Gary Spaulding, Senior Gleaner Writer
"Welcome to Trinidad," declared the female snack vendor who, but for her accent, could be taken for one of the scores of Jamaican women who ply their wares on the side of the road.
Her dismissal to our reference of the so-called trade impasse and diplomatic obstacles that threaten to stand in the way of the good relationship between T&T and Jamaica was evident in the shake of her head.
"We just welcome you to Trinidad and Tobago," she repeated. And we hope to see you at Bacchanal."
The vendor was not alone in her warm expressions of good wishes. It has been that way since the Gleaner team set foot in T&T for the three-day probe.
Politeness and professionalism greeted me as I stepped with my Gleaner colleagues in the twin-island republic, weeks after eyebrows were raised after T&T immigration refused entry to 13 Jamaicans.
I braced for a challenge as I stepped on Trinidadian soil after the seven-hour-long trip through Panama City, Panama, that once again magnified the reality that Jamaica is many miles away from the bulk of its CARICOM partners in more ways than one.
"It was time to meet the 'dreaded' immigration officers at the Piarco International Airport, the place where many Jamaicans have been turned back.
But this was not to be - at least not this time around. And, thankfully, not to me.
The male immigration officer who greeted me was thorough in a friendly, conversational sort of way, and was even instructive as he tendered advice to me.
He asked all the questions, penetrating even, but nothing offensive, with the faintest hint of curious bantering as I divulged my purpose in T&T.
My colleague, Erica Virtue, was not entirely satisfied with the demeanour of the immigration officer she faced but that encounter ended even more quickly than mine.
On the road, the welcome from vendors and other Trinidadians was warm.
They maintained that Jamaicans were their friends and would not be drawn in any cass cass that did not concern them.