My name is Darius Carmino and my five-month-old son, Luka, has not met his grandmother yet, because I’ve been stuck in Gainesville, Florida, since lockdown.
There’s this TV show, “Locked Up Abroad”. But my wife, Andrea, and I have been joking that we’re locked OUT abroad!
I’m a Diego Martin man, through-and-through, from up Richplain Road. I live in Maraval now but I categorise it as “Diego Martin East”.
Richplain Road was perhaps not one of the nicest neighbourhoods in the world but it was real community. Of the 14 houses in our cul-de-sac, Unity Gardens, 12 of them had children. Everybody was by everybody, all the children, all the time. You left the house when you woke up and your parents didn’t see you until it was almost time to go to sleep. And, even then, we used to push the envelope.
The school I identify with will always be Fatima College, which we very proud Fatima Old Boys always refer to as, “the premier scholastic institution on the island”. Fatima is in my DNA. My father had seven brothers and five went to Fatima, like him, and Daddy taught there for ten years, too. I’m a second-generation Fatima boy. I’m hoping my son will become a third-generation one.
Andrea had a lifelong secret I broadcast at our wedding. Anybody who knows me knows I’ve had the same pillow since I was four years old. It goes EVERYWHERE with me. I have it in Florida right now. I couldn’t believe Andrea also had “her pillow”. In all my years of dating, I never met a woman who had a pillow since she was four! That was it. Pillow talk for sure.
Technically, Luka is our second child. We did have a daughter, Zoë Marley — Is This Love was a wedding song — but, unfortunately, that resulted in a stillbirth seven months along.
I have “Zoë” in a heart tattooed on my forearm. That tragedy brought us closer together as a couple. When she got pregnant this time around, we came to the States [in case we needed the emergency medical care].
I settled Andrea with her grandmother in January, did the first doctor’s visits, and went home. I came back to Florida on 18 March. I came up the Wednesday and Luka was born the Friday. And the lockdown in Trinidad happened on Sunday.
My fear before leaving home was that Trump was going to lock down borders in the US! He’d already locked out China and Europe. But the lockdown in Trinidad was a shocker. I work with the company that provides meals to Caribbean Airlines flights leaving Trinidad and I had no warning that ports would be closed.
The whole country was in upheaval, even KFC closed. Even doubles, an essential service, was shut down.
We know we’re in a very fortunate position, relatively. We have our own space by Andrea’s grandmother. We’re with family. We’ve kept our jobs.
But how would YOU like to be a houseguest for five months? Would you even want to HAVE a houseguest in your space for five months?
Other headaches come: our length of stay granted in the US has expired. We had to apply for an extension, US$445 each, that we had to just shell out. We’re not even sure it will be granted. Covid response time is delayed. Will we be allowed to enter the States again? Will we get that officer who will say, no, you guys overstayed your visa last time?
A friend in Florida was repatriated from Spain. I’m happy to pay our way back. Our biggest grouse is, we don’t hear anything from the government! Nothing, since the generic response to our email requesting repatriation. Even if they said, listen, we want to have everybody home by 15 November, we’re doing two flights a week, it’s a phased process, this is your application number, whatever. But there’s nothing! The silence is deafening.
I just want us to be back in our little apartment in Maraval. However humble it might be, home is home.
I was getting so angry at so many people who were saying, “Well, who send them? They had a right to find they way home!” People TRIED to get home but there’s only so much you can do! Nobody arranged flights at our disposal! We were just told, stay safe.
My credit card is expiring in October. What happens to us after that? How are we supposed to “stay safe”?
Things could be much worse.
But things could very easily be much better.
All of us in this position feel like Tom Hanks in Terminal.
I’ve never been political. I’ll work with whichever government is elected. But it’s very disheartening to feel so completely disregarded. I feel abandoned and alone as a citizen. I feel like I’ve been kicked out of the Trinidad & Tobago family.
When I think of a Trini, I think of someone loyal to his country. At one time, every Trini who went away took a Carib towel, a Carib opener, a Carib rag. I have a Carib crown cork tattooed on my arm, for goodness sake! It was more of a Trini identifier than the coat of arms. So I am a very proud Trini. But I didn’t just feel embarrassed by all this: I felt ashamed of the government’s inaction.
How could people on Facebook be more helpful than the Trinidad & Tobago government?
The government is finally thinking about us. And it only took five months! Geezanages!
Friends and family back home have been amazing. People asking, are you okay for funds? You need us to water your plants?
“Trini to the Bone” means many different things to many different Trinis — but it’s still a very personal feeling to each person. You have the proverbial fun, the liming, the way a Trini makes everybody family anywhere they are in the world. So a Trini, to me, is family.
Trinidad & Tobago, to me, is a panyard and I’ve never once felt at risk in a panyard; in particular, All Stars. In a panyard, everybody comes together for the joy and the music. You have rich, poor, black, white, Chinee, Syrian, pimps, hustlers and bourgeoise in a melting pot. Nobody is above anybody else. And the only “elite” are the players and the conductor.