​Soy a bean & garden worker

Picture courtesy Mark Lyndersay

Picture courtesy Mark LyndersayMy name is Joanna Greenidge-Ayers and I am a landscaper.

I was born in Santa Cruz and raised on a farm. In 2011, I got married to Sean Matthew Ayers and moved to Freeport. I met Sean when I was 17. We don’t have any kids as yet but I’d like them pretty soon. I wanted house, marriage, car, my own good job… and then child. Thank God, I’ve achieved it, thus far, in order at age 34.

I didn’t play cricket with [Santa Cruz’s most famous son, cricketer] Brian Lara – but he could identify me! In primary school, I was the best bowler on the girls’ team. When Brian visited the Brian Lara Grounds I was on television welcoming him! I have been a big supporter of Brian Lara. But I don’t do his garden. Maybe not as yet. I work for his family.

I attended La Pastora Government Primary School and then San Juan Senior Comprehensive.I got up to diploma level at Omardeen’s School of Accounting. I worked in both Receivables and Payables [departments] at WASA. I left that to do landscaping.

Moving into landscaping from accounting was a positive move in many ways. Health-wise, I’m not stressed out any more. I’m working one-on-one with [Mother]Nature.I enjoy the fresh air, I get fruits.

Having to work for the Government, the conflict/contention with plenty women in an office – that is totally different to waking up every morning and dealing only with nature and peace and quiet. People pay you for your ideas to beautify their home and that feeling is TOTALLY different to going and doing the same thing every day, among conflict.

I started doing landscaping as a sideline. In Santa Cruz, I had the space to grow plants for sale. People used to call my home, “the Botanical Gardens”. A guy from Tidco used to bring tourists to my home in Santa Cruz to see my garden. Moving to Freeport was like moving to a concrete jungle.

If you’re always open to criticisms, you’ll always do a better job.

Presently, I have eight workers and I know what every one of them is really good at. If I’m going to a different job, I know who I will take with me. They all have their own trades, besides landscaping.

I employ people from Venezuela. I wish I could get more! The amount of work and commitment you get from a Venezuelan worker compared to a Trinidadian worker, if I could have afford it, I would go straight for Venezuelans. But we have to pay, we have to get their papers, and then they have to give us back the service. Not that I don’t support my own, but our people have this attitude. They don’t look at it like they need the job; they act like I need them. They’re not humble, they’re not grateful.

If I only say I’m feeling ill, my Venezuelan workers will say, “Boss, Boss, rest!” Sometimes they boof me: why you climbing the tree and I am here? I tell them what I want done, they work until they finish – and then they come and ask, “What again I could do?”

I’ve seen Trinidadians treat Venezuelans like slaves. Really, really bad.

I do everything my service does, from planting lawn to climbing trees. Cutting, trimming trees, putting your Santa in your tree for you at Christmas. Pressure-wash your roof and all.

The most negative thing about my work is when we have too much rain but we still have to work through it. You get ill sometimes and, some days, you’re really tired, but you still have to get up and go. You tell yourself, “The money can’t pay for this!”

Some workers feel you have it easier as the boss but it’s actually harder being the boss! If they don’t come out, you still have to ensure the job is completed – by yourself!

I don’t have to do anything to relax because my job is relaxing. If my husband and I get in an argument, I pick up my whacker and go to work. And, while I’m outside, smelling the fresh-cut lawn, everything playing back in my head, I’m on a neutral ground. I can go back to my husband and talk.

My job is like my freedom but my vacation is Tobago. In Trinidad, my getaway is Las Cuevas.

My pets are three bubble-belly goldfish named Bubble-Belly, Bubbles and Fishy. I had a dog once and I told him this person was getting me upset and then, every time the person passed by, he would bark. So he would sell me out. The person would know I had a problem with them. So I stick with my goldfish.

For some reason, when I tell my fish my problems, they come up to the glass and they listen. They don’t complain like my husband. They don’t argue, they don’t tell anybody my business and they give me their full attention. And all I have to do is feed them!

I speak broken-Spanish, CXC Spanish to my workers, although I did Spanish twice and only got two fours. My workers ask if I paid to learn Spanish, they find I speak it so well. They call me to ask me to do transactions for them.

Before I got married, I told my husband, all I want after a hard day’s work when I come home is my guy, with his little kitchen towel on his shoulder, his little apron in front and a nice plate of food with smoke going up on the table! I can cook very well but I prefer to work direct in the sun than to stand up in that heat. So I don’t like the kitchen and I don’t like ironing. But I think I’m a good wife, minus that part.

My husband is an excellent cook. If he wasn’t, I might have hired someone to cook by now, or asked for a divorce. Two things I like: my bed and my belly. He does lots of lovely dishes but, if he upsets me and then cooks his mean fried fish, potato pie, baked beans and green salad, I’ll smile.

I work for some of the top people to the most less-fortunate, from someone who pays $50 to someone who pays $5,000 to maintain their place. I treat everybody the same but some people do tend to target me because they see I work for people of an upper class.

A lot of Trinidadians don’t want to work. It may not be what you want or like to do but there is something for you to do. But they prefer to rob and kill and that’s the only thing that hurts me in my country.

For the youths out there who finish school and don’t know where they’re going, just remember: my first job was in Mario’s Pizza. I moved on to HR in Coca-Cola, to accounting for the Government in WASA, to cutting, cleaning and maintaining people’s lawn as a landscaper. Today, I am proud because I LEGALLY make money doing what I love to do. You could do it, too! That’s my word to the youths and to anyone who feels they don’t have a space here.

I love my country and home but I wish we didn’t reach this level with the crime. Yes, it’s a bit scary to be outside every day.

A Trini is anybody born in Trinidad, grow up, love, care and respect the country, the people and their neighbours. By doing a simple thing, as cleaning your own place, you have shown respect to yourself, your neighbourhood, your environment and Trinidad at large. Saving a tree, planting a tree, sharing and caring. If you were born outside but you came here and showed that love and care, you would be an adopted Trini!

You need to eat doubles to be a real Trini. Just as you want KFC and TGI Friday’s!

Trinidad & Tobago means home to me. I partake in some things – Carnival and so – but not every event because, every year, things get a little worse, crime-wise.