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Chief Jazelle Relives the Carnival Experience of a Lifetime

(Interview has been slightly edited for length.)

Take us back all the way back to beginning-starting from when you landed in Trinidad.  How was everything- was it everything you thought it was going to be?

Yes, it was everything I thought it was going to be and a little more.  Landing was hilarious-I landed late. My flight was delayed like 8.5 hours – I got picked up, and was changing my clothes in the car to immediately head to my first fete.  I was literally straight off the jumbo jet. It was amazing, and beautiful- that fete was AM Beach, and it was one of the best ones. When I got there, the sun was coming up and we are  on the beach, and Trinidad is very mountainous, I’ve always loved mountains, and I was just struck by how beautiful it was. I felt so grateful-and that was a theme throughout the whole trip.  It made me emotional at times, it kept me in a good mood even when I was tired.

We talked about self care and preservation in our first conversation-how did you make adjustments when things didn’t go as expected?   As a self described introvert, how did you find time to regroup and recharge with all the sensory experiences of food, music, fetes, etc.  

It was two things- just giving myself that time.  I’m a night person, so I would take time to do what I needed to do so I would have less to do in the morning.  A couple of times, I would just go out on the patio with tea by myself and do some writing-I did some journaling while I was there.  The level of adrenaline I had was beyond anything I had before, so I was able to feed off the crowd and energy. Any time I didn’t feel as engaged, I would just take a walk and regroup, go sit out in the cool out van, or get another drink and regroup.

Can you talk a little about the cultural aspects-seeing the Camboulay Riots for the first time and how it felt being in Trinidad after hearing so much from your family and friends?

I was excited we made time to see the Camoboulay Riots.  I really appreciated being there and seeing how important that is to people.  It takes place at four in the morning and people got up and made time to do that.  People go to the re-enactments every year, and I really appreciated that people do that.  I also didn’t feel that was a separation between Trinibagians and tourists. You could tell who was who, but it wasn’t like a big separation. Everybody was together.

Can you talk about being there with Soka Tribe and what that meant to you?

This was my first Soka Tribe trip and it was amazing.  I couldn’t put this trip together any better than it was.  I was with the perfect people and I really feel it was divine intervention on that part.  First of all, Soka Tribe is the livest group of people wherever we go. Like we go to a fete, and we are either going to join the party where everyone is having a great time or we are going to become the focal point of the party.  We’re very visible- I don’t even think it’s intentional- we just feed off each other’s energy and we’re all on the same wavelength. Our vibes match with each other and we just shell it!

As everything was wrapping up on Carnival Tuesday, can you tell us how you felt being on the road for the grand finale?

I’m going to answer your question on a practical level and emotional level.  On a practical level, I felt really good, we all looked amazing. I decided to be a daredevil Monday and Tuesday and wear wedge sneakers.  My feet were not happy about it and on Tuesday morning, I randomly lost one of my insoles. I went out with one instep and it kept sliding down, so I tossed it.  My feet were hurting but it wasn’t like I couldn’t walk. I wasn’t very hungry and I was worried about that, because I need calories, right? I was drinking Gatorade like a football player, and I finally understood why Gatorade is a thing.  I had a really good time on a practical level.

On an emotional level, I felt like I was home.  For me in my life, having a sense of joy, satisfaction, and enjoyment is important to me and something I cultivate in my everyday life. And Carnival and being in Trinidad showed me that it’s in my blood and it’s not just me.  I felt so peaceful and and at home. It’s [Carnival] not just some event that we are doing-this is a way of life and part of our identity. I cried twice on the road to Savannah Grass-it says everything to me and captures all the experiences.

Now that you’ve done it and are back home, would you change any of the advice that you had for us in our first conversation?

I think there are a few things I learned that I didn’t know before.  My advice stays the same but I would add to it. I wouldn’t have gotten a pedicure before I left-I absolutely destroyed my pedi before Carnival.  I should have just done it on Carnival Sunday. Go to Maracas-it was worth it. Definitely think about bags and how you want to carry your belongings.  I had fanny packs and I had a wristlet, which I used on Carnival Tuesday. I don’t like using a fanny pack when I’m going in a neighborhood or off the beaten path because I don’t want to be out of place.  Sunblock– Black people burn, ok?

Are you planning to do it again next year?

I would love to.  I completely understand why people are carnival chasers and have to do it every year.

How do you plan on dealing with post Carnival Tabanca?

I don’t know! Carnival is a moment that you wish could last forever.

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