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I am number four
My name is Miss Eileen Collette and I sell bene balls at ANR Robinson Airport, Tobago. Collette could be a French name. I not sure. I’m from Plymouth, Tobago. I attended Plymouth Anglican School and I did the first-ever Common Entrance examination in 1962. And went to Bishops’. My mother and father had six girls. Watson from Plymouth. I am number four. I have a half-brother but it’s nice being all-girls. We lived in harmony. If my father bought one cake, that cake shared for all six. If we had one mango, everybody had a slice. I was like the tomboy.
I had four children, three boys and one girl. Well, the third boy, he was a fireman and he got shot and killed in Trinidad in 2008. That was my baby son. I got him when I was in teacher training. The loss of my son was very, very hard. Sometime, I don’t want to ever think about it. He just left on a 12-something flight and went to Trinidad and by five o’clock, I heard the news that they found two bodies in Aranguez. It didn’t dawn on me that one could have been my son. It has given me a good blow. To hear the news and, a few hours after, realise it was one of yours. I still haven’t gotten over it yet. They say time heals but, eh-eh-eh! Every time I see his picture in the frame…He was just getting promoted in the Fire Service. Just trying to build. It hard. Other than that, it’s okay.
I have six grandchildren. Grandparent work is nice. I was a teacher for 38 years. I retired as an acting vice-principal of a Pentecostal high school. I love Tobago Channel 5, everything ‘bout Tobago, but, other than that, I don’t watch TV. If I want to relax, I go to church. Or on a trip somewhere. I’m Pentecostal, but there’s a Baptist church right by me. I grow up in the Baptist church with both my mother and father, so I attend the church right next door. I was a PE teacher so I’m into sports. That’s where I belong: the sporting arena. I travelled to BVI, St Kitts-Nevis. I got to Carifta [Games] with the senior team. I just came back from Guyana and Jamaica. With the CUT, I go with the athletes as chaperon, but with Carifta, I go as camp follower.
I don’t play table tennis but I’m the secretary of the Tobago table tennis zone. I have never gone for a visa to go to the US. When it was free, I never went; now you have to pay, I tell myself, “I don’t have to go to the States!” My daughter-in-law, my eldest son’ wife, she makes the goods. But, as I’m home relaxing, I usually come down and help out. I don’t go to the airport to sell every day. Once there is enough goods, I go. Once I’m free. Because I’m a person all over the globe. With sports! I set up the stall myself, unless it’s a big load, when my daughter-in-law would help set up. We sell bene balls, bene sticks, bene squares and other things. Everything is $8 per bag. I’ve never tried to make bene balls. My daughter-in-law could talk about the making. I just come and sell.
People usually come and buy bene balls to take back to Trinidad or wherever. We just sit here and wait for them. At a certain time, you pack up and go back home and come another day with the things to sell again. If you lucky, you will sell out all you have in one day. But not if you have plenty. The best part about the selling is you see people you haven’t seen for a long time. They come and tell you, I didn’t know you were here!” And they chat with you. And you see people going other places in the world and they tell you ‘bout that. The bad part of the job is when the airport is empty and people not coming. You just sit and wait for people to come. And they don’t come. And then you go.
The only thing is they have pitched some of the back roads. Other than that, nothing much has changed in Tobago since I was a girl. I worked in Trinidad for ten years and things are cheaper and transportation costs are much lower. But there’s no place like home. I was in Trinidad last week. I got stranded going down the Butler Highway. The traffic from Grand Bazaar to Chaguanas was a mess, because of the paving. And, coming back up, the rain came down. Flood.
A Tobagonian is somebody down-to-earth. They in the grass roots. You don’t have to be born in Tobago to be Tobagonian, but the culture might be different. Trinidad and Tobago is a country where everybody should live together as one. No scepticism. But, with the situation now, Tobagonians might be sceptical welcoming a Trini. You don’t know who could be bandit.
Read a longer version of this feature at www.BCRaw.com
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