The first thing I knew as I walk onto the Toyota compound at Barataria is that there is bake and shark to be had; anyone with a nose would know it immediately. It isn’t the famous Maracas variety which scores of families who have opted to spend the day at the beach will be enjoying this Easter.
But the many families who have chosen to spend this Easter Monday at Toyota’s 2nd Annual Earth Day will, I felt sure, not have any complaints. It smells good.
Not prepared to drag myself out of bed so early on this holiday morning, I arrive at the compound just after 10 am. I have missed out on the excitement of the 5K road race and the competitive bike ride that take the cyclists to San Fernando and the runners through the streets of Barataria before both sets make a dash for the finish lines.
But I am in time to catch the Environmental Expo, the Earth Day’s real main event. Still trying my best to get into the swing of things, I literally bump into a buoyant, bubbly young lady who happens to be a Toyota employee.
“Earth Day is all about making people aware of the environment,” she explains, when I pop the question, “and letting them know how to live within the environment with other people, animals and Nature itself.”
I am tempted to ask about sharks but I instinctively decide not to follow my instinct.
I may have missed the cycling but I have not missed the recycling; a big SWMCOL sign graces the first of the many booths on which my eye falls. Between it and the adjoining tent, a large crowd mills around, doing nothing in particular, merely collecting, it seems, posters and pamphlets and other paraphernalia which, I suppose, they propose to put to proper use.
Suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere, a piece entitled “Protect the Earth and Preserve our Environment” pops up and grabs my attention. I realize that the adjacent booth showcases the excellent artwork of environmentally savvy primary school students who have laboured to produce eloquent pieces for today’s exhibition.
The serious-faced judges are at work; you’d be forgiven for thinking they are a court visiting a crime scene. I just about manage to squeeze myself under the tent to escape the blistering heat and get a close-up view of the pieces myself. I’m impressed enough to get out my phone so I can take a quick snapshot or two.
Emergency. Change of plan.
“I am sorry but I really don’t like snakes that much,” I hear the lady standing next to me muttering to her companion. I look around. She is referring to the reptile slithering down a warm, caring arm in the neighbouring tent.
I am not too partial to cold-blooded creatures myself but I am not going to share that secret with a stranger. She and I are clearly in the minority; you can tell by the size of the crowd around this snake and his massive, yellow reptilian friend is massive compared to SWMCOL’s.
The folks at the El Socorro Centre for a Wildlife Conservation have set up a petting zoo where the centre of attraction is a “tamed” anaconda. The zoo boasts monkeys, parrots, turtles and other animals as well but Mister Snake is king; the throngs of patrons can’t get enough of his majesty.
It seems everyone inside Toyota’s parking lot except my new found friend and me wants to have their photo taken with the serpentine creature. In hushed tones beside us, a young brother and sister discuss the possibility of posing for a photo with His Royal Highness but neither seems quite brave enough to step up into the spotlight.
Inspired by my reptilian friend, I slither away from the petting zoo to take a look at what else the booths have to offer. Following my nose, I come across the Suite Scents tent which has attracted a bevy of beautiful ladies.
The booth, featuring soaps and lotions handcrafted by Malissa Francis-Ramlal, has products that live up to the Suite name. Everyone, including me, wants a sample although, given a choice, I’d settle for being as popular with the ladies as is Suite Scents.
As I seek refuge from the sun under another tent, the announcer begins to belt out the results of the morning’s competitive races. Among those in winners’ row are former Olympic cyclist Gene Samuel, the male 45-and-over winner; Livan Reyes and Wendy Darbassie, male and female 5K winners respectively and Michael Anthony and Sabrina Aboud, the respective male and female competitive ride winners.
I hang around making light conversation with passing acquaintances and perfect strangers and enjoying Toyota’s hospitality until the booth owners begin to clear their tents. I have to go home but I cannot help noticing that the bake and shark man still has not put his fire out.
And incredibly, though it’s already hours later, he hasn’t stopped smelling up the parking lot.