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GETTY IMAGES October - December 2008 lime 33 Life's a beach. A fisherman prepares his nets on the famous sands of Maracas

Oropouche Tortuga Santa Cruz Carrera Diego Martin St Clair CarenagePetit Valley l PORT OF SPAIN St AugustineArouca Tacarigua Caroni Mon Plaisir ChaguanasEnterprise Montrose Carapichaima Mac Bean Couva Caroni Swamp Montserrat Mt Harris Biche Cushe Plum Mitan Poole Lower Manzanilla Navet Tabaquite TRINIDAD Guanapo Arima Cumaca Redhead Rampanalgas Salybia Matura Cumuto Sangre Grande CheeyonCaigual Manzanilla Valencia Matelot Grande RiviereL'anse Noire San SouciToco Rio Claro California St Julien Ecclesville Tableland Claxton Bay Poole Point Radix Mayaro St Margaret Guayaguayara Princes Town Reform Gasparillo Cipero Pluck San Fernando BarrackporePreau Woodlands Debe La Romain Penal La Brea Basse Terre Moruga La Lune Siparia Morne Diable Fyzabad Los Bajos San Francique Palo Seco Granville Chatham North Point Fortin Chatham Cap- de- ville Buenos BonasseAyres Fullerton Icacos St Mary's Irois GETTY IMAGES ISLAND PROFILE 34 lime October - December 2008 l Language English is the main language, but a dialect heavy in slang and idiosyncratic phrases ( in the rural south especially) can make for amusingly challenging communication. It is rattled out like gunfire and the only pauses for breath are taken just before the storyteller passes out. My first Trinidadian social evening was a " boys" lime at a friend's house and I spent the evening in total bemusement. A dozen guys were parked round a table eating curried duck, drinking beer, playing All Fours ( cards) and intermittently laughing uproariously. One man after another would issue a cascade of indeterminable jabbering accompanied by flamboyant hand gestures ending in what must have been a punchline and the table would erupt. I sat dumbstruck, grinning inanely like a perplexed Tony Blair. ' Hey, wha happen, yuh don't like meh jokes?' said my neighbour, poking me in the ribs. My reply – " I don't understand a word you're saying" – caused as much amusement as the previous gag. l History & Demographics ' Melting- pot' is an overworked term but there is no better description of Trinidadian society. Trinidad & Tobago was under foreign influence from its ' discovery' by Christopher Columbus in 1498 until its independence from British rule in 1962. Shaped by this colonial past, the largest population sectors, approximately 43% each, come from those of African and Indian descent who historically worked the sugar, cocoa and coffee plantations. Additionally, there are significant populations of Chinese, Syrians, Portuguese, Venezuelans, Americans, British and other Europeans, as well as descendants of the original Amerindian inhabitants. Perhaps because of this long- established diversity, Trinidadians are refreshingly un- PC on matters of race and religion. You simply are what you are, be it white, black, brown or whatever. If you are Chinese you're automatically nicknamed " Chinee Boy", if Rastafarian, you're " Ras"; if you have mixed African and Indian parentage you're a " Dougla". Good news for women of more ample proportions as well – forget that latest fad diet, Trini men are partial to " meat on de bone". I was behind a customer ordering KFC recently and as he leaned lasciviously over the counter, with the spirit of Barry White coursing through his veins, I heard him growl his order at the voluminously- dimensioned waitress. " Eh, gimme a nice big bit ah thigh, jus' like yours." Instead of larruping him across the face with a sexual harassment suit the girl simply giggled demurely, or as demurely as a 127kg girl can giggle, and tottered off to select the Colonel's finest for the man with the silver tongue. l Economy Trinidad is unique amongst Caribbean nations in that its fabulous oil and natural gas riches ( it is the USA's largest single natural gas supplier) have led to large- scale, and ongoing, industrialisation. The fossil fuel industry's tremendous wealth generation has stimulated many other economic and governmental sectors to such a degree that Trinidad is pushing for developed nation status by 2020. With expanding conference facilities and hotel capacity ( newly- established are the Hyatt Regency, Cara Suites, Trincity Holiday Inn Express and Carlton Savannah) Trinidad is positioning itself to become the regional business hub. In many ways it already is. Located perfectly, geographically, between South America and the rest of the Caribbean, with gateways to the US and Europe, and a sound financial infrastructure and governance, Trinidad & Tobago is an increasingly attractive proposition to foreign investors. This economic vigour also means tourism is not as important, and consequently not as openly feted, in Trinidad as in the rest of the Caribbean; leaving the visitor with an agreeably honest and untainted view of the nation. Trinidad factfile Area 12,504 sq miles ( 4828 sq km) Capital Port of Spain Country dialing code 868 Languages English, Hindi, Creole, Spanish Money Trinidad & Tobago dollar ( TT$); TTD10 = US$ 1.60 Population 1.3 million Busines hours Generally 0800- 1600 / 1630hrs Official time Atlantic Standard Time ( 4hrs behind GMT) Departure Tax Included in the cost of your air fare. World Heritage. Trinidad's historic buildings form part of the fabric of life ll