edge

​Glass-bottomed Downward Dog

Picture Courtesy Mark Lyndersay

Picture courtesy Mark LyndersayMy name is Angela Webster and I went to India, for three months, to train as a yoga instructor.

Rishikesh is the world capital of yoga schools. I figured, if I wanted to be a chef, I’d go to Paris, so…

I couldn’t really say where in Trinidad I’m “from” because I’m Colombian-born and adopted by Trinidadian parents. I grew up in South gut went to Maple Leaf International from age 11-17. Then hotel school, then UWI.

For as long as I can remember, I always wanted to meet an elephant. My elephant print, the first thing I bought in India, costed me 1,500 rupees, TT$150. Now when I go to the Indian expos in Trinidad, I’m like, “God, they’re so overpriced!” I could fly to India and ship it back for cheaper!

I understand more Spanish than I can speak. In Colombia, it’s easier because they speak a lot slower and their grammar is a lot better. The difference between Venezuelan Spanish and Colombian Spanish is like the difference between a Trinidadian speaking proper English and a Trini speaking slang.

I don’t think things happen by accident: they happen for a reason. If you learn from that “accident”, it’s a life experience. If something is finished, it means that it’s dead. And I’m alive so I’m obviously not complete and I am going to make mistakes. So I’m forever learning.

When I was 13, my mother found I had too much Maple Leaf lip. I took so much for granted! Like getting picked up and dropped to school from in front of my house. Always having whatever I needed. So my mother sent me to stay with our housekeeper, Sally, in Siparia. They didn’t even have a parking space. We had to park in a dirt trace and walk in on foot to a board house on stilts. They had just put in a toilet. They had four houses on one plot and only one house had a phone, near a window, so anyone who needed to make a call could do it from outside. It was the first time I used a latrine.

My mother told me, “You were not given up by your family to become a spoiled brat privileged trust fund kid.” She wanted me to understand the culture of the majority of Trinidadians, not the minority.

I told my mom I wanted to get a motorbike. She said, “Come, I have to take you somewhere.” I said, “Where?” She said, “Belgrove’s Funeral Home.” I said, “Why?” She said, “I want you to pick out your coffin. If you even date someone with a motorbike, I am not dealing with choosing your coffin!” That was the end of the motorbike talk.

Forget those videos of crazy, fast-moving Indian traffic. Vietnam is the scariest place I’ve ever been on the road. I could fall asleep in a taxi in India. Any form of transport in Vietnam is very scary.

My godmother in Colombia found my mother. My biolgogical father died two years after I was born.

For the past two years, I’ve been trying to find the word to describe the feeling of meeting my biological mother. There is no word. You feel detached and attached all at the same time. I was waiting for my mother to arrive and I stopped talking and said, “I smell my mother”. She had never held me. I had not been laid on her body because she haemorrhaged literally as I was born so they took her away to save her life. So it was odd but I really could smell her.

If you ever saw the movie, “Lion”, that scene where she meets her son shows what a mother goes through. She looked at me and didn’t see a grown young woman. She saw a freshly-born infant. She counted my fingers and took off my shoes to count my toes. Pulled at my ears, nose, lips; a little bit more and she would have put a pacifier in my mouth! She held on to me even when I wanted to go to the bathroom. I was like, “I’ve been doing this for myself for a while!” It felt like one of those pieces of domino artwork, and the last domino falls: it was a completion.

I went from having one brother, one nephew, one niece to having 14 nieces and nephews, two sisters, another brother. And a ridiculous amount of cousins.

I’ve seen drunken men at Carnival. You push them off and that’s the end of that. Men in India are different. On the flight from London to Delhi, these two Indian men were drunk. They were hammered. The English flight attendant refused to give them more. This man start to cuss. “You are the woman and will do what I say!” They had to bring two male flight attendants to deal with them. And I thought, “What the fuck am I really doing, boy?”

I’d been stared at by men before I got to India but this was totally different. They didn’t see me as a person at all, just an object. Their attitude is, females are there for one purpose. And they have no respect for you. They look straight into your eyes and you can SEE what they are thinking, you understand exactly what they want to do to you! It feels disgusting. To be taken out of your own without being physically touched. And you wave at them to stop and they just continue to stare at you. A Trini man will look away. No human emotion passes across an Indian man’s face but evil. For a complete stranger to have that kind of control over you is scary!

When you get out of the train in New Delhi metro, they have coloured lines on the platform that you follow where you need to go, like most countries. There was a pink line that was marked, “After you have been raped, follow this line for immediate assistance.” Not, “If”, you know, but, “After”. Not possibly. Certainly. Like, “It’s gonna happen.”

I chose to go to Rishikesh in 2015 because it is the yoga capital of the world. I returned just before Carnival 2016.

I was working at the [yoga- and New Age-friendly] Kariwak Village Hotel and I went out on a reef tour in Tobago with a friend who has a glass-bottomed boat. I realised I’d spent the day with him in his “office”. An English yoga teacher at Kariwak, Wenche Beard, told me I’d be a really good teacher. I thought about my friend’s glass-bottomed boat office. “I like doing yoga,” I thought, “I could go to work barefoot every day.”

My course was 200 hours long. You start at 5 o’clock in the morning, go all day, practice, breathing, meditation, until 8.30 at night. Six days a week for a month. Some teachers were real cool and hip and knew how to swing with the Westerners; but they have some that are very regimented.

The thing I love about doing yoga at Rishikesh is that I was able to find my own rhythm in teaching. Which allowed me to understand certain parts of myself – even if I didn’t want to. It teaches you that you can. Because you doubt yourself one minute and, the next, you do an amazing job. It teaches you that change is inevitable.

The bad thing about going to India was getting sick. About 20 of us in the class got the water parasite, giardia, from brushing our teeth using Indian water.

In India, they think the West Indies is a country. I gave up trying to explain Greater and Lesser Antilles. They hear, “West Indies” and they think, “Chris Gayle.” They know the West Indies is Chris Gayle’s country.

India breaks you. We all in the class had meltdowns at different times. One girl lost her mind on a bridge, fighting a monkey to get her cookies back. She was French. She’d just had enough. Sometimes it could take you a minute to cross a hanging bridge over the Ganga, sometimes it could take two hours, because of the wild monkeys. They can become aggressive if you look at them. The weirdest thing, some of them stare at you and then start masturbating. Meanwhile, there’s a cow standing in the middle of the bridge.

I have not one regret about doing my yoga course in India. I’m on my glass-bottomed boat now, nice and barefoot.

You can pick out the Trinis in a crowd but you can’t say what it is that stands out. It’s just a certain level of warmth, a certain aura that we all carry within us.

Trinidad & Tobago is sweet T&T to me, even if it’s not so sweet these days. People all over the world save all year to come and spend five days in the Caribbean. We live here.

​Glass-bottomed Downward Dog

Picture Courtesy Mark Lyndersay

Picture courtesy Mark LyndersayMy name is Angela Webster and I went to India, for three months, to train as a yoga instructor.

Rishikesh is the world capital of yoga schools. I figured, if I wanted to be a chef, I’d go to Paris, so…

I couldn’t really say where in Trinidad I’m “from” because I’m Colombian-born and adopted by Trinidadian parents. I grew up in South gut went to Maple Leaf International from age 11-17. Then hotel school, then UWI.

For as long as I can remember, I always wanted to meet an elephant. My elephant print, the first thing I bought in India, costed me 1,500 rupees, TT$150. Now when I go to the Indian expos in Trinidad, I’m like, “God, they’re so overpriced!” I could fly to India and ship it back for cheaper!

I understand more Spanish than I can speak. In Colombia, it’s easier because they speak a lot slower and their grammar is a lot better. The difference between Venezuelan Spanish and Colombian Spanish is like the difference between a Trinidadian speaking proper English and a Trini speaking slang.

I don’t think things happen by accident: they happen for a reason. If you learn from that “accident”, it’s a life experience. If something is finished, it means that it’s dead. And I’m alive so I’m obviously not complete and I am going to make mistakes. So I’m forever learning.

When I was 13, my mother found I had too much Maple Leaf lip. I took so much for granted! Like getting picked up and dropped to school from in front of my house. Always having whatever I needed. So my mother sent me to stay with our housekeeper, Sally, in Siparia. They didn’t even have a parking space. We had to park in a dirt trace and walk in on foot to a board house on stilts. They had just put in a toilet. They had four houses on one plot and only one house had a phone, near a window, so anyone who needed to make a call could do it from outside. It was the first time I used a latrine.

My mother told me, “You were not given up by your family to become a spoiled brat privileged trust fund kid.” She wanted me to understand the culture of the majority of Trinidadians, not the minority.

I told my mom I wanted to get a motorbike. She said, “Come, I have to take you somewhere.” I said, “Where?” She said, “Belgrove’s Funeral Home.” I said, “Why?” She said, “I want you to pick out your coffin. If you even date someone with a motorbike, I am not dealing with choosing your coffin!” That was the end of the motorbike talk.

Forget those videos of crazy, fast-moving Indian traffic. Vietnam is the scariest place I’ve ever been on the road. I could fall asleep in a taxi in India. Any form of transport in Vietnam is very scary.

My godmother in Colombia found my mother. My biolgogical father died two years after I was born.

For the past two years, I’ve been trying to find the word to describe the feeling of meeting my biological mother. There is no word. You feel detached and attached all at the same time. I was waiting for my mother to arrive and I stopped talking and said, “I smell my mother”. She had never held me. I had not been laid on her body because she haemorrhaged literally as I was born so they took her away to save her life. So it was odd but I really could smell her.

If you ever saw the movie, “Lion”, that scene where she meets her son shows what a mother goes through. She looked at me and didn’t see a grown young woman. She saw a freshly-born infant. She counted my fingers and took off my shoes to count my toes. Pulled at my ears, nose, lips; a little bit more and she would have put a pacifier in my mouth! She held on to me even when I wanted to go to the bathroom. I was like, “I’ve been doing this for myself for a while!” It felt like one of those pieces of domino artwork, and the last domino falls: it was a completion.

I went from having one brother, one nephew, one niece to having 14 nieces and nephews, two sisters, another brother. And a ridiculous amount of cousins.

I’ve seen drunken men at Carnival. You push them off and that’s the end of that. Men in India are different. On the flight from London to Delhi, these two Indian men were drunk. They were hammered. The English flight attendant refused to give them more. This man start to cuss. “You are the woman and will do what I say!” They had to bring two male flight attendants to deal with them. And I thought, “What the fuck am I really doing, boy?”

I’d been stared at by men before I got to India but this was totally different. They didn’t see me as a person at all, just an object. Their attitude is, females are there for one purpose. And they have no respect for you. They look straight into your eyes and you can SEE what they are thinking, you understand exactly what they want to do to you! It feels disgusting. To be taken out of your own without being physically touched. And you wave at them to stop and they just continue to stare at you. A Trini man will look away. No human emotion passes across an Indian man’s face but evil. For a complete stranger to have that kind of control over you is scary!

When you get out of the train in New Delhi metro, they have coloured lines on the platform that you follow where you need to go, like most countries. There was a pink line that was marked, “After you have been raped, follow this line for immediate assistance.” Not, “If”, you know, but, “After”. Not possibly. Certainly. Like, “It’s gonna happen.”

I chose to go to Rishikesh in 2015 because it is the yoga capital of the world. I returned just before Carnival 2016.

I was working at the [yoga- and New Age-friendly] Kariwak Village Hotel and I went out on a reef tour in Tobago with a friend who has a glass-bottomed boat. I realised I’d spent the day with him in his “office”. An English yoga teacher at Kariwak, Wenche Beard, told me I’d be a really good teacher. I thought about my friend’s glass-bottomed boat office. “I like doing yoga,” I thought, “I could go to work barefoot every day.”

My course was 200 hours long. You start at 5 o’clock in the morning, go all day, practice, breathing, meditation, until 8.30 at night. Six days a week for a month. Some teachers were real cool and hip and knew how to swing with the Westerners; but they have some that are very regimented.

The thing I love about doing yoga at Rishikesh is that I was able to find my own rhythm in teaching. Which allowed me to understand certain parts of myself – even if I didn’t want to. It teaches you that you can. Because you doubt yourself one minute and, the next, you do an amazing job. It teaches you that change is inevitable.

The bad thing about going to India was getting sick. About 20 of us in the class got the water parasite, giardia, from brushing our teeth using Indian water.

In India, they think the West Indies is a country. I gave up trying to explain Greater and Lesser Antilles. They hear, “West Indies” and they think, “Chris Gayle.” They know the West Indies is Chris Gayle’s country.

India breaks you. We all in the class had meltdowns at different times. One girl lost her mind on a bridge, fighting a monkey to get her cookies back. She was French. She’d just had enough. Sometimes it could take you a minute to cross a hanging bridge over the Ganga, sometimes it could take two hours, because of the wild monkeys. They can become aggressive if you look at them. The weirdest thing, some of them stare at you and then start masturbating. Meanwhile, there’s a cow standing in the middle of the bridge.

I have not one regret about doing my yoga course in India. I’m on my glass-bottomed boat now, nice and barefoot.

You can pick out the Trinis in a crowd but you can’t say what it is that stands out. It’s just a certain level of warmth, a certain aura that we all carry within us.

Trinidad & Tobago is sweet T&T to me, even if it’s not so sweet these days. People all over the world save all year to come and spend five days in the Caribbean. We live here.