched percussion instrument made from  55 gallon drums that formerly contained oil and similar substances, also originated on the island. Oftentimes, local communities fuse the steelpan with international classical and pop music. The music of Trinidad provides something for every taste, once again illustrating the diversity of the culture of Trinidad.

Trinidad can be characterized as a beautiful Caribbean nation with a population whose spirit is just as impressive. The people are friendly and upbeat, and filled with a pride so strong that they celebrate almost constantly. The music, food, and ethnicity of the small island combine to create a culture that gives anyone visiting a vast amount to experience. I know I would love to see firsthand the diversity of this small Caribbean nation. On July 19, Go Eat Give is hosting Destination Trinidad at Tassa Roti Shop in metro Atlanta, where the public can witness live music, speakers and an authentic Trinidad buffet. For more information about this event, click here.

~ By Allie Williams, a recent graduate of the University of Georgia. Allie explores her passion for food, travel, and learning about different cultures though her internship with Go Eat Give.

Go Eat Give hosts Destination Nepal in Atlanta

As a part of its focus on raising cultural awareness, Go Eat Give hosted its monthly Destination Dinner on Saturday, June 14 at Himalayan Spice Restaurant and Bar in Atlanta, GA, showcasing the country of Nepal.

The first hour or so of the event found the 60 or so participants either mingling or watching the World Cup at the cash bar. From there they moved into the dining room where they sat at two long, family style tables. The food was served from a buffet that sat just outside of the dining room.

go eat give nepal

Appetizer included aloo jeera (potatoes with cumin seed), chicken choila (grilled chicken marinated with Nepalese spices and garnished with onions, ginger, garlic, and cilantro), and plain bara, which is a bread-like patty made with ground black lentil beans. The main dishes consisted of chicken korma (curry made with yogurt, cream, and coconut milk), dal tadka (a curry like dish made with red lentils and tempered with aromatic spices), and chau chau (Nepalese style stir fried noodles). Accompaniments included Basmati rice, Indian-style naan, and mo mos (steamed dumplings stuffed with with either vegetables or chicken). For dessert, a traditional Indian gulab jamun (fried, round doughnuts soaked in sugar syrup) was served.

nepali food chau chau

In addition to a delicious array of Nepalese food, the event also included several speakers and two dance performances. Two of the speakers, Sanjeeb Sapkota and Shailendra Bajracharya, were from the Nepalese Association in Southeast America, or NASeA. NASeA is an organization that aims to promote Nepalese culture and values in the Southeast, both for those who are from Nepal and others. The speakers informed guests about the warm, happy disposition of Nepali people despite the immense poverty that plagues the country. They also spoke of the fact that 8 of the top 10 highest peaks in the world are located in Nepal, as well as it being birthplace of Lord Buddha. While there are many fascinating facts about Nepal, the stories of its people interested me the most.

sugam pokhrel speaks at Go Eat Give Destination Nepal

Keynote speaker Sugam Pokharel, Nepali native and producer at CNN International and soon to be CNN’s New Delhi Bureau Producer discussed the issue of kidney trafficking in Nepal. He stated that due to their poverty and lack of education, many Nepalese are duped into giving away their kidneys either by bribery or by being lied to. They have no bargaining power, and often times do not know that they are having an operation to remove their kidney until after the fact. He showed a trailer for a documentary he produced on the subject, which will be released by CNN International on June 27. Pokharel also spoke about CNN’s Freedom Project, a campaign to end modern day slavery.

Rashmi Kharel one legged dancer

Entertainment for the evening included two performances of traditional Nepalese folk dancing. First was Rashmi Kharel, an inspiring woman visiting from Nepal. Kahrel lost one of her legs at the age of 9 after she was hit by a bus while she was playing outside her house. After years of being told she would amount to nothing due to her disability, she was able to realize her dream of becoming a dancer and today travels all over the world to perform. Wearing a traditional Nepalese outfit, she awed the crowd with her performance. I was struck by how easily she gyrated her hips to traditional folk music. Even if she had both of her legs, I don’t think I would have been able to tell the difference. She really is an inspiring example of what it means to persevere and follow your dreams.

nepali dancers Atlanta

Second performance was by a group of three Nepali teenage girls. Also adorned in traditional Nepalese outfits, they moved their hands and feet to a slightly slower traditional Nepalese folk dance. Although their dance was not flawless, their nervous smiles and the sidelong glances they exchanged throughout made the entire performance extremely adorable to watch.

Overall, the event was a great exposure to Nepali culture. The food was delicious and made me want to come back and try everything on the menu. The speakers and the performances gave me insight into the people and current issues they face. If I had to pick one thing I touched me most, it would be that despite suffering from immense poverty and exploitation, the people of Nepal are a kind, joyous group that I think anyone would love to experience firsthand. While I may not be able to visit Nepal in the near future, Go Eat Give’s Destination Nepal event successfully transported me into the small country nestled in the Himalayas, even if for an evening.

To see more pictures from the event, visit Go Eat Give’s Facebook page.

~ By Allie Williams, intern at Go Eat Give.

Destination Gaylord Opryland

Until a few weeks ago, I had not even heard of the Gaylord Opryland in Nashville, TN. The Gaylord Opryland is much more than a resort and convention center, it is an experience. When I arrived there, I had mixed feelings –  it looked like a tropical rain forest, had the creativity of Las Vegas, and the inclusiveness of a cruise ship.

Stepping into the palatial lobby embodied with giant glass sculptures and dazzling ceilings, gave you the impression of stepping into the Bellagio. As porters hauled luggage to one of the 2,880 guestrooms, you found yourself wandering the nine acres of botanical gardens and cascading waterfalls under the 15 story high glass atrium.

The interior of the resort is home to over 50,000 tropical plants maintained at 72 F year round. There is also a quarter mile long indoor river where you can go for a boat ride and tour the property. The guide will make sure to point out the fruit trees and give you some education about the plants. In the evenings, watch the water fountains dance to a sound and light show at the Delta Atrium. Being home to country music, there are live performance and entertainment daily.

Besides the overall architectural marvel, there are also the restaurants, spa, pools and boutiques to enjoy at the resort. Strolling along the shops at the Magnolia pavilion feels like you have stepped into a piazza in Florence. The two stories building have Italian look and feel while the flooring is of cobblestone. Again, this reminded me a lot of the shops in the Venetian and Bellagio in Vegas. The boutiques carried souvenirs, sundries and unique art and gift items.

A number of dining options are presented to you at the hotel itself. There are 20 restaurants that offer everything from British pub (which includes Indian), Italian, Mexican, sushi and contemporary fast food to an upscale Steakhouse. The food is prepared by some of the best chef’s in the country and the service is exceptional. Most employees at the Gaylord Opryland have long tenures so you can tell they are truly passionate about their work.

The little ones would particularly enjoy the special activities organized just for them. Besides learning about the plants and walking through the waterfalls, they can also sneak into Shrek’s den and hang out with the characters from the movies, Kung Fu Panda, Madagascar and Shrek. At Christmas time, the property converts itself into a wonderland with 2 million lights and many festivities.

Whether you are looking for a romantic weekend getaway or an adventure for the entire family, the Gaylord Opryland is not just a place to stay, it is a destination like no other.