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Ossining Woman Tells of Adventures in Trinidad

OSSINING, N.Y. – There are many reasons that former United Nations worker Dede Emerson loves Trinidad, from the weather to the men to the parties.

"In my heart I'm a Trinidadian," Emerson, 78, told a small group of mostly elderly women who gathered at the Ossining Women's Club on Thursday to listen to her stories.

Emerson, an Ossining resident for 36 years, was stationed in Trinidad from 1983 to 1990 to do field work for the United Nations Development Programme. Projects that she worked on included Trinidad's first HIV center, a crisis center for abused women and a project to yield more fish.

"One thing that I love about Trinidad is that they love women of all ages," Emerson told her audience. "I was 50 when I went there and when I used to walk to work, the guys would say, 'Looking good darling!' 'Love your dress princess!'"

It was no wonder she stayed in Trinidad so long, Emerson joked.

"You come back here and the cashier doesn't even see you," she said.

Emerson also recalled going into a hardware store in Trinidad, where the temperature stays between 85 and 95 degrees all year round, and asking for an indoor/outdoor thermometer.

"The guy told me, 'Lady you just stick your hand out, it's either raining or it's not!'" Emerson said.

Other tidbits that Emerson shared about Trinidad included pa'tois terms that the people use such as "liming," which means chatting or gossiping with, and a description of typical Trinidadian foods, including "calaloo," a soup made from large leaves that look like banana leaves, and "ponche crema," a Christmas drink that tastes like Bailey's Irish Cream.

One thing that Emerson learned not to do while living in Trinidad was to plan ahead.

"In Trinidad, that doesn't happen. I would say to my friend 'Judy, should we go to the beach on Saturday?' and she'd say 'We'll see, we'll see,'" Emerson recalled. "So I learned not to make my plans either."

Emerson ended her talk by saying Trinidad is "like my second home," and she still goes back there every other year.

"She's a good friend of a number of the (Women's Club) members," club member Jody Israel said of Emerson.

Aside from working for the U.N., Emerson also wrote a book, "A Different Kind of Streetwalker," about her experience walking through every block in Manhattan.

The Ossining Women's Club, a long-time establishment that began providing housing for about 10 widowed women in the 1920s, hosts events every month, Israel said. Currently, 10 moderate-income women live in the club house at 2 Lincoln Place.

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