First world habits, third world country

In ten days I will be moving back to Trinidad for at least three months, and probably quite a lot longer.

I am totally unprepared.

First, the basics. I won’t have an apartment of my own (and will be living with one parent or another, which is a regression on all sorts of levels). I won’t have have a car (and since I never quite mastered the art of Trinidadian public transportation, this is a scene). I won’t have reliable access to a high-speed internet connection (which I need for work to survive).

If I were moving to London, to New York, even to Hong Kong – I would know what to do. I’d be able to find an apartment with just a bit of legwork, a couple of phone calls and the good old interweb. I wouldn’t need – or want – a car, because I could avail myself of trains, trams, buses, ferries or taxis. Broadband would be a fact of life, not an expensive and hard-to-find luxury.

I would know how things worked – bills, taxes, banking. And if I didn’t know, I could find out – with a bit of legwork, a couple of phone calls and the good old interweb. I wouldn’t need to “know someone on the inside”. I wouldn’t need to slip a crisp bill or two to a surly public servant in order to get my driver’s license renewed without enduring three days of lining up.

Eventually, of course, I will figure all of this out. And learn to live with it. The problem, at this point, is that I wish I didn’t have to.

Yes, I am spoilt. I am one of those people. But there is no economic reason for Trinidad’s infrastructure to be in such total disrepair. For public services to be so inefficient. For the private sector to be so reluctant to embrace the fundamentals of customer service.

For us to be stuck in a third world way of doing things even as we adopt all the first world trappings – flashy cars, expensive restaurants, wine bars, and soaring, soul-less skyscrapers.

We need to forget Vision 2020. We need vision right now.


  • Joe

    Well, just do go then.

  • Joe

    Well, just do go then.

  • Unprepared is the word, things certainly aren’t self-evident, this is not a society in which it is “easy” to strike out on your own… but people do it, and I sit back in bemused amazement because I wouldn’t know where to begin if I were in their shoes.

    YOU will need a car, I cannot see that working out any other way given your location, the alternatives aren’t pretty. The apartment is easier, but look to spend $3-$5K per month for something well-situated and livable.

    Banking, a joke. I can’t even get a CHECKING account and I’ve been here over a year (not to mention the fact having such accounts in other countries is totally irrelevant to local institutions). Credit cards? HA. Personal tax filings, payments, and refunds? Have an accountant on speed-dial.

    I won’t go on, at least I have Flow in my area, better count my blessings.

  • Unprepared is the word, things certainly aren’t self-evident, this is not a society in which it is “easy” to strike out on your own… but people do it, and I sit back in bemused amazement because I wouldn’t know where to begin if I were in their shoes.

    YOU will need a car, I cannot see that working out any other way given your location, the alternatives aren’t pretty. The apartment is easier, but look to spend $3-$5K per month for something well-situated and livable.

    Banking, a joke. I can’t even get a CHECKING account and I’ve been here over a year (not to mention the fact having such accounts in other countries is totally irrelevant to local institutions). Credit cards? HA. Personal tax filings, payments, and refunds? Have an accountant on speed-dial.

    I won’t go on, at least I have Flow in my area, better count my blessings.