edge

​Smells like Trini Spirit

Photographs courtesy Mark Lyndersay

Picture courtesy Mark Lyndersay

My name is Josanne Look Yee and I have the nicest-smelling store in Town.

I am from Palmiste, San Fernando, a great place to grow up, serene and green. It’s safe now and, back then, it was even more safe. A Westmoorings of the South: yes, it’s posh but, more than that, it’s very beautiful with lots of parks and natural spaces and you can go walking. x

It was just my mom, my dad and me, growing up. I’m an only child but not a lonely child. It allowed me to develop a lot of independence. I think I found ways to occupy myself.

In a month or two, if all goes well, I’ll have my very first child, a girl and I’m very much looking forward to her. My boyfriend and I are having this baby as a couple. So far, my pregnancy has been such a beautiful experience, I can easily see myself going through it again. Of course, I haven’t done the hard part yet!

I love to visit Tobago. My boyfriend is from Tobago.

I always had my eye set on working in Port of Spain so, when I finished university for the third time – clearly, I was a good student – I got a job, first in Valsayn and then Port of Spain itself. I moved north and never moved back! I went to Aranguez in around 2010 – it’s the North, even if it’s not the West – and have lived in St James, Curepe before settling in Fort George. The view is magical. Waking up and seeing the sea is good for the soul.

I won a scholarship to do math at UWI St Augustine. Thereafter, I went to McMaster University in Ontario, where I did a BA in religious studies. Which is what led me to my current vocation. When I came back from Canada, I taught math at secondary school for a few years before I moved north and started my best-smelling store in Town five years ago.

My religious studies degree was more like a comparative religions course than a theological one. I learned about Eastern religions primarily but spent a lot of time studying Christianity. I myself was raised Anglican, a very tolerant faith.

Being Trinidadian didn’t lead me to being spiritual but it gave me a sense of open-mindedness that allowed me to embrace different religions. When I went to study religion, I was one of a few people in the class who knew about Divali, Eid-ul-fitur, Phagwah, everything.

Anglicanism didn’t satisfy my curiosity about what happened after death. Nor did Catholicism, or Presbyterianism, and I went to a Presbyterian high school! Nobody else but those who follow the Christian path would find themselves in “Heaven”. Which meant we were excluding a billion Chinese, a billion Indians – and that just can’t be right! I found myself drawn more to Eastern religions. [In] Hinduism, Buddhism and the various strains in-between, I have found the answers I was looking for. I don’t need to look any more.

My study of religions has strengthened my faith in God immensely. I believe God has the power to intervene but, a lot of the times, we find ourselves in situations, sometimes good, sometimes bad, that are due to our own decisions. I believe more in the law of karma than God intervening to save ourselves. What sits well with me is not defined by any religious umbrella. I try to live by a moral compass. I try to do what is right, correct, just.

I take a lot from Eastern religions but I have no qualms about eating meat at this point in time. I eat everything. I won’t eat snake, horse and alligator – but nothing wrong with ‘gouti and tattoo!

I go to all places of worship, temple, mosque, church when I [can], but I don’t believe you have to go to a particular place on a particular day and wear particular clothes to practise your spirituality. I use the word “spirituality” not “religion” because my belief doesn’t fit into any one category. It’s a hybrid of many things. Through the filter of my own morality, I take a little bit of truth from each religion because it feels right to me – and THAT is my belief system.

Not judging others is very important to me. If this is the way you do it and we can help you, great! If not, I’ll send you somewhere that can.

It is because I feel so strongly about my individual way of practising spirituality that I was led to my store. I needed that space and I know now, five years in, many people need that space. People of every imaginable religious background visit us, including the ones that shouldn’t, according to their own religion. And they find comfort, relief or an answer when they come.

Picture courtesy Mark LyndersayMy store sells incense, sage, crystals, essential oils, wood chimes, books, the full works. A lot of it comes across as “Eastern” to those of us in the West not very familiar with these things but things like crystals have been around for thousands of years. Nowadays you get more crystal use in the East but, starting with the explosion of yoga in the West, it’s becoming more popular.

My store smells as good as it does because of the combination of incense, essential oils and candles. I enjoy combining different scents. It lifts my spirits and, anything that makes me feel good, can’t be bad! Not anything illicit, though!

Before I got pregnant, I enjoyed a glass of wine from time-to-time, but not drinking has not derailed me for the last nine months. I’m not going to pretend, though: once everything goes well with baby and breastfeeding, I’m looking forward to that glass of wine!

I love soca so much and I’ve always been the biggest Machel Montano fan – so imagine my joy when his family began visiting my store! I’m always telling his mom and his girlfriend, “Bring him!” I hope, when he reads this, he comes.

I couldn’t play mas this year with my big belly but I’ve played mas with Poison, Bliss, Tribe, Island People. I have never played in San Fernando, strangely enough.

I love music and I love food. Food Network is my favourite channel. The passion shines through when you’re creating something, like music or food; and, since I can’t create music, I create food. I love to feed my loved ones.

The best thing about having the best-smelling store in Town is probably the same thing you’d hear from any business owner, no matter how their store smelled: you’re working for yourself. Calling your own shots, dictating your own hours. Although you have an obligation to your customers, you can craft the experience you offer based on what you like and believe. You don’t have those terms dictated to you by a boss.

The bad thing about having the best-smelling store is that you’re the boss and the buck stops with you. Sweeping the floor every morning. Staying at the store until midnight for a week straight, unpacking stock. Responsibility.

The numbers show crime has escalated but I don’t feel particularly unsafe in Trinidad. I’m fortunate not to have been personally touched by crime. I’m very impressed with our new Commissioner of Police. I hope he continues to do the fantastic job he is in a safe way and there is no blowback for him. I don’t agree with every single thing he and his “administration” have done but, overall, they’ve really put a pin to stem the tide. Maybe things will start to get better.

My father tells me I should look at migrating. He is a very serious business person and understands, perhaps more than I do, the real implications of what’s happening in Trinidad. Maybe it’s blind faith but I feel things will get better. I love Trinidad and can’t imagine not being here on a permanent basis.

Speaking as someone in the metaphysical industry, I can tell you there is actually an energy that flows through our islands, Trinidad AND Tobago. That energy is not something I’ve picked up anywhere else. And it’s not just the land, it’s also the people. The way life goes on here is something I genuinely love.

To me, a Trini is somebody who loves their belly and their music. A Trini will never pass up on a curry or a pelau. And can’t hear soca and not bust a little wine. Trinis have rhythm and passion and our love for both comes out most clearly in our food and our music.

For me, Trinidad & Tobago means “home”. It’s by no means perfect but it is unique. Nowhere else is like Trinidad. Luckily, I’ve been to a few places and have lived in a First World country but, no matter how convenient life might be, it could never compare to Trinidad. I don’t think I could replicate my love for Trinidad & Tobago anywhere else.

​Smells like Trini Spirit

Photographs courtesy Mark Lyndersay

Picture courtesy Mark Lyndersay

My name is Josanne Look Yee and I have the nicest-smelling store in Town.

I am from Palmiste, San Fernando, a great place to grow up, serene and green. It’s safe now and, back then, it was even more safe. A Westmoorings of the South: yes, it’s posh but, more than that, it’s very beautiful with lots of parks and natural spaces and you can go walking. x

It was just my mom, my dad and me, growing up. I’m an only child but not a lonely child. It allowed me to develop a lot of independence. I think I found ways to occupy myself.

In a month or two, if all goes well, I’ll have my very first child, a girl and I’m very much looking forward to her. My boyfriend and I are having this baby as a couple. So far, my pregnancy has been such a beautiful experience, I can easily see myself going through it again. Of course, I haven’t done the hard part yet!

I love to visit Tobago. My boyfriend is from Tobago.

I always had my eye set on working in Port of Spain so, when I finished university for the third time – clearly, I was a good student – I got a job, first in Valsayn and then Port of Spain itself. I moved north and never moved back! I went to Aranguez in around 2010 – it’s the North, even if it’s not the West – and have lived in St James, Curepe before settling in Fort George. The view is magical. Waking up and seeing the sea is good for the soul.

I won a scholarship to do math at UWI St Augustine. Thereafter, I went to McMaster University in Ontario, where I did a BA in religious studies. Which is what led me to my current vocation. When I came back from Canada, I taught math at secondary school for a few years before I moved north and started my best-smelling store in Town five years ago.

My religious studies degree was more like a comparative religions course than a theological one. I learned about Eastern religions primarily but spent a lot of time studying Christianity. I myself was raised Anglican, a very tolerant faith.

Being Trinidadian didn’t lead me to being spiritual but it gave me a sense of open-mindedness that allowed me to embrace different religions. When I went to study religion, I was one of a few people in the class who knew about Divali, Eid-ul-fitur, Phagwah, everything.

Anglicanism didn’t satisfy my curiosity about what happened after death. Nor did Catholicism, or Presbyterianism, and I went to a Presbyterian high school! Nobody else but those who follow the Christian path would find themselves in “Heaven”. Which meant we were excluding a billion Chinese, a billion Indians – and that just can’t be right! I found myself drawn more to Eastern religions. [In] Hinduism, Buddhism and the various strains in-between, I have found the answers I was looking for. I don’t need to look any more.

My study of religions has strengthened my faith in God immensely. I believe God has the power to intervene but, a lot of the times, we find ourselves in situations, sometimes good, sometimes bad, that are due to our own decisions. I believe more in the law of karma than God intervening to save ourselves. What sits well with me is not defined by any religious umbrella. I try to live by a moral compass. I try to do what is right, correct, just.

I take a lot from Eastern religions but I have no qualms about eating meat at this point in time. I eat everything. I won’t eat snake, horse and alligator – but nothing wrong with ‘gouti and tattoo!

I go to all places of worship, temple, mosque, church when I [can], but I don’t believe you have to go to a particular place on a particular day and wear particular clothes to practise your spirituality. I use the word “spirituality” not “religion” because my belief doesn’t fit into any one category. It’s a hybrid of many things. Through the filter of my own morality, I take a little bit of truth from each religion because it feels right to me – and THAT is my belief system.

Not judging others is very important to me. If this is the way you do it and we can help you, great! If not, I’ll send you somewhere that can.

It is because I feel so strongly about my individual way of practising spirituality that I was led to my store. I needed that space and I know now, five years in, many people need that space. People of every imaginable religious background visit us, including the ones that shouldn’t, according to their own religion. And they find comfort, relief or an answer when they come.

Picture courtesy Mark LyndersayMy store sells incense, sage, crystals, essential oils, wood chimes, books, the full works. A lot of it comes across as “Eastern” to those of us in the West not very familiar with these things but things like crystals have been around for thousands of years. Nowadays you get more crystal use in the East but, starting with the explosion of yoga in the West, it’s becoming more popular.

My store smells as good as it does because of the combination of incense, essential oils and candles. I enjoy combining different scents. It lifts my spirits and, anything that makes me feel good, can’t be bad! Not anything illicit, though!

Before I got pregnant, I enjoyed a glass of wine from time-to-time, but not drinking has not derailed me for the last nine months. I’m not going to pretend, though: once everything goes well with baby and breastfeeding, I’m looking forward to that glass of wine!

I love soca so much and I’ve always been the biggest Machel Montano fan – so imagine my joy when his family began visiting my store! I’m always telling his mom and his girlfriend, “Bring him!” I hope, when he reads this, he comes.

I couldn’t play mas this year with my big belly but I’ve played mas with Poison, Bliss, Tribe, Island People. I have never played in San Fernando, strangely enough.

I love music and I love food. Food Network is my favourite channel. The passion shines through when you’re creating something, like music or food; and, since I can’t create music, I create food. I love to feed my loved ones.

The best thing about having the best-smelling store in Town is probably the same thing you’d hear from any business owner, no matter how their store smelled: you’re working for yourself. Calling your own shots, dictating your own hours. Although you have an obligation to your customers, you can craft the experience you offer based on what you like and believe. You don’t have those terms dictated to you by a boss.

The bad thing about having the best-smelling store is that you’re the boss and the buck stops with you. Sweeping the floor every morning. Staying at the store until midnight for a week straight, unpacking stock. Responsibility.

The numbers show crime has escalated but I don’t feel particularly unsafe in Trinidad. I’m fortunate not to have been personally touched by crime. I’m very impressed with our new Commissioner of Police. I hope he continues to do the fantastic job he is in a safe way and there is no blowback for him. I don’t agree with every single thing he and his “administration” have done but, overall, they’ve really put a pin to stem the tide. Maybe things will start to get better.

My father tells me I should look at migrating. He is a very serious business person and understands, perhaps more than I do, the real implications of what’s happening in Trinidad. Maybe it’s blind faith but I feel things will get better. I love Trinidad and can’t imagine not being here on a permanent basis.

Speaking as someone in the metaphysical industry, I can tell you there is actually an energy that flows through our islands, Trinidad AND Tobago. That energy is not something I’ve picked up anywhere else. And it’s not just the land, it’s also the people. The way life goes on here is something I genuinely love.

To me, a Trini is somebody who loves their belly and their music. A Trini will never pass up on a curry or a pelau. And can’t hear soca and not bust a little wine. Trinis have rhythm and passion and our love for both comes out most clearly in our food and our music.

For me, Trinidad & Tobago means “home”. It’s by no means perfect but it is unique. Nowhere else is like Trinidad. Luckily, I’ve been to a few places and have lived in a First World country but, no matter how convenient life might be, it could never compare to Trinidad. I don’t think I could replicate my love for Trinidad & Tobago anywhere else.