20 Things I Learned from My Spring Vacation to Trinidad and Tobago

All I have to say is that this trip was more than a vacation but a spiritual awakening.

We had the best time truly appreciating the opposite of living in New York City. I love my city as mentioned in Rant II. However, I also love Trinidad.

So what else did I learn from my trip:

  1. You can go to the top of the mountain…twice.
  2. Dogs like to bark in unison a whole lot.
  3. Dogs also like to lay down in the middle of the road regardless of the time of day.
  4. Trinidad is a major melting pot of Indians, Chinese, Spanish, African, Indigenous, and European just to name a few.
  5. A dead poisonous snake is scary especially when you watch in horror as you cousin kills it with a cement block.
  6. We should never complain about the condition of our roadways.
  7. Chinese and KFC are popular fast food options.
  8. The East Indian Caribbean Museum offers the best history and articfacts of the South East Asians who arrived in Trinidad in 1845.
  9. If you visit your cousin’s temple and ashram deep in the forest, don’t wear a sleeveless dress and don’t forget your OFF!
  10. It is possible to see a mandhir (Hindu temple), a mosque, churches of Anglican, Catholic and Presbyterian faiths and a Kingdom Hall within one mile.
  11. If you feed a chicken that doesn’t belong to you, it does.
  12. Going to the beach trumps everything.
  13. “Depression Ahead” has nothing to do with being sad or poor.
  14. It is simultaneously incredibly difficult and incredibly easy to miss the ferry from Tobago.
  15. CP time is real (that’s Caribbean People time)
  16. Not all holy men started that way.
  17. You can eat fruits off a tree without worry of pesticides.
  18. The 1.5 mile walk to school and the 1.5 mile walk back home is real. We did the walk my father did to school. I broke a sweat. 
  19. I come from strong stock and deep roots.
  20. Spending time with my dad is priceless.

Sheryl Leaves at 5:30 and So Do I!

I came across this article hanging on the bulletin board in my office cafekitchenluncharea: Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg Leaves at 5:30. Should You?

I have always been a proponent of going to work and leaving at the end of the assigned work day. Granted there have been past jobs where I stayed late or worked through lunch. I did what I had to do to be a team player. However, I had a huge aha moment right before I transitioned to my current position. If I continued working like that and not setting boundaries, I was going to get sick and get burnt…again. It also didn’t allow me to have separation from work because I never ever fully decompressed when I left work. I think I spent a decade working and doing theater which totalled about 70 hours a week. It was nuts. Lots to be grateful for because I was able to learn and achieve some goals but exhausting.

When I started working at my current firm a little over a year ago, I vowed not to put myself in that position again. I vowed to take my lunch hour, find a way to be most efficient with my time, and know that when I left at 5:30, the work day was done. Fast forward to now, I am so glad that I made those decisions. I have come to realize that I have two careers and the two balance each other out: I need one to keep me from living in a cardboard box and to give me structure; I need the other to allow me to be creative and a free spirit.

A few blogs ago, I wrote about time and I now have realization about why we shouldn’t just focus on one thing at all times… we are unable to be grateful for what we have because we are stuck in the same place. I can honestly say that I have found the most gratitude in my life once I made these subtle adjustments.

Does that mean I don’t care about my job? Not at all. It just doesn’t define me.

And scene.

Rant II: What Do You Mean By What Am I?

I have been asked for as long as I can remember, “What are you?” or “Where are you from?” So for my whole life I have had to take a moment to decipher the question or just answer the question. When asked what am I, I usually push the person to be clear. When asked where I’m from the answer is very automatic. I am from New York. Oh, but that’s not usually a good enough answer for the interviewer. “Oh, no, no! WHERE are you from?” Hmm. New York? That’s where I was born and raised. That’s what I identify myself  first. That’s so part of my DNA. I also follow it up with what they really want to know. What people are really asking me is, “What is your ethnicity?”

My answer is “Well, I’m Indian, Spanish, Portuguese, and French.” That doesn’t satisfy them. So I tell them that my family is from Trinidad (where I’ll be in a week! Woot!). Well, why did I even say that! Because I have always always gotten this response, as recent as Friday…”But you don’t look Trinidadian!”

Oh my goodness. What does that even mean? What is it you want to know? Do I have to give you a lesson on the colonization and enslavement of the people of the Caribbean? Okay well, I’m not going to. Wiki Trinidad and Tobago and you’ll get a lesson or read The History of Trinidad and Tobago by Eric Williams.

I just find it irritating that I am questioned about my true self. Someone said to me the other day that I am passing as a Trini. Passing? Really. I am proud New Yorker who is fortunate to grow up in a city with diversity. I am also proud Trini who can tell you the history of the twin islands and promote its tourism (really, you should visit because it’s not as expensive as the other islands). I am also a proud descendant of the many cultures who make me who I am. I embrace my Catholic and Hindu upbringing. I enjoy Indian dancing and soca and merengue (and hip-hop and headbanging). I love that I can appreciate roti and curry chicken, arroz con gandules, and macaroni pie on one plate. I have a shalwar and those who know me know I love a scarf.

For the last decade I have now had to explain the McDonald portion of my name. That just brings a whole new set of confusing information to the person interested in me. A woman said to Ian and me that she never saw a couple like us. Really? We live in New York City. Interracial couples and families a go-go. We are both products of interracial couples. Just because Ian is caucasian doesn’t mean he doesn’t have roots. He is of Irish, Sicilian and German descent and all three of those cultures are proudly represented by him. His German grandmother’makes a kick ass stuffed cabbage, his Sicilian-German mother can cook just about anything and his Irish grandmother makes a wonderful plum pudding. People have told us to our faces that he isn’t really Irish because he was born here… *sigh* His Irish grandmother wouldn’t appreciate that.

I know that I am stuck with this until I die. I just want to be accepted for me and not pigeon-holed by my ethnicity. Not fitting in feels awful by itself. When you add the snarky and, at most times, insensitive question, it feels like I am not who I thought I am. Granted that lasts a moment but  still. Stop being obtuse.

And no, we are not going to have children for the sake of seeing what they would look like! Yes, I have gotten that question too. That’s another blog.

I want to take a DNA test so I can find out my percentages. I know that I am made up of more than what I listed and I love that.

My name is Malini Singh McDonald. I am a tough New Yorker with Trinidadian sass. Two snaps and a whine.

Thoughts become things… choose the good ones!®

This is my thought from the universe today. As you know, I live by this and many of my thoughts and dreams have come true. Here’s one of my favorites:

In 1997, Ian and I met during a production of Cyrano de Bergerac. We were young actors who just wanted to do theatre. We connected on the idea of doing Shakespeare in the parks just for the sake of the art. Every day we looked out our window at the square sitting on the edge of Forest Park and wondered if it will ever come to fruition. So fast forward to 2010 when synergy brought together like-minded artists and our dream came true. Much Ado About Nothing was performed in 5 parks in 5 boroughs. It took 13 years but we never let go of the idea. We do not plan to as we are bringing Twelfth Night to the masses this summer. 

Thoughts do become things. Think it. Believe it. Write it down. RIGHT NOW!

Black Henna is currently accepting headshots and resumes for consideration.