Friday, August 29, 2008

Mc Cain's Alaskan dream

Well, well, well. Senator Obama must have the Republicans a little nervous. How can we watchers tell? The notoriously conservative Republicans have picked a WOMAN as Senator McCain's running mate. Good for Sarah Palin. But will anybody notice anything other than, she's the first WOMAN Republican vice-presidential candidate. The Democrats have already traveled this road with Geraldine Ferarro almost THIRTY years ago. Will anyone notice that Governor Palin is the first politician from Alaska to run on a national ticket; she's the youngest person to ever be nominated Governor of Alaska or even that she's got a pretty good rep in her home state. But stick a pin here, we'll get back to this shortly.

It's always a trifle surprising to hear that in the wonderful United States, woman are still considered a "minority". Okay, if you want to marginalise yourself this way go right ahead. Ever thought that if you constantly class yourselves as second class citizens you won't need anyone else to oppress you. But that's just me talking, my glass ceiling is different from yours. In fact, women outnumber men globally, hmm. And yet, we keep ceding to the 'stronger' sex. Makes you wonder.

Back to the McCain/Palin ticket, one wonders if the pundits made McCain choose Sarah Palin as his running mate. Can't you just see it now.

(John, we need something to balance you out. Let's see, you're an old, white, extremely conservative man. Who can we pick. I know, how about a woman. They vote too. Yes, what about a woman, not too old mind you. She's got to connect to the younger demographic. How about someone from one of those less known States, that should put us in with all those type of forgotten folks. HEY, how about that chick from Alaska, she's a woman, she's white, she's young, satisfies all the requirements.)

Right, cynical old me, none of this was a consideration of course. It was Mrs Palin's stellar political record, her lack of controversy, after all, almost no one has heard of her outside of Alaska and her winning personality. Yup, I bet. Mr McCain could have saved himself some trouble and chosen Paris Hilton, after all, she's featured in his ad campaign and everybody knows who she is; added benefit that she's pretty and while she may not be the sharpest knife in the drawer, at least she can coordinate her PR people. Don't get me wrong, I've nothing against Mrs Palin, she's as good as any one else. Let's face it, like all the talk of Senator Obama's "blackness", her ticket was punched because she's a woman, to sway all those disgruntled Hillary supporters who may wish to jump good ship Obama as well as the aforementioned. Or so it will always seem until she catches a break on her own. More power to her that she keeps a straight face through all of this, if she's half a good politician, she'll use this opportunity to make her own name.

And yes, the world in watching in anticipation, not for the entertainment factor, because America, your policies percolate down and affect us all in this global village.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

I don't get it

It's been forty five years since Dr. Martin Luther King's historic March on Washington for freedom and jobs and his famous " I have a dream". What is amazing, is that at thirty four, Dr. King was already considered an "elder" by his community and had garnered the respect of people world-wide. It is even more amazing when you look at the impact of Dr. King who died before his fortieth birthday. When we speak of a lifetime's work, we usually think in terms of thirty or forty years, Dr. King in a decade, changed his world.

Much has been made of Senator Barack Obama. From all information he appears to be a reasonable sort of guy, good family man, honest (as any politician can be expected), intelligent. Oh, did I mention, he's black or should I say, in his country, he is considered to be black, the rest of us refer to him as mixed race. So if both his parents had been white, there would be no questions about his ethnicity, Americans would just have to question his beliefs, voting record, whether he's any good at foreign policy. It is true that AMERICAN history has been made, Senator Obama being the first person of mixed racial heritage to be nominated by any party as a candidate for President. It's taken one hundred and twelve years and countless civil rights actions for it to happen. The goodly Senator has much to be proud of, he is a first time Senator, with not a whole lot of track record and he managed to rally thousands of people behind him, no small feat at any time.

So what don't I get? For many years, the United States has been the, largely, self appointed World Bully, oops, that should read World Policeman, calling all the rest of us to task about our human rights violations, the way we manage our economies, pretty much everything. It's kind of, well, amusing, that the very people who belabour political correctness, equal rights, yadda, yadda, yadda, are treating the nomination of a non-white man as such a big deal. Are you listening to yourselves America? Those of us of a darker hue are simply AMAZED by you. Because really, you're so hypocritical aren't you. Heck, the rest of us have had "black" leaders for decades and we're okay. Sure, I think Mr. Obama's nomination is a huge deal just for what it is, apparently all that stuff you sell the rest of us about all men being created equal and everybody can be anything in the good Ole US is a huge dose of hokey. Because if you' all are making such a big deal over his non-whiteness, guess his momma don't count for much, you really have to wonder about all that other stuff. But then, you made a big fuss over the thought of a woman as President so shouldn't be surprised.

Guess what you should tell your kids is, that they can be anything they want to be, even the President but only if they are an over fifty, white, middle class man. I suppose I'm going to be tagged anti-American now right. Actually, since your foreign policies affect the rest of us in this part of the world, I think it gives me the right to comment. No, I don't always like the course of action you as a nation chooses by default for the rest of us, and I resent that because of the colour of my skin I'm less than, but really, most of the Americans I know are hard working people who want the best for their families. Just like the rest of us. Americans can be the most generous people, with big hearts willing to help. You take people as you find them.

I wish Senator Obama all the luck, it will be kind of nice to see someone without some of the baggage that American leaders have come with. I don't envy him because if he does win, every decision he makes is always going to be prefaced by the perception of his "blackness" or not enough "blackness" as the case might be. If he doesn't win, then the question will always remain, was it because of the colour of his skin as opposed to anything else? Have we really come that far since April 4th, 1968?

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

My dirty little secret

My pardner Slacker used to push me to write. He challenged me to stir up those creative juices and let flow, he also kept me supplied with endless cups of fresh brewed coffee to ensure that I made it through the day, mind intact. Needless to say, Slacker, you are missed. Hard as it is to believe, I'd given up Rituals, scary really. But their product, once a necessary start to each day; hot, aromatic, filled with caffeine in every delightful mouthful, suddenly wasn't. I don't know what happened. Maybe the change in Barista, maybe it was company policy, but my formerly real cup of coffee degenerated into something not. A situation that left me reeling, without a place to anchor. It was not a good time.

My blessed assistant makes a really good cup of java, the last few months she's been popping them on to my desk fearing that without, the boss would go postal. Not as far fetched as you might imagine. Huge amounts of gratitude to her! And then, she went on vacation. Oh God help the department. The whispers started early, "has anybody seen her have coffee", "was she in the kitchen making some"..."is it safe?" Reluctantly, in desperation, a visit was paid to a nearby Rituals and by golly, it was back! Yes, the love affair is on again. But wait, something is still missing. This is the dirty little secret.

Without Slacker to egg me on, I didn't want to write. No fun really. But then, an odd thing happened. Quite in a roundabout way, another blogger filled the void. One morning, while gulping down a Cafe latte grande, the expresso making quick work of the dullness that accompanies most morning's, there he was, making me laugh my head off. The next morning he made me think. Slowly but surely I was fighting my way back. I was in again. Even more odd, we are in the same profession, so to speak, we both are addicted to the mighty brew and we both are passionate. He's much quicker than me, his blog writing much more together but it's fun talking to him, the thrill is back.

Angry African, if you're reading this, thanks.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Rain In Season

The sun came out today, after days of clouds and buckets of rain, floods and tears, the sun came out today.

In the wee hours of the morning, outside the window it stormed. The gusting winds, blew the curtains so high, billowing like sails on a clipper ship, then they snagged the mosquito netting hooks in the ceiling to remain ever suspended in the air, waiting. The laurel tree, brushed against the edge of the roof galvanise, aching with longing, or was it futilely rebelling against the pushing currents. Moaning, a siren song of want through the other trees in the back yard, we, curling up deeper into the bedclothes. Eventually the rain came back, lashing against the half closed windows, mercilessly beating the plants and ground, thudding droplets.

The pillows were so soft and comforting, the sheets and blanket a welcome weight, warding off the chill of outside, creating a snug little haven. Even the dog, longing for some comfort, draped himself over his human's feet; warm, he stirred briefly when a window sash blew loose, the window banging against the frame until shut by half awake Wallah. On and on it went. The skies cloudy, yet not dark, reflecting the streetlights, struggling against the gloaming. But for the wind and rain, all was quiet, no morning sounds of kettles whistling, newspapers being unfolded, passers-by on their way to work calling greetings to one another, no dogs barking at the before dawn joggers. Barely, swish went car tires on the flooded street outside. Time standing still against nature.

No reason yet to get up. Still time to dawdle between the sheets secure in sleep. Hunkering down even deeper, loath to be disturbed, loving the elemental scene outside from the security of bed. Alas, all too soon, morning's watery light, pushed back against the clouds and a few feeble rays fumbled over the curve of the hill. Dog needing breakfast and walkies, wind dying to a quiet hush, rain lightly pattering. Reluctantly pushing back the covers, pouring out the dog food and constructing the first cup of coffee to take the edge off the chill. Feet in slippers, dog on leash; The cosy light from the kitchen, showing through the doorway illuminating the steps and a short walk around the back, water dripping off the yard, edge of the roof, walls and plum tree. The earth washed clean and new, the air almost humming, alive.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Does anybody have a number for Noah?

Where was Noah yesterday? Hopefully working hard away at the New Ark, probably up in the deep country collecting some agouti, lappe and manicou, he sure as heck should have been. Yesterday was an able reminder of why I no longer go on country jaunts. Yesterday made me aware that mayhap the hurricane supplies should be attended to sooner than later. Yesterday underlined all those blogs written in the last year about the mob mentality of Trinis and the rampant stupidity that takes over at the first sign of anything out of the ordinary. And, most of all, yesterday was a stark reminder that we have far to go in this country, and really, no matter how prepared you are for a disaster, a little more never hurt.

Now don’t think I was involved in anything big and scary, quite the contrary. Yesterday started off pretty much the way all Saturday’s do around Casa Coffeewallah. Dog standing on human’s head in a stirring plea to go walkies, at 6:00 am; human grumpily shoving dog off which a growl to come back in an hour. Dog, pawing, whining and then yipping, guess who “forgot” to take him out last night before beddies because it was raining. Guess who then had to climb out of the oh so comfortable cotton sheets. Once going, the household chores could not wait, and my usual riding partner had gone off to the dentist for an exciting morning of oral care, no excuse to abandon ship, so the Wallah set to; until rescued by said friend who’d had her appointment cancelled. Ah hah! The usual Saturday jaunt to parts known and otherwise.

We got off to a good start, the plan, the Mode Alive shop in Curepe, then maybe some sorties into the surrounding geography. Charms, Louise to my Thelma, her daughter P. who is going off to school shortly and I climbed into the red machine and headed up the highway. No wind blowing in your hair and that crap, you know how hard it is to flat iron my hair; plus when you drive with the windows down all kind of dust settles on your upholstery and mine is dark cream! So air-condition blowing, the radio on, we heading east, sure the sky was overcast but it’s rainy season for goodness sakes, that happens six months out of the year. If you waited for it not to rain, you’d stay home and not come out for weeks at a time. Kind of like Little House on the Prairie when the Wisconsin snows happened.

I must say, the sortie into the “new” Mode Alive was very fruitful, lots of lovely house things if you’re so inclined, I don’t like to dust so not for me thanks. Charms born and bred in “town” so every time we head out east is a novelty for her. She made her first trip to Little Store. P. was in heaven, all this stuff she’d never seen before, we had a ball. I got to play tourist guide having lived out east almost my whole life. We were having some good fun, never mind the clouds were getting bigger, darker and more ominous. Is just rain right. It was close to lunchtime, where to, Wings of course. Some of the best curry and friendliest service staff and here’s where I segue a little. If you’ve never been, Wings is an establishment in the back of Tunapuna that serves some excellent curry, all of you know that I’m not a fan of curry but on occasion a good one is much appreciated. The prices there are really fab too, the cost of lunch for three which included two paratha’s, chicken, shrimp, duck, mango, potato and my dhal and rice? A whopping $100 dollars, where in town are you getting that? Nowhere, the two shrinking Chicken Cesar salads in Adam’s cost $110 with half the work involved.

Right. Here’s where the real “fun” started. While in Wings since we decided to eat in, the rain started to fall. Hard. Pounding the roof, concrete drain, beating in through the open windows, big, big, cold droplets, almost like hail. The lightening was stark, bright slashes of yellow with that metallic smell you get and the thunder was overheard, hmm, maybe we would stay put until the rain eased off. It rained, and rained and stormed. For over an hour, we and the people who kept coming; Wings food is that good, waited out the rain. Which didn’t stop, the skies had opened up and by golly it was storming good and proper.

Eventually when the lightening eased off P. and I with the one umbrella made a dash for the car parked on a side street. Those Tunapuna back roads are extremely narrow; people tend to park indiscriminately to cause as much inconvenience as possible. Well, who send us. The road was flooding, yellow, muddy water pouring off the pavements, a veritable stream in the street. Feet wet, hair wet, sunglasses flying, Richard Thompson had nothing on us as we made a sprint for the car. The towel in the car got a work out!

Picking up Charms outside Wings was the first challenge. You see, everybody decided they wanted to go, at the same time, never mind who had the right of way, who was going where. Fortunately I can drive, we got out with only some difficulty except, the exit to the Highway from Pasea Main Road was flooding, water covering your muffler. Not my car. Turning in the UTT compound we came across what was going to be an afternoon of that lack of road manners and good sense mentioned earlier. Right, some maneuvering and we were back on Pasea Main Road heading for Monte Grande. Remember, narrow streets, people making one, two, three lanes in a space that could barely accommodate one. Blocking the way even when we had right of way and they had no place to go. You get the picture. The back of St. Augustine was awash, literally. People’s yards were turned into rapids, water gushing from every drain, canal and the river. Dark, murky water filled with debris that was strewn all over the road, all that water and no way for it to run off.

I’ve seen floods in my time, Granny’s house on the Main Road used to flood in the later days due to the building up the hill but boy, this was something. This was an afternoon of rain and the flooding was surreal. We went by UWI, flooding, made it to the Eastern Main Road, flooding heavily at the underpass by the High School. Traffic everywhere with the aforementioned stupidity. Turning up, going through the back of St. Augustine north, by UWI school, a flood plain with junk in the road, navigating past Hugh Wooding Law School, people trying to avoid the pitfalls, fallen trees and swirling flood waters at every turn. Finally making it through Curepe and St. Joseph to get back on to the Highway, the river swollen, angry, rushing through the channel barely containing it. In all of this the rain was still falling, the skies bleak with roiling charcoal clouds. My little trip down memory lane; these after all, would have been the stomping grounds of my dissolute youth, more in the nightmare category. We kept thinking, what if it got worse. I had visions of Kevin Costner in Waterworld going, “dry land is a myth, I know, I’ve been there and it doesn’t exist”.

It was appalling. We wondered aloud what would have happened had there really been some serious weather as opposed to a system as we heard later on the news. There was flash flooding in some low-lying areas. The seriousness of all of this cannot be underlined enough; the evidence is all around us, look at what happened in the States and China. When will we learn and start implementing all those policies I know are lying around in some public servant’s office? How serious is serious? Yesterday was my reminder of how bad it can get when it rains and I don’t need another one. When are you gits going to stop dumping stuff in the waterways, when are you going to stop indiscriminately building on the hillsides in the water sheds? Where are the water channels, constructive building and development of causeways, storm drains etc? Oh, I forgot, it’s in a speech somewhere, we don’t actually have to DO anything. When are we the public going to stand up and say this is not good enough of course modifying our own behaviour to be less selfish and nasty? I regret that I didn’t have a camera to show you just how bad it was, maybe then you would believe me.

I don’t know about you, but I’m not holding out much hope that Noah will be coming around anytime soon. Who knows, maybe the Big Guy has left it up to us to help ourselves this time. Think about it.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Man's best friend

Look at those faces, how can you resist them? Aren't they sweet, cuddly, don't they look like they will love you forever? What do they have in common. They're all strays waiting for adoption. Have you ever seen the TLC series, "It's me or the dog"? I suspect that while the X-mas was in residence we probably resembled a few episodes. While he and the hound maintained a mutual admiration society, he was always of the opinion that the mutt was spoilt and allowed too many privileges in the home. Notice he is the X-man and the dog still sleeps at the foot of the bed.

But my love for animals and in particular dogs is not confined to just mine. Most places I go, I end up befriending someone's dog; on vacation several dogs came over to hang out on my mat while I lay on the beach. An unapologetic dog person. I think people who are cruel to animals should suffer, painfully. I suspect, even though I raised pedigree dogs, if I had a yard of my own now it would be filled with strays.

My mother used to have two pound puppies, when they got to her house they were trembling, anemic looking characters of uncertain parentage. The scragglier of the two, a black male was quickly named Hagar, after the cartoon Hagar the horrible, in the hope that names are power and he would overcome his shaky beginnings. Mum was a really soft touch and those dogs got home cooked meals every day, cod liver oil for their coats and huge amounts of love. They thrived, Hagar quickly grew into a large dog, much bigger than expected, Helga, the female and Oscar, our "min-sation" were dwarfed, his personality was also larger than life. Those two dogs showered on my family a love, protectiveness and loyalty far surpassing anything we gave to them.

People are always telling me horror stories about the perils of owning large dogs. How they turn and savage their owner, the unpredictability etc. I've owned lots of dogs in my life, most of them large breed, including Doberman Pinschers, German Shepherds, Pit Bulls etc. never had any real trouble. Every dog handler or dog trainer I've ever worked with has taught me it is how you socialise your animal.

Disney has a lot to answer for, for years they've taken animals and given them human characteristics; dogs are not people, they have different behaviours to us that are, but, even like people, you can get a dog that is an anomaly who will go bad. Mostly though, when dogs turn it is because they have perceived an act of aggression against themselves and dealt with it as animals do. Your dog should not be your kid's babysitter, things that might appear cute to you might constitute something else in doggie hierarchal systems.

I started writing this piece because I get tired of seeing all the stray dogs around, abandoned, still breeding, making even more strays. People, be responsible, if you have a pet, spay or neuter your animal if you don't intend to breed them, or keep them locked up while in heat. If you cannot take care of your dog, don't get one in the first place, or instead of turning it loose, call the Animal Welfare folks, they will try to find it a good home.

If you do it right, you and your pet will have many happy hours together.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

And he does it again!

The Lightening Bolt struck again, happy birthday indeed, Usain Bolt! The boy from Trelawney, Jamaica has certainly made these Olympics his own and here in the Caribbean we are all celebrating again tonight, we have the gold and silver in the 200m as well.

It's been amazing listening to the commentators, including Ato Bolden slag off Bolt for being "too cocky". Um, right. For years we've had to endure the sight of Americans grandstanding, beating their chests, hurling shoes into the stands, even Ato's bare chest as he hauled his running kit down after every race. Honestly, you get used to sportsmen behaving like a**holes when they do something so you overlook it as the emotion of the moment. Bolt, at 21 is pretty self assured, not a bad thing to be if you're the fastest man in the world. And he just set another world record. Folks, if he wants to do his "lightening bolt", dance, brush his head, so what. Let's face it, he has had time on his hands in every race, to watch the rest of the field try to catch him, crossing the finishing line in enough time to turn around and look at everyone else. Let the man have his day in the sun and can your sour grapes.

Why is Jamaica succeeding so much on the sports stage? They have had an active sports programme for at least thirty years, starting with kids in primary school. That's the secret of their success, sustainable development. I know first hand how hard it is to get assistance for athletes in this country and I also know of the ones who fell by the wayside for lack of support. For all our money, we are not terribly evolved in our thinking.

Incidentally, Jamaica also had an active arts programme too. These are the two areas that the Caribbean receives the most recognition for, we have two Nobel Laureates from the region! Let this be a lesson to the Trinidadian Government. For all the money we throw at things, most our athletes still have to leave here to develop any talent they might possess as do our writers and artists. Handing out sums of money on occasion to elite athletes is not enough, nor is making empty promises about facilities. We need to start developing our people holistically from early on, recognising that if we want to have a "total quality nation" we must develop, encourage and most of all, be consistent.

Congratulations to all the athletes from the Caribbean, good luck to the Jamaican girls in tomorrow's womens' 200m final and Rene Quow in the men's 400m. We've done us all proud never mind the commentary. Now the waiting begins, men's 4x100......

Monday, August 18, 2008

The information age or just plain nosy?

I find it amazing the lengths that the media go to, to invade the lives of famous and sort of famous people. Also amazing, the amount of money or the lengths that people have to employ to maintain some privacy. The late Princess Diana was probably, in her heyday, the most photographed woman in the world. There was not a place she could go without being recognised or having some photographer lurking, poised to distribute her every nuance to the world. Even today, eleven years after her death, details of her life are still ruthlessly plumbed to provide fodder. Pity her poor kids. Who really needs to know all of this stuff anyway? Our curiosity fuels a multi billion dollar business, but really, is it our right to know?

Everybody is entitled to their privacy, no matter how public a figure. Sure we have a right to know what our leaders etc are up to, but where do we draw the line between personal and public? One of the ground rules for visiting my brother is that I don't discuss the people I see on the island. Several smart people figured out where it was and those in the know would have recognised from the pictures. Truthfully, I'm usually so glad to be incognito and away from my own life that all I'm concerned about is how much beach time I can get in. Sure it's interesting to see how the other "half" live, nice but that's their life, not mine.

Which brings me to the mass of media reports I read about the guests and event that took place while I was on vacation a week ago. I've been falling over laughing at how wrong they all are, not surprising because they were written by people who WERE NOT THERE. I know, because I was. However, if you're hoping for some name dropping or serious scores, you're going to have to make do with the fake stuff, I'm not telling.

What I will say is, I hope everyone had a rollicking good time and thanks for making sure I did too.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Snippets again

I've been watching the Olympics, I've already written my thoughts on the Jamaican Lightening Bolt over on wordpress so I won't repeat.

In other Olympic news...who knew that hopping around on the trampoline was an Olympic sport. Is that what happens to old gymnists? Have to wonder because some of those girls are kinda on the older side. What about Badminton? About as interesting as watching paint dry. Beach volleyball? You really have to wonder how Olympic disciplines are chosen, they're not always the same for every Games. Remember synchronised swimming? What happens to all those synchronised swimmers now that it's no longer an olympic sport, do they stop swimming?

The post on charitable giving certainly prompted some strong responses, most of them from people who are similarly minded. Didn't know so many people felt beleaguered. My response, do what you can but don't feel guilty about what you can't.

An old friend from the protest days sent a resigned e-mail the other day. The bottom line, we're tired of trying to save the country's architectural heritage which is being rapidly eroded or bulldozed every day. additionally folks, my days of chaining myself to buildings, writing countless words in support of the environment, built and natural, circulating petitions, beating on doors....over. If you don't care, why should I expend my energy on your behalf, you have some responsibility too.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Give praise children...

To borrow from the incomparable Sir Paul Mc Cartney and John Lennon....

When I find myself in times of trouble, Mother Mary comes to me, speaking words of wisdom, let it be.

Music and books have always been my panacea, the remedy for everything, happy, sad, conflicted, whatever. While I wouldn't say that I've been troubled recently, I have been consciously letting it be.

Two days ago, listening to a batch of young people talking about why they returned to Trinidad to serve their country, I now remember why it is I do what I do. it's very easy to get caught in the trap of always seeing the negative parts, but sometimes you have to look beyond that and see the hope. Not always easy but possible.

The Olympics are on, but you know what, I'm not so interested in watching anymore. These Games that used to stand for excellence, for reaching for a dream, for representing your country seem to be more about, big business, how much money big nations can through at something. Swimmers are breaking records, yes, because they get up and swim every day, train hard and whatever else, but they also have the advantage of better suits, training techniques. What chance does the athlete from a poorer nation have? Professional athletes are competing, the better to gain endorsements with. Maybe I'm idealistic, maybe the world has changed and we don't need the Olympian ideal, so I'm letting it be.

While I am not a believer in the traditional sense, this David Rudder song has been going through my head....maybe it will help you too.

High Mas I © David Michael Rudder

Our Father who has given us this art
So that we can all feel a part
Of this earthly (lesser) heaven....amen
Forgive us this day our daily weaknesses
As we seek to cast our mortal burdens on this city...amen
Oh merciful Father, in this bacchanal season
Where some men will lose their reason
But most of us just want to wine and have a good time
While we looking for a lime, Because we feeling fine, Lord....amen
And as we jump up and down in this crazy town
Send us some music for some healing...amen

Our Father who has given us this art
So that we can all feel as if we are a part
Of your heaven....amen
Forgive us this day our daily weaknesses
As we seek to cast our mortal burdens on this painful city...amen
And on this day when we come out to play and sway
And do a little breakaway
Some will say what they have to say
But only you know the pain we're feeling.....amen

As it was in the beginning of J'ouvert
So it shall be on Carnival Tuesday ending (good vibes)...amen

Everybody hand raise
Everybody give praise
Everybody hand raise
And if you know what I mean....put up your finger
And if you know what I mean....put up your hand
And if you know what I mean....put up your finger
And if you know what I mean then scream
O, give Jah his praises
O, let Jah be praised
O, the Father in his mercy
Send a little music, to make the vibration raise
So Carnival Day, everybody come and celebrate
Everybody come and celebrate
See the ragamuffin congregate
Everybody come and celebrate
And everybody say, oo,a,a,oo,a,a I love my country
oo,a,a,oo,a,a I feeling irie (repeat)

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Collecting for charity

Every week I receive at least a couple of e-mail notices circulated by friends, organisations or even from people who don't know me at all asking for my money. Round the office someone is always collecting for something, raffle tickets, bake sales, barbecues, you name it, we have one or more going on. There is always a good cause, and they all want something.

I have bought bricks, paid for people's kids to walk around the savannah, supplied free services, cleaned out my bookshelves and closet, baked, written cheques etc. We all do it. But I've noticed that the number increases every week. Having been away from the office for a week my e-mail piled up, due to a glitch in the system I couldn't go in remotely and delete so it was all here when I got back. Going through and tossing I found quite a few "begging" notices, the average going cost for any one, $100.

Now we all know how little a hundred TT dollars will buy you these days, if I added up all the requests, just over a five day period, it was $500 and that was just from the office inbox, that does not count the inter-office notice board, my alternative e-mail address or nice ladies who go around collecting. And you know what, I'm tired of it. I fully support that charitable organisations have to solicit funds to do their work and I support a number of causes, giving my time and my resources. This does not bother me, I think it's the right thing to do. But I realised something fundamental about me, I'd prefer it if you come and ask me to give you $50 for your charity as opposed to saying pay $100 for a film or soup lunch or whatever.

You see, I know that you have to pay operating costs for the movie theatre, to supply wine or whatever for the opening, the fact is, most charities only get a portion of the actual money, the rest goes to covering costs. I've always wondered why people think they should have a dinner to raise money for the starving and other such. Wouldn't we be better off just giving them the same percentage of money that they would have gotten from the sale of tickets without the added costs of having a benefit. The cost in time and energy is also huge for most of these things.

Now I know you might be shaking your head at my naivete or supposed Scroogeness, I know people like to be seen to be doing "good works" hence the need for big gestures. People also want to say they did something good and they want a reward for their efforts at being good but how is this really helping the charity? Oh yes, I forgot, raising awareness, except that twenty years as a communications practitioner has taught me that awareness does not necessarily equal action or even interest. So where does that leave us?

As my disposable income is rapidly eroded by those luxuries of having a roof over my head, a means to get to and from work each day, food for my dog, feeding the utilities, I find that I vaguely resent being made to feel guilty when I say, no. Sadly I need that hundred dollars too. Not to go clubbing or buy clothes, makeup or shoes, but to make sure my health insurance is up to date, my retirement fund is added to so that I am not a burden on my ever shrinking family.

So don't take it the wrong way when I have to politely decline, please forgive me when I cannot squeak out a few more pennies for you, I'd like to, really.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Back. Already.

Well, it was obvious from the get-go that we were back in TnT. What gave it away? Maybe the long wait in immigration as the officers tried to process everyone from the three flights on the ground at the same time; the lines were curling snakes filled with disgruntled folk. Much to my surprise, the immigration officers were generally pleasant, I guess all that customer service training might actually be paying off. Needless to say, customs was a zoo but we managed to squeak out of the airport a couple of hours after landing.

And then there was the highway. They're "working" on the highway. Paving. There is no rhyme or reason to it, you didn't know where you were because the lines were gone; there were three levels, the newly paved, the kind of paved and the scraped off paving. It was surreal, an accident waiting to happen. Ah, the joys of development.

Then there were the acts of stupidity; the road outside my house is wide enough for two cars, there is a blind corner. First came the gunning engine, the wail of tyres scrabbling for purchase on the wet road, screaming brakes, screeching of tyre on asphalt.....we waited for the inevitable CRASH into the opposing wall. Fortunately, it never came. Instead, the idiot in the blue car stalled, facing the opposite way to which he had come, blocking the lane he was in and sticking out into the other lane. In the way of the cars coming round the "blind" corner. Again, waiting for the crash, fortunately the oncoming cars managed to side step him. There was the confusion as drivers attempted to sort out what was going on. The driver of the stalled car had to make several attempts to re-start, the engine wailed as it was gunned into life and he took off down the road. Coming the other way were two more cars, both gunning their engines, racing down the road, one overtaking on the solid white line. Stupid. And then they'll say it is an accident when they damage someone else.

On the route to and from where I live, there are three overhead crossovers, built at great expense to the taxpayer, to allow residents to get from one side of the highway to the other. Does anyone use them? People still run across the street. It's too much to walk up and down the stairs. It takes too much time. Never mind for at least one of them you have to literally LEAP the concrete dividers down the middle of the road. People will attempt to cross five feet away from the walkover because it's "too far to walk". I wonder how long they think eternity is when you're lying in a coffin or permanently damaged from being hit by a fast moving vehicle. Unbelievable.

As you can see, my fleeting flip flop days are rapidly being eroded by being here, and the questions that I've been asking myself, well, lets just say my drive to work this morning made me realise....

Friday, August 8, 2008

From the coffeewallah to you

So I keep talking about it, but really, pictures can't show you just how blue the water is, or how perfect the sunset. Words can barely describe the feeling of sun on your face, the heat welcome after days of being locked up in an air-conditioned office. Your toes rejoicing in the freedom of being unrestrained, calves pulling from walking in flip flops instead of being perched on high heels. The glory of the wind ruffling your hair as you walk, yes, walk down the winding roads without fear of being run over by speeding cars. The casual wave of workman, house owner or just anybody.

What's the point?

A couple of months back, a management "expert", the term is loosely applied, not sure he thought of himself thusly but that's what he was supposed to do; informed me that work should take up about fifty percent of your time every day, including weekends, the rest divvied up among sleep/rest, family and some altruistic pursuit. At the time I refrained from sarcastically asking whether the time I spent in traffic every day, the waiting for people to show up and other such counted as work, they sure as heck felt like it. This expert, don't get me wrong, he was a perfectly nice man, doing what he was hired to do, then proceeded to try to "help" me, reach my "possible potential" by "setting goals" (about work)etc. It was eye-opening to say the least.

Why you might ask should I find all this somewhat repugnant? Bear with me, there is a point to all of this. As our lives have gotten busier our quality of life has deteriorated. There is nothing wrong with working hard or even long hours if it acheives something. But not at the expense of your life. And sadly, that's just what happens. Why else are we all suffering from lifestyle diseases and stress and burnout and.....

Now this rant should be familiar to all who know me. But this week, while watching how the other half live, while floating on the extremely blue water, while contemplating my toes as I lay on the sand, I asked once again. Why? And the answer is rapidly becoming, I don't know anymore. Why do I work all hours for a country that cares not. I have no one to leave anything to, no kids, my siblings live outside, my family shrinking. Why do I care? Sadly, I find myself caring less. It's certainly not for financial reward, all I do is pay bills and eke out an existence that consists of work and frantic running around on my one real day off. If you allow it, the job will consume you. And I know now, I'm not willing for that to happen, again.

So what's the point right? The management expert who so ticked me off by presuming to know what was right for me, without understanding anything about who I am, was in fact wrong. You have to do what is right for you. Even if it means doing nothing, "improving" nothing, accepting no labels or roles defined by others, simply being. And that's what vacations are about, vacating. Leaving behind, not being there other than the shadowy outline of the you space that you re-occupy when you return. Taking yourself out, refreshing yourself and your being by not doing. True vacations are not about shopping maniacally, or going to theme parks or all those other things we do to fill our time because we don't know how to do nothing. It is about facing yourself at your most elemental, even for a brief moment.

And last night I truly remembered what it was to vacation. Not for where I was or even what I was doing, but as we watched the sun go down over the horizon, floating in a sea of blue azure, the water gently lapping, warm against our bodies, slippery as fish, in the accepting womb of the sea. Nothing mattered in those moments, tomorrow would take care of itself, for now, we had this.

Thank you John for the peace you gave me.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Oh yea of little faith

As previously mentioned. I'm on vacation. Well, kind of, it's a little different from the last time I was here. Then it was novel, now people are used to me. Interesting, I was recognised by the nice girl who works at the ice cream shop.

Not being used to not doing anything, it's a dream to just sit around and read; at the beach, on the couch when it's hot, the air conditioning chugging away in the background. These are the days of the Raj, Caribbean style.

So anyway, here are the pics...some of them anyway.

Happy now Blue?

La bon vie

Am back on the island again, checking out how the other half live. It's interesting being an observer, not part of the landscape, even removed but seeing up close and personal a lifestyle that really, most of us only ever seen in magazines or on TV. Yes, this really is how the other half live. I've seen swimsuits, clothes and sunglasses that have yet to be featured in magazines, so on the cutting edge of fashion are they. Do I envy these folk who are so far removed from me in experiences?

No, it's interesting but dare I say, I suspect exhausting. No one cares what I look like or whom I know. I can just be me here, and that's why they come here too, so they can just be them, funny, we have something in common after all. I'm extremely happy to be here, for the white sand beaches, the clear, clear blue water that beckons invitingly down at the end of the road. No traffic, no worrying about walking around alone after dark. No having to care whether when phone rings it is another impossible request that I will have to jump through hoops to provide.

It's great to be in a place where everyone as they pass by says hello, or at least lifts a hand in greeting. No matter who. Sure it has it's own challenges, but they are not mine, and for once, I too can unwind. I can see why you would pay so much for the privilege of doing so and am extremely thankful to my brother for making it possible for me. This is what love is, giving one space to just be.

Am off now, to slurp and ice cream, feeling the sunshine on my face, thankful to be alive and in this beautiful space.