Faces of Pittsburgh

The ‘Trini’ Lifestyle

By AIMEE MORGAN 
acmst13@mail.rmu.edu

He has no shirt and no shoes. He begins to strum his guitar and sits down in front of the Bob Marley poster that covers his entire dining room wall. With a beaming smile and charming island accent, anyone feels warmly welcome in his presence, something that likely landed him his job at the Crowne Plaza in Moon Township, Pennsylvania.

25-year-old Jesse Boocock, a manager at the Crowne Plaza, will soon be leaving in one month to go back to his home of Maraval, Trinidad, just outside of Trinidad’s capital, Port of Spain.

“It was always the plan to move back home. I need to settle down-- you know I have been floating around since I was eighteen. I need to live somewhere and get a solid group of friends. Every time I leave and go back home, my group of friends is always rearranged,” said Jesse.

One of the friends he has made here in Moon Township describes Jesse’s character.

“He is a very entertaining, personable person. I guess where he’s from, they have a real kind of comradery with one another--close friendships are easily made. He is very easy going and easy to get along with. He’s just Jesse. He’s ‘Boocock!’” said Jonathan Munsick, a friend of three years.

Growing up, Jesse always felt like a privileged child in a country that was full of crime and corruption.

“I was actually one of the fortunate ones.  I think my circumstances aren’t the typical circumstance. I was born and raised in a very loving, supportive family.  We were very well off.  For the most part, we would be considered pretty rich in Trinidad. In the scheme of things--in the world, we were just well-off,” explained Jesse

According to Jesse, Trinidad consists of two islands, Trinidad and Tobago, that makeup one country. Trinidad is a big island that is a little more industrial.  All of the country’s economy is based in Trinidad, where they export a lot of oil.  Tobago is a touristy island that is a lot smaller.

“There is all the blue water and white sand, all the tourists go to Tobago. Its main thing is tourism,” Jesse noted.

But Tourism isn’t nearly as prominent on the island of Trinidad, mostly due to its escalating crime rates.

“It is a very poor country, or it used to be.  We actually have a lot of money, but there is a lot of corruption in the government so a lot of money doesn’t get to the poor people which causes a lot of crime,” he explained.

“ I’m not living in Trinidad. I only know what I read in the newspapers, and what I read in the newspapers is not always true. There has been crime in Trinidad as there has been crime everywhere in the world. I think part of the problem with Trinidad is where it’s located. It’s really South America and so for years you have the problem of drug trafficking,” explained another Trinidad native, Dr. Brenda Flanagan.

Flanagan was born in Trinidad and left at the age of nineteen to pursue an education in the United States, where she currently holds an endowed chair in the English Department at Davidson College in Davidson, North Carolina. She also frequently serves as a cultural ambassador for the US Department of State.

“There have been claims that people high up in the police and the government have been involved with [drug trafficking]. I cannot testify to that, but it’s obvious that drugs have taken its toll on many of the young people in the country,” said Flannagan. 

Jesse, in a glum tone, recalled hearing the news a few years ago that Trinidad had a crime rate higher than Jamaica.

  “I never thought I would see [it]. We only have 1.2 million people and close to four or five hundred murders a year.  Every day the newspapers are very depressing.  On the other side, nowhere is perfect.  It’s a beautiful, beautiful place. We have very outgoing, friendly people,” shared Jesse.

The Trinidad lifestyle in Jesse’s eyes is explained in his droll nature.

“We have a very, very lazy lifestyle, a very, very alcoholic lifestyle. It’s all drinking and partying. Everything is fun, fun, fun for the most part,” he said.

Although Jesse says he is a little different than most ‘Trinis’, this lifestyle did rub-off on him while attending University of West Florida in Pensacola, where he was on scholarship studying construction engineering technologies.

“I went there with a buddy of mine.  We were roommates freshman year. Everything went real good, I enjoyed it obviously. Freshman year of college, who doesn’t enjoy it? Then the second year came around and I started slacking off in my classes a little bit and then I decided I needed to get a little serious about school,” explained Jesse.

Though he did bring his grades up, Jesse was considered a part-time international student, which meant that his visa was voided. He was asked to return home to get his passport. With Jesse’s frustration budding, he gave up on trying to go back to school.

“Bad decision. I went back to Trinidad and tried to work.  Two years later I decided I needed to finish my education. I didn’t want to do a four-year school.  I felt like I was getting old and was just doing it for the sake of getting a degree,” he said.

He decided to go to Pittsburgh Technical Institute where he could earn a dual degree in business and architecture. Jesse just completed a semester at Westinghouse Nuclear Power Plant for his architecture internship.

“I was the gopher. They have all these bits and pieces of this ‘ginormous’ nuclear power plant. There was always a joint to be changed. I helped the senior drafters and engineers,” he said.

For his business internship, Jesse was trained for the current position he holds at Crowne Plaza.

“Business applies to all walks of life so I don’t regret all the work of getting both degrees,” he added.

With his willpower to succeed, Jesse is ready to go back to Trinidad to become as triumphant as his parents. His father, an entrepreneur and architect, and his mother, a famous calypso singer, have taught him to work hard in every endeavor and to stay modest.

His mother, Denyse Plummer was recently asked to sing for the Queen of England.

“My mom is a very woman power singer, she is always singing on behalf of women,” said Jesse.

Trinidad’s current Prime Minister, Kamla Persad-Bissessar likes the message of her music and was the person who invited her to sing for the Queen.

“I feel pretty fortunate as far as culture goes. I was raised to know that not everyone is as fortunate as me. I am very happy for the way I am--growing up in a humble home,” he shared.