Monday, November 22, 2010

#4 Bake N' Shark {10 things I want from Trinidad}

For Marva, my Trini fairy godmother

Firstly, I know nothing about bake n' shark, except that I will stretch my vegetarian-esque palette enough to try it—a local Trini dish comprised of fried shark meat between fried dough with sensational toppings—at least once. But, this post is actually about my Trini fairy godmother, Marva Telemaque (nee Morris), who was the first person to ever mention the words "bake n' shark" to me. In telling me about one of her homeland's classic culinary treats, she reactivated my already heightened fascination with all things Trinidadian. Even more, she watered the seeds of my Trinidad journey long before I knew it was going to grow.

I met Marva through divine intervention. 6 years ago, on my first day as a temp at the Grey Box, which many of you affectionately call, The Washington Post, I had a choice between working with the "Auto Advertising Service Team" or the "Jobs Advertising Service Team." I chose Jobs because at least I could look for other jobs while I worked. When I was escorted to my new section, Marva was the first person I met. I remember thinking, "Oh, I've definitely chosen the right place!" A bright, bubbly woman with locs just like mine greeted me with warm eyes and a big smile. Moments after introducing myself to everyone, Marva called me over to her desk. With the prerogative all mothers take with their children, she looked right through me and said in a bold, demanding way, "Chile, what are you doing here! You are not supposed to be pushing papers like this. Hurry up and get on with the dance!"

I was stunned, she'd just met me and confirmed what at the time I was not ready to embrace. I had just finished college, and felt pressured to "do something" with the degree. Of course, I couldn't tell you what or where I wanted to be. I knew I wanted to dance in some capacity, but did not possess the confidence to craft my journey. Looking back I see the synchronicity of wandering into Marva's section. Everyday for the 9 months I worked in the Grey Box, Marva asked me, "how's the dance?" or "what have you done for the dance today?" She held me accountable to my dreams, when they were rickety and fragile with fear, merely secrets sketched between the pages of my journals. Marva's love and faith nurtured my embryonic creative powers during a pivotal gestation period. There are times when we need someone else to be our dreams' advocate, and I am eternally grateful that Marva was so generous with her spirit.

Marva also shared her art with me. She wrote poems everyday about dance, her art, her children Charlene and Justin—the loves of her life, her prayers for humanity, her spiritual devotion. Marva, or Marva Maah! as I grew to call her, taught me the power of positive intention and how our thoughts and words set the path in motion. Oftentimes we would go to lunch together and she would tell me stories of her life, of Carnival, of her family in Trinidad, of her experience of the United States. She would paint glorious pictures of how one day, when she moved back home, and I was a world-famous dancer, I would be her guest while dancing in Trinidad. And we would go to the beach sometime, and get the bake n' shark, and then go dance to the steel pan band.

It is the ultimate irony that on the eve of my Trinidad journey, I have lost all contact with Marva. And so I write this with the prayer that someone will reconnect us very soon. Perhaps she is even already there in Trinidad and we will bump into each other on Maracas Beach, where bake n' shark apparently originated, and have our long overdue reunion. A few nights ago I had a dream that we found each other, so I figure that's a good sign. I will close out with Marva's classic mantra, very appropriate for all of us needing the extra push towards our dreams sometimes, and the reminder that we are the ones responsible for our happiness: "DOOOO YOOOO CHILE!"

Stay tuned to the JOYISM! blog for the complete series, "10 things I want from Trinidad." Also, I will be writing about my dance journeys in Trinidad and posting them to the JOYISM! blog. Subscribe to the blog, join JOYISM!'s mailing list, "like" JOYISM! on facebook--stay connected to the dance!

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