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October 5, 2022
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October 5, 2022

Pearl Parkway, my village in de ‘Vale’

By Matthew Woolford

A maxi taxi driver once told me that Diego Martin was a village and the East-West Corridor to Arima was ‘country’. This was his rationale for the migration of maxi-taxi drivers from the transportation sub-economy of Diego Martin to the more lucrative Priority Bus Route.

But according to the Igbo and Yoruba proverb, “It takes a whole village to raise a child.” Communities develop people; countries do not! And for the almost 19 years that I spent there, from the age of 17 ½ to just under 36 ½ years, Pearl Parkway, Diamond Vale, was my village.

When I arrived in the ‘Vale’, it was the first time I had ever seen a finished house with a flat concrete roof. Having a sidewalk in front of our new residence was also a bit of a culture shock.

My parents told us that the living space would be a lot smaller, and concessions shall have to be made, but what we lacked on the inside was more than made up for on the outside.

A deceptively large backyard and the red-bricked wall that help to enclose it gave my brother Aaron ample support in developing his lawn-tennis back hand. The yard also gave my youngest brother Timothy enough room to work on his small-goal football skills and allowed me space to practise karate, eventually leading to the establishment of a small but meaningful dojo.

Pearl Parkway connected us to Tiara Boulevard which led to the Wendy Fitzwilliam Boulevard. Along this stretch was the Diego Martin Community Pool, Tennis and Basketball Courts. Here Aaron developed his tennis skill and coaching practice.

This led to an enviable amateur career with impressive finishes in local tournaments as well as a regular spot on the University of the West Indies, St Augustine Inter-Campus Games Tennis Team.

It was also here that I learned to swim through the courses ran by the Ministry of Sport. And for a grand total of TT$2 plus VAT per hour, I was able to practise all the swimming strokes I knew at my own leisure.

At Richplain Corner was Tony’s Doubles. And every time I was late for Sunday Mass at 11 a.m. at Sacred Heart, it was because of these doubles.

More than the food and the recreation were the people. Not having a vehicle of our own, at least not for long, we were able to connect with our community by walking through it, giving ourselves an opportunity to be seen and engage in lively conversation.

Cyril Francois, on one of our many afternoon exchanges, shared with me that Pearl Parkway was once a cricket ground called ‘Pakistan’ and showed me the house upon which a tractor was hoisted to demonstrate the structural integrity of the work done by the Puerto Rican contractors, Homes International, on the Diamond Vale houses.

And strong homes produce strong families who eventually build stronger communities. This was most evident in the re-emergence of the Pearl Parkway Residents Association.

On one of our more recent undertakings for Mother’s Day 2022, a function was held at the Pearl Parkway Beautification Park on the Saturday evening before. There was food, games, and ample conversation, but the highlight of the evening, for me at least, was its ending.

The DJ was asked to take us home and he selected a classic in Lord Kitchener’s Sugar Bum Bum. At the refrain of ‘Audreyyy’, none other than ‘Granny’ Newton began the infectious dancing that had us all ‘playin mas’.

Her son, Mr George, grabbed a bottle and bottle-opener and got the rhythm section going. This was no surprise to me because ‘Granny’ Newton was 87 years young and intentionally happy.

Having already defeated cancer and so many obstacles along the way, she knew that life was sweet and a gift from God. She also understood and still personifies to this day that happiness is a personal choice that comes through self-acceptance.

Diamond Vale was an experience and an education that I will probably take with me everywhere. I miss it so much that I still find myself gravitating toward West Mall and PriceSmart, MovieTowne, Port of Spain when I want to do some shopping or am simply searching for a little bit of relaxation.

Mr Carmichael, a friend of the family, recently reminded me in jest that there is also a PriceSmart in Mausica, closer to where I now live.

But the Notorious BIG was right in his tribute song, Going Back to Cali. Not because I live in the East means that I cannot rest in the West. And every Sunday after church, I try to do some substantial resting in the West.

I don’t know why, and know many may not understand, but simply put, I just loved living in the West!