What is "tabanca"?
It has officially been a month since I played mass in Trinidad and I was warned about experiencing “tabanca”. Some of you may be asking what the hell is “tabanca”? Is it a noun, a verb, or an adjective? And some of you may be all too familiar with it. Some might call tabanca the West Indian equivalent to being lovesick. But, in my case tabanca has absolutely nothing to do with a man and absolutely everything to do with Trinidad Carnival!
Where do I even begin when it comes to the topic of Trinidad’s Carnival? Hmm let’s begin with #TrinidadIsn’tARealPlace
I should have known I would be in for surrealism at it’s finest when ASP Wayne Mystar stated during Trinidad and Tobago Police Service media briefing that “picking up things (and people) could result in a criminal offense.” But did we really need a media briefing on this? Apparently, we did! For those of you who aren’t Soca lovers, here is the tune that started this all.
Mr. Killa – “Run Wid It”
Yes, that’s right rum has encouraged party goers to pick up ANYTHING and RUN with it! Trini fun is another level of wild behavior and it is not for the faint of heart! With that being said, here are my Top 10 recommendations when playing mas in Trinidad.
1. Be prepare for NO SLEEP! Set one day, if you can, to catch up on sleep. If you’re not a “feteran” (partying vet) or a college student it will punch you in the face. We used our day off to get local cuisine and went to the beach.
2. Purchase all-inclusive tickets. The all-inclusive fetes were worth it especially if you drink. You are provided a reusable cup and It can be compared to bottomless brunches. Plus food is provided which you need to stay semi-sober.
3. Less is more because Trinidad is HOT! It’s like being on a rush hour subway car in the middle of July…not the best for you hair but you skin is dewy for the sweat haha. Wedges and cute sandals are your best friends because most of the parties are outdoors.
4. You can play mass without a costume. I paid for a front line costume and truly did not believe it was worth the price ($1,100) especially because of the issues we had at the distribution center and with the actual costume. I felt amazing though and I wish I took photos before playing mass.
5. Don’t walk with tons of cash. I walked with $200 US and used my card when I was able. EVERYONE will try to sell you their TTDs but it is not worth it. My friend and I did the conversions and gave the American equivalency. I did not want to have money was worth 6.8 to my 1 dollar. Make sure you break down your money with 10’s, 5’s, and single dollar bills.
6. Beware of hustlers. My friends and I felt like some one was trying to hustle us every day I was there. It may have been different if we had friends and family there but this feeling had me on high alert the majority of my stay. This trip was the first time I had ever change my flight to return home earlier than plan because I felt unsafe to stay by myself.
7. Wear COMFORTABLE shoes on the road. We walked 15 miles on both Monday and Tuesday. I wouldn’t claim to be athletic but I’m healthy enough to walk the distance. If you’re not trying to train before arriving in Trinidad. I placed insoles in my sneakers to make sure my feet weren’t crying early on. Regardless, they will be aching by the end of the day.
8. Listen to Soca jams of carnival season. You don’t necessarily need to know all soca songs, because you will hear the top 15 over and over. No seriously! And we all danced as if we didn’t just hear that song an hour ago.
9. Pay for the travel plan with your wireless company and bring at least two fully charged backup chargers and your own charging cable. (We helped a lost tourist with a dead cell and no free wifi to contact her group)
10. HAVE FUN, DRINK, AND DANCE YOUR BUTT OFF! Trinidad Carnival and J’ouvert is a judgement free zone. Wear what you want no matter your body shape, do what you want (pithing reason), and behave however you want! Make you you have bake and shark, roti, chow, and paella while in Trinidad. Ask for Peppa!