The people and random events that shape our lives (Part 5)

In 4th year I applied for a scholarship to take a post-graduate degree and got it. However, after some thought, I realized that if I continued going to school I would become even more of a social misfit than I already was so in the end I turned the scholarship down and joined Canadian University Services Overseas (CUSO) instead. I was slated to teach high school Math and Physics at the public high school in Arima, Trinidad. A 6-weeks teaching and orientation course was given by previous CUSO volunteers at St Francis Xavier University in Nova Scotia.

The teaching course was mostly in the morning so we often went to the beach in the afternoon. The St Francis brothers were very nice and drove us around Cape Breton Island on one of the weekends. Towards the end of the course some of the students put on a play. It was somewhat risqué and one of the brothers was sitting in the front row looking very sober. I was waiting for him to shut the whole thing down when another brother came along and carried him away. Apparently he wasn’t sober after all.

We flew out of Halifax and had another short orientation for all the Caribbean volunteers in Jamaica. We stayed at the university in Kingston and on the weekend four of us rented a car and drove around the island. In those days there were no hotels on Negril beach – one of the prettiest beaches on the island; there were just a few fishing shacks. We went for a swim and had the entire beach to ourselves. We didn’t have much money so the intention was to sleep on a beach near Montego Bay but when we stopped for dinner at the “Canucks” Hotel, the owner heard about the plan and let us stay there almost for free.

Next stop was Port of Spain, Trinidad – another short orientation for volunteers slated for Trinidad. In the evenings, the representative from the Department of Education took us around to the savanah to try some of things the street vendors were selling like rum and coconut water (bring your own rum), and raw oysters. Another stop was a pan yard where about a hundred steel band players were playing classical music. Finally the orientation was over and the volunteers were left to find their own way to their destinations. I hopped on a bus with my suitcase and stopped off at Green Street in Arima.

I was boarding with Mrs Barnes on Green Street. A few doors down was the Hop Wo Steam Laundry. Prior to leaving Canada I had planned to take up tennis and Raymond Choo Kong of the Hop Wo Steam Laundry was the best tennis player in the area. Someone introduced me to him and eventually I ended up marrying his sister, Marilyn Choo Kong.

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