Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : January 9th 2014 Contents B4
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Thursday, January 9, 2014
The baby stops wailing,
momentarily. His mother, twice
the size of the father, rocks him
as gently as possible in her gar-
gantuan arms. Her vice-like grip
soothes him. The immigration
officer calls out a Chinese-sound-
ing name for the third time. Peo-
ple giggle. Eventually a Chinese
family decides it must be their
name and hurry forward, slightly
embarrassed. A young man with
tattoos speaks Spanish to his girl-
friend who drapes her arms
around his neck, visibly in love.
The gargantuan Guyanese
woman walks away. The baby
screams until she returns. The
wedding ring on her sausage-like
finger is basically a man s signet
ring. I look at her scrawny husband
and think of the Stabroek News
story about the 76-year-old
Guyanese granny who battered her
45-year-old boyfriend to death.
I continue guessing the nation-
alities around me. I love this game.
It s like a United Nations Guess
Who? Guyanese and Venezuelans
abound. I observe passports.
Republic of Ghana, Republic of
India. Eventually Germany then
USA. The big boys have arrived.
All, no doubt, have fascinating
stories. I wonder if they ever imag-
ined being immigrants. I never
did. Sitting here at the Immigra-
tion Department, it s the first time
I realise my status. In England I m
an emigrant. In Trinidad an immi-
grant. Both are politicised terms.
"Any idea how long the wait
will be?" I enquire. We ve been
here since 7 am. Two hours later
all we ve accomplished is handing
in our appointment letters.
"Take a seat, please," the officer
snaps, "I don t know how long
the wait is." I refrain from cussing.
A door slams and a Christmas
decoration drops to the floor.
Twelfth Night has passed, perhaps
it s an omen.
Oman? Roman? She sells Sey-
chelles? We ve all washed up on
the T&T shores. Like flotsam and
"Anne Frank!" an officer calls.
Surely not? A middle-aged black
woman stands up. The officer
repeats it to make sure: "Anne
Theresa Frank?" The woman nods.
Muhammed Ali is called next.
A Syrian, not the erstwhile Cas-
sius. Later I Google the name and
find there is a Muhammed Ali in
Trinidad on LinkedIn.
Portraits of Carmona and Aunty
Kamla gaze down over the latest
Signs say Please Do Not Stand
In The Corridor and No Hats
Allowed In The Waiting Area. But
people are standing in the corri-
dors. And wearing hats. Whoever
printed those signs must be
apoplectic with rage. I picture
them in a back office screaming
at the CCTV monitor.
A woman with a T-shirt saying
"I Feel Sorry For People Who
Don t Know Me," falls asleep on
the shoulder of the stranger next
to her. For a country that doesn t
get irony, ironic T-shirts are sur-
A Malaysian man makes notes
in a study book about molecular
biology. Not all immigrants are
needy and destitute. Many are
here because the country needs
them. The health and media
industries need CSME skilled
Three hours pass and very little
happens. I have no WiFi or 3G. I
begin drafting this column on my
phone. This is the modern world
that I ve learned about.
The torpor briefly lifts when
Bunji Garlin walks in. People mur-
mur excitedly but respect his pri-
vacy. Just one autograph request.
He waits in line like the rest of us.
Five hours in the excitement has
well and truly worn off. Bunji left
ages ago. I haven t eaten and my
bladder is about to burst. I don t
want to leave my spot in case they
call my name and I miss it. An
American woman hands out lol-
lipops to children as rewards for
patience. One hundred and 35
people have arrived according to
the ticketing system but we 7 am
folk are still here, questioning the
system, if there is one at all.
I ask an officer but he has no
time to explain.
"Do you have an appointment
today?" he barks.
"Then wait to be called."
After seven hours I am called.
Once in the room the woman
stamps my passport and tells me
how I could have avoided all this
at the airport. I scream internal-
ly.Later my landlord gives me sage
advice, "In Trinidad, never hustle
officials. You ll wait longer. If you
get through, eventually, that s the
main thing, don t watch how long
I think of the young Don Cor-
leone arriving in New York in The
Godfather Part II and in my head
I hatch a plan to etch something
on the Port-of-Spain lighthouse:
"Give me your tired, your poor,
your huddled masses yearning to
breathe free, the wretched refuse
of your teeming shore. Send these,
the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden
Give me your tired, your
poor, your huddled masses
A breath-taking view of Maracas Valley, St Joseph, as seen from Acono. PHOTO: EDISON BOODOOSINGH
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