Thursday, October 9, 2008

An interesting conversation

The 5 litres of coconut water I bought this morning
This morning I went to buy coconut water from the Indian man who sells from a truck outside the pet store along the Eastern Main Road, St. Augustine. He fills up a 5 litre bottle for $60 ... which sounds expensive, but is cheaper than it is in POS and other vendors I've tried ($80 for the same thing). Plus this man's coconuts taste better - water and jelly are consistently sweet.

Usually we just say hello and I ask him a few questions about coconuts - or he tells me things like "The water nuts last longer" and "When you storing your water in the fridge, loosen the cap a bit."

Today as he filled my bottle, I stood next to him eating the jelly nuts he was cutting open for me. They were extra sweet. When I was done and the bottle was full, I asked him: "How long have you been doing coconuts?"

"Forty years," he said proudly.


"I used to have donkey cart, you know." In those days he bought each coconut for seven cents and sold them at ten nuts for a dollar. Before that, in his father's day, a nut was even cheaper. His father would purchase coconuts at one cent each.

"I even in a history book, you know," he told me.

He couldn't remember the name of it. In fact, he didn't even know he was in a book (used in schools) until his daughter came one day and told him: "Daddy, you know you in my schoolbook?" ... and showed him.

"We have the book home," he said. "Is one day when a white woman run up to me, chase me down and ask to take my picture ... and then I end up in this book. Lots of people did take my picture, you know."

I asked him his name.

"Enal. E-n-a-l."

"And I'm Elspeth. Scottish for Elizabeth."

"You mean like Isabel?"

"No, just like Elspeth."

After a few attempts at pronouncing it, he got it.

He told me that he has worked hard all his life and that he always wanted his children to get a good education. "I didn't want my son to end up in coconut. He get a good education and a big job. My daughter too. Now she married and I have grandchildren."

He told me how he, with his coconuts, and his wife of 30 years, with her domestic work, had supported their little family.

"We do it together," he said proudly. "Two together does make the best one."

He had never been a party man and his wife, never a party woman. "Is hard work and then home every day to the family. And we is Christians. Jesus Christ." He then pulled out a pack of cigarettes. "This is my only vice."

"I used to smoke too, but I stopped seven years ago."

"I don't like to see woman smoke."

"Men too," I added.

"Men too," he agreed, pulling out a cigarette to light up. "But I feel we is human and God does let us have one vice which he does forgive us for. This is my vice. I ent never run down woman."

I found him simple, fascinating and inspiring: this unassuming man with his t-shirt and pants, missing teeth, one cloudy blue eye and little pick-up truck full of coconuts, standing patiently in the hot sun every day to earn a living and support his family.

I thanked him and we shook hands. As I turned to walk off, he blurted out: "And I could still climb coconut tree, you know!"


"And I is 55."

"Young," I said.

"And I still looking good for it!"


Kris Loya said...

this post have me smiling hard!
I just realised i never took steve to have a coconut but now the coconut men around the savannah have fancy cinderella coach things for their nuts. It is so not the same as the rustic donkey carts with old wood.
I really miss that. I know that tdc was trying to make the place look nice but they took away the charm of a savannah side coconut.....ok lemme stop ranting...dammit...

Anonymous said...

GOD, I miss Trinidad.

GirlBlue said...

You always meet and have the most interesting conversations Elspeth. Everyone just knows they could talk to you about anything.

Andreamuse said...

This is one of the things I miss about being in Trinidad and going about the town with you! You always run into these people and have fascinating conversations!

Anonymous said...

Trinidad must be fascinating.

Anonymous said...

"Two together does make the best one." I love this.
Now he is also on the internet.

Anonymous said...

reading this does bring a smile to yuh face.. I need to work on slowing down to have and enjoy these moments.

Anonymous said...


people think that's expensive? have they ever seen the cost of a 2L bottle in say...HiLo ;-)

I think I'll start prodding someone to fill our 5L bottle with coconut water instead of anything else...

Anonymous said...

Yes that is a nice idea but have you ever thought of going up to the biggest guy on the subway and telling him your thoughts on this. I wonder what he might do, or would you even do it.
Henry Pollick
wow gold